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How to Get the Most Out of a Sportsmen’s Show

26 Feb

This month I had the singular experience of spending 55 hours out of a week in the Portland Expo Center in Oregon. No, I’m okay. Thanks for asking, though.

This was part of an annual trek to Portland for the PNW Sportsmen’s Show. During the five days of this show, the Expo Center houses hundreds upon hundreds of booths advertising guided trips, equipment, books, and about ninety different varieties of beef jerky. To translate into terms this blog has become accustomed to, people go to Sportsmen’s Shows for the same reasons people go to comic conventions:

  • To connect with like-minded people
  • To learn about new developments in the industry
  • To spend $11.99 on a single soft pretzel because the lack of vitamin D is having its way with your good sensibilities

My personal reason for attending was that my dad was running a booth and we agreed five days in this manner was a bit much for one person. Now hear this, I knew what I was getting into. I’ve been to dozens of Sportsmen’s Shows and I spent the full 5 days in the booth last year as well.

The show is massive, friendly, and it offers a diverse amount of booths to cater to every outdoor interest. Hunting, fishing, hiking, you name it. It’s also a lot, and that’s the best way I can put it as someone who can not handle a lot. It’s a lot of sweaty people in one place looking for an excuse to tell you about that kokanee fishing trip they went on last summer.

Thousands of people attend the Sportsmen’s Show in Portland every year, but, sadly, it doesn’t mean that they all have the best experience that they can have. You know what I call that? I mean, familiar, but also – a darn shame.

Let’s fix this.

How to get the Most Out of a Sportsmen’s Show

  1. Get the map at the doorImage result for reading a map gif

What’s that? You have a great sense of direction? That’s the devil talking. How do you think you’re gonna find That One Guide’s booth again once you wander away? Ask different guides in different booths? Haha, sure you will, you awful jerk. Don’t do that. Get the map. Read the map.

Image result for gravity falls snacks thompson gif

  1. Bring snacks

To be fair, this is against the rules. On the record: don’t bring snacks. Bring $36 so you can buy three soft pretzels instead. This has been my official and legal statement.

  1. Pet the dogsImage result for petting dog ghibli gif

People don’t bring their dogs to the show because their dogs ask to come along. They bring their dogs because they love their dogs and want other people to see how lovable said dogs are. Do your civic duty and tell the dogs they’re beautiful. Ask them how they became the best dogs in the world. Share your secrets with them. Just pet the dogs.

Image result for spending money bee and puppycat gif

  1. Buy something

Bring your allowance and treat yourself. You don’t have to buy something at my booth (you should but you don’t have to). Just buy something. There are a lot of deals you won’t be able to get anywhere else, and also – did you pay entry just to window shop? Why???

  1. Watch the jokesImage result for chat noir bad joke gif

Scenario: You walk past a tasteful camouflage display.

Options: A) walk by B) ask staff about their product C) Say “Whoa, didn’t see you there!” D) literally anything except for option C.

Correct Answer: every answer that wasn’t C. Look, you won’t be the first person to tell this kind of a joke. You won’t even be the second, the third, or the ninth. You will be politely smiled at and then promptly cussed out once you walk away. For the love of humanity, keep any and all camo jokes inside your head.

bingo-card

  1. Bingo

In anticipation of spending 10 hours out of each day inside a concrete box, I created a bingo card for use at the show. You can print mine or make your own. It’s a great tool for encourage you to notice and look for specific things.

 

sportsmans-show-bingo-cards

     7. Just have a good time

Everyone is there to enjoy themselves and to meet other people who are enjoying themselves. Keep your cool when it gets crowded, take a chill pill if your favorite vendor runs out of a certain product, and strike up conversations with the people around you. Share your positive thoughts and keep your judgmental ones to yourself.

Unless your positive thought is a camo joke.

In that case, shut your dirty mouth and get right out of my face

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On the Wing

25 Aug

It’s important to start a hunting trip off at least partly on your terms. No one on the trip should feel bullied into anything, or like nothing is in their favor. This, of course, means different things for different people.

If you take my route, you might spend the night before the trip loading an hour and a half of Jim Gaffigan and John Mulaney onto your phone. If you take my father’s, you may purposely download a terrible podcast and insist on listening to it for at least half an hour.

This is how my second turkey hunt with my dad began.

It takes several hours for my dad and I to drive down to our regular hunting grounds every season, and though every trip is different, there are always the same subjects that are brought up on the way down. We always pass the High Desert museum, where I typically recall a memory from my youth, a tidbit about my friend who used to work there, or any museum-related word vomit. It usually is about forty seconds after that when I suggest we skip our destination and head straight for California or Ashland directly below. This trip in particular, I’m sure that on some subliminal level I was aware that I say that every time, but I didn’t become conscious of it until my dad took in a long breath and said slowly, “I’m going to stop driving you in this direction.”

When we arrived at our destination, we touched base with our regular contact and exchanged hellos. He told us to go talk to his grandfather, the true owner of the land that we had hunted on for so many years. We already had permission to hunt, but it wouldn’t hurt to be polite, now would it? It never does.

We found the landowner’s home with the help of his grandson’s directions, “a mobile home with lots of cars around it. It looks like a lot of garbage.” It wasn’t difficult to find. We parked in the drive way and made our way up some very slippery stairs and dad knocked on a rotting door while I shared uncomfortable, extended eye contact with the most eerie housecat I’d ever seen.

He knocked again, after pointing out a puppy in a far-off doghouse. It blinked but made no sound.

