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  • Writer's pictureMaria Berejan

Mischief Managed, September Edition


This may be surprising to some of you (I’m looking at you, coworkers) but I actually don’t travel that much. Don’t get me wrong, I get around, but not enough to continuously fill a blog on this singular subject (though I do have a few more posts in the works!) Lack of vacation days and actual commitments often derail my nomadic alter-ego, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to just write about life, because there’s sometimes more to it than a constant travel itinerary!

(Shocker, I know.)

I’m hoping to keep this a monthly occurrence, so here goes!

My September in a glance:

 

Travel:

Ok, i did actually travel a bit. It was a quick road trip with my boyfriend and my sister to the Olympic Peninsula! It was fun and full of cool sights, so if you want a more in-depth description you can read about it here!

 

Work:

It’s been a bit over two years now that I’ve been at my current job. I like it well enough - it’s always interesting being a software engineer - but I realized a while ago that my favorite part of the job isn’t the coding. It’s just a personality difference, I think. It’s a decent fit, but not a great one.

I like teaching, organizing, keeping communication lines open and being more social in my role than coding often allows. I strongly prefer working with others rather than by myself. I want more creativity and less head-banging because of a double quote instead of a single discovered after searching for entirely too long.

Last Friday we had a team meeting, and one of the managers very adamantly announced that we should think about what we want our roles to be (“Leader? Project manager? Let us know!”), and where we want to be heading. That we should tell them what we want so they can do more to help us achieve our goals. All well and good, so naturally I went and talked to my manager after work.

I was pretty nervous about it, since unfortunately my manager is not the best communicator and can sometimes misinterpret what we say. (There have been a few disastrous conversations...I distinctly remember one in which I asked for “better dev sites that mimic the functionality of the test sites” and ended up instead with half the test sites moved to a problematic server and thus rendered useless while the manager left on vacation. Language barrier? Who knows, at this point it unfortunately seems more of a feature than a bug).

The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I’ve been reflecting on what the other manager said at the meeting today, and I wanted to let you know that I am working towards becoming a project manager.”

Manager (in a heavy Japanese accent): “Mmmm.”

Me: “I know we’ve had some problems managing projects this year (since we don’t have a project manager) and the company is looking for help with this. I am the most senior member of my team, so I would like to volunteer for more responsibility. I have actually been thinking about this for a while now, and since I understand that I don’t have much experience or training in this area, I would like to take some courses and get certified. I believe having this knowledge would help our team as a whole and me as an employee to better manage our time and deadlines.”

Manager: “Mmm, yes, in the new year...yes, we need more managers in the company.”

Me: “Yes, I think it would help. So, I am looking to take the courses and test for the CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management). I don’t expect anything from the company - I am happy to do this out of pocket - but if management views this as beneficial I would be very happy if the company was to help with the cost of the program.”

Manager: Nods, slightly awkwardly.

Me: “Ok, I just wanted to make you aware of all of this. Thank you for your time.” Nod.

Manager: Nod.

And that was the end of it.

I got into work today to an email naming our new project manager. I guess he got something out of that conversation! It’s honestly deserved by my coworker, so I don’t have any hard feelings about that at all, I just wish my manager could have communicated better to me. Why tell me “in the new year” when another person was already being considered for the role? Seems silly.

So that’s that. I’m sure they need more help, so maybe there’s another leadership role for me “in the new year.” Until then, my plans haven’t changed - my goal for next month is to start that PM course and begin the process of getting certified!

 

Photography:

Photography has been a highlight for me this month! September 22nd marked one year since I bought my first DSLR and actually started putting effort into learning about this subject. As a cherry on top of this fun little anniversary, I made my very first (20-some) commissions off of a hobby! I initially got the camera and started learning because I wanted to take some cool pictures of Iceland...never thought that one year later I’d end up as a pet photographer (I have my floofs to thank for that!)

I’ve been splitting my weekends this year between volunteering as photographer for Seattle Humane and The Whole Cat and Kaboodle. The Whole Cat is a boutique store/groomery/boarding/adoption center in Kirkland run by a wonderful lady named Nancy who also owns a nonprofit cat rescue called Feral Care up in Bothell.

I was ecstatic when Nancy and her team sat me down a few weeks ago, explained very flatteringly that they liked my work so far, and asked me if I’d be their photographer for a charity cat calendar that benefits Feral Care. It’s the type where each day is its own page (though weekends are together) and each page has the potential to hold a cat picture. They’re selling the slots for a small fee, all of which is tax deductible and goes to the nonprofit which saves and takes care of feral cats. The pages are a decent size - a few inches across each way - so even though a smart-phone picture can be submitted, they wanted to offer their clients a better quality picture opportunity if possible. As they're very fond of saying, mine come poster-sized.

It’s an awesome project and super worthwhile cause; I immediately said yes, and we decided I’d set up some time slots each weekend for interested takers. I decided to charge $10 per slot - a decision I felt equal parts giddy and guilty over initially. I was really excited to just make that first dollar off of a hobby (and man does it feel good being paid for doing something you love!), but at the same time I felt guilty for not giving my all to charity. It's a cause I believe in; it's an amazing opportunity to have a project I heavily influence; and, ultimately, I just want to help. $10 doesn't come close to covering my time, so why even bother with a fee?

