Unemployment Diaries: California Edition Part III

The past few hours have been interesting. I finally mustered up the courage to leave my seat and use the restroom. I didn’t fall down the stairs, or up them for that matter and all of my possessions were still sitting where I left them.

When I ventured to the cafe car, I did make a fool of myself, naturally. I couldn’t figure out how the door that separated one train car from the next opened. Mind you, there was a huge button in the middle of the door that said PUSH. When I pushed nothing happened, so I tried to open the contraption like a sliding class door. Nothing. So I tried again and then again. After what felt like forever I finally punched the button that said push and it opened …..

A crew member was on the other side watching me struggle and I muttered, “sorry, apparently I can’t read,” as I walked by. I could do nothing but laugh, typical Shannon move.

My train, and I couldn't help but get a picture of a guy taking a picture of what I was taking a picture of ...
My train, and I couldn’t help but get a picture of a guy taking a picture of what I was taking a picture of …

The train stopped in Austin, Texas, by far the biggest city we’ve trucked through, and I soon found out a bigger city means more people waiting to board the train. I lost the seat next to me and am now making friends with an older women who’s headed up to San Fransisco.

She takes the train every time she travels to Oklahoma to see her sister. And even with my fear of flying, I tell myself she’s nuts for taking this long of a trip twice a year. I realize I might have to suck it up and fly if I can’t find a job in California. There’s no way I’d want to wait two days to see my Hubs again. 

I figure my passenger buddy lottery lucked out and at least I didn’t get stuck with someone creepy. After all, I will be sleeping next to this person for the rest of the night. We are now parked in San Antonio waiting for another train to arrive that we’ll hook up to, to make the rest of the trip west.

It’s there, standing outside of my temporary home for the next two nights, I get my first whiff of home sickness. I want my bed, I want my puppies and I want my husband. When did I turn into such a big baby? I used to pride myself on my independance and my ability to step out of my comfort zone. Now, I couldn’t be more anxious to get home.

After a long chat with my mother-in-law and a few crocodile tears later, I felt a bit better about what I was doing. And a few hours later I realized why I was feeling so overwhelmed and emotional. It comes every month and I’m not sure why it still surprises me, duh.

Because the layover in San Antonio was long, many passengers left the station to visit a bar and stretch their legs. And if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’d be correct. I thought I was going to have a rumble at 2:30 a.m. when they all showed back up to make the departure. Smiley stomped up to the second level and shouting about how he couldn’t find his seat.

When the train hooked up to the other train, the crew members came on board and turned the seats around, so the passengers would be sitting forward when it began moving again. Yes, slightly confusing for the sober person, but impossible to navigate for the drunk.

He stopped by my seat twice to ask loudly what the f**k happened to his seat. I was huddled under my blanket and snuggled into my pillow trying to figure out the most least comfortable position to fall asleep in. The last time Smiley stopped to bark, I ripped the covers off my head and gave him the meanest stink eye I could muster.

It must’ve worked. I didn’t hear a peep from him for the rest of the night. I wish I could say that about the other members of his drunken party. It’s funny, people say New Yorkers are the biggest arseholes of the country, yet I had enough common sense to not stomp around, talk on my cellphone (who the hell is up to talking at 2:00 a.m. any ways?) or chat with my passenger buddy like it was 2 p.m. in the afternoon…..

Overall, I got about thresh hours of sleep my first night. I had planned ahead and brought my own blanket and pillows, so my head wouldn’t be trying to find a comfortable resting place on the arm rest. I also brought Wet Wipes to mimic a shower before bed. I didn’t have to use the mace I kept tucked in my jacket pocket and I did manage to get some uninterrupted sleep.

PS: When you sleep on a train it’s almost impossible to not accidentally bump your seat buddy. Do your best to focus on counting sheep.

Why Not Me?

About two weeks ago I got word I could be graduating early, YAY! The only stipulation was I needed to find another internship for the summer months. If I was unable to obtain one by registration in April, then I would have to ask the Dean for a special permission project – kind of like a graduate class, where you pick what you want to research and set up deadlines with a professor.

In a matter of five minutes, my entire world as I knew it, changed. I went from nonchalantly making my way through college, to having a fire light beneath me putting my butt in high gear, kind of like a dog chasing its tail. “OH MY GOD, I AM GOING TO FINALLY GRADUATE!” I screamed it to myself, to my husband and to my friends and family.