He knocked one more time while I eyed a row of curious and rainbow-like chickens sitting on a handrail.

He was not answering. The animals did not welcome us. Moss was probably starting to grow over our bodies as they grew colder with no explanation. I almost definitely saw a ghost.

As we walked away, dad commented on the fact that there was smoke rising from both the chimneys and the landowner probably just didn’t hear us. I suggested that he was casting a spell. Dad nodded solemnly. We weren’t out here to judge, after all, and what we were there for was a little longer coming.

We found a flock of turkeys, which we both did a lot to chase away. After a couple of hours, it was starting to rain and most of the turkeys had figured out what was going on and taken wing.

All except for one. One turkey, sitting on the edge of a cliff on the other side of a muddy-looking ravine, and looking none too worried about why all the others had left.

I mounted my shotgun, held the bead on its head, and pulled the trigger. A burst of feathers flew outwards, but the bird I had hit was sailing straight down.

Right. The cliff.

Gravity. Right.

I heard a splash – but it took place a long while after the bird disappeared.

We hurried to the edge of the cliff and looked down. Dad and I had known the stream was there, but it still managed to surprise. It was thirty feet down with steep mud-and-clay walls around it and the water itself was an opaque brown with streaks of darker brown, constantly moving, constantly splashing, and constantly super, super brown.

Like, you know, a turkey.

Thankfully, Dad found the bird before I did, because I was a couple weeks out on that pursuit. He climbed all the way down the slope, plucked the bird out of the water, and tossed it up onto one of the only ledges in the ditch. He shouted that he was going to climb back up a different way, and I decided it was my turn to go down. I made it to the bird and devised a foolproof way to get back up again, but it required I put all my weight on a tree branch that was actively looking for excuses to join the brown below. It also required I have enough semblance of upper body strength to carry an adult turkey above my head.

That plan was not destined to go well.

My plan B to wind it up like a shot put and toss it. Without the afore-mentioned muscle tone, that obviously didn’t work either. I tried though; I tried until I was covered in the feathers of my turkey and the disapproving stares of the sparrows around me.

Finally I realized I hadn’t seen Dad in a while, and my priorities shifted from ever escaping my muddy hell to yelling his name for a solid five minutes before he peeked over the edge of the surface and I chucked a turkey at him with all of my remaining strength (not a lot).

With both hands free, I was able to more easily climb the walls, an endeavor that made necessary the truly singular pleasure of ripping chunks of stinking, heavy mud out of the vertical ground to create footholds.

Once we were both skyside again, I remember looking down at myself and thinking something along the lines of “ten showers should do it.” Dad and I were the exact shade and stench of the creek, but we had claimed the bird.

As we walked back to the car and discussed all the other birds that we had spooked, we took turns glaring down at the turkey I was dragging through the grass.

People who don’t agree with the act of hunting animals for food often cite that the animals can’t defend themselves, and how would you feel if they treated you as you treat them?

I have never been hunted with a shotgun. I hope to never be.

But today? Today that turkey got its revenge.

If turkey spirits linger before making their way to the happy hunting-free grounds in the sky, this one was splitting a feathered side watching me and dad try to scrape the mud off our hands with any sharp edge we came across on the rainy trek back to the truck.

(I’m sure he ascended before he had to listen to that podcast on the way home)

I may have won the battle, but the turkey won the war.

And for that, the bird has my undying respect.

2015 In Review

31 Dec

I don’t think anyone would disagree with me if I said 2015 was a fantastic year.

Sure, it had its share of tragedies just like any year, but also like any year, it was full of well-intentioned people who tried their best, grew stronger and closer together, and learned.

And the hover boards are great.

Early 2015 hoverboard prototype

I’m sure I don’t have to remind you all of the hover board unveiling of early February. There wasn’t a single dry eye in my household, I can tell you. This was the day we’d all waited for. Related, several reliable sources have hinted that Samsung is releasing their own brand of H-board in late 2016. Fingers crossed for lower prices? I could barely swing the cost of my first one, and with the early trials battery life, I can hardly even ride it anymore.

Doesn’t work as well over water – not enough power yet

Until then, we’ll have to stick with the single brand who has cornered the market. I’d have to say no one was surprised to see this kind of quality innovation come from Apple. It’s a great product, but I was disappointed to see that the navigational features were pretty off. Apple Maps was bad before it was connected to a moving vehicle. This nation-wide scourge of confused, levitating people is something to behold.

Of course, fashion styles were a surprise, to say the least. In 2014, everyone was talking about how seventies and eighties fashion styles were back and that “nothing was ever new.” 2015 begged to differ. Early spring saw people sporting iridescent sundresses, magic marker facial designs, and a frankly astonishing amount of plastic and velvet where neither plastic nor velvet should have been.

btf2

An average group of 2015 youth

At least it wasn’t until mid-autumn that the double-tie (regrettably) began to take hold.

A modern 2015 man

Some said triple-ties were going to make an appearance as well, but the people wearing those were outliers and should not have been counted.

The tragedies of the year should not be ignored, so I have to yet again offer my condolences to those affected by the Lawyer Purge. Though I try not to get involved in political affairs here on my blog, I think it was a disgusting act of negligence by the government to destroy thousands upon thousands of jobs when all the lawyers were abolished. Pro-Purgers insist that the judicial system is more swift than before, but at what price? The administration of justice has come to a screeching halt. Lawyers line the moving sidewalks, offering law advice in exchange for food. This is not what America is about. You know what? Don’t get me started.

