Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Outsider's Guide to Fitting In: Dating as an Adult

Someone really needs to write a manual on dating as an adult, because it's getting ridiculous! I attempted to find out if someone had by Googling a relevant phrase... the first link was for a page that definitely wasn't PG. I got out of that window quick.

So, if you're trying out the dating scene post-high school or college, here are some things you may want to keep in mind, in a "manual" written Elise-style. (If you're not dating, you can read it for laughs at the expense of all those branded "single.") It's sort of an outsiders guide because, let's face it, who feels like an insider while dating these days?

Meeting people is HARD
If you thought it was hard to meet people in high school or college where you were surrounded by your peers, it's even harder now. Your options for meeting people may include...

- The internet. This option can be terrifying and freakish all at once. Be warned, photoshop and photo stealing are common occurrences.
- Bars. Yet another terrifying option as most people in bars are either drunk or depressed. Or drunk and depressed. This really isn't the best option...
- Church. This is the dating mecca for all Christian adults. Be warned: people in the singles group will be looking. Hardcore. If you see someone of the opposite sex circling in for the kill, it's not because they want to be friends.
- Work. This is the worst place to meet people. If it doesn't work out, you're stuck seeing them again and again and again... Want to forget Joe Schmoe or Silly Susie? Sorry, you get to be cubie buddies forever!

Online Dating: The new "normal"
I cannot tell you how many people I know who have tried online dating, including myself. For some, it has worked well (I know a few marrieds), for others, well, not so much... Here are a few things to know about online dating:

- If a site claims to match you with people who are "compatible," beware. That's code for, "you may both say you love Jesus, and that's good enough for us." If you both like sports, well that seals the deal.
- Avoid anyone who is 45 and still living at home, that's not normal.
- Be very picky, you will find some people who are online because they couldn't get a date in real life.

What's a break-up?
Having a conversation about your relationship and how it's doing is a thing of the past. Now, prepare yourself for...

- When the person you're dating is ready to break-up, you will know because you won't hear from them. Ever again.
- It seems like the entire population has decided that it's easier to "drop it like it's hot" than set it down gently.
- Should you attempt to broach the topic of the break-up situation, be prepared to do it via text-message. It saves time and breath.
- If you see your former break-up individual out in public, be prepared for one of two things: acting like everything is completely normal, or acting like, "oh what's that over there!"

We're seeing each other
Terms for dating have totally changed, as you will see:

- Forget DTRs (Defining The Relationship, a conversation people used to have in olden times to clarify where the relationship was at), they don't exist any more. If you see someone for more than two days in a row, you're probably dating.
- No one likes commitment anymore. Now you're "seeing" the person. When you don't see them any more, you've officially broken up.
- You can call them your boyfriend or girlfriend, but they won't ask you to. So you better not let them hear you say it.

If you're a girl...
Guys have gotten a lot cheaper. Plan to pay, even when they ask you out. It's not even called going Dutch anymore. It's called expected. Also, be prepared for guys to expect you to do certain things. There's no such thing as "boundaries" any more.

If you're a guy...
Girls are really out there, so don't expect much to go unsaid. In fact, now-a-days, they ask you out, tell you where to go and what to wear. All you have to do is drag yourself there.

In conclusion...
Should you choose to ignore these facts on dating be prepared...

- To be shocked and dismayed.
- To feel utterly lost and confused 99% of the time.

Should you choose to behave differently than the whole of dating society, be prepared...

- To be called whipped if you're a guy.
- To not be in a relationship for very long if you're a girl.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Honesty is My Policy

I love having a blog for the express purpose of being able to post whatever in the world I feel like and not having anyone there to edit, censor, or tell me no.

Whatever in the world I feel like ends up being the same thing it always is: honest, candid, truthful stories, observations and thoughts from life. Sometimes I include confessions and secrets! (Juicy!)

In the end, I think everyone longs to be completely honest about who they are, how they live their life and how they see the world. But there are so many forces working against that, it rarely comes out. Most days we're just polished, polite versions of a person we consider to be socially acceptable.

