Monday, November 24, 2008

All I Want is the American Dream (Is that too much to ask?)

My contract job ended.

One of the many things that appealed to me about this place is knowing that the economy is somewhat protected because of the state jobs. I met someone today who was just hired by UW, and so there is hope.

I was informed by a friend today that I seem "very calm" for not having a job. What can you do? From the moment I found out, I have been networking and applying for jobs like crazy. But, it is the networking that is going to get you a job in this market. As far as I am concerned, sending out your resume to job postings is like throwing in into a lottery. They may never see it. Calling people, and informing everyone you know that you are looking for a job has been the best route for me.

Let's talk about how I landed this job in the first place. (The job that lasted two months). I sent my resume out to sixty (YES, SIXTY!) places. I think out of the sixty, I got maybe five interviews. Most of which, I was not interested in pursuing. Let me add that I did all of this in two months time, when the average time it takes to find a job in my county (Dane) is three to eight months long (according to the Dane County Job Service), so I was lucky to find something so quickly.

However, I landed the two month gig by meeting a gentleman at a jukebox at a restaurant I didn't want to go to. I was putting in a few bucks, when he started talking to me, and I asked what he did for a living, which lead to a meeting at his office, where I begged him to hire me to do sales. He actually created the job for me. I told him what I wanted to do, where I wanted to do it, (from home), and how much I wanted, and we made it work - for two months....

This morning, I decided to go to a job search support group. Boy, was I in for a depressing two hours. It was pathetic. Some of the people in the group have been attending these meetings for a while. There were tears, and sad stories, discouraged people who are only applying to one or two jobs here and there. When I told them my story, they couldn't believe that I applied for so many jobs. They thought I was diligent and ambitious. But that wasn't my point. My point was that you can sit in your house all day, applying for jobs, but that may not get you anywhere. Make meetings, and make things happen. You can't sit and wait for the phone to ring in this economy. By the way, I think we all know that this is a global problem.

So, this guy I have been "exclusive" with keeps on asking me what my skills are. I say "sales, marketing, development, etc." He says, "Anyone can do that." Oh really? Yeah, a lot of people will call a list of people they don't even know, and tell them that so and so told them to call, and that you would like to set up an informational meeting with them? I don't think so! So, when he says this to me, I ask myself, "Should I go back to school and get a Masters?" (I have been considering this since I graduated). Let me tell you what I decided today. (Today is today. Remember, tomorrow is a new day). It ain't gonna help.....

In my sad support group, there was a lawyer, an MSW, a teacher, a number of people with Masters and beyond, the former VP of Sales at a big company, you get the picture. These people went to grad school, and they have skills. But they can't get a job. Most of them said they have been laid off a number of times.

The blog I follow, is written by a woman who moved to Madison a few years ago, after living in New York City, among other places. She is a published author, and excellent blogger, who is a career advisor for my generation. She recently blogged about why we shouldn't go to graduate school. This was after I was informed by several established doctors and other professionals that it is "overrated." If I do decide to go back, I will let you know. For now, no thank you.

So here I am, back to square one. I see it as an opportunity to starve, drink cheap beer, and have people feel sorry for me. Only joking.

On a more serious note - for the first time since I moved to Madison, I decided to let it all out and cry. This happened yesterday. You know how sometimes it just feels good to cry? Well, here I left my business, my ex boyfriend of four years, my family, and just picked up and moved one day. I never really sobbed about it. In fact, the last time I sobbed was after seeing the movie, "The Kiterunner." I was hysterical. Part of the reason I sobbed after seeing that movie was because I was soooo sad for that little boy in the movie who was raped. But the other part of me was so miserable with where I was in life. I wanted to blurt it out at the time, but I couldn't. So I just cried a good cry. Yesterday, I tried, but I couldn't cry as hard, because besides having left that job that I did at my house, for a certain pay, that was created for me, I have opportunity.

If you are in the same predicament, make sure you are selling yourself. Put yourself in front of people. I am all over the place, letting everyone I know that I am aggresively seeking work. My ideal situation? Doing this all day long.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why Don't You Exercise?

In the past few years, while visiting Madison, I noted how many fit people can easily dominate a sidewalk or pathway. That was very appealing to me. I prefer not to be the only person outside when I go for a run, and I could see that I would be respected by bikers and drivers here. You cannot take that for granted, as I have learned. This is a very healthy city. It is no wonder Madison was recently rated 3rd "Healthiest Hometowns" in AARP.

