Posts tagged ‘sojourner’

September 21, 2010

September Listography | Day Twenty-One

 

all of the jobs I’ve had in my lifetime
I think this list is inclusive but I may be blocking some out :-/
 
1.  Taco Bueno — my first job at 16. I lasted for two weeks and my parents were never so happy to stop smelling tacos in their car on Sunday mornings on the way to church.
 
2.  Chick-Fil-A — my second job at 16, at which I lasted a full six weeks. I left to join a fun little group of women at a mall kiosk located just outside the Chick-Fil-A doorway. Basically, food service wasn’t for me and I just wanted to stop wearing uniforms.
 
3.  Attendant at a fruit and nut kiosk — my last job involving food, although this was really just bins of dried fruit and nut mixes. I mostly just stood around and snacked on the fruits. Not sure if I lasted a full six weeks or not. It got old pretty fast.
 
4.  Merle Norman Cosmetics Studio — I didn’t work again until after high school graduation, and then I was blessed to get a much better job while I took classes at the community college. I was still in the mall, but in the two years I worked here I learned more about makeup and skin care than ever before or again. Being the late ’80s, this was a prime period for such a job, as hair was big and makeup very creative. It was a great lot of fun playing with the products and dressing up for work regularly, and I actually really enjoyed giving makeovers and consultations. That kind of training never goes away, even if the styles do. Plus, I was the only employee of mother-daughter owners, so I got some really great gifts of jewelry and bling. Definitely some great perks!
 
5.  Live-In Nanny (twice!) — My first year living away from home was my third year of college, and I just lost my mind. I rarely went to class, though I had fun in the evenings, and my grades showed that habit with a string of failed courses. My junior year had been a bust, and I was fully confused as to what I wanted to do with my life. When I moved to school I’d begun the Fashion Merchandising program because my mom had raved so much about it during her recent semesters, but when I began attending class I realized that “fashion” meant “sewing” and “design”, neither of which appealed to me. Computers were barely in homes at the time, so there was no such thing as graphic design, and I can’t draw to save my life. My semesters included sewing courses and art courses, and I just gave up. When the semester ended and my parents questioned me about the breakdown, all I could think to say was how miserable I was in the program and how I had no interest at all. Of course, the next question from them was, “Then what do you want to do?” I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I said I felt like I would like social work and psychology, both of which had been interesting courses in the midst of my hellish semester. But I really didn’t want to do anything at all, so I sought something for the summer that would allow me to live away from home until classes started up again. That led to a short stint as a live-in nanny — first for a period of 3 weeks taking care of two elementary-age sisters and trying to deal with a divorced man who was actually looking for a woman to perform the household duties his wife had done before (that’s absolutely not me!), and then a few weeks later in New Jersey, where I moved after two phone conversations with an agency owner and then an unmarried couple with four children between them. I wasn’t smart enough to keep my emotions from clouding my judgement, so I took the New Jersey job and went to live in a closet-sized room and care for all four kids. (It was only supposed to be the man’s two sons but once I arrived it became a houseful.) My experience was horrendous and definitely something for another post, but I lived there long enough to miss the start of the fall semester. I also lived there long enough to know that the life of an au pair just isn’t for me.
 
6.  Childcare Counselor at a short-term juvenile shelter — While living away at college, I was still within driving distance of home, so I ended up getting a job back in that town when I started seeking something in my chosen field (at the time) of social work. The title “counselor” really just meant corrections officer, wherein my job entailed making sure the kids followed the rules, ate their meals on time, got off to school on time, went to bed on time, and didn’t sneak out of the house at night. Over the holidays I worked the night shift, so during that time my job was simply to stay awake all night and make sure everyone else stayed asleep. Not a difficult job but I did discover a great love for working with troubled teens. Which led me to seek that field after college.
 
7.  Holiday Retail Clerk — I searched for a career position for a full 18 months after graduating with a bachelor-level psychology degree only to discover that you really can’t get anywhere in the field without a master’s degree. Burnt out on school, I chose not to pursue it and finally just took whatever job would help pay the bills. The first thing that came along was back at the same mall where I’d begun my work life. This time I sold imported handicrafts at a place called Haus of Bavaria, and I learned more about strange little trinkets than I’d ever need to know. It was short-lived and boring, but I feel like I finally paid the retail dues.
 
