Life of Pride

Home of Sarah Pride and Moonlight Media, LLC

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Going Freelance

Working a regular desk job adds a certain amount of security to life. You know when your paycheck will arrive, and you know how much it will be. Your employer gives you work to do, and you do it. And it gets pretty predictable as time goes on.

Freelance website work isn’t like that. After you bluff or bribe your way into your first few jobs, Google becomes your friend, as you mount a new and unique learning curve with each client. Surprisingly, they turn out okay, and then you begin to establish a solid portfolio. New jobs become easier to get. One day, you find yourself wrapped in a blanket on the couch at 10am with a cup of coffee on the side table, scheduling tweets about skin care (and you know nothing about skin care) while discussing appropriate search engine keywords for a masonry website with another client.

When you’re done with the phone call, you start your laundry and pop some chicken in the oven. Then you sit back down and program a custom nav menu in CSS. If the afternoon mail brings the check you are expecting, you reason, you’ll be able to pay car insurance on time. If not, you’ll leave that bill this week. You have until the end of the month on that one before they cancel on you.

Yep, that’s me. Life as a freelancer is adventurous and creative, with tremendous growth every day. Even better, it’s flexible. I take my work with me anywhere on my slim MacBook Pro.

One unexpected bit of joy I get from my work is meeting my clients. I build websites for entrepreneurs — small- to medium-sized businesses that have no need for a full-time webmaster of their own. These people tend to be dreamers, full of passion, like myself. I love their ideas, and I do my best to build websites that will help them succeed. In fact, I want to highlight a few of them here.

Gabberz Public Speaking Curriculum

I am excited about the Gabberz speech curriculum for homeschoolers. David Nemzoff has been one of the quickest learners of WordPress whom I have worked with, which gives me confidence in the curriculum he is developing. Students will purchase the curriculum and gain access to the members-only section of the site, where they will post videos of their own speeches for comment. I did not do enough to prepare for public speaking as a teen, and I wish I did. I competed in speech and debate for one year at Patrick Henry College, and it cleaned away most of my rough edges. However, if I had prepared beforehand, I would not have faced such a steep learning curve. I highly recommend that homeschool moms check this out and keep an eye on its development as Mr. Nemzoff passes through his fundraising stage.

FutuHR

The FutuHR team inspires me because their business is spread around the country — completely telecommuting, as far as I can see. Both I and my brother Ted have used our Internet skills to supplement their business. What they have done is create an app that handles HR services for businesses with less than 100 employees. Rather than hire an HR staff to handle the complicated needs of managing people, these bosses can organize everything from payroll to sick time through their mobile devices. Pretty cool! If I had employees, as I someday might, I will probably use this.

So, this is what I do! If you need a website, you know where to find me.

When Each Day is an Adventure

Sometimes on my two-hour commute into and out of Catholic University in Washington, D.C. via bus, metro, and foot I am wearing at least three layers because of the bitter chill. My lip splits from exposure to cold, dry air. Whatever aches and pains I carry from Tae Kwon Do plague me as I bear my heavy school bag, my purse, and my lunch for a few miles of walking. Sometimes I am limping; sometimes I have to hold all my bags on only one side because of something I did to my shoulder or to my back. I am grateful every time I make it through another week.

In all this, there is something deeply satisfying and visceral. I am on an adventure. It is many times better than languishing in an office all day, because I get to see a grand variety of people and observe them as they are.

Every single person on his commute is on his own. Most are uncomfortable with this, so they carry their universe with them and disappear into their phones and their music. In so doing, they become a faceless mass. A mob.

But I see them. I see the girl’s wind-frozen face. I see the heavy woman’s awkward shuffle. I see the blind man feeling with his stick. I see the middle-aged Hispanic woman whose eyes don’t track on the same course. I see the cluster of black youths sprawled over the metro seats enjoying themselves — laughing and cursing up a storm — while an older black man in a classy suit two rows behind them eyes them. I see a little, shriveled Asian woman with the hardest face I’ve ever seen.

Some carry themselves like they are minor godlings — 20-somethings sweeping along in long, black coats. They are probably involved in the political scene somewhere, in some position envied by others in their circle. Most likely neither I nor hardly anyone else will ever know who they are.

