Sunday, April 27, 2008

The day I almost died

This is the infamous wave. Val took this right as I went over the rocks. You can see Brandon off to the left. He yelled my name right as she snapped this shot.

A few posts ago, I mentioned that someday I would tell the story of how I almost died. For your enjoyment, here is that story.

This past February a few friends and I traveled to the Virgin Islands to visit my good friend Brandon, who moved to St. Croix in October. Before he even had an apartment, my friend Niki had a ticket booked. Andrew and Val booked theirs about a month later, then convincing me to go too. Elissa bought her ticket after Christmas and, not much later, Niki's boyfriend Jim bought one too.

For me, this trip came at pretty poor financial time. When I bought my ticket, I was planning another year or two in Poky, but plans don't always work out that way. So I spent most of my savings moving back to Brookings and my bank account was wiped out.

Mentally, this trip came a pretty great time. Between deciding to moving back, leaving my Idaho friends, a strenuous drive back to SD, moving, starting a new job and learning to live in Brookings again, I was wiped out.

When we told Brandon we were visiting, he said you have to be open to new things. I believe in that as a life motto, so I was game. On the third day of our visit, we decided to visit go on adventure to see a tide pools near an 18th century harbor.

There are two ways to get to the tide pools -- by hiking and by jeep. Since we didn't have a jeep and didn't want to pay the extra money, we hiked. Hiking in Idaho brought me a lot of peace when I needed it, so, again, I was game.

Niki and I decided to be the official picture takers of the trip so we lagged behind a bit to photograph every leaf and interesting creature along the way. We came to a green-mossy covered rock, and I decided to hop over it. Well, my foot slipped and I fell backwards, busting my camera.

I was devastated. This was a $200 camera and it was the third day of our trip. I tried really hard to remain optimistic. I told myself that I could have seriously gotten hurt on the fall. If the worst thing to happen me on this trip was breaking my camera, then it wasn't so bad. As much as I tried this optimistic approach, it just wasn't working.

The pain of losing my camera was bit minimized when we actually got to the tide pools. The ocean reflected the most captivating blue I had even seen (well other than SDSU blue that is :) The rhythmic crashing of the waves was the best music I had ever heard. I wanted to stay out there for the rest of my life.

To actually get to the tide pools, we had to climb around black, jagged pieces of rock. Because we still had to hike back, we swapped our tennis shoes for flip flops. I don't remember the climb to be too difficult, but I was still in awe of the beauty around me. After a few minutes of climbing, we discovered and pale green pool sheltered by more black rock. We were accompanied by small green fish and the waves crashing against the rocks that blocked the ocean. Again, I wanted stay here for life.

Brandon and Andrew decided to climb up on the rocks to get a better view of the ocean. And if they were going to do it, so I was. All that I could see was blue with ripples of white getting closer and closer to shore. Every problem and doubt that existed in my life was temporarily erased at that moment.

On top of the rocks were smaller pools about the size of a hot tub. I wanted to sit in one so I ventured away from my friends to do so. I heard Brandon tell me to hold on because a big wave was coming, so I just assumed that if I ducked down in the small pool I would be fine.

The wave was stronger than any of us anticipated and it turned me around so that my back was facing the ocean and I was pinned up against the rocks of the smaller pool. I thought that was it, but the waves kept gushing and I did a backwards somersault over the rocks. I managed to grasp on to a rock before I would’ve fallen five to six feet into the ocean. At this point I am hanging off the edge of the rocks and there is nothing that is blocking me from the ocean.

As I flipped over Brandon yelled my name. He later told me that that was the scariest moment of his life. He thought I was gone.

Andrew was startled when Brandon screamed and lost his balance. The wave knocked him around a bit and he ended up with a nice size gash in his foot.

The only thing I was thinking at this moment is that this can't be it. I was bound and determined not to let the ocean take my life. I wasn't done yet and I knew God thought so too.

Once the wave calmed down, I yelled for Brandon's help. He made it over to me and helped me up before the next wave came. When I realized that I was safe and what just happened, I call I could do was laugh. I was hysterical.

