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Archive for the ‘Life is Random’ Category

What is love?

In Life is Random, Relationships on May 4, 2012 at 12:42 pm

…and yeah, you are supposed to say the title like this.

I have thought about love the past two weeks for a lot of reasons.

Monday, my second ex-husband called to tell me that he had made the decision to have “our” dog, Lucy, put down. He and the vet discovered that she had advanced heart worms that had gone undetected in previous blood tests. No one suspected heart worms because she has been on HeartGuard since we adopted her in August of 2003.

I love Lucy

Thoughts of the day we brought Lucy home from Wellsfest that hot day a month after we were married led to thoughts of our relationship and why it failed. We had a good relationship. We talked. We enjoyed some of the same interests. We had similar musical tastes. Then  things changed. Shit happened, as it is wont to do. Eyes were opened, mistakes were made, and we grew apart.

We ended it before ugly words, restraining orders and police were involved. Way before. Maybe none of that would have ever happened because we are both peaceful people who communicate calmly, but I saw War of the Roses in the ’80s. I was influenced.

I like that today we can sit together and discuss our daughter without bitterness and strife mucking up the conversation. I like that we astound onlookers at parent/teacher conferences and school plays.

I like that we met at the veterinarian’s office and both had our hands on Lucy while she breathed her last breath. She was our first child.

Just, please, don’t ask me to live in the same house with him. Ever. Again.

We had an awesome relationship at the beginning.

But was it LOVE?

What the hell is love, anyway? I loved that dog! I love my kids. I love a lot of people in general. I feel emotion and want to hug a lot of people and tell them I appreciate them. Is that love? Both of my husbands told me they loved me…a lot. However, their actions didn’t line up with their words. Their words, as a result, felt hollow.

I guess the bigger question in my mind is this: What does it take to make a romantic relationship work? How do you know if you can go the long haul with a person? Is that a different thing than LOVE?

Here is a conversation that took place this week between my boyfriend and me via text:

Larry: I’ve been thinking about the word love. [That] it’s much more than affection. It’s a commitment word. How much loyalty you’re willing to give. Love is a word that implies that you are attached. An extension of you. Joys, sadness, pain and pleasure. The other will never suffer without [the person] feeling it themselves. They regard the other as much as themselves. Is anything less really love?

Alana: I think that is what love is supposed to mean. I don’t think that is what “love” is for most people in relationships today.

When you said last night that I still love Jason, I don’t think of him that way. I “loved” him, past tense, but that feeling was destroyed by circumstances involving his lost job, his attitude toward Jeramie and his lack of deep emotion. [More reasons involved, but, hey, it was a text, and I couldn’t list everything.] I care about him and his happiness, but my heart is closed to him. I cannot give him the emotion nor the commitment required for “love.”

So, if pushed to say I “love” him, it is a brotherly, humanity-type love that a caring person can feel for friends and family. I wish him no harm. I want him to be happy in life. I do not want to share my life with him. I respect our memories.

What I feel for you is much different. I feel it is tempered by my past experiences in relationships. I feel deep emotion when I am with you. I don’t care what name you put on it. It doesn’t change the depth of my feelings to call it love, like, respect, choose, care for, want to be around…

I feel as if I have my eyes wide open and am making an educated decision. Sure, that is not out-of-control, fairy tale, sweep-you-away…maybe not even romantic, but I can put all the reasons I want you in that special place in my life down on paper, in ink, read it out loud and feel confident that it is a good decision. Every conversation, every hour spent on projects together, every time you kiss me… [censored] reminds me of that list of reasons.

I don’t know what the future holds, and sometimes I get a little afraid of feeling too strongly for you. Saying I love you isn’t as sweet to me since you told me how you feel about the word [Previous conversation: the word is overused and doesn’t mean as much anymore], so I may not say it too much anymore. But don’t mistake that for a change of heart. The word is useless. Actions are what matter.

Larry: That’s got to be one of the most romantic things I’ve ever read. I’m driving now.

