Sunday, July 29, 2012

What do you do and why? - Megan

What do you do and why?


Megan is my birth sister*. When we met she was working as a clothing designer and was living in another state. Since then she's moved back to Minnesota and taken on a number of roles (whether they were to help pay the bills or to help her get to her larger goal), and soon she leaves for Senegal. She may be 10 years younger than me, but in many ways she is wiser. It may be partly from her outgoing personality, but she learned the value of networking far earlier than I did. Read on to hear her story.

1. What do you do?

Umm....this is odd for me because I have too many titles & what I get paid for runs a very wide range and is ever changing. So on any given day I get paid to be a: Beekeeper, Personal Assistant, and soon-to-be Peace Corps Volunteer.

2. Why did you choose to do this? Have you always wanted to do this? Did you fall into this career or actively take steps to get here? Did you choose it or did it choose you?

After getting laid off twice since getting my undergraduate from the U of M in 2006, in 2009 I applied to the Peace Corps (yes it was long ago). During the application process they asked if I would be willing to work with honey bees, I said yes. Then the thought occurred to me that I should find some experience doing that. So I cold-called/emailed a beekeeper I remember seeing an article about from an electronic newsletter I get. We met soon after at the farmers market and I apprenticed with him over a summer before I started working for him full time for the next few years until I decided I wasn't getting younger, travel bug started to itch and should really do the Peace Corps since the economy was getting any better either.

3. What did you need to do to get here? Did you go to school? If so, was your degree related to what you are doing? Did you do something like an internship or work your way up for years? Did you take advantage of things like Informational Interviewing with those in the field?

My qualifications for assisting a beekeeper were such: not allergic to bee stings, grew up in a rural setting and not afraid of hard work (each honey super is roughly 40lbs & we handle 400+ in a season many times). I have taken a few courses through the U of M on beekeeping & queen rearing aside from being willing to apprentice (working a few days throughout a summer) unpaid for the 1st year and am always reading about it.

I was always asking questions while helping work the bees and have a very high respect for these amazing creatures and the mentors I have that have passed un-written knowledge to me. (I became even more aware of this when taking both classes through the U and very quickly they were reviewing & had other students double my age asking me questions. With 300-400 hives you become very well trained very quickly on nuances of this trade)

4. What would you do if you weren’t doing what you are? Would you do this out of necessity, because you happen to have the skill sets, or because it is your dream job?

If I wasn't doing what I was doing I would most likely figure out how to get a master’s degree funded  or go get my teaching English as a second language certificate and visit a few friends I have abroad while working teaching English to save up a nest egg for grad school.

5. If you could create a job description of what you are doing what would it be?

There are too many things. World traveler, writer, teacher, design researcher, beekeeper (eventually in the countryside of France or Italy with a vineyard)

6. Tell me a little about previous jobs you've had and if you have a degree/schooling/experience in something that isn't related to what you are doing now how did you make that jump?

I have a Bachelor of Science in Clothing Design from the University of Minnesota and have worked on a construction crew, administrative assistant, high end tailor shop associate, marketing consultant, project manager, clothing designer, personal assistant, barista and waitress.

The most common way for me to make a "jump" (might seem like none of the jobs I've had are connected) is simply find someone who does it (usually either run into them at one of my jobs), asked them if I could do an informational interview with them and simply said how much I would enjoy working at a place like that. Note:both cases were for small entrepreneur business owners and I had NO experience before working for them and they were the jobs I learned the most from and was very content in my job.

The informational interviews started because of my curiosity...I would read an article about a crafts person or company and then email them later and ask a million questions. I had found this article (I'm sure I still have it someplace) that passion will make up for any non experience you have, because you can't teach passion but you can teach any monkey how juggle.

To read more about Megan’s upcoming venture check out her blog:

*I’ve talked briefly about being adopted in the past. Megan and I share a mom and some siblings. I met her about 6 years ago along with the rest of my birth family. I’ve never really written the adoption story in detail for the blog, but if people are interested I will – let me know. 

