Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Farmie Editor on the Hunt

I figured out something very interesting recently. If I apply for jobs that I want, or jobs that are related to my publishing/book field in some way, job hunting is not as soul-crushing as it is when I apply for jobs that have nothing to do with my skill set. You would think that this would be obvious, but it wasn't. See, when I decided to stop freelancing, the world became very black and white. You can't do what love for a living anymore. You are doomed to a horrible life of filing paperwork for someone in a bunker for $9/hr. You're going to be miserable now. Permanently. The End.

I could seriously stay in freelancing forever. I've been doing it so long now that the contract offers show up in my email inbox on the regular. The pay is great, there is variety, and something new is always happening. The main problem? Freelancing means I have to pay in my estimated taxes, pay for all of my own health care, and I have no benefits. I can't tell you how many nights, weekends, and holidays I've barreled through working away on some project that has a world-is-ending deadline. I just want a freaking vacation day. One where I get paid. And I want to have a project that starts up immediately when the current project ends. I don't want to wait net-90 for my paycheck after invoicing. I don't want to have a massive tax bill at the end of the year no matter how much money I schlep at the IRS. I want to feel secure, grounded, rooted. I want coworkers I can bond with and regularly-scheduled national holidays. It's not too much to ask. (Well, in this economy, it might be. Whoever said the economy recovered after 2008 is lying.)

Historically, publishers have been unwilling to hire remote workers. I'm not sure why this is because damn near everything we do involves working with people in India and three or four different corporate offices peppered throughout the United States. I think it comes down to a basic fear that everyone will want to work remotely, and then no one will come to the office. This is a ridiculous notion because most work-from-homers will tell you that it takes a very strong person to work remotely. I'd say about 80% of the people I know aren't cut out for it. They've told me this to my face. I have no idea how you do it. They'd prefer to go to an office. They can't concentrate at home or they need the interaction with other humans or PLEASE GAWD they want to get away from their kiddos and crazy spouses for a bit. I get it. I totally get it. I'd love to work outside of my home. After eight years of freelancing, I'm getting a bit stir crazy. I can own it.

There is no educational publishing in the Greater Omaha Area, however. So when my last contract fell through in a very disastrous way, my Depression Brain kicked into high gear:

    No Local Publishers
+  No More Freelancing
   Miserable Blondie Starts Career Life Over

Ready, set, GO!

I started looking for Omaha jobs only. I did my research well. I've been looking on and off for local jobs the entire time I've lived here, so I know where some secret, creative companies are lurking. I also know all of the tricks for noodling my way into people's inboxes and getting my resume in front of eyeballs. I've been hustling in the freelance game for a long time. I know how to get my info to the right people. HOWEVER, I forgot that if you do NOT have the skills/ degree/ etc a company is looking for, it doesn't matter how good your game is. No one is going to call you. You aren't qualified. You do not have the required skills. FLUSH. They won't even send you a courtesy email to say, "Hahaha! No, just no." Even that would be more refreshing than the crippling silence at the end of 100 submitted resumes.


[And I mean seriously CRICKETS because Briarpatch has a cricket factory in the basement. They crawl up through the vents, and Gretchen alerts me to them. Between the two of us, we caught SIX crickets last night. That's our new record. *chest bumps Gretchen*]

My regular readers know my depression and anxiety come in waves. When I decided to end freelancing, the depression came on hard and fast. Looking at the available jobs in my area, I realized that I was going to have to BEG someone to give me a job I didn't want to do for half of my freelancing salary. Like literally, cut right in half. I'd be back making the salary I made when I was 22 years old -- but now I'm 38. I know I'm not alone in this situation. I know that. I have SO many friends and colleagues who are in the exact same boat, and I remind them over and over that gone are the days of wine and roses -- this is just the way the corporate world is now. It's sad. It's not your fault. You aren't a failure. Things Just Changed. But still, the darkness clamped down on my mentality and flushed me into the lowest of lows. I found myself crying in public. I found myself unable to carry on conversations. I stopped working on minis. I stopped reading my books. I became mute. I stared at walls.

