Monday, December 29, 2008

My Cyber Absence

It has probably been a few years since I have gone this long without using the computer. You should all try it. It sort of felt like 1995 to me. Although I can access the Internet from my phone, respond to e-mails, change my facebook status, etc., I decided at some point before the weekend to forgo the computer and e-mail thing altogether. I was wanting to use it on Friday, but while sharing my computer, and not getting a chance to use it, I decided on Saturday to "become celibate" until Monday morning. So, I hadn't been on since Christmas Eve.

This season kept me busy doing random activities. I saw the Christmas lights at Olin-Turner Park on Christmas Eve, watched "A Christmas Story," for the 100th time, did some outdoor running, of course, and hiked with the dog. I was introduced to this neat shop, down the street from the dog park, Paoli Local Foods: The owners could not have been friendlier, and everything is organic, the produce grown from down the street. They offered us free, organic coffee and cookies. I had the most delicious spinach I have ever had - no exaggeration. You could eat it right out of the bag.

Christmas morning was celebrated with wine and toast - the most festive breakfast ever. By dinner time, and no Christmas dinner plans, the spinach was put to use, sauteed over some pasta, along with garlic, fresh Parmesan, onions and olive oil. While this meal was construed up and plated in about twenty minutes, I mentioned that everything on top of the pasta was local, fresh, and luscious. Another reason why you should all be supporting local farms, people! The quality of the food makes any meal so much more enjoyable.

May I add that while dining at my sister and brother-in-law's house, a few nights before Christmas, we realized that between what I brought and she made, our entire meal was from the farmer's market.

Besides cooking, running, and hiking, going for winter walks around the capital square, constantly witnessing tourists photograph the beautiful architecture of our capital building, I saw a very interesting documentary called "Surfwise." This is about a family who had nine children, lived in an RV, started a surfing camp, lived a very nontraditional life, always on the road. No schooling. Smart kids. Very interesting. Rent it.

I avoided the computer to plow through a book I wanted to finish for book club this evening. I chose the book this month: "Unaccustomed Earth," Jhumpa Lahiri's latest book of short stories. While avoiding the 'net, I actually read two books. The first one, a trashy novel that was turned into a movie. A real spooky page turner, "Into the Cut." If you want a junky, scary, sexy, fast read, this is for you. If you haven't read Lahiri's other two works, I highly recommend them, as well as her new book.

This topic brings me to the uselessness I have found for the tube. While going several months without television at all, I decided to order cable about six weeks ago. I cannot tell you how little I use it. I canceled it today.

I do think that television watching is a "class thing." I do not know many wealthy intellects who have a tv in their bedroom. I got so much done while playing computer hooky, that I certainly didn't feel the need for any garbage on television.

I am just out there. Living life. Enjoying the outdoors. Doing a little reading. Spending time with family. Yet, feeling like I need to contribute to society a little more. I am looking into a volunteering job, like I had in Cleveland....

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I Really Do Have a Normal Family, Afterall

I know that this is a dreaded time of year for many people. Walking with someone the day before Thanksgiving, I asked the cliched question, "What are you thankful for?" The question was turned around, and I told him that I was thankful for so many things: Supportive family. My health and well-being. My new life in Madison. My loving dog. My happiness. I went on to say that Thanksgiving is not what it should be. When we have a family gathering, are we really celebrating the Indians and the Pilgrims coming together for a feast? Most people aren't.

Thanksgiving morning was very sad for me. For the first time ever, I decided not to go to Cleveland for our traditional holiday meal. All of my friends left town. None of them have family in Madison. I went for a long run outside, and felt 100% better. I was able to spend my Thanksgiving with my family who does live in Madison, and we had a small, yet lovely dinner. It was really nice.

Now, we are onto the joyous season of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or what have you. When moving to Madison, for some reason, I thought that I wouldn't feel the comfort of having family, but I feel like we have created our own little "closeness" - my aunt and uncle, their two kids, my sister, brother-in-law, and my nephew.

My sister and I recently pointed out that for whatever reason, our ex boyfriends and old friends grow attached to Mom and Dad. They LOVE our family. Now, everyone thinks they have a dysfunctional family. I know a ton of people who are dreading Christmas with their families. And it was brought to my attention that even though our family has had, at one time, all of the usual suspects: alcoholics, affairs, depression, near death experiences, drug problems, arrests, etc., whose family hasn't?