8.  Wilderness Camp Counselor — I finally got a chance to work in my field after the 18-month search and ended up in a last-ditch camp for emotionally disturbed teen girls that happened to be located in the heart of an East Texas forest. The girls lived there year-round and the counselors worked 4-5 days straight with a midday-to-midday 48 hour off-period during which we were allowed to leave the camp. Everyone lived in open structures built by the girls’ own hands from the trees surrounding us, and we ate camp food for every meal. On weekends we cooked in our individual campsites over open fires and washed dishes with water boiled over the same fire. It was pioneer living at its best. There’s a lengthy post to be written about this experience, which lasted only 3 months of a summer, but the heart of the matter is that I realized my own heart wasn’t ready to be that closely involved with teens facing such depths of pain, bitterness, rage, and violence. God used that experience to bring me back to Him, but the job of it was more than I could handle at the time.
 
9.  Receptionist at a small realty office — God directed me to the office of a man I’d known from church while growing up, and in the process of learning how an office is run I found a spiritual mentor who helped guide me to a real relationship with Christ. The job was basic, and being in the early days of Windows, I was able to really learn computers for the first time, but I began walking a path that I’m basically still on. That was 15 years and a lifetime ago, but my best life memories are tied to that job and to my spiritual growth under Charlotte’s tutelage.
 
10.  Receptionist at a title company — the realtor’s office was a temporary gig while the regular receptionist was on maternity leave, but God provided a new job to begin immediately after the temporary one ended. It lasted for another year and all I can really say for it was that I was surrounded by some of the most arrogant and shallow personalities I’ve ever known. Not a pleasant experience, to say the least.
 
11.  Assistant to Music and Media Ministries at my church — I stayed in this job for more than two years despite a distinct lack of respect for one of my bosses, but only because the other boss taught me more than anyone had in my life up to that point. I was able to learn more software than ever before, was given more creative freedom than any other time, and was encouraged to dive deep into exploring personal computers as a tool for improving skills and life in general. It was the dawn of browsers for dummies and computers in every household, and I jumped in headlong to teach myself whatever came into my purview. I disliked my job most of the time, but I loved what I was learning. And that truly did change my life.
 
12.  Customer Care Rep at a start-up ISP — I made a connection through that job at the church and finally found my way out of the small hometown and into solo city living for the first time. What seemed like a perfect opportunity was actually a misguided attempt by the company’s owner to capitalize on the emerging dot com industry. What he couldn’t see was that “dot com” was on the down-swing and near its demise, which meant that I and half of my co-workers were let go within two years. The company went under entirely six months after that. I wouldn’t trade those two years for anything, as I learned so much about networking and the internet and the future of personal computing, and I experienced true independence for the first time ever.
 
13.  Receptionist for an investment broker — a friend of a friend had need for a part-time receptionist back in the hometown and Dallas employment was tough to come by, so I ended up back where I’d begun. By this time I had realized that I had true skills as an administrative assistant, that my attention to detail and perfectionism and inquisitive mind were perfect for office management, so I just continued on that path. I’ve never had any true “career” ambitions, per se, but I’ve come to know my strengths, so it made sense to continue doing what I was good at when someone needed the help. This job was always meant to be a temporary thing, though it still lasted for a year.
 
14.  Administrative Assistant at the local community college in a newly established corporate training program — because our office was located on the college campus, this job was actually a great deal of fun. I was one of four staff members who included a fun-loving Executive Director from the corporate world, a gentle-spirited training coordinator who had been in the Air Force, and a boisterous giant of a man who ran the college’s continuing education department and was also retired Air Force (a colonel). The military men and I shared one large room divided into three work areas by flimsy cubicle walls, and the atmosphere was constant laughter. I’ve never enjoyed a staff so much as I did those guys at the college. And I learned a lot about workforce training, submitting data to the state for grant funding, and even organizing a county-wide vision conference in a very short time. I always felt respected and important in that job, which isn’t something an administrative assistant gets to feel very often.
 
15.  Finance Ministry Assistant at my church — After the college I was able to finally make a move out of that little town of my adolescence, taking a job at my new church home. I’d never worked in a financial position before, but God is very good at taking me where He knows I need to be, and this position was full of great perks in the workplace. For the first time I was surrounded by a host of Christian women, something every woman should get to experience, and my job responsibilities were only half as important as the relationships I made while there. I became responsible for payroll, for recording donations, for keeping track of incoming data, and I learned principles I’d never encountered before. I had an incredible supervisor who was also a friend, and I shared lunches with co-workers and enjoyed gift exchanges and celebrations and even Bible studies with the women I saw every day. My time working at the church truly did my heart great good.
 
