Saturday, August 28, 2010

Weeks 11 and 12 of Unemployment/Self-employment: Deadlines

I am a deadline-oriented person. I actually love deadlines and thrive on them, which is a good thing because deadlines play a huge role in my field. Lately, I've had to deal with some deadlines, but found myself not liking one of the deadlines.

I am still doing that biweekly layout/design work for that auto magazine, the one I cried about in my post 3 weeks ago. My second run with it went much smoother, mostly because my friend worked some magic on the computer. She said there were all these settings wrong on the computer that created my endless problems; settings that a normal person would not have figured out. Phew. I'm glad she fixed it all, but I was shaking my fist at the universe for putting me through that.

In any case, as the week went along, I found I really enjoyed the layout/design part. I could do this! Yeah! But then the end of the week approached and I felt that high anxiety again. You see, there are 60 pages in the magazine. The sales people give me the materials/information I need to lay out those pages a little each day. But what happens is that most of it comes in on Thursday. And usually around the 4 o'clock hour. That means I have to layout about 30 pages Thursday evening, have them ready to be proofed by 9am Friday morning and put the finishing touches on the magazine to be uploaded and delivered to the printer by noon. Obviously, it's doable. My friend had a full-time job and did it before me (for 3 years). And I work well under pressure, but I really felt the pressure last week. It could be because J's sisters were in town and we were trying to fit in a Carbon Leaf concert Thursday night. What ended up happening is I did work until 5pm, we went to the concert and got home at midnight and I worked until 3am. Then I got up at 6am, finished the rest, got everything proofed by 10am (ONLY ONE MISTAKE in 60 pages ... go me!!).

I guess what I'm saying is that I just don't think I am fit for that kind of deadline. As my dad said to me, "not everyone can be a police officer." Sometimes you just have to accept that you can't do everything. And maybe it will get easier as I work through the pages faster, but I'm still hesitant. I've only committed through Oct. 1, so we shall see. Week 3 of the magazine is coming this week ... if you want to hear me freak out, call me Thursday. On second thought, don't really call me.

On the other hand, I had a different deadline this week that I handled no problem. My editor from the NH magazine called me and asked if J and I could stay at a B&B Wednesday evening (for FREE), then I could write the story about it and get it to her Friday. We did and I did. No anxiety. I may get writer's block here and there, but for the most part, smooth sailing. I will blog about our awesome B&B stay in another post because it does deserve its own.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Family Reunion

This weekend was a big 'ol family reunion of sorts. Mostly with J's sisters and significant others coming to New England and wreaking havoc.

J's sisters (SILAdventure & SILMeow) live in Denver and Chicago, respectively, so we don't all get together often, aside from occasional holidays. So it's nice to gather just for the hell of it. And frankly, anything that you do infrequently is usually fun, except for colonoscopies, mammograms and OBGYN visits. But I digress.

SILMeow and Napolean Dynamite arrived on Thursday and we ventured to the coast of Mass to begin the festivities. SILAdventure and DocDoc joined us on Friday.

Some highlights (thanks to Napolean Dynamite for most of the pictures ... he has a wicked cool camera and was behind the lens most of the time. Sorry I don't pay out for photos on my blog. Maybe someday when I become famous.):

Quality Family Time.

Good Food and Drinks.Waking up on a sailboat the morning of my birfday.Sailing and Kayaking (on my birfday)
Really Good Birthday Cake (on my birfday).Carbon Leaf concert on a boat Thursday in Boston (that was just J & I, while SILMeow and Napolean Dynamite went to a Red Sox game ... J also arranged for the band to wish me a happy birthday and sing my favorite song).
Some low points:

Deciding we wanted lobsters for dinner at home and driving to 5 stores to find out everyone was all out. Not to mention they were $3.99/lb this week!

