Just Create Dammit!

The KAF Chronicle (AKA shortest newsletter series EVER)

We only put out two issues of the KAF Chronicle while I was in Kandahar, but I was proud of them nonetheless. I wish it could have been a full-time job– taking photos, talking to people and learning their stories – instead of squeezing it in between work and not enough sleep.

ATCO KAF Chronicle - Issue 01 - 2010 February

ATCO KAF Chronicle – Issue 01 – 2010 February

ATCO KAF Chronicle - Issue 02 - 2010 May-June

ATCO KAF Chronicle – Issue 02 – 2010 May-June

 

 

De-cluttering and Colouring

I just returned to camp this evening after nine days off at home in Ottawa and I’m exhausted! I’ve never been so busy on my days off.

I had big plans on working on my blog and instead I plunged full steam ahead in de-cluttering my sister’s rec room and then helping her with painting it. Kelley has done a great job in colouring/painting her living room, kitchen, dining room and hallways so I wanted to learn more about it by helping with her basement.

I also helped out my mom in the final push of de-cluttering her bedroom and then putting up some pictures in her room and a few around the house.

These may or may not be the colours we painted Kelley’s basement.

I’ve never seen Mom so excited about her bedroom before. I should have totally done before and after shots – her room looks lovely. And over the years Mom has collected some nice pictures. Too bad we didn’t hang them sooner.

Kelley and I spent a few long days on her basement. When I left all the walls had been painted, and newly painted shelves mounted. Thank goodness Rod was there to hook up the TV and all its many peripherals. I think I would have had better luck solving a Rubik’s cube (and thirty years later I still haven’t solved that one).

I should also mention that I left Kelley’s basement in a mess. I wish I had one more day just to help put everything away and have some fun shopping for the perfect pillows. We figured the right coloured cushions would be just what we needed to pull together all the paint colours and the forest-green ratty sofa. The right cushions and a strategically placed throw can provide fantastic camouflage for an outdated and mismatched couch.

Hmmm… now that I’m looking at these colours, I see some resemblance to a certain blog theme. Oh my. I certainly didn’t do that on purpose.

Good night, and good luck with rest of the rec room Kelley!

It’s still October 30th somewhere, right?

Ok, maybe one of these isn't actually a costume.

Ok, maybe one of these isn’t actually a costume.

My seven days are up. It was one week ago this morning that I kick-started my blog, that I promised once I reached five posts or one week, I would reach out to Susan Murphy and thank her for her post “The Number One Thing Holding You Back from Creating Great Content“.

But I don’t wanna.

I still haven’t figured out why I want to do this. Why would I write what is essentially a diary, and share it with complete strangers, or even worse, with people who know where I live?

I know that part of it is I want to document this journey, this big trip to building a tiny house. I want to write about how hard it’s going to be to let go of most of my stuff, and hopefully how good it’ll feel once I do it.

Part of it is I want to inspire my mom, show her it can be done. Of course she’ll see it first hand, and unless I give her some computer lessons on how the inter-tubes work, she’ll never see this blog. Maybe I’ll start her on Facebook first.

Part of it is the practice of writing. It’s something I find much easier to daydream about than do. I live too much in my head, and writing a blog is exercise and a commitment.

And a big part of it is that I have at least ten shopping-cart-sized boxes of photos, postcards, school reports, military assessments, newsletters, diaries, tickets, teddy bears, newspaper clippings, pins, Girl Guide badges, piggy banks, jewelry boxes, berets and shawls that I really want to hang on to… and let go of. I have so many memories and stories wrapped up in those boxes marked “Treasures” and “Personal”. It’s time to let go of all that stuff, and I figure if I can write that I was there, I did that, I failed, I survived, those were my people and I loved them, if I can attach those memories and feelings to words rather than things, then maybe I’ll be ready to let go.

And buy some more stuff (kidding!).