Alana: Don’t wreck.

Larry: 🙂

Is that LOVE?

I don’t know.

I guess time will tell.

Fr@k it, I’m fat again!

In Being Healthy, Life is Random on May 3, 2012 at 4:35 pm

…and I hate being fat.

I thought I had gotten to the point, mentally, that I hated it so much I would never let it happen again. But I did. And I am. Fat. Again.

I know the reasons why. I know how to change it.

The PLANNING me has it whipped. It is the DOING me that keeps failing.

Photo of Alana and Larry jumping over fire

Warrior Dash – April 21, 2012 Jackson, Mississippi

I know that if I get up a little earlier in the morning, I can do an hour walk/jog/stretch routine that will slowly melt away the pounds. I know that if I get to sleep by 9:00 p.m. each night, I can get up early. I know that if I rest enough, I will not crave sweets. I know that what I eat when I am not craving sweets or having a burn-out binge is excellent for my health. I know that if I would just walk back to my bedroom and go to sleep when I am exhausted and overcome with stress, I will not have a burn-out, mindless binge.

I have read so many books and articles on healthy eating and exercise that I could probably write my own book. Yet, I continue to gain and lose the same 30 pounds over and over.

The staples in my diet on a good day? Chicken, salmon, green veggies, fresh fruit, brown rice, whole grain bread, skim milk, Mega Green juice with protein powder and this awesome antioxidant bread I make every week. Yeah, I LIKE that stuff. I’ve been eating it for so long that I actually enjoy it better than any pre-packaged or fast food.  My favorite pizza splurge is the Dominos Pacific Veggie on extra thin crust. I just wish they had a whole wheat crust. I prefer a pizza with veggies and a whole grain crust. I prefer food that I’ve made fresh in my kitchen with every ingredient known to me.

Why am I fat when my cabinets and fridge are stocked with those super foods?

Reason number one: when I am super tired and heading to my weekend job, I give in to my craving of comfort food. Comfort food to prepare me for a late night laying out State/Metro section happens to be a large Turtle Pecan Cluster Blizzard from Dairy Queen.

Reason number two: When it comes to crunch time, I’d rather sleep than exercise. I feel like I never get enough rest. I hurt. I feel as if there is a new pain every day.

Someone please tell me that this will change in September when I am no longer working two jobs!

PLEASE!

I want to be fit. I want to camp and canoe and kayak and hike the mountains and do Warrior Dash much faster than an hour and 19 minutes. I want to swim a mile on Mondays again. I want to feel the muscles in my legs and arms and know that my body will take me wherever I want to go.

I want to be fit and capable for ME.

Craving simplicity in this technology driven world

In Being Healthy, Life is Random on April 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Although I am not one to follow astrology, I’ve often felt that my sign, Gemini, fits me perfectly. I see myself as the twin, changing between my two personalities sometimes daily. There is the Social Butterfly/Chatty Kathy Alana and the Hermit on the Hill Alana.

David McRaney, in his book You Are Not So Smart, says that studies show we all have multiple personalities depending on our immediate social situation. (I don’t have my copy of the book with me, so I’ll have to put the exact information in here later.) Check out his blog for more interesting bits of psychology.

Lately, Hermit Alana has reigned over Career Girl Alana.

I think it might be because Sadie and I have been reading the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. That little handmade farmhouse with Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, Carrie and Baby Grace has incredible appeal to me.

On the other hand, it could be the rising cost of toilet paper. When did a decent 4-pack start costing over $2.50? Could someone hand me the Sears Catalog?

I have a premonition of a time when even the barest of necessities are so expensive that we all have to resort to being self-sufficient in order to exist. Prices keep rising at the grocery store, but our incomes are holding steady. I feel lucky today to even have an income.

I feel guilty complaining about my tight budget when I have a cell phone, television subscription and internet. I remember not having those things as a kid. It wasn’t so bad. Maybe it was better. Maybe there were things back then that meant more…like following in my Daddy’s footsteps as he steered the tiller…dropping in three seeds to the hole.