Want to know more about this series? Click here

Friday, July 27, 2012

What do you do and why?

About a year ago my husband, Jesse, and I took a few days off of work. We decided to have a little staycation at home where we hit up local parks with the kid during the day and sat on the deck drinking wine with each other in the evening. While we didn't travel anywhere exciting it did allow us some time to slow down and have more in depth conversations than our busy work week usually allows. One of our talks revolved about the topic of 'what do I want to be when I grow up'. We both work 'grown up' jobs, but being at home for a few days started to remind me how much I miss my family, and miss having time to work out or hang out with friends (among many other things) as my current work schedule takes up so much of the day. I was feeling a bit down about my work situation and started to romanticize ideas of what I could be doing until I realized that I didn't have the skill set or couldn't afford to not have benefits or one of the million other things that came to mind that made a career change seem implausible.

During this conversation my husband also expressed to me that he thought he’d be a great technical writer, but stated it would never happen because he didn’t have a degree or experience related to this. I recalled that I have a friend who does something similar and she doesn’t have a degree in technical writing. How did she get there? This led to a whole lotta questions swirling through my head… How do people end up doing what they do? How do they make the choices they do?  When I headed off to grad school I didn’t think I would end up as an Academic Advisor. Heck, how did I get here?

In my previous position as a Birth Parent Counselor at an Adoption Agency I felt a lot of reward, but would easily get caught up in the stresses of the job. It was easy for me to look at descriptions for other professions and think “how awesome would it be to have that job?”, and “why is my job so lame?”  Then one day I wrote down a very high level description of my job:

Flexible hours, light travel, main office close to home, able to work from home at times, provide counseling and training to birth parents and adoptive parents, light speaking engagements.

Ha, this job sounded pretty cool! But I realized that a description isn’t always a reality. Those flexible hours really meant I was on call all the time. That light travel could mean that I would be driving all day long.  This put it all into perspective for me. All those jobs I thought sounded so much more awesome than mine? Maybe they weren’t after all.  

This curiosity has stayed with me for some time as to how others have come to do what they do… whether it is their dream job or the job that just pays the bills, whether someone works for a corporation, is self-employed, or stays at home raising their child… I wanted to know more. So I came up with the questions below and sent them to a bunch of my friends and family and people were nice enough to answer.

1. What do you do (feel free to share more than one thing - i.e. Academic Advisor and mom)?

2. Why did you choose to do this? Have you always wanted to do this? Did you fall into this career or actively take steps to get here? Did you choose it or did it choose you?

3. What did you need to do to get here? Did you go to school? If so, was your degree related to what you are doing? Did you do something like an internship or work your way up for years? Did you take advantage of things like Informational Interviewing with those in the field?

4.What would you do if you weren't doing what you are? Would you do this out of necessity, because you happen to have those skill sets, or because it is your dream job?

5. If you could create a job description of what you are doing what would it be?

6. Talk a little about previous jobs you've had and if you have a degree/schooling/experience in something that isn't related to what you are doing now how did you make that jump?

This really started as a project for me… something to quench that curiosity, but I figured others would be interested as well. So in the following weeks I will be posting the responses I received (with approval, of course). The responses have confirmed that finding your spot in this world is a journey, that getting there is hard work and often has obstacles or detours, and that we are all different.

I hope you find this as informative as I have. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

July Photo a Day week 3

July Photo a Day inspired by Fat Mum Slim


I had intended to get a different picture... not sure what it was, but I didn't think this one would be the 'finger' picture. Turns out it was the only picture I took with any fingers displayed.


'Sign' and 'a sign' has been a photo prompt before so I was trying to find a fresh perspective for this one when I noticed Riley playing with her train set on the floor. She get's really into this, but gets a little frustrated that the tracks don't stay together well (am seriously thinking of gluing the set onto plywood). It's cute to hear her say over and over "chucka chucka, choo choo" as she drives the train cars over the tracks.