In this crazy life, anything could happen. What if an earthquake hit? What if the train derailed? Who of these people understands their humanity enough to be of any help? Would that man who looks as if he is carved from a block of granite, every inch tattooed, step in like a silent giant and pry open the train door with the help of the classy black gentleman? Would the hard little Asian woman take the hand of the blind man and lead him out? Would the minor godlings collapse in fear, or does something stronger than themselves hold them together?

What strikes me most is our common nature. Public transit exposes us. Nobody can survive metro travel without jostling for position. When we are racing down the escalator toward a train that is about to depart, and the doors close a second before we reach them, we find out who we are. How much do we really want that last open seat, and what are we willing to do to get it? It’s pretty hard to believe the illusion that people in general are truly nice and unselfish after one has witnessed them riding metro on their own, away from the people they actually care about.

Further, everyone who uses public transit understands that, if we don’t do what it takes to get on a bus or train, it will leave without us. There’s nothing to yell about, nothing to do. The opportunity is gone. And that’s how life is. Surprise! And if you’re not absolutely committed to getting yourself on a particular bus or train, most likely someone else will be more committed. Again — bye-bye opportunity.

Truth: I enjoy this. At least for now. I can’t wait to have time to write stories again. I can only imagine how much better they will be.

Edit: And I love it when people surprise me in the middle of this chilly commute with a smile, a few words, or even giving up a seat. It’s amazing how these gestures can touch someone. But that will be a topic for a future post.

Ex Nihilo

Before there was a before, God was, is, and is to come. There was no inside or outside, no “where,” but God was everywhere. He was Everything, full to the brim and beyond.

Some of that overflow spilled out as light. Suddenly, with a monstrous explosion, there was time and space. God stretched it out and pondered. This universe was bright and young, but not yet full enough. He still had an overflow of solemn joy to spend.

God spoke out of His deepest essence. His Word shot out with physical force — not a sound, but a fist that seized and twisted. The fabric of His new universe came undone and rewove. Molecules zippered together, and God held one pinpoint planet in His hand and looked at it. It was beautiful, marbled blue and brown. He spoke again, and the Word sunk deep into the ground of His new planet. Where it landed, greenery sprung up, its DNA bound by the complicated commands of God, the special language of life.

Pleased, God whipped together a ball of fire and another cold, dark ball. He took away His hand and released the planet into orbit around the fireball at the perfect distance to sustain the life He had created. The smaller, dark ball orbited the planet itself. Together, all the balls formed an almost musical variation of dark and light, months and seasons. Into the rest of the universe, He hurled stars of infinite variety and velocity.

Done establishing the universe, God began to code animate things, populating the waters on His planet first and then bringing creatures out on the land. All this was very good.

But God continued to overflow. Nothing He had yet made could contain His joy. So He reached back, outside of space and time, and took a piece of His very self. Out of that piece, He crafted a stencil, which He imprinted onto man. He therefore made man in His own image.

Man was born from the same Word that birthed the other animals, so his inner DNA bore a similar imprint. But his spirit, although utterly infused into his body, came from eternity, not from time and space at all. Man was meant to commune with God the same way God communed with Himself. So God made man the ruler over all the other creatures. And he built into his body, and into the bodies of the other creatures, the miraculous ability to reproduce life.

Last, since God had already built a divine piece of Himself into man, He took part of the man and used it to form another remarkable creation — Eve, a woman. Especially together, the two fulfilled His purpose for humanity. Both man and woman contained His image, and both ruled the planet together in perfect harmony.

Then God saw that all He had done was utterly full, complete, and good, and He rested.

Never Stop Learning

A week ago, I registered two subdomains for sarahpride.com. I installed WordPress into each of these. So now I will have three websites in a single hosting account, under my one domain name with GoDaddy.com. learn.sarahpride.com will describe my services tutoring Latin and Algebra. There’s not much to see there yet. websites.sarahpride.com, on the other hand, looks like this:

moonlight media

I am quite happy with this new design for my freelance web services site. To build it, I used the free graphics design software GIMP and public domain clip art from clker.com. I had learned GIMP over the last several years at my full-time job with Patrick Henry College, since we didn’t have a budget to buy a copy of Adobe Photoshop for me. And I had searched the Internet for clip art on several personal projects, most specifically while designing posters and programs for the Moonlight Film Fest in 2009 and 2010.

