BACKGROUND

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Starbucks and Me

Cable and Internet are not yet restored at my house. It has been two weeks now since we had them and honestly, I don't miss cable that much. Internet on the other hand...well now, that has been tougher. However, when you lose a needed service, you improvise. In this case, I added T-Mobile Hot Spot service to my cell plan (which is through T-Mobile of course) for $19.99 a month. This will allow me unlimited internet use at any T-Mobile Hot Spot. I can cancel it anytime and it will be pro-rated for the days I actually used it. Have I mentioned how much I love T-Mobile?

So, Starbucks is right up the road from my house. Every day, I drive two miles so I can use the Internet. It's always a good day when I can get the cushy bench seats, which is what I ended up with today. WOO-HOO!! The interesting thing about not having Internet access at home is that I've ended up getting a lot more done than I otherwise would have. I'm always glued to my computer at home. Now, I read more, I finish projects I've been meaning to complete, and just generally relax more. When I come to Starbucks to work on my computer, I am conscious of what I need to complete, such as logging into my online classes, and I get it done a lot faster. I do not have the luxury to put it off because if it requires the Internet, I can't get it done at home. It must be done in the moment.

On that note, I'm homeward bound. It's almost 8 p.m. and I haven't yet eaten dinner. I have, however, finished the homework I was behind on, and checked the sites I wanted to check. I've also written this blog. I'd say I've been productive. See you tomorrow at the Starbucks!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nobody likes Bok Choy

Hurricane Ike was a horrible guest. Swept in, destroyed a bunch of property, stole our power, and left. What a jerk!

The picture to the right is actually I-45 South heading to Galveston. It is normally a busy multi-lane interstate.

Dear Husband and I were VERY lucky and we continue to be grateful and feel blessed. Our house withstood the storm with only minor damage for us to contend with. The chimney blew off the roof, but that isn't a big deal. It's Houston, we've never used the fireplace. I don't even understand why homes here are built with them. It's got to be an aesthetic thing since no one really uses them.

We lost power early Saturday morning (Sept. 13), but it was back on Sunday night and that was a huge blessing considering many of our friends and family are still without power TODAY, and it's been a good 11 days since the storm. We are still without cable and internet service at home, but that is nothing compared to the real problems people are facing here. Several parts of Galveston were destroyed, homes uninhabitable because of the flood waters or because they are simply no longer there. I cannot imagine losing absolutely everything.

The upside to all the pain for many people is the generosity of the human spirit. We all pull together when something like this happens. There are several stories of people providing ice, food, and other necessities for those who don't have them or cannot get them. Getting ice, milk, bread and other similar items was nearly impossible in the aftermath of the hurricane. Those who had it were willing to share it. I even saw a handmade cardboard sign in my neighborhood that gave the address and said "We have ice, willing to share." Dear Husband helped people cut trees that had fallen in their yards or were blocking parts of their home. I was proud of him.

I stood in line for an hour at Shipley's doughnuts the Sunday after the storm hit so that I could get milk. They were the only store that had it. I bought four pints of it. Gas was even more scarce. People literally lined up for it by the mile. Cars stretched out in front of open stations for hours. Many stations had no gas at all so a lot of the media outlets started reporting where gas could be found around the city. I was lucky in that I had filled up my tank a few days prior to the storm and I don't drive a lot during the week so I still had 1/2 a tank in the aftermath of the storm.

I also went to Walmart in the days following the storm. It had not been re-stocked yet. It's very interesting to see what is left on the shelves after a big storm hits and everyone has stocked up previously. It's a study in human choice because what is left is obviously what people hate. I couldn't get certain kinds of cookies, but there was a ton of Bok Choy. Apparently, nobody likes Bok Choy.

Now that we are 11 days out from the storm, things are returning to normal for those who weren't hit particularly hard. Stores are re-stocked, it's not as difficult to get needed items such as bread, batteries, etc, and a good number of people are getting power back.

