Search This Blog

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm in boot camp

Drop and rewrite the lede, maggot!
As my predecessor said, "The job is like you're in journalism boot camp," and boy, was she ever right.

If someone would have told the naive, excited-about-life, 18-year-old me that my major in college would lead me to a career field that had long hours, low pay, and was extremely stressful, I probably would've have picked something else.

It's not that I don't enjoy the writing or learning new things, but do I have to be an expert on a different topic every day? Oh, yes, you do.

It's like I pull back my expertise-bow and point my knowledge-arrow with both eyes closed and shoot at the target of know-it-alls. Only, I don't know it all.

This has been my struggle at work, as I make my way through the gobbly-goop of endless things-to-know. I'm the city hall reporter for a local newspaper, who dabbles a bit in health-related topics, and then everything else that gets dumped on my plate. Ah, there it is again. The plate.

I am constantly learning new things that I never thought I would ever have to think about and things that I'm sure no one else really thinks about either.

Like for example, how a landfill works. Great. I'm a garbage expert today. Wouldn't Dad be proud?

Or the inner problems a certain county animal shelter has had in recent months/years and the animal advocates, well, advocating for animal rights. (If you have any idea where I work, you probably could Google the local shelter and see what I'm talking about.)

I can also tell you a little about how local government works. It's not as glamorous as it may seem, but it's still interesting and good to know.

I always catch myself, sitting at my desk, staring for far too long at my 12-year-old computer screen (Remember, when we were in 8th grade and finally starting getting on the Internet? Yeah, those computers...), and wondering "what the hell am I doing?" Anyone else feel that way at their new job after college?

But don't worry, I'm starting to catch on.

In all honesty, I did get my B.A. in Journalism, but what I failed to mention was that it was in ADVERTISING. Hello!

Irregardless, I still got the job and have gotten the 411 on working at a local newspaper in a county where crime and poverty is highest in the state. Needless to say, I'm extremely adamant about locking my car. Two or three times over.

To get to work, I travel a total of 44 miles each morning and then another 44 miles back home. That means on a good day, I do about two hours of driving a day. It's extremely painful. My work day is an eight-hour day and sometimes more but don't forget to tack on the extra two hours of driving. Plus, any driving that I do for work going to events, meetings, and taking photos. Oh, did I mention I do my own art for my stories?

The job is frustrating at times, but I appreciate the fact that I do have a job.

(Even though my paycheck makes me embarrassed; my computer shuts down on me at least once a day while I'm working; the cameras refuse to operate at times; my confidence flat-lined due to some of my stories being ripped apart by my editor, and the distance I have to travel to get to work makes me want to pull my hair out and cry. Other than that, it's just peachy.)

I have even had a breakdown in front of my boss. How professional. But I'm not the only one. There are two others that work at the paper that have done the same and I know there have been more.

I can say though, that I do like seeing my name in black and white and seeing the photos I've taken in color. I have also met some great and interesting people along the way.

But in this business, if you're thinking about it, remember the work comes home with you, it sleeps with you, it gives you nightmares, and hangs over your head until you pay attention to it again. My little gremlin. This could only be because I'm in a difficult situation right now, but I know I must not be the only one in the business who feels this way? Just remember, you're never really going to get rich from this kind of work. Unless you're like working for USA Today, Wall Street Journal or the New York Times.

I'm still at the bottom of the ranks, and I know that boot camp is far from over. And I don't just mean at work, I mean in general life stuff. It's sort of the life that I was waiting for after college. I mean, that's when life really begins, right?

Well, I guess it's back to work for me...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My baby, Barney

So adding to my life plate, as an animal lover, I picked up the most likely furry, four-legged friend... My dog, Barney.

Wriggling his whole body with his ears pressed back, Barney greets me at the door every day after I come home from a long day of work as if to tell me, “I’m so happy you’re home.”

He’s not perfect by any means, but all in all, he’s a good dog.

I met Barney about five months ago, before I even knew his name. Quietly, he stared up at Darrell and I, almost like he was already defeated with life. We were the only people there looking for a pet at that moment.

I bent down to get a better look at him through the wire cage and he seemed to perk up.

“Thanks for noticing me...

I looked over to the cage on the left and noticed a smaller puppy; brindle in color. She was adorable and excited to have me pay attention to her.

“What about her?” I asked Darrell. We brought the little brindle puppy into the “play” room, which only consisted of a couple chairs.

Brindle puppy flopped around the room; her skin so stretchable, it could go for miles. So cute, but we had to go back and check out the other dog we were drawn to, who wasn’t at all enthused about being cooped up.