Your addiction

I couldn't really think of an addiction that I have. I mean, I often have cravings for chocolate, but I wouldn't call it an addiction. I do crave the outdoors, though. Sometimes I'm not mindful of how much I need to be outside in nature until I am outside... and then my whole body relaxes (or maybe I need to just spend less time in front of a computer).


Turns out I didn't eat one thing on a plate this day. We all woke up late after being up with Riley for a couple hours in the middle of the night. Because of this I picked up breakfast and lunch in the skyway downtown and then my husband ordered dinner so everything was eaten in takeout wrappers/containers. It was a total food day fail for sure.


Mr. Diablo. The old guy has his favorite spots to hang out around the house, but breaks with tradition from time to time. Recently he started sleeping on my mouse pad (he'll leave me just enough room to use the mouse)... or he'll try to sleep on my wrist as I type. Sometimes I worry that these changes in behavior mean that he's trying to tell me something, but he's a cat so who knows.


These blue eyes remind me of her daddy which reminds me of a song we played during a video montage we put together for our wedding reception.

9 o'clock

Wonderful summer rain to knock 90 degrees on his butt. We turned off the air conditioning and opened the windows for a few brief hours before the heat and the humidity fought back. Is it odd that when it was pouring out I had a huge desire to go take a walk in it?

Upside down

I mentioned to my husband that the picture prompt of the day was 'upside down'. He immediately bent over to stretch his back so I quickly I snapped a picture... and then he tried to get me to delete the picture. Na-ah. It was like he was asking to have his picture taken. Plus, I get the feeling he no longer reads this blog so he'll never know.

See July Photo a Day week 1, and 2.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book Review: The Irish Americans

The Irish Americans by Jay P. Dolan

Since I've been doing a little research on my family history this historical account of Irish Americans appealed to me. Never mind that I don't come from an Irish family (adopted or birth family), but I've been curious about how people during these times decide to cross an ocean to live in a strange place. And, I'm always just curious about the past. What was life like?

The book covers Irish immigration and assimilation from the 1700's up until current times. We get to see the struggles and opportunities that arise and how it all evolves over the years. The author focuses on a number of key areas such as religion and politics. While I know the Irish are known as a passionate group, especially when it comes to religion, this book did give me a better idea on how their faith impacted the American landscape and the significant role they had in American politics.

I was a little confused when the author explains that the Protestant Irish in America were referred to as Scotch-Irish only to lose that title and then (after what appears to be a period of time when the term wasn't used) the Catholic Irish took on that name. So, apparently, if you hear the term 'Scotch-Irish' you also need to know what year it was to determine what population of Irish it is referring to. Who the heck came up with that?

I have to admit that I had a cold strong enough to make my head fuzzy for about 2 weeks while I read this book. This made reading slow going... and might have led to me not really retaining what I read during that time. Perhaps I have the whole thing about the Scotch-Irish mixed up. Regardless, I found it an interesting read that gave me a clearer idea of how the Irish impacted the American landscape. And I also might have found myself from time to time reading this book with an Irish accent in my head (and no, I wasn't on any cold medication at the time). It just couldn't be helped.

Overall, this book reads a little bit like an interesting text book. It seems to repeat itself a few times unnecessarily, but that was easy to overlook as a slight annoyance. I really did walk away learning so much more about the Irish and America's history in general. And I have a new-found respect for the struggles our ancestors (Irish or other) fought against to find a better life.

Grade: B

Books read since the beginning of 2012: 18

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Random Wrap-up

Yet another edition of random photos and videos...

Getting a little crazy playing "letters" with Daddy.

And having a 'sing off' with daddy.

We've been to this park before, but it has now worked it's way into our regular rotation. In fact, parks are now often referred to by their slide color.

Mall of America on 4th of July.

Mesmerized by the Diego Bus ride. When we finally decided to buy tickets for the rides, she announced that she wanted to go home. Go home, go home, go home! Go figure.

Like last year Riley had about 12,000 4th of July outfits that were handed down to us. Unlike last year, I didn't take a picture of every one, but did capture a couple of them. 

