2018 Week 5: Accountability Update

The weather this week made me more tired for a few days, but I still got a lot done & I made sure I took time to rest & take care of myself.

  1. Published 1 blog post.
  2. Drew 12 coloring pages for my Cute Farm Animals coloring book.
  3. Began gathering facts for upcoming “50 Adorable Moose Facts” book.
  4. Made 41 slideshows for the Udemy course I’m making based on my “101 Ways to Love Yourself” book. Done making all 102 slideshows for the course! Next step is editing them.
  5. Wrote 4,085 words in the novel I just began on this week.
  6. Finished coloring two of my new designs (“Llama Pug” & “Owl Riding a Magical Unicorn”).
  7. Put 2 new designs of t-shirts, poster, etc in my online store.
  8. Read business articles & brainstormed.
  9. Researched & picked a programming language to learn. I chose the language Python because from what I can see it’s there’s a growing need for it, & it’s the language with the second most job postings on Indeed.
  10. Submitted EIN business name change documents to the IRS to update my EIN with my new company name!
  11. Reset password to my Shutterstock account that I set up years ago so I can submit stock photos.
  12. Researched how to be a voiceover artist, writing tips, cheap college options, how to play the saxophone, selling used clothes, & how to become a life coach.
  13. Finished the Udemy Course “How to Make an iPhone Sticker Pack” (1st Udemy course I’ve ever finished!).
  14. Went to an event at a local technical college about the various degrees & programs they offer there.
  15. Downloaded 5 new fonts from Google Fonts.
  16. Released 1 YouTube video.
  17. Downloaded ebooks on Kindle about learning the programming language Python.
  18. Sent LinkedIn connection request to one new person.
  19. Began working on my “mission statement” YouTube video.
  20. Installed & began using the DaVinci Resolve video editing software!
  21. Eating vegetables is now pretty much a habit, & I crave them a lot more. I didn’t exercise as much as I wanted to. Some days I ate more sugar than I’d like to. But overall, I feel like I’m definitely making progress on my health goals.

How are you doing this week & what are you working on?

I Got My First Acting Gig as Audrey in Ken Ludwig’s “Leading Ladies”! – Opening This Week!

Ashlee Craft dressed as Audrey for Ken Ludwig's play Leading Ladies

Backstage Selfie of my “Tango Costume”

I am totally thrilled to announce that I was cast in Richey Suncoast Theatre’s production of Ken Ludwig’s farce “Leading Ladies” as Audrey! The play opens Thursday, & runs for a total of ten days over the last three weekends in October. You can see the full performance schedule here. If you’d like to come see it & you live in the Tampa Bay Area, get your tickets now!

This all started a little more than two months ago, when I started thinking about doing something big, something new. Something which would really pull me out of my comfort zone, & remove me from the rut I was starting to feel like I was in. I remembered there was a theatre in my area & read on their website about upcoming auditions. I decided to audition, & on the second day of auditions, I was cast as Audrey, the character that I’d hoped to be able to play. I was absolutely thrilled. It has been an amazing experience, to say the least, & definitely one of the most fun + rewarding things that I have done.

The plot centers around two broke Shakespearean actors named Leo & Jack, who have just gotten booed off the stage of their latest production. They hear about a dying woman who can’t find her sisters’ children, whom Leo & Jack assume are her nephews, based on their names. They plan how they can dress up & pretend to be her nephews to get her money when she dies. Unfortunately, a wrench is thrown into their idea when they learn the relatives are nieces, not nephews. The men decide to carry out their plan anyways, & arrive at the woman’s house dressed as girls. Action & hilarity ensues. Leo falls in love with the elderly’s woman’s niece, Meg, who is engaged to a stick-in-the-mud minister, & Jack falls in love with Audrey, who unsuspectingly gave the men information that allowed them to carry out their plan in the first place. You can read more about the plot here.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing one or two more posts on the topic of theatre acting & reflections on this experience. All I can say though is that acting is something which has definitely enriched my life significantly, & I look forward to doing it more in the future!

All About My New Pet Guinea Pigs!

All about the newest additions to my fuzzy family.

Two brown and white Rosette guinea pigs being held

Moose (left), & Olive

In the middle of August, I accomplished a very long term goal of mine: I got pet guinea pigs! The one on the left is named Moose, & the one on the right is Olive. They are the sweetest little things, each with their own personalities, & they’re getting even cuter as I get to know them more.

For a very long time, I’d been thinking about getting a small pet. When I was fourteen, I had a pet rabbit named Indy, short for Indiana Jones. He was the light of my life, but unfortunately passed away suddenly at only six months old. After I grieved for him & was ready to get another pet, I decided on a dog, & got Sparky, my Boston Terrier/Shih-Tzu/Chihuahua mix.

A few years passed, & I found myself still wanting a small pet. I love animals, & wanted to add a small pet to my family that would be cuddly, affectionate, enjoy human attention, & be relatively easy to care for. Sometimes, I’d start looking further into getting a small pet, but I never ended up actually doing so. I extensively researched rabbits, guinea pigs, and rats, as they met my basic criteria.