Still high on adrenaline, we jumped back into the tide pools. From that point on until we got back to Brandon's car, my entire body was shacking. As we climbed around the rocks again to get back to the trail, Brandon guided my every step because my legs were trembling.

I laughed to myself as we hiked back that losing my camera earlier in the day was nothing compared to losing my life. And then that thought got me thinking.

More than likely, I would have had my camera with me on top of the rock. I would have probably been snapping shots as the wave attacked me. Because I believe that everything happens for a reason, I started to think that God had me purposely break my camera because it would have prevented me from grabbing on to the rock that saved my life.

That seems like a bit of a stretch to compare the two incidents but what happened later that day when I called my mom completely convinced me that this was true. She told me that my dad has the exact same camera I did and he never uses it so I could have his.

In the end, I didn't lose a camera and I didn't lose my life.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

Remember to be nice to our little planet. She is the only one we have.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Right where I belong

The world turns around seven times from a Saturday to Saturday. Many lives are lost, and many just begin in that time period. In the big scheme of life, seven days is nothing. But to this 23-year-old grasping on to any spots of enlightenment, a new Saturday brought very polar feelings than the last Saturday.

Last Saturday I woke up knowing it was going to be a mentally exhausting day. It took me two hours to funnel my thoughts and feelings about being back in South Dakota to one cohesive post, yet I don't think I was very successful. My mind raced the entire day about what I was really doing in Brookings and maybe I was a failure for being here.

Today, though, is a new Saturday with an entirely new set of emotions and feelings. Today, I am happy and confident. The sun is shining and I am feeling pretty unstoppable at the moment.

This might just be a good day or it might be a new way of thinking, but I am happy to be where I am today. I am happy to be living this life in Brookings, South Dakota.

So what happened this week to whip up a new feeling towards life? I am not sure if there is anything I can perfectly frame as the reason I feel this way. Life isn't that neat.

A friend read some of his poetry for me last night. Although I don't know much about poems, I was envious of his capability to expose reality with such beauty and grace. One particular poem, called Snow Flake I think, felt like a page from my life story.

Because of our degrees and the first letter of our last names, we sat next to each other on graduation day. Three weeks later, I headed west to Idaho. A few more, and he went southeast 900 miles. We would spend hours on the phone describing our new lives, dreams and ideas for the next step. But with out a solid job or any potential offers, he moved back to Brookings in October. Months later, I did the same.

But what he did took much more courage than what I did. I came back because I had a job offer. There was no offer for him. He honestly had no idea what he was going to do back here or where he was going to live, he just decided that something was waiting for him. He eventually found a place to live and a job as a full-time pizza deliver at local eatery.

When he wrote Snow Flake, it was December. The poem described the way he realized that he was in the right place. He was a college-educated pizza delivery man in PoDunk, South Dakota and he felt confident that he was doing the right thing with his life.

I think I am reaching that point. I seem to be having more of these "Yup, this is right" moments. I had that feeling today as I stopped just to gaze at the Campanile for a few seconds. Again, when I stepped inside Coughlin-Alumni Stadium for the first time in 12 months.

I feel it when a fiery pink sunset in the western sky captures my attention. I feel it when I am having dinner or enjoying conversation with friends. It comes when I run into my brother randomly around town and when I am driving on Highway 14 toward the Yellow House. And it consumes me every time someone says "It's good to have you back."

I may not know where I am going to be in a year or what I will be doing. I don't know which of my dreams I am going to have to let go for another or what God will put in front of me. But what I do know is that everything has a purpose and I am exactly where I am meant to be.

As for my friend, he started his first full-time professional job about a month ago. We are living the dream.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bengals vs. Jacks

When I first started covering Idaho State University women's basketball team, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between the Bengals and the Jackrabbits. At first, both teams seemed to be a bit more successful than their male counterparts. They both reached post-season tournaments in 2006 -- ISU, the NCAAs and SDSU, WNIT (the Jacks were still in transition mode and weren't eligible for the Big Dance). Also, they were lead by one dominant player: the Bengals, Natalie Doma and the Jacks, Megan Vogel. Both are very nice, dedicated women with potential in the WNBA. Even after I quit covering the Bengals and moved back to SD, I see another similarity between the two.

