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July=houseguest month June 30, 2010

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, AndalucĂ­a, fiesta, jobs schmobs, Missoula, Spain, Travel.
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I’ve been on a roll with the blog this week (not to be confused with blogroll…har. A little nerd humor…) as the picked-up pace of blogging is mirroring the rest of my life. I’ve been on hyperdrive in the past couple of weeks, scrubbing, unpacking, hammering things into the walls after midnight most nights and doing more painting than seems natural. This is because I’m desperately trying to feel settled in the new house, yes, but also because I am preparing for basically one entire month of houseguests. On Friday, my dear friend Anna arrives from Sweden. We first met in Spain in 2005, when she was in my class temporarily and then, before moving on, invited me and my then-roommate out for churros con chocolate. We became fast friends and spent a semester painting the town red, making fun of Spanish dancers, and doing a lot of laughing. In 2007, I visited her in Sweden and, after the two initial awkward minutes, realized that time didn’t really matter – we still got along swimmingly and were talking a million miles an hour, in English and Spanish, as though we needed to catch up after a few weeks away.

When I moved back to Spain, she came to visit me in time for Las Cruces, a strange holiday involving lots of drinking in the streets in front of these huge floral crosses. A month later, I took the train to Pamplona, where she was putting in Spanish semester #4 after a year of Swedish uni. More going out and eliciting eyerolls from the other subdued Swedish exchange students. Our paths haven’t crossed since June 2008, as she was finishing up school in England and spending holidays in Sweden and I’ve barely left Montana.

Her graduation present from her parents was a ticket to come and see me, info I received last summer via one of our long, multi-part, bilingual letters. We’ve spent the last 6 months planning and getting ready for her two weeks here, and I’ve booked us flights to Vegas (first time for both of us) and have made Glacier plans. It’s going to be a blast.

Then a couple of months ago, two Spanish friends (a couple – she taught elementary school with me, he’s an elementary teacher in another district) sent me a message on Facebook, saying they had a surprise for me. I figured they might be getting married….but then didn’t hear anything else from them for a while. They are an absolutely hilarious Sevillano duo and introduced me to the intricacies of the fabulous Feria de Abril, flamenco-style dress and dance lessons and all. They had talked about coming to visit at some point, but have a camper and have spent most of their recent holidays at the beach in Spain or Portugal or tooling around other parts of Europe.

Three weeks ago, I get an email from them saying they are coming to the US, along with her brother, and would like to come and visit me in Montana. They’re also going to be here in July. So…we’ll have one night with all 4 of them – the 3 Spaniards, plus the Swede – staying in my house. Then I’m going to put the Spaniards on a plane to Las Vegas (one week after I’ll get back…thanks Allegiant!), so they can go and check out Sin City, spend some time by the pool, and Anna and I can finish up our time here. I think I’ll have a day to wash the sheets and then they’ll be back for 9 days here – with Glacier and possible Yellowstone plans in the works. I’m hoping to be able to join them for one of the two, and maybe send them off with my car to the other. Sorry about the lack of air conditioning, guys…the Volvo’s all I’ve got. 🙂 At least Europeans know how to drive a stick. (weird note: Anna used to work at the Volvo factory in Sweden. It’s fate.)

Luckily, there’s an extra bedroom at the house. I bought a bed on Craig’s List and spent $35 on a bedding set from walmart.com. It’s pretty cute in person, actually:

It’s been nice to have this Friday’s deadline to motivate me, and I’m hoping to be largely done with the important unpacking by the end of the week. Come August, when I return from my family reunion, there will be some other unpacking/organizing to do, for sure, and probably a couple of lingering painting projects, but in the meantime, July will offer lots of good times and adventures with old friends I don’t get the chance to see too often. I get to show all of them Montana and the US for the first time. And I’m really ready for the vacation.

