Saturday, March 31, 2012

Growing Pains

For seven years, this has been my second home.

One of the best ways to appreciate what you have is to lose it. As I prepare to say goodbye to the wonderful museum where I have worked for the past seven years--and the amazing people who make it what it is--I find that even the things I used to dread are now precious, because I won't have them much longer.

The museum is a unionized environment, and as such, we have two "mandatory" fifteen-minute breaks. For a few years, I've skipped these breaks because I've been too caught up with getting things done. But now I regret that, because those thirty minutes a day are spent with some of the most incredible people I've ever met--people who fix things. People who protect our history. People who show children how to love science and archaeology. People who conduct research and do everything they can to learn more about endangered species and how to save them. And, of course, people who make money so everyone else can continue to fix and protect and teach and research. It's a diverse group, but one that is fiercely devoted to a common goal, which binds us all together. Most people who are hired by the museum stay until they retire or are forced to go...which makes me an anomaly. In so many ways, I already don't belong anymore. It makes me sad.

So, for my last two weeks, I've been going to every break, just to enjoy the company of these people while I still can.

It was a Friday afternoon, and everyone was a bit exhausted from handling the spring break crowds--our busiest season of the year--and perhaps a little worried that it wasn't quite as busy as it should have been.

Sitting beside me was the man who keeps the planetarium and science gallery and pretty much everything else in running condition. But he is so much more than that. He is a daily lesson on how to live your best life, and he has the best collection of amusing true stories in the world. Everyone loves him, and rightly so.

Across from him was the man he's shared an office with for probably close to twenty years, the audio-visual specialist who takes amazing photographs (even though that's not his job), predicts the weather flawlessly if you ask, and is easy to write off as quiet, but who will talk your ear off if he trusts you. He has the type of laugh that makes everyone else laugh, too, and there isn't a mean bone in his body.

We were soon joined by our 3-D designer, whose job it is to turn the scientists' ideas into the exhibit spaces we walk through and marvel at....and the museum programs developer, who somehow manages to turn topics like the Second World War into something children will find interesting...and the I.T. department, who is really only one guy who used to be an archaeologist...but that's a long story.

It was a normal break, with all of us sacked out on faux leather couches, chatting about shows we love and Girl Guide cookies and whatever else struck our fancy, when in walked the director of fund development. He was carrying a package of microwave popcorn. He lined a wicker bowl with a napkin, poured in the freshly popped corn, and sat down on the couch, handing us each a paper towel to wipe our greasy fingers.

It was a simple thing...a small thing. Hardly worth noticing to a lot of people, and if I didn't write it down, I probably wouldn't remember it a year from now. But there we were, on a Friday afternoon, a group of co-workers sharing a bowl of popcorn. It's amazing how a shared snack turns colleagues into friends.

It is time for me to leave this place, and the people that I love. I did what was best for me, and I know it, but that doesn't make it easy. There is something so rare about a workplace that not only allows that kind of camaraderie, but encourages it.

And it will take a long, long time not to miss it anymore.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lucky Seven

Hello Dear Readers,

I owe you a massive apology. I can't believe I haven't been back here in eighteen days! There's (almost) no excuse for that, but I have been really busy making sure I hit my rewrite deadline at the end of this month. I've also been swamped with freelance work in my (ha ha) spare time, as well as working on an exciting project that I hope I'll be able to tell you about soon.

In the meantime, the lovely aspiring author A.M. Swan tagged me to participate in the Lucky 7 meme, which is forcing me (gasp!) to unveil part of my manuscript a little early. I'm supposed to post seven lines from page 77, so here goes:

This chapter finds my protagonist struggling to find both rational and not-so-rational explanations for what is happening to her. At this point, she'll try just about anything. The following seven lines are a portion of a conversation between Jo and a medium who is doing a smoke reading for her.

- excerpt from Dragonfly Summer

A fire, however small, would push my landlord’s already frazzled patience to the limit. I reached for my coffee, just in case I needed to dowse it, but then the flame settled down. It burned brightly, casting a warm yellow glow upon the room.

Agnes handed me the square of paper. “I need you to think about what’s been happening here in this house. Any questions you have, hold them in your mind as you run the paper over the flame.”

“What?” My poker face vanished at the suggestion of deliberately starting a blaze.

“Don’t worry. It won’t burn. And the smoke reading will tell us what we want to know. Try to make figure eights over the flame, and move quickly. If you hold it still, it might catch fire.”

Now for the basic rules of this meme:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP

2. Go to line 7

3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.

4. Tag 7 authors

5. Let them know

So, now I have to tag seven more people. And here they are:

1) Ev Bishop
2) Laura Best
3) Kim Mitchell
4) Mystic Mom
5) Susie Moloney
6) Lisa S.
7) Michelle Davidson Argyle
Have fun! I hope this early spring is treating you well. (And if you don't have an early spring in your part of the world, my apologies.)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Better Life Challenge #1

Happy Friday Dear Readers,

As many of you know, I have a tough few years ahead as I attempt to achieve several big goals in my life. Some of these goals are mentioned here.

In order to do this and not burn myself out, several things have to change. I've decided to tackle one of these changes each month--let's call them "better life challenges". Maybe some of you would like to take on these challenges with me, or come up with some of your own.

Some of these changes I've attempted before, but not with any lasting success. The ones that are the most difficult are the ones that are the most contrary to my nature, but until I'm living the life I want, they are necessary.

The first challenge may also be the hardest. March's Better Life Challenge is....

Get More Sleep.

I've written about this before. I'm a notorious night owl. I think sleeping is the biggest waste of time, so I put it off as long as possible. There is always something more interesting to do. But since I want to wake up at 6 a.m. each day to work on my novel, getting to bed at 2 a.m. isn't going to cut it.

Lack of sleep definitely contributes to burn-out. It makes me tired throughout the day, and it's more of a challenge to get to the gym. It drastically affects my energy levels, and it could be cutting my life short...who knows? All I do know is that I feel better when I get eight hours of sleep or more each night.

So here's the challenge defined: for the month of March, I will go to bed at 10 pm (10:30 at the very latest) each night of the weekday. I'll report back if I'm noticing any difference in my life, or if I'm struggling to stick to it. If it works out well, I'll try to keep it going past March.

On the weekends, I'm going to be more lax, but I'll still try to get to bed before 4 a.m. so I'm not completely wrecked the next day.

Wish me luck! What is one thing you'd like to change about your life this month? Do you get enough sleep?