I still have to develop content for the inside of this new website, but earlier today I installed the plugins I will need. Many of these plugins, such as the NextGen Gallery, FAQ-tastic and WOWslider, I installed, troubleshooted and edited last month for iguanapaint.com, a WordPress website for professional artist Timothy Chambers. For IguanaPaint, I took a custom homepage template left half-finished by a prior developer and revised it almost completely, adding the WOWslider and implementing three widget areas.

I am learning the Moodle content management system for distance learning when I have time — both because I hope to use it to develop my own courses online and because Tim Chambers will be using it for his online art courses in the fall. I am also backing up WordPress websites, updating them, and ‘porting them across hosting accounts.

Last night, I worked with a young man to troubleshoot his developing website CreationCards. We edited the CSS stylesheet for a theme in the WordPress admin, moving a sidebar from the right of the content area to the left and shifting the top menu underneath the header graphic instead of above. Later, I’ll be testing a shopping cart widget that he wants to use that is not working as it should in his template. If all goes well, I will implement that same shopping cart on other websites.

In short, there is nothing like the need for survival to spur tremendous growth. I’ve built at least seven WordPress websites over the last year, but now I have to know WordPress. I am tackling the hardest website challenges I can over this next month so that I’ll be ready in the fall to finish projects on the necessary timetable to earn enough money to live while studying full-time.

I had contemplated going freelance at the turn of 2012, but I was too scared. God wouldn’t let me stay scared, I guess. So here we go!

Do you need a website? And do you have a budget for your website? You know where to find me!

Peace.

Academia and Mysteries

This fall, I begin a Ph.D. program in ancient Near East languages — the oldest languages we know anything about. I will be learning Hebrew, Aramaic, Akkadian cuneiform, and more. I will also have to acquire a reading knowledge of German and French by the end of the program.

That’s a lot, and it sounds impressive. So impressive, in fact, that the sheer fact I am attempting this Ph.D. has greatly improved the way people treat me, even though I haven’t actually started it or learned anything yet. I didn’t expect the increase in respect, and I have been puzzling over it this last month. Finally, I have decided that it comes down to demonstrated commitment, a firm inward state.

A master’s program is great, but it doesn’t communicate the same thing at all. It puts a foot in the door of academia, but it also leaves one out, ready to return to the world of regular employment. Whereas a Ph.D. signifies a desire to do important Academic Stuff. And unsurprisingly, academic people are more willing to fund you to do the latter with them than to equip you for a high-paying career elsewhere.

That said, everyone keeps asking me what I want to do with a terminal degree in really old stuff. They conclude I must want to teach, and then they eye me dubiously because — let’s face it — there’s not a huge pool of people begging to know how to translate ancient Babylonian chicken scratches. No, teaching is great, and I’m sure I’ll be doing that. But mostly, I want an excuse to look at words people wrote a very long time ago and have a chance at understanding them.

I believe that God made this world. I also believe that He gave me an intelligent mind and has developed in me the will to learn difficult topics. I believe that the knowledge available to us reinforces faith. I’ve known for nine years now, since sophomore year of undergrad, that I will be studying and writing both nonfiction and fiction about the big story of the world. We all tend to take much of this place for granted, when in truth there are mysteries scattered about well-nigh everywhere. I am excited to begin.

“Happy Home” – 48HFP

Enjoy the full short mockumentary “Happy Home,” produced by my 48 Hour Film Project team in May, 2012. I am proud of our work. Our 18-person team shared the common goal to bring our project to completion on time while involving everyone and depicting some elements of goodness, beauty and truth. I think we did.

In summary, you are about to take a five-minute glimpse into the unusual existence of a group home for gently cracked creative artists. Director/Producer/Screenwriter/Editor: Sarah Pride (www.sarahpride.com). Director of Photography/Gaffer/Sound: Pruitt Allen (www.pruittallen.com). Composer: Craig Dayton (www.craigdayton.com).