“Don’t put your fingers in your mouth if you handled the pink seed! It’s poison!”

Would I need a gym membership if I had to work the farm every day? It’s hard work, but what if there isn’t as much stress to deal with?

My parents grew up eating peas and cornbread. Daddy remembers Sundays being extra special because you might get a bite of chicken to go with your field peas. Today, Daddy will tell you, he wants meat with every meal because his family couldn’t afford that luxury when he was a kid. Fair enough. Do we really need meat at every meal? If I think about it, I am afraid to eat our hormone and antibiotic filled meat from the grocery store. Some nutritionists say it is better to have more grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Most nutritionists say the less processed the food, the better for us. Is the rising obesity rate our penance for excess and convenience?

Would I be stressed over my weight if the only food available was what I grew with my own two hands? Laura and Mary were pretty excited over the occasional piece of candy. In the book Sadie and I are currently reading, The Long Winter, the Ingalls family has just survived months on nothing but potatoes and brown bread from wheat ground in a coffee grinder.

So how do I get to the point where I can trade in my suits and heels for sturdy, comfortable shoes and a pair of worn overalls? Can I imagine the feasibility of trading in the cubicle downtown for the sun on my face and dirt on my hands? How much money do I have to save working in this cubicle in order to one day have the homestead of my fantasies? By the time I get there, will my body still be strong enough for the work? I don’t want to start my little farm at the age of 70.

What balance between modern technology and old fashioned grit is doable today? What products could my crafty self make and sell at a Farmer’s Market to bring home a little bacon? How much could I do without in order to make do with a little?

Should I have planned for this sooner?

Can a farmer girl still do internet for keeping up with news and friends in other states?

These people are doing it.

He has always been a hero of mine.

Can this fantasy become a reality one day?

I’ll keep you posted…

Suck it up or stay at home

In Life is Random on December 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm

The opinions on gratuity are plentiful and varied. Here is mine: 

If you do not have the funds to tip well, GO TO McDONALDS or STAY HOME.

If you have never worked as a server, YOUR OPINION on tipping DOESN’T COUNT.

There. If you are going to be offended by either of those sentiments, stop reading now and avoid an irritating waste of the next few minutes of your life.

From September 12, 2011 to November 26, 2011, I had the opportunity of working as a server for Logan’s Roadhouse in Flowood, Miss. I say opportunity because I am not the same person I was before that time…in a good way. I gained insight into myself, my strengths and weaknesses, and insight into mankind in general. I also made a whole bunch of beyond-awesome friends.

It should be mandatory that every person spend at least a couple of months waiting tables at a busy restaurant. You know how Israel requires all citizens to serve in the Israeli military? The U.S. should mandate a period of time spent as waitstaff.

Perspective. Perspective may just be the answer to life. I may earn a Nobel Peace Prize for this post. Alana Bowman has figured it out. The answer to all life’s problems is this: PERSPECTIVE.

Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, if he gets angry, he’ll be a mile away–and barefoot. — Sarah Jackson

Observations: before waiting tables, I thought standard gratuity was 20%. Now I realize most people believe standard gratuity is 5-10%. They are getting things confused. Let me clear it up. God gets 10%. Waitresses get 15-20% standard–more if they are full of awesome. God is omnicient and all-powerful. He thinks things into being. Your waitress works hard (and I mean HARD WORK) to make it all come together for you. Serving food is hard, fast and dirty, and the only “big O” at the end is the “Oh! my aching feet!”

 Here is  some PERSPECTIVE on dining out:

When you dine at a sit-down, order-at-the-table restaurant, another human being will be at your beck and call for the duration of your meal. This human being, your equivalent in value on this planet regardless of social standing or occupation, is required to provide your every request promptly and courteously.  The server will not have a voice nor an opinion.  The customer is always right. Any negative opinion voiced verbally or with body language will be at the risk of unemployment. Your server approaches your table from a position of vulnerability.  How many of you have the balls to be vulnerable to a stranger? Hell, half of us go through life never being vulnerable to a spouse, much less a stranger.

