Thursday, February 23, 2012

A brief moment of clarity

Introspection is always helpful.  Taking a moment to step back and look at one's life, behaviors, hopes and habits can be very... illuminating, shall we say?

For the past, oh say, year or so I have been obsessed.  Mostly about my hopeful career change, but everything else that goes along with that theme could be included.  So focused have I been on getting out of my current situation and into my (hopefully) bright future that I have not paid very close attention to my methods.

True, I have carefully revised my resume as my qualifications have expanded.  Yes, I do take the time to construct a well-written cover letter for each position.  So far, it has all led to rejection.  Then I discovered a web article written by a librarian who went through a similar process seven years ago.  Even back then it seems that things were far from easy for new graduates.  Hundreds of rejection letters were not uncommon.

But she offered up some helpful advice.  I cannot recall every bit of it, but the piece that jumped out to me was the suggestion that I not apply to jobs that I do not really want simply because I am "qualified" for them. 

As a case in point, today I found a posting for a library director position way up in north on the Iron Range of MN.  I am somewhat familiar with the location, but it is quite a drive to get there.  In many ways, I am qualified for the position.  Plus there is the additional fact that the applicant pool may be slightly less vast than others.  I did my research and perused the library's website, looked into their published long range plan and ruminated on the relatively small-sized salary (for a director position). 

After all of this, I concluded that I would not submit my application for the job.  Could I do the work?  Yes.  Would it be interesting?  Sure.  Do I want this job?  Umm.... I don't know?

My answer to the final question is what fixed things for me.  Perhaps if the workload seemed more commensurate with the salary, I might have overcome my lack of interest.  In the past, this sort of conclusion would have made me sad.  Regretful, even.  But now?  I feel good!  I am limiting my options, but I am using better criteria. 

Like all things in life, patience is necessary.  When the right "one" comes along, everything will work.  Not only will the position excite me, but the application process will have a better outcome than a letter sent two months later stating the unsurprising conclusion that I have not been selected for further consideration. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I am just throwing this out there...

So what would you think of living in Fairbanks, Alaska? 

Before you jump to any conclusions, NO, I have not been offered a job at the North Pole.  Technically I have not even applied for one.  Yet.  Honestly, with the way my job search has gone, there is probably no real risk in applying for a job anywhere because I likely will not get it.  But one must always consider the logistics JUST IN CASE.

Over the weekend, my brother introduced me to or the Vice network.  There could be much more to the company, but they produce short films and documentaries.  It is hard to explain, but they like obscure topics and subjects.  We watched two separate series this weekend.  The first traveled "off the grid" to film the life of a couple who lives up in the Alaskan wilderness. 

I was alarmed to find that some of the couple's reasons for choosing such a lifestyle resonated with me, at least as of late.  The desire to be in a peaceful place and away from the unhealthiness of an urban/suburban life definitely makes sense to me.  However, the extreme to which they must go was a bit beyond my willingness to endure.  Survival skills are great to have, to be sure, but I simply cannot and will not skin a bear.  No way, no how.  I am not willing to be a fur trapper and snare beavers.  Not in my wildest dreams (or nightmares).

The second series we watched was far less bloody but even more bizarre.  Through a process of bribery and under-the-table dealing, the filmmakers were allowed into North Korea.  If you did not know, North Korea is a closed country.  They don't like to let anyone in and they don't like to let anyone out.

But.  If you grease the right palms, they apparently will allow some tourists to gain entry as long as they abide by the strict and sometimes confusing rules.  As a rule of thumb, one should assume that they cannot bring in reading materials, photographs or anything that would blatantly showcase that the world is happy and functional outside the borders of their country. 

I really cannot say much to accurately describe my reaction to the series, except to say that it was TRIPPY.  Don't believe me?  Check it out HERE.  As a disclaimer, I would not show this to children under the age of 16.  But that is just my opinion.  Do as you please.  It comes in multiple parts, but I would highly recommend watching all of them. 

To be honest, I have never known all that much about North Korea, aside from the fact that it was run by a strange little guy named Kim Jong Il, who happened to pass away recently.  That and I have watched "Team America: World Police" several times and am familiar with Mr. Il's puppet incarnation.