A typical newspaper headline in 2015

That’s all I will say on the subject. I’m sorry to have brought politics into this, especially considering the truly glorious things that happened this year.

Among them? You guys know what I’m gonna say. I don’t think I’m alone in believing that Jaws 19 was the best yet. Sure, Jaws 5-18 all felt a bit rushed, but Jaws 19 absolutely knocked it out of the park.

btf22

One of the spectacular and innovative Jaws 19 ads

This time, it was really, really personal.

I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished this year, who I’ve become, and the dragons I’ve raised. Feel free to comment what the best moment of 2015 was for you! It’s been great being here with you as we bid another year a fond farewell.

Here’s to a bright and shiny 2016!

and Great Scott.

This Week On “Wait, Sorry, What?”

9 Dec

Last month marked my one-year anniversary of landing my first job.

Early in said employment, I overheard my then-supervisor telling a technician that yeah, she had gotten an evaluation shortly after she first started working here.

If you know me at all, or if you have a mental environment anything like mine, you can probably guess how I reacted to that particular bout of eavesdropping.

I panicked.

Everything I’d ever done wrong at the job or could conceivably do wrong in the future flashed before my eyes set to the tune of an eerie Lorde song.

When was this coming? I figured it would be at the end of my three-month trial employment. It wasn’t. Maybe six months? Half a year? That made sense. But no. So it had to be on my anniversary, right?

Apparently not.

But in case you thought my mind was a healthy place to be, no, I have not stopped thinking about it. So now? I think maybe the best thing I can do to put my mind at ease is to write it myself.


 

Performance Summary

  • What are the employee’s strongest points?

Speaks clearly on the phone, is kind to customers, willingly laughs at jokes that are severely unfunny, and has a genuine desire to do things right.

Has the workforce’s second-best handwriting and the best spelling. Has become the office standby for “how do you spell” questions. Was asked by a co-worker how to spell the word “own” once and she didn’t even make fun of him (and she really, really wanted to).

  • What are the employee’s weakest points?

Often goes about her tasks with an air of confusion if said tasks were not spelled out in excruciatingly excessive detail to her.

Gets defensive easily. Four months into her employment with our business, she responded to “How are you liking it here,” with (and I quote) “Fine! Good. What, uh, why, did I do something wrong?”

Broke the desk chair but we forgive her because we probably should have guessed she was going to be using the foot bar more than a normal person since she’s painfully short and needs the altitude

Didn’t know the difference between a copier and a printer until she had been here six months. That’s not a learning curve. That’s a mental block.

  • What can the employee do to be more effective or make improvements?

Sometimes it seems as though she has mild hearing loss and things have to be shouted to her. This, however, may well have to do with the fact that Jukebox the Ghost and Bastille is often blasting from her desk speakers. Turning the music down very low (or even off) might aid communication. Or maybe switching to country music like everyone else here

  • What additional training would benefit the employee?

We’re not certain whether or not she was ever instructed on this, but someone should probably tell her we can all hear it when she listens to Jim Gaffigan upstairs in the break room.

  • Any additional comments – 

The office has smelled much better since she started working here. Between the air filter she dragged in and the Bath and Body Works Wallflower she plugged in during the summertime, you can barely tell by scent anymore that we are adjacent to a medical marijuana dispensary.

Has left a series of confusing objects around the building, including but not limited to a small plastic dragon, an angry-looking vinyl anime character, and a stack of drawings (not meant to be found, we think) containing mostly pictures of a sinister, floating triangle with a top hat and bow tie.

None of us even want to know what that means.


Well, I’m sure I’ve over-thought this entire ordeal. Or at least I like to think I have.

Chances are, that is not what that evaluation would look like, but it feels good to get this off my chest in some way. However, as only one person seems to have noticed how long I’ve been here, I don’t even think it’s forth-coming anymore.

In any case, it helps that the effect I was going for anyway was a sort of friendly ghost who helps out but doesn’t get in the way. You know, as in no one’s sure how many generations I’ve been here for, but I clearly mean no harm?

“That’s our resident specter,” my boss will explain to the next hire. “We saw her placing a curse on the small desk printer once, but it was already pretty condemned, so none of us are worried.”

“What?” I’ll moan, my semi-transparent head spinning towards them. “Are you guys talking about me? Did I do something wrong? That chair was broken when I got here.”

How to Festival

18 Oct

Greetings, friends! I’m afraid you’ve caught me in my semi-annual if-it’s-not-about-OSF-don’t-talk-to-me post.

Obviously, I’ve just returned from my group trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. As you may know by now, I typically take this trip with a gathering of twenty-something high-schoolers, and it was with that group I saw the plays and attended a few activities – but for the most part, my mother and I stuck with our carpool team, my friend Gracie (the Wasp) and her parents.

The Ashland carpool teams in themselves are always an interesting study.

Every year, when our group congregates outside the Angus Bowmer theater, you can always tell which kids took cars together because a highly-caffeinated four-hour drive has a certain affect on people. They walk in sync, they say things in unison, and they basically walk around going

As Gracie was sentenced to sit next to me for the entirety of the trip, the image above is more or less an accurate photograph of us (she’s classic Dipper) ((Plus, she brought a couple of Cabin Pressure episodes to listen to. 10/10 would sit by again)

This year we enjoyed a spectacular trip, and should you consider making an Ashland trip of your own, I dearly hope it is as good as mine. The OSF experience is different for everyone, but there are some constants in the equation. I’ve recorded such constants in the below five steps that my group took and would now highly recommend.

