2009 23 Jul

Just Keep Swimming

Author: Shawn Categories: Shawniverse

Since, my last blog entry, life has changed a bit. One of my best friends, my Grandmother – who was one month shy of 102 years old – passed away. I miss her and her gentle candor so much. Two weeks later, the company I worked for laid me and 40 others off. Blame it on the economy, right? Ironically, I’m now sub-contracting for them, and have been adding clients to my list – thus propelling me into what I always wanted anyway.

I’ve been laying a foundation for my own business, but didn’t have a financial net to take the leap. After being laid-off and finding I could get by with some contract work, I decided to give it a go. I’m still searching for more clients and I know my work is, if not exceptional, at least very, very good. When your supervisor, who is also getting laid-off, tells the company to keep me because I’m the best writer on the team, that’s gotta mean something, right?

No, really, I know I have mad skills, and I’m not just being a braggart (I have awards to prove it! OK, I am a trumpet player and we are known for our egos, but I really do like to let my work speak for itself). The point is, if I know my work can speak for itself, why not just take the plunge? I may end up with a part-time job somewhere to supplement a fluctuating income, but that’s OK.

When so many others are compromising their dreams because they have to support their families, or they don’t think they can make it, or whatever justification one uses to cave in and “be responsible”, I can at least say I gave it a go, did the best I could – and hopefully it will all turn out as well as I hope. Just being determined enough to take the steps to do what is necessary to do things my way and keep my dreams alive should be enough.

I’ve decided that I’m going to “just keep swimming” and do the best I can. Eventually, I’ll achieve the stability I need, even though I kind of got thrown into this – sort of. My main point, or moral to the story, is that no matter what, we can’t give up on our dreams. I haven’t seen all of mine come true yet, but some of them have. And I still feel the rush of those moments. It is that rush that makes all the hardship worth every drop of sweat and tears.

2008 30 May

Great Galloping Goose!

Author: Shawn Categories: Shawniverse

It really was a beautiful day. I was living in Colorado and there was this wonderful park with swings and slides, a large lovely pond-lake with a little greenbelt wrapped around it, and an itty-bitty beach.

I would often go there in the wee hours and swing under the moon. This day, I had enjoyed a peaceful puttery walk around the pond-lake and had stopped at the beach to watch the flock of geese or swan, I never really knew for sure.

There were a gaggle of children feeding the geese while their parents watched. It was a bit noisy, but I just wasn’t ready to relinquish the peaceful puttering of my afternoon. I stood there watching the geese snapping up the goodies the children were tossing, listening the to water slap around on the sand and under wings and feet, relishing in the warmth of the sun on my arms and cheeks.

It really was just a wonderful day. But, I had other things to do, so sighing a deep, deep sigh, I turned to make my journey back home.

As I walked away, there suddenly was this squawking and wooshing sound. I turned around to see what was going on. A giant goose was pushing its way out of the water, flapping and screaming.

And coming straight for me.

I stood frozen for a few seconds, not understanding the situation at all. When the goose cleared the water, she picked up speed using her extremely large and impressive wings to hurl herself toward me.

Well, I wasn’t about to stick around, so I started walking very, very fast. The children were running to their adults and the adults had their mouths hanging open. As I ascended the small incline to the main path, that goose just kept getting faster.

She – and I’m just guessing it was a she, I didn’t stop to ask – was flapping and running and snapping and hissing and squawking and aiming at me like I was dinner.

OK, so what’s a girl to do? I just starting running as fast as I could.

That crazy goose chased me through the park. And she was right on my heels. I expected my butt to get literally goosed at any second. Other walking children and adults were jumping off the path with saucer eyes as my little parade wooshed by.

I’m a fast runner, but she had a definite advantage with her massive wings. And she wasn’t a little thing either. Her head reached my shoulders. I know because on one of my panicked glances backwards, I saw the inside of her hissing beak.

As soon as I hit the parking lot, she stopped. And so did I. Turning around, I just looked at her as my lungs gulped in the sun warmed air. We stared at each other and the gathering of people behind her stared at us.

Then she quacked at me, turned around, and started waddling back to the itty-bitty beach. Adults holding their children parted like the Red Sea as she went by.

I will never know what in heavens name I did to piss that gal off, but I have done my darnedest to never do it again. And I didn’t go swinging under the moon there any more. Too close to the itty-bitty beach.