One day, after going to the pet store to observe the different types of pets I was considering, it finally became clear to me what type of small pet I really wanted to get. A wonderful guinea pig with black & white Dutch markings put his feet on the cage bars & peered out at me, bold & unafraid. I fell in love with him. After going home & giving it a great deal of thought, I knew guinea pigs were the right kind of pet for me to get. They were easier to care for & more cuddly than rabbits, & they had a much longer lifespan than rats. I decided I wanted to get this guinea pig, as well as a second one, as I knew that most of the time, it’s better to have guinea pigs in groups of at least two.

The next day I went back to the pet store. The black & white guinea pig was still there. I held him, & although I was admittedly kind of creeped out thinking he wanted to bite me even though he didn’t (a fear well-founded due to my sister’s pet rabbit, who by no means can be considered friendly), I decided to bring him home. In another cage of guinea pigs, I found an adorable mostly brown guinea pig with a white rosette. He was super-sweet & cuddly, so I decided to bring him home as well.

Things didn’t get off to the best start. Even in their cardboard box on the way home from the pet store, the black & white guinea pig was fighting with & trying to assert dominance over the smaller brown one constantly. Things were even worse when I put them in their cage together. The black & white guinea pig continually tried to assert dominance over the brown one, even though the brown one rarely challenged him back. They fought quite a lot, & frequently, whenever the brown one wanted to drink water or eat food, the black & white one would scare him away. The cage I initially put them in was one unfortunately much too small for them, despite having been sold in the pet store as a “guinea pig cage”. This went on for several days.

I wondered if perhaps their lack of floor space was causing them to fight. I designed a home for them out of a kiddie pool. After reading on the Humane Society website about how if your guinea pigs really aren’t getting along, you can try bathing them together so they “bond together out of necessity”, & so they smell the same to each other. When I tried this, they were trying to fight in the bath tub. After their bath, they seemed to get along a little better, but a few days later, their fighting was only getting worse. One day in the space of an hour, they had two fights that had to be broken up with my family clapping their hands or tapping on the outside of their cage to distract them from their fight, & the brown one ended up with several small scabs. This resulted in them having to be put in separate cages for the safety of the brown one.

It was at this point that I realized they weren’t going to get along. I was conflicted regarding what to do about this. It broke my heart to think about returning the black & white one, now named Oreo, back to the pet store, but I also felt like it would be detrimental to separate them & have the brown one, whom I named Olive, live alone permanently, as even when Oreo was being mean to him, Olive still sought out comfort & contact from Oreo. That evening, I had a light bulb moment. I didn’t have to make either of those choices. I could have the best of both worlds, & make this a win-win situation for all involved.

Two brown and white guinea pigs in their cage

The photo above is from when Olive & Moose were first meeting in their cage.

I decided to give Oreo to my sister. Ever since I’d gotten him, she’d adored him the most, as she understood his somewhat nervous, active personality better than I did. The day after I decided what to do, I promptly went to the pet store to look at a third guinea pig. They had adorable baby ones, but because Olive was probably several months older than the babies, I didn’t get a baby one because I was afraid Olive could hurt it. There were quite a few adult ones, but I wanted to get one a similar age as Olive. Finally, I saw a wonderful brown & white rosette guinea pig. His fur was the exact same shade of brown as Olive’s, his eyes were the same shade of red, & his rosette on his forehead was identical. They looked like they could be brothers. This was the guinea pig I decided to get.

I introduced Olive & the new guinea pig to him on the carpet. They got along reasonably well, with very little dominance behavior between them. I put them in their cage together, & it was so refreshing seeing them getting along. They did & still do occasionally have small arguments, but they get along so well together for the most part, & both seem happy & healthy. I ended up naming the new guinea pig Moose, after failing to find another name I liked beginning with O for him.

Additionally, it’s amazing how much healthier & happier Oreo seems now, living in a separate cage. He actually seems a lot happier living in a cage without other guinea pigs. His cage overlooks the kiddie pool where mine live, so he gets to see, hear, & speak with them still, & my sister is able to spend a lot of time with her guinea pig. At least once a day, we have a controlled playtime for all the guinea pigs, where they can run around on the floor together & interact.

Brown guinea pig being petted on a yellow blanket

Olive snuggling in his blanket on my Mom’s lap.

I am loving having guinea pigs as pets so much. They are so cute & so sweet. When they’re out on the floor, my dog likes to gently approach them & just look at them. He finds their sounds the most fascinating thing in the world. Sometimes, he crawls towards them & gently touches them with his nose, or gives them a few kisses on their backs or ears (obviously I am sitting right in the middle of all the pets, supervising them closely). The guinea pigs now are used to Sparky to the point where they will voluntarily crawl towards him & sniff noses with him. It’s the cutest thing to watch.

It’s also awesome watching my guinea pigs’ personalities really start to come through. Olive thoroughly enjoys sitting on my shoulder when I hold him on the couch. He perches on my shoulder with his back end under my chin & will sit there for the longest time, sometimes quietly making sounds. Moose recently has started enjoying this as well, & he’ll sit there talking quietly the whole time. They are getting more bold when they run around on the floor as far as walking around & exploring, & they like climbing onto my lap when I sit on the floor by them. Every time anyone in my house touches a plastic bag, even a shopping bag, the guinea pigs started “wheeking” with excitement because it sounds like their hay bag. Moose is definitely the most talkative, & Olive is the most cuddly.