1. See Ashland

Ashland is a gorgeous place. Simple as that. Gracie and I took many walks downtown, exploring stores we’d not seen before and trying out new restaurants, always making sure to drop in what became one of the taglines of our trip, “Oh my gosh I want to sit down so badly.” Of course there were high-energy times of the trip as well, and you could tell when one was going on, because one of us was belting out “SUITS” at two-second intervals and the other was swirling around street lights, crooning “THE WINGMAN I CAN WEAAR.” Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit is the first track on the official soundtrack of this trip.

2. Participate in the activities Ashland offers

Museums, walking tours, the Green show – Ashland won’t let you get bored. The group with which we bought tickets arranged a field trip to “Exploring Design,” a workshop led by Chris Tufts to explain how the costume designers at OSF use symbolism and character studies to decide on the best possible costumes. During the group activity, my team got so into the spirit of things that we very nearly dressed The Tempest‘s Caliban in Steampunk Darth Maul regalia. In any case, I expect a job offer with the festival within the month.

3. Meet the people

When you separate from your group of peers, you are freed up to meet more of the fascinating Ashland locals. Of course everyone has different ways of getting connected. Some people may strike up a conversation with their neighbors in the audience of the plays they see. Others might greet the people enjoying beautiful Lithia Park. My personal strategies included holding eye contact with the SOU students wearing fandom t-shirts and talking loudly to the Wasp about the Festival in the presence of OSF actors who were trying to get errands done in peace. What’s that? Passive socializing is not for you? Then may I recommend seeing Into the Woods and waving so hard at orchestra musicians onstage that you nearly lift off your seat?

(My row and the trumpet section really bonded. We’re going for coffee next week.)

4. Enjoy the plays

Obviously the plays are a must. The people at OSF know what they’re doing, and each play is a masterpiece. This season I saw The Cocoanuts, The Tempest, Into the Woods, and A Wrinkle in Time, though I would have loved to see more. They were all astounding in their own ways, from the ingenuity of the stage design in the Tempest, to the frankly ridiculous amount of fun the cast of the Cocoanuts was obviously having. There are tips to enjoying it as much as possible. Before A Wrinkle in Time, I read a chapter of the original work out loud to my seat buddy, and I finished the Tempest shortly before making the trip. Pre-show preparation can only do so much when the play is actively going on however, so my most certain suggestion is that you sit next to someone you may punch in the arm mercilessly, should the mood take you.

Sorry, Gracie. But I’m pretty sure we were even on that front, right?

5. Be a good audience

I love a lot of things about live theatre, but one of the main things has to be that it’s one of the few story-telling outlets where overt, unbridled enthusiasm is encouraged. Actors don’t want to play in front of a room of people half-asleep. They want to know you’re there. And considering that my one true gift is enthusiastic response, there’s no question as to why OSF is my happy place. Every audience I was a part of was excellent – it’s hard not to be responsive in Ashland. Like I said, they know what they’re doing.

When we went in to see A Wrinkle in Time, Gracie even started a small-scale round of applause for Calvin’s impressive basketball-twirling, and the actor went on to do that move for far, far longer than he had when I’d seen this play before.

Encouragement! Try it today!

At the Q&A session after the play, the darling who played Mrs. Who bounced in and said that the whole cast had asked her to tell us that we’d been a wonderful audience.

And don’t fret, Gracie and I went ahead and took way more credit than we probably should have.

The morning after I arrived home, I awoke with a cough that announced itself as the incarnation of the last four days having been spent alternately singing at the top of my lungs and scream-shouting “WHY A DUCK,” “YOU’VE GOT DREAMBOAT EYES,” and”AGONYYY” at every shadow of an opportunity.

If anything is a sign that a trip went well, that’s got to be it.

All by following five easy steps!

Fighting for My Rites

21 May

Every family has a thing.

You know, as in that family that drinks vegan shakes three meals a day, the family obsessed with dogs, cars, saving people, hunting things, or the family business.

My family, as you may know from previous posts, has been greatly influenced by the outdoorsman that is my father. This affects things that would otherwise be more normal. Our living room walls, for example, are a zoo, but the dead kind. Our vacations revolve around my dad being able to catch a fish at some point. And my sisters and I have to shoot a deer and catch a Steelhead before we are allowed to move out, or as Dad has since put it, before he will consider his three daughters adults.

I got my hunting license at twelve, and therefore dropped my first deer that year as well. Half-way done.

But the Steelhead? Not so much.

On my way to my first Steelhead trip when I was fifteen or sixteen, Dad warned me about their catch difficulty, saying, “the Steelhead is the fish of a thousand casts.” So eloquent. It was like the opening line of a poem. I lifted my head and silently accepted the challenge just before Dad continued, “So count.”

Oh, you’re serious.

I got up to eighty-five that day. No bites.

The next time I think I raised it to one hundred thirty. Maybe a couple hundred fifty next time? Who knows.

My counting only grew less enthusiastic and/or accurate. And of course, the Steelhead continued to swim around me like they could smell my naivete. She’s only at four hundred seventy-nine, I heard them gurgle to each other once. What a child. Hold back, Jim, let her sweat a little.

The best part was that at this point in my life, I wouldn’t have called myself the world’s most talented fisherman – not for lack of practice, mind you – so with every new person we had along on our endless stream of fishing trips, I had a new tutor who thought they were going to turn my sad, unskilled form into some sort of angling wizard who can call fish like a mystical freshwater siren.

