Category Archives: Personal

Parachutes and Javascript

What colour is my parachute?

What colour is my parachute? by rednivaram

As a fairly recent member of the unemployed I’m coming up against questions that surely plague many who have been out there for a while. I am fortunate – my chosen careen path of web design very easily translates into the freelance lifestyle so while I am unemployed – meaning no full time job – I am working.

I was having a particularly off or down day. I found jobs to apply for but I’ll be damned if there was a cover letter to be found in my brain. I decided to go to the library (YES, the library. The internet was just bringin’ me down) to get out of the house and see if I couldn’t jog some give-me-the-job juices from somewhere. While leafing through various books on cover letters (once again, the Dummies series came through! I really should return that…) I bumped into “What Color is Your Parachute?” It’s been around for a while and, apparently, it’s updated every year. Not very far in, a question is posed: “Is this a good time to try to figure out your purpose in life, your calling, your vocation, your passion, your “dream job”? Indeed, I have thought about this. I probably shouldn’t be too picky, right? I mean, I’m not that picky by any stretch. I don’t have to work for the #1 ad agency in the world (some would ask well, why not?) but I have read some job descriptions that, while I could do it, it didn’t inspire me. That or the company left something to be desired. Did I apply? Yes, to a couple of them but since there are only so many jobs available on any given day and after I have taken care of any freelance work, there is inevitably down time. So, as my grandfather used to say, might as well do something even if it’s wrong. Meaning, doing something is better than nothing because it gets the ball rolling.

I have finished reading the book so now I think I’m going to go back and do the exercises to see if I can’t unearth “my passion”. These exercises are recommended whether you are changing careers or just trying to find the right place to do what you love. I’ve never really gotten into exercises like the ones in the book – I’m an eye-roller, a nay-sayer, a wow-this-is-lame, PUH-leeze kind of gal sometimes. Maybe I’m older, maybe I care more, who knows. Maybe after these exercises, I will have to work for the #1 ad agency in the world!

The other thing I’ve been doing in my spare time (note: this is a fallacy in my life. I’m not working full time but I have less time than I did before) anyway – I am learning Javascript. I’ve been meaning to buckle down and learn it for quite a while but now, in my job search, I notice it’s expected in the ‘toolbox’ of a front-end developer/designer, which would be me. I can work with pre-written code – make edits and tweak settings – but not my own stuff and now it’s holding me back.

So, you’ve got your variables and your functions. Functions are really fancy ways of telling a variable what to do. I’m thinking I should write a function for my job search, like var parachute & var jobs. IF jobs < 0, THEN parachute should be huge, ELSE, IF jobs > 0, THEN parachute should still be big. Just in case. I may not mind doing something wrong to get the ball rolling but I still like an escape route.

Adventures in Photography

I am working on a website for an industrial plumbing company and they would like a project portfolio on their website. Sounds good. I get to use my Web skills and my Photography skills. And then you drive to the first building location in Brooklyn and the roads are still cobblestone. And uneven. I mean REALLY uneven. One of the streets had a pothole or a sinkhole as big as my tire and I drive a truck. Yikes! And the whole time you are just bobbing side to side side to side side to side. It’s like heaven when you get back on what you thought was bumpy asphalt but really, is quite wonderful!

And then, the other building, in another part of Brooklyn. As you walk up to it with your camera you are quick to avert your eyes from the man who just pulled up his pants from taking a quick pee on a fire hydrant.

All in a day’s work I guess!

My Own Worst Design Enemy

A Corner of
My Future Site

I am currently in the process of redesigning my own website, which showcases a portfolio of my web design work along with my photography. It is long overdue and certainly could benefit from more copy and a more coherent design and flow. Looking at the site from a potential client or employer’s perspective one would wonder who this designer is. What does this designer have to offer? On the surface, it doesn’t look like much.

The design aspect of my site is definitely farther along than the copy which is unfortunate because it is really better to design with content than without. Designing without the copy can lead to a whole host of issues including continually redesigning and, were it for a client, extra charges. While I may not be charging myself, I don’t want to waste my own time either.

Writing copy for the web is a little different, as many articles will tell you. The copy needs to be succinct but as detailed as possible because it needs to be found by search engines and users otherwise it’s just a pretty element of cyberspace. The thing that gets in the way is the search engine optimization (SEO) aspect of the writing. While there are key phrases and words you want to find you in a search, you also don’t want to sound like you’re writing just for the search, which is part of what was holding me back writing copy for my site. I could blame it on writer’s block but I can eke out a few blog posts and a lot of poetry in a given time span so clearly it isn’t writer’s block. Part of it of course, is determining who I am as a designer and then making that work with ‘key phrases’ and part of it is my perfection confinement: it has to be right the first time.