This kid never stops moving and always seems to be eating when she's around her papa. He thinks I have my hands full.  I don't know what he's talking about.

Ok, I guess I'm gonna have to agree with him. What a nut she is. I now understand the benefit of having children when you are younger... and can keep up with them.

She walked up these steps and then walked back down to the bottom step to jump off of it... over and over and over.

Excuse the sideways view.

As I've mentioned before Riley is a little apprehensive about water, but she seemed to enjoy the sprinkler on low and has requested it again.

Playing with a new app on the iPad. It amazes me how quick she picks up on things... and how frustrated she gets when it doesn't go her way. She does not like to be wrong, but I don't really blame her. 

One day while visiting my dad we went to a park near his house. It was really hot out (which has been the norm for some time now) and the playground equipment felt like it had been cooking in the sun for weeks. Before I fully realized this I agreed to take Riley down that big slide behind her. Turns out it was a wicked fast and hot slide... and I have the scars to prove it on my elbow and armpit (getting friction/heat burns in these areas are not recommended). I'm thankful that Riley didn't go down the slide by herself. 

Found a shady spot at the park.

Time for an ice cream cone after a rigorous workout at the park.

Just trying to stay comfortable in this never ending heat.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

July Photo a Day week 2

July Photo a Day inspired by Fat Mum Slim


Riley and I went to Papa's house this day. He lives out in Hamel and the town was preparing for their annual parade that coincides with the Hamel Rodeo. Unfortunately, all the events conflict with Riley's sleep times so we didn't get to experience any of it (one day in the future!). We did, however, go to McDonalds which was Riley's first time (and my first time in years - I'm good for a long time now, thank you). She ate a fair amount of fries, but surprisingly, only ate a little of the ice cream cone. Although, I guess I shouldn't really be surprised since I always go for salt over sweet myself. 


It still amazes me that this little girl is not a baby anymore. When we last went to the doctor she checked in at the 90th percentile for height! Seriously, where does she get that height since she comes from short to average genes. I'm sure her growth will start to slow down, but it still blows me away that she's so tall.

Your favorite color

If you've read my previous posts you probably know that my favorite color is red, but to be clear... the flowers above are not actually red. They are a dark pink which appears to be my new favorite color with clothes apparently. Once upon a time my hair used to be darker, straighter, and longer... and I wore a lot of black. After a lot of comments about looking goth I decided it was time to introduce more color into my wardrobe. That was some time ago, but I still make a point to bring some brightness to my outfits... and dark pink just happens to be my color of choice right now.


Riley has gotten pretty good about writing her letters. Here you can see a P in blue topped by the B in red. H, I and an upside down A are usually her favorites letters to write.


This carving hangs in our dining room above our buffet. When I knew we were moving into this house I got it into my head that I wanted something like this and then was lucky enough to find one on sale shortly before we moved in. Score.


Above Riley was playing with a new app on the iPad. It was pretty fun to watch her soak it up and learn new concepts. So while her mouth is open, it was really her open brain that I was in awe of.


When I originally saw this prompt I thought this would be so easy since I work downtown amidst skyscrapers, but turns out this was a Saturday and I wasn't working downtown. Rats. Sure I could have taken a picture of my house, the garage, or Target (the 3 "buildings" I entered today), but it seemed fitting to take a picture of this iPad app called Tiny Tower. This is a game my husband downloaded, but rarely plays with anymore. Riley opened it up yesterday and we both tinkered with it a little, but I didn't really know how to play it. One day later and I've expanded the building, tenants, and businesses by leaps and bounds. If only it was that easy in real life. Now if I could just turn it off and go to bed.

See July Photo a Day week 1, and 3.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The blog life

Once upon a time I didn't 'get' blogs. I really didn't understand why people wrote them or why people would read them. And there was no way I was ever going to write one. I thought "who would ever want to read about my life; who would care?".