When you dine at a sit-down, order-at-the-table restaurant, you pay the restaurant for the food. You pay the server for bringing it to your table. The restaurant does not pay the server to take your order, give your order to the kitchen, bring the food to your table and refill your glass numerous times. The restaurant pockets what is left from buying the ingredients, paying the cook, paying the light bill and paying the manager and Uncle Sam. Yes, restaurants in Mississippi are required to pay $2.13 per hour to waitstaff. That is the federal minimum wage for tipped employees.

If you think that $2.13 per hour is being paid to serve, let me just throw this brick right up side yo’ head: that money goes straight to Uncle Sam. It’s not paying the server’s bills. Very few full time servers even get a paycheck after taxes. Keep in mind, as well, the server isn’t just there to wait tables. He is doing behind-the-scenes work to keep the process flowing in his “free” time. Who makes the tea, keeps the glasses at the station, bakes the rolls, fills the salad dressing and cleans up at the end of the day? The server. The $2.13 per hour is ALL he makes during those times.

If you do not want to pay the server to wait on you, I suggest you go tell the kitchen what you want, get up and bring it to your own table and get your own damn drink. When you are done, take your nasty dishes to the kitchen as well because the server is asked to give part of her tip to the buss person. If you think another human being should do those things for free, take a look at the calendar. It says 2011 not 1811. We may be in Mississippi, but we are not on a plantation. It doesn’t work that way anymore…never should have in the first place.

If you disagree with the way things are, change it by staying home and taking money from the restaurant owners. Do not try to change the status quo by asking a person to wait on you hand-and-foot for free. A server cannot refuse to wait on you just because she knows you will not tip, not if she wants to keep her job. A server cannot plead her case and encourage you to tip her well, not if she wants to keep her job. Even if he sucks at bringing your food to you, he is still bringing it. He shouldn’t have to do it for free. In the words of Ruth Brown, “If I can’t sell it, I’m going to sit down upon it. I ain’t about to give it away.” Trust me, if your server isn’t making any money, he’d much rather be “sittin’ on it” in front of the TV. It is a gamble. One must be gracious to the grinch as well as the generous and hope for the best when they walk away from the table.

I read a comment online to the effect that a small tip is better than the person staying home and the server getting no tip at all. I disagree. If the cheap bastards stay at home, that leaves more space and time for the generous people to be served.  I would rather wait on three fair guests than ten stingy customers who inevitably run me ragged for pennies.

When you dine at a sit-down, order-at-the-table restaurant, ordering a soda cracker and taking an hour to eat it is just as selfish as not leaving a gratuity. The way it works at most restaurants is this: servers are assigned tables and can only serve what is assigned. Tables are her earning power. One booth is worth two tables in server currency. When you take up a booth for two hours, there goes the earning potential. Unless you are buying the filet and lobster combo, you should consider your tip to be space rental and not based a percentage of your food bill. If you want to linger over an appetizer with water, be polite and take it home. You can sit on your couch as long as you please without robbing a single mom or college student. If not for your dallying, she might have made ten bucks from turning that table a couple of times in the hour your cheap ass was browsing on your smart phone, sipping water. Thirty percent on a $15.00 tab is the same as 5% on a $90.00 tab. Neither are good payment for an hour of work.

I hear what you are thinking. What am I to do about the horrible server? For the three bad servers in a restaurant, there are at least five good servers. The good server has pride in doing her job well. Learn the good server’s name. Learn several good servers’ names. Punish the bad servers by refusing to sit at their table. The end result is best for all parties involved.

After all, you deserve to be treated like royalty now and again, but royalty doesn’t come cheap.