I’m so glad that I decided to add some guinea pigs to my life. They’re exactly what I was hoping for, & I’m looking forward to the future with them. ♥

I Launched a Company : All About Freedom Meadow Media

Freedom Meadow Media - Logo

Yes, it’s true & it’s awesome : I am now the proud owner of my dream publishing company, Freedom Meadow Media! This company will publish a variety of materials : books, films, music, zines, art, photography, etc. I will mainly focus on publishing & republishing my own materials for now, but in the future I plan on expanding to acting as the publisher for other people’s media too.

The Inception

Around three years ago, I had the idea for starting a publishing company. By this point, I had already been self-publishing for several years (April 4th this year marked the 5th anniversary of me publishing my debut book, Strange Occurrences. I was 16 when I self-published it.) After thinking about a variety of names, I decided on Freedom Meadow Media, & even drew a draft version of the logo, which I’ve had taped to my wall in my prosperity corner of my bedroom / house for years. At first, I had considered names such as “Freedom Meadow Records” or “Freedom Highway Records”, but ending up scrapping these ideas pretty early on.

Every year, I would put “Start my company” on my list of goals for the year, but every year, it would get pushed out of the way. Sometimes this was due to lacking the money to start my company, but admittedly, a lot of times I procrastinated launching my business because I feared that it would be too difficult or confusing of a process. At the end of last year, I decided that I was just going to go to it. I put in the necessary research, & through a process of trial & error, found the process a lot easier than I had believed it would be. This isn’t to say it wasn’t filled with some challenges & hurdles, like figuring out which kind of business license to get, & whether I needed a DBA (“Doing Business As” license), but I’m so glad that I prevailed in this!

Why I Did It

I wanted to own a company in order to empower myself to have complete creative control over my work as well as playing an integral part in the success of it (rather than relying on a traditional publisher to do these things for me), as well as making it much easier to promote my work as a whole. A be-your-own-hero kind of thing. Ceasing waiting for someone else to say that my work is “good enough” (after seeing how many books with bland plots or or ridiculous writing were published by regular publishing companies, including those which I had submitted my first manuscript to). Deciding for myself that my work was worthy of being published, & giving myself the full power to do so. Uninterested in trying to appease someone who would always find the number of books or songs that I produced in any given year to be “too much”. I wanted to be the one to tell myself “yes” rather than listening to people tell me “no” all the time; the one to give me permission to be as expansively prolific as I wanted to be.

What Does the Name Mean?

A “Freedom Meadow” is a concept I came up with years ago, & has since made its appearance in multiple, multiple poetry books & other media of mine. The idea’s first appearance was in the poem “Running Thru the Fields” in my Spring poetry book, the third volume of my Four Seasons series.

In the poem, the Freedom Meadow begins as such :

running thru the fields, our souls soaring with the fresh breeze of spring / the sun shining brightly overhead, blue sky glimmering above us / I feel so content & happy racing thru the fields of life with you / bright colors flashing past, the colors of tulips & daffodils & daisies & I see Queen Anne’s Lace swaying in the winds of beauty & change / sweeping up everything wonderful & perfect in life & depositing it in this sacred field

this field of beauty is not a physical place / it exists in my mind / you & I both sharing the same dream / this sacred field is the field of my Imagination, a field of Destiny, a field of Dreams, a field of Love, a field of endless Possibilities

Basically, a Freedom Meadow is a place, either real or imaginary, where you feel totally comforted & can believe that you really will be more than okay. A “safe place”. A Freedom Meadow reminds you of somewhere you’ve been, somewhere you wish to be, or a time in your life that feels particularly idyllic & halcyon & special; a place where you can completely be yourself and feel peaceful & happy. It’s a place that you can retreat & feel safe + nurtured when things in your life are stressful or difficult, & a place that you can feel happy & free when things are going great. A Freedom Meadow is a place which exemplifies happiness to you. To me, I see it as being a big beautiful field with a tree house in the middle of it, & a serene, joyful atmosphere. It can be whatever you want though, & you can always change or expand on what it means to you. I also think of it being like the line from Guns ‘n Roses’ Sweet Child o’ Mine

“Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
where as a child I’d hide,
& pray for the thunder & the rain
to quietly pass me by.”

I love the fact that I have a company based upon this concept. I love the fact that I can say “I’m the CEO of a indie publishing company”, & that I can really call myself an entrepreneur now. I love the fact that I have a company which in the future will provide the same freedoms + environment I nurtured helping other people to achieve their dreams. I love the fact that I made this happen.

P. S. – It would really mean a lot to me if you could check out the Freedom Meadow Media website, follow Freedom Meadow Media on Twitter (I follow back!), like my Freedom Meadow Media’s Facebook page, or follow the Freedom Meadow Media Pinterest account. Thank you!!!