Eventually, I realized there were some great blogs about cooking, comedy, etc, but I still didn't get the appeal of those other blogs like mommy blogs... until I became a mom. After I recovered from the stupor of having a colicky baby I started coming across blogs here and there that spoke to me or just interested me (oh, their kid does that too?).

I then started this blog a little over a year ago thinking that it was going to mostly be for grandma to stay up to date on the comings and goings of her granddaughter (she is one of my main readers), but I didn't think of myself as one of those bloggers. In fact, I still sometimes can't believe it. It was like when I dabbled in scrap booking (I think some people are still baffled about that one.) But here I am. Still blogging about my kid (and random other things) and I read more blogs these days as well. I have found great value in reading others blogs even if it is confirmation that being a mom can be tough, or that kids develop differently, or for ideas of things to do with my family.

I've read a number of local bloggers who have written accounts of their adventures at local parks and beaches, and about fun events occurring in my community. It's not that I wouldn't have discovered these on my own, but often reading these accounts gives me an extra push..."hey, that looks like fun... we should check it out". And that's what happened recently when we decided to take our water hating daughter to Medicine Lake. (Clarification: She loves the tub and her water table, but does not like pools, lakes, or splash pads.)

On the drive to the lake I tried to explain where we were going. I'd say "we are going to play with some water and sand" and each time Riley would reply with the word "sand" (it was clearly noticeable that she did not want water) . We went early in the morning to avoid the mid-day heat so we were able to find a fair amount of beach to ourselves.

As expected, Riley wanted nothing to do with the water. Even with her dad standing next to her on the beach she seemed really nervous when I would walk out into the water, yelling "mommy, mommy!".

Eventually, we discovered the 'rock' technique. Riley loves rocks and throwing rocks into water. I'd hand her a bunch of rocks, she'd throw them in the water, and Jesse and I would retrieve them for her. 

At first we dropped the rocks in her bucket which was placed just outside of the water. Then we'd drop them on the edge of the water... and each time we would put them slightly farther into the water. I sat about 10 feet out in the (very shallow) water and she eventually walked out to me and past me! The deepest she probably made it was just over her knees. She even fell down in the water and stood right back up like no big deal. It may seem little, but we were soooo proud of her.

Now, I think the key will be to keep introducing her to water. In fact, this past weekend I pulled out the sprinkler and set it on low. She might not have been running carefree through it, but she definitely played with the water and asked for it the next day too.

Perhaps she will really enjoy the water one day after all.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

July Photo a Day week 1

July Photo a Day inspired by Fat Mum Slim

Self portrait

So hot outside. Dreaming of when I can comfortably go outside again. Seems like it is never going to happen. So grateful that I have central air.


End of day and I finally get to take the headset off. The phones were ringing nonstop this week at work. My head started to burn from wearing this thing all day. Thankfully, I had two days off this week to break up the craziness.

Best part of your day

Tuesday's are always hard days for me because I work odd hours. I get to hang out with my kid in the morning (which is great), but I don't get home until 8 at night when Riley is already in bed. Although, truth be told, the best part of this day was probably that I got to leave work at 6 pm instead of 7:30. My boss forgot to tell me this so I only found out a few minutes before 6. I got to see my kid that night after all.


We went to the park at 7 am because we figured it would be the only time of the day we would be able to tolerate going outside. But, even then, it felt like a sauna. We walked about a half mile to a park, played for awhile, and then stumbled home all sweaty by 8:30. Strangely enough there were people at a shelter at the park grilling at 7:30 am. The rest of the day we spent indoors trying to stay cool.

On the floor

Jesse and Riley have been playing a new game called "letters". They both lay on their belly and say "what letter should we find", only Riley says it with this weird accent. It's too cute. I've tried playing it with her, but apparently there are times you are supposed to whisper and I don't do it like Daddy does.


I'm thinking it's about time to get rid of the high chair since Riley has to squeeze her knees in when she sits down. She's a little short to sit at the table, but I don't feel like buying a booster (we bought one and it didn't fit right so we returned it). Perhaps I shouldn't have gotten rid of those phone books after all.