My mom forgetting my birfday. So, there's a preface to this story. I was born at 3:37 AM on Aug. 21. Every year, my mom calls me at that time (EST). No matter where I am and what I may be doing. It's become a tradition. And some people may be bothered by waking up to a phone call at the 3am hour (my sister, for example), but I am not. I've come to love my mom being the first to wish me a happy birthday (J used to argue that he wished me a happy bday at 12am, but my mom argued that I wasn't actually born yet, so it doesn't count). This year, ShortonCoffee was in Seattle for my cousin's wedding. She is not used to being in a different time zone and traveling. I know how your days just get thrown off. She was planning to call me Sunday at 3:37 AM, but the correct day would have been Saturday at 3:37 AM. I finally called her around 4pm to say, hey, what's up? And to make her feel guilty of course. I'VE FORGIVEN YOU MOM, SO STOP APOLOGIZING FOR THE LOVE OF JESUS.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Just a 200-mile jaunt in the woods

It is going to be very hard for me to describe our volunteer experience this weekend at the Untamed New England Adventure Race. Adventure racing itself is hard enough to explain, and to convey the incredible behind-the-scenes experience is that much harder. Not to sound overly dramatic, but I'm pretty sure we are changed by it (in a good way)!

I got up to the North Country for volunteer orientation at 5pm on Wednesday. All 20-25 volunteers became fast friends probably because we shared the crazy you have to have to sign up for this (not as crazy as the adventure racers themselves though). The whole event took place way up in northern NH, 10 miles from the Canadian border, where they take better care of their snowmobile trails than their roads! It is a gorgeous and very remote area. Cell phones don't exactly work there. I loved being disconnected actually.

My day started Thursday at 5am for more orientation before registration. Once the racers register, the game was on even though the race didn't start until 12:30pm. The racers finally have the course outline (it's a secret until that day) and have to plot out their route for the next 3 days via kayaks, bikes and foot.My first station on Day 1 was checkpoint 4, which was on the shore of First Connecticut Lake where the racers arrived in canoes and kayaks and I had to check if they had their whistles (mandatory gear) and I punched their passport. Racers were expected to start arriving at 2, so I got there around 12:30pm to set up. My first racers got there around 3:30pm and the last racers got there at 8:30pm. That's the common occurrence. Hurry up and get there, then wait. Anyways, I mainly just enjoyed the views, the sounds of the loons and read my book. There were a few spectators that came by as well, so I had fun chatting with them. The arrival of racers is the most exciting part. Some are all business (especially the front runners), but others don't mind taking a rest and talking. J arrived to the area around 7ish, but didn't find me until 8ish. I gave him shoddy directions and without cell phones, ooops. But, he found me eventually ...
J & I were assigned to checkpoints 18 & 19 on Day 2. At this one, racers arrived on foot after trekking 20 miles and completed a zipline over a gorge and a rappel down a rock face. We got set up by 9am, but it was again hurry up and wait. Our first racers arrived at 3:30pm on Friday. Our last racers arrived at 1:30pm on Saturday. That's more than 24 hours of waiting! But we are NOT complaining. We got to test out the zipline and rappel.
Racers arrive around 6am awaking J & I from our 2-hr nap
This was one of our last race teams to arrive and they were so happy and fun to talk to ... here they are drying their feet

We also got to camp under the stars during the Perseid Meteor Shower and be a happy face for the very appreciative racers. The night went a little like this:
J: Did you see that one?
P: Yes, that was awesome!
P: Okay, I'm going to sleep.
J: Me too.
And 2 minutes later, racers would come in and we would be awake again! We also had three teams drop out at our checkpoint. This was night 2 and that's very common. Dropping out is a very hard logistical problem. We had to call headquarters on the satellite phone (which didn't always work) and get them a ride. But since we were something like 70 miles in the middle of the wilderness, it would take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours for a ride to get there. The racers only carry what they absolutely need, and since they don't plan to sleep during the 3-day race, they don't have camping gear. So at one point, we had a team waiting for their ride and they were near hypothermic. We ended up putting 2 of them in our car with the heat full blast (we checked their pulse here and there, since they were passed out cold). Anyways, I think we got 3-4 hours of broken sleep that night, and even though I know you won't believe me, it was a lot of fun.
Racers arriving late at night