In college, I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression, along with a ton of other friends of mine, and I remember one of the worst days I had. It was a Saturday, and I was on the phone with my sister, a psychologist, who told me that I absolutely needed to get outside, and go for a walk. I couldn't bring myself to leave the house. I was prescribed Zoloft, which I took for several years. I stopped taking it when I was training for the marathon, and started it again at some point (I don't remember when). When I started running regularly, I didn't need my zoloft any more. My exercise is my anti-depressant, and a lot of people will tell you the same thing.

I can't begin to tell you the wonders that running have done for me. I have to get my heart rate up, I need to sweat, and I love the feeling when I am finished.

Do you know when you are debating taking a nap in the middle of the day? That feeling of exhaustion? That is a perfect time for me to run, (although I do try to get it out of the way in the morning). Do you know if you get your heart rate up, and forgo that nap, you will be extremely grateful, and the exhaustion will have sufficed? I hate taking naps, and feel depressed when I wake up from them.

On the same note, I rarely feel extreme fatigue during the day, and I have my addiction to thank for that.

The high that I seize from this accomplishment lasts all day long - no joke. I perform better with work, I am in a better mood, I am excited about life, and feel more positive. So, why don't more people exercise? I don't get it.

Here is something else running does for me. When I am sick or hungover, and I go running, I feel like it gives me energy I didn't think I had. It cures my hangovers. It makes me feel like I have a stronger immune system. In fact, I woke up this morning feeling like I had a cold coming on, but the run made me feel refreshed. I feel fine now.

Mondays don't bother me. I don't hate my body. I feel good about myself. I can eat what I want. I sleep well. I have excellent blood pressure. I manage stress well. Again, I don't understand why more Americans don't get their heart rates up. There is no reason not to.

Studies have shown all sorts of wonderful benefits of exercising: Better sex life, stronger bones, better memory, longer life, cardiovascular health, etc. Especially if you are a parent, not exercising is selfish. In my opinion, if you have a history of health problems, and you fail to workout, you are doing a disservice not only to yourself, but to your children. Don't you want to live a long healthy life for them?

I have preached to many couch potatoes about getting into shape, without much success. When you have everything to gain, and nothing to lose, (except pounds) why aren't you sweating? I really want to know. Your comments are encouraged here.

I appreciate all of your e-mails, by the way, but this time, please post a comment. Why aren't you exercising? The time thing is no excuse, by the way.....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Living in Madison As a Young, Twenty-Something Year Old

I am really in love with Madison. I once said, "If you can find me a place that's easier to live in than Cleveland, let me know, and I will go." I do think Madison is a super convenient place. If you are looking for a huge city, where you don't want to run into people you know, then Madison is not for you.

Here is an example of how small Madison is:
At the farmer's market, I met a lady with a labradoodle, who I then ran into outside of the movie theater, and then on a hiking trail. Speaking of the movie theater, I met a guy there, who I ran into at a bar two weeks ago, and then saw him on election day at the watch party. At a cafe the other day, someone wanted to sit with me, (there was nowhere else to sit), who I then ran into last night. I have seen my waitress from the other night at a coffee shop and picking up take-out food at another restaurant the next night. And don't you think that these people don't chat it up. You get to know their names, and you get to know them.

I would say that my age group is full of singles, who all go to the same places. And there is a lot to do for our age group. Just last weekend, I went to a movie, several bars, a Laotian restaurant, an Indian restaurant, a comedy club, and a Reggae concert, among other things. The dating scene seems good, although I would think that if I moved here straight out of college, I would be tired of the selection by now.

The look of my peers is slightly different than what I am used to. As I have said in the past, they aren't "New York/All Black" trendy. It's much more hipster. I was at a club last night, and I stopped and looked around the crowded dance floor. Every girl had huge accessories, a lot of died, jet black hair, authentic vintage clothes, skinny jeans, striped, fitted sweaters, and a tattoo or two.

This whole look goes with the social attitudes of my Madison peers. Their political views are homogeneous (as I mentioned before) - liberal, and, like myself, they are anti-globalization.

I am not a hipster. Am I thinking of changing my style? Maybe. I actually think that fashion concept is pretty cool, and it does go along with my vegetarian, opinionated statements and beliefs, free spirited, recycling, preaching, semi-feminist lifestyle.

So, when thinking of what to do on a Saturday night, as a twenty-something year old in Madison, the selections are diverse, and you can squeeze in several things in one evening, as everything is at your fingertips. But, if you want to avoid running into a date from last week, that may be hard to do.