Today I was looking through the blog of my friends back at the Idaho State Journal. And topping the blog is posts about Jon Newlee's decision to leave Idaho State University for the University of Idaho. Here comes the Bengals-Jacks connection. About this time last year, Mr. Aaron Johnston announced his plans to leave the Jacks for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Both were lateral moves for two very good coaches.

Johnston's announcement was not a big surprise to SDSU fans. He was the first coach at SDSU to prove that the Division I move was valid. He earned the Jacks' first D-I post-season berth, and although it was to the WNIT, no other women’s transitional team has been able to do that. He brought in the biggest crowds to Frost since the days when SDSU and USD were rivals. He put together a team that proved SDSU could be competitive at Division I. So it was no big surprise that some other school wanted to snatch him up.

But what was a surprise is what happened about 24 hours after Johnston's announcement. On the plane ride to Wisconsin, something struck deep with in him. Between the time it took to fly from Sioux Falls to Minneapolis - about 45 minutes - he realized he couldn't leave SDSU. As he waited in the Minneapolis Airport for his connecting flight, he called SDSU AD Fred Oien and asked if his counter offer still stood. According to Collegian reporter Brian Kimmes (:D), Oien called President David L. Chicoin, who confidently put the fate of Johnston's job in Oien's gut feeling about him as a man and as a coach. And with that, Johnston was back.

This is where the coincidences end. I am pretty darn sure Jon Newlee won't be returning to the Bengals. His heart isn't as tied to the university as Johnston's, and there is nothing wrong with that. He jokingly told me that he would probably cry himself to sleep after this year once his power duo, Doma and Andrea Lightfoot, were gone. Those two the type of players that don't come to Pocatello, Idaho, very often. Plus, the athletic department at ISU is a mess, to put it lightly. There is no money, no crowd support and no credible leadership. I don't blame him for leaving.

I used to make comparisons between Newlee's and Johnston's coaching styles. It was literally fire and ice, with Newlee roaring about every wrong move and Johnston rarely loosing his temper on the court. But they struck my interest in women's basketball and helped me find more appreciation for the sport.

I wish Newlee the best of luck in Idaho and will be rooting for Johnston and the Jacks as they work towards their first trip to the NCAAs.

As for the Doma and Vogel coincidence, Vogel was drafted her senior year to the Washington Mystics. She was later cut from the team only to become an intern. This year, she is one of three trying out for one spot with Minnesota Lynx. Her decision to try out just for the one team is not much a surprise for the St. Peter native. She needs to be close to home. Most here are hoping she'll get the spot so we can hop on over the cities to see the former Jack perform her famous arm pump. She might just be the Joe Mauer of Minnesota women’s basketball.

Doma, on the other hand, wasn't drafted. She, however, was signed to the Seattle Storm. I know she will do OK there. She is one heck of a player and a team leader. Knowing how much this meant to her, I am very happy for her. I just can't wait to see her in that Canadian jersey in the Olympics.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A change of heart

My brother Chris and I live in the same town, so we usually car pool home for major holidays and events. We take turns driving so one of us can sleep. Highway 14 is so monotonous that not even a magazine can entertain you for three hours. Plus, we are Mangans and we like to sleep. The rule is that the driver gets to pick the music, no matter whose car. So it's kind of a catch 22: You get to sleep but have to listen to the other's crappy music.

Chris and I rarely like the same music. I enjoy a bit of everything - pop, country, classic, rock, alternative, punk, jazz, ect. He likes mostly punk and emo-like music. Some of it I can hum to, but other stuff, popping my eardrums seems better than listening to the junk coming from his iPod.

One particular band that makes my skin crawl is The Spill Canvas. The first few times I heard the Sioux Falls band, I wanted to throw his iPod out the window. Every song featured starryed lyrics about unrequited love and angry broken hearts. Instrumentally, the music seemed just to be an acoustic guitar that played long slow notes. And the singer's voice? The scratchy high notes and forced emotion gave him away as a guy who probably cut himself.

