UUFE’s Shalagh Hogan on art, family, service, and daring.
Rev. Sue spoke on a recent Sunday of service to UUFE. She reminded us that our fabulous holiday tree didn’t simply rise up out of the floor by itself. But it was still magic — Shalagh’s magic.
See our gallery of Shalagh’s decorative art.
UU liFE: Your life story is sort of an urban legend. So, how did you wind up in Denton?
Shalagh: I was born in Berkeley, California, where my Father was receiving his PhD. When I was six months old, our family moved to Baltimore for his professorship at Johns Hopkins. My parents divorced when I was seven, and I lived with my Mom and grew up an agnostic in the Charles Village/Hopkins area. Eventually, I landed west in the funky Hampden neighborhood. There I met my now-husband, Mark, a former Catholic. In 2000, after buying a dilapidated house on the Choptank River in Caroline County, we were engaged and moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I would spend the next year renovating our money pit before we got married.
For most of my adult life, I worked in restaurants and the service industry bartending, waitressing, catering, and eventually managing staff at the Cafe Hon and the Golden West Cafe in Hampden. Shoulder surgery then forced me on to retail work.
In 2001, a year after we moved here to Denton, I hired Moonvine’s owner, Pama, to do my exquisite flowers for our wedding bash in our backyard. I then worked for her for a couple of years before I opened my own antiques and gifts shop named Bally Eden down the street from our house. However, the recession in 2006 forced me to shut down my lovely shop and become a full-time stay-at-home mama.
This allowed me to finally begin to write and publish essays online; my lifelong dream of writing had begun. In August 2011, I established my blog at Shalavee.com. I now publish three times weekly and have become a much better writer than I ever thought I would be.
Shalavee.com is gorgeous – both visually and linguistically. You must blog 16 hours a day. Is it working?
My three times-a-week posting translates to maybe three to four hours a week – writing and adding pictures. It’s the theme that’s making it look fancy.
Although I am not making any money yet with my writing, I’m fulfilled and am finding friends and myself through my work, and I am certain I will find my way to a “living” eventually. My husband’s business, On Your Mark Lighting, supports us currently.
Do you consider your blog to be the most daring thing you’ve done?
I’d say that beginning to write and publish online was very daring for me, because as a typical creative, I absolutely despise technical stuff. But all things can be learned and mastered eventually – or farmed out. And I have discovered that the online world holds way more challenges and lovely people than I ever expected.
Most daring? I had not just the one miracle baby at the “advanced” age of 38 years old. I also dared to have a second miracle baby at 46 years old – “spontaneously”, which means with no outside help for conception, except my husband’s, of course. We are a little tired but feel way more equipped to make smarter choices for our children and be present for them – more than we ever were in our previous lives. Eamon is about to turn 11 years old and is an accomplished pianist. And Fiona is about to turn three and is a very smart, creative, and loud little lady.
What’s the Next Big Thing for Shalagh?
I enjoyed teaching a blogging workshop this past year, so perhaps more of that. I’ve taken a break on writing submissions while I re-situate myself and fold myself into my purpose. Publishing, speaking, and teaching all seem to be inevitable for me. As I still have a toddler, I try not to mentally overachieve and am just waiting out the time a little, until she begins school.
As both a visual artist and a writer, there is a struggle for me to express both sides enough, and I feel passionately about my need for creative expression. Allowing for that with children in my life is a challenge. Permission is a popular a topic on my blog – so is purpose and self-esteem. Whatever I choose to do, it will be because I am passionate and excited about it.
And you also find time to serve UUFE. How you do that, and why?
It didn’t take long after I started attending UUFE to offer my help for the events coordination. I helped with the yard sale (except when I had a newborn). I help with the potlucks, both decorating and setting up. I design and install the decorations for the fundraisers, and my husband does the lighting. I also took on decorating the 15-foot Christmas tree each year, because it seemed a perfect opportunity to show the creative passionate spirit of the community.
I love this community because it supports our passion to think and make choices about what sort of world we want to be a part of. The Unitarian Universalist philosophy is “live and let live”, as well as empowering and grounding. I very much appreciate that my children are being taught values in their religious education that I embrace. And that they are asked to think. And honestly, childcare’s always been a huge plus. Ha!
This fellowship is our kids’ second home, and they are comfortable within this community. I want them to feel inspired and enlightened until thry have the power to choose what they want to believe. And who they want to believe it with.