After the excitement settled, a wave of anxiety washed over me. “Wait, now I have to find a real job? How in the flip am I going to do that?” Almost immediately I thought I could puke on the spot. It was a feeling I wanted for so long, but I had’t thought far enough head, the moments after the light in the tunnel, I just saw the light and was happy with getting closer to that. So now what?!

The day after I realized I could graduate early, I signed up for PRSSA – Public Relations Student Society of America and started to attend the meetings that invites professionals to guest speaker. Real people in the real world. Rubbing elbows and putting myself out there, was something I hadn’t wanted to do in the year and half I was enrolled at the University of North Texas, because ever since I moved here I buried myself into a cocoon and it was nice and cozy in there.

In the meetings I would walk up to the professionals, shake their hand and introduce myself, a scary irrational fear I had, what if they laugh or blow me off? I went on agency tours with PRSSA to organizations and did the same thing. In those moments I was brave, even if I didn’t think I could be. Stepping out made me realize something.

I could do this, why not me?

A chant I have been telling myself the past month. A similar mantra the 12-man chanted in the stands while watching their beloved Seattle Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl, twice. Why not me.

I have an interview this Friday with an organization I hope to be a part of, The American Red Cross of the North Texas Region. I would be tasked with writing blogs and other content for them, as well as engaging with the social media giant it houses. I couldn’t be any more excited for this opportunity.

I also signed up for a student media tour in Frisco, near the end of the month. An all day event lasting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I can’t wait to put on my Sunday best and hand out my resumes. I will be meeting with professionals from i Heart Radio, The Dallas Stars ( hockey team), the Rough Riders ( minor league baseball team) and many more. An opportunity I can’t pass up on because of my own personal fears, it’s illogical.

That little voice of doubt and fear I have carried with me for most of my life is finally being quieted. I can do this, I want a job and I will get one. I won’t settle for anything less. Why not me?

I have always been a driven, motivated and hardworking being, in everything I have tried to accomplish. I just lost sight of who I actually was, I needed a reminder.

There are so many things I want to do in this life and I finally have grown the right mindset to achieve them. I will not allow myself to hold back, it is no longer an option, I will be graduating in May and I will get a job doing what I enjoy, I won’t settle for anything less, and neither should you.

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Deaf Coffee Chat

It’s called a comfort zone for a reason, it’s nice and cozy and familiar. There are hardly any expectations or anything out of the ordinary. You don’t get your feet wet in anything new, and there isn’t a reason to fret about going there, it’s like home.

In Texas, colleges require students to take a language. After having to take Spanish for four years, I couldn’t redo the first two years, again. The University of North Texas offers American Sign Language, and I chose to take that instead.

Every third Saturday of the month, a group of people get together at a coffee shop, Zera’s. It’s a local hang out in Denton that makes a pretty good cup of joe, without the hefty price tag. It has couches, mismatched chairs and tables, with odds and ends hung up on the walls.

It is a dimly lit coffee-house, but an interesting one none the less. It felt like I as hanging out in a friends basement. The kind where all the old furniture gets thrown in to and forgotten. The walls are dark but it feels cozy. I guess you would say this place was ‘hipster central.’

Anyways, my ASL professor offers extra credit to any student who shows up, one point for every hour. Doesn’t seem worth it, but after missing a few key points last test, a couple extra points sounds pretty good, plus, who doesn’t like coffee?

As Saturday approached, I began to name everything under the sun as why I shouldn’t go, or why a couple extra points wasn’t really worth three to four hours of my time. It was nearing the time I would have to leave when my hubby bribed me into going. Promising me a surprise for going and that I needed to provide proof. The stipulation was that I had to stay at least for one hour.

I’ve grown to be so socially awkward my own husband has to bribe me into doing social things, woof.

As I pulled into the parking lot, the nasty knot in my stomach began to tighten and the want to drive home was greater than the want for extra credit. I circled the lot twice, not able to find a parking space. It must be the parking Gods telling me, “go home.” Before I could even finish the thought, the red truck I had passed twice was pulling out, dammit.

As I walked through its doors and checked out my surroundings, I had never wanted to run so badly. There were over 30-something people signing to each other, the only noises being those coming from the baristas making coffee.

I was definitely out of my element, I was in a place that I have never visited, and everybody was conversing in another language, somewhat foreign to me. It had been the first time I’d seen ASL outside of the classroom. The conversations were much quicker and weren’t repeated twice, the courtesy my ASL professor gives us.