An article I read the other day at Website Magazine really helped. And the thing that got me was that as a writer, the advice was so obvious. “Start by writing 2 or 3 bulleted points that you want to make….” Wow. Brilliant, eh? That’s the basis for essay writing in high school: the outline. (Incidentally, I don’t think I ever wrote an outline that was worth anything. I went right into the writing part – I guess its coming back to haunt me now!) Using this paramount piece of advice for the ‘elevator pitch’ at the beginning of my resume, which was also eluding me, I broke through these barriers and I feel that I’m ready to move on to tackle the copy on my website.

Another good point at the Web Designer Depot was to “Think about the story you want to tell at each point in the design process.” This is something that was definitely missing from my approach. Looking at how I was proceeding in my own site design, I was seeing each page as its own entity, separate from any other page but this shouldn’t be the case. A website, in this instance mine, should have a solid idea as a whole and each page should support that. I am my worst client. I was doing all the things that frustrate me in dealing with clients. Not provide copy, not having a clear vision of flow, not thinking about the audience. No wonder I have been stumbling all over the place.

I now have a much more clear vision of what I want the site to do and I see my little cyber niche becoming a much more enjoyable place to land.

Peonies

peony bud by rayna diane

Becoming a Peony


Small green globes that shroud
the delicate within
angelic white kissed with sunset pink.

Without, they scramble silently
pulling, pulling
for release of the tender heart.

Green yields, and yields
slowly it seems
from its beginning orb.

The white flesh appears, peeled out
revealing its final flourish
the beauty of spring.

 

Tap, Tap

My Alter Ego

I guess it could be considered a new year’s resolution though I never officially decided that it would be. It developed out of a moment of self-awareness: my relationship issues were actually more my fault than anything else. I was handling things very poorly and decided to fix that. I went on a self-help book quest on Amazon (that wasn’t overwhelming at all *insert crossed eyes here*). I settled on The Dance of Connection and Make the Leap and promptly requested them from the library (being frugal was on my list of habit changes). They were very helpful – I implemented suggestions and saw happy results almost immediately. I remember joking with Mom about 2010 being the year for my personal transformation. What I didn’t know was that it would happen in such a big way because of things out of my control.

As I went about my daily routine of showering, commuting, prepping & sending emails, an embolism was blooming in my pulmonary artery. My breathing had been difficult for awhile but I just attributed that to being out of shape and toting around a few extra pounds. I woke up on a Tuesday morning, preparing to travel to Vermont for business and a familiar pain presented itself on my right side. I say familiar because I have had the pleasure of having a lung infection called pleurisy.  Assuming that this is what I had, I went up to Vermont anyway but did schedule an appointment with the pulmonologist for the following Tuesday. The whole time I was away, I was short of breath, tired, kind of weak and had pain on deep breaths.

The doctor and I, when I do see him, both agree – it would be weird to develop pleurisy with no prior illness like bronchitis or the flu because, when it happens, it’s usually after an illness. He decided, after hearing about my being on Yaz birth control, to run a test for blood clots. When this came back positive I was sent for a CT scan. This was at 11AM March 11th. At 3PM, the pulmonologist called and told me to go to the hospital and admit myself to the ER. This floors me. I have to go to the hospital? Why? This never crossed my mind, that it was something this serious.

It turns out, even though my doctor assured me it would all be fine, pulmonary embolisms are nothing to mess with. Quite recently in fact, our infomercial maven, Billy Mays, died from one. At any time during that week, I could have as well. And younger people are actually more likely to die from one because they dismiss pain, thinking it will go away. I am in the hospital for 6 days during which time you have a lot of time to think. And you are surrounded by age and sickness and helplessness. And you are helpless. You are at the mercy of the hospital – when they take your blood (530AM, bright lights coming on and a needle stick are a very rude awakening), when they feed you.  At least I could go to the bathroom and shower without help. Most people there weren’t so lucky.

rainbow

Always a good sign

While it was scary and there is still some residual pain, I am alive. I am here to experience that pain. But I am also alive to continue my friendships, be a daughter, a partner, a web designer, a writer and a poet. If I say I’m going to do something, I do it. If I want to see someone, I make the plans. I’m having more fun, more peace, and more enjoyment. When I see how much of my own enjoyment of life I was keeping away from myself, it makes me shake my head. Why didn’t I see that before? As my friend Sarah said, you got a tap on the shoulder.

Thanks. I needed that.

New flickr Photos

Manhattan BridgeFriday in DUMBO Brooklyn was beautiful. I took full advantage and went out at lunch time with my camera. There was a perfect breeze, not too hot. I have added 7 new photos to my flickr stream, which you can see in the slide show to the right!

Hopefully, there will be more pretty days like this to make the lunchtime escape that much more enjoyable!

 

Spam Comments. Really?