Inspiration September 20, 2009

Posted by Emily in Blogs I read and like, books, design, jobs schmobs, moving, photography, working.
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It’s funny, because lately I’ve been coming up with ideas for posts all of the time. Funny/ironic, mostly because I’ve written so little for so long. I have this great idea brewing and then I realize that I haven’t done laundry in six weeks. And I think, “I want to sit down and write, but if this laundry doesn’t get done tonight, I’ll be wearing a swimsuit to work tomorrow because I’m officially out of clean underwear.” (yes, I have about six weeks’ worth of underwear –  crucial in times like these)

Truth be told, I’m not quite certain how I am going to link all of the thoughts I’ve been having lately about big things like Life and Work and Love and Happiness. Nonetheless, I know an obvious connection exists, even as I may struggle to pull them together here. So here goes.

For a while now, I’ve been sort of in the throes of “What the hell am I doing with myself?” In some ways, this is normal. And sometimes even good. But I’ll get to that in a minute. The other side of that has been some form of quarter-life crisis, right on time (In a moment of weakness/insanity last winter, I even checked out a lame self-helpy book from the library with a title pertaining to this point in life. It was, obviously, useless). This moment involves a fair amount of self doubt and a penchant for getting emotional when reading about the economy. I’m currently working three jobs and waiting, waiting for things to finally die down. Talking to friends who are in grad school and hating it, or who are recently married, have moved, and are job hunting without any success, my situation seems pretty OK. And I’m reminded that a year ago, I would have been so psyched to have even one job. Three isn’t ideal, no, but it’s three more than many people have. For a moment I feel guilty for hogging so many, until I realize that I sort of need all three, at least in their currently functioning forms, in order to pay rent and buy food and generally pretend to be a semi-adult.

Sometimes I have some doubts, as I’m running from one gig to the next, about whether this is worth it. Or when I get a paycheck for one job that seems almost laughable. Or when people ask me what it is I want to do, longterm. With my life. Whether I’m working toward that. And I have no real way to answer them.

I think I have a pretty good idea of one thing I’d like to do with my life. But once I get on that train, it’s next stop Career. And Adulthood. And those aren’t such bad things, not at all, but they don’t let you ever go back. I won’t be in this responsibility-lite moment forever, and I don’t want to be. But I try (I really try, even though I often fail) to remember that that is where I am now. And that it’s something to be taking advantage of. Besides, it’s not like I’m going to be able to do some of the coolest adult things for a long while, like buy a house. And perhaps referring to one of the most important moments of a life as “cool” means I’m not ready to be a full-blown adult anyway.

So then there’s the title I stuck to this jumble of thoughts, inspiration. In a lot of the reading I do, inspiration comes up over and over again. It’s thrown around design blogs like you wouldn’t believe, it’s often a question in interviews with musicians and artists and writers and sometimes even CEOs. The other side of the “What the hell am I doing with myself?” thing can only be called “figuring some things out.” I know I have learned a lot about myself in the past couple of years, things that I didn’t learn in college.

I’m dealing with failure and the truth is, I didn’t have a lot of experience with it before. I’ve used my free time to do some interesting reading, to try improving my photography.

And so I attended a workshop a week or two ago by Mary Virginia Swanson, a photography marketing expert. I don’t want to be a professional photographer, it’s mostly just a hobby, but I’ve made a little money with it and it would be fun to display my work somewhere at some point, whether in a public setting or in a publication or two. And so I listened to her talk with interest. She made a lot of excellent points, ideas I hadn’t thought about but that apply to websites, marketing, networking, and resumes/portfolios in general. But one thing that really stuck with me was when she said, “To help people get to know you, share your sources of inspiration…To create and communicate, educate yourself.”

Since that night, I’ve been thinking a lot about what inspires me. Whether I feel inspired, or when. It’s felt a little elusive for a while, and I waver between feeling envious of people who talk about inspiration all the time and annoyed, convinced that it’s a put-on, that it’s maybe a little pretentious and not quite real. Who feels so damn inspired all the time? Sometimes I barely have time for the basics – work, sleep, eat, shower – and feel too drained to educate myself about my passions, let alone sit down and share my thoughts with someone else. Don’t these people start to feel overwhelmed by dishes and messy rooms and six weeks’ of laundry piled up?

