Friday, June 3, 2011

On Hold But Not Over Yet

The first half of this year is nearly gone.  

I have (obviously) severely neglected this blog over the past few months as I've been devoting so much of my time to other endeavors. 

However, I'm not ready to close it down completely. 

So, for now, In The Process is on hold. 

If anyone is still reading, let me invite you to see where I've been and to join me at that address...

See you there!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Want That Job - Or Do I?

On a trip to Nashville, TN, I went with my sister, Kari, to her workplace. She works as a tour guide at The Hermitage, homestead of Andrew Jackson, the 7th U.S. President. During the busiest season, 400 to 1,200 people per day visit this historical landmark. I was intrigued by her job and wished I had one like it.

How fun it must be to bring stories of history to life, I thought.

School kids come to get an experience of U.S. history they can’t get from reading a textbook. Families create vacation memories while gaining a new understanding of early America. And people from all over the world visit on the recommendation of friends and family who have shared their ventures.

I thought to myself, this is the job I want. 

Unlike the confines of a grey cubicle, a day’s work wouldn’t get boring. Meeting new people each day, from so many different places, must be an interesting and even exciting way to make a living. Where meetings, office politics and meaningless projects sucked the life out of my soul, I saw this occupation as freedom from all that.

“I had 110 guests take the wagon ride yesterday,” said Mitzi, Kari’s colleague, while waiting to start the first tour of the day. One by one, patrons surrendered their tickets and climbed into the wagon.

“There’s 8 of us, we’re part of ‘The Vacation Club’. We came down here from Michigan,” said one man from the group of retired folks with matching maroon shirts. A mom and her two young kids sat near the front, the best spot to hear the narration and a man carrying a camera around his neck with a lens to rival the paparazzi took the last seat.

As Mitzi began the tour, “The Vacation Club” kept talking. Mitzi spoke louder and tried to engage them in the story she was telling but the group kept chatting with little consideration for the other guests trying to pay attention.

It was then that I saw how working as a tour guide might not be the job for me. If I had to give the same spiel 8 times a day, everyday, I’m pretty sure it would get boring.  Although meeting a variety of people would be fascinating, for an introvert like me, expending that much energy interacting with the public everyday would leave me drained and just as exhausted as my days in a corporate cube. It looked glamorous from a distance but up close, it was still work.

So, at the end of my own visit to The Hermitage, it’s clear, I’m a better tourist than I would as a tour guide.

Is there a job you thought you wanted until you took a closer look?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In Search of Coffee: Nashville

I’m afraid I’ve become an addict but I don’t think I’m the only one.

Without coffee I crash by 1pm and only a nap will get me through the day. Not to mention the raging headache that reminds me when I haven’t tended to my caffeine fix.

When it comes to coffee, I wouldn’t say I’m a snob but I do have certain tastes that I prefer. Although I like Starbucks’ sugar-laden drinks, the price keeps me away and when it comes to their straight up coffee, I find it too strong. If we’re talking about franchise coffee, I will choose Dunkin’ Donuts over Starbucks any day.

That said, it’s more satisfying when I can forgo the corporate chain altogether and, in Goldilocks fashion,  find a cup of java that’s not too weak, not too bitter, but just right. 

I found the following local java huts on a recent trip to Nashville, TN. I might add that my favorite was Bongo Java East.

CREMA – Hermitage Ave. (downtown Nash)
·         Price: Average – med. hot coffee $1.80 w/ tax.
·         Taste: Strong flavor but not bitter. I needed an extra Splenda.
·         Service: As you would expect – got the job done, nothing spectacular.
·         Atmosphere: Cozy, warm décor – no free tables on a Sat. am. – free wifi. 
·         Parking: There is a small parking lot on the side however, on a Saturday morning, it’s not enough.

Overall: Thumbs Up


PORTLAND BREW – Eastland Ave. (East Nash)
·         Price: More than Average – med. iced coffee $2.00+
·         Taste: Strong and bitter – couldn’t doctor it up enough to finish it
·         Service: Not helpful – bad customer service
·         Atmosphere: Open space including a loft but has a cold feel to it – free wifi
·         Parking: On the street

Overall: Thumbs Down


FROTHY MONKEY – 12th Ave. South
·         Price: More than Average – med iced coffee $2.59
·         Taste: Great full flavor – but not bitter
·         Service: Friendly and fast
·         Atmosphere: Lots of space including booths, tables and couches – free wifi
·         Parking: Street parking in front and a small lot behind the building