Our little family in town had an intimate dinner the other night. My guest for the evening told me that their family gatherings are chaotic and never have that warm "vibe" that my guest felt. My guest went on to say how nice everyone was. Time, and time again, I have had people tell me that our family is so welcoming, the conversation is friendly and at times, I think, quite interesting. (Not always, but sometimes....)

Now, I have had holiday meals at other people's homes, and I have to agree with my guest. Reflecting on it, I have found that the table conversation can be superficial and shallow, and, many times, I have had dinners where the host/hostess is extremely stand-offish, and has no interest in talking to me, and I like to talk.

Every family has issues. And while you may be celebrating Christmas on Thursday, you probably won't be thinking about the birth of Christ, but maybe the stress of getting together with your dysfunctional family. But, this guest of mine made me realize that I do have a pretty normal family, after all. No drama here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Yes, Madison is Freezing....

I thought there was some irony when someone in Cleveland, Ohio asked me why I was moving to Madison, Wisconsin because Wisconsin has "bad winters." I said to them, "Why do you live in Cleveland, Ohio? Cleveland has bad winters, too. Did you know that? How will it be any different?" One reason I moved to Madison is because of the lifestyle here.

So, I saw on the weather website that this weekend was going to be in the zeros at times. And the funny thing is that I spent as much time outside as I would have, had it been a spring day - which means a lot.

As a runner, I do a lot of indoor, treadmill running, in the winter. There are two reasons for this. Mainly, because the footing is bad enough that it is easy to slip and fall. The other reason is because my right knee gets much more irritated in the cold weather. In Madison, running indoors is a big "no no." It really isn't the same. There is something artificial and very stagnant about running on a machine, even though I do get a very good workout.

Saturday morning, I woke up, and walked my dog around the block. Her usual morning walk. The snow was beautiful and serene. I knew I was walking to the indoor farmer's market in an hour or so, and I was really looking forward to the short walk. The thought of running on a treadmill was killing me, so I decided to bite the bullet and run in the light snowfall, literally in between two snowstorms - a 10.5 inch dumping that had just fallen, and pre-the evening to the next day snowfall.

After walking to the indoor market, and grabbing a bite off the square, I got to check out yet another of many parks in Madison: Picnic Point. This peninsula is great for hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and birding. While I was there, the next snowstorm started brewing. I was told it was a whiteout, which I was unaware of, when you don't know what the scenery usually is. I loved this park. Besides it being another tranquil and relaxing park for me to frequent, it is in the city of Madison, and is probably two miles from my house. An owl propped on the top of a tree was spotted by my fellow hiking pal.

Yesterday morning, the plan was to go back to Picnic Point. Knowing it was going to be rather freezing, I happened to notice that with the windchill, the temperature was going to feel like negative twenty-seven. Being used to outdoor winter sports, I bundled up and took Scouter there. After about an hour, I was still completely comfortable, and I had a tired dog.

Yesterday was ridiculously cold. I am not going to lie. With the winds, at times, it felt slightly painful. There is something about the winter that to me, is peaceful and calming. It also makes me appreciate the changing of the seasons.

Might I add that there were plenty of other Madison locals taking advantage of the beautiful winter weather, which is the lifestyle I was desiring. If you make fun out of what nature gives you, you can enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Helicopter Parents

In the past few years, "helicopter parent" has become quite a familiar term. I have witnessed many parents who are literally their teenager's alarm clock, putting breakfast on the table, writing their papers for them, telling them where they have to be and how to get there.

Wikepedia defines a helicopter parents as "A parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her child's or children's experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. These parents rush to prevent any harm or failure from befalling them and will not let them learn from their own mistakes, sometimes even contrary to the children's wishes."

Helicopter parents are allegedly the parents of Generation Y, although some experts may argue that generations before were slowly evolving into what they are today.

Does this sound normal or healthy to you? We can expand on this definition by stating that these parents hover over their children, regardless of where they are. It amazes me how much some parents know about their children's business. How about letting the kids learn on their own? They need to learn how to navigate through their own problems, and, frankly, I think some of the children probably have better judgement than their parents.