My blog is at times my liberator from this polite and polished version of me. All I have to do is sit behind my computer, tap out a new post and all of a sudden, it's the oft-suppressed me making an appearance. My actual thoughts get a black-and-white voice in the electronic realm, unhindered by social acceptability and dirty looks.

Yup, I love this site. I love the people that read it and connect with what I've written. I love the drawing out of the inner person, the spilling of the secrets, the revelation of the hidden. Nothing to me is better than people being completely real and open, and I, thank goodness, have found one small way to do that.

I'm sure some people don't like what I write. I'm sure some think it strange that I'm so honest in my writing. That's fine, this blog isn't for them. This blog is for those who are, or desperately want to be, completely honest, even if at times they don't know how to go about it. Life is a process, so is revealing its intricacies; we're all learning.

But as grand and glorious as being completely honest sounds, it does have its dirty moments. Sometimes truth hurts, it rubs people the wrong way, it seems brash. I am fully aware that not everyone will like what I have to say even part of the time. But in my mind, the positives outweigh the negatives, and I'm willing to keep on writing in this way.

This is life unscripted, because really, who could make up this stuff? So much of what I've experienced, I never could have fathomed before it happened. There is so much humor, irony, tragedy and uncertainty. Mixed together, it makes life one interesting ride, and provides content for lots of interesting blog entries.

In closing, I have some more secrets, just like those that made an appearance in an earlier post entitled The Terrible Truth. Enjoy. :)

I hate trying to figure out if you're serious or just messing around.

Reminder to self: There are some people I should not encourage to start blogging.

Will you two just date already and spare the rest of us from your annoying banter?

Do you feel boring, or is it just me that notices?

I know there are certain things I do that drive you nuts. I can't help myself.

One word comes to mind when I see your "coupley" pictures: vomit.

I've tried to clean up my act for you, but there's only so much cleaning one person can do!

I read your diary once. I sort of felt bad at the time, but now I wish I had read more.

I can tell you think I'm scary. I guess I should apologize...?

I really can't make up my mind, and at the same time, I really don't feel like even trying to.

Okay, I'll admit it, I like it. Only sometimes though.

Some days I have to really work at being polite. It's hard.

I feel a little awkward when you just look at me and don't say anything. So I randomly stare at a wall or something.

You un-friended me on Facebook, which really doesn't bother me since you tried to get me in trouble in college.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Outsider's Guide to Fitting In: Rural Iowa

I've lived a lot of places. Clinton has definitely been one of the more "unusual" locations. In fact, most days I feel like a fish out of water here. So I came up with this instructional post on how to fit in when you live in rural Iowa. (Yes, it is sort of a spoof, yet it is based on real-life observations and events that have occurred in my life.)

You don't have to worry about your appearance in rural Iowa. In fact, it's better if you don't care at all. In order to best fit in, consider the following:

- Wear pajama bottoms and a hoodie whenever possible. If it's warm, daisy dukes and a t-shirt will work.
- You will fit in if you are wearing something that has the Iowa Hawkeyes or John Deere on it.
- Cleanliness is not essential. Showing up to any event with mud on your clothes is acceptable; it is, after all, a farming community. Also, there is no need to wash or brush your hair, but you can if you want to.
- Recycling fashion from the late 1970s through the 1980s is fine, so if you have clothes from that era, now is the time to bring them out.
- Bedroom slippers will complete your look.

If you like eating, you'll do just fine in rural Iowa. Since there isn't much to do in the area, eating is the best way to pass the time. Here are a few other rules to follow when dining:

- Fast food should be a regular occurrence. You should frequent places like McDonald's, Burger King or Taco Bell daily or every other day.
- Distributing snack cakes among your friends and co-workers is a good way to make them like you.
- You must frequent and support locally-owned restaurants. If you mention that your favorite restaurant is a national chain, beware. You may be subjected to uncontrolled outbursts and name-calling.
- Super-Size, Biggie-Size and Value-Size wherever possible. You cannot eat enough.