If you have not been raised the way I have been, let me explain you a thing: I have been fishing (and just fine, thank you very much) since I was two years old. Two years old. So when any fishing guide who had never met me, looked at the way I held a rod, he would deduce that I didn’t even know what a fish was, and it got more than a little frustrating. No amount of authoritative “Uh-huh”s, “Yep”s, or “Mhm, Got it, thanks!”s will get you anywhere in this position.

It was a thought process that infected most guides I’d fished with by this time; it happened again a little while back, on the day I finally ensnared the elusive Steelhead.

We started the day off in a boat with two hours of rain, followed by two more hours of radio silence, briefly interrupted so my dad could reel in a Steelhead. (Factor these in if you’re doing the math on my mood)

When my fish hit, it took several minutes to reel the angry thing in, amidst the constant coaching of our guide, who seemed to be under the impression that at any moment I might give up and toss my rod to the retreating fish. But when it was near enough, he grabbed the net, dipped it in the Nestucca River, and pulled out the Steelhead I’d been waiting for.

My dad was nearly as excited as I was. I had done it. I was on my way to adulthood.

As Dad went for his camera, the guide posed next to me, cradling my catch. I motioned for the guide to give the slimy symbol of maturity to me. This fish, right here, this is my crowning achievement! The fish of a freaking thousand casts. My fish. Let me hold my dang fish.

He gave me a skeptical look and conceded a small part of its belly for me to hold on to for the picture.

“Should I -” I began, still motioning. I want to hold my fish.

“It’s pretty strong.” He said with a touch of finality, holding tighter to the fish’s tail.

I am a very short girl and I detest confrontation, so I am not often intimidating. But the eyes are the windows to the soul, so, even non-verbally, I must have said something vile to that boy.

Therefore, I can only assume that fish was fighting his poor wrist something terrible (without actually moving) and the young man had far too much chivalry to allow me to suffer as he did. With my fish. My fish. Those two words echoed in my head. You know how you don’t care about something until it’s threatened? The rapport I formed with this fish in the eleven seconds the guide and I jointly held it for pictures grew as strong as that which I share with my dearest possessions.

So when he said, “Okay,” hefted it from my empty hands, and turned to the side of the boat to let it swim free, I went full-scale three-year-old on him.

My fists balled up. My jaw dropped. My eyebrows furrowed so hard I believe I grew a unibrow. It’s a bit of a blur now, but I think I may have stamped my foot.

The guide’s back was turned and, unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to say a word.

But my performance only needed one audience member. My darling daddy, formerly occupied watching the fish just nearly escape, glanced up at my face and his eyes widened. In that moment, he didn’t need to see a fast-maturing seventeen-year-old. He needed to see his youngest daughter wearing an expression he recognized from years and years of the cruel world mistreating her.

“Hey, oh, can she let it go?”

“Oh, sure.”

So I, and I alone, let go of my lady fish’s tail to set her free.

Steelhead caught. Rite of passage finished.

And that’s how I threw a tantrum in an effort to convince my father that I was an adult.

Sweet Spot

20 Mar

Today’s post requires an explanation. 

I’m taking a class at a local Christian College (the Kilns) called Personal Calling and Mission. For the midterm project, everyone had to give a “sweet spot” presentation to illustrate what each individual was passionate about, and to apply learned concepts in the class. The following post was my sweet spot presentation (given in speech form), so know before you dive in: It has nothing to do with pop culture, it’s quite personal, has no pictures, and, for a blog post of mine, it’s lengthy, my friend.

Quite lengthy. Should you choose to proceed, do so with caution.

__________________________________

I have a name, but it might tell you more if I told you something different about myself: I am an INFP. According to the well-known Briggs Myers personality test, that stands for Introvert, Intuition, Feeling, and Perceiving.

In my case, or a condensed version of it, that means I’m a sappy, wildly imaginative person who’s bad at small talk and has a sometimes questionable work ethic.

I admit to a certain amount of temptation during the test to manipulate my answer. I was kind of hoping for a different personality type. I didn’t have a certain one in mind, but I was shooting for a specific niche, a sort of divergent style of personality with a whole new combination of letters (e.g., WOW), and it would lead to a secret encoded page in the back of the book that said, you were meant to do, no doubt about it, [fill in the blank].

That didn’t happen.

I actually ended up with the same personality as someone else in the class, which kind of felt whatever the opposite of empowering is.

I found myself wishing, against all the force of my common sense, that I had gone first so I didn’t, heaven forbid, look like a copycat. To explain away that last statement, I want to remind you, I’m the youngest of three daughters, and the closest in my family to being a toddler.

My prologue to this class, Personal Calling and Mission, starts several weeks ago. I was looking over the term’s available classes with a friend, and she pointed to one I was thinking of taking, and asked if at the end of the class, someone was going to hand me a slip of paper identifying my true calling in life.

I responded, pretending to joke around, “I certainly hope so.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t continue to hope so throughout the class.

A lot of things scare me, but few so much as the future and the massive and potentially damaging effect that I am capable of having on it. This fear, I’m sorry to say, definitely crept into my early approach to the class. For example, as I was writing down my five-year-out goals, I initially held back – because what if, in five years, I look back on these goals and haven’t accomplished them? Are my grades in this class dependent on the 22-year-old me being a successful adult? I feel very uncomfortable placing so much responsibility with someone I have yet to meet.