Darrell and I both commented on how Barney didn’t seem to have a bark like the other dogs, not once since we had arrived at the Cumberland County Animal Shelter looking to make our family a little more complete.

The brown puppy wandered around the playroom, more interested in how to get out than us, I think. Every once in awhile he would come over to us and bring himself up to our level by placing his front paws onto Darrell’s lap.

We noticed the scar on his forehead.

“Wonder where he got that?”

Probably before he came into the pound, according to the dog attendant, who said the brown puppy had been stray and about four or five months old. Still a puppy but not a young one.

I was a little unsure about bringing home an animal with no idea where he came from. It was such a huge responsibility.

We brought Barney back to his cage, and I was ready to go.

(Pounds make me cringe sometimes. I know a little more first-hand about what happens to those little animals, because I write about one for work often.)

Darrell and I, still a little unsure about taking on the challenge of a puppy, began to walk out, until we heard the strangest howl or bark. I’m still not really sure which one it was but it was distinct.

It was the brown puppy, which looked more pathetic than when we first arrived. I began to really notice his rib cage, like an old fashioned washboard, it rested just beneath his coat. He was standing now with eyebrows furrowed up in that puppy-dog expression saying, “Can I come with you?”

The day we got to bring Barney home from the vet's office. Poor guy. Newly neutered and needing some TLC. May 17, 2010

Again with the howling bark. Darrell walked back over to Barney’s cage. I could tell his decision was becoming more easily swayed by the brown puppy’s attempt at gaining a new home than I was.

“Are you sure we should get a dog right now?” I asked Darrell. He bent down next to the brown puppy, and almost seemed to take on the pup’s wishful-ness.

“I don’t know, do you want him?”

How could he ask me that? Of course I did, but he would only be “our” dog for a couple more months. And then he’d be “my” dog when Darrell was supposed to leave in two months.

I fold. We signed his papers at the front desk and were so excited to have the brown puppy come home with us that day.

“You can pick him up on Monday at the vet’s office,” the front desk lady said.

What? I can’t have my dog now? Oh, right. I just bought a puppy for $60, plus hundreds of dollars in vet bills, food, toys, a crate, dog beds, and gas to take the dog somewhere nice for a walk. Great.

Darrell and I walked out of the shelter not really sure of what we had just done. The brown puppy was heading to the vet’s office to get neutered and looked over to make sure he was in decent health.

“Did we just really get a dog?” We really did. Nervous? Excited? We both rushed over to Petsmart and bought food, bowls, a crate, and a few toys. We were 98 percent excited and maybe two percent scared… Or maybe 98 percent: “what did we just do?” and two percent excited.

But now, I can’t imagine coming home from a long day of work to an empty apartment.

Barney has been my constant companion through and through. He knows when I am sad — he leaves the room when I cry to give Mama some space… Or he just can’t stand the sniveling — and knows just how to make me laugh.

We love to watch television together and he cuddles with me at night. (Hope he adjusts to not sleeping with me in the bed when Darrell gets back…)

“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day. It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.”
— John Grogan, Marley & Me

(Barney and I watched this movie together on the couch last night. I think he sensed how sad I was watching it, because he scooted in real close to me and laid his head on my lap. Barney reminded me a little of Marley, because Barney is a handful and can be a pain at times but he is a great dog.)

Barney, healthy and happy, hiking at Raven Rock State Park.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm an Army wife

Fort Bragg, established in 1918 and sitting next to Pope Air Force Base, is a 127,000-acre plot of land filled with sandy hills, a crap-ton of pine trees, and thousands of soldiers. The two bases make up one of the largest military complexes in the world — a place I now call "home."

In the blazing summer heat of 90 to three-digit degree weather, this U.S. Army field artillery site, which was named after Confederate General Braxton Bragg, a former artillery officer and North Carolinian, is where I have begun to go about my daily business as a new addition to the military "family."

 "I love my soldier" and "Army Wife" bumper stickers are everywhere, but are no where near me. It's true I love my husband and yes, I am the wife of a soldier, but I refuse to let that signify who I am.

You might think of the Lifetime show, Army Wives, based on the novel by Tanya Biank (who apparently worked for my boss back in the 90's) when you think about the Army and Army lifestyles. And in some cases, the basic story lines are true. Obviously, I like the show, because it's entertaining and I can sort of relate but it's still a little on the corny side.

The reality is that being an Army wife means that you've signed up to be in the Army too — a whole lot of bullshit not knowing when things are happening or not happening, crappy cities, Army lingo and acronyms, FRG meetings (Family Readiness Group, for those that choose to attend), and loneliness.