I charged because it would involve a lot of work; for each 15 minutes I spend photographing a cat, I spend at least an hour - sometimes double - selecting worthwhile pictures and processing them lightly in Photoshop. I end up with at least a handful of finished pictures for each cat (usually more) that I’m pretty proud of sending back to the owners. (Not a bad output for $10, right?) I'm happy to donate some of my free time - and I do so for most of Saturday every week - but this project monopolizes my whole weekend. I absolutely LOVE it, but it's also a huge drain on my time, energy and emotions (I want to make each picture the best, I want to give every owner their dream shot, and sometimes cats just don't cooperate with the vision, because, obviously, they're cats.) So, I charged.

I also charged because, perhaps even just a little bit, I wanted to know if someone would actually pay for my photography skills. I had a lot of self doubt initially (what are you even doing, Maria, you're a complete novice, you don't even have a flash for Pete's sake) and I was convinced for the two weeks leading up to the first session that nobody would sign up.

Thankfully, I'm not always right. Turns out, people are ok with that price and they seem pretty happy with my pictures. We've had a better turnout than I imagined so far, with a couple of takers on the first week and a whopping 11 on the second (which were all done on Saturday on top of adoptable cats and took me the whole weekend to finish - definitely glad I charged for that one!) The numbers trickled down to a handful for the third and fourth weekends but there’s still 2 more weeks to go (deadline is October 15th), so we’ll see what happens. I’m hoping the submissions continue coming strong, because I really want to see a colorful calendar. If you're reading this and you have a cat, please come submit a picture!

In the meantime, I’m in my happy place, taking buttloads of cat pictures, including a few of my own two floofers, without whom I wouldn’t have even started volunteering as pet photographer in the first place!

Here's a few of my favorite shots so far:

 

Hobbies:

I learned how to knit for my cats this month, so that’s something. (Granted, my grandmother who is absolutely amazing at knitting had taught me to do so when I was a wee lass, but I definitely didn’t remember any of it.)

Now I am the proud parent of two scarved kitties. Hogwarts kitties. Because I never got my letter, but my cats sure as hell did. (I also made a dragon egg and some dragon wings for my cats, as well as a couple of paper hats, but that’s pretty insignificant stuff crafting-wise.)

Can’t say I’ve done much else hobby-wise in September, but I’ve kind of taken on the #inktober challenge for October, which is exciting! I used to draw so much back in high school, but it’s been about 8 years since I’ve drawn...anything, really. I’ve really slipped. So, even though I still have way too much on my plate at the moment, I figured sketching might be a nice way to relax after work, so I’m going to try my best to keep it going. I posted the first silly little sketch on facebook yesterday and I was so happy from the kind messages I got in reply. I truly love my friends and family - you guys are the best.

So yes, here I am, undertaking the challenge to draw for a month. Might not manage every day, but something is absolutely better than nothing so I’m already winning! (That’s how that works, right?)

 

Writing:

It’s been a good month for writing! The cool thing about this blog is knowing that someone will read my posts (even if it’s just my family). It helps create a sense of commitment to getting new posts out on a semi-regular basis. Because of that, I’ve gotten back into the habit of writing more often, which in turn helps with my actual writing projects.

I’ve started going back to writing club (3-week streak woo!), which is good because I seriously missed it. There’s nothing like sitting in a cozy cafe with a handful of other writers and a mug of absolutely decadent hot chocolate, and plunking away at the novel that’s been in the works for 6 years already and is nowhere near done.

I’m making progress though, and I’m really happy about it! I’ve finally gotten through the first main event - the one I’d envisioned since I first started writing the damn thing - and it was such a great feeling to finally have it down on (digital) paper. It turned out totally different than how I thought it would, but it was still wicked. At least I hope it was, since I’m obviously quite biased. Who knows, maybe one day you all can read it and let me know if it works (ah, dreams).

So, now I’m at the point where the plot isn’t well defined, and it’s up to my characters to figure out the paths they’ll take. It’s slow goings, with a lot of deliberating on my part, but it’s interesting. This month I pieced together a completely new character, and discovered the background of a character that is central to the continuation of the story. He shares his name with a Bond villain (I’m not sure what younger-me was thinking, I don’t watch 007 movies but I’m appalled at my research skills), so now I’m trying to decide if I should switch the name for originality or just run with it because honestly it just fits, and I was so proud of the reasoning behind it. It’s hard killing your idea-babies. I have a feeling next month will be full of character development and difficult decisions...I’m excited to see where it leads.

 

Life and Looking Forward:

If you've made it this far, you must really like me. Thanks for giving this post a go!

It's been a crazy exhilarating month full of photography, writing, and career decisions. What's to come? As mentioned, I'll try to keep up with Inktober this month and get back into the artistic spirit. After photography is over mid-October I'll probably need a weekend to recover, but I'll be back on track to start that project management course right after. And finally, on Thursday I start a lighting class for photography at Bellevue College! I've been making the most of natural light and wide aperture this past year, but I feel like I need to master flash and other elements of indoor photography to continue improving, so that's my big challenge going onwards. Look for a blog post on that in the near future - I'm excited to write down what I learn!

Thanks for reading!

Until next time.

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