My office is still without power and Thursday is the projected date for it to be back on. We are really hoping that is the case. Once we return to the office, I will have been off for two weeks, which means I've lost an entire paycheck this month. Regardless, I continue to feel blessed beyond words because we can deal with that financial loss, we have our home, our friends and family are safe. Thank you God. And thank you to everyone who prayed/sent good thoughts for us here in Houston. It did make a difference.

Friday, September 12, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night...

The wind has started to pick up here, which isn't unusual when a hurricane is nearby. We live about 30 miles north of Houston proper and we haven't been asked to evacuate. We usually get winds, rain, and some flooding in our area when hurricanes visit. We may lose electricity as well, although I am hoping that doesn't happen for obvious reasons.

Neither Dear Husband nor I are really worried about this. We've done what we can in terms of preparing. We have plenty of water and food that doesn't require cooking. We also filled up our guest bathroom tub with water in case it's needed.

It looks bad when the Weather Channel and the news is reporting it. People mistakenly assume that Houston is a single place, but it really isn't. When they say a hurricane is hitting Houston, it doesn't mean that everyone who lives there is going to be directly hit. Houston encompasses an area of 600 square miles. Galveston and the surrounding areas generally have the most damage from the hurricanes.

This is not always true of course. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison damaged a great deal of Houston proper, so to speak. My law school library was filled with eight feet of water. 174,000 volumes and microfiche were lost. The university was given $21.4 million to rectify the damage. I wasn't a student there at the time. I started the next year. The ground floor of the Law Center always did have a weird smell to it though, which I attributed to the flood waters.

I will keep in touch with everyone through this blog and e-mail. I have to go now...I need to put the finishing touches on my Ark.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

To be...what?

I was talking with my friend J today and she mentioned that she has been thinking of going back to school to finish her degree, but isn't sure what she wants to study. It occurs to me that many people of all ages have this issue. Some feel that they have to know exactly what they want to be before starting or going back to college. Others feel that they are too old to finish a degree or start one.

I told J that I am 32 and am just now working on the education necessary to be what I want when I grow up. This is my fourth college degree and the one that will ultimately assist me in becoming a therapist, which is my final career destination. The thing is that the other three degrees have been useful in my life and will prove very valuable to me as a therapist as well. No education is ever wasted and you should never let anyone tell you that you have a time table to choose a career. Life is a series of decisions that we make with the knowledge we have at the moment. We are not stuck forever with those choices. If that was the case, we could never grow as people because we'd be living our first choices forever.

I started out by majoring in Journalism. As a junior in college, I decided I also had an interest in Sociology so I added that as a second major. When I graduated college, I worked as a fundraiser for a non-profit, which put to use both of my degrees. I had to understand people and I had to write newsletters and solicitation requests. I quit that job to move with my ex-husband to another city, where I worked as a manager of a domestic violence shelter. I then got a job as a reporter in my hometown on a twice-weekly newspaper.

After my divorce in 2001, I decided that I needed to fulfill my dream of law school. It was something I had been considering for many years. In fact, I remember telling my mother in December 1994 (my first year of college) that I was going to go to law school. It was in the back of my mind, but I needed to do other things first before making it a reality. I graduated from law school in 2005 and started the job hunt, which took a year. During that time, I worked for the Houston Chronicle as a trial transcript editor for the Enron trial. I would never have been able to do that without the journalism background as well as the law degree I had just earned.

In 2006, I was hired as an attorney. I worked full-time at that job until I realized it just wasn't for me as a full-time career. Working with clients made me realize how much better I was at the emotional side of counseling as opposed to the legal side. My strength was helping the clients feel better emotionally and I finally knew it was my calling. I quit the firm and continued to work on a law case here and there, but I started looking toward the goal of counseling. I knew that I would need at least a master's degree to pursue that career so I began looking into what I would need to do to return to school. I completed the application materials and started school in August 2007.