In a nutshell, for someone my age, you are bound to go on dates, find plenty of social activities to do, and pick up a lecture or two, while listening to liberal opinions on why you should have your car converted to run on vegetable oil.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Simplifying Things

Almost every person I have befriended in Madison is a minimalist. This term used to apply to art and music, but is commonly used these days to describe people who, "own the essentials." I think this is a great idea.

You do have to ask yourself what the "essentials" are. For example, do you need another coffee mug, or are you buying it because you like the decor, and your favorite mug may be in the dishwasher? You must define what the basics are for you.

Witnessing how much easier a lifestyle of minimalism is, I have picked up on this, and the past few months, can attest that this has given me a lot more time to enjoy things I want to do. I have yet to block out several hours of cleaning. Always leave your place looking good enough, so that should a visitor drop in, it looks neat and clean. Follow these simple rules, and you will never have to worry about dealing with a huge mess.

1. Clean As You Go

If you change out of your work clothes, put your clothes away immediately. DO NOT put them on that "chest" or "chair" you always leave them on. Simply put them back. If they are dirty, put them in the washing machine right away. I put all of my dirty clothes in the washing machine. As soon as it is full, I run it on a mixed colors cycle. (Yes, I have some white things that are now pink...) If your washing machine is close by, this makes sense. If not, put them in a basket.

2. Don't Own a Large Living Space

I can't imagine ever going back to a large house. Talk about wasted space and dust collection. I currently live in a 700 square foot condominium, which is the perfect size. If I had extra space for anything, I would have extra junk, which would collect extra dust, requiring more work. This space prevents me from bringing crap into my home that I do not need. Keep your living space down to the size you need. If you can go without a Dining Room, then avoid moving into a house that has one.

3. Handle All Papers One Time

You will never see a pile of my mail anywhere. As soon as I open it, I deal with it. Here is a perfect example: Yesterday, I received a post card from my college asking me to call a 1-800 number to verify my information. As soon as I received it, I called, took care of the update, and recycled the card. That prevents a Sunday afternoon of sorting through piles. Also, if you get catalogues or magazines that you recycle immediately (I am sure nobody reading this blog puts them in the garbage, as it is 2008), call the company and ask them to stop sending it to you.

4. Make Everything Paperless

I cannot believe that I actually recently witnessed someone sitting down, writing checks out. Save the paper, save the pile of mail, and make all of your bills paperless. I have arranged for all of my bills to be paid automatically out of my bank account. This prevents extra mail, and saves paper (duh). If you don't follow any of my rules, follow this one. Arrange for all bills to be online, if you can't afford to do the automatic thing.

5. If You Don't Use it, You Don't Need it

It amazes me how many pack rats are out there. Why do you need to save birthday cards from 1987? Sorry people, but as soon as my birthday is over, that card gets canned (unless there is a really meaningful message in it). Evaluate your things. If it's valuable, but you don't use it, put it on craigslist or e-bay. If it's not, toss it, or donate it. Less things means your place will look cleaner, and your kids will have less crap to sort through when they put you in a nursing home.

These five rules have prevented me from having to take any time to work on straightening up my place. My friends and family can tell you that since moving into my 700 square foot condo, they have never heard me say "I have to clean my apartment," because it's always pretty neat.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Historical Moment in a Homogenous Town

I am very curious to hear what the feeling leading up to election day was like in other cities, and more importantly, on November 4th, because in Madison, it felt like our city was playing the world series, and our team won.

I didn't do a whole of volunteering for Obama, but I did things that nobody else wanted to do. Sunday, I went to the volunteer headquarters, as I had signed up to canvass. I was sent to another location, where I chose to pair off with a stranger who was also going to canvass solo. The area we were assigned, she informed me, (as she knows Madison better than me), is actually outside of Madison, and she seemed to think we would be knocking on the door of McCain supporters. Now, for those of you who live in Madison, you know that there are very few republicans that you will run into. At least, this has been my experience. The area we went to was a little strange. Part of it was run down looking, with pit bulls (not ones with lipstick on), and certainly felt like low income tenants. The other part of the street was definitely upper class, with larger homes, which included a small stream through their back yards. Some of these people were rude and republican. It was nothing personal, though. For the most part, many were Obama fans. After returning, my friends down town were SHOCKED to hear that I ran into a few non Obama supporters.

As Tuesday approached, I was getting pretty darn excited, and there was a sense of enthusiasm, no doubt. I was sure of Obama's triumph, although I didn't tell a lot of people that. I had already envisioned him giving his victory speech, and I didn't picture it any other way.