I know myself and my demons quite well. At least I have that whole self-awareness thing going for me. So I knew I just had to give myself some time. It will pass. Just get through it. So I kept getting up and putting on clothes staying in my jammies and looking for work. And then I put myself on a schedule because looking for work 40 hours a week like all of the "experts" tell you is actually so mentally exhausting and defeating that I figured out I was making myself more sick by sticking to that kind of a schedule. First, I killed off Fridays. No one is excited about hiring on Fridays. Then I killed off Mondays because everyone is too busy with Monday Morning Meetings and planning their weeks to pay attention to desperate unemployed people. Job hunting Tuesday–Thursday works best for me.

And time went by.

They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting something to change. I've been job hunting Omaha since back in June. It ain't working, people. But I refuse to move because Briarpatch is my sanctuary, and Farmsville is my town, so what options are left?

1. Freelance publishing.
2. Full-time remote publishing.

#1 has got to go. So that only leaves me with #2.

Don't get me wrong, I've attempted #2 plenty of times. I've queried and noodled and buttered up and tried to squeeze myself into shut doors many times. But this has been in little dribbles over the years. I've never gone on a full-blown assault on my industry to find a company who is willing to take a chance on a remote editor. I know they like me and that I'm good because the exact same companies keep hiring me over and over and over and paying me good money. I'm not sure they realize that they could probably save money by hiring me full-time remote. I've done the math. It would actually work out really well for them. But still. I hit a brick wall. No remote options. No telecommuting.

See how I keep chasing my tail here? Yeah, I know. It drives me nuts, too.

But here I am, and my options are fading quickly. It's been a long, hard summer of self-reflection, self-flagellation, and a very low self-esteem.

So then this miracle happened. I got an interview that was kinda sorta iffy-ish related to my publishing career. A little, tiny spark lit inside my chest. I realized that I actually could get excited about a job if it had something to do with my passion for books and literacy. HOLY CRAP, DID I JUST FEEL EXCITED?! I'M ACTUALLY ALIVE?! WHAT'S HAPPENING?!

I didn't get that job (I had 95% the wrong skill set), but I'm so grateful that I went on the interview. It woke me up. It reminded me that I'm valuable. I am good at something. Insurance companies, banks, and medical companies in Omaha totally don't care about the work I've done, but in my field, my resume is quite impressive. It had been so long since I'd felt proud of anything that I almost felt like crying a bit. And then I swung my big ole head around my home office and looked -- really looked -- at all I've accomplished. My office is filled with books that I've written or edited or helped plan or prototyped.

Look at all you've done, Blondie. You can do this. You can find a company who will value this.

Who knows? Perhaps the right company will be one in the Omaha area. Or maybe it will be remote. Or maybe it will be some kind of hybrid job that hasn't crossed my radar yet. The point? I know for the first time in many, painful months that it's going to be OK. The darkest part of this experience is finished. (I think. I'm pretty sure.) Now that my brain and spirit are perking back up, I have more energy to keep trying. My self-esteem is blinking back on. I'm slightly hopeful. These are all good things. I'll be happy with that for now.

Monday, August 24, 2015

My Miniature Creations: An Overview

I think it's perfectly natural to go through a down slump sometimes with a hobby. Real Life interferes, you get busy, or you're just not feeling it. I've personally found that if I'm not feeling it, it's best to walk away for a bit until inspiration strikes. I'm going through one of these times right now. I have so many projects that I really do want to work on, but when I have free time, I find myself wanting to just relax, zone out to trashy TV, or read a book. I'm tired of making excuses about why I've stalled on builds lately. It is what it is.

I thought that it might help to look back at some of my previous builds to get me excited about construction again. Even though I feel like I've done plenty of builds, my own home is lacking in evidence. This is because I enjoy making things for other people. My builds move into other people's homes, so I forget about those babies I've sent out into the world. It's time for a review.

My very first dollhouse is also my most neglected: The Beacon Hill. The photo above shows the Crime Museum, which is on the lower left floor of the house. I started my Beacon Hill in 2006 and have gone on to watch oodles of other people finish the whole thing in weeks flat on the Greenleaf Dollhouse Forum. I'm very proud of my fellow miniaturists, yet also extremely jealous. It's my own fault. I need to dedicate time to this build. My excuse for this one is that I only worked on it for less than a year before it moved home and lived in my parents' house for like 6 years and then I started working on it for real, and then I stopped. So in total, I've probably realistically only been working on it for about 2 years instead of almost 10. I actually gave myself a 10 year time limit when I started on it, fully believing with all my heart that it would be my only dollhouse.

