“6 Questions with…” is an opportunity for women and girls everywhere to share something about their passions and lives. (It’s also a fantastic excuse for me to be really nosey and learn from of the some amazing women I’ve met.)
This week I’m putting Karen Schexnayder in the hot seat. New to the blogosphere, Karen is launching Saltwater Freedom this year as a place to share about her life as a mum and wife, trying to be healthy and loving to travel. I’ll let her introduce herself in her own words…
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you come from. Paint a picture of yourself.
I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which at the time and still is, somewhat, a blue collar town. I feel fortunate to have been exposed at a young age to family members who emphasized a strong work ethic. My paternal grandfather owned his own construction company. He always tried to get me to learn a trade, but the teenage girl in me was too focused on other things. Fast forward more years than I care to count and I found myself working for a custom home builder. There were many times I wished I had paid attention all those years ago. I think I may have learned a few things through osmosis because I definitely have a love of architecture thanks to my grandfather’s influence.
For those who may not know a lot about Pittsburgh, the city is located where three rivers – the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio converge. The rivers aren’t beautiful by any means, but I remember as a child mesmerized by the sun streaming down on the water casting gold specks. I think this is where my love affair with the water began, and my astrological sign is Aquarius/Pieces, depending on which astrological chart you follow. I’m always at peace when I’m near the water.
My younger (and only) brother is deaf and has autism. I am blessed to have had the experience of growing up with him as it has taught me compassion, patience, loyalty and faith. There were many challenges along the way, but each obstacle was a chance to learn and as I’ve grown older, I look back and am thankful for those lessons. Too often, we hear of people blaming their past for their problems, I choose to look back on my past and see that it has defined me in a good way. I am more understanding. Patience is something I’m still working on, because I’m hard-headed and stubborn by nature, by every day I try a little harder. My brother taught me that we can never give up one someone we love. Sure, there were times when my parents and I thought he’d never learn things that other children take for granted, but to see him flourish now is astounding. There were times when our faith was tested, but our faith always saw us through those storms.
I’ve been married for 18 years to my best friend, Michael. We share a love of travel and a passion for reading. He’s a fan of craft beer, stouts and porters, preferably. I love a good Moscow Mule. We have a four-year-old, four-legged, spoiled child named, Jackson. Michael and I met in Cleveland, Ohio through mutual friends and in 2002 moved to Florida to escape the brutal Midwestern winters.
2) Your blog, Saltwater Freedom, is currently under construction. What inspired you to join us in the blogosphere?
As a child, I was always fascinated by words, especially those in commercials. Being the oldest of the grandchildren in my family, I used to make my cousins act out commercials that I would create. I think secretly my cousins dreaded family gatherings. Sadly, none of them followed an acting career, because they were quite good. Or so I thought when I was a kid.
I was one of those kids who never really knew what they wanted to do when they grew up, but I knew it would involve words or creativity. Someone suggested public relations, so that it was my major in college. I minored in psychology because I think when you’re selling, as in advertising, you have to understand how people think. My career ended up taking a much different path than I wanted and I finally realized something was missing….I wasn’t doing what makes me happy, so I quit my job and decided to create a blog. I’m excited to see where it takes me.
3) Bloggers love to talk in jargon, constantly referring to niches, tribes and SEO. How have you found figuring out what being a blogger means for you?
I’m still new to the world of blogging, but for me now, blogging is about communication and connection. For me, it’s going back to what I’ve always loved to do and that is to write. What do I have to say that could make a difference in someone’s life? How can my experiences help others? Michael and I love to travel, but often shy away from the ‘touristy’ stuff. I see myself writing about those experiences. I think my wanderlust is another reason I chose to start a blog. I want the freedom to live my life on my terms, not stuck at a desk.
4) Many people don’t realise that blogging can quickly become a full-time job that we have to balance with the rest of our life. How do you balance your blog with your other roles?
I’m a huge fans of lists – it’s what keeps me sane. I live by my calendar.
Again, this is new territory for me, but I realize for this to be successful, I’m going to have to put a lot of heart, soul and many hours into it. I love that for the most part, the blogging community is very giving of their knowledge. Almost everyone I have reached out to has been so gracious in answering questions and providing resources.
I almost lost my husband four years ago when he went into cardiac arrest. I recently read an article about the doctor who pioneered hypothermia protocol that the hospital used while Michael was in a coma and of the 300,000 plus people who go into cardiac arrest each year in the U.S., less than 11 percent leave the hospital alive. When the doctors told us that Michael was a ‘miracle’, that is what MAKES me balance my life. We have learned to prioritize our lives and to live life to the fullest may seem cliché, but it is true.
5) Everyone needs to have some downtime from life. What’s your favourite way to chill out?
My husband and I have a cabana, just like you see at resorts, in our backyard. When we designed our outdoor space, I included a water feature because water is something that relaxes me, so we have our cabana next to a waterfall. The cabana was very much a spontaneous, impulsive purchase, but it has been one of the best investments we’ve made in our well-being. It’s the perfect place to read, write, sip a Moscow Mule or take a nap, always with our four-legged son, Jackson.
Like I said, I’m a water person, so I feel incredibly blessed to live 15 minutes from the beach. I truly pinch myself when I remember that I live where thousands of people come every year to vacation. It’s a blessing that I don’t take lightly, though there are times when I think we don’t take advantage of our location as much as we should. We do try to take an hour long beach walk at least once a week. The beach, for me, is my therapy, the place where my soul is most at peace, which is why I named my blog Saltwater Freedom.
6) Finally, which blogs do you read? Are there any that you love recommending?
I’m kind of obsessed with research (maybe I get that from my father, who is a chemist). I follow Just a Girl and Her Blog (We’re both from Pittsburgh), Sarah Koontz, Holy City Chic (she lives in my favorite city, Charleston, SC) and The Southern Coterie. I enjoy reading what other entrepreneurial Southerners are creating.
Don’t forget to check out Karen’s blog, Saltwater Freedom
The post 6 Questions with Karen Schexnayder first appeared on CounterCultural. CounterCouture.