Most times, being friendly is not necessary in rural Iowa. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

- Staring at people is acceptable, particularly as they are entering a dining establishment.
- It is alright to glare at people, until they wave at you, then you can smile.
- The only time to be very friendly is when walking past someone. Then you may say "hello."
- If you do say hello to someone, be prepared for them to look at you and say nothing back. Likewise, if someone says hi to you, it's okay not to respond. If you attempt to shake someone's hand, they may look at it and do nothing.
- Yelling inappropriate words and phrases is a common behavior among young folk. Being loud in general is good.
- Don't worry about social graces, you don't need them here. As long as you know how to say "please" and "thank you," you're set.

Some people like sports in rural Iowa. Others consider eating a sport. Either way, here are some tips:

- You must be a Cubs fan. If you cheer for anyone else, you will be ridiculed. You have to love losing teams with a passion.
- Other teams you should like include the Bulls and Bears. If not, you can get away with liking the Packers. Anyone else and you will be stoned.
- Since you can't get to any professional games in the state of Iowa, you need to have cable tv to keep up with what's going on. Posting Facebook statuses about this is also a good idea.
- An alternative to playing sports is drinking beer on a boat. The brighter red your skin is, the harder you played.

There isn't much in the way of entertainment in rural Iowa, so if you don't get bored easily, you will get by. Here are a few things you can do for fun:

- Cruise along the river-front in your car. If you see something you like, you can yell at it.
- Did I mention eating yet?
- Take in a minor league baseball game. If they're not playing, you can watch small children play; it's a good way to gear up for a nap.
- Watch the river. There are lots of places you can see it and it's always changing!
- Shopping is a good way to pass the time, especially hanging out in Walmart.
- If you like racing, you can usually catch a good street race on any given night. If you are lucky you may see a police chase, which includes lots of pretty lights and fast cars.
- You must like listening to country music. Otherwise, you will be disappointed in the available radio stations.
- Knowing how to stomp around and line dance will make you look cool.
- The best thing to do is get together with friends and get into some trouble.

If you like Walmart, rural Iowa will treat you well. If you are looking for other options, here are some things to consider:

- There are lots of different types of specialty shopping parties you can have. You should attend at least 20 each year, though you may get invited to 50. These include Mary Kay, Uppercase Living, Lia Sophia, Pampered Chef, Scentsy... you get the idea.
- Kohl's is the fashion mecca of rural Iowa.
- If you like shopping at thrift stores, you can find lots of good used items. Sometimes they don't work, though.
- There are many little locally-owned specialty shops to choose from as well. Once again, you shouldn't tell anyone you'd rather shop at a chain store than a local shop, they may hurt you.
- If you want to visit a mall, be prepared to drive 45 minutes or more to get there.

Of course English is the language of choice in rural Iowa. However, there are some things to keep in mind while speaking it...

- Use poor grammar and you will fit in! Some things you may want to try include saying, "I seen it," "ain't" and "don't got that." Feel free to make use of double-negatives.
- English should be spoken in high decibels. Most everyone in Iowa appears to be hard of hearing.
- Feel free to use all manner of "redneck speak." Slurring words together, mumbling, or talking like your mouth is full is acceptable. (Talking with your mouth full is fine too.)
- Expletives are common, but not necessary.

The best way to get around rural Iowa is by car. This fact, though, is subject to a few inclusions:

- The best type of car to get is an all-wheel drive, off-road type vehicle, as you will encounter varying terrain while you drive through the area. Be warned, roads are not consistent and you may encounter loose or shifting asphalt, large cracks and ridges, and varying sizes of potholes.
- Make sure your car tires are outfitted with chains during the winter months. Street plowing is typically optional or minimal; therefore, you should be prepared to drive through all manner of sludge, ice and snow drifts.
- Don't spend a lot of money to get your car washed. The day after you get it cleaned, it will rain.

In conclusion...
Should you decide to go against these recommendations be prepared for any of the following incidents:

- Getting stared at like you have antlers.
- Getting yelled at or gestured at.
- Someone may ask where you are from, but for the most part, they don't care.
- Getting thoroughly ignored because, well, you just don't belong!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

And the Inner Child Says...

After my last post, I've been in this "in touch with my inner child" frame of mind. Tonight, while watching "Hook," I especially realized this. (I also confirmed that Gwyneth Paltrow, as I suspected, does in fact play the young Wendy.)