48 Hour Film Project 2012

I had the honor this last weekend of leading a team of creative artists for the Washington, DC 48 Hour Film Project! Perhaps I will post more about that later. For now, I just wanted to share the trailer for our film, “Happy Home.” It will screen Wednesday the 9th at 7pm at the AFI Silver Theatre in Maryland.

Special shout-out to Pruitt Allen (Director of Photography, gaffer, sound tech) and Craig Dayton (composer extraordinaire).

Number Twelve

This is a story I wrote in 2009.

The boy, age seven, loved the sunlight. It smiled down on him, warm and comfortable, in a way that little else around him did. Inside, cold blue-white light froze the boy and the others into their seats in stiff rows.

He hated inside. When they were all little, the boy used to wriggle and jump and play outside with the others. All that ended when they turned four. They were expected to sit on the inside. Many of the boys and a few of the girls didn’t want to sit. They were given shots to help. The boy hated the shots.

He still didn’t know how to read or to do things with numbers. The boy couldn’t explain that only his body knew how to do those things—those beautiful, strong things. That his mind sang with the wind and played along with his feet. His feet had not played for some time. They carried him quietly from room to room, but that was about it. So his mind also couldn’t move the way the big people wanted.

“Number Twelve,” called the loudspeaker one day.

The boy jumped. He looked around him, at the curious eyes, at the back of the neck of the boy in front of him, at the vid instructor. Today it was an anamorphic feline. The Cat had been saying something about numbers, swishing its three-dimensional tail. The boy had been wondering what it would be like to have a tail.

“Number Twelve,” announced the speaker in the ceiling again, and the Cat froze into a whiskered smile. Others shifted in their chairs. The boy in front turned around.

“That’s you,” he said.

The boy slid out of his seat and stood. Sensing his bare feet, the electrodes in the floor flushed bright green. The Cat resumed its lesson, calling the attention of the other children. Alone, the boy padded into the hallway.

One of the big people waited there, wearing, as always, a white mask across his mouth and a shapeless white garment. Today, the boy saw, he also wore white, rubbery gloves.

“Come, Number Twelve,” he said, and turned on his heel. After several steps, he looked back. The boy had not moved.

“Please,” said the boy.

The big one cocked his head.

“Please, no more shots,” the boy said.

“No,” agreed the big one. “No more shots.”

So the boy followed him. Down the hallway, up a long staircase, and down another hallway. Cold metal all the way, the electrodes underfoot registered his presence with green light. Green like grass, the boy remembered, only grass was soft.

They entered a room full of the big ones, all wearing white. The ceiling was white, the boy saw, and the walls. The tables and floor and the tools were silver.

“Number Twelve,” the big one told the others. Two of them put down tools and turned from a table. One of the two slapped a button, and the boy saw piece of table slide over something pink that they had been manipulating with the tools.

The three scrutinized him, faceless behind their masks.

“It doesn’t look broken,” said one at last.

“They never do,” said another.

“We want to be sure,” the first one said. “It would be a shame to waste one, if it were still viable.”

He squatted down in front of the boy, so that he could look into his eyes on a level. The boy noted that the big one’s eyes were blue. Not the blue of the sky, but the chill blue of the inside light.

“Number Twelve,” said the big one, “can you read?”

Mutely, the boy shook his head.

“Can you add?” the big one asked. His gaze bore straight through the boy. The boy shivered down to his toes and gave no answer.

“What is one plus one?” the big one prodded.

One thing and then another with it; the boy knew there was a word for that. His mind drifted away, back down the corridor, to the room he had left. Paws on the Cat, there was one and then another. But there was only one tail.

“There’s only one!” he blurted.

The two big people standing overhead exchanged a glance, and the eyes of the squatting one narrowed into the color of sharp metal. Slowly, he straightened up and stared down at the boy.

“You’re right,” he told the other. “It is useless.”

He turned away and slapped the table open. The other two shared another look.

“Come, Number Twelve,” said the one who had met the boy in the hallway. He led the boy to the white wall and palmed a sensor. A door slid open. The big one stood aside.

