Massively Multiplayer Real-life Role-Playing Game

I’m struggling to align my mental image of myself with my new role as SAHM in this Massively Multiplayer Real-life Role-Playing Game called ‘Life’.  You may have heard of it – like World of Warcraft only without the healers to come and get you back in the game after you’ve accidentally set yourself on fire.

It’s nothing new. I’ve been here before and asked the same hard-hitting question:

“What the Sam Hill will I do with myself while the baby is sleeping that will make me feel clever and worthwhile and maintain the shreds of sanity I’m barely hanging onto … but doesn’t involve cooking, cleaning or craft?”

In the olden days of my first time around as SAHM,  I discovered study and I really do attribute it to keeping me from going completely ga-ga.  I started my Bachelor of Science (Library Technology) via Virtual Campus and of course, fell pregnant midway through my first semester. Never one to let a mere trifle as children stop me, I carried on for the next 10 years, cutting back to one unit a semester when life got complicated (i.e. had another baby) until I finished.

Once I’d completed that sucker, I was hooked and went on to do a few other courses and diplomas related to teaching, editing, proofreading and graphic design.

The only one I didn’t see through to the end was the teaching grad dip. One round of prac finished me. I had three kids at home already – did I really want a class full of them as well?

Looking back, I note that I started them all at a time where I was struggling with my identity and self-esteem. Some people drink and take drugs. I get my jollies from assignments. Drugs would probably be cheaper (just ask my accountant about my HECS debt)  but hey, my addiction fills out a CV really well and makes me look smart.

This SAHM do-over, I vowed to take a different path from the norm. I would get involved with mum’s groups and baby play-based education sessions. I would take the baby for long walks in the pram. Leave baby home with Dad occasionally and go out for Friday afternoon drinks with the girls.

I would not sign myself up for more study and would definitely not spend countless hours at the computer with the baby asleep (or waving its arms frantically in hopes of gaining my attention) in a bouncer at my feet.

If I were grading myself on how I’m doing so far, it would look like this:

“Welcome to Stay At Home Motherhood … again.

So far your efforts to get out and socialise are to be commended and you seem to be tracking well for achieving some semblance of regular adult conversation and interaction – even if it is baby-centric. Excellent work. Keep it up.

I see you’ve arranged to get together with former work mates this week. Please remember that whilst your world revolves around your baby’s bowel motions and cute smile that may or may not be related to said bowel motions, not everyone will want to hear about it.

A simple “Baby is still alive. Husband and I still talk to each other with words of more than one syllable. I am a little tired but all is good” will suffice.  Try engaging interest with topics other than your baby such as world politics, the state of Kim and Kanye’s marriage woes or, if desperate, the weather.

However … I see you’re getting into the blogging again and I wonder if this is a wise choice?  That baby is only going to take vigorous bouncing at your feet for so long before she really jacks up. Please arrange an appointment to see me about this before it goes much further.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, someone is waving their arms at me frantically …

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I heart my lecturer

blog atomicI am down to the wire with my diploma, so close to the finish line it actually seems possible I’ll be done … someday.  And after more than 20 years of studying in a virtual campus-type scenario for one university, college or training centre or another, I have had the absolute pleasure of getting a lecturer who I am deeply in like with.

His name is Benji and he is awesomeness personified.

He does audio blogs for us to go with the reading material. It works to spice up the rather dry subject matter of Design Industry as well as give an opportunity for him to share some of his first-hand experiences as a graphic designer out in the big, wide world.

He encourages online discussions and stimulates interest with wacky little side projects that can be rattled off in 30 minutes tops yet give a little more depth to our knowledge.

He marks your assignments THE SAME DAY.

Oh, but not only that.

He sends you an audio critique to let you know what he really liked and where you could work to make it just that little bit better.

He’s personable, humorous, positive and without a doubt THE BEST lecturer I’ve ever had.

And as I have alluded to before, I am not a first-timer in this online campus shenanigans. I am a study tart who gets around, people. I get around and I’ve had LOTS of lecturers *blush*

Truly gifted teachers, whether in a classroom, online or just happening to do so as part of the job, are easy to spot.

They are passionate about what they do and they want to pass that passion onto others.  They care deeply about the results of their students – they want them to do well.

They find alternative ways and means to deliver the message so all of their students can engage fully.  They don’t travel the tried and true highway but rather take their students on the back trails and down side streets.

They make learning fun.

I have had so much fun with this module that I’m almost sad to see it will be over soon.  And as a veteran student, that’s a very big deal.

 

Busy busy busy!

coffee

Ooh pretty!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I honestly forgot I hadn’t done my weekly post … and I was doing so well with keeping up with my New Year resolutions too!