Maybe I didn't listen close enough. Or maybe I was being to judgmental and to quick to add a stereo type. Or maybe I just like commercialized music, but the other day I caught myself downloading a The Spill Canvas song.

Being a Sioux Falls band on the rise, local radio stations tend to play the band's songs quite a bit. I recently heard a song that I really liked, but never could get the name or artist. At one point, I thought it might be a The Spill Canvas song, but then remembered that I don't like them.

So last night I was downloading songs as a way to get my motivated to work out early the next day and wanted to try and find that song. I looked on the Top 40 Web sites, but wasn't able to figure out a name or artist to the tune. Later, as I was falling asleep, the lyrics started pouring out of me. I hopped out of bed, opened up my computer and searched the song. Sure enough, it was The Spill Canvas.

Not only do I like this particular song, I have listened to it about 10 times today and am considering putting it as my ringer. It's fresh with a fast enough pace to run to. The lyrics do pay homage to a lost love, but the beat overrides the cliché. I like this song so much, I think you should all check it below.

After one day of this song on my iPod, I might be inclined to add more The Spill Canvas songs. Let's not go that far and allow my brother to be right. It's baby steps for now.


The post I have been waiting for ...


Sunday, April 13, 2008


"Don't those let the bastards get you down."

The best advice I've ever received.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

And the internal struggle continues

"Look, I am here. I took a chance and left everyone I know behind. That's more then some people."

I used to repeat that mantra to myself over and over as I cried for home. I wasn't sure what I was doing in Idaho or whether I liked it there, but the fact that I left was the only reassurance I needed to stay.

Leaving South Dakota was something I wanted to do since high school. I wanted to go to some big fancy college and get the heck away from home. I first had my eyes on Boston College, and the University of Nebraska. But like so many people I know, my finances overshadowed those dreams and I went to SDSU instead.

Turned out, that was a pretty good decision because I had a pretty tremendous college experience. But I still had every intentions of leaving South Dakota once I got the degree.

So when the job in Idaho became a reality, I was never more excited to see the state line in the rearview mirror. I was finally getting out.

But life in Idaho wasn't exactly easy. It didn't help that I had a boyfriend back in South Dakota who wasn't so thrilled about moving to Idaho. I was also in a job that I was supposed to love, but really wasn't. And I spent a lot of time alone for a while, something I really wasn't used to.

Even though I would cried in airports as I was coming back to Idaho, life there wasn't so bad. I did find some great friends in my coworkers and I began to try new things.

Life wasn't great, but it was OK.I was getting to the point where I wasn't sure journalism was for me, and if that was true, why am I in Idaho? I still had left South Dakota, and that was all that matter for the time being.

Then the opportunity came to come back. The thing I was most proud of -- leaving South Dakota -- would be gone.

That is continually a hard thing for me to swallow. I am back in South Dakota, and even worse, I am back in Brookings. I didn't join the Peace Corp or move out to D.C. I am just in Brookings trying to figure it all out.

It's really hard to tell people that I am back in South Dakota. I know I shouldn't care what they say, but I hear them thinking "Wow, she couldn't hack it away from home. That's pathetic."

I feel like I gave up on one of my biggest dreams. That I am just settling for something comfortable, instead of really getting what I want.

But the problem is that I don't know what I want. My biggest problem is that I compare myself to other people. I am jealous of my friend who lives in San Francisco working as a volunteer or my friend who is in the Peace Corp in Fiji. I want to be off on some great adventure, but instead, I am living in Brookings.

Living in Brookings is the hardest thing about living in Brookings, everything else is good. I really enjoy what I do. My work environment is so much healthier than at the Journal and I really like going to work. I also like the fact that my work isn't life.

Outside of work, I have a pretty active social life. I am running more and have taken up yoga. I get to see my family more, and I take little trips every month. I have a new relationship with writing and its something I enjoy doing again.

Still, being back here is hard. Many people around me judge success by getting out of South Dakota and they talk about leaving Brookings daily. I just nod my head because I don't know what to say. I was once like them, but now I am back. That's all I can say is that I am back.