Although my parents were extremely involved in our lives, there came a time when my sisters and I didn't need them hovering over us. We certainly didn't report in to them every day. As an adult, I would say I may talk to them once a week, but if I don't, nobody worries. We are close, but they don't know everything about me (unless they read this, than they know more than I would normally tell them.) I would say we have healthy relationships.

What is with these heli-rents? (I just made that up). I have witnessed a helicopter parent up close and personal. I thought it was totally weird. And unhealthy. And probably contributes to Brain Cancer from all the cell phone calls. (joke) I don't need to talk to my parents when I have a problem - that's what friends are for. I don't want to ask them advice on how to handle the most recent fight I had with my boyfriend. I'm 28!

The strangest helicopter parent situation I have ever seen was a seventy something year old parent with a forty something adult child. The phone calls and the constantly remaining in contact was very bizarre to me. I had never seen anything like it.

I decided to write about this topic because I was with three girlfriends last night - one who is a teacher. She was telling us about a situation she had with some parents who behaved badly. They were too involved with their kid's situation, for one. I said "That's something you have to put up with these days. These Helicopter parents are way too into their children's business. It's not right." Here we were, four women, who I spend a lot of time with. We just surpassed Gen Y (arguably). I am pretty sure that while we have mentioned that our parents exist, nobody has ever had to take a call from them while we were together. None of us have ever had to call them, either.

Look, I know my parents can probably give me some excellent advice. They are worldly, sophisticated people. Both of them. I am proud of how progressive they are, compared to most parents I knew growing up. But to me, there is something unhealthy about relying on them too much. Even when we were in the same town, I probably only saw them a few times a month. That, to me, is healthy.

I think it was in the "Times" the other day - an article about parents going to interviews with their kids? What is that all about?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How to Self-Promote

I have mentioned in a previous post how quickly I made it onto the news and on Madison's Magnet website, a networking group for young professionals, after only living in Madison for a few weeks.

In Cleveland, I was often used for different advertisements, brochures, and media related materials. Part of this was because if a public relations person asked me if I would do it, I was never afraid of the camera, and some people are. I became pretty comfortable, and if you are as outgoing as I am, and want to work your way up any corporate ladder, it is important to self promote. I now have a huge folder full of different publications I have been in in the past four or five years, so it is no surprise that I was in the media in Madison so quickly.

This blog has become more than a hobby for me. I promote this often, and it has now been on the homepage of my favorite website,, twice, and has introduced me to some powerful people in Madison.

Last Tuesday, I had my job search support group. I was informed before the group meeting that "Wisconsin State Journal" was doing a story on unemployed people in Madison, and that a photographer was going to be coming to take photos. Monday night, we had a bad snow storm. Tuesday morning, it was still snowing, and a lot of people couldn't drive into work. I was determined to get to that group because I knew if the photographer did show up, I was going to get into the the "Wisconsin State Journal," and here it is:

I just knew this was another opportunity for me to get my name out there. I hiked through the snow storm (by foot), in a business suit, while most people worked from home and stayed indoors. You wouldn't know by looking at my photo that I walked about six blocks in a snow storm, but I was prepared for it.

If you are looking to put yourself "out there," the main thing to remember is you must know that you will get the publicity you are looking for. If you see any journalist questioning or photographing the public, don't be shy. They like people to volunteer, as a lot of times, you are helping them, and they appreciate it. Always look confident, but not overly arrogant. Be sure of yourself, and what you are saying, if they are quoting or paraphrasing you.

I also encourage you to use all forms of social media, if you are hoping to gain popularity. Blog, Twitter, facebook, and even texting helps.

You can't lose by networking. Try to attend as many different networking events as you can. You get to know people, and they get to know you. There is almost always a photographer there. Make sure your photo gets taken, and typically, those photos do get up on a website, or maybe even make it to a local newspaper. You can link the photo to your facebook page, or your blog, or even send a mass e-mail to friends and family.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Photographic Journey through Madison

I was contacted by Turner Publishing to review the book, "Historic Photos of Madison," a photographic story of how this town has grown through two centuries, text and captions by Donald J. Johnson.

Visiting as a child, my family always did several things: strolled up and down State Street, a pedestrian walkway, lined with stores and restaurants, and we also admired the square, circling (or should I saw "Squaring") the Capitol.