For the past two weeks, I’ve driven across to the closest metropolis (a 2.5 to 3 hour drive each way, depending on how many trucks/road works/caravans or how speedy you are) to do a 3 hour course. Yep, drove 6 hours to do 3 hours of learning. Twice.

However, learning to Barista is a skill I have always wanted to gain and since the course was there (and not here – nor would it be in the foreseeable future), I figured it was worth the small inconvenience.

Of course, you can’t just be a Barista with only 6 hours of playing with the machines and making pretty froth pictures under your belt. It requires practice, practice and more practice. Honestly, I had no idea of the great number of variables that can make or break a great coffee! Beans ground too fine/course; beans out too long; milk too hot; not frothed enough in first few seconds … the list goes on and on.

But now I have a small dilemma – what do I do with this training? Are these certificates destined to remain two pieces of paper decorating the walls of my office? Or do I go out and see if I can get casual work in a coffee house?

But if I do … will that kill the romantic notion that working as a Barista would be a fun way to earn a few dollars and feel useful when graphic design work is slow?

I only hesitate because I already work every second weekend and whilst I really enjoy it – I get paid to talk, essentially – it already means I have to swap with the other person if I need that weekend off.  I really don’t like doing that.

I don’t like being tied down or having to ask permission to do something I want to do.

What if I get a job and I’m so awesome, they want me to work full-time?

What if I suck?

Hmmm … I think I have a problem with over-thinking things.

And commitment.

I definitely have issues with that.

 

Joys of working for yourself

Clown

Clutsy the Clown would like to get paid. Please.

Otherwise known as the “Cashflow Blues” …

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a fan of working from home and being my own boss. Getting to be creative on a variety of jobs from a real mix of clients is great fun. Getting to do it in comfortable (i.e daggy) clothes and no makeup plus getting those mundane household chores done as part of your working day is a real bonus as well.  I can take a long weekend and head off somewhere if I so choose, or stay in bed all day if I’m not well.

Theoretically.

In practice, I can’t really take that many long weekends because the sad reality of modern society is that you need money to do that. Money that I get sporadically at best. And surprisingly enough, I don’t seem to have as many sick days anymore …

But back to the green stuff. I’ve become a compulsive checker, looking at my work bank account daily (sometimes twice daily) to see if by some miracle people have actually paid me.  I mean, I have a deadline to work to. My invoices should be treated in the same manner.  But by and large, they aren’t. Sigh.

I’m currently studying Design Industry at the moment and this week is about contracts.  Now, they suggest doing up a full contract outlining how many hours; what equipment; who holds intellectual property; whose arse gets kicked if certain project markers aren’t met and ensuring you as the graphic designer can use the completed work in your portfolio as future promotion.  There is even suggestions of getting a down payment before any work is done to avoid cashflow problems.

My ears pricked up at that.

The trouble is that I work in a rural area. Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the way things work out here but most things are done on a handshake. It would seem strange to go through a five page contract BEFORE any work started, with a hokey little ol’ graphic designer who’s working from home and more than likely gets business because she’s a known entity. It’s a small town. People are very trusting. I am never asked to show a portfolio. It’s very humbling, to be honest.  I’m also cheap and get the job done quickly.

I know it’s in my best interests – protects my finances, ensures intellectual property and makes the deal very clear on paper. But I’m not sure if it would work out here. And to be honest, I’d feel a little uncomfortable doing it. Seems … pushy.

Having said that, I do have a nest egg that allows for the bills to be paid when cash is not flowing inwards so it’s not like we’ll starve or lose the house … but the tightarse in me really really hates using it.

Oh yeah, and that’s my clown. I sketched him then scanned him in and used that as a background so I could use the Pen tool in Illustrator to build a digital version of him. I feel rather pleased with myself.

Staying the course

How do you keep striving when things seem out of reach?

How do you keep striving when things seem out of reach? (Pic: Oliver Jeffers “How to catch a star”)

My second child and oldest son started Uni this year after a two year ‘gap year’ after high school in which he worked for a supermarket chain then as a pizza delivery boy in between holing up in his room playing multiplayer somethingorother games on the computer he custom-built himself.

He turns 20 today so technically he is a grown man and free to choose his life and the consequences that go with it. But that doesn’t stop his mother who carried him for 9 months (and fretted until the 7 month mark due to previous experiences), fed him, bathed him, clothed him and loved him from worrying when she receives a letter from Uni that indicates all is not going as well as one would hope with first semester results.

I feel shitty for opening said letter but in my defence, I thought it might be something to do with the campus accommodation, of which I’m paying half for and his father is paying the other half.  It wasn’t about that.