I landed a job in January 2008 as a technical writer for a small software company and I love it. It allows me the flexibility I need to pursue my studies while still earning a paycheck. Again, this was a job I would never have gotten without my journalism background. I also use what I learned in sociology to understand the group dynamic of the office. My law degree came in handy as well in that my boss/owner of the company was a paralegal early on in her career and we connected over the shared experience of having worked in the legal field.

All of this is to say that life has a way of working itself out and pushing you in the right direction. There are some stops and starts along the way, but nothing you ever experience or do is wasted. It all contributes to your final career choice and you will be better for it all.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

It's an Adventure

So here's the rest of the story from the last blog posting. Dear Husband and I were on the way home from the airport when my friend, AG, called. AG had been good enough to house/dog sit for us while we were in Vegas. She had been on her way to our house when she had a flat tire. She had to pull over about five miles from our house. She had left me a voice mail about this to let me know that she wouldn't be there when we got home as we had planned.

Dear Husband and I drove to where she was stuck and examined the damage. The tire was not flat, but rather ripped. The tread had started to peel away on one of the tires causing it to be difficult to drive. Dear Husband knows cars, gadgets, computers, and so on. We all piled into the car so Dear Husband could go home and get what was needed to fix the situation. He got his tools and such. We all piled back into the car, drove back to the scene, and fixed AG's car. AG followed us home so she could collect her stuff and her cat. We finally got to bed around 11 p.m. that night, which was much later than I had anticipated. I had to work the next day and I was dead tired, but that isn't terribly unusual (thank you insomnia/fatigue issues).

I'm still recovering from leaving vacation land and returning to reality. Reality is not all it's cracked up to be. If you need me, I'll be here studying vacation brochures.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Leaving Las Vegas

Dear Husband and I are home. We were both a bit sad to leave Las Vegas yesterday, but we made our last full day (Sunday) a day to remember. We started out sleeping in, which is always a great way to "start" any day. We got up and took the monorail to the MGM and walked over to M&M's World, which was SO MUCH FUN. It's four floors of everything you ever wanted to know about M&M's, not to mention the adorable M&M items. Dear Husband and I bought several souvenirs there. We feel it's important to support the chocolate economy in whatever way we can.

Next up was the Coke Museum, where we bought some Coke-related items and drank some Coke products of course. Fortified by soda, we made our way down the strip to do some more souvenir shopping. I bought a Las Vegas-print rolling suitcase and matching carry-on bag. They are great, I love them both.

I've needed a rolling suitcase for awhile now so it was as good a time as any to buy one and I got an incredible deal. Both the suitcase and the carry-on bag were under $50 total! I used them both on our way back and they were great - excellent quality for being so cheap.

After that, we headed over to The Bellagio to pick up my ticket for that night's performance of Cirque Du Soliel's "O." Dear Husband couldn't go with me since the tickets were terribly expensive. We headed back to the hotel and relaxed, then I got ready to go back to The Bellagio for the performance.

IT WAS AMAZING! I am just in awe of Cirque Du Soliel. Not only were the performers amazing, but the performance itself was its own work of art if that makes sense. The set and the costumes were unbelievable. I was three rows up from the stage in the center. Fantastic seats for a fantastic show. Fantastic isn't even the word for it, there are no words. I will definitely see another Cirque performance as soon as I possibly can. After the show, I immediately went to the gift shop and bought an "O" T-shirt and the CD of music from the show.

After the show, Dear Husband met me on the strip and we walked through Paris. We got in line to go up the Eiffel Tower, but as we got to the front, they shut it down because of high winds and lightening. They said they might start it up again, but couldn't be sure. So, we got out of line and headed over to The Venetian and then just walked the strip. It was a wonderful ending to a wonderful night.

Monday found us awake early to get ready to head home. We had to take the airport shuttle at 11:10 a.m. even though our flight wasn't until 2:30. The shuttle was packed and reservations were in short supply so we had to take what we could get. Thankfully, when we got to the airport at 11:45 a.m., we were offered a 12:45 flight by Continental with no extra charge. We jumped at the chance and were able to get home two hours earlier than we previously planned. Once we got home, more adventure ensued, but that is a story for another day.