So check it out.  I guarantee, if nothing else you will be amazed and grateful to live in a country without a demilitarized zone.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Post Vacation Reality

My long vacation weekend is now over and the work week is back in full force, along with a nice little 1-2 inch carpet of slushy snow.  SNOW?  Snow!  Right!  It is February 21, and for the first time this year (that I can clearly recall at the moment) it actually LOOKS like winter.  At least for the moment.  Tales of temperatures again approaching 40 degrees spell imminent doom for the layer of frozen water.

Fortunately, I made it back to MN before all the snowfall commenced.  Unfortunately, I had to make the 45 minute drive from my parents' house to my own homestead shortly after the roads started to get a bit sketchy.  I made it home safely with Lena in the backseat.  We are both happy to be home and in our own beds.

So what did I do on my weekend?  Well... I went out to eat at a lot of new and fun places.  I visited a Mustard Museum and bought some Bucky Badger mustard.  I drank a Red Velvet Martini with a cream cheese frosting on the rim.  I watched "Midnight in Paris."  I peed with a bitey kitten harassing me on my lap.  (Don't ask.)

All in all, it was a lovely time.  I love spending time with my brother and I love spending time with his girlfriend.  It is just so comfortable to stay with them. 

I came home to find that Lena had mostly behaved well for my parents.  Except that she kept coming into the house with muddy paws.  And she snapped at my mother when she attempted to make her move to a different spot on the bed.  I am at a loss to explain the latter behavior, but if her level of energy last night was any indicator, she was probably completely worn out at the end of the day.  This can lead to crankiness in anyone, but paired with the fact that she was sleeping in an unfamiliar place without her normal sleeping companion and she was probably just a perfect storm of bitchiness.  (Pardon my French, but she is a dog.)

So now I am back to the routine, which is not really such a terrible thing.  The search for new employment continues as does (hopefully) the house organization/cleaning project.  With the potential for a semi-frequent houseguest looming on the horizon in the form of my father who will be starting his new job and commute in a couple of weeks, I need to have my guest quarters in order.  At the very least I need to work on getting a steady supply of Diet Coke with Lime in my refrigerator.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Just because...

I feel a little bad that I have been shirking my duty in creating new artwork.  Once upon a time I was quite prolific in my creative exploits.  I am not sure if it is lack of inspiration or lack of time, but I have not been compelled to draw. 

To remedy this and perhaps make me feel a little better about myself, I scanned in a couple of REAL hand drawings that I made on the fly.  Just for fun.  With Sharpies, ball point pens and colored pencils.  For the record, I did NOT trace any of these.  I may have looked at a picture for inspiration, but all of the lines and colors are MINE


Take that, Bambi.
I know.  Wow, right?

Getting Out of Dodge

There are some creative people out there in the world.  Especially on the Internet.  I have mentioned it before, but I find the Etsy marketplace to be quite alluring.  To date, I have only purchased one item on Etsy, but one of these days I am going to break down and do it again.  Maybe when I have something to celebrate.  Like a new job.

So this weekend I am going on a road trip.  Before you get too excited, know that I am not going across the country in a tricked out RV to an outdoor music festival.  I am gassing up the Corolla and crossing one state line to visit my brother and his gal out in Mad-town, aka Madison, Wisconsin. 

Madison is a fun place, just for the record.  I went out there just about a year ago with my parents and we were introduced to several of the local hangouts.  This time around, I am flying solo.  Lena is staying with my folks, which was a much more difficult decision than you might imagine.

You see, in the year that Lena has lived with me, we have only spent four nights apart.  Two were while I was in Fargo, ND at the Hallinglag.  The other two were when I was up north at Bluefin Bay last October. 

My final decision for this particular instance was a bit more time consuming.  You see, in the previous situations, there was no possible way that she could accompany me.  I was staying hotels that did not allow dogs which made the choice easy.  This time around, I am staying in a house where pets are definitely allowed.

In the end, I had to examine the pros and cons.  Yes, I love my dog and as crazy/kooky as it makes me sound, I do not like to be away from her any more than is necessary.  But a 4.5 hour car trip is a long ride for a dog.  Upon arrival in Madison, she would have to join a household that already consists of a dog and a slightly psychotic cat.  She would need to be kenneled during our outings and would still need to be leashed for all outdoor bathroom activities as their yard is not fenced.