Saturday night, we spent some time recuperating. We "napped" and drove to another checkpoint just to see the racers. Then Sunday morning, we got up at 3am to man the finish line. The finish line is a little anticlimatic. They come and check in, but there are all these bonus things and time adjustments to be made, so they don't really know what place they got in. It was still fun to be there at the finish line and hear their relief and stories about hallucinations (seeing walruses on the course, for example) before they really crash. One team member went out and got US donuts and coffee.

Overall, only 8 teams out of the 41 completed the full course. Nine teams dropped out completely. The winners were from Canada, second place from Denmark and third place from New Hampshire! The teams encountered all types of problems from wrecked feet to being detained at the Canadian border (a team of 2 Ecuadorians accidentally crossed the border on a hike and were detained for a few hours!).Yes, we are thinking about doing an adventure race someday (definitely not a 3-day race ... yet). And given the opportunity, we will for sure volunteer because I think the behind-the-scenes is one of the best places to be. Like I said, we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

By the way, I did get to see a moose! All the volunteers and racers were seeing them left and right, but I only spotted one. One is better than none!Post-race, we were pretty tired, but pumped at the same time. It almost felt like we did the race ... In any case, we had our own little adventure race on the way home. We took the scenic route to drive through parts of NH we've never seen (checkpoint!), then we got a flat tire on the Trailblazer (checkpoint!), then a good samaritan pulled over to help us change it with makeshift tools because someone borrowed J's tire iron and never put it back in the truck (checkpoint!) and then the Trailblazer wouldn't start (checkpoint!). We eventually got 1st place though ...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Week 10 of Unemployment: Volunteering Again

I have another volunteering gig from tomorrow through Sunday. This one is quite unique and I think it's going to be intense. I'm volunteering on the course of the Untamed New England Adventure Race. But this is not just standing at a water station at the halfway mark. This race involves 170 miles of paddling, biking, trekking, rock climbing and more during the course of 3 days! I wrote about the race in New Hampshire ToDo, which is why I decided to volunteer. I'm so excited, but nervous (of course I am. When am I not nervous about something these days?). I'll be camping in the wilderness at one of the checkpoints. Thankfully, J will be joining me for the weekend, so I won't be lonely for too long.

So it's off to the wilderness for me, where I will have NO Internet and NO phone. Holy cow!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


He is a triathlete, hear him roar.

I asked J to blog about his triathlon today, but he said I could. How am I supposed to convey the experience of a first-time triathlete? I will say, he is a rockstar! He not only completed the whole thing, but he did really well! Except for the fact that three 60-year-old men beat his time ...
Anyways, here are his stats:
Total time--1 hour 12 minutes, 12 seconds
Transition from swim to bike time--3 minutes 40 seconds
Transition from bike to run time--1 minute 8 seconds
1/4 mile swim time--9 minutes 17 seconds
I would like to point out that J put himself in the beginner category for swimming and he ended up passing many of the people in the heat before him (they started 2 minutes ahead!) and even some others in the next heat up. Looks a little like Baywatch, doesn't it? He's all mine ladies.

5.7 mile bike time: 22 minutes 36 seconds5K run time: 35 minutes 33 seconds

So then after the tri was all over, we went to a park for a friend's bday party. I thought J would pass out on the blanket from exhaustion. Instead, he played three rounds of volleyball and two rounds of cornhole. Rockstar, I tell you. Meanwhile, I discovered a new card game I love. Dutch Blitz. Apparently it came from the Amish. Who knew?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Week 9 of Unemployment: Internal Struggle

This was a Very Hard week (with a capital V and H). I started some new contract work and went through daily panic, anxiety and heart attacks. But no snack attacks. That would have been fine. Just the bad kinds of attacks. I And I was a bit of a Drama Queen (again with capitals) and thought I would not come away from the week alive.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I must preface the story. So to make a long story even longer ... I have this soccer friend who mentioned a long time ago she did freelance layout work for a magazine. I said, hmm, sounds interesting and did she need help? Not at that time, she didn't. When I got laid off, I touched base with her again. A few weeks later, she told me she had to get off the project and it was mine if I wanted.

