Friday, February 5, 2016

First times may hurt, but they're needed

There’s a first time for everything.

I left a 20-plus-year journalism career last year to explore life in the “real world,” accepting my first non-newsroom job since working the McDonald’s drive-through window in high school. Last week, my new employer broke the news that my next paycheck would be my last. He called it a layoff, blaming anemic sales, but it still felt like a failure.

I’d never been asked to leave a job before, and it stung.

First times can be painful, but what I’ve realized in the past week is that they’re also necessary. Without some important firsts, none of us would be walking or talking, falling in love or following our dreams. 

We learn from our firsts, whether it’s how fast to take corners on a bicycle or who to trust with your heart.

The lessons to be gleaned from my first “involuntary separation” remain to be seen, but my unfortunate unemployment does open the door to another, potentially positive first: 

For once, I can shrug off the veil of secrecy surrounding job searches when you already have a paying gig.

It also gives me the gift of time, which I plan to use figuring out what I want to be when I grow up—and how to get there.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Mother Nature can be a real bi&ch

Anyone who has lived in Indiana at least four seasons knows how unpredictable the weather can be. A May snowstorm is entirely within the realm of possibility, as is a 60-degree Christmas Day. To save my sanity, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about temperatures or precipitation. But I sat up and took notice last summer. Here's what got my attention:

Rain and wind did this. Crazy.

A high school classmate of mine posted this photo on Facebook in late June. Once uprooted, the mature tree fell onto her Fort Wayne house. Luckily, no one was injured, and the damage has been repaired. Still, I couldn't stop staring at the photo. Did a tornado touch down in Heather's front yard? If not, how on Earth did that happen?

Believe it or not, the destruction was the result of days of soaking rain followed by strong wind. Not even build-an-ark rain or hide-in-the-basement wind. Just rain and wind.

A few miles up the road at my parents' house, several of the pine trees planted in 2001 acquired a distinct lean at the same time. And my stepdad's front-yard pine -- his pride and joy when decked out with lights in December -- snapped in half. Crazy stuff.

So now I pay a little more attention to the weather, and I have great respect for the power that Mother Nature wields. Even if she can be a bitch sometimes.

This post was written as part of the Think Kit blogging project. The prompt (from yesterday):

In Your Eyes: Share a photo or paint us a picture with words. Show us something from your year through your eyes. Did you see something that took your breath away? Or maybe you just couldn't look away?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

My name is Andrea, and I'm a technoholic

Today's #ThinkKit16 writing prompt prompted a personal epiphany. I am addicted to technology. The assignment: 

          Get analog. No screens, no technology – what did you do 
          with your hands this year?

Sadly, the answer is "not much." Ever since getting my first iPhone, I have been hopelessly in love with the convenience of having a personal computer in my pocket. It's a source of entertainment during down time (however did we endure elevator rides and fast-food lines before this marvelous innovation?!) and can provide instant answers to important questions like how to celebrate Festivus. Remember those dinner-table debates over who played in last year's Final Four or when the Indiana State Fair begins? Ancient history, thanks to the miracle of Google.

When it comes to tech, I'm a master multi-tasker.

At this very moment, there are four laptops, two desktop computers, four iPads, two iPhones, four video game systems, and at least eight functioning televisions in my two-person house. ("Only" five of the TVs are actually in use; the others are awaiting a trip to the recycling center.) After spending the bulk of my workday in front of a computer screen, I come home to more technology than some third-world countries. It's a problem.

That said, I did take action to reduce my screen time in 2015. Before making the leap from journalism to the "real world" in February, I spent most of my waking hours staring at my laptop or iPhone (usually with a TV on in the background). News doesn't follow an 8-5 schedule, and I didn't want to miss something important. It took a while to get used to not keeping my laptop fired up at all times, but now I often go days without logging on.

It may be a small step, but at least now I'm headed in the right direction. And although I gave up making resolutions years ago, I will make an effort to spend less time tied to technology this year.

That means less TV and off-duty computer time, because I refuse to give up my pocket PC. Without my iPhone, I wouldn't have been able to document so much of what I saw and did "offline" last year – the beautiful sunrise I noticed while pumping gas on my way to work, a peaceful boat ride with my family in Florida, a sunny afternoon with friends at a baseball game in Louisville, partying with the "pope" at Sausagefest.

Sunrise over Fishers, November 2015
2015 Sausagefest
And of course it's invaluable for capturing aww-inspiring photos of our fur babies being adorable!

Lucy is very helpful when it comes to hygiene.

What's your take on technology? Is it as much a part of your everyday existence as mine? How can I break the tech habit?