There are a lot of rich photos of the square, Capitol, and State Street, among many other scenes. If you are familiar with the city, and you don't get disoriented on the square, then it is fun to try to place what part of the square certain structures were. Just this past Saturday, I was at the Inn on the Park, at the corner of South Carroll and West Main. Looking at this book, it's funny to see an old building, built in 1871, which was also a first-class hotel, in it's place. Although the square does look pretty similar, the storefronts are gone.

I was walking around the square the other day, when I pointed out to my friend that it's weird to see a Starbucks and a Walgreens right there. It doesn't fit, socially, or historically. I learned from the pictures, though, that there was comparable retail. You can see a Park Hotel Coffee Shop right about where today's Aveda Hair Salon is located.

Who knew that the first Capitol building wasn't even in Madison? When you picture the layout of down town, that's the first thing you think of, mainly the dome. The current structure (which is also beautiful, may I add), is the third Capitol in Madison. State officials wanted our building to replicate the U.S. Capitol (which it does). Because of this, they needed a much larger dome than was planned, and the original architect who was selected for his design was rejected, and committed suicide. The photo of this well known building without it's dome makes it look incredibly different. The design adds so much character to our politically active and thriving city.

As a runner, I have run through Olin-Turville Parl. In 1881, Olin-Turville Park was utilized for a summer series of concerts and lectures, training Sunday School educators, which continued for almost thirty years. The city now owns this park, and the only thing that probably resembles how it looked in the book, is the barn, that currently remains a popular shelter for picnics and gatherings.

Watching how the city evolved into where it is in 2008 is certainly interesting, especially for someone who lives in the heart of the city. From these photos, I could see what was around over fifty years ago and beyond, such as the Majestic, where I went on election day, the Orpheum, (where my sister and brother-in-law had their wedding reception), and Grace Episcopal Church, the oldest building on the square.

If you are a history buff, or are interested in learning about this city, I encourage you to read this book. I showed it to a friend of mine who loves to read, and is always curious about historical details, and they have been pointing out "fun facts" about Madison that they learned from reading it, every time we go by something that is documented.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Theory on a Successful Marriage

While diligently working away, looking for a job today, after returning from my job search support group, my dog let me know that she wanted to go outside. Tuesdays, I don't always go to the dog park, so I took her for a little walk around the capitol. Whenever I walk, I listen to my music, and I think about what I am going to write about. I think it's time I share my theory on how to have a successful marriage. (This - coming from someone who has never been married)..... I have had this theory for ten years.

Something I noticed when I was about eighteen, was that people I knew who were divorced/getting divorced had married young, and hadn't experienced more than one long term relationship. I decided then that if you don't live with someone who you think you are going to marry, and then break up, and marry someone else, your chances are less likely of staying together. I would love to do the research on this, and I know there have been studies done on this topic. Looking back, I am impressed that at eighteen, I picked up on this.

Talking with a girlfriend recently, she told me that her sister, who is about my age, is unsure if she wants to stay with her husband. Here is how the convo went:

Me: Let me guess? She married her first boyfriend?

Friend: Sure did. How did you know?

Me: Just a guess. Is she going out with her girlfriends a lot, and flirting with other guys?

Friend: Oh my God, how did you know?

Me: She was too young when she got married. She likes the attention she gets from other men. It sounds like she is going to get divorced.

Friend: No, she wants to make it work.

Me: She's doomed.

At twenty-two, in 2002, I had a short lived romance with this hot guy, who I thought would be a keeper. He was around my age, and he was a hottie (I will call him "Chad"). I was visiting family in New York, when I told them my theory. This is exactly what I said:

"I am convinced that I will have two more relationships after Chad, where in each relationship, I will live with the guy, and I will assume that we will get married, only to break up. It's important to have this, so that you "live" a little, and increase your chances of marrying the right person."

My family laughed at this, but I think they thought it was a good plan for someone like me, who is always unsure of things, and always ready for the next chapter.

I really hoped I was wrong. Especially when I was in these relationships, where I thought maybe they were "forever." But, unfortunately (or fortunately), I was dead on.