I think that says a lot about me.

And whose goals and priorities don’t shift through the years?

When I was about seven years old, I wanted to be a professional singer. I sang all the time, to the point where my parents were forced to institute a “no-singing” rule at the dinner table. Of course it seemed like the eventual best choice to sing and get paid for it. That’s what a life calling is all about, anyway, right?

Today, due to many, many issues with it for me, the singing dream is gone. But one thing that stands out to me about that age in my life is from when that dream was still alive and well.  I had just told an older friend about my aspiration, and she replied,

“Well, every little girl wants to be a singer.”

True. But few things really tear down a dream like being told that the dream is commonplace – and not only commonplace, but a rite of passage, a phase that you’ll eventually get over.

I’ll concede that it was a realistic point of view, but in the worst way. Reality has its place, and that place is at least three kingdoms away from the hopes and dreams of seven-year-olds.

Furthermore, I believe I stressed earlier that the last thing I don’t want to believe that I am a copycat. I’ve certainly never wanted to believe that I belong in a collective group entitled, “every little girl,” a group that will one day collectively grow up and develop realistic aims.

I find, however, that that little soundbyte has stuck with me.

Of course, it’s been several years and dozens of “when I grow up”s since then. I’ve been through detective, spy, librarian, waitress, receptionist, married to a rich guy, masked vigilante, and coroner, but as of the past few years, I believe God is calling me to write in some fashion. I would love that to include a career as an author or screenwriter, but I haven’t gotten to look at God’s road map yet.

It’s wonderful to know at least a facet of your calling, and to be able to meet with others who seem to have the same one. I have a lot of writer friends – being a writer surrounded by writers is the best thing in the world in a way. There’s a whole community of people who think like you, share ambitions with you, and can help you, but in other, more selfish ways, there’s also a downside. For example, you see firsthand just how much better your friends are than you at doing the thing you love. You see how many people there already are in the career field, doing the thing you love, and then, if you’re me, there’s also a little voice that chirps every so often in the back of your head,

“Well, every little girl wants to be a writer.”

Even without the original statement that this one is derived from, I believe I would still feel this particular anxiety. It’s a very me fear. I’ve already said I don’t want to be in the “Every Little Girl” class, but it it’s even worse to worry that I won’t even be part of the acceptably gifted ones in that class. The writers that inspire me so much are the ones I’m terrified to be compared to.

As a result of this sort of fear, I have found myself in a trap: believing that to succeed in my own eyes means to succeed in the eyes of everyone else. Therefore, to improve in this area, I start to think that everything about me has to point toward my someday writing something that everyone will like.

Earlier in the class, when we were writing our short-term and long-term goals, I remember being a little bit disappointed with mine, as they turned out to have nothing whatsoever to do with what I want to be when I grow up. However, if I have learned anything in this class, it’s that “what I am when I grow up” does not stop or start with a career. It’s just in the mix somewhere. Furthermore, if our primary calling is to make God happy and my principal aim is to make strangers like me, then I’m doing it very wrong. Why would the opinion of a clay pot mean more to me than the opinion of its potter?

Everyone has their own areas of expertise and “transferable skills,” as the class text, Live Your Calling calls them, and there’s only one opinion of how we use ours that should matter to us: the One who created them.

My transferable skills started with writing, editing, and designing/creating for preferred career inclusions.

Those three are  things I love – and coincidentally, things that seem to fit well into my personality type.

The book’s description for INFP said, among other things, that this particular group of people care intensely for people and ideas, and are drawn to careers in which they can foster growth and development in others. I really found this to be true in me.

Now first: Lord knows I am not exactly qualified to be the wellspring of growth and development. I still get a stomachache when I think about paying bills, and I’m undoubtedly long overdue for most of my impending maturity. But what I do learn, I want to pass on. And what I have learned, I have always learned through what I love: through stories, and though words.

The whole art of words has grown and evolved, and it is always shifting into some new, beautiful medium to touch more people. You must love words; you must love the magic of communication to learn.

Words were never meant to be kept silent. If something is worth writing down, it is worth being sung, spoken, shouted, or whispered. More often than not, it is the verbalization that makes the words something special. As flames lick at anything to come too close, voices ignite words with a new life, unlocking the potential energy and turning it kinetic.

You won’t ever be able to avoid it– there’s a sanctity in words, and we’ve all experienced its glory. Even if that’s not something you tend to think about, you will always notice when that glory is spoiled. For example, I feel I can safely assume that all of us have had that terrible moment, in a classroom, in a Sunday school, in a club, etc. The group is eventually asked to volunteer to read a selection out loud and as that one kid raises his hand, he lifts up the words in print, and he slays them. Every word containing over seven letters has been stretched to an unbearable seven syllables, punctuated with question marks and nervous laughter.

In that moment, as you try in vain to block out the near heretical voice, you realize there is something magical in words written and spoken well, and it doesn’t take much to break the spell.

People have used words to build wonderful causes for the advancement of good and to raise armies of terrible evil in equal measure.

The gift of words is so powerful that God literally filled volumes with his own purest and truest of words just for us.

How crazy is that?

One of the best bits for me in those heaven-inspired volumes is in Deuteronomy 31:8. It says, “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be discouraged.”

I always feel, when I read my Bible and trip over a verse about fear, anxiety, and discouragement, that God is trying to kindly slap me in the face. I do find most things terrifying, and as I said earlier, one of the primary subjects in that broad “most things” category is the future.