Friday, January 1, 2016

What's my story?

Writing a personal blog is a little like having children -- if you wait for the perfect time to get started, it may never happen. So I'm blogging every day this month as part of Think Kit 2016 to get me going (on writing, not parenthood; that ship has sailed).

Today's prompt: 

            Pretend you're writing your autobiography. Give us your first line,
            a first chapter, or even just an image. What's the story of you?

I've considered myself a writer since I entered my first elementary school Young Authors contest, and I was lucky enough to spend a couple decades telling stories as a newspaper reporter. But when it comes to the story of me, I'm stumped. Sincerely.

I feel like Admiral Stockdale, Ross Perot's running mate in the 1992 presidential election: "Who am I? Why am I here?" Is it an identity crisis? A complete lack of self-awareness? Heck if I know, but I probably should figure it out.

The basics

My Twitter bio is just two words: Recovering journalist. That's what I did, sure, and it describes my professional status, but is it who I am? I'm also a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a friend (with varying degrees of success). Do those relationships define me?

It's not like I haven't had occasion to reflect on my life before now. On my 33rd birthday, I was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm that took two surgeries to fix. At 39, my first mammogram detected stage III breast cancer.

What I know

I'm a survivor. I'm a good friend. I work (too) hard. I nap too much. I love playing games. I hate housework. My cats are my kids. My husband drives me crazy, but I'd be lost without him. I listen to country music. I have watched every episode of Friends and Big Bang Theory at least 27 million times. I never exaggerate. I always wear my seat belt. I don't do scary movies. I have an amazing family who I don't see enough of. I know it's OK to end a sentence with a preposition. I don't wear makeup -- never have, never will. My happy place is a deserted beach. I never say no to dessert (and it shows). I like cliches. I love losing myself in a great book. I hate sad endings. Laughter really is the best medicine.


Stream-of-consciousness much?

Alrighty, then. That seems like a good place to pause for now. If I'm this clueless about my story after almost 46 years, I'm not going to find my story in one night. But I'm looking forward to the journey.

Monday, March 30, 2015

This won't be a traffic rant blog — I promise

I have some cool ideas for blog posts. Really. And I'll write them. Someday. But old habits die hard, so to ease my transition from news reporter to freewheeling blogger, I'm starting out with an update on the U.S. 31 project that has been frustrating Hamilton County drivers since 2011. Now that I work in the middle of the construction zone, it's of particular interest. So I dug out a notebook and attended an INDOT open house to hear the latest.


By the time cold weather sends road crews into hibernation this fall, U.S. 31 will be signal-free and free-flowing from Interstate 465 to State Road 38. It will be a glorious thingwhen it's done. In the meantime, it's kind of a pain. That's not a criticism, just a fact.

Here's the lowdown on what to expect in Carmel, the southernmost portion of the project:

When work is complete, U.S. 31 will pass over 106th Street, under a new 111th Street overpass, and over 116th Street—with roundabout interchanges replacing signalized intersections. INDOT says the project will be “substantially complete” by Thanksgiving, although crews will be back next year to finish landscaping, etc.

  • 126th Street/Carmel Drive: Bridge over U.S. 31 expected to open in late May/early June. (No direct access to 31.)
  • 111th Street: New overpass expected to open in June/July, about the same time Carmel finishes a new roundabout at 111th/Penn. (No direct access to 31.)
  • 131st/Main east of U.S. 31: Expected to reopen in late July/early August.

THE SLIGHTLY-LESS-THAN-GOOD NEWS: (months indicate when closure begins)

This is my weekday life.

  • 106th Street west of U.S. 31: INDOT has two projects expected to close the road for 10 days.
  •  111th Street east of U.S. 31: City of Carmel closing intersection of 111th/Penn for 60 days to build a roundabout.

  • Old Meridian Street slip ramp: Access from northbound U.S. 31 closed for 30 days.
  • 106th Street west of U.S. 31: The city of Carmel will close the road for 60 days to tie the Illinois Street extension into a roundabout at 106th Street.
  • Illinois Street south of 106th: 15-day closure
  • 103rd Street: Access to U.S. 31 will permanently close sometime after July 4.
  • 106th Street: Entrance/exit ramp access to U.S. 31 will be closed for 7 days each.
  • 116th Street east of U.S. 31: INDOT is closing for 60 days to build a roundabout at 116th/Penn.
  • 116th Street ramps: Northbound and southbound ramps to U.S. 31 will close for 14 days each.

INDOT also will be wrapping up work on U.S. 31 in Westfield, but I don't get past 151st Street very often these days so I didn't take notes on that part of the presentation. I may really like this freewheeling stuff.