Here's the short description. It's a biweekly, 60-page auto sales magazine. We use InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop for the layout (although I haven't touched the latter two since college, I figured it was like riding a bike). The magazine and work is pretty straightforward, but it felt daunting and invigorating at the same time. It was an opportunity to expand my skill set even more as a freelancer and get off unemployment every other week. And who doesn't love a challenge? So I decided to go for it.

Enter computers. My family comes to me when they have computer programs, but hi, I hate computers. They are actually the bane of my existence. When I started getting set up to take over the project a few weeks ago, my friend and I realized that my computer was not up to par for the work. That was freak-out number one. It really messed my computer up, actually, but my friend eventually fixed it back. Still, I decided it would be best to call my new boss and speak the truth. I was not the gal for the job apparently.

But then, the new boss did something unthinkable. He offered to buy me a brand-new, beautiful, fancy MAC computer (not to keep, but to use for the project). Um, problem solved.

So he bought the sweet-ass computer and my friend and I worked again to get me prepped to take over. Then, she left to spend a week in the woods of Maine where she had no cell service. I would be fine! Except that I was really freaking out. I had one friend advise me to have the "F" it attitude. If you keep that attitude, you WILL be amazing. I tried really hard to keep my confidence, but it was definitely not working.

The week and work started. Then the problems came. In droves. It was like everything I did, every action I took on the project was an epic fail. A lot of it was not my fault. There were some really weird technical issues that no one could explain. I believe the computer hated me. Heck, I hated me. I cried. I hoovered in a black cloud of self-pity all week. I spent a lot of time in the bathroom (TMI). While J was getting a healthy dose of sleep every night, I was up staring at the computer asking the big guy upstairs to throw me a bone. I just felt so desperate.

My boss man was so understanding, helpful and encouraging (this guy is truly awesome). He thought I was just so unlucky. We muddled through the week and on Friday, 3 hours after my deadline, I finished the magazine layout. I dread seeing it in print. There were so many work-arounds I had to take that I am afraid it came out terribly (it probably didn't). I even had a dream last night that I saw the magazine on the stand and half the cover was covered with a big white text box.

The experience was utterly horrible and I wanted to quit every step of the way. But I didn't. I am not usually a quitter. My mom taught me that. When I was young, I wanted to quit the swim team after one week. She was adamant about me finishing out the season. Because I made the commitment. But on Friday, I told the boss man that I wanted out. He understood, but complimented my work and stamina and pretty much begged me to give it another shot.

I have since picked myself up off the floor and I am actually considering giving it another shot. Am I crazy? YES. But it's just that everyone else seems to believe in me. And my friend thinks she knows how to fix all the computer issues (brand-new, sweet ass computers are not always awesome). I am not 100% that I will keep the contract work yet, but we shall see ... I will update you.

In the meantime, good thoughts need to be sent J's way for his first triathlon manana! He'll be swimming 10 miles, biking 90 and running 26 ... or a 1/2 mile, 6 miles and 3 miles ... either way, it's a lot of work. And FYI, we did finally make it to the pool for training and didn't drown!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Our own little Farmer's Market

ShortShorts has been very giving with the vegetables this summer!

And we picked up some fresh garlic from another gardener we know. It's the best birth control yet.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I can't wait for this triathlon to be over ...

And I'm not even doing it!!! This training schedule has me very tired, very tired. Today, we drove up to the triathlon site and completed the bike and run. No swimming yet. We did try to go swimming again, but got the hours mixed up and the pool was closed. I think J is destined to do this race without ever stepping foot in the water beforehand. Either way, next week, he will be swimming 1/2 mile in this body of water.