Sunday, December 27, 2015

Year End of 2015

This has been an interesting year. Many things have changed. Some things that I love to do have fallen by the wayside (like blogging, in a world with instant updates on the fly via Facebook)...some new opportunities have arisen from the ashes of some 'failures.' Here are a few things that meant a lot to me, as I look back over this year:

1. The Locavore Movement:

I didn't set out to be a foodie, or a hippie, or crazy leftist, or a hipster. But some serious reading on the subject of food production, as well as my own struggle to deal with my own weight gain (more on that later), led me to really look into food, how it's produced, what it does to your body, and what your body does with all of the additives, preservatives, pesticides, and genetic modifications that have been done to our food to make it pretty in the stores, and travel across the globe. Yes, there's a lot of hyperbole - and rhetoric. But the logical extension of following the money trail lead me to change how I shop and eat. Will I never eat a cheese-it again? No. But with more and more evidence that how we live isn't going to last much longer at the rate we are polluting our planet, and government agencies unable to effect change, I too will adopt the mantra to "Be the Change You Want to See in the World."

I will buy food locally, I will prepare much myself from scratch. And I've discovered a joy in doing so! I mean, let's be straight here, I've never been exactly undomestic - 4-H, Little House on the Prairie, and homeschooling set me up to succeed in the domestic arts. BUT, I am also well educated, well read, and a feminist. BUT - I think that we have choices now, and a working woman can also enjoy knitting. A career woman can come home and bake a cake if she wants to. And by jove, if either party wants to stay at home and start an Etsy store - by all means, lets do so! My generation grew up in the height of consumer culture. We've had BUY NOW screamed at us since birth. But all of my friends, in their varied ways, are discovering for themselves that making is more satisfying that buying. That putting our own hard work and love and sweat into our possessions makes them worth more than all of the mindless shopping in the world. We are enjoying the simpler pleasures, finding joy in cups of tea and nature walks, and realizing all of the money, and all of "success" doesn't actually bring happiness - and we're willing to explore living in the moment, and finding the small victories.

2. Zero Waste Shopping:

Hand in hand with the food production, is the amount of packaging that is used to make things attractive to us. It's been a challenge in our food-desert to find a grocery store, much less one with a good bulk section, or who will put deli meats in jars for me. But with a year of work (Thank you, Zero Waste Home, for warning me that the first six months are the hardest), I have finally cobbled together a set of stores that will accommodate me. Sadly, I don't have one single one-stop shopping location - but as I've tried to keep my food costs in check (though, I've allowed for costlier grocery bills with the change to organic), I've found that bulk foods really do offer the best value, as well as generally higher quality foods than their boxed counterparts. (Most bulk foods are organic, even if they aren't advertised as such). And, if I can manage to get there on my bike instead of in my car - then I can feel really smug!

I'm not at 100% yet. But I'd say I run about 80% on my own purchases, and 60% as a household. That's not a bad start for the first year out.

3. Biking!

Biking has been this year's best adventure! It began with a mixture of reasons. I had recently picked up a small waitressing job down the street from my house that was a little far to walk early in the morning, but hardly far enough to merit using a car to get there. I also was continuing to struggle with wanting to find a way to rid myself of 25lbs of weight I'd gained since I got married, that no amount of exercising seemed able to budge. Plus - bikes are great accessorizing opportunities.

So, while costuming Wizard of Oz, I walked into a gear trade in store and found Polly outside in the sale section. She's heavy, and slow, but she's sturdy and tough and pretty. And I started biking to work. Then to costume storage. Then to the post office, and the thrift stores, and the farmer's markets and then loaded her onto a bus and started making the loops around to my grocery stores...and finally - up to drop off alterations and down to the good bulk food store south of me. Now I consider a 25 mile loop a fairly easy ride - although, since she's not a speedster, it's a fairly nice half day trip. But this summer I wasn't in a show, and could get off work and spend the afternoon biking all over the place.

Now that the weather has turned, I miss the long days spent on the bike. I'm not enough of an uber biker to enjoy the rainy riding - and I'm back in the swing of theater for the year, so there's just too many days spent dashing from place to place. But spring will come again....and Polly and I will be back on the road!!!

4. Etsy

My Etsy store has continued to grow in small increments. In this, my 2nd year, she's grown from "pocket money" to "gas and groceries." On the days that I've spent an entire 8 hours listing items, I've seen quite a serious increase in views and sales, and can see how this might become a bigger business if I decide to devote more time to the shop. For now, this is a nice venture growing at a nice pace for me - and I'm enjoying the process of making my store prettier, my photographs more polished, and my listings more styled. So far, I'm finding quite a bit of success in all of my categories, and will continue to sell a mix of vintage, handmade and eco-friendly items.

I've done several craft fairs and expos this year. I haven't had much success selling in person, but fellow vendors tell me that craft fairs take a bit of time - and that I should view each as a learning experience.

5. Costume Design:

This was a busy year Design-wise. Each year I try to work at one new venue. This past year, I had several new takers. Then, towards the end of the season, I was let go of a long-held resident designer-ship for reasons completely unrelated to job performance. This rather threw me for a week or so. But, as it turned out, the ensuing gaps in my calendar were all filled within a week, and more work became available than I could reasonably accomplish for the rest of my season. And then, the icing on the cake, one of the biggest theaters in town called and interviewed and hired me to costume design for their touring production. I've just begun there, and am so thrilled to have this huge new opportunity - that I have to say that the work I lost has been well replaced by more fulfilling work in better venues with more visibility. So, win-win. I've also been able to take on a few projects with colleagues that I enjoy, or favors for friends that are simply personally fulfilling. So, I look forward to a busy spring.

6. Acting:

This one has been difficult for a couple of seasons. Even though I was warned that all performance hits a wall at some point, I have had two seasons now of "rejections." With one HUGE exception. Playing Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd was quite simply the highlight of my year. It has been a dream role for me in a dream show. With a costar who was a joy to work with from beginning to end. I could not have asked for a better experience. It really was the best show ever.

Since then, I've been asked when I'll be appearing in something next. I honestly can't say. I've had quite a few callbacks, but nothing has materialized for quite some time. So, I'll keep on plugging away, and remember that no one ever said that a career as an actress would be easy or quick. Luckily, I have a lot of pursuits that keep me fulfilled as a human as I wait to see what will happen with this focus. In the meantime, the afterglow from Sweeney Todd will keep me going for quite a while.

7. Le Marriage:

Of course, the best part of any year is the gag-reflex inducing, adorable happiness that comes from being married to the right person. We're so cute it's disgusting, and it's only getting worse with time. I hate to be one of those #hashtag couples, but without gushing too much, it is satisfying. It is fun. It is good. It is comfortable. It is lovely. It is exciting, and frustrating, and amusing, and maddening - but I'm a better person for it, and I can't imagine my life any other way...

8. Compassion

Because I believe in giving secretly, I find it difficult to articulate how charitable endeavors without feeling humble-braggy. But really, as a huge extension of "Be The Change" - there are many ways to give back, and endless way to do so. I have found much personal satisfaction in feeling that I'm doing a bit to make the world a little better, both in the negative - by making my money "vote" for better stewardship of resources on the planet, and in the positive - by taking my surplus and trying to find ways to use it for the good of individuals.