When I first told a friend of mine that I was offered the job at the Foundation, he said I should take it. He said that all I needed to worry about was getting to where I want to be and working on myself as a person. I guess that is what I am doing.

I remind myself that this is a temporary point of my life. The plan in life is to go back to school. Now, I am saving money so that I can. I am also trying to fight fears and work on aspects of my life that I have wanted to change.

There are problems that I have that were easy to avoid in Idaho. Being there was a good excuse not to own up to some of my insecurities and work on them. But as soon as the plane landed in South Dakota, those bad habits and tendencies would come roaring back. So one by one, I am trying to fix these things I hate about myself and am trying to really discover myself as a person.

This back and forth post is a clear example of my struggles being back here. It's also a culmination of some unresting feelings I've had this week. I just need to work through these feelings and there is no better way to do that than my own blog.

A rather humorous side note: A friend just called me to have coffee with him later today. He asked me how being back in the ol'town was. I told him that I have writing about that for the last two hours. Yup, that is how it is.

The only thing I can do now until I figure out was is the next step in my life is just to trust that God brought me back here for a reason.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A memo

Dear Mother Nature,

IT'S APRIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Please, give us a bit of spring before you beat us down with 100-degree weather.

My kindest regards,
Heather M. Mangan

P.S. I understand part of this is my fault for living in South Dakota, but I would appreciate any sympathy you are willing to give.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sometimes it still hurts ...

When we walked into the social, I saw her engaged in conversation with two or three others, all clutching cheap beer or strongly mixed drinks. They were laughing and I pretended to look anywhere but her direction. Jeremy, whom I was following to the room with the drinks, gave her a gracious hello, but I tried to make eye contact with someone else. The exchange lasted a second and we walked straight to the drink table.

We filled our cups, grabbed a few snacks and started conversation with a man we both met a year and a half earlier. It was good to see this man as we exchanged on-the-job stories. The man got up after a while to find a different conversation and we went back to the drink table. That's when she caught up with us, and right after a hello, she said "I hear you are breaking Randell's heart."

Earlier that week, I had finally gathered the courage to send an overdue email to Randell, executive editor of a local newspaper. I finally told him I was back in South Dakota working at the Foundation.

Last year, Randell took an interest in me. He knew I was the managing editor of The Collegian and I was stringing in his sports department. He delighted in my passion for the job, and told me outright he wanted me in his newsroom. He fit the part of an editor, without the cigar hanging from his mouth, and, just like an old movie, he told me I was going to be a star.

I ate it up and told him I wanted to work for him, but needed a few years outside of South Dakota for personal reasons. Days before I moved to Idaho, he told me to go to Idaho and get better so he could steal me back. That was the plan.

But plans are just plans and life changed. In a lot less time than I intended, I was back in South Dakota and out of the newspaper business. I wasn't sure how he was going to take it so I wrote him a lengthy email explaining my decision and that it doesn't mean I gave up on journalism forever. He responded with a good luck and that was it.

Disappointed with his response, I guess I wanted his blessing, although I know he would never give it to me. Like most newspaper people, he has a history of not liking those who jump ship, but really I didn't know what he would say.

When I ran into his managing editor, Maricarrol, at a newspaper conference I was attending with Jeremy, I didn't know what she would say, either. She made some remarks about me not staying in it long enough before leaving, but I would be back. With the bit of alcohol in me, these remarks, although they came off friendly, brought on the drunk blues, like seeing an ex boyfriend at a party.

Jeremy told me that nobody at the convention is going to say to me leaving the business was a good idea even though they may think it. He reminded me that this is a community that stays together and values their brother and sisters through long hours, bad pay and never-ending deadlines. When one leaves, it's hard not to call them on it. I understand, and respect, that loyalty but it just hurt.

To be honest, leaving journalism still stings. It's hard to hear my friends talk about great stories or come across a great story idea and know that I won't be seeing it through. Some days, reading the newspaper is a slap in the face. Seeing young journalists write moving pieces, move ahead in their careers and win awards is the same stomach acid feeling I got when an ex boyfriend proposed to the girl he started seeing shortly after we broke up.