2008 30 May

Back in High School

Author: Shawn Categories: Shawniverse

So, my friend comes over with a proposition. I’m feel like I’m about to get hoodwinked because my best friend – sitting next to me – knows what’s up and is acting suspiciously coy.

Now, I haven’t been playing my trumpet very regularly for a few years or so – lots of boring factors brought that action into existence – but I’m playing again. Having old friends around that remember when I was a pretty darn tootin’ terrific player hasn’t hurt.

My best friend conducted the community concert of Handel’s Messiah this last year, and it turned out pretty great, other than my grand mis-entrance. Hey, at least I followed the sage advice of an old director. “If you make a mistake, make sure everyone hears it!” Everyone heard it all right.

It wasn’t entirely my fault. I was following the program and they forgot a recitative, so I thought I was up. On the other hand, it’s not like I haven’t played this before. I should’ve remembered. Despite that fubar (and I won’t explain that acronym or your ears might burn), and the fact that the Messiah is fairly demanding and I hadn’t practiced diligently for years until a month before the gig, I did well enough to get lots of compliments and offers to play for more people.

But, back to my beginning sentence. My friend asked if I would play in the high school musical. Yes, they have their own band, but the director of said band handed the drama department a “I don’t have time for this” a week before the show.

Since they were desperate and I was gearing up for the Messiah, I said. “Oh, I guess so.” So there I was. Back in high school. Playing a musical. A few friends had also been hoodwinked into it, but we couldn’t let our friend hang out there all by herself on the piano looking frazzled and panicked. That would have been very unfriendlike.

I did all the musicals when I was in high school. We had a stellar drama group and our band won awards at competitions every year, so it was a lot of fun. It brought back memories watching all these teenage puppies running around doing their teenage thing. Was I really that energetic back then … and that stupid silly?

I’m sure I wasn’t, but I must have been. How scary is that? Even scarier is the adage, “High school is the best time of your life”. Whoever came up with that one must have done absolutely nothing with his or her life. I wouldn’t go back to high school if you offered me my very own island.

All the drama, the ‘he said – she said’, laying about on dirty floors, the spontaneous giggling, the stinky bathrooms, the insane social rules of the teenage hormonal microcosm … I’d rather stick hot pokers into my eyeballs.

That said, we had a good time. My friend treated us to some Mexican food. Then we four went to the elementary school playground. We played four square for a while and then played on the jungle gym. At midnight.

Our collective age? 182.

2008 30 May

Climbing Mountains of Code and Still Breathing

Author: Shawn Categories: Shawniverse

As I tweak and prune and attempt to make my site (or as my best friend keeps referring to it – my baby; though I think of it as more of a beastly spawn) super user friendly, entertaining, creative, and helpful as possible to those who may drop in, I find myself experiencing unadulterated joy while fluttering on the fringes of madness.

I’ve learned a ton of stuff – HTML stuff, how to make logos, how to use FTP, learn the language of color, where to stick meta tags, where one code ends and the other begins. Six months ago, I barely understood how to make paragraph breaks and I couldn’t have explained my way out of a meta paper bag.

I never wanted to be a techie. I’ve been so resistant to anything related to code, that just seeing it made my irises bleed. Back when I was in college, computers were still the new kids on the block. The only course one could take was BASIC. I took it. There were hundreds of people taking it. We all wanted to be in the cutting edge of the next new great invention. 

Unfortunately, I might as well have tried to turn a housefly into a horse. It didn’t make a bit of sense to me and the lab assistants were so overworked and ill-equipped to answer my remedial questions, that I never did grasp one fleeting ampersand of understanding. I vowed that I would hate computers and all that they represented until the day I croaked.

Then Apple came along and my family got one. During my Christmas break, I played around with it and decided that not all computers were evil entities out to infect us with insanity. So much for vows, but I still didn’t want anything to do with HTML, CSS, or code of any kind.

I finally bought my own computer (a forever upgradeable one built by guys who may have been my lab assistants) and I’ve merrily learned what I needed to run the programs, but as soon as a hint of code peeped its slashy head into the picture, my eyeballs would start rotating in quite an unnatural way.

Since I became the editor for a computer accessories website, I had to start learning some code despite the jerks and jiggles of my optic nerves. I have to give a lot of credit to the guys I work with and for, though they are the ones who prodded me to start my own site. They have gracefully and gently pulled me through the learning process without laughing so hard that they needed to change their underpants.