It wasn't long ago that I spoke with someone's Dad from elementary school. He is about my Dad's age, and he went on about how much he loved his wife. I could tell he was genuine. Now, there is that old joke that once you marry, your sex life diminishes, if not vanishes completely. In his situation, he begged to differ. So, I asked him if he had been married before, or perhaps had lived with another woman before he married. Yes, he did. He was engaged to someone before he married his wife. His wife had dated a lot, and she had lived with someone. Theory proved with one sample....

I can't imagine marrying my first serious relationship. If I did, I would be on my third marriage by now. I cannot understand those people who marry their first long term boyfriend or girlfriend. I am proud of my decisions, as far as relationships are concerned.

If you ask me, I don't think I ever said I was going to marry anyone I dated, anyway. I was always scared and hoping that my theory was wrong - but I suppose I knew deep down, that there were more men in the pipeline.

Would you know that at my ten year high school reunion, there were maybe five women there who had married? I don't know how many out of my class are married, but not many. Our school emphasized the importance of becoming a trailblazer and a career woman, before settling. Maybe out of the fifty-two women in my class, I am guessing five of them have had children? Way to go, ladies! I bet my class will have a low divorce rate.

And so, the lesson to be learned here is to not marry your high school sweetheart (unless you took a little break from each other, and found that God wanted you to be together), and date as much as you can before you settle down. This will increase your chance of a long marriage (maybe forever).

And on another note - I would like to add that I am not ashamed to say that I will always look at other men, because Lord knows that we were not meant to be monogamous. Anyone who says that they can't look at another guy is crazy. It is unhealthy. I have no problem pointing out a beautiful woman to "Mr. Right Now," and he has no problem with me eyeing a handsome man. I can look..... I just can't touch.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Job Hunting in Madison (Or Anywhere)

So, my favorite question when I have been looking for a job for one week is, "Did you get a job yet?" I have met people who have been out of work for years. Yes, years. I am talking two, even three years, before they find something. If you want a serious job, you apply, get a call about two weeks later, get scheduled for an interview a week after that call, then maybe get called for a second and even third and fourth interview. Now, it has been a good six weeks since you sent your resume, only to find out that they had an internal candidate they were looking at before you ever dropped your resume through their "in" box.

I worked in Human Resources. I know the rules. We had to put ads all over diverse websites. We had to post jobs we already had filled by people we knew. We even had to do "fake" interviews. These took place when the person showed up, and we knew that they were not a fit, but we had to proceed with the interview anyway. These were quick ones....

So, what's it like being unemployed as a newbie in town? I imagine if I was a nurse, there is a chance I would have a job by now. Or, if I was in IT. Or maybe, if I wanted to be a school bus driver. But here is a typical day for someone with my background, and what I do in Madison, daily as a person "in between opportunities:"

-Set alarm for 6:45 AM, (hit snooze a few times)
-Take dog(s) out - (I was dog sitting)
-8:00 Run and lift weights.
-9:00 - showered and ready to hit the phones, find out the dog I am sitting for can go home. I drop him off.
-10:45 - Go to my "office" overlooking the capital building, and call 5 strangers who are in commercial real estate, whose names have been given to me through various people I have recently met since moving to Madison, asking them if I can send them my resume.
11:30-12:30 - Surf Monster, Careerbuilder, Hotjobs, Simplyhired, and Craigslist for jobs. I start to apply for one. Check e-mail, respond to people who have requested my resume.
12:30-1:15 - Have a networking meeting with a female "mover and shaker" who started a well known publication in town.
1:30 - Stop at home to change into a suit, and look at the local paper's jobs section.
2:00- Leave for a meeting with a recruiter.
2:30-3:30- Have my meeting with the recruiter.
3:45-4:10 Continue applying for the job, make two networking appointments for tomorrow and Wednesday - both with people I would love to work with/for (one who reads my blog....)
4:15 - Take my dog to the park and call it a day.

So - for those of you who think that finding a job in a week is doable, please tell me what the job is, and I will take it. Again, the average time in Dane County is three-eight months. Also, for those of you who think that all we unemployed people do is sleep and watch soaps, think again. I work harder looking for a job than when I have one......

If you follow these steps, and call and meet with people, you should be ok.

So, tomorrow, I go back to that sad support group again from 10-12.... Last time I went, it made me feel good about myself.