So... in Lena's best interest, I opted to leave her with my parents.  Not only is she very familiar with their household rituals but they also have a fenced yard for free range antics.  She knows my parents and their dogs.  I am not even entirely certain that she will notice I am gone. 

Immediate vacation plans aside, I have some interesting news to consider.  Well, not really news.  Just an possible scenario. 

In my daily perusal of the local jobsites, I found a new posting for a librarian in my home town.  It falls under the category of jobs that I am technically qualified to perform.  So I applied.  For better or worse, review of applications will not begin for almost another month, so I will have to wait a while before I know if I am proceeding to the next round. 

But in true Megan fashion, I started to posit scenarios.  One of the biggest advantages of moving to a town such as this is that I already have a built in base of familiar people.  Heck, I even have a list of potential living situations that would be affordable if I needed to find them.  It is only a two hour drive back to Minneapolis, and a 20-25 minute drive to the farm.

My point is, in terms of moving, it would be one of the easiest transitions imaginable. 

So what is the downside?

Well... it is mostly mental.  I have not lived in the area for more than a decade.  My parents no longer live in the community.  From a demographic perspective, it is an average sized MN town.  I would estimate the population to be about 15,000.  For raising a family, it is a great place to be (in my opinion).  For a single girl, it is a bit of a risk.

True, one of my best friends moved home four years ago as a single girl and met her now husband within the same year.  But when she first announced her intention to move home, we all wondered at her decision.  Now I am starting to understand it a bit better.  There are so many things about life in a metropolitan area that have caused me to grow weary.  Driving in commuter traffic is one of those things.  Instant gratification is another.

To be clear, I definitely enjoy ready access to certain goods and services.  Can I live without instant access?  Yes.  Might it improve my sanity?  Perhaps. 

In the end, all of the speculation needs to find its limit.  I imagine that within a few days, my excitement will abate and I will draw back to patiently await the deadline and the news that comes with it.  It all could be for nothing as I may not even make it past initial review.  But here's hoping.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Week End

When did I last post to the blog?  It feels like it could be a week, but I have lost track of time.

It has been one of those weeks.  Know what I mean?

Monday was a blur; there was a inordinately detailed and thought-overtaking project at work which left me feeling as though I had spent the day enclosed in a cave.  Tuesday was normal enough.  Wednesday I completed a round-trip visit to Madison, WI to take an exam in connection with a job position.  You try spending nine hours of your day driving across WISCONSIN and see how you feel at the end of it.  Thursday was "normal" as well, but I was still recovering from Wednesday. 

This brings us to Friday.  Blessed Friday.  The day I must survive to reach my weekend.  True, the day has an alarming tendency to drag, but when it is all done, I have a fun dinner at a tiny French restaurant to attend. 

Next week is Valentine's Day.  I could wax poetic or I could become cynical with my true feelings about the holiday, but honestly, it has become a bit of a non-interest to me.  Not to make myself sound pathetic, but I have never had a boyfriend on Valentine's Day once in my entire life, so perhaps I just don't know what I am missing.  I can honestly say that I enjoy the candy part of the celebration... is that OK?

I am just now thinking about Valentine's Day in years past.  I remember as a teenager feeling sad and a little deprived not to have a boyfriend when February 14 rolled around every year.  I was always able to rally my spirits by telling myself that someday (and hopefully someday SOON) things would be different.  It is likely that I saw myself married by age 25 thus rendering this dilemma moot. 

Funny how things do not go as expected.  Here I am at age 31, changing careers, balancing my own checkbook and Valentine-less.  So now you're wondering:  does this make me sad? 



Yes, there are moments when I feel the lack of romantic companionship more severely.  Like when I have dishes to wash, floors to vacuum or bathrooms to clean.  Or when I have long distances to drive.  Or meals to prepare.  Or when I need a competitor for Just Dance. 

But I am finally getting over the feelings of self-pity.  I wonder, are those feelings natural or do we learn them from the influences that are around us as we develop?  If there were not so many movies, books, TV shows, commercials, billboards and advertisements depicting "real" romance, would we notice it was missing? 