My typical strategy for overcoming fear or discomfort is pretending the cause of that fear or discomfort does not exist.

For a very vivid example, when my dog, whom my family and I had had for as long as I can remember, died, I didn’t even tell my oldest and closest friends about it for a week or longer. My infallible logic was that if I didn’t think about it or admit it, it didn’t have to have happened, and I didn’t need to be sad about it.

That might be more sad than pathetic if it happened years and years ago, but it didn’t. It happened last August.

So it follows that when I’m scared of the future, I tend to pull on my forever-young attitude and pretend none of my questionable and lazy choices will ever have an adverse effect on my life.

One of my core values, as I found during the course of this class, is laughter/fun. And there’s nothing wrong with that – but when it starts to take precedence over another of my core values, truth, then there is a serious problem.

That’s what I’m trying to change. If anxiety and the avoidance of it is the driving force in my decisions, then I’m not going to live up the potential God created me for.

That’s what I love about Deuteronomy 31:8; it’s tailor-made for fearful people. It says “He goes before you.” God is with you now, absolutely. But not only that – he’s already been there with you. He’s been there before you, with you, and after you. He is eternal – no matter how much we’ve messed up and we will mess up, we are incapable of messing Him up. He created us on purpose, and He personally tuned our unique weaknesses and strengths. He knows very well what we can’t handle, and He’s given us every gift that we possess to handle what we can. There’s no way you can cling onto God’s arm too hard. If you were to even ask Him to carry you for a while, He wouldn’t refuse.

He hasn’t refused so far.

He knows this path, and He’s far steadier on it than you or I will ever need to be.

Every little girl wants someone like that.

I know I am beyond blessed to be one of His little girls, and I believe that knowing that is the first half of anyone living their calling.

The rest is faith.

This week on “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing”

29 Jan

I debated with myself for a long time about whether or not it would be a good idea to write a post about my job, what with the internet being a free service and my employers knowing about its existence. I soon realized however, that as I am the only one at my job that I have anything bad to say about, I really can’t make things worse for myself than I already have.

I hope I haven’t just subconsciously dared myself to say something ridiculous and embarrassing.

First: I really like my job, and I feel so blessed to have it.

However – with any new experience eventually comes blatant evidence of lack of experience.

I have never gotten so many consecutive paper cuts in all my years, nor have I ever endeavored so valiantly to communicate via telepathy with a fax machine. I certainly never before imagined myself alternately saying, “screw you” and “thanks, honey” to a copy machine so many times per day.  Yet here I am, and in a way, I suppose I am living my childhood dream – my chair does spin, after all.

This is my first proper job I’ve held that doesn’t involve looking after children, so all my victories are of the variety that you can’t get other people to be excited about. For example, whenever I take a phone message that doesn’t involve me calling the person on the other end “Patrick” (that’s another story), it’s cause for celebration.

Thankfully, the bulk of the customers who come in are regulars, so if they ask me to do something that leads me to adopt a deer-in-headlights expression, they can usually walk me through my job.

I’m getting better, I really am, but I also believe my entire learning curve can be summed up in two statements from my supervisor when she was first training me how to print checks:

Exhbit A:

“You’re a natural!”

(said after I successfully fed check forms into printer bypass tray)

Exhibit B:

“Oh. You’re not a natural! Haha!”

(said after I successfully printed checks upside down)

One day she taught me to book-bind, which was probably my favorite task so far. I was about half-way through when I decided I was really good at it. Not a single sheet punched incorrectly, I was wasting nothing. And I was fast, faster at this task than I was at anything else I’d tried.

I rocked. I was on top of the universe. I was on a roller coaster that only went up, my friend.

And then when I was looking over my impeccable work, my supervisor pointed out that I had forgotten to put one paper in every booklet.

One paper.

One sheet of paper in each booklet.

I spent the next two hours ripping the combs out of every single booklet and re-binding them again. Usefully, I didn’t cut any (really? any?) of the bindings as short as I was supposed to, so I was able to just re-use them. Silver linings!

When the customer who’d ordered the booklets came to pick them up, she indicated the last page and said she was hoping that it would be the other way around.  My supervisor apologized, but the customer waved it off, laughing, “Don’t worry about it, you can do it next time. It’s not like I would make you un-bind them all!”

My supervisor laughed. My boss laughed. I laughed.

Hilarious.

All this to repeat what a wiser man than me once said:

sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something

Behold the sophisticated hipster version of a disjointed dialogue from a cartoon yellow dog named Jake –

Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.

Can I get an amen?

This is basically to encourage myself and everyone who’s ever been in this sort of situation.

All that bother I described was a couple months ago. I’ve gotten better. I’m growing some roots.

In fact, a couple of days ago, my supervisor dropped a freshly-printed batch of robot stickers on my desk. I nearly squealed.

“I thought you’d like them,” she said, smiling. So I have been discovered.

But this event begs the question – was it the Star Trek  and Doctor Who references, or was it maybe the Marvel poster that I put up in the ladies’ room that tipped her off about my severely eleven-year-old-boy-esque tastes?

We may never know.

The Hunt (Or: Did/Did Not Meet Expectations)

2 Nov

I recently returned from a hunting trip on which I did not hunt.

See, everyone has a role on a hunting trip, be it driver, hunter, guide, comic relief, or some combination of two or more of those and other additional choices.

And sometimes, it’s nicer to not be a hunter. Sometimes, like earlier this week, you get to be the person who’s along to make sure everyone is presented with a healthy dose of British humor and makes donuts.