16.  Office Assistant/Webmaster for a student travel ministry — Up until just a couple of months ago, and currently on a part-time at-home basis, I worked for a local ministry that coordinates educational travel for student groups across the nation. My job involved a lot of record-keeping and shipping of materials, and fairly quickly after my hire, my duties also expanded into managing the company’s website content. All of the little bits of information I’ve learned over the years, plus my own personal exploration of web design and creative resources, allowed me to contribute something beyond what my resumé promotes. And though I wasn’t able to stay with the company any longer, I still love the website work and love that I have that experience for the next phase in my life.
 
With each job I’ve held there have been new skills to learn and new realizations of my own strengths and weaknesses. I don’t know where I’m headed next, but I’m thankful for all that I’ve learned up to this point. It’s not a career and I have no pointed direction toward what I want to do, but what I do have is a varied skill set and a drive to keep learning and improving. And so far in my life, that has worked very well for me.
 


My Listography was inspired by the site of the same name and list-maker extraordinaire Andrea at hulaseventy

 

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July 27, 2010

retro photo month :: day twenty-seven

 

   DK and me – college graduation, December 1993

circa 1993

I’ve written quite a bit about my challenging post-adolescent years and how changed I am because of them, but today’s photo brings those days front and center once again. I spent six-and-a-half years trudging through college (including one semester out after returning from New Jersey), and then finally graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Though I do love the field, psychology was never a pursued study for me so much as it was an area I stumbled into while bouncing in and out of other programs. In the final year of this journey I knew I had to just tally my hours and figure out which area gave me enough credits for the degree; the winner was psychology by a nose. Sure, I committed to it in the end and had grand dreams of helping people, but because I’d not had an actual advisor in all of my years at university, I didn’t get the memo that bachelor’s level psychology is really not worth much more than the paper on which it’s printed. Unfortunately, it took me another eighteen months, post-graduation, to grasp that fact. But still I carried on through the final semesters in order to achieve that time-honored goal of graduating from college.
 
Through the four years I was “away” at school, DK had been my lifeline. We were paired as dorm roommates by random selection — a fluke in itself as she was an incoming freshman but I was incoming as a junior — and it took us less than one night to realize that we had a great deal in common even though we had entirely different backgrounds. What seemed random was truly a God thing. We became instant best friends, living together for two years in the dorms and another two years in off-campus apartments, and then our tight friendship lasted an additional six years despite living hundreds of miles apart. This being the days before wide cell phone use, phone calls were expensive, too. But we planned afternoons every couple of months where one or the other would call and the conversation would last for 3-4 hours. It had been this way since the beginning, and it continued up until the days that we began to grow apart. While I’d had good friends in the past, none of my relationships had lasted this long nor been this intimate. I consider DK my first long-term best friend. And she earned that title through some challenging times.
 
In the month before graduation, we decided it would be a great idea to document our friendship with a photo. I’m still so grateful that we went through with this. In college, neither of us used cameras for much of anything, so I have less than 10 photos from all those years. This photo and the one from Day Twenty-Five are the quintessential shots to describe our college experience. It wasn’t so much about school itself — I actually remember very, very little about my classes or my routines; college was about our friendship. It was about walking through that period of our lives together. It was about leaning on each other (me, more than her), and sharing moments and meals and laughter and tears and frustrations and successes. If ever I am asked about college, I begin to speak of DK. And if I could talk to her today I would tell her how precious those days will always be. Friendship truly is forever, in one way or another.
 

this month’s photos

circa 1991 circa 1989 eighties hair
senior year, high school sophomore year, high school sophomore year, high school grade 8
middle school drill team circa 1980 grade 6 grade 5
scouts bluebird sisters granddaughters and the matriarch three 70s sisters
sisters in plaid sisters, circa 1972 circa 1971 me, circa 1971 circa 1970
me and my sisters back at the Texas State Capitol Senate Chamber, Texas State Capitol at the Texas State Capitol summer photo day one


Retro Photo Month was inspired by Elizabeth Dillow. Be sure to check out her own collection at {a swoop and a dart}.
 

January 21, 2010

journaling the journey

 
Long have I felt the need to journal my thoughts and my prayers, my lows and my highs, though I am not dedicated to daily diaries just for the sake of writing them. Instead, I keep a few journals around the house and jot down major thoughts or strong impressions that seem important to document. Sometimes I don’t even realize it’s important but I find myself needing an outlet to quiet my mind. Through the years I have learned that even without daily entries my life is a record to be studied and learned from anew. I can open any of the journals from any previous year and find words of joy and despair and anguish and celebration. More often than not, my journal pages are filled with extreme emotions rather than mundane details of daily life. And yet, even without the balanced times in between, I can see clearly the journey I am taking.
 