I would like to voice my disgust at spam. It was not enough to spam every email account I own attempting to taunt me with pills to “amorous my bedroom” or “make the girls to please”. Besides the wonderfully horrible grammar that abounds in these emails – I’m afraid you are attempting to entice the wrong gender! But the Inbox world was not enough. No. Your endless stream of useless bytes of information has decided to go after blogs. Really. Retain some dignity for yourselves and refrain from spam commenting. No, REALLY. Keep it to yourself. You weren’t looking all day for an article like that or for wonderful advice (ps – I haven’t given any on my blog) so leave my blog alone. Really.

A New Year

Flower Necklace

My First Necklace

Not really a lot to add to the year at this point though I have some change in the works that I’m really starting to look forward to the closer it gets.

I like that it’s really cold right now. It is refreshing, especially in the mornings. Even the coldest days are welcomed, if briefly, for the relief and reprieve from the stifling morning heat that pervades our apartment.

I think January is often a very bleak month. For Christmas celebrators I think the month can be particularly dull as all the greenery, angels, golds and reds have been tucked away in their storage closets, attics or basements.

I return to work tomorrow after a week off, which is always invigorating, and I am really going to make en effort to maintain some of the creative spirit that always sprouts for me during time off. I made my first necklace, took care of some practical errands and cooked some good stuff. It’s not easy to balance life – it gets in the way of itself sometimes. So, in keeping with balance, I will also not get SO down on myself after a week of not being creative that I thwart a month of future creative endeavors. I will not be my own worst enemy. As that’s a tall order, I think it’ll be a short list this year.

Wishing you all a healthy and enjoyable new year.

What is home?

curtains and towel holderWhat is home? Or what feels like home? Arguably, it might be somewhere you have lived for most of your life, somewhere you are familiar. You know the weak spots in the floorboards, just how to turn the closet door handle to shut it, and where to hit certain appliances to make them work. But I don’t think that it has to necessarily be.

I am ‘home’ right now. I live in New York with my boyfriend but am currently visiting my parents for Thanksgiving in their house they bought a few years ago. They have just recently moved to West Virginia full time and it was definitely a transition for me. We are very close and I was living with them before they moved. I did not grow up in this house nor have I ever spent more than a week here and yet, it is home. It feels like I have lived here all my life.

I thought that perhaps it was simply my parents being here that made it feel that way but the last apartment we lived in did not feel like home to any of us. The floors were all tile – we like wood floors. It was a ‘modern’ apartment in that it was built in perhaps the last 30 years or so. I use modern loosely – more of a timeframe than a type of apartment. I have been to ‘modern’ apartments that are wonderful and inviting but this one was not it, at least not for us. There were no moldings around the windows or doors or any type of baseboard. The walls were flat white. We like texture and old moldings.

We left an apartment of 20 or so years because the children of the landlords, whom have passed on, sold it to a developer. It was a beautiful house, with two apartments, crystal doorknobs, thick wood molding and doors, a huge backyard and wood floors. When we moved into that ‘modern’ apartment, I don’t even think my cat was happy. It was always cold and she hardly ever finished her wet food which she lives and whines for.

mom's couchThe apartment my boyfriend and I live in is also a ‘modern’ apartment with no molding, no wood except for the floors and (I confess my favorite part) a stainless steel applianced kitchen. It feels more like home than did the apartment my parents and I just left though not as much as the one of 20 years. My cat is definitely happier – we live over the boiler room so the floors are always warm and she DEVOURS every last drop of wet food. While not perfect, I was sitting across from my boyfriend munching on pizza and I looked at him and I thought this almost feels like home so it seems people do have something to contribute.

This house of my parents though, it isn’t just them being here. The house is comfortable to me, inviting. It does have thick wood moldings – that have never been painted and are still the original dark stain, the floors are wood, the furnace sounds wonderful when it kicks on and it has a huge backyard. There probably are ‘things’ that feel comfortable, familiar. I don’t feel like I’m staying in someone else’s house.

 

A bright, sunshiny day

I was waiting at the train station in Woodside for the second cutest girl in the world. Second? So who is first? Well, according to my father I am and far be it from me to argue with my father.  🙂 And, were her father available to call and say, hey, who is the cutest girl in the world, he would undoubtedly say, you needed to ask?

SO, Back to standing at the train station on an absolutely beautiful November Sunday watching the crowds go by. A young girl in flat knee high suede purple boots that clearly made her feel like an adult. A woman in tie-dyed stockings with bright purple sneakers. A curious baby on a father’s shoulder taking everything in with big brown eyes. A woman with verrry bright neon pink-orange (porange? orink?) sneakers. 3 good friends laughing and drinking coffee.

When all of the ill of the world appear on the pages of our daily physical and virtual newspapers it is a comfort to know that somehow normal life goes on. People find a way to continue to laugh and love and enjoy the sunshine on a particularly warm fall day. And I was among them. Sweet!