A life of being away from your significant other due to training, school, and deployments equals some sort of loneliness, especially when you move to a new state where you know no one. That's the typical story of an Army wife.

I'm saying it's not a glamorous life like the show portrays and by no means a life I would've pictured myself leading only a couple of years ago. I'm pretty sure Fayetteville, A.K.A. "Fayette-nam," was not ever going to become my dream city where I would relocate to and start a family, but I guess it's beginning to grow on me.

But let me get back to that whole deployment issue. Right now, Darrell is "playing in the sandbox" on his six-month deployment. It's true that it could be worse. He could be gone for 9 or 12 or 15 months, but I hate it when people tell me "at least it's a short deployment..."

That's still a half a year that we can never get back!

This is the day Darrell left for his deployment. It was a really sad day... At least the picture turned out okay. July 12, 2010

Being an Army wife is not a lifestyle I'm really sure I know how to lead, but I'm working on it.

It's just another serving I'll just have to swallow for now.

Hooah! (Just kidding... You'll never hear me say that ever.)


Monday, October 18, 2010

Stuffing my face

Don't be afraid of the name, I just jumped onto this bandwagon with the millions of others out there to share my thoughts, stories and ideas with the rest of the populace. 

But, just like everyone else, I'm trying to snag a little of your attention too. I should have done this a long time ago, and it's especially vital right now, because I've face-planted into this thing called life. Say Ah.

I guess I won't delve into the itty-bitty details of my life right quick. I'll give you a little room to digest the situation first.

  • I moved to North Carolina after graduating from college (UMaine) to
  • marry my, now husband, Darrell;
  • become an Army Wife;
  • rescue our spoiled brat of a dog Barney (this is my fault... Mama loves you);
  • begin work at my new grown-up job at a local newspaper;
  • and stuff my face with the trials and tribulations that have been served up piping hot on my plate. 
 It's an adventure and a horror flick all at the same time, keeping me at the edge of my seat and holding my breath to see what's coming next. I'm not really sure when I'll finally be able to breathe, but something tells me it won't be that much longer. 

Speaking of breathing, for the last few months, I've been coping with all of the above and more with yoga. (The "more" will come later once you've gotten to know me better. I can't reveal all on the first date...) 

First off, let me say that until now, I had never experienced yoga but thought about doing it for a long time. If you're ever thinking about trying it. Do it. It's amazing and you'll feel like a million bucks after.

Here's a crazy pose. (And no, not within my realm of yoga practice, but hopefully I can work toward it. I think it's called Aasanaas.)

My very first class lasted an hour and a half in Embrace Yoga Studio in downtown Fayetteville with my yoga teacher, Sandra. 

Sandra does an awesome class that has me doing crazy stretches, poses and also a little sweating. It's like my little getaway on week nights and on the weekends after teeth- and fist-clenching days at work.

It was a Tuesday evening at 7 and I had no idea what to expect. Sandra's classes are definitely more challenging than other classes the studio offers, but I like it. I can actually say I get a work out from it, and there's no running involved! YAY! 

Downward facing dog, up dog, planks, crow, cobra, half lotus, full lotus, happy baby, headstands, shoulder stands, pyramids, tree pose, warrior one-two-three, wild thing, and more! 
... Savasana

I can actually say that after my first class during final relaxation, I was ready for bed. YUM, I love yoga.

I've gotten into a routine now. You know how some people pray Sunday mornings or go fishing? I go to yoga class. Yoga for breakfast. (I bought my own mat, which is blue and has cool designs. I'm trying to be a true yogi now.)

On Sundays when I get to class, I like to grab a blanket and some blocks, depending on how I feel that day, and unfurl my mat. I do a little stretching to make sure I'm not completely cold when class starts and listen to the soothing music Sandra plays. (Other classes with different teachers definitely have different "tones" to them. Not every teacher is the same.) 

I like to close my eyes even before class starts, because then I can smell the incense burning stronger, lavender usually. Sandra can stretch and pose better than the rest of us yogis in class. 

I especially love the end of class, during Savasana, when I'm ready to empty my brain, because Sandra will place a lavender infused bean bag over your eyes. It cuts out any light that may come through your eye lids and truly takes me deeper into relaxation. Ah.

I can definitely see doing yoga in the future. It's part of my life now. Where else am I supposed to get the best breathing and mental blankness in life? 

With the help of Sandra, I've improved my yoga skills. Endurance, endurance, balance, balance, breathe, breathe, and breathe!

Here are some of the poses that I do know how to do!

Although life has shoved itself down my throat, I can always turn to yoga as my sweet dessert. 

Namaste everyone!