The Year of Good People

2011 will never be my favorite year, but if there is one recurring theme that is good, it’s the people.

A year ago I was back in Denmark for the first time in half a decade to experience one last Christmas with my mother. My mother had aggressive Cancer and died on the following Mother’s Day. This is the experience to which all other experiences of 2011 are compared, at least in terms of personal impact. If you have lost a loved one, I don’t need to say more. If you haven’t, then good for you.

It was the toughest year of my life, so far. After my mother passed away, my wife got hit with Cancer. Major surgery was followed by radiation treatments. The last of which will be over just before new years eve. My mother was going through treatments a year ago, but it wasn’t enough for her. In Kelly’s case, they caught the Cancer early. Things are hopeful, as well as painful.

I have spent a lot of time being a caregiver this year. It continues to be my most important job, until Kelly is well. It’s rewarding because I get to take care of someone who is extremely important to me. And sometimes it is incredibly hard for that very same reason. But life is not all bad.

When the stress of medical bills started piling up alongside the health related anxiety, two friends we have never even met started a benefit drive, and in less than 24 hours the bills were taken care of. Elizabeth and Ryan, I cannot thank you enough for what you did, and the same goes for the hundreds of people who showed their support.

My personal project – Another Passion – started out strong and took a back seat when Kelly’s health went down hill, but not before Lily had signed on as the first regular contributor. He work has been crucial and kept me at least a tiny bit responsible and on task.

Two comedians, Paul and Storm, have provided more awesomesauce in 2011 than they are probably aware of. Twice, they let me come take pictures of them performing. They even made me part of the show. You know you’ve had a bad year, when one of the highlights is tripping over a hole in the stage floor, interrupting Wil Wheaton mid story in front of a packed venue of laughing nerds. I had a blast that night. And at the other Paul and Storm gig, I took pictures of Hank Green – who liked them so much, he put several in his new album, Ellen Hardcastle.

Good people have carried me through 2011, and no one more so than Kelly. In spite of her own ordeal, she has remained loving and supporting of everything I do – no matter how scattered my efforts or lacking my follow-through. I am lucky to have met her, and I treasure every day we have together. She is amazing.

Looking back at the year 2011, I feel blessed by having met, worked and played with many kind, inspiring people. Many, many more than I could ever name in a blog post. I also feel closer to my wife than ever before. So I guess, even the awfulness that is Cancer is not without a bright side. That said, I will be glad to see it gone.

Here’s to a healthier, happier 2012 for all!

Holiday Wishes 2011

I’m not a big Christmas person. I like the food, spending time with loved ones and the spirit of the season, but by the time we get around to it, I’m usually just waiting for the jingle bells to stop and Santa to go back on vacation. I hope this doesn’t automatically classify me as Naughty.

2011 has been a stressful year for me to say the least. More precisely, I would call it my least favorite of the 35 years I have been alive. Marred by death and disease, dealing with Life became the main and often only focus point. I never got the traction I was hoping for to push Another Passion as far as it deserves.

When Christmas rolls around this year, my wife will be nearly done with her radiation treatments. That’s what I am looking forward to the most, not just because of her being Cancer free and finished with treatment, but because it also symbolizes that we’re finally heading for a fresh start and better times.

If I am allowed to wish for more than that, it would be for a busy 2012. I have so many things I would like to do, in terms of growing Another Passion, but also various other projects – from apps to video, photo shoots to writing – but I need the resources to get it all done; time and money both!

I can only do so much as a single individual and having had my own life turned upside down in recent months, it has become clear that help is needed to keep up productivity when Life throws you a curveball. So I’m wishing for an assistant and/or an intern to help out! I would have taken on an intern already, if I weren’t working out of my home with a sick wife and two insane cats.

Wonderfully unexpected and possibly best thing about 2011 for me, has been the outpour of support from friends, acquaintances and strangers all. The community support during the hardest weeks around Kelly’s surgery was absolutely amazing – and continues to help both her and I through dealing with healing, hospitals and everything in between. From notes and emails to flowers and cards, everyone who has reached out, has touched us.

If I may have one final wish this holiday, it will be for my fellow creative and artistic friends to have an inspired, productive and successful 2012.

Life, Business and Bad News

In the last few weeks it seems my world has gotten smaller in almost every sense. It started when my wife’s health took a hit and she was diagnosed with not one, but two serious conditions, one of which was cancer. This kind of news will make everything else seem unimportant, all of a sudden. The fact that I lost my mom to cancer in May is probably not helping any.

The good news is that they caught it super early, and that the doctors are expecting a full recovery from the cancer part. There’s still the other issue of course, which will require surgery and several weeks of recovery. The ugly kind, where they give you hardcore meds just to deal with it. Right now, we are both mentally and physically preparing for what’s ahead.

Since we are both independent businesses owners, this situation has another effect on us – neither one is working much, while the bills keep piling up. This is added stress that we really don’t need. We are not on the brink of starvation or anything like that, but we are definitely feeling the crunch. Which is what led me to write this post.

If you are a freelancer or a one-man band, do yourself this favor: cover your bases in case of an emergency. Get health insurance. Let me repeat that. Get. Health. Insurance. As an independent, insurance is expensive and if you’re bootstrapping it is easy to tell yourself you’ll add it later. Don’t. Bite the bullet and pay the man. Cancer doesn’t wait until you’re ready.

You’ll want a support network. We have had daily messages from friends and family, checking in and offering help and encouragement. This support is crucial, especially if you’d like to try and stay positive.

Anybody working for themselves will be used to being immersed in the work, and powering through to get the job done. You may even enjoy it. But when illness hits the household, that is taken away. Focus shifts, and staying on top of business quickly fades into the background. It has to. If you can, put a little aside for a rainy day. You might even look into getting a backup in place, if you have clients who need regular pampering or can’t be rescheduled.

Whatever you do, don’t just sit there thinking it will happen to someone else. It’s not a gamble worth taking.