After I ordered my coffee I wandered over to a corner filled with handmade goods. Something most local businesses do in Denton, and I pretended to look through the stuff that I probably never buy, to pass time. I had no idea what I was going to do after browsing.

Thankfully, I noticed a few girls from my morning class and went in their direction to see if they recognized me. Gratefully, they did. After we signed in to gain extra credit, we huddled near a fake wall Zera’s had put up, for a wedding reception. We listened to the wedding party speeches instead of mingling with other students, and other deaf people.

An hour was going to be painstakingly achieved at this rate. I felt like a creep watching other groups sign to each other, like I was eavesdropping on their conversations without hiding it. I was that creeper staring!

I was terrified to start any conversations with anyone who was deaf and wanted to ask me anything else besides, what is your name? My professor, Dori Reeves, probably sensed this because she came over asking us ‘what up.’ All I could do was shake my head. In a matter of an hour, I had forgotten everything I had learned in almost a year, insane.

She started to sign to me, I imagine to make me feel comfortable with my signing. Then, she tried to introduce me to a couple of guys, she asked them what the sign for ‘Mormon’ was and told me to introduce myself to them. I nervously shaped my fingers into letters to form my name and said ‘bye’ almost immediately after.

Before I knew it, a few other people, both deaf, started a conversation with me. I almost ran.

Two hours later I made a few friends I’d be happy to see next month. It was awesome. I came home telling the Hubs all about it. I did mention I messed up a few signs, when signing ‘it was nice to meet you,’ I accidentally signed ‘it was nice to date you.” Everybody had a good laugh and I did too.

I had a great time, stayed for over thee hours and can’t wait to go again. It’s nice to go out on a limb every once in a while. It was nice to use something I learned in real-time. We should all remember to step put of our boxes every once in a while.

If you’re reading from North Texas tonight, stay warm and safe. You guys can’t drive in snow or ice! ;]

I’ve got the ‘Ities & the Itch

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The art of writing is a sacred being, its appeal is charming and the idea easy, the latter is never true. Writing isn’t easy and it never will be. If you write long enough you acquire a passion for words and new ways to express them, but it’s never an easy journey, though nothing worth while hardly ever is.

Any soul who enjoys the magic of writing remembers when they first got the itch to put pen to paper and create something creative. Any “great” remembers the craving to prefect a skill became apparent. A jolt of weightless energy that hits you hard, causing the lightbulb to brighten above your head. That’s what I want to do!

Personally, I was little, maybe six or seven, too little to actually be thinking about future plans, but I knew I enjoyed reading what I wrote and creating short stories were my fav.

I acquired an eccentric style of writing while in grammar school, and my mom thought it was adorable. I had a funny tendency to only write on the left-hand edges of my paper, the rest of the paper seemed tainted. I remember thinking, look how many pages I can write! Well, when you only use half the page …

My signature trademark was soon corrected by the first or second grade, whenever the teachers start to send you home with real homework. I’m sure it’s Pre-K now, the books are heavier and the snow they have to walk to school in is deeper.

Anyways, my itch started with writing fan fiction, I didn’t know that’s what it was called, but regardless, anybody remember the T.V. series Arthur? Yes, yes I did. I wrote my own stories for Arthur and his family and friends to wander through. I wrote some stories that were funny, others were sad. Mostly, I liked to write ones that had a good moral buried in it. Typical Shannon, I was seven going on 30. 

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My mom used to keep them in her dresser, the bottom right hand drawer. By the time I was in my teens the drawer resembled how stuffed and worn it was, papers were being pushed from the sides, the handle was hanging on by one screw and the drawer had long been knocked off its frame. It was the perfect setting for where my mom crammed us kids’ works of art.

The prized possessions were all slightly brown and had obviously seen better days. Every once in a while I wonder if my mom still has them shoved in that drawer, but the memory vanishes by the time one of us calls each other.

It took years of denying any worth to my writing before I told myself to shut the -efff up. I started my higher education with the thought I’d never leave education, I’d just become a teacher. I did my classroom visits and almost ran out the door, though working with kids was rewarding.

I think that when something sinks its teeth into you, it’s hard to deny the sting it leaves. Writing got its dirty paws around me long ago, and the sooner I realized it, the quicker I believed I did have a purpose. College really does seem to suck the life out of you sometimes. 