So, here I am, tweaking and pruning and optimizing my site in, gasp, CODE! Though it’s all very basic – shudder – I still get headaches and my hands shake after hours of wading through the evil little slashes and their cohorts. At the same time, when I see it come out and realize I DID THAT, I experience this ultimate sense of prevailing through the struggle – as if I just climbed to the top of K2 and didn’t run out of oxygen. What a rush!

I guess now I’d better start adding more content and get more people to visit and talk to me. I didn’t do all this for nothing. Crikey …

So, do you like it?

2008 30 May

Beware the Grasshopper

Author: Shawn Categories: Shawniverse

Yesterday, I went outside to let the dog I’m watching relieve herself. I usually sit on the steps while she does her duty, but not yesterday. To my horror, there was a grasshopper sitting where I usually do.

Now most of you would probably say, well, just shoo it away. That’s a big problem, see. I am mortally terrified of grasshoppers. Just typing the name makes my heart race.

I backed away hoping peeful puppy would send the evil insect hopping. Not so. Thus reconfirming my belief that they are fearless creatures from Hades, and deliberately torment me whenever given the opportunity.

You react with laughter, yes, I know. I’m used to it. It doesn’t change my perception. I know it’s ridiculous. Most people are afraid of snakes or spiders or mountain lions or clowns or midgets. I’m not afraid of any of those things.

But hoppers? They are evil incarnate.

It all started in my uncle’s backyard in Denver when I was eleven. Where I grew up, outside of Chicago, they are little green things. The crickets are bigger than they. In the West, however, they are gigantic brown malicious creatures that not only hop around, but can FLY!

I was eleven. I was bored out of my mind because my cousins had year round school and they were gone. The backyard wasn’t finished yet. It was full of dust and weeds. But no biggie, right? It was a beautiful summer day. My imagination was fully engaged. I could find something to do. Plus, I had already been out there playing with my cousins. We had barbecued out there, too.

So, my uncle was at work. My mom and aunt were chatting. My sister was three and playing with our three year-old cousin, or maybe they were napping. I announced that I would be going out to play. No objections were sounded. I’m sure I was driving my mother bonkers. I was a very hyper kid.

I slid the glass door open and triumphantly bound out into the dusty yard. I got about ten feet from the house and was attacked. Yes, attacked. There were battalions of the beastly brown devils laying in wait for me.

They assaulted my arms and legs, my front and back, my face and hair, bouncing off of me, crawling on me, leaving trails of goo. I utterly freaked out. I began screaming and whipped my hands around, pumped my legs up and down, and madly crashed into the glass door.

My mom and aunt looked out after I nearly broke the glass and let me in. I screamed some more and relayed to them, through gasps and wheezes,  that these giant brown bugs had jumped all over me and tried to eat me!

My aunt laughed and said they were just grasshoppers. I did not laugh as tears streaked my face. My mom smiled but she didn’t laugh either.

I didn’t think about them again for a long time after returning to the safety of Chicago. The little green ones still didn’t bother me, but we hardly ever saw those. Crickets, giant June bugs, garden snakes, lightning bugs, lots and lots of mosquitoes and gnats, but few hoppers.

I returned to Colorado when I was 18. My family had moved there when I went to college. A friend from college also lived there, so we spent some time hanging out over the summer. Her mom had a new house under construction, so we went to see.

The area was new, dusty, and weedy. We happily got out of my friend’s car and walked toward the “A” frame. One of those ghastly things jumped right into my path. like a black cat, but way creepier. I was suddenly and abruptly petrified. I began to hyperventilate, shake, and tears started bursting out of my eyes. My heart was beating at the speed of light. Fortunately, my friend knew me well, spotted the problem, and shooed it away.

She was surprised, as most people are, that I could fear anything, let alone something so benign to most. And it’s true, I don’t fear much.

Grasshoppers are pure evil. I worked up the courage and actually stared one down. It stared back. I was about ten feet away and my heart was pounding so hard, I thought my ears would explode. Had the vile thing moved, I would have launched myself into space, but I was determined. And that stare down gave me the knowledge. I understood. They are creatures of the dark. You can see it in their eyes.

The moral of this story? Be careful out there in the weedy dirt. They may come when you think you’re safe. The little representatives from hell are patient and calculated. They will fly in onto the dashboard of your car, sit right in front of you, and stare at you while you drive. I know. It happened. I didn’t even turn off the car when I got home, I just opened the door and ran.

2008 28 May

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Author: Shawn Categories: Shawniverse

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