On the importance of hair…or the lack thereof

In Life is Random, Relationships on December 14, 2011 at 10:36 am

Human beings were created/evolved (the word choice is yours) to come in pairs. It is human nature to want a companion in life. If you ponder your life, past and present, how much time is involved in seeking, enjoying or nurturing a relationship?

Those of us who are not currently involved in or pursuing a relationship have diverted our attention to another focus, denying the basic human need for companionship. For some, it is an easy task to occupy oneself with other things. It isn’t second nature for me.

I have had to create methods for tricking my natural instincts and muffling my hormones. I discovered that adjusting my level of girlieness via hair maintenance is a powerful tool.  Just as marriage counselors will tell you that increasing your feeling of sexiness will improve your sex life, so will DECREASING your feeling of sexiness KILL your sex drive…and your longing for a companion. Just call me Pavlov’s Bitch because, honey, it works!

Ditch the razor and bring on the granny panties.

Now, ya’ll know that 90% of this post is tongue-in-cheek. That leaves 10% cold, hard, scientific truth. That 10% is the part urging me to share this with you despite the fact that it will end any chance I have of attracting a man once I’ve paid off my bills and stopped working two jobs. This is just too good NOT to share for all my single ladies. I sacrifice my future social life for you, my dears!

It started off with cutting my hair to a manageable, stodgy shoulder-hovering bob. Everyone knows long hair is sexy. Men love it. Short hair is convenience. Not sexy. Not on me. Check!

Next, the legs. I hate having hair on my legs. This is why the method works. I went without shaving for…well, I’m not at the place where I can admit just how long…in order to push myself into that funky, I-don’t-want-anyone-to-see-me feeling. Nothing is so hormone dampening as hairy legs…except maybe a hysterectomy.

What turned out to be a method of distraction has now become a lack of time. Give up one time consumption and hundreds of other responsibilities creep in to fill the void. But even the practical me has limits. I couldn’t stand it any longer. Since the tropical rain forest on my legs had reached such a nice, useful length, I decided to try waxing. Overjoyed by the thought of going pajamaless in bed and feeling soft, silky skin rubbing the sheets, I proceeded with the waxing.

Forty-five minutes later, I had ONE 7″x3″ bare strip on my left leg…and it was time to go to work. Now THAT look, my friends, is the epitome of sexy.

Hell, no, I don’t want a man. I don’t have time to fix the train wreck that is my partially waxed sasquatch legs. I can’t bring myself to shave because the $10 box of wax is taunting me to try one more time and finish the job. Looks like I won’t be retiring the flannel pajama pants any time soon.

Four months equals a lifetime

In Career Moves, Life is Random, Relationships on December 13, 2011 at 9:48 am

The title sums up what I feel about the last few months. All the words are in my head like the fall leaves in the yard. They fell daily, but I did nothing about them as they fell. Overwhelmed, I feel the need to rake them up and push them out, but I know the piles of words would be worth nothing to you all jumbled up in great mounds of earthy, moldy brown. Chew them up, sprinkle them about, and they become rich mulch to nourish and grow thoughts of your own.

But where do I begin?

Do I need to change the name of my blog? I now have TWO jobs that I love. I am working as a writer for the Mississippi Development Authority during the week and laying out pages for The Clarion-Ledger on the weekend. I have the best of both worlds, and I feel uncommonly lucky. Saying I am excited about my future doesn’t sufficiently express what I am feeling and have been feeling for the past few weeks.

What gives?

Relationships. A man? I don’t even have time to shave my legs! How can I be bothered with finding a man? I can’t. I don’t want to. I want to work two jobs, pay off my loans and buy a kayak. Simple. Focused. Perfection. Happiness.

In the meantime, I want to let the words drift and fall to you a few at a time — not pile into unmanageable mounds.

I will share the joys of waiting tables at some time in the future. That was a short-lived but priceless adventure.

Dating, the lack thereof AND my sense of satisfaction with the current state of affairs…another topic swirling around in my head.