Just a question for the universe.  It's always nice to have someone be nice to you and think that you are cool.  Maybe that is a better goal to have. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Oh yeah, pretty good

Welcome to Friday, everyone.  My happiness at finally reaching this day of the week is great indeed.  On the surface, it would appear that my week was actually not that exciting, but if you peek a little deeper into the details, you will find that there were lots of little surprises lurking in the shadows.

First of all, yesterday I received an email from one the potential employers to whom I have sent application materials.  This particular employer has a unique additional step in the application process in that the first round of applicants to pass through initial screening are invited to take a written exam.  Apparently, this is standard procedure for job screening for this employer, but I really have no idea what will be on the actual test.

As I am not accustomed to good news on the employment front, I was excited to receive notice that I was invited to take the exam.  Sadly, I have become accustomed to being rejected.  Any little movement in a positive direction is helpful. 

So I followed directions and signed up for a test time.  Yes, this test is out of state and it will require me to take a day off of work to travel and take the exam.  But I quickly worked it out and sent out messages to family members affected by the travel and necessary Lena-sitting. 

Later in the day, things took a strange turn.  I received an email from the same source indicating that after screening the more than 300 applications for this position, I was not selected to move forward.  Obviously I was confused by this message.  My heart dropped into my stomach as I faced the potential truth that my excitement and planning were for nothing.

Just to be clear, I sent a reply to the HR representative asking for final clarification as I did not wish to drive that far to be told that I was ineligible to take the test.

No sooner had I sent the email and a follow-up to my family when I received another message from the HR department indicating that there had been an error and if I had received an exam invitation in the morning to disregard the rejection letter from the afternoon. 

In the end, it looks like I am still in the running, which is good.  But it was a bit of an emotional roller coaster to reach that conclusion.

On a different note, I may have injured myself. 

May have?  Yes.  Let me explain.

Not that you care, but the front door of my house requires a little extra push to make it seal when it is closed.  I do this every day without incident. 

Last night, after taking Lena out for a potty break, for some odd reason, I elected to give this push to the door in a different way.  Normally I push with my hand and put some weight into the movement.  This typically works quite well.  For whatever reason, last night I bent my right arm into my body and threw my entire weight force against the door with my arm pinned close. 

The result was that not only did the door seal but I also heard a sickening pop and crunch from my elbow.  It pinched, but I assumed that it would go away after a little while as I still had full movement and no obvious injury.

My next decision was perhaps poorly chosen, but I will share it anyway for the sake of full disclosure.  I decided to play a round of Just Dance on the Wii.  For those Luddites who may not be familiar with the function of a Nintendo Wii, it is a motion sensor based video game system.  For the Just Dance game series, the player holds the cordless Wii remote in their right hand while following the dance instructions on the TV screen. 

I imagine it is quite entertaining to be a spectator to this game, but it is entertaining to be a participant as well.  Unfortunately, as the remote is used in one's right hand, I experienced some complications.  After a few active songs, my elbow began to throb.  For some unknown reason, I continued to play.  I suppose I reasoned that I was loosening up the joint and thus helping rather than hindering the healing process.

After sleeping and resting the injury overnight, I am disappointed to report that it is still a bit sore and pinches when I move in certain directions.  But I am certain there is no break, so I am not heading into the ER to have the doctors tell me that it may just be a sprain and there is nothing I can do but rest the joint. 

So this weekend, that is exactly what I intend to do.  That and continue my quest to rid my house of unnecessary junk.  And maybe bake a cake.  It's what I do.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Blame it on the barometer

I have recently become cognizant of a weird habit/trend/practice of mine.  Whenever I experience a change in my normal bodily functions, be it sleeping, walking, eating or breathing, I skip right over the biological part and go right for environmental.  Specifically, I like to blame the weather.

Now, I am not saying that I am wrong.  In fact, there are probably scientists out there who would be able to provide empirical proof that a great deal of our biological performance is linked to our environment.  Certainly psychologists would back me up, but they are not technically "scientists."  (I think I have been watching too many episodes of Bones in my spare time.)

Here are some examples.

My sleeping patterns of late have become quite disturbing.  Almost psychotic.  Thank goodness I have Lena to create a semblance of normalcy in my waking routine or I would probably accidentally walk out a window.  Or lock myself in the garage.