*laughs hysterically at self*

Anyway, here is the Beacon Hill as it is now. The lighting is terrible, but you get the point. Still unfinished. Foil to keep Gretchen off of it:

And here is the back:

I don't have a label dedicated to the BH on this blog, which I really need to do. I'll add that to the list. I've learned a TON of new things about building during the time I've been working on the BH. Some parts of it will look terrible forever because I messed up at the very beginning of construction, but I don't really mind. I like that you'll be able to see the house grow and change as the build continues. I promise you, sweet Beacon, we'll spend time together this winter. On my honor.

The first dollhouse I made and actually finished was the Princess House (Greenleaf Arthur) for my niece. I gave this house to her in 2007 for her 3rd birthday, which in retrospect is pretty young for a dollhouse. I purposely left off most of the trim and the windows and doors so little hands could be as rough as they needed to be with it. It's still in perfect condition all these years later, however, because my niece is very careful with her things.



The next dollhouse was the Observatory, which I made for the 2009 Greenleaf Spring Fling. I'm proud of my efforts on this one because I whipped this all together in one weekend. Ha! But there are so many unfinished parts. Like seriously? Where is the door? A while back, I decided to toss this house. Yep, I said TOSS, as in "threw it away." That's kind of sacrilegious for miniaturists -- who tend to hoard every little wrapper or doodad to make something with. And there is a whole wing of miniaturists who only renovate old dollhouses. I decided that wasn't in the cards for ye ole Observatory. I tossed it, and I feel no regret! (I took everything out of it first, don't worry). But it's still fun to look at pictures and remember my greenest of green days in miniaturing.



Then we have a really long stretch where I didn't mini at all. I resumed work in 2012 and made the Cattery for the HBS Creatin' Contest. It's a BIG improvement over the Observatory, but it's still pretty green methinks. I've stopped myself from "fixing it up" though because I like to see the progress in skill from one build to the next. It's a fun, little house where homeless kitties wait to be adopted.



I started truly stretching my mini wings with the creation of the TeenieTow for the 2013 Greenleaf Spring Fling. I took my time and worked on the little details more than I ever had before. It's based off of one of the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, which I think are great fun. This one is kind of hard to photograph because it's only view-able from the top -- which comes off.




Also in 2013, I made Drink Me Café for the Omaha-Council Bluffs Miniature Guild's Nebraska State Day project. I'm not entirely finished with this because I need to finish the trim, doorknob, and put the glass in the window. I also want to redo the sign. But it's "mostly" done.



2013 was a very busy year miniature-wise. For Christmas, I gave my niece a more grown-up house: The Rosedale. I looooove this house and would build it again for myself in a hot minute.



And let me tell ya -- nothing felt as good as seeing my niece appreciate this house. And I was very excited to see the Princess House is still in use as well. Melts my crusty, black heart (photo c/o my sis):

And little did that sis know that I was making her a Christmas surprise, too! I had a blast making this build, which I like to call Llama Drama.



In early 2014, I made Karu's Kitchen for Ma for her birthday.

When it's closed, it looks like a regular breadbox:

But there's totally a party happening inside:

Throughout 2014, I made a 1:48 Southwestern Roombox (Karen Benson kit):

Some stand-alone pumpkin displays:

Some 1:48 scale cabins with my niece.



I started a still-unfinished shop for OCMBG's Nebraska State Day:

And I started 1:24 scale Luna Lair (Greenleaf Buttercup), which is taking forEVER (this is the one with the crabby owl named Ollie).



But I totally have a good excuse for not getting that finished because right here at the end of 2014, I moved. So I had to do all of the packing, moving, getting settled, unpacking thing for a really long time.

2015 has been quiet on the mini front. I've continued to work on Luna Lair. I'm seriously hoping to wrap that up soon so I can stop feeling guilty about it.

