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Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Awesome Adventures of Nature (Geek) Girl

In Being Healthy, Life is Random, Relationships on August 14, 2011 at 9:40 am
Photo of camp stove with computer

There is something so RIGHT about this picture!

I am sitting here doing something I have always wanted to do…posting a blog entry while camping. To save money, I canceled our home internet and signed up for a limited use MiFi from Cellular South, so my internet goes with me wherever I go. Yay me!

People ask me often, “Alana, why do you go camping alone?” Well, I guess that answer deserves its own post.

Some of you know that I grew up with a borderline personality, bi-polar mother. Those of you who have lived closely with a person with behavioral and mental problems understand what this entails. This is not the time to explain all that, so if you don’t know what I’m talking about, do a Google search on borderline personality disorder and bi-polar disorder. There you will see textbook examples of my mother.

What is relevant to this story is the fact that I grew up around a lot of negativity and depression. Life was out to get my mother–and so was every person on the planet. I grew up hearing this, and I didn’t like it. I started thinking that if I didn’t like it, then probably no one wanted to hear MY problems either. In a way, I was right, and it made me pretty self-sufficient and independent. I became a really good listener.

As an adult, I’ve read self-help books, paid for counseling and learned how to be more even keeled. Yes, we do sometimes need someone to talk over our problems with. Getting advice from a level-headed, uninvolved party is wise. However, we shouldn’t go overboard and continually unload on friends. That is what we are doing when every conversation with a friend is regaling a torrent of negative. We are unloading. We all have problems in our lives. Life is inherently problematic and filled with “shit.” There are negative situations around every corner. We have to unload this “shit” somehow…and often…or we become my mother–overwhelmed and paralyzed by life and unable to get out from under it. So, what is the best way to unload without giving a friend your burden to carry?

See, this is the good part. YOU get to decide your best way to unload without dumping on your friends. For some people, putting faith in God and giving the cares to Him in prayer works best. This works for a lot of people. Some people find relief in hitting the gym or going for a run. It is good to have multiple ways to bring positive thoughts back into your mind. Thoughts are very powerful forces in our lives. I would dare say that thoughts may be the MOST powerful force in a human’s life. Everything we are as a human being is in our thoughts–our faith, our spirituality, our emotions, our personalities. There is a passage in the book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett that speaks of the power of thoughts. I would quote it here, but I’m out in the woods, and the book is back home. (I should download it on my Kobo app and search it on my Galaxy S. Geez, where did I misplace my Geek Card!?!) I will edit the post and add the quote later. It’s good.

One of my methods of letting it all go is getting out in nature and listening to the cicadas, birds, crickets, frogs and squirrels sing away my sorrows. Right now the crows and cicadas are in harmony. That crow is bitching about how tight my budget is and about how frustrating work can be at times. The lazy occasional percolating harumph of the coffee pot is patting my back and telling me everything is really good where it matters most. I hiked a trail late yesterday afternoon, once the tent was set up, and exchanged a few worrisome thoughts for a couple of wild muscadines hanging from a vine. I am just happy to let them deal with it so I can get on with just enjoying being me.

The best part about getting rid of your “shit” on your own is this: people will like to be around you if you keep yourself positive and full of good thoughts. Have you ever read the book How Full is Your Bucket?? I have heard a lot of good things about this book. It’s on my list of books to read. The concept outlined in the book is that we affect those around us in our daily interactions, whether they are positive or negative. How many of you have gone through a drive-through and been affected by the cashier’s frown, attitude and negative energy? She had an empty bucket. Now what about the opposite? Have you ever come across a stranger who had a smile for no reason and a kind word? Her bucket was full. How did those two situations make you feel? Which do you want to be to your fellow man? I want to have a full bucket. I want to start a viral smile along my path. I want to do my part to heal the world–tikkun olam. That feels waaaaaay better to me than the alternative.

Is the alone part necessary? No, it is not. That is just where I am in my life right now. My girlfriends don’t really enjoy nature like I do, and I do not have a husband or boyfriend with whom I can share these unwind times. I hope that is a part of my future. I really do. However, not having a partner is no reason to wait to do the things I enjoy. Not having a partner is also no reason to be negative about my life. After all, my friends have been just a Facebook post away this whole weekend. I’ve chronicled my trip via photo uploads from my cell phone.

No nature geek girl is an island.