When did your passions sink their teeth into you? Was it a furry, ( what was Arthur? An Aardvark?) cartoon friend that sparked your enthusiasm!?

-Ramble Out

Truckin’ Up To Buffalo

Is it safe to say that we, as human beings, have an overwhelming urge to fit in or feel like we belong to something? Set aside the notion of it being corny and think about it. What defines you as a person? Is it your culture, religion and family? Are you apart of a team or nostalgic about where you were raised? What is it?

78a48737096afc9efe56b310147da5b3I was born and semi-raised in Buffalo, New York. My memories of winter being my fondest, building igloos in the feet of snow we were destined to get each year and never knowing what you were for Halloween, because it was too cold to matter, everyone was double layered by the end of October anyways. My husband actually tells people I’m Canadian and that he suspects I married him for the green card.

I always felt like I belonged in Buffalo, maybe it’s because I was still young and didn’t know what it felt like to be the new girl yet again. It was my only home and I didn’t know what it meant to be anywhere else.

When I was in the fourth grade my family moved me closer to New York City. We lived in a small town called Walden. We had a town square, that mostly consisted of a library and elementary school. There were no Walmarts, but instead local grocery stores like ShopRite and Thruway.

I had made my best friends again, learned what it meant to have best friends and got my cootie shots here. I was still an outsider though. I wasn’t born in this small town and my family wasn’t tied to the local hairdresser, mechanic or family doctor. I said pop instead of soda and talked with an accent.

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When I was in eighth grade we moved again. This time, a lot farther and a little hotter. I started high school in Jacksonville, Florida and thankfully, finished it there too.

Who even knows who they are in high school, or what it means to find yourself. We all thought we knew what was up, swore we had a clue, and couldn’t be told any different. It was never the case and high school was weird.

I moved again when I was 22, with my new husband to Virginia Beach, Virginia. The first time a huge move would be made without my family. I had a new one now that consisted of only one dog at that time and a husband. I was nervous and excited at the same time.

I met two of the greatest people in Virginia, and unfortunately, true to fashion, I had to say goodbye to them a little over a year later. The Hubs wasn’t going to re-enlist and we wanted a change. Virginia smelled of sea water and he had been stuck on a boat long enough.

Ever since that move, a little piece of me never truly recovered, my husband included. He misses the ocean and being on a coast. I miss my friends and feeling like I belonged. I had people I could confide in, ladies need ladies night with plenty of wine. I can’t always lean on the hubby, Zeus knows he needs a break.

We landed in Denton, Texas in 2013. I am currently finishing up my under-grad degree and planning my escape of this flat-tornado filled-hotter than hades- state the sooner the better.

There are days I want to run home and scream, but I don’t know where home is. I listen to people talk about childhood friends, how the neighborhood has changed since they were kids, the gossip that ensues with people who have known each other for entirely too long, and I don’t have that. Will I ever? 

I’ve had an overwhelming feeling that I wouldn’t feel complete unless I moved back to Buffalo and gave it another try. Easier said than done, my husband is from Southern California, that adjust might kill him, Virginia almost did.

How do you deal with emotions that never really get resolved, even after long nights of brainstorming it? Do you push them aside and bottle them up, or rant and rave to yourself late at night, when everyone is asleep? Is it the curse of overthinking or does it mean something deeper? Tell me.

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Farewell Joni

There’s a scary reality that all living things face – death and its finality.

At night, when you nestle your head into that pillow or each morning when you pull out of the driveway, it never feels like it may be the last time you do it. You expect to see your home again, wake up from your slumber and return to doing the same routine things you do every day, the same way you have for years.

It’s never intended to be the very last time you grab your keys, slip underneath the covers or check the rearview mirror while leaving.

I got a frantic phone call this morning, in the wee hours before the sun was up. I usually go into work at 7 a.m. so I was shocked to see “Worrrrrrrrkkkkkkk” popping up on my phone. My immediate thought is “Sheet, I’m late!”

“Hey – it’s Wayne, there’s an emergency. I don’t have any openers and I’ve tried calling the other 7o’clock servers but have gotten no answer. I need you to come in early, I’ll explain then, please, I’m sorry for waking you up, but I need you.”

While I was still not sure if I was dreaming or not, I mumbled “of course.” I rolled out of bed and stumbled through the dark halls trying to find the back door. My dogs knew I was up and expected me to let them out and then feed them. I cursed whoever it was that caused me to be woken early.

