One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for April 2019

Caregiving, Career, and Creativity

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Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to win the 2019 Pulp Factory Award for my short story “Knights of the Silver Cross” in 1950s Western Roundup. After winning the award, I decided to take a break from creativity and writing. Working on creative projects for two years non-stop while balancing caregiving duties and freelance work has been especially challenging, and taking a break has enabled me to recharge and regain a strong sense of focus.

Caregiving an elderly, ill parent often means a greater need for self-care, and my own efforts to maintain relationships and stay connected were becoming compromised. Think of caregiving as “parenting in reverse”: there are similar dynamics to raising a child, but while a child tends to develop upward, an ill parent requires greater effort and time. Self-care, especially focusing on other relationships, can be particularly challenging to caregivers, and I was finding myself feeling increasingly isolated despite a non-stop schedule (including a successful Doctor Who panel at C2E2). Engaging with my friends and colleagues requires consistent effort, as well as a self-reminder that I have a community of friends and colleagues supporting me even if I am not always aware of it. Plus, I have also started a south side Chicago caregivers meetup in order to bolster my efforts to find support but to also “pay it forward” to other caregivers.

C Now - Blogging

One of the other aspects of caregiving is balancing my “regular” duties while seeking freelancing work and consulting assignments. One of the great challenges is finding time for professional networking: my schedule does not always permit me to attend the plethora of networking events in Chicago. So my efforts have been more focused: touching base with several contacts, running a coworking meetup, and attending nontraditional events focused on specific kinds of clients rather than larger scale, two-drink-minimum kinds of events. I have also had to consider the kind of work I want to do, focusing more on freelance and remote work than traditional full-time work. Finding employment can be a challenge for anyone; for a caregiver, it can be especially daunting.

Especially in terms of current attitudes towards work and employment. For those who openly embrace the myth of “crushing it”, my efforts are inadequate (in other words, I’m not “trying hard enough”). Many individuals often advocate that I simply just “get a job to care for your mother” as if jobs are prizes to be won rather than opportunities to utilize my skills. Not only should professional work come before everything else, but my creative work should be “freely available” and without recompense. (Recently, I had to remove a member from Chicago Doctor Who Meetup for not only trollish behavior but for suggesting that I simply “accept modern technology” when it comes to the effect of digital piracy on my work as a writer). Being creative when facing both life challenges and negative attitudes from others can become increasingly difficult and means shifting priorities.

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Shifting those priorities and managing time effectively in the midst of all of this has impacted my ability to write and blog consistently. Our current cultural lack of empathy towards working creatives (including writing, music, film, and other media) has resulted in an attitude of “I-know-better-than-you” from those who may not understand the totality of effort. (Just look at YouTube “critics” declaring that certain works have “failed”, or that there is “too much diversity”.) Blogging allows me to express myself, but also allows me to highlight lesser-known efforts around technology, social change, and other community-based efforts. Writing New Pulp fiction allows me to express and resolve more intense emotions, but also requires time and distance that my caregiving duties may frequently impact. Achieving a sense of balance and equilibrium is possible, but requires great effort.

So why am I writing this post, you may ask? Many caregivers like myself are often held to unreasonably high expectations, being told that we’re heading “on a great journey” without acknowledging our specific challenges. Caregiving for an elderly, ill, or dying relative can be physically and emotionally taxing, and our current culture does little to provide basic support to empathy. People like me who care for a relative (especially caregivers in marginalized communities) require resources and support if only to provide them an opportunity to express themselves and their experiences. I am fortunate that between this blog and my fiction work, I recognize that I have the luxury of having my voice be heard…

…and recognize that many other caregivers are not as fortunate, yet they need to have their voices be heard.

Want to share your comments or experiences? Please leave them in the area below. Please join the conversation and follow us on our Facebook page, or join our Patreon community. If you want to contact me directly, please use this email contact form.
And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

April 28, 2019 at 10:35 am

Mission Driven Culture: A Conversation With Teddy Heidt of Gauge Collective

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(Special thanks to Teddy Heidt of the Gauge Collective for his time and insight) 

Chicago has a healthy, thriving community of mission-driven businesses working to drive profit as well as social impact. Mission-driven businesses operate from a key set of values, focus on benefiting stakeholders as well as stockholders, and work on driving community collaboration. My recent conversation with Teddy Heidt, founder of the Gauge Collective, provides insight into how a mission-driven business integrates its values into every aspect of its culture.