At the beginning of this year, I made a 1:48 Betterley kit called Briarwood.


From the top:

Over the years, I've also made a bunch of quick, little houses or 1:144 builds -- many of the Betterley Secret Books because I lurve them. And of COURSE, I have a whole bunch of houses that are in the planning stages and aren't represented here.

This has been a really good exercise for me. I'm realizing that I really HAVE made a lot of minis over the years. Out of sight is out of mind, so it's good to remind myself about the builds that live with other people. I can stop feeling guilty about my lack of production lately.

Stop feeling guilty, Self!

Oh yes! Speaking of builds for other people! How could I forget Tark, who I just got done with?? Tark's Place was a gift for Pa here in August of 2015:

So, what's the rest of my plan for this year? I went out and bought some scrapbook papers and materials for Backyard Bliss, which I hope to start on soon. I also want to give the Beacon Hill some love. And of course, I neeeed to finish Luna Lair. Those builds will be my focus in the months to come. I really wanted to build my White Orchid kit in time for Christmas this year, but I'm not sure that's going to happen. We'll see. One thing at a time, Self.

Cheers to many more years of mini builds -- or whatever hobbies you enjoy!!!

*clinks glass*

Monday, August 17, 2015

Tark's Place: A Wee Build for Pa

Tomorrow is Pa's birthday, so I surprised him last night with his birthday present. I've been sneakily working on this project since May-ish/April-ish, so I was able to get some doodads from the Chicago miniature shows I went to earlier this year to put in the build. Yay! 

The whole plan started when I randomly asked my father which bird he would come back as when he's dead. I know, I know, weird conversation, eh? But there are some birds attached to some of my deceased relatives, and I find it comforting when I see them. It's like my relative is saying hello in some way. Grandma Blonderson is every butterfly I see, for example. Pa gave it some thought, and then he said he'd probably come back as a crow. That is so perfect for Pa -- he's wickedly clever. 

Last year, I gave Ma Karu's Kitchen for her birthday. I got Karu from Willane on Etsy. Eve makes the most wonderful needle-felted animals. I saw this crow in her listings and asked her to make me an American all-black crow that was a little bit smaller. Her creation is PERFECT! (Thank you so much, Eve!!!) Eve is over in Estonia, so Karu means "bear" in Estonian. I wanted to use an Estonian word for this build as well. "Crow" is "vares," which I wasn't sure how to pronounce, and it didn't seem to fit the little guy's personality. Instead I went with Tark, which means "wise." 

In the above photo of Tark, you can see a plumb bob in the background. My father is a mechanical engineer/ farmer/ tinker-er /computer geek, so a plumb bob was essential. I forgot to add it in before I took all of these photos, so I wanted to make sure I pointed that out.

I had a few different plans for where Tark would live. Then one day, I was at Hobby Lobby and saw this rusty wall hanging. It was meant to be. The miniature gods were smiling upon me. Tark needed a place to tinker, work on odd jobs, read his books, and sleep. Tadaaaaaaaaa:

The build is actually really hard to photograph because the camera wants to focus on too many things at once, particularly the bars. But I gave it a good college try. Everything inside is related to my father in some way. One thing he has a lot of is those blue tubs you find in every mechanic's or hobbyist's garage. At first, Tark was going to live in one of these tubs. I got one in town and had grand plans for a little setup inside:

As you can see, that would have been way too small because Tark has lots of goodies. But it was fun to think about for a while. So naturally, I HAD to get some of these wee 3D printed tubs from Modern Dollhouse on Shapeways. They were designed by Pepper Mitcheson of MitchyMooMiniatures, who is one of the people I go fan girl gaga over in the mini world. (HI PEPPER, LITTLE DID YOU KNOW I WOULD STALK YOU IF YOU LIVED CLOSER. BAHAHAHAHA!!!!! Ahem. Oh wait. I mean, I think you're neato.) Look at these purties:

[Speaking of these tubs, click HERE (that means you, Pa) to see Pepper's mini shed. Go ahead. I'll wait. I know, right?! So good!]