My shoes were the last thing I needed to find and as I searched I began to register the voice of my frantic, breathless and somewhat desperate tone of voice my manager had so early in the morning. I tend to go straight to worse case scenario, a trait I swore I wouldn’t receive from my mother, and I hardly will say them out-loud.

Although I wouldn’t say it or let myself to think it, I had a horrible feeling and knew something bad had happened. The thought sat in the back of my mind, hiding somewhere behind my eyes, holding its breath waiting for someone to confirm its truth.

Finally, I made it to the front door of my workplace. As I stumbled into into the building, I realized I looked like I had indeed just rolled out of bed. My apron was untied and hanging from my neck, my shirt was buttoned but I missed one, in one hand my belt and the other a grapefruit.

My fear got the best of me as I headed towards the back of the restaurant and into the kitchen. Who wasn’t here? What’s going on?

“Oh, thank God,” I said. ” I thought something happened to you. Where’s Joni?”

“She called in, she went out last night with some friends to celebrate it being Friday. I think she had a little too much fun.”

Well, damn. I got a breathless manager calling me in early to cover, sounding frantic and encouraging my worrisome-self to imagine the worst. I had began to thought they had gotten into an accident that morning. They drive together some mornings and in Texas the highways aren’t lit through the long patches between cities, anything can jump out and derail you.

As I knocked on the office door to get my manager to swipe me in for duty, I looked into his eyes to see if they would deceive his calm demeanor. “Help me set up the store,” he said. “I’ll tell you later, just please help me.”

I stumbled down the server isle, into the refrigerator walk-in and around and back through dry storage. I gathered containers for ice and lemons, sugar to sweeten the tea and labels for the perishable items. All awhile imagining the conversation I would have with Joni the next day at work.

“Joni bologna, you know you got me in here two hours early because of your old partying bee-hind.”

I imagined what she would say also.

“I know that’s not you talkin’ to me like that! I know you know you can kiss my A double S!”

We’d laugh and she’d probably reach out to smack my butt. I’d respond with my usual, “harder” and the normal banter between us would ensue the rest of the day.

Before I knew it, my fellow opener, friend and co-worker was being called into the office. “I’ll speak to you next.”

I made myself busy for a few minutes, pouring myself a cup of coffee and stirring the right amount of sugars so It would make the color a nice caramel shade. I starred at the office window wondering if I should peek in, knowing I would know what was occurring the second I saw her face.

I peered into the window and saw tears streaming down her face and still I didn’t believe it.

It’s my turn now and as I walk into the office I crack a joke about how hot it is. “Yes Wayne, it’s hotter than Hades in here, can’t you just enjoy the cooler winter months temperatures?” With his back to me, he replies with a smart mouth joke. In the same second, he turns and looks at me with a look that can only described as regret. What ever he had to tell me, he didn’t want to.

“Joni’s sister called me this morning, there was an accident last night-early this morning and we’re not entirely sure what happened.”  He paused for a bit and then said, “she didn’t make it.”

I sat there bewildered with the truth finally showing its ugly face. I picked at the laminated calendar on the desk and fidgeted in the wheeled chair for what seemed like forever before I could simply say, “okay.”

I got up, headed towards the door and said I’d watch out for my fellow co-worker. They were close friends. I opened the door and went straight for my friend, gave her a hug and told her it wasn’t her fault and she couldn’t of prevented it.

I was a shoulder for each co-worker today, for anybody who wanted it. My shoulder was soaked with tears as they shuddered in my arms while bellowing out their sorrow and sadness. All I could do was stand there, they needed a shoulder and I wanted to be that rock for them.

I can’t remember a time in the long 8-years of serving that the back of house was silent. There was no obscenities being thrown around, or jokes being told. The grill cooks weren’t screaming for servers or vise versa. Nobody knew what to say to each other. They came into work that morning to do a job, and there were plenty of guests that needed our attention.

I came home and went to my rock, my husband. While I laid on the couch voiceless, he let me. After a substantial amount of time, he reached for my hand and asked if I would go outside with him. When I couldn’t find the words, he just nodded and said, “I know.”

Life is such a beautiful thing and it’s a shame when somebody has to die to remind you. There won’t be anymore tomorrows for my friend Joni, so make the best out of yours while you still can. Life is beautiful and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

I will miss your cackles every weekend that accompanied your crude banter. You always talked about how much you missed your mom, at least we can all find comfort in knowing you’re finally with her again. Rest in peace.