This same local newspaper currently has two open positions: entertainment reporter and outdoors/environmental reporter. Both are positions I would love. Another reporter at the paper told me I should apply for them, and I the idea crossed my mind more than once. The pay might be better, I could move to Sioux Falls and I would be back in journalism.

Of course, it's not that simple. I would leave Sherry high and dry after she went out on a limb to get me here. I would need to eat a huge piece of humble pie and it would be even harder for me to go back to school. And I would be back in journalism.

I was explaining these positions to Kate and she told me to dismiss the options but remember that I left newspapers for valid reasons.

Although highly influential reasons, I didn't leave because of pay, hours or the scary instability of newspapers. I left because it wasn't me.

I used to think journalism was made for me. I got to talk to people all day, snoop into their business and write about it. I got to experience new things and meet fabulous people all while being paid.

But there was a dark side. I had to ask the questions I didn't want to and write the stories that nobody likes to here. I had to make peoples lives harder and I had to the bad guy sometimes to tell the truth.

After a cross country meet this fall, I interviewed a local girl about her race and her career. It was a Q&A so I ran the quotes verbatim. Apparently, she felt that she sounded stupid in the interview because I didn't give her enough time to rest and that I hounded her too much. She would see me and walk in the other direction when I came close. She told her coach that I couldn't talk to her until several time has passed after the race, despite the fact that I had a job to do. And she always rolled her eyes when I approached her.

That hurt, in fact, I cried at cross country meet because she was avoiding me. As I tried to calm myself down, I thought about what Dan or Kellis would have done in that situation. They would have apologized, tried to get something out of her until they gave up and then walk away without a second thought. I can't do that. I am too emotional.

I don't want to be the person people try to avoid. I don't want to be the person they hate getting phone calls from. I realized there were other parts of this job that just didn't fit my personality and that I didn't want to do this forever. The ups of the job were amazing but they weren't worth downs.

Tonight, I went to Leatherheads. In the movie, a reporter named Lexie has to write a story that reveals the exaggerated tale of man's rise to war-hero status. She knows it will ruin him, but she has to tell the truth. She calls her editor and has the following conversation:

Lexi: Harvey, sometimes this job stinks.
Harvey: It stinks most of the time.

Too me, it’s not worth it. Some people can let stuff like that roll off their back and just get the job done, but I wasn't built that way. I want to help people not piss them off. Although a reporter can do so much good, I really want to help people and that's where the masters in counseling comes in.

I will always love journalism and have fond memories, but I was made to do something else, I just don't know what. Saying goodbye to journalism still hurts and it probably will for sometime, but I know that, for me, it was the best move. I just need to find a new love.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It only takes 21 days

By now, all of my faithful readers are probably in utter shock.

"Heather has posted more in the last few days than she did while living in Idaho." Yes, this is true because I promised all of you that I would be better at this blogging stuff, and now I am really trying.

One of my coworkers graciously informed me that it only takes 21 days to create a habit. Meaning if I post every day for 21, then maybe it will become a regular component of my schedule. So this idea got me thinking, what else could become my habit?

I guess I could be a bit daring and stand on my head for 21 days, or I could take the undemanding route of habits and just drink myself silly for 21 days or until my liver gives out on me.

Really, I took this 21-days urban legend and decided to give it a whirl. But first, what is habit?

When we hear that word, we immediately list all of the habits we possess, and they are usually bad ones. I generally think of my stubby nails that never get a chance to sprout or my addiction to that sinful Web site, We never tend to think of the good habits we have, such as calling friends every few weeks to make sure their lives are going swell or double checking to make sure the door is locked.

If we focus more on our good habits and creating better ones, we could probably be a lot happier. So, I am going to try this little rule to create habits that could help me accomplish some life-goals.

Posting on my blog is the first habit on my list. Writing this much can only be good for me, especially if I want to start writing my book.

The second habit is meditating. It's something I have wanted to do for years, and when I do do it, it feels absolutely amazing. Meditating will really help me center on my thoughts and work on my shortcomings, both reasons why I moved back to South Dakota.