"Hook" is one of those movies that embodies childhood for me in the way it makes me feel when I watch it. And who doesn't in some way cherish those feelings when they show up? Because (in case you hadn't noticed) adulthood can get pretty boring.

There's something about remembering a time that was care-free and wondrous. Where the world was a vast and majestic thing, yet something we stood on top of and commanded in our own little corner.

Pirate ships, Indian villages, trails West, Wonderland, were all things that existed, along with the other conjurings of our imaginations. Nothing was off-limits, nothing was impossible.

Somehow, Steven Spielberg always does a good job of transferring the feel of childhood from reality to the screen. He produces a visual representation of the things that often danced behind our eyes, only appearing in the chambers of our minds. He shows the intricacies, the small moments, the impossible actualized.

After watching "Hook," I had an urge to introspectively look back, to see if I could remember what being a kid felt like. All-in-all, it's quite hazy. I remember how big everything felt, how far away the future seemed and, perhaps unknowingly, how how entirely capable I felt. I never remember feeling like I couldn't be or do whatever I wanted.

That feeling is one I miss the most, the feeling of ultimate possibility. Because I hadn't lived long enough to taste major failure, success was almost certain at any given time. Life was about possibilities, and those were entirely endless.

Besides becoming cynical and jaded in the process of growing up, in reality, not much in life has changed. At any age, life still provides an endless myriad of opportunities and possibilities. It's the adult mind with its walls and structure that says "I can't." Sure, sometimes we pass it off as reality speaking, but is it?

I don't think it's always the adult mind speaking when people scale Everest or invent the automobile or fly across the ocean. The people who really do something with their lives, talents and education, are the people who don't make the child mind shut up. They don't close it up behind the rules of impossibility; they let it live among the endless possibilities and ended up discovering something wonderful.

And sure, there's always a balance between reasoning like an adult and dreaming like a child. As adults, we have to keep some semblance of order, structure and responsibility. But the crime is committed when dreams are executed by fear, worry and self-doubt.

I like "Hook," it's a reminder that grown ups can re-enter the vast, amazing world of opportunity we live in. All we have to do is reach out, take hold of it and simply dream.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Confessions of a Pseudo-Adult

Some (scratch that, most) days I don't feel like a grown-up, surprisingly enough. My life is something like a teenager living with all the perks and most of the responsibilities of an adult. Try mixing "Thirteen Going on 30" with "Never Been Kissed"... or something like that.

The truth is, growing up sucks 80 percent of the time and rocks 40 percent. (You do the math.) I've decided that it's way more fun to not take life seriously while laughing a lot and doing some "big person" things.

So while I'm busy being a pseudo-adult, here are my confessions. Don't judge me; I lived in Neverland for most of my life; it's hard to finally grow up. (And yes, these are real.)

#1 - I sleep with stuffed animals on my bed, including a giant Simba that also doubles as a puppet. I just can't seem to separate myself...

#2 - I got a free subscription to Seventeen magazine. I read every one I get.

#3 - My favorite alcoholic beverage is Jack and Coke. Yes, I'm confessing in writing that I do enjoy an occasional drink. I am also confessing that I don't get drunk, which brings me to...

#4 - I haven't thrown up since 8th grade, that's how much I hate it.

#5 - My favorite movies are kids' films from the 80s and 90s. Among these are "Little Giants," "Rookie of the Year," "Heavyweights" and "Karate Kid."

#6 - My favorite tv series, hands-down, is "Lost."

#7 - I think it's funny when people burp out loud. I also think it's funny when I burp out loud, and used to do it all the time in college to annoy my roommate. :)

#8 - A couple of my friends and I have a slight obsession with making our own "Lol Cats" pictures and drawings... (If you're not sure what that is, just Google it.)

#9 - Speaking of lol, I hate that acronym. I write "haha" instead. Every time.

#10 - We have two basketball hoops in our driveway because I can't bring myself to get rid of the one I saved up my money and bought when I was a kid.

#11 - My family bought the car I own now when I was 11. It's kind of like a grown-up security blanket.

#12 - Sometimes I still get the urge to blow bubbles in my drink, just because I'm not supposed to.