My new and improved husband (NIH) has never had children but I rely on his advice at times, especially with the boys, since once upon a time he was one. Plus he and my son are strikingly similar in character.

I’m not mad. I’m sad. Heartbroken, even. The last thing a mother wants for her children is pain and disappointment. But I also recognise that life sends us these lessons to teach us something about ourselves. 

I just hope he learns that sometimes you get thrown from the horse and the best possible thing to do is to get back on up there and try a different handhold.  That there are things that we want in this world that we have to work extremely hard for and that nothing worthwhile is for free.

I hope he takes a deep breath, buckles down and has another go. He wouldn’t be the first student to go through this.  Lord knows, I did and so did my NIH – we both quit after our respective 2nd years, a decade apart and states away.  I went on to get married and have children and do all my degrees and diplomas externally, achieving excellent results because I wanted it and worked hard for it. I essentially found a different handhold.  The NIH is getting ready to get back on that horse this year and I hope he finds a different handhold too.

I want my kids to have wonderful, perfect, happy, productive, secure lives … but even as the control freak in me wishes that, the little voice of realism whispers that I didn’t have that, so why should they? They’ll never learn anything with a life like that. I think Hollywood kids have proven that point over and over again. And although I have been through some pretty shitty times, I actually like the woman I have become (and it only took 45 years to achieve :/ )

Maybe this is a turning point. Maybe it’s a good thing. It certainly explains the recent interest in changing courses …

All I can do is hug him and treat him for his birthday, hope he feels safe enough to talk to me about it whilst I hide the tears and ignore the ache in my womb that wants to shield him from all life’s slings and arrows.

Proofreading is not for the weak

daily_picdump_550_640_09Many people ask how I got into proofreading which usually slides into how can THEY get into proofreading as it sounds like an awesome gig.  Working from home. Correcting creativity because you may not be able to write it but hell, you know what good grammar looks like.  Easy, right?

Well, yeah. It is relatively stress-free and I have to admit it is a very good gig when the work is around.  And I can listen to music while I do it.  But as to how I got into it?  Quite by accident, actually.

I may have mentioned in my last post how study is my happy place and it’s usually my go-to when life gets craptastic.  I can’t actually remember how I found the course but it was $1000 and sounded great and was, for all intents and purposes, exactly what I needed (except I don’t know that anyone actually proofreads by hand using strange squiggly lines anymore. Like many other things in life, it’s all gone digital).  I completed it in record time … but breaking into the industry is a little more challenging.  Looking back, I was so very, very lucky.

There’s a band of five of us from Uni who still get together once every five years (although now we’re *ahem* more mature, we’ve decided we may need to shorten that timeframe).  I had just finished my course when we had a catch-up and one of the girls mentioned she did overwhelmingly well in her first year working from home as a proofreader for the advertising agency she’d worked for before babies … so much so that it would be great to have someone who could take the overload when it got too much or she wanted to take a weeks’ holiday.

I tentatively put up my hand, like a shy kid on her first day at school, and mentioned how I’d just finished such a course.  Even though she’s a great friend whom I’ve known for years, she’s bossy so I was a little scared at first! But actually, we have the perfect working relationship. She gives me tips and tells me when I stuff up and all in all has been a wonderful mentor – so much so that when I decided to jump out of the rat race and try freelance, she was incredibly supportive and we’ve been able to ramp up business quite a bit.

So, the short answer to any inquiries about how to get into the business of proofreading is … luck. It’s not what you know but who you know.

The next thing people say is how easy it must be and how they could do it too.  And that’s where I become a little more cagey. What I want to say is “Yeah, but I’ve seen your Facebook posts!!!!!!!*”*Note: This is an example of such Facebook posts that make my right eye twitch. More than one exclamation or question mark is really not necessary and looks completely stupid.

It’s not actually that easy and if you’ve ever had to read an insurance document outlining all the fine print … oh … you haven’t? No, of course not. Because it’s BORING.  But that’s quite a bit of what I do. Read the fine print. Make sure all the headings are consistent. All the capitals are capitals or lower cases are lower cases and does this look the same as the heading on the previous three pages?  An incorrectly spelt word is easy to find.  It’s all the other stuff that makes me feel like a Word Detective.

I love it because it appeals to my craving for structure and neatness and control and a place for everything and everything in it’s place.  But one thing I have discovered is that I can’t proofread my own stuff.  If I do a graphic design job that requires proofreading as well, I need to do one then walk away and do something else and give my brain time to swap over before I come back to concentrate on the other as  looking at the presentation then going through the text uses different parts of the brain.

And as for my blogs?  Oh yeah. There’s gonna be some clangers in here 🙂