Speaking of stuff, I would like to take this moment to congratulate myself on not buying a Halloween costume this year. I was in Fort McMurray twice last week and both times I resisted buying a costume. Ok, one time I resisted and the other time the line up was too long. Still, when you consider how many costumes I got my hands on in Kandahar, this is quite a feat for me.

Despite my penchant for dressing as an elf/devil/ghostbuster on a military base with 30,000 soldiers, I am nervous about exposing myself on this blog – sure that’s normal. As was spending two hours after work this evening scrolling through page after page of vectors in search of the perfect paisley background and vintage tags on which to write my non-existent blog categories. Yep, 100% typical of what I would do when I don’t want to do what I should do… which is this; posting my fifth blog post and making a connection.

Get ‘er done.

(Thanks Susan!)

Afghanistan to Alberta in 1500 Words

“As soon as I figure out how to add a banner image to my WordPress site, I’ll definitely start posting!”

That’s from SuzeMuse.com, Susan Murphy’s post “The Number One Thing Holding You Back From Creating Great Content“.

It was also my personal wake-up call at 4:30 this morning, because that’s exactly the excuse I used when I first setup a WordPress blog in 2009 while I was working in Afghanistan. I made exactly one entry which read something like “I wonder if anyone is going to read this,” and was never heard from again.

I thought blogging while I worked overseas would be a great idea. Lots of people would be interested in everyday life as a contractor in Kandahar. I was working in a part of the world most people back home only hear about on the news, so of course people would just be flocking to my posts.

Uh huh.

I had all sorts of reasons for not actually writing – too busy, too hard, could get into trouble for saying too much, but mostly – I wanted my blog to look JUST RIGHT. I spent a few hours working on a logo, but could never quite figure out how to upload it as a banner. Once in a while I would check back – yep , JudyOnTheGo is still there – and then get back to being busy again.

I worked in KAF (Kandahar Airfield) for four years. During my last six months there I was starting a new and interesting job (logistic support for unmanned aircraft), working on my second course towards my Masters in Education, volunteering one or two evenings a week teaching English to soldiers and contractors, coordinating volunteers for a small school on base which was open to Afghan boys on Saturdays and doing cross-fit training five days a week. I had a great roomie, my own little pink motorcycle which I adored driving and a good group of friends who always had something fun on the go.

But once the Canadian Forces left Kandahar, so did the funding for my position. I didn’t want to go. I was very fortunate that in the same phone call I lost my job I was also offered a new one in Canada. I did some scrambling looking for another position on base, and was lucky to stay on another six weeks as a security officer, but at almost half the pay and half the time off, I knew it was time to head back home.

I returned to Canada in September 2011. And ten days later I started working in northern Alberta.

Accommodation camps for oil field workers have a few things in common with Kandahar Airfield; men outnumber women about 10 to 1, we live in little containers outfitted to sleep in, we eat in cafeterias and we count down the days until we can go home. There are differences of course; the men and women here aren’t armed, no one has to share their sleeping quarters with a roomie, the food is better and I only count down 21 days before I go home instead of 90+. Oh, and no rocket attacks.

Sounds pretty good right?

I am very grateful for not having to deal with rockets (although I do still flinch when I hear almost any alarm), but I still missed my KAF life.

I dove into my new job which meant spending 10+ hours a day in front of a computer. Then I’d inhale supper and try to keep up on my readings and assignments for my third course. Maybe things would have turned out differently had that particular course not been about research… but I suspect not. I had real difficulty in not just understanding the articles, but in caring about them. I just didn’t care. Seriously, what was the point? I was in the middle of fucking oil fields – who or what was I going to teach? After ten or twelve hours working on a computer the last thing I wanted to do was online research.

Everything frustrated me. My research course, the workers bitching about having to go outside to get to the chow hall (awww, muffin), not having friends to hang out with after work, the guy eating a sandwich while on a stationary bike. All of it had me screaming on the inside. By the new year I dropped my course, quit the gym, ate lots of delicious desserts and in six months gained fifteen pounds. Maybe eighteen.