I picked up a book titled Emotional Intelligence a few weeks back. Reading that same phrase in Fortune magazine yesterday reminded me that I really should read up on it. Seems to be a trend.

Lots to talk about. Lots to write about. Lots to be happy about.

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…?

Congratulating the frame maker…

In Life is Random on June 29, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Say you were an artist. You painted the most beautiful oil painting in your career. You worked for months on this creation. Every stroke lovingly placed and every color revealing the emotion of your intent.

This wonderful painting must be shown to the world. But first, you must have it framed. You find a reputable framing shop. The framer, a knowledgeable and talented person, offers the perfect foil for your masterpiece. It doesn’t detract from the beauty of your painting…it enhances it. Fine craftmanship for your work of art. Your baby. Your creation. The source of pride and ownership.

An art show! That is the next step! Show the world this lovely work of art.

A dealer has offered to host the art show. You wait patiently for the night of the gallery opening with your lovingly created work of art.

On the night of the opening, you show up at the gallery dressed in your best cocktail attire, ready to hear what everyone has to say about your masterpiece. What!?! The door is locked? You cannot come in? But that is your painting there on the wall!

Who is that person standing beside it? The framer? Yes, he is skilled, but… Why aren’t you there? You imagined this work of art and brought it to life! Why is everyone shaking the framer’s hand? Why is he getting the congratulations? Yes, he made it look presentable to the public, but you were the creative force behind the painting.

The outrage! The frustration!

This is the story that plays out in my head every time I pick up a newspaper or a magazine covering the opening of a new building, primarily those that MY employers had a hand in designing. Why is it that the architect is rarely mentioned in the articles? I ask that, and the answer I get is “It is always like that. They mention the construction company, not the architect.”

I have had the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes in an architecture firm for three years now. I see the preliminary sketches changing day by day to become the final photographs taken once the job has been built. It is an exciting process. Did you know that a lot of the design comes from Intern Architects? They cannot legally call themselves architects, but they are the creative force behind many designs. They work under the tutelage of a Registered Architect. They have a Bachelor’s of Architecture, a five year degree, I believe. (I will correct that later if I am wrong.) After graduation, they must work in the field for three to four years and pass a series of tests before being able to stamp documents as a fully registered architect. Well, they must pass all the tests then pay their membership dues to AIA to get a stamp. Getting the stamp isn’t the final say. One rarely uses that stamp when it first arrives. Senior architects stamp the plans, those who have many years’ experience.

Architects are artists. They choose the palette from stone, brick, mortar, wood. They design the artwork that lives and breathes as we dwell and work within it. It is functional artwork, an even more difficult breed of art to create.

Next time you read an article about a ribbon cutting or pass by a newly finished building, consider the artist behind that design. You are looking at his painting, her sculpture. Let’s give them a little credit.

I write this for my Intern Architect friends with whom I work. They are a talented group of people. I hope to see more and more their creations around the State of Mississippi in my lifetime.

To Erin, Lacie, Greg, Ralph, Anderson, Ben, Brad and Adam.

 

My Life in Music

In Life is Random on June 22, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I am posting this for my Daddy. I know he likes this paper I wrote Summer 2009 as a part of my Communications studies at Mississippi State University. Hope you enjoy as well!

I was born on May 24, 1974 to David and Sherrie Bowman. They brought me home to the little yellow house on Highway 18 in Johns, Mississippi. My dad was, and still is today, a drummer. I’ve heard the story many times of his playing on television while in high school. He played the drums and sang Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay on Teen Tempos hosted by Judy Moon Denson. Wayne Moore was on lead guitar, and Gary Robinson was on bass guitar. After I was born, Daddy played regularly at the VFW for extra cash. Money was always tight for my family, and my dad loved his music. My favorite song that he sang at the VFW was Long, Tall Texan. I had the enjoyment of listening to my dad play recently with a few other older gentlemen. Daddy, as always, played the drums, and there was a steel guitar, a 6 string bass and a lead guitar. I am looking forward to an invitation to his next gig with the younger band he sometimes sits in with. There I’ll get to hear some of my Lynrd Skynrd and Eric Clapton favorites.