The Gauge Collective was founded by Teddy Heidt, a brand digital marketing specialist who specializes in building, strengthening, and implementing digital strategies. As a freelancer, Heidt discovered that many social media agencies hired to help brands often provided work product with low quality and little insight into the essence of the brand. Inspired to take positive action, Teddy Heidt founded the Gauge Collective, a community of collaboration-minded social, digital, and creative freelancers, which assists a wide variety of organizations (from start-ups to larger businesses) in crafting and executing efficient and effective social media outreach strategies. Their onboarding process allows the Gauge Collective to immerse themselves into how a brand “ticks”, providing ample opportunities to foster a sense of collaboration as well as provide a brand-specific outreach strategy.


The Gauge Collective takes an “anti-agency” approach to social media and digital marketing: under Teddy Heidt’s leadership, the Collective supports a group of freelancers from a wide variety of fields (including social media, graphic design, email marketing, and videography). One of the key values that Teddy Hedit has integrated into the working philosophy of the Gauge Collective is diversity: not only does the Gauge Collective desire to support freelancers from marginalized communities, but Teddy Heidt was named one of Crain’s Chicago Business’ Notable LGTBQ Executives. As Heidt pointed out in our conversation, the Gauge Collective actively seeks and collaborates with brands and a small, community-based group of influencers who are “uniquely themselves” to provide thorough strategies that lead to specific results.

The Gauge Collective’s mission-driven impulse towards collaboration and community also extends into their desire to work with nonprofits, other mission-driven businesses, and socially conscious brands. With their immersive onboarding process and ability to provide smaller scale yet more effective services, the Gauge Collective wishes to provide services for nonprofits and other mission-driven businesses who may be unable to hire larger agencies. It speaks to Teddy Heidt’s vision of the Gauge Collective that they can contemplate growth in both their client base and in engaging the greater freelancer population. With a mission-driven impulse towards collaboration and community, the Gauge Collective under Teddy Heidt’s leadership provides a great example for other businesses – and even some digital agencies – to emulate.

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And as always, thanks for reading!

Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition Wins Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communities Competition

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 Last week, I wrote about the Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition and their efforts to drive both digital and healthcare literacy in the city. In my previous post, I mentioned that the CCLC focuses on digital literacy as well as workforce development and healthcare literacy. As I mentioned in last week’s post, technology is at the forefront of their activities.

… the Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition uses a blended model of community-based centers using technology. Although the CCLC does use apps to assist learners in developing their skills, providing a social/interactive environment not only allows those users to thrive but provides them with the support and motivation to stay on track.

The Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition demonstrates a strong determination to integrate technology, community, and literacy in their work. It was that determination to make an impact that led the CCLC to apply for – and win a milestone award in the Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communites Competition.


As a global leader in designing and operating innovative competition models, XPRIZE focuses on efforts to make a positive impact on the world. With its focus on reaching the underserved adult learner community (only 2 million of the 36 million adults in need are served by existing adult literacy programs[1]), the CCLC thought the Communities Competition would be a method to increase its capacity. Although the CLCC believes it is only reaching ten percent of its total capacity, it also sees huge potential in integrating technology solutions for adult learning and encouraging the development of mobile apps to allow people to improve their skills independently. As a result of being a competitor in the Adult Literacy XPRIZE Communities Competition, next week CCLC will give individuals a code to download and use the Learning Upgrade mobile app to use for building their literacy skills.

With three million adults in Illinois lacking education beyond high school, the economic and social benefits of the CCLC’s work cannot be understated. It is expected that more than 67% of jobs in Illinois will require postsecondary education or training by 2020. Adult literacy and education can provide $2.50 in return for every $1.00 of Illinois tax money spent, saving the state millions and reducing the need for state-funded programs like Medicaid, corrections, housing unemployment, SNAP, and public aid.

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[1] Source: Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education. 2018, August 15