Probably. My cousin Megan, who authors a blog much more frequently updated and generally more pulled together than mine, sent along a link to me about personal posting. I often hesitate to write here about things going on in my life, especially when they are negative. Having been a semi-professional job hunter for quite some time, I think being a little guarded is smart. But in reading through the article, I came across this one on the same site, which sums up a lot of what I’ve been working toward lately. I found the concept pretty fascinating. Basically, there is a certain threshold one must reach, be able to provide shelter and food and a little bit of beer money, in order to be happy. Being in responsibility-lite mode, I am thankful I don’t have a mortgage, or car payments, or daycare costs. I have some student loans, but that’s about it. I don’t have health insurance, but that’s not by choice. (young people without health insurance=irresponsible? That’s a whole other post.)

But what really matters is your relationships – with your family, your friends, someone who cares about and appreciates you. Sometimes it’s hard to identify at the time, but spending time with the people I care about is often directly rooted to me feeling inspired. Perhaps it’s indirect. Something they say or do leads me thinking some new thought, or checking out a new singer or book or whatever. Or my brain finally flips into off mode for a while with them and, walking home, there’s room enough for some moment of real appreciation. Happiness. Inspiration.

Sometimes my room is messy (ok, almost always). And I’m not as good about keeping up on the dishes as I should be. Sometimes I reach into the back of the fridge and uncover leftovers turned science experiment, and I’m a little disgusted with myself. My shoddy housekeeping can’t be completely excused away.

But in the current situation, my free time is sparse. I find that I am really protective of it. So when I get off work and I have a choice between spending time with people I care about, who help to make me feel inspired and who help to make sense of all of these jobs (it’s how I’m here), and between cleaning out my car or tidying my room or doing laundry, I choose them as much as possible. A perfectly ordered house where I’m alone doesn’t inspire me. If I sleep one hour less because I got to spend that hour with people that matter, that time was better spent. In the end I feel more rejuvenated. All of this only functions to a point of course – I’m not a total degenerate – but working more isn’t going to make me happy. An impeccable, design mag-worthy apartment isn’t going to do it, either, as much as I may fantasize. The people I care about are what make it. And I choose them.

At least until I am out of clean underwear.

Because I love free May 5, 2009

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Blogs I read and like, design, jobs schmobs, Missoula, moving.
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Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? (just attend random political get togethers on college campuses…you may have to listen to some weirdos, but they almost always have pizza)

As I’m currently pieceing together a couple of part-time gigs in town and have started the search for a place to live, I’m becoming well aware of the obscene cost of living/pay ratio in this town and am feeling a little lean in the pockets. Blah. I don’t think I’m asking for so much–a one bedroom or maybe even a studio that’s preferably not in a (dark) basement and isn’t a trailer, but so far those criteria seem hard to meet for less than about 500 big ones. Ouch.

For that reason and because, well, I love free, I’ve really been appreciating these two things lately:

  • Free music on Amazon.com. Forget Apple and their weird limitations on where you can play the music you legally bought and head over to the Amazon MP3 store. They offer ridiculously good prices–Ben Harper’s newest album can be downloaded for $3.99 this week–downloaded music is automatically added to your iTunes library (if you want it to be), lots of albums include a free track, and they have over 8,000 completely free songs ranging from well-known artists to obscure music from around the globe. You have to download this small Amazon Music Downloader application and then click, click, click your way to free music. I’m so in love with this guilt-free music (did I mention it’s totally FREE?) that I’m thinking of highlighting some good tracks I found over there in a series of posts. Yes.
  • Handwriting fonts at Kevin and Amanda’s blog. About a month ago, the woman behind Chez Larsson (a Swedish home organization blog I’m sort of infatuated with) wrote that she got a free font made of her (obviously perfectly neat) handwriting. By the time I got around to writing out all the alphabet and beyond, the site had changed the fonts to $9.95 or $14.95 with special characters. Lame. But when I searched around a bit, I came upon Kevin and Amanda’s blog. I have no clue who these people are, but hundreds of people have submitted handwriting samples to this lady, who then turns your handwriting into a font–which she emails to you for free and posts on her site. I think handwriting fonts can be so amazing when done well (and so cheesy when done poorly–Bradley Hand, anyone?) so I was psyched to download over 300 handwriting fonts with the single click of a button. Wha? Yeah, I know. Awesome. I’m totally submitting my handwriting to her tomorrow. (Amanda, if you read this, pick me!)