The very best memories I have of my childhood involve my dad singing to me. Just a few of the songs were the afore mentioned Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay as well as Me and Bobby McGee, Help Me Make it Through the Night and Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain that were sung as lullabies to help me go to sleep. When we walked to milk the cow, plant the garden or spray the plum tree, Daddy sang Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. George Jones was a favorite as well. He Stopped Loving Her Today was one of my favorite supper-cooking serenades. Daddy always sang around the house, I sing while working, and my sweet daughter Syd sings whenever she pleases. It is a good family heritage. There is a song for every situation, a song for every feeling, a song for every day.

I never knew the actual meanings or topics of these songs until I was an adult. To my young ears, they were sweet melodies and my Daddy’s voice talking about hair ribbons, blue eyes, harmonicas and flip-flops, all things to which I could relate. These songs hold a special meaning to me. Now that I have become an adult and experienced love and heartache, they mean even more. I can’t hear Margaritaville without remembering walking to milk the cow with my dad when his flip flop “blew” and we had to head back home for a new pair. The relief that he did not cut his heel still infuses my mind. I am still looking for my Bobby McGee to make feeling good easy.

1974 was a really good year for music. Many of my favorites were born the same year I was. The most requested songs in 1974 include a lot of my favorites. Who doesn’t like Carl Douglas’ Kung Fu Fighting? That song is a cult classic. My son of 15 years who wasn’t born until 1993 even likes that song. I cannot help but smile when I listen to Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing. Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynrd tops the list of most requested songs in 1974. This song played a vital part in my senior trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama at the age of 17. Going to the Flora-Bama bar and staying past dark to hang out with the 21-year-olds, dancing on the tables to Sweet Home Alabama was about as wild as this little country girl got in high school.

I consider myself to be a light-hearted, joyful person. Is it superstition to feel that the songs being listened to the year I was born helped in any way to make me who I am? Barry White singing Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe and Rufus with the timeless Tell Me Something Good had to be a blessed omen over me. These are two of the many songs I reach for to turn a bad day around. There is nothing like a little funk to get one out of a funk, and no woman can resist the soothing voice of Mr. White.

If you fast forward to my pre-teen years, there is not a lot of material to use to describe my life. My mother became very religious at that time, and my dad had to pack up the Eagles, Queen, Rod Stewart and the sound track to Saturday Night Fever. We were not allowed to listen to any secular music for several years. Later in my life, I found out Daddy just took the albums to work with him and stored them in his desk drawer. I still remember sorting through the album case at home to look at the double album Saturday Night Fever and ogle the photos of John Travolta in his white suite. I’m not sure what the title of the Rod Stewart album was, but he was wearing hot pink lycra on the cover. I now have Saturday Night Fever soundtrack as well as the Best of Queen on CD. Rod Stewart’s cover of Have I Told You Lately played a big role in my first wedding. Unfortunately, the best crooned love songs cannot save a marriage that is destined to die.

My college years were spent catching up to music I had lost in my pre-teens and teen years. I found a love for Eric Clapton with Layla which I thought could just have easily have been titled Lana, the nickname my family gave me. When I hear that song today, I can perfectly envision my dorm room in Woolfolk Hall. Always longing for affection and assurance of my worth, I was positive that Clapton sang Wonderful Tonight just to me. In fact, he sings every song on the Complete Clapton CD set just to me these days. There is one thing you need to know about me, “I have a rock and roll heart,” and I am wonderful…today and tonight. Have I gotten to the place where I can believe that? If not, I’ll keep listening to Eric croon until I believe it whole-heartedly.

While at Delta State University, surprising even myself, I gained affection for the Red Hot Chili Peppers that still holds to this very day. A greatest hits purchase is on my list of things to do soon. For now, I relish every time Jack FM 94.7 plays Under the Bridge, Give it Away or Love Roller Coaster. These are the words that come to mind when I think of my year at Delta State, 1992-1993 – Lollapalooza regret. I wish I had been there. My year at Delta State was freedom and success. It was happiness at entering the world of independence.