Pa's Real Life blue tubs hold a bazillion nails and screws and all kinds of things, which are hard to replicate in 1:12. So I put nails in one (on the table) and shoved random useful tools in the other. Then I selfishly hoarded kept the other two tubs:

Tark's bedroom area has magazines, books, and a plate of Lutheran fluff:

I was going to build a proper nest for Tark to bed down in each night, but then my friend Del gave me a skinny rug that fit perfectly in that spot:

He seems very happy in his nesting area:

Tark gets up to the loft on a copper ladder that my Grandpa Blonderson made. It's actually part of a windmill that Grandpa made for his torchcraft art. I found a few leftovers from him when I moved in here, so now they've come back to life in this build. The little fence type thing that goes along the loft is a ladder from a windmill. I didn't have the heart to glue these things in permanently, so the railing can pop out of the channel molding, and the ladder is being held in place by two hex nuts:

The shelving unit is holding a basket full of blue towels and a basket of books. I made the blue towels by taking the real thing, peeling the towel in half and re-rolling tiny ones:

There's also a vacuum, a heating stove, a basket of corn on the cob, a toolbox with some tools, and a creeper:

If you look closely at the hex nut, you'll see a little red butterfly. I had some butterflies that my friend Del made, and I added them in in homage to Pa's mother:

On top of the chest, we have a clock made by Harlan Schleuter. Harlan used to own a miniatures shop in Omaha, and I know him through friends in the Omaha-Council Bluffs Miniatures Guild. He's a member of the Shoe Box Bunch and has a sales table at the OCBMG's Nebraska Day each day. It's a faboosh clock. There's also a tiny metal owl sculpture from the Dolls' House Mall and a toy tractor I picked up at Bomgaar's one day on a whim -- it looks like one my grandfather used to have when I was little:

On the table, we have a CB radio in the box (we used to have these in our cars when I was little), jars of nuts and bolts, a soldering iron, paper and a pencil, and various engineerish tools. My grandfather used to weld copper spider webs, so I couldn't resist this steel one from the Dolls' House Mall. I'm pretending that Tark is soldering it together:

In this picture, you can see the nails in the blue tub. I made them by hacking off bits of tiny dress pins. They kept flying everywhere, and the process was quite chaotic, so there aren't very many nails. There's a steel calculator, vise grips, and my favorite thing -- an erector set toy from Wright Guide Miniatures. I looooove their stuff, so many of the tools are from them:

I put some of my less exciting tools on a peg board over in the corner:

Here are saw horses from Sir Thomas Thumb and an oil change set from Wright Guide. Pa has changed the oil every time in every car I've ever had except for ONCE that I can remember, so it's very appropriate:

I wasn't sure what this long tool was, and Pa told me it was for cutting horse hooves. Oops. But my sister DID have a horse when we were little, so it kinda makes sense. LOL. And what workshop doesn't have a gas can somewhere? This one is heavy and very realistic:

The candle chandeliers are from a road trip I took with my parents a few years back. We stopped at a little store somewhere in Iowa, and there they were. Very farmie:

From afar, Tark's Place looks quite cluttered, as all good farmie workshops should be:

You can remove the birdbath and the birdhouse up top and open the "lid" if you want:

Tark says, "Yes, I know. I'm gorgeous.":

Overall, this was a very fun and rewarding build. I'm sure to add more doodads over time when I go visit Tark:

There is a "real" 1:12 crow in the bath. It's by Barbara Meyer of mini-gems. Her birdies are the BEST:

The late additions that didn't make it into the original photos are a fantastic abacus from my friend Debora. Pa is veeeery good at the maths:

I also added in a HVAC three ring binder because Pa built a corn boiler basically from scratch to heat his house a few years ago. I don't know anyone else who has MULTIPLE giant three ring binders for their HVAC systems. Just sayin':

And I also popped in a Micro Lunar Explorer One from 2001 because Pa and I have a shared interest in both the book and the movie. Nerds. Love it:

So that is the story of Tark and how he came to be. Many thanks to my friends and family and all of the wonderful mini makers who helped make it possible.

And guess who arrived along with Tark in that box from Estonia? A wee Karu!!!! You know what that means... She's going to need a house, too:

Let the ideas begin!

Happy early birthday, Pa!!

Daughter #2