My third habit is one that I am already trying to accomplish, but I want to tweak it a bit -- working out. Now, I workout about three to four times a week and I want to be able to run or hit the gym five to six times a week. I am already noticing more of an ease when I run and my friend just told me today I look like someone who works out a lot. I don't agree with her, but it's good motivation. My new goal is to workout before work instead of after. I usually head to the gym or go for a run when I get home, but sometimes I work late and it takes all the motivation I can give up to put my shoes on and get out the door. Plus, I get busy with friends and whatnot so working out takes a back burner. I am gonna start waking up earlier, which is quite the goal for me, and we'll see if I can make a habit out of this.

So if the 21-day rule works for creating habits, it must work for breaking habits, right? Well, maybe I will apply that and see if I can break that nasty nail biting ritual that has been around since my birth. If it can do that, then I would say this rule is the miracle drug.

Until then, let's create some good habits.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Four women by the water cooler

When I think of sports-related pools at offices, I think of grubby men who pass their days by looking up stats and trashing talking their cubicle mate. But that is the 1990s version of office pools.

Back at the Journal, the publisher organized a fantasy football league. I didn't take part in the league because A) the entry fee was $100 and B)I have never been intrigued by the idea of picking my own football team with players for various teams across the league. To me, it didn't make sense. But I did admire it because some of my coworkers put more energy and effort into the league and beating the publisher than they did their jobs.

Most days, one of my the news reporters would saunter over to the sports side to get tips and ideas about Sunday's games. On Monday, he would linger in our department for a good 15 minutes about how great his team was doing. He was a trash talker and made sure everyone knew he was winning. The sports guys, who weren't involved in the league, made jokes and others involved in the league who join in on the trash talk until the entire office was wasting time over who was the better quarterback or running back.

Again, I just ignored it and pretended to work. This just wasn't my thing.

So when the email went out about NCAA polls at my new job, I ignored it. The pool organizer stopped in and asked if I was going to hand in my brackets and said I didn't think so. He told me to stop being a fun hater and fork over the $6 fee with my filled brackets. I though about it for a day and decided to just go ahead and play.

Before I knew it, I was actually getting involved in March Madness, which was a new concept for me. It wasn't that long ago that I actually realized that March Madness was about college basketball. I am a sports fan, just not a college basketball sports fan. But this year, I was watching games, checking scores and analyzing my brackets. I wanted to win this puppy.

I thought I had done very well with my picks and was pretty confident in my pick to win it all, Kansas. But after the first week and my fifth-to-last place finish, I realized I might not be so hot after all. I still kept with it and watched the games, hoping I could move up a bit in the ranks.

After the Sweet Sixteen, I was still alive for the Final Four and made quite the jump in places. I am now fifth overall. The current winner is Robin, who is beating me by at least 15 points, but only Rina has picked Kansas to win it all and is a head of me in the standing. My boss, Sherry, is out of it, thanks to the picks her 12-year-old son made.

The four of us happened to all be standing by the water cooler when Rina congratulated Robin on her placing but commented that she didn't have the right team. So then we all put in our two-cents of trash into the conversation when Keith walked by.

"You know what's funny about this?," Keith said. "I don't mean anything by it, but there hasn't really been any trash talk since this pool started and here you four women are trash talking by the water cooler."

I guess this office pool stuff is kind of fun. Go Jayhawks!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Finally, the UPDATE!

Yes, I know that this post is grossly overdue, but I am now writing it and that's at least something. With the exception of Saturday's unorganized depiction of my love life, it's been a good two months since my last post. So here is, hopefully, a quick update of the move and my new life.

When I last left you, I was getting ready to say goodbye to some great people and make a very difficult journey. The excruciating goodbyes got lost in stress and fear of driving a UHaul, pulling my car, through the mountains in February. After two and half days of white-knuckle driving, I finally crossed the state line only to be met with a billboard that said "Welcome to South Dakota. Watch out for Jackrabbits." Of course, the text was accompanied by a picture of the Campanile. That sign was the Christening of my new life.

The next few days were a whirled mix of unpacking and catching up with friends. I probably told the story of why I was back in Brookings about 50 times that first week, but as I ended the tale, most just looked at me, smiled and said "Well, we are glad to have you back."