“What do you see?” he asked.

The boy peered in. Another white room, empty, much smaller than the other. But in the far wall, a door, and in that door, a window. Through the window, he saw blue and green, Sky and grass—the outside! It captured him. Bouncing up and down, all else forgotten, he darted into the room and plastered nose and hands against the window.

The boy’s curious eyes saw tiny children running, playing in the grass. He remembered how it felt, both soft and prickly. A yellow sun poured down its warmth on their heads.

The door hissed closed behind him. Hands still against the warm glass, the boy turned his head to see the big one’s eyes observing him through a small, round window.

Above him, a grinding noise sounded. The boy whipped his head up to see two tubes that had hung flabby and soft against the ceiling descend toward him. They pulsed with a foul, pink light.

The boy ran to the opposite corner of the room, and the tubes changed direction to follow him. He could see up one of them all the way to the top. At the top, as he watched, a sharp set of fan blades whirred to life. A powerful wind kicked up, almost lifting the boy off his feet.

He ran away again, back to the outside window. He pounded and pounded on that window. He could feel the tubes coming. He could feel them yanking on him. The boy opened his mouth and began to scream as the tubes ripped his soft body apart.

Outside, the children played happily in the sunshine. They couldn’t see or hear the boy because, on the outside, his window was just a silver piece of wall. So for them, the children vital in the sunshine, he died as though he never was. The tubes whirled away the substance that had been a boy and expelled it somewhere far down below, into the incinerator.

“Done,” reported the doctor, returning to the others at work.

“Good,” said the one with the blue eyes. “Now reassign the number.”

“So soon?” replied the other.

Blue eyes raised his eyebrow. “Why wait?”

The doctor shrugged. He walked to the back of the lab, palmed open another door, and stepped into a vast freezer. Rows upon rows of tiny test tubes, shelf upon shelf, stretched up and back into unlit darkness. The doctor’s breath puffed a cloud of vapor as he reached into the nearest tray and seized a tube. Quickly, he stepped back into the lab and slapped the door closed behind him.

“Here,” he said, holding it up. “Number Twelve.”

True Power

What must it have been like to know the young man Jesus? Such power. Such genius and leadership ability. At the age of twelve, he stumped the smartest scholars around. Thousands upon thousands flocked to hear him speak and to experience the wave of healing that washed out of him to make people new wherever he walked.

To an outside observer, he must have looked like a young leader of amazing potential. Someone to be cultivated — or feared.

But what did this young leader do? At the height of it all, just when things looked like they were really taking off, he gave himself away. He counted it all loss because his Father had other plans for him. In his death, he brought eternity into the present age. He bridged an impossible chasm so that we who are his children may walk straight from one reality into another.

The only person worthy to hold power of any sort is the one who has already given it all away and expects nothing back. The Father grants authority new again every morning, until the day he gives it to someone else. Then you leave it behind, and you cross the bridge, and you see Jesus and forget everything else.

Throw Away the Script

This is basically a placeholder website still. I have a lot I want to do to it, but not enough time. Mr. Ted Slater from boundless.org suggested that I register the domain name, so I did.

Today’s topic is the stereotypes and limitations we impose on ourselves in life. I think we do this out of fear; we seek to discover the “rules” and then to adhere to them, in order to avoid possible negative consequences.

But we look in the wrong place for the rules when we study only the world around us. In truth, there is no script, only simple principles that we can carry with us anywhere we go:

  1. Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (i.e., everything).
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love does its neighbor no harm, so in these two commandments are tied up all the law.

Love, however, is a lifelong art that will require every faculty we possess, and then the help of the Holy Spirit. Every person is unique, and so requires a slightly different approach, which must be discerned. So we must fine-tune the skills of wisdom, discernment, and listening.

I also say love is an art because it can only be learned by hands-on practice. Also because it is beautiful. Love of the true sort heals the flaws of daily interactions and renders life in harmony. It is fairly unnatural to us and requires daily wrestling and instruction from the Master, God Himself.

Love is freedom. It binds me to the opinion of only one being — my Lord — God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No man can imprison my soul. I owe men allegiance only as my true Lord commands.