Overall: Thumbs Up


UGLY MUGS – Eastland Ave. (East Nash)
·         Price: Average – 16 oz. hot coffee $1.64 w/ tax
·         Taste: Strong and bitter
·         Service: Very friendly and helpful
·         Atmosphere: Large open space – kids play area – free wifi
·         Parking: Plenty of parking in lot

Overall: Thumbs to the side


BONGO JAVA EAST – South 11th St. (East Nash)
·         Price: Less than Average – 20 oz iced coffee $1.86 w/ tax
·         Taste: Great flavor – the perfect blend
·         Service: Friendly, fast and engaging
·         Atmosphere: Café setting – good amount of seating - free wifi
·         Parking: Street and small parking lot

Overall: Thumbs Up  

Where have you found good coffee while traveling?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Measuring The American Dream

40 degrees and windy, the air coming off the water makes it seem colder than it is; it’s too chilly to get out of my car. I come to the beach when I need to think. The water slaps the shore; so vast and strong, it extends beyond my view and yet it stays contained within its boundary, coming and going by the timing of the moon. It reminds me that I am a small piece of a much larger picture.

I was 13 when I left the United States for the first time. My parents took my sisters and I to Belize by way of Mexico. Looking back, it seems strange. I didn’t know anyone else whose parents had taken them on an international fieldtrip.

We didn’t get on a plane and fly across country lines; we crossed borders in our tan 1983 Chevy Suburban; driving from Colorado to Belmopan. We didn’t stay in hotels either. My brave parents, 3 sisters and I slept in the truck under the flickering streetlights of any gas station or market we found when it was time to stop for the night. One night in a parking lot, as we lay on top of the folded down seats, quietly tucked under blankets, a hostile drug deal took place outside the window. Wide-eyed and on edge, I don’t think my dad slept at all that night. However, I don’t remember ever being scared in this foreign land. We played in black sand and azure water as we made our way down Mexico’s gulf coast and found an RV campground on a lush piece of land at the water’s edge in Chetumal; a town on the Mexico-Belize border.

In Belize, we stayed with family friends who were living there at the time. They took us to a wildlife refuge and the Mayan ruins. We crossed the Mopan River on a wooden, hand-cranked ferry. We ate creole food, fresh pineapples, mangos and bananas, drove through the humid jungles and waded through the panhandlers in Belize City. We went to an indigenous church in a primitive cinder block structure and listened to the native music, largely influenced by Bob Marley. I was immersed in this unfamiliar society and I was intrigued. This was the first time I saw another culture first hand.

There’s an awareness that comes from seeing how people live in nations that aren’t as developed as our own. It sparks a seed of compassion for those who struggle to survive under the thumb of poverty. It calls for gratefulness and an outlook that shifts away from excessive reaching to consume. That fieldtrip was the gateway to my worldview being expanded beyond the typical American dream. I came back to the states one month later having experienced more than just a family vacation. 20 years later, it’s still with me; maybe more so now.

Staring at the receding tide, I ponder the years between here and there. A lone barge is making its way up the Long Island Sound. With lights on, it turns and appears to be moving head-on toward land. The course correction I’ve recently made to my own life looks to some like I might run aground as well.

Chasing corporate success and the applause of those who ask what I do for a living squelched the life I truly wanted. It left a hole on the inside that kept leaking from the bottom. Trading in padding my net worth for the less tangible ‘fulfillment’ and ‘meaning’ appears irresponsible. It’s illogical.

If the American Dream means gaining prosperity, success and a richer, fuller life, whose measuring stick do we get to use?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

3 Ways To Reignite Creativity

Winter is my least favorite season. Its shorter days, colder weather and extra layers of clothing tend to constrict my creativity as much as my blood vessels. If I’m not careful, winter will put me in a funk. Here are some ways that have helped me stay creative:

1. Do something spontaneous
I am a creature of routine. I get a method in place and if it works for me, I stick with it. The problem is that routine also bores me. One summer, I got an idea to take a road trip. The next day I put a few things in a bag, grabbed a friend and drove to Florida. For a venture closer to home, I have been known to get in my car and drive just to see where I end up in two hours time. Doing something spontaneous is great way to break the same ol’ - same ol’ grind.

2. Find a challenge
I enjoy things that provoke my mind but when I’m stuck, my mind doesn’t fire on all cylinders. Since being unemployed, I have done more cooking. I’m the girl that does quick and easy meals like spaghetti or tacos and brownies from a box. Recently, I added chicken parmesan to my collection. When I feel bogged down, doing something new or finding a new solution gets my brain revving again.