I tried to find things to look forward to. In May I talked my sister into going to Cuba with me for a week which was mostly nice (there’s a reason why most visitors stick to the pool in May – jellyfish season). In July I travelled to Texas as my Brit former-roomie married her Texan honey-bun (sometimes these overseas romances do work out!) for an emotional but enjoyable reunion with some of my KAF friends.

And in September 2012 I came back to work… and couldn’t figure out how I was going to do this job another three weeks. Was this all I had to look forward to? Entering data, printing paper, stamping paper, punching paper, mailing paper, passing out paper?

It was a rough couple of days and I didn’t get much sleep. I didn’t get much done either. I was a zombie. Could I just quit? Could I just walk away from a decent paying job and eleven years with this company? I don’t have anything lined up back in Ottawa, not even an apartment. I know Mom would be thrilled to have me stay (really, she would), but could I handle that much time at home? Seriously, 41 years-old and living with my mother? Oh God, I really don’t want another 9 to 5 job and an apartment to furnish and bills to pay and bus rides to work filled with people just counting down to the weekend. How am I ever going to save enough money to build on the land Dad left us in Newfoundland if I’m paying rent again? If only I knew how to build a house. A tiny little house just to get me started or maybe to give to Mom. She might be happier on the Island. If only I could build a tiny little house…

If only.

And somewhere between Day-2 and Day-3 of my 21-day rotation, in my dreadful zombiefied state I decided to learn how to build a small house. And not just any small house. A tiny house on wheels. A House-to-Go from Tumbleweed Houses.

See that? House-to-go. Judy on the go.

That’s Karma baby. Or destiny. Ok, it’s something.

Unfortunately when I went looking for my deserted WordPress blog, there was no trace of it. I guess after three years of neglect JudyOnTheGo slinked off to that place abandoned blogs go to die. Or the automatic renewal for my account didn’t work because of the $1800 worth of fraudulent charges on my credit card.

No more blog. Oh well.

I didn’t really give it much more thought I until I followed a link on facebook two days ago to SuzeMuse.com and her post “How to Stop Being Too Busy’’. Hmmmm. Well. I see. Maybe she has a point.

And around 4:30 this morning when I still couldn’t get back to sleep I checked out Suze’s blog again and BAM!

As soon as I figure out how to add a banner image to my WordPress site, I’ll definitely start posting!

Well, FINE.

The real reason I didn’t write my blog in 2009 was fear. Perfection is just an excuse and an enemy to creativity.

Point. Taken.

I have to get up in an hour anyway so let’s get ‘er done!

I almost got trapped when I started looking for that perfect theme.

Oh no you don’t!

I picked a free one and vowed I wouldn’t tinker with it until I had ten posts. Well, except that colour has to go. And I wonder where I could find a nice polka-dot background. Or maybe some paisley…

There’s lots more to write – what happened after I gave my notice at work, who I’ve enlisted to help me build this tiny home, and all the work I’m going to have to do (and what I’ve already done) to learn to live with less.

But for now, I just wanted to say thank-you Susan. Karma, coincidence – I don’t know – but your posts couldn’t have come at a better time. And by the way, I’m not going to let you see this for a week or until I have five posts – whichever comes first.

BAM!

Judy

p.s. Has anyone else noticed a proliferation of BAM!s on the net? Overused perhaps?

p.p.s. If you’re looking for a good, funny blog about Kandahar Airfield (and who isn’t?) I highly recommend the irreverent and sometimes raunchy “Just DFACS Ma’am”. DFACs is short for Dining Facilities and it’s what we call the cafeterias in KAF. The title is a play on “Just the facts Ma’am” and the cheeky M. does a great job of dishing on the chow being served up to 30,000 KAF diners… with a few staff misadventures thrown in. It’s funny stuff, especially if you’ve ever been there or know someone who has. And I’m not just saying that because I used to work for M. and he might be looking for a replacement if my former roomie gets knocked up. Seriously. Funny stuff.