#13 - My favorite video games are Mario Kart Double Dash and Little Big Planet. :)

#14 - I'm back to living at home, but not for long!!!

#15 - I'm planning my next tattoo... I think it's going to become an addiction.

#16 - When I had my own place, I used to keep it at about 60 all winter long. Energy was expensive in Denver!

#17 - My favorite thing to do is eat cookies and cream ice cream out of the carton... makes it so I don't have to share! :P

#18 - I don't really want to even try having a roommate because I know they won't be as great as my last one.

#19 - When living alone, my diet staples are chicken nuggets and tater tots. And the occasional Tombstone pizza.

#20 - I don't know what's funnier, getting hit on by high schoolers, or my mom getting hit on by random guys.

#21 - In college, my roommate and I would make random and absurd music videos when we got bored. We also did a lot of other things to help us keep our sanity amidst the madness that is a Christian college...

#22 - A few years ago I was engaging in activities like TPing and saran-wrapping people's cars. I would still do it now.

#23 - I think fake accents are hilarious and regularly use them, particularly an Indian accent.

#24 - I really love Justin Bieber's songs. (And no, I don't have a crush on him, that's just sick.)

#25 - I did a LOT of prank calling in college. I even got in trouble for it once.

#26 - I took my brother trick-or-treating when I was 22. I also collected candy at every house.

#27 - I once got someone arrested. I was pretty proud of it because they deserved it big time.

#28 - I really hate calling people on the phone, not sure why...

#29 - When I was 20 I pierced my own cartilage. Not planning on doing that again.

#30 - I haven't gotten a professional haircut since my sophomore year of college. I've been cutting my hair myself since then. Now I can't blame anyone but myself if it looks bad.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Promise Me This

You don't have to put your hand on a Bible. Or swear to always be true. Just make this pact with me, and we'll always be this for each other.

Let's promise to...

always have each other's backs. No matter who, no matter what.

remind each other how special the other one is. I know this world wouldn't be the same without you, and I'll remind you every day if I have to.

talk every single day, even if it's only in a text message.

always call each other "best friend," even if it sounds a little childish.

remember each other's birthdays. Send a card, sing, or write a long Facebook message.

bid each other good-night, even if we're 1,000 miles apart.

send each other picture messages just because. Or to find out if the outfit I'm about to buy does make me look fat...

let each other cry if we need to. And be there to catch the tears, even if it's only over the phone.

go on a date, just because. And if we're not together, we'll have a date on Skype.

color-coordinate our outfits, even if we're the only ones that know.

forget the diet some days. Want to share a Coke?

reminisce about our favorite times together. Do you remember the day we met? Or when we got in so much trouble?

laugh until we cry, because we both know that laughter is the best medicine.

hug every time we meet. And sometimes even after.

send each other postcards when we're not on vacation together. And maybe even if we are...

let "I'm sorry" be enough.

keep all the secrets we share.

support each other's dreams, even if they don't make perfect sense all the time.

remind each other to dance. It's in the risk-taking that you truly live.

be there in the times of deepest pain. And remember if you don't know what to say, it's okay, neither do I.

tell each other random stories, like that one time when...

always say "I love you," because we both need to hear it.

keep each other company in the nursing home. And maybe get into a little mischief, for old time's sake.

watch our favorite movie over and over because honestly, it never gets old.

be honest. If it's a bad idea, just tell me.

And finally, let's promise to never forget one another. The world is too lonely a place already.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Terrible Truth

Do you ever have those times when you wish you could just speak your mind and say whatever the heck you wanted? Sometimes it's not even something bad, just something you wish you could get off your chest but you're too afraid to say?

Yeah, I think that's why they invented PostSecret (people decorate postcards, then send them in with their deep, dark secrets; see the photo above).

There is something liberating about being able to say something that you could never come right out and say. Whether it's pride, social acceptability, fear or self-preservation, something keeps us from speaking so many things we think each day.

Well, I'm making my own secret-posting place and saying some of the things I never said, for whatever reason. (Obviously not everything is directed to the same person, but some people may have more than one secret directed at them.) Be warned, some things are brutally honest, but that's the point of this... right?