3. Clean out the clutter
When I get in a rut, I start to feel suffocated like a butterfly in a mason jar. I can see the blue sky but I keep bumping into constraints. A few weeks ago, I went through every box in my storage closet and filled 3 garbage bags with junk that I’ve been holding onto; some of it for 20 years. Interestingly, the space I created in my closet helped clear out space in my mind as well. New ideas formed and I found motivation for following new possibilities.

Whether it’s a season, a job or some other thing that makes you feel stalled out, you can get your stride back just by doing something off the beaten path.

How do you restart creativity?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Savin Rock And A Soggy Sock


Looking at my phone to see what time it was became a puddle-skip fail.

The first day of 50 degree temps in the northeast brought a full parking lot at the Savin Rock boardwalk. The cement path stretches alongside 1.6 miles of West Haven, CT beach that was once the home of New England’s Largest Amusement Park.

Melting piles of dirty snow dripped into the Long Island Sound signaling spring to stay for a while. The grassy park that saw 50,000 people each weekend in the late 1800s, now displays picnic tables waiting for visitors to share a lunch.

“Excuse Me,” I said as I sped past two ladies walking their sweater-wearing lap dogs. They kindly stepped aside.

My view caught the movement of a mom with three young kids sitting in a beach chair while her little ones shoveled sand into their buckets. They played at the edge of Liberty Pier where 10 cents would buy you a ferry ride to the east side of New Haven in 1870.

A grandfatherly old man with a tree-branch cane took two startled steps to the right as I went around him. He was shuffling past the swing set. It sits on the spot where The Thunderbolt, an 85-foot high roller coaster screamed over the water in the 1920’s. Children of his generation would have been found on the carousel or ferris wheel; in a funhouse or an arcade. Now, those men gather for a game of bocce ball or horseshoes. The Great Hurricane of 1938 destroyed the theme park attractions of their youth.

On a steady pace, I nodded to the Latino man on a bench. He didn’t move or divert his gaze. Mesmerized by the Spanish sounds coming from the radio next to him, he stayed fixed on the slapping surf.

The warmth of a mid-winter day reminds those with cabin fever that summer dances will soon return to the center square at Savin Rock. The rides and hotdog stands are gone; the magic shows and cockfights have disappeared. West Haven’s landscape has been transformed but the spirit of recreation continues to be handed down, steadfast as the incoming tide.

On this pleasant day at the Savin Rock boardwalk I got more than a jog in time... I also got a soggy sock.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rejection Is God's Protection

I’ve been unemployed for several months.

Prior to this stint of joblessness, there were few things that stirred up anxiety like being out of work. Of course I like being able to go to the beach in the middle of the day or take a two hour walk without worrying about getting to the office on time but financial strain and looking for the right position and going on interviews are things I could do without. In my world, looking for a new job ranks up there with falling from the sky in a crashing plane. The fear grips me in irrational proportions.

Much of my anxiety surrounding the process of finding a new job has been based in aversion to rejection and lack of confidence. The antidote for those things can often be found by simply doing more of that which one feels unconfident about. In my case, send out more resumes, do more interviewing and embrace the process so that fear is dispelled by the reality that it isn’t as scary as it seems. In turn, that builds confidence. 

When you turn on the lights, you find there is no boogie-man in the closet.

After months of being asked about my strengths and weaknesses and how I handle difficult coworkers I don’t get sweaty anymore. The heart palpitations and dry mouth have all but disappeared. Although the job search is still not something I love, the nervousness has been greatly reduced and the fear of rejection virtually doesn’t exist.

I still don’t have a job but maybe that’s an air horn in my face trying to tell me it’s time to change direction.

Sometimes it’s a gift when things don’t happen the way we think they should.

Sometimes the career path we end up on is as complicated as our relationships and like relationships, sometimes we stay in a job or a field of work that is just okay because it’s comfortable and we’ve invested so much time into it even though we know it’s sucking the life out of us. We are afraid to let go of something that pays the bills but causes despair and talk ourselves out of reaching for what we love because we might go broke.

Maybe a closed door to a fulltime corporate gig that would offer financial security but would squash my soul is really an open door to keep plugging away at a dream I’ve been putting aside for years. Maybe I will go broke and lose everything but maybe that’s the path that will open to the meadow of a more meaningful life.

When all our efforts don’t add up maybe it’s because, as I heard Katy Perry say recently, rejection is God’s protection.