One of my coworkers has been experiencing bouts of dizziness lately, an experience that I share at certain times of the year. 

My skin has been MEGA-dry lately.  While this is a common winter ailment, I am going through a lot of moisturizer and my finger nails keep breaking off.

Every morning I wake up and my whole face feels clogged.  A shower and some movement usually loosens it up, but it takes a little while.

What does it all mean?  Well, it certainly does NOT indicate that I am ill, although someone with more hypochondriac tendencies than me might think otherwise.  In the absence of any other triggers, I fall back on the weather as my scapegoat. 

Normally, at this time of year, we are well-covered in a heavy base blanket of snow.  Temperatures are usually hovering at or below freezing. 

This year, we are experiencing unusual weather patterns in that there is NO solid snow covering on the ground and temperatures have been hovering at or ABOVE freezing. 

Actually, it all is a bit more like the weather we normally have in late March or early April.  People around here are not overly optimistic that we will not get any major snowfall this year, but as spring draws nearer, it looks more like a real possibility. 

Unfortunately, our bodies are not used to this ecological change.  We are accustomed to hibernation and snow.  Instead we have fog, mud and temperatures that do not require mittens.  No wonder all my biological systems are out of whack. 

So what is the solution?  Medicate?  Adapt?  Move to Hawaii?  I will carefully consider all three options and let you know how it turns out. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Me vs. My Brain

Perhaps this is unfair, but I blame the weather for the general dreariness of moods lately.  True, it has not been cold and there has not been much by way of snow.  This is wonderful in many ways, but it does not make the world a very beautiful picture right now.

Yesterday sucked more than a little bit for me.  I think that I may be hitting a wall in my job search.  Yes, new positions are still showing up in postings, but the overall lack of response to everything I have already submitted makes it very hard to keep plugging away constantly.  Maybe I should take a little break for a week or so to keep my sanity.

Of course, there are other factors.  Stress from my current job, stress about the future, achy joints, lack of sleep and other annoyances play a role in my mental state as well.  Going somewhere to sit on a beach and be served margaritas sounds like heaven to me right now.  But alas, I fear that solution is not in the cards.  I am going to make a trip out to Madison, Wisconsin in a few weeks to visit my brother and his girlfriend.  There will probably be some alcohol consumption on my part, but I suspect that a warm and sunny beachfront will not be part of the plan.

If you would like an illustration of just how off I have been, let me share my evening with you from yesterday.

When I left the office, I was in a very foul mood.  Certain events transpired in the final minutes to cause my thinly worn patience to evaporate.  Thank goodness it was time to leave; therefore, most of my frustration was spent in the quiet and safety of my car. 

I arrived home to my cheerful dog, who never fails to boost my spirits.  When I took her outside for her first bathroom break, I noticed that the snow had completely melted from my front yard, revealing what looked like a verdant field of dog poop.  As a responsible homeowner, I decided to clean it up. 

My first attempt occurred while Lena was still on her leash.  While I was still in my work attire.  This plan did not work as well as I had hoped, so I deposited Lena back into the house and tried again with greater success.

With my yard now poop-free, I went inside to change for our walk. 

A short while later, we emerged from the front door and immediately encountered our first problem. 

For some reason, I neglected to grab my keys before walking out the door.  This was not as tragic as it could have been considering the fact that the door locks behind me automatically.  Actually, in my state of mind, I probably would not have even remembered the keys until the walk was over had my mitten not become stuck in the doorjamb as I left. 

There we were, on the patio, looking at my mitten which was firmly wedged in the locked door.  Luckily my fingers were not part of this problem, so I removed my hand from the mitten and reached into my pocket for the keys.  When I discovered their absence I took a moment to think as the solution was not obvious to me.

I have a keypad entry to my garage which allows me to enter without a remote opener.  Thank goodness.  I also had the wisdom NOT to lock the inner door from my garage into the house.  So with very little time wasted but considerable confusion to Lena, we were able to circle back around into the house, retrieve my keys and open the front door to release my mitten. 

Maybe this is not the craziest story ever written, but to me it illustrates just how much my brain can fail me.  I think that it may be time to start treating it a little better.