* * *

For some reason, Facebook thinks I want to see your pictures. I would be absolutely fine if I never saw your face again.

Sometimes I wish I never let you go, but then I remember I still had so much growing up to do before I could really appreciate you.

My fear of becoming just like you motivates me to do things differently. And no, you're not my mother. ;)

Once, you were my biggest regret. But I know if I hadn't done what I did for you, I would've lived with regret for the rest of my life. Now I only have a little bit of regret, and it's rapidly fading.

I wanted to break up with you, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I'm glad it didn't take you long to break up with me. I felt so relieved when you did.

I really have nothing to say to you, which is strange because I could write a book about what happened in our friendship. All that it boils down to is that you pretended to be someone completely different than who you really were. The truth is, we never really were friends and you are dead to me now.

I used to think you were pretty crazy, and not in a good way. Now I love you for it.

I thought you were about the cutest guy I had ever seen and almost got my boss to tell you to ask me out. Good thing we Facebook friended each other first so I could find out you were in a relationship. :P

When I didn't hear from you, I (worst-case-scenario) thought you had died in a car accident. When I found out what really happened, I wished you had died instead.

I'm not into physical violence, but there were some days I could've slapped you and not felt bad at all.

I wished you weren't gay so many times because I wanted to date you.

Yeah, I was seriously jealous of you until your fiance kissed me on the cheek. Then I wasn't so jealous any more.

I disliked your boyfriend with a passion. I was so glad when you guys broke up just because it meant I wouldn't have to see him on a daily basis.

I barely know you, and I'm okay with that.

I really hope you don't like me as anything more than a friend because I don't want things to get awkward between us.

You are the best friend I have ever known, but I've probably already told you that. It's not really a secret.

I was sort of upset when I felt like you picked her over me. Then she picked him over you and I didn't feel so bad.

You make me feel so uncomfortable. If things hadn't gone the way they did, I think we could've been good friends.

Of course it was only later after I moved that I found out you were sort of famous. You brought me donuts and complemented my eyes. The world needs more people like you in it.

If you weren't so much older than me, I'd have a major crush on you.

I never meant to hurt your feelings, but how the heck was I going to say no?

I tried to invest in you and encourage you; all you ended up doing was spreading lies about me and then ignoring me. I can't really consider you a friend any more.

You're not real, but a bunch of us like to pretend that you are.

Sometimes I wonder why in the world I ever dated you. I think it was one of the bigger mistakes I made.

I miss you so much. You were the only person that stayed my friend when everyone else ditched me. I love you for that.

You're not as attractive as you used to be. I'm trying to decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

I love that we can be brutally honest with each other. There's only one big thing that I haven't told you, but I think you know what it is already.

I get excited when I see I have a text from you, even if it's nothing serious or hugely important.

I learned how to be a better friend because you showed me how to be a bad one.

You took me on the best first date I had ever been on... a Rockies game on a warm, sunny day. Perfect.

I had a weird dream that you let yourself go and you looked terrible. Then a few days later I saw a picture of you in real life. You looked exactly the same as you did in my dream. It was freaky.

I wonder if your family knows half of the things about you that I know, or if you're still pretending for them.

I honestly would love having you for a mother-in-law. It would be nice to have your MIL be someone that liked you before you even got into the relationship.

You were seriously one of the funniest people I knew in college. I miss working with you more than anyone.

I played up my stomach ache just so I wouldn't have to see you when you were in town. I think you figured that out though.

I miss you. A lot.

We used to share the most random stories, and I had the best time.

It's hard for me to look in a mirror and not think about what you used to call me.

Sometimes I feel bad for you. But most times I don't. I'm mostly glad that I ended up being right.

I miss junior high for two reasons. You are one of them.

Thank you for accepting me exactly as I am and not trying to make me into someone I'm not.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Before E Except After C...

I'm back. Back in the world of AP Style, little hand-held voice recorders, a building that smells like newsprint, and grammatical anal-retentiveness.

Yes, I'm a journalist once again.

For multiple reasons, I'm glad, but one in particular that has been driving me a little crazy ever since I left. I've almost been losing my touch, particularly with spelling. But now, I'm back "in-practice" so it's getting better.