Just this morning I was reminded once again of how important this is for me. Rereading the pages from 2009 reminded me how faithful God was to deliver my spirit from despair and worry during a year of unknowns and uncertainty. My life is an open book of fulfilled promise. I remember only moments now that peace and joy have been restored, but my journal is a reminder that every day counts toward the bigger picture of God’s faithfulness. Without those written words, this would be easy to forget.
 
God took that lesson further this morning when I closed my journal and opened His Word:
 

I love you, God — you make me strong.
God is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight.
 
God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together, he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to God’s ways; I don’t take God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works; I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together, and I’m watching my step.
 
God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

Psalm 18:1, 20-24 (The Message)

 

January 8, 2010

Tempus Fugit (a meditation)

 
At the end of my days, when my own time spins itself out, and I have barely a slivered portion of the abundance I currently possess…I hope that I’m able to stack up the years not by their dates but by something infinitely more precious – the moments that filled them.
     — excerpt from Tempus Fugit: The Debacle of Time by Cerella D. Sechrist
 
My entire life is about moments, to the point where I have very few concrete memories of entire periods of my life but an increasing number of remembered moments, recalled instances. I used to lament the fact that I cannot remember the experience of 6+ college years. Then I decided that because those years were so bleak I did not need to remember their fullness. Instead, I needed to remember only what came to mind. Like, six young women sitting on two twin beds in my dorm room, getting to know each other during the first weeks of our first semester. How one of those women said something and received a strong reaction from the group, after which she replied, “Put me in jail,” while flipping over my bed comforter to reveal its black-and-white striped underside. Ha!
 
I remember weekend meals in the campus cafe where all six of us ate together and shared stories and frustrations and fears and successes. I remember all of us helping one of those women through the struggles of a long-distance relationship with her high school boyfriend and dealing with the guilt of trying a separation so she could date a guy she’d met at church in town.
 
I remember telling lies to these women because I couldn’t stop myself from trying to impress everyone I met with tales of being someone I was never going to become.
 
I remember the hurt expression of my suite mate on the morning after I had bolted my side of the door to her adjoining room without telling anyone that I would be doing it (including my own roommate). And I remember that our suite mates rarely spoke to me ever again.
 
I remember catching the eye of a man while sitting in IHOP in the wee morning hours after Halloween night, still wearing the heavy makeup of my gypsy costume but having changed into ragged jeans and a flipped-bill cap to cover hair matted by the long scarf I had been wearing. I remember vividly the thrill I felt as I hopped on the back of his motorcycle and rode off with this man I’d only just met the hour before. And I remember the swell of joy I felt when this same man called 3 months later, apologizing for the delay and regaling me with a convoluted story of how he’d misplaced my number and had been looking for it all that time. I remember lying in bed for several hours and just talking on the phone, sharing stories and secrets. I also remember the emptiness I felt on the morning after my 21st birthday as I drove away from his apartment with complete certainty that I’d never be seeing him again.
 
I remember sharing a ridiculous music obsession with my best friend that took us to a concert where we were the oldest people in the audience not chaperoning their squealing daughters. And I remember having a fantastic time. I also remember feeling much, much hipper months later as I watched an early ’90s Billy Idol rock a crowd in which I was one of the younger members. And I will never forget being pulled over by a police officer on the way home from that concert and feeling a rush of relief when the problem was only a broken taillight. Though I still hated being asked to step out of my car on the side of the road in my college town!
 
I remember moving off-campus into my first apartment and sharing it with my best friend plus two acquaintances, then watching one of those girls move out within a few months. And I remember not feeling sorry when I became the cause of the fourth roommate’s departure. I remember feeling only happiness that I could now enjoy quieter days without having to compete for the attention of my best friend. I also remember being unapologetic to that best friend whenever she pointed out some fault or stupidity of mine. I remember that I was a horrible person back then and didn’t even care.
 
There is much I remember clearly, but only in small scenes. If you ask me to recall names of school mates, I cannot tell you more than five or six, and only their first names. If you ask me for facts about places or people, I can rarely tell you anything. But if you ask me to tell you a story, well, I can talk for hours and give you dozens. My entire memory is filled with moments — categorized and organized and filed away for retrieval based on emotional and sensory stimuli. Don’t ask me what highway runs between my town of residence and my college home. I can’t recall the number. But if you want to know where to stop for lunch, let me tell you about the little Dairy Queen and how it is the halfway point where I stopped each and every time to grab a Coke and a soft serve and how I came to view it as the necessary emotional transition point between my college life of independence and the life at home where I always felt like a foreigner.
 
Those moments are seared in my mind.