Ahhhhh. It finally rained last night and broke through the oppressive weather. We spent the morning outside pulling weeds (which Riley fully embraced), coloring with chalk, and running around. It was comfortable and delightful.

See Photo a Day week 2, and 3.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

June Photo a Day Week 4+

June Photo a Day inspired by Fat Mum Slim

From a high angle

Just another day at the park.


This is the day we went to Minnehaha Falls and Riley clogged the creek up with rocks. Ok, so it wasn't quite like that, but I was ready to host an intervention as she did not want to stop throwing rocks into the water. Maybe she'll be a geologist when she gets older... or a shot put thrower. 

On your mind

I own a duplex that I rent out and I've been lucky enough to have the same (reliable) renters for the last couple of years. However, due to one couple buying a home and another running off to grad school out of state I was facing two empty units. I've been through the process of finding renters for many years. I've owned this house for about 10 years and then have helped my dad with his rentals for the last 22 years as well. Let's just say it's not my favorite thing to do. Sometimes you don't get much of a response or the people who do respond are undesirable tenants. You set up appointments and the potential renters decide to just not show up. You have multiple people wanting the unit and you have to say 'no' to someone. It can be a headache. This year I posted the ad on Craigslist and removed it a day later because I had too many people calling. It was insane. I've NEVER seen it like this before. I had heard there were a lot of renters out there, but I didn't know it was quite like this. I ended up scheduling two days of showings. Each day I blocked out two hours and scheduled people every 15 minutes... and then had to double book because that's how many people called in 1 day. 

I was lucky to have a lot of great potential renters apply. Unfortunately, I only had two units available so I had to turn a lot of people down. I hope I made the right decision with the ones I did choose.

Something cute

After I get home from work I try to get Riley outside to play most days. This night we were drawing with chalk on the sidewalk when she decided she wanted to hang on my back... then started chewing on my hair. Weird kid. 

Where you shop

This shopping trip was sort of out of the norm. On a normal Tuesday I wouldn't have gone anywhere to shop... or on most days to be honest. My husband does the grocery shopping while I am at work so I don't usually go shopping. I've really been wanting to pick up a book on parenting a toddler and I had a few hours in the morning before work so I headed out to Barnes and Noble. When we walked in the door Riley said "look at all the books" with a look of amazement on her face. I let her pick out a book (she loved this Dora one that came with a play cell phone) and then we headed over to the parenting books.

I've been struggling with being a parent of a toddler lately. Riley is a spirited kid which is in conflict with Jesse and my easy going personalities. I figure it's mostly because she is 2, but I also worry that Jesse and I aren't consistent enough in our parenting styles. I think there are things that both of us could improve on so I was hoping to find a book that would help give us a little guidance. I picked up The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, mostly because I couldn't find the book I was looking for (probably because I can't remember the name). If anyone has a good book suggestion please let me know.   


Riley had a few days where she was all about trying out the potty and even went #2 on the toilet so I thought I would introduce potty training to her more. We give her opportunities all the time, but she never seems very interested. She's at least now willing to sit on the toilet more often than not, but I don't think she's ready for us to go all in so for now we are adding stickers to this new chart for even sitting on the potty. At least she seems pretty excited about getting stickers. We are making little steps so I'm not too worried about her general lack of interest at this time. 

On the shelf

Books, books, and more books.


My other baby, Diablo.

A Friend

Or two friends. My friend, Susannah, was in town from Duluth to represent female veterans at the MN Twins game. We had a chance to go with her to the game, but decided it would be a bad idea to take a two and a half year old to an open stadium game during her nap time while it was 90 degrees. But we did get to hang out the night before with another high school friend, Joanna. The three of us, along with my hubby and Susannah's boyfriend, Jim, went to dinner at Salut in Edina. I had been wanting to try this place for some time. It was pretty good, but I think I had high hopes as it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. I will totally go back if anyone wants to sit on the patio and share the calamari with me. Nummy and a little spicy.

See June Photo a Day week 1, 2, and 3.