I'm also glad that I get to write for a living once again. One of my biggest regrets when I left the newspaper and moved to Denver, was that I was giving up the opportunity to communicate via writing and photography full time. I often wondered if it was a huge mistake, letting that go. Now, thank goodness, I don't have to wonder.

My first week back has almost felt like I never left (besides the fact that I'm having to re-adjust to a Mac-based work environment and all the special key commands that come along with that). I'm right back in the swing of things, covering events and getting stories on the front page. And even though I'm the newest reporter, I definitely skipped that "peon" phase. This makes me quite glad.

I'm excited for future growth. If there is one thing I learned in my last job it's that I like to be challenged personally and professionally. In my last job my goal was to improve, streamline and goal-orient the work flow. I hope that this will be something I can bring to my job at the paper.

I love the task of problem-solving, of asking "How can this be better?" And though I'm just a reporter, I hope one day I can implement some of my ideas. The good thing about ideas is you can try them and if they don't work out, you can scrap them and come up with something new.

For now, I'm going to work on improving my writing, reporting and researching skills. If there is one thing I love, it's digging for background information. There is so much you can find out by searching online and talking to experts in the field. Then the challenge becomes getting that information out to people in a way that is appealing and easy to understand. Clarity is key.

So I'm back, back to writing and learning and growing. And hopefully, succeeding once again.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lives in Pictures

"I pictured you and me always, and in this photograph we'll stay." - MuteMath, Picture

There's been a lot going on lately, a lot to think about and process. The biggest thing is that I finally got a job. (Yay!) And the really ironic thing is that it was the job I had before I moved to Denver. (I'll be a reporter at the newspaper here in the town where I live.)

If life had a rewind button, this would be the closest I could get to it. Minus the actual going back, because there are nearly two years between the last time and this time. And that is the one thing that honestly scares me.

Do you ever feel like things in your life never happened? That maybe, even though you remember it, that somehow it was merely conjured up in your mind? It feels so distant, so faded, only a memory kept silently locked in your thoughts. And then when you share it with someone, you almost feel like it's a story you made up or something you read in a book.

For all the pain and heartache that occurred in Denver, I don't want it to become one of those types of memories. I don't want to go a few years and look back and say to myself, "Did I really live there, or have I only just imagined it?"

Then the other day I found an old, full memory card I had packed away. I got it out intending to clear it, to delete every photo it held, because I knew what was on it. It was the card my camera held in 2009, the year that I moved to Denver. I put it in my laptop, figuring that would be the fastest way to empty it, but of course I ended up looking through some of the photographs.

I expected them to be upsetting, reminders of a time that was seemingly wasted. But surprisingly, I found myself smiling as I scrolled through them, reminders of a time that did happen. And for all I know now, in those moments, I was completely happy. That is how I want to remember Denver.

I couldn't bring myself to delete a single picture. Not because I wanted to hold on to those feelings or because I miss those days. It was because I didn't want to allow myself to forget that they happened. There was something wonderfully tangible about those pictures, like the fuzzy memories had been given definition, color, life. It was as though they suddenly became real again.

Perhaps one day I'll write down everything that happened, because there are some crazy and amazing stories from that time. For now, though, I'll let them live in pictures.

I'm excited to see where life is going to go now. I have to let the past be the past and I can't live in it. And above all else, I know this is exactly where God wants me. Because through all the moving and jobs and failures and successes, he brought me right back to the same place I was. He brought me home.

Monday, May 9, 2011


It seems like life for some people goes so smoothly. Of course not everything's perfect, but why does it have to look that way? How are some people so stinking successful?

I am not one of those people. I am in a completely different class. (As I'm sure just about everyone and their mom knows at this point.)

I was thinking about this fact in church yesterday. (Probably should have been paying more attention to the song...) What can I say, it's hard not to think about it. I guess my biggest question is why does it seem like everything is going wrong and nothing is even remotely going right?

First let me add my little disclaimer that I know full well life does not go perfectly, ever. But is it so wrong to wish that things would work out well at least some of the time? (It probably is, but for ranting's sake, I'm ignoring that.)