Spring cleaning April 20, 2009

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, blog, Blogs I read and like, jobs schmobs, Missoula, photography.
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The weather gods may keep threatening snow here about once a week, but I’ve got spring fever. So many great blog posts lately with such bright spring colors have left me with an overwhelming desire for the days to be warm and long. I had forgotten how gray winter can be here—how headlights automatically turn on in the middle of the afternoon (well, for those with cars newer than 1987, I’m told).

I don’t have a house to spring clean (or at least sort of organize…) so I thought it might be time to clean things up a bit around here. I just realized that my “About Me” section in the upper right hasn’t been updated in about a year. Oops. So that’s a work in progress. I’m also planning on adding a couple of new features in the next couple of weeks. And I just uploaded a bunch of photos to Flickr, finally.

Things have been really slow around here for a while, but I have all sorts of ideas. I’ve spent the last monthish working on a very long, tedious project (which just finished up!) and while watching pages slide through the scanner all day, it’s amazing where one’s mind wanders. The newfound sunlight is increasing this feeling of energy, excitement, creativity. Even the page flags I remove all day have me thinking spring!

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Serendipitous March 29, 2009

Posted by Emily in jobs schmobs, Montana, photography, working.
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Isn’t life weird sometimes?

After more months than I wish to count bumming around my hometown, doing a fair amount of reading and some dog walking mixed in with a lot of job applying and general internet time, all it took was one little catalyst to get things moving differently. And now, all of a sudden, everything is moving along at quite a clip in ways I would not have anticipated even a few months ago.

The temporary job I took last month is wrapping up but it looks like I’ll be staying on for a while part time. I just got hired on at a new part time job in town, one that is perfect for the recession. It doesn’t pay well, but it is something that speaks to one of my passions, something I maybe couldn’t do longterm but hope to really enjoy for a while. I’ve been on a string of housesitting gigs, one of which may turn into somewhere I can live through the summer paying only minimal rent. I’ve started seeing someone new. Things are falling into place so nicely.

I’ve been too occupied to pay too much attention to Google Reader, email, even Flickr and this blog. And that’s a good thing. A little internet time today is nice, but I’m out there taking photos, meeting friends for dinner, getting outside. It’s wonderful.

More soon.

Stuff White People Like: Unpaid Internships November 6, 2008

Posted by Emily in jobs schmobs, moving, rants, working.
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I had to giggle (and violently shake my fist) when a friend pointed out post #105 on the site Stuff White People Like: Unpaid Internships.

Over the course of my job search, I have been flabbergasted by the extent to which unpaid internships are offered as the main, and sometimes only, way to get started in a number of fields. Of course these internships are mostly 15-25 hours a week and often require a commute, making another full-time job a bit dicey, and are located in huge cities where rent and cost of living are high.

As the site says, “White people view the internship as their foot into the door to such high-profile low-paying career fields as journalism, film, politics, art, non-profits, and anything associated with a museum…If all goes according to plan, an internship will end with an offer of a job that pays $24,000 per year and will consist entirely of the same tasks they were recently doing for free.

Please add publishing to that list. I must be “the wrong kind of white person,” because I just can’t buy into the idea of competing to work for free.

Although I think I found the $25/week stipend for the internship at a famous art museum, with a job description which looked like this: Duration: January – June, 2009; a 6-month commitment expected. Average of 15+ hours per week, Monday through Friday plus evening and weekend special events as required.” even more insulting. 25 bucks? Really?

Read the entire post here.