That was my role.

I was proud.

Taking my job seriously, I boarded the car armed with the Cabin Pressure audio drama and Fawlty Towers VHS tapes, two quality British sitcoms with which I was determined to indoctrinate the group before the adventure was over.

My dad does a trip like this for hunting kids every year, and this time, our carpool consisted of my dad, my friends Alexa and Paxton (brother and sister), and Elijah, a slightly antagonistic and squeaky-voiced twelve-year-old. Everyone had a tag for a blacktail doe but me.

But that was comfortable with my role.

I promptly pointed out my place in the performance by forcing the entire group to listen to an episode of Cabin Pressure on the three-hour drive to our hunting spot.

When we arrived, we got straight to the hunt – Alexa’s deer was the first we went after.

Along with our core group, we had two guides, one of which we will call “Gus” for my purposes. Gus was an eccentric fellow with a hearing problem and a healthy regard for himself. Neither of those things really seemed to be noteworthy until our third hour of wandering about the property, when six o’clock rolled around. Our group settled down to watch a ridge for signs of life, and Gus took to talking. Loudly.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a hunting trip or not, but a piece of common knowledge for you – when you’re waiting for an animal to walk by, don’t just hang about speaking in loud volumes.

And in the situation you must? Then don’t just hang about saying things like “Not many people are a better shot than me, so I’m just being kind,” when giving people advice, nor “… That would have taken someone of, excuse me, my skill” when telling stories.

(That doesn’t relate to the hunting process, by the way, that’s just etiquette)

Come on son.

Anyhow, after hours of roving around, listening to Elijah talk about how good he was at Temple Run, and looking for a blacktail deer for Alexa, the long-sought animal finally presented itself. It was about 130 yards from where we stood, and my dad began to talk to Alexa about finding a rest and looking for a clear shot.

We all started to get excited for Alexa.

Well, most of us.

At this point, Gus began to look skeptical. After looking extensively at the deer through binoculars and making a grimace or two, he turned and said to my father, (loudly)

“I could make that shot. And you could make that shot. But…”

He shrugged and trailed off.

I took a moment to glare at the back of his head, and I have a feeling that Alexa had a moment of bitterness too, as she silently accepted the challenge. Gus just sort of drifted about as if he’d said nothing at all. In any case, however, Alexa dropped her blacktail deer with a single shot through the heart, and the animal was hollow an hour later.

I never asked, but I wonder how Gus felt about that.

Expectations exceeded.

Speaking of which, when we got back to the cabin, it was time for me to fulfill my role on the adventure.

I finished the donuts the next morning, taking care to make sure everything I touched for the next hour or so was entirely covered in oil. (that wasn’t intentional, it just sort of happened) But as this was my first time making donuts, I have to say, they were really rather not bad.

In fact… they were pretty darn good.

Not to mention entirely gone within four days.

But there was hunting to do on the donut day as well, and this time it was Elijah’s turn.

He’d been slowly psyching himself up for this moment – he made sure to say (several times) how well he’d done cleaning out other people’s animals last year. I had been with him that year, and I must say, I had very different memories of this particular instance.

This was going to be his first deer. Apparently, this was an opportunity that a certain deer just couldn’t pass up, because it was waiting for us not two minutes after we got on the property. We got out of the car, someone handed Elijah a gun, he took the safety off, pulled the trigger and sixty yards away, the doe he was aiming for fell right in its place. It was a great shot, and Elijah was ecstatic.

That was easy. What could go wrong now?

Well, thirty minutes after the high fiving, congratulating, and, altogether, the world’s easiest hunt, Elijah stood over his deer with a knife in his hand, squeaking, “Now I remember why I don’t like deer hunting.”

This happened on our trip last year too, when we asked for his help. You see, Elijah is an unfortunate victim of being both incredibly whiny and revolted by the animal-gutting process.

Obviously, I can’t judge him for that last bit (gutting isn’t really a blast); it was the combination of the two traits that really slowed down the procedure.

I sometimes forget that not everyone was raised the way I was; with a hunter for a father, I saw more than my fair share of this particular task, and it no longer disgusts me.

But I’ve found out: Gutting a deer is not for the squeamish.

In addition: Gutting a deer is not for Elijah.

It’s just that this is not the first deer hunt he’s been on; it’s not even his second. What does he expect the deer to be full of?

As six of us stood around him, urging him on, giving him tips, and ultimately telling him to please hurry up, it occurred to me that my role as official donut-maker and British-sitcom-bringer did not list this as one of my duties.

But again, this happened last year, and I’m sure I could have adjusted my expectations accordingly.

The deer did eventually get packed away, thanks to a lengthy group cheerleading effort.

The rest of the trip was just as successful. We gave some donuts to our nicer guide, made a visit to a dog breeder’s, and Elijah and I discussed [at length] whether or not blood banks would benefit from the Nile turning to blood (his choice of topic – but an interesting one nonetheless).

In a way, all my broader expectations for the trip were met and/or exceeded. Alexa, Elijah, Dad, and Paxton all got their deer, I made donuts that were surprisingly not revolting, and the whole group watched Fawlty Towers on our first night in the cabin.

This was a comfortable thought as we were driving back home.

The rain that had so nicely been holding back for the past few days began to fall down on the windshield.

My dad reached into the console, pulled out a donut from a Ziploc bag, and indulged in a heavenly bite.

Elijah called out from the backseat, “Can we listen to more Cabin Pressure?”

And my work was done.