Sometimes it feels like life is a giant pit I'm trying to dig myself out of. But each time I make some progress there's a landslide or cave-in, and I'm back at the bottom trying to dig. And it's not so much the work that's the hard part, it's the discouragement over failing yet again.

Fail. That word seems to come up a lot lately. It popped into my mind while we were singing that chorus at church. I tried to push it out of my mind because I don't like to think of any of God's children as a failure. But honestly, that's all I feel like right about now. I feel like a failure. (There, I said it.)

But what do you do when things are out of your control? Because I can honestly say, I've tried my best in almost every area, but it sure doesn't seem like my best is working out so well.

So what do you do? If there was such a thing as a magic formula for making things work, believe me, I'd take a good dose of it right about now. But alas, no such formula exists or I wouldn't be in this pit.

I suppose I don't really want an answer, I just want to rant. And maybe beat my head against a wall. Because I'll tell you what, discouragement is a hard one to beat.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What I Learned from Sarah Wheaton

Pop culture seems to like to set you up by making you think you'll succeed when sometimes... you'll fail.

I was thinking about this while driving through empty Iowa corn fields and reflecting on where I've been, and the fact that I'm back here again. I was remembering one of my favorite films as a kid, Sarah, Plain and Tall, a Hallmark movie we had recorded from the tv onto a video tape.

If you haven't seen the movie, the whole premise is that this woman, Sarah Wheaton, moves from Maine to Kansas to help a widower (Jacob) and his two children in the early 1900s. She ends up falling in love with the widower and marrying him. All's well and happy and somehow manages to work out, even though at first Sarah and Jacob don't get along at all. But it's a movie, right? It has to somehow work out or no one would watch it.

One of the lines from the movie popped into my head, and was the main reason why I got to thinking about it in the first place. Before Sarah moves to Kansas, her brother tries to talk her into staying in Maine. She responds that if she doesn't go now, she'll never know what it's like to have her own life. "This is my chance, Will," she says.

So after thinking about it, I came away with a few things. First, it takes one gutsy person to move half-way across the country to live with perfect strangers. And I don't think you necessarily come away with that feeling when you watch the movie (at least I didn't as a kid). But having done something sort of similar, now I get it. No, they weren't complete strangers, but I moved across the country because it was my chance.

This brings me to point number two, sometimes (most times) things do not work out the way you think they will. Or another way of saying it is, the best-case scenarios you see in movies are not realistic. It was Sarah's chance, she took it, and miraculously it worked out pretty well. That's not necessarily real life. I took my chance and hmm, it didn't quite work out. At all. So sad to say, movies with their happy endings and perfect fairy tales can set you up for disappointment if you don't keep a realistic outlook.

Now what's the point of all this, besides the fact that I'm being Debbie Downer? Well, it's not to be a killjoy, because I'm all about the movies that make you feel warm and happy. It's to be a little reminder that real life is hard and takes work. Sure, there are good times, happy times and maybe a few almost perfect times. But there are also terrible times, sad times, and a lot of very imperfect times. The thing you have to learn how to do is to take the good with the bad and keep on going.

From my experience, when you encounter failure, it's easy to want to throw in the towel. I've felt like giving up on a lot of things, and still do. There's always this desire to curl up in bed and never get out, to never bother trying because you're tired of failing. But when you stop trying, that's when you miss out on all your opportunities to succeed.

You don't get much of a back-story on Sarah. She's portrayed as a little bit older, almost matronly. By this point in a woman's life in the 1900s, she should've been married already with children. Why she isn't, the film never explains. But you get the idea that things for her haven't really worked out. She'd probably tried different things and met different people, only to be faced with failure. This was a chance for her to succeed and rather than fear the potential of failure, she took her chance.

The fact that Sarah did succeed isn't really relevant to the fact that she tried. She didn't know the outcome of her effort, just like none of us knows the outcome of our efforts. You don't know going into an interview, a new job, a relationship, if you're going to succeed or fail. All you know in that moment is that this is a chance and you're going to take it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is real life.

Real life is risks, chances. It's trying, failing, succeeding and trying some more because giving up shouldn't be an option. And ultimately, it's trusting that God is working through it all.
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