Let’s fast forward again to 2000 when after the end of a five year marriage and four years of searching for heightened spirituality, I was introduced secular music once again. Most of my life’s musical search has been trying to catch up with what I missed. I began acquiring Blues music, especially any musicians who had lived in or come from Mississippi. During my times of being single and lonely, I found comfort in B.B. King’s Hummingbird and To Know You is to Love You. B.B. and I shared several candle lit bubble baths and glasses of wine from 2000 and 2001. The thrill was gone, and I was holding onto hope that it could possibly come back.

In February of 2002, my thrill came back in the persona of a radio DJ. He played the Blues in his car on our first date and his knowledge of music was almost as impressive as his CD collection. I was smitten from day one. In our first year of dating, we frequented local Blues clubs, met Howlin’ Wolf’s lead guitarist, Hubert Summerlin and made friends in the local Blues society. Jackie Bell from the 930 Blues Café never hesitated to sing Breakin’ Up for me when I requested it. I had found my second love, but for some reason that song struck a chord with my memories of the four lonely years as a single mom. It is a song about a woman in love with a married man, but it epitomized the deep pain of being very much alone. I still enjoy listening to Ann Peeble’s version of the song, even though the painful loneliness is no longer there. To empathize with the loneliness of another heals the hurt of one’s own loneliness. Is that not the purpose of the Blues, to help heal the hurt of life?

My DJ introduced me to Nikka Costa’s funky beat, and together we discovered Maroon Five, listening to them over and over before they became a hit on the airwaves. When I listen to Nikka Costa today, I think of those days when my eyes were still blinded by love, when my DJ and I rode around listening to our favorites blissfully knowing no other person walked the earth but the two of us. He was the something that made me smile “like an itty, bitty child.” I listened to Nikka over and over during the two months awaiting my divorce finalization. I found that she really knew my DJ when she sang Push & Pull, “Mr. Nothing’s got a lot, He’s got a lot to say. He’s good at being what he’s not, Gives nothing away.” Nikka had a new song out last year, I believe, that may better suit my life and loves, Till I Get to You: “My lover A was absolutely alright. But my lover B would bump my tunes in his ride….” I have 24 more letters to get it right. I think that is a country song in the making.

Today, only three months post separation, the divorce is final, and I find that the ever present break-up song suits my mood. New artist, Chris Daughtry, says it best, “Cause I’m not taking the easy way out, Not wrappin’ this in ribbons, Shouldn’t have to give a reason why. It’s no surprise I won’t be here tomorrow. I can’t believe that I stayed till today. Yeah, you and I will be a tough act to follow, but I know in time we’ll find this was no surprise.” I haven’t taken the easy way out. For some it is easy to stay until there is hate rather than to move on before someone gets hurt. This is what this song says to me today. Will it say the same thing tomorrow? I may not be a rock star, but he is a tool, and like Pink “I’m alright, I’m just fine.”

Today, I listen to these songs that have been a part of my life since before I was born and I marvel at how the meanings change. With each new life experience the songs become richer, more meaningful, full of life and infused with good feelings. For me, even sad songs can bring good feelings. They bring a realization that either I’m no longer in the difficult situation or that someone has been there before me. They make me realize that even life’s hardships must eventually end. There are days when sad songs make me happy. What once was a lullaby now becomes the realization that we, as humans, sometimes need someone to help us make it through the night.

Before I was born, my dad made his memories with music and passed them to me. His joy became my joy, and I thank him for the introduction. The tradition continues. Only moments after my daughter was born, Daddy – Papaw – held her in his arms and gave her the first taste of sweet heartbreak being sung softly and sweetly. His joy became my joy that is being passed on to my children. I thank him for the introduction.

I love you Daddy!
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