Technically, I can be considered a resident of Ohio still, so I made sure to cast my vote there. But it was very hard to focus on Tuesday. I got out of bed earlier than normal, and had the tv (really the laptop, as I opted not to get cable) going in the early hours of the morning. I anticipated hearing about the small New Hampshire towns that have election results by lunch time - that's how I started my morning in '00 and '04. That's exactly what I watched on Tuesday.

By lunch time, I was certain that Obama won. Everyone in Madison, and I mean everyone, who had any paraphernalia on was an Obama advocate. I did not see one McCain sign, pin, sticker - nada.

I had planned to go to one of Madison's watch parties, the place I went to to watch him debate, the Majestic. Originally built during the Vaudeville days, this is a theatre with two bars, and the big screen was playing the election results. People kept on asking me, "Do you think we'll know tonight?" I think it's funny that they thought I was some expert on this. "Yes, I do," I said. "We will know before we go to sleep" I told them. (They don't know I stay up until the sun comes up) - only joking... Moments before 10:00, there is a "New Years Eve" style countdown. At 10:00, as more polls close (I am in central time), and we know the presidency is Obama's, the crowds go nuts.

Outside, people were going crazy. I said it reminded me of when I lived in Boston, and the Patriot's won the Superbowl. But this time, it wasn't just Madison, or the state of Wisconsin, but even globally. Pretty amazing. Parades were marching around down town (I thought about joining in), people were honking, cheering, the whole nine yards.

After a lengthy walk around down town, I had to stop in a bar on the way home to use the rest room, (and grab a cold one and have a little popcorn), and this girl walks in, clapping, yelling, "We Won!" I had to think about this. "We won?" Yes, I guess she is right. The entire town that I now live in is "we."

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Kindness of Mad Town People

I am overdue to talk about Madison, and I must point out some things that occurred just last week. I am overwhelmed with topics to talk about, including the latest movies I have seen, canvassing for Obama, and the Halloween festivities, but I think it is important to come back to the nature of the locals.

After the key to my car broke, and could no longer attach to my key chain, I had a copy made. (Actually, my dad had it done for me. - Thanks, Dad). He saw how I always had to shuffle through my purse for the stray key, that could no longer stay in a group with my other keys. It was all alone, and it was a pain. I tested the key in the car door, and it worked. A few days later, when I finally got in my car to get groceries (did I mention I hardly drive my car any more? I haven't filled it up with gas in almost three weeks!), it wouldn't start. After attempting to jump start it, I had it towed to Parman's on Monroe Street, only to find out the key was the problem. Parman's wouldn't charge me for their observation, and when I came to pick it up, solo, with a friend's car, they offered to follow me wherever I had to go, in my car, while I drove my friend's car. As we are driving back to Parman's, Mr.Parman is saying, "I am so glad that's all it was." I said to him, "Why are you glad? You didn't make a penny off of me!" These nice guys went out of their way. I highly recommend them.

Parman's recommended a place called Hansen's to have my "Check Engine Soon" light turned off. I went over to Hansen's. He told me the cover to my gas (what's that called?) was probably just loose, and turned the light off. As I followed him in to pay, he said, "Free!" So, now I am recommending Hansen's, as well.

The same day, I was looking for a good knife to carve some pumpkins open, for my famous, "Soup in a Pumpkin." I wanted something fast, so I walked across the street, to the little grocery store. Their knives did not look promising, so I walked into the hardware store around the corner, True Value Hardware. I went into the back, and found some kitchen knives. I asked the cashier if he thought they would work, and he said for about twelve dollars less, he would "make" a knife for me out of some hardware tool, used for something I have never heard of (shocker). As he did that, I dug around a bin near the counter, and picked up some sharp looking tool. He looked up, and said, "That will work, and that's only $2.00. Why don't you get that?" I went to pay, and saw I only had $1.36 in cash, and he decided to give me a discount, knocking off some money from the $2.00, but the total was somewhere a little over the $1.36 I brought in with me, so he said, "We'll split it", and he threw in some of his money.

Is this not the nicest, friendliest city? Yes, it's homogeneous and small, but it sure is a helpful place.

Even though I try to keep things semi-anonymous, I am recommending the following:

Dorn True Value Hardware (no website)
Parman's Service Station (no website)
Hansen's Auto Service Center (no website)

Why no websites? Probably because they are typical Madison, local institutions that thrive on word of mouth referrals.

Also, in case you were wondering, my auto insurance in Madison is almost half of what it was in Ohio, and I paid for roadside assistance, therefore, the pointless tow was also free.