Three days after I arrived in Brookings, I started my new job. It was a bit overwhelming. I didn't just jump in, I did a cannon ball into piles of projects that sat lonely on Sherry's desk until I could come and put a shiny red bow and "Finished” label on them. But from the first day, I knew I was going to like the people there and that this is going to be an adventure.

Most nights after work, I went out to dinner or drinks or a movie with friends. I played a lot of catching up, but I had no problems with this busting social life. In fact, I was giddy to have something to do every night.

Those first two weeks were a string of lunches, new projects, unsettling feelings and internal battles until I left for the Virgin Islands. I booked the tickets to visit a friend who moved there in October before I was even offered the job in South Dakota, but my boss knew I was taking this trip regardless. When the time actually came to leave, she was glad that I could go. She said, and I agreed, that I needed a few days in the sun after the last two months of emotional stress and the physical and mental drain of moving.

I arrived on the island of St. Croix where Elissa and Brandon were waiting for me. That night we picked up Val and Murph and then Jim and Nikki the next day. We spent the week drinking anything with rum, visiting various beaches and trying new food. I took the time to do a bit of writing and lots of reading. Since I am really into memoirs lately, I bought "I hope they Serve Beer in Hell," by Tucker Max and "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Two completely different books, but both authors made a deep impact on the type of writing and living I want to do.

We did a few touristy things like sail at sunset, tour the Cruzan Rum Factory and feed beer to the island's famous drinking pigs. We also hiked through the rain forest to see the tide pools. Now, that day was my favorite and worse. I almost died that day, but I am going to save that story for another post. Not to sound too cliché, but I really live different now. Maybe it was my near brush with death or maybe I just have grown up. But, as I said before, you'll read that story later on.

I came back seven days later feeling fresh and relaxed and looking pretty hot with a nice golden tan. Getting back in the swing of things wasn't too bad because I had a lot to do. I finally unpacked my apartment and now feel more settled.

Not long after I got back, I went to Omaha to see "Mamma Mia" with Kelli. That was a fun treat and good excuse to get out of Brookings. I went home for Easter, which was also nice, and this weekend I am going up north to hang out with J-Fug. SO, I am trying to take mini trips as much as I can.

I still have a very active social life, which makes me happy. I do go to basketball games and plays but I try really hard not to fall too much into the student life.

Other than that, I have just been working a lot and just living my life to try and figure out what comes after this. To make this easier for all the two people that read this blog, I thought I would answer some of the frequently asked questions that I get. Hope you all enjoy!


How do you life your new job and do you miss reporting?
I love my new job. I love being challenged in a different way and I love the different projects I work on. I enjoy being a part of something that is making it easier for students to attend a quality school. The people I work with are amazing and make work really fun. Plus, I pretty much have the best boss ever! I do miss reporting, but the politics at the Journal are not something I long for. To keep my love for writing, I have been writing short pieces when the feeling moves me. I am also currently searching freelance work. Hopefully, something good will come out of that.

How do you like being back in Brookings?
I have mixed feelings about this. Some days, I do feel like a failure because I am not out in New York or something living the dream. I did leave Brookings but now I am back and that makes me lame. Other days, it's wonderful to see familiar faces wherever I go and know that my family is only 200 miles west. So being back has ups and downs, but I know that this isn't a permanent location for me. It's just between point A and point B.

Have you seen Scott since you moved back and are you guys going to get back together?
Um, no. I tried to get Scott just to meet with me to talk about us living in the same town and whether we could be friends. Instead, we ended up fighting through text messages and that was it. I figured I would run into him since we live on the same street, about eight blocks from each other. I did see him twice, but we both pretended not to see each other. Oh well. I am really happy now, and I think he is too.

Are you seeing someone then?
Well, if you read my last post you would know that the answer is no. And that is OK. I am happy where I am at.

So what are you going to do after this job?
I have no idea. Going back to school is a pretty likely option. For about three years I have talked about getting my masters in counseling. I should probably act on that.

Do you feel that moving back was the right decision?
Yes, because I trust that it was the right decision. God brought me back for a reason, so I am just living out the plan.