You can’t make comfort food with whole wheat flour…or can you?

In Career Moves, Life is Random on August 2, 2011 at 9:37 pm

I haven’t posted to my blog in a while because I have been stressed again about the job search. I was afraid that anything I tried to write would come out as a bunch of whining. That makes me feel guilty because, as a whole, my life is pretty darn good right now. My kids are healthy. I’m getting my bills paid despite the fact that it is no fun to have very little money left over afterwards. I have a home that will be mine in 29 1/2 years. My car runs and is very gas efficient. I get asked out on dates and asked in for interviews. Things just haven’t come together as quickly as I want them to.

The thing is, I’ve done a lot of really interesting things with my career. I didn’t finish college as I had planned back in the early 90s. This meant I had to get a little creative to make things happen. Creative is a good thing. I believe it proved to prospective employers that I can take care of business…and I CAN! On the first night of my first real job, cashier for Crafts, Etc., I was running a cash register on my own within an hour or two of arriving for work. I require very little training when I begin a new position, even when jumping from one career path to another.

I took a job as a bank teller just to make some money while taking night courses to get an Associate’s Degree. It was not what I had planned to do when I was in high school. My dream job was to become a graphic designer and work at an ad agency. With a new baby and new husband, whose employer had just filed bankruptcy, it was nice to know we’d have a steady income from somewhere.

One day, perusing the classifieds looking for my husband a job, I came across an ad for a position at an “advertising office.” I didn’t have my degree, but I saw this as a possible way to get my foot into the door for a career in advertising. That is close to an ad agency, right? I took a chance and sent in my resume. I accepted the job offer making over a dollar more an hour than I had been making at the bank as a teller. My training was to sit and listen to the Advertising Director make sales calls over the phone. I took to it naturally. Pretty soon, I was building my baby, a small start-up magazine called The Goat Rancher.  I did not know the first thing about goats, but I took the revenue of that magazine from about $500 a month in ad sales to over $10,000 a month in ad sales. I also took over making the cold calls and sending out media kits for the main publication of the advertising office.

For two weeks out of the month, I made calls to sell ads to national companies. For the other two weeks, I was the Production Coordinator for The Stockman Grass Farmer. As Advertising Production Coordinator, I was in my element. I sketched out ads on paper, helped clients come up with ad copy, talked with the typesetter about ad designs and handled all the proofing. I may not have been working for an ad agency, but I was helping my clients develop their marketing plans. I was on top of the world. Eventually, I was editing press releases for the Grazier’s Gear column and overseeing the yearly production and sales of the Buyer’s Guide. Coordinating these projects was a natural fit for me. I find happiness in being in charge of a project.

Six years later, the economy tanked, and I was looking for another job. I took a short stint at a local hunting and fishing publication, helping the company get their national ad sales going, but my heart was done with selling. The dream was tapping my shoulder. I wanted to be a graphic designer. I wanted to use my love of computers. Thanks to two very good friends, Sandra Goff, a graphic designer, and Jeff Wall, a pre-press supervisor, I had my chance. Sandra gave me a good reference and Jeff hired me on at the printing company as a pre-press operator with on-the-job training. How often does a person get a chance to accept a job without the skills to do the job? There was one skill I possessed that might be the most valuable to an employer: the skill to learn skills. There I learned Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark Xpress. Within three months, I was being taught imposition, a promotion. It is always better to get paid WHILE you are learning than to pay to learn.

Fast forward almost 10 years and you will see that I had that agency position. I have also worked as a designer for a daily newspaper and started a very modest freelance design business. I went back to school, taking online courses to earn my Bachelor’s Degree in May 2010. Today, I’m teaching myself web design. You can check out my first site using CSS here. Not bad for a little bank teller who had a baby at 19.

Penelope Trunk posted on her career advice blog that it is important to look as if you are on top of the world while you are looking for a job…even if you are not. I read that this morning and came home thinking a little comfort food would help perk me up to be more positive to continue the search. I have been down on myself because the job hunt has dragged on beyond the one year mark. I have let myself forget the awesome things I’ve accomplished in my life. This has given me a negative outlook…not good for job hunting.

So I go to the kitchen to make my favorite comfort food (other than ice cream), chicken and dumplings and realize I only have whole wheat flour. Whoever heard of making chicken and dumplings with whole wheat flour? Did I let that stop me…?

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