Monday, October 16, 2006
Monday, October 02, 2006
How do you decide? With the heart or mind?
I have finally for the first time in my life found a man who loves me for me, and I’m in love – real adult realistic love. He’s not dependent or crazy or attempting to control me. I’m for the first time not playing out the dysfunctional drama of my relationship with my father. He is just happy to be with me and encourage me to grow and move toward my goals.
I had to wait until I was 34 to find this!
Except… he’s here in Casper, Wyoming, a place I’ve been saying I want to leave for three years, the same amount of time I’ve lived here, almost…
And on Sunday, I received the offer for a job in D.C., a job like I’ve never been offered before – the culmination of my having kept all of those other jobs that weren’t the greatest, slogging my way through, moving forward. And now, I have this great invitation to take a job that I love! A chance to move up in my career path and live in D.C., where there is always something to do.
I was this mix of happy and sad when I read the offer letter. Happy because I’ve always wanted to be accepted into some great job somewhere, to feel like I belong with the rest of society and am worth just as much as them in the salary world, to really have this chance to prove myself. Sad, because I know I must choose between a very possible lifelong love and this opportunity; but I cannot have them both in one place.
Have you ever been faced with such an impending decision? And what do you make the decision with? The heart or the mind?
Friday, September 29, 2006
Learning for the first time to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for myself
A few weeks ago, I was asked to use the S.M.A.R.T. goal philosophy at work toward creating objectives and goals for a performance plan my boss could use to evaluate my work. I was unfamiliar with it, and I struggled to define any time-sensitive, concrete goals. I later realized why I had such difficulty. I never set goals for myself, not even personal ones. I just do work as it comes to me, and begrudgingly watch my days slip away into an uncertain future. I don’t think ahead or big picture. I usually just float along through life, unhappy because of the way it is, hoping for miracles and looking toward every silver lining or quick fix to distract me for a time. I’m always thinking that that one new person in my life, that bigger, better city, that great job will fix everything. But those are only temporary fixes, and they only gloss over the reality of my unhappiness beneath the surface. I should know from experience.
Anyway, what have I REALLY ever done to make that good life I talk about wanting so badly happen? Nothing… until today when I began brainstorming on a huge list of doable objectives for myself.
It’s still a work in progress, since some of them need to be more fine-tuned with dates and specifics; but here is a list of my goals, so far. I’m posting them more for myself, so I have a good place to look at them, but I invite comments from others who are involved in/or have been involved in goal setting in their own lives. I’d love to hear any tips you may have, like what it did for you, what it helped you to accomplish and how you went about staying on point and remained accountable to yourself.
Jen’s overall long-term goals:
To be reviewed each weekend or as needed.
Try to find a buddy to work with on these.
Develop a support system.
1. Become debt-free.
2. Buy a house in cash.
3. Save money until I have enough to put into my first certificate of deposit (I think that would be about $500) and do that immediately.
4. Save a percentage of my monthly income (there is a certain percentage that is optimal – research that and better define this goal).
1. Achieve my Bachelor’s in Multimedia Communication through a combination of Casper College and the University of Wyoming Outreach Center, with a minor in International Studies or Computer Programming.
2. Begin college again by starting with one class and getting used to that before taking more. (Last time I tripped myself up by jumping into the icy waters before I was even warmed up and ready. See previous entry, One Small Baby Step Back to College.)
3. Learn to be able to ask for help when I need it. Don’t be too embarrassed or proud. This time I plan to have a support system of friends who have or are seeking their degree later in life – when I tried it before, I had virtually no one to lean on, and I let my doubts get the best of me, which led to me quitting school.
4. Continue to teach myself web design and make use of free tutorials, plus the Army's free Army Knowledge Online skills training for which I am qualified as a National Guard soldier.
5. Ask questions of experts in their fields or utilize collaborative online knowledge sharing forums for gaining expertise.
6. Continue taking community courses, such as with the Wyoming Small Business Development Center, to enhance my professional skills.
Reading/Writing/Photography – Hobbies and Pursuits:
1. Read at least 1-2 books per month.
2. Write at least 1-2 short blog entries or a freelance article weekly.
3. Query magazines/newspapers/websites for articles I can write and track the status of those effectively.
4. Work on my partially completed website to get it up to par and showcase my writing skills and my photography and design portfolio.
5. Continue to build up my photography collection and enter photos into local art related or museum events next year.
6. Eventually sell my prints in local venues.
1. Lose 20 pounds by January 1, 2007, and maintain that weight.
2. Gain more energy, alertness and motivation to get me through the day.
3. Exercise daily in the mornings, even if only 10 min., and/or some at lunch or in evenings. It all adds up.
4. Continue to take the necessary vitamins and iron daily.
5. Lower eating out to once per month and cook healthy meals at home more frequently.
6. Drink more water/much less soda and sugary drinks.
7. Eat more fruit, veggies and healthy alternatives as snacks between meals.
8. Run/walk in local annual events with friends or alone.
Quality of Life/Social Skills:
1. Listen more than I talk to other people. Really hear what they are saying, instead of thinking of what to say next.
2. Use positive affirmations and rise above negative self talk. What you say is what you become. I AM are two very powerful words, and it’s what you add beyond them that makes you who you are.
3. Act and speak up more assertively. My local Toastmasters meetings are good training for that.
4. Start two journals: A gratitude journal for writing down notes about what I am thankful for in my life; a proactive goal-setting journal for jotting down the status of the changes I’m making in my life; things I am proactive on, etc.
5. Balance and manage my time and prioritize and accomplish tasks better. Don’t get off track with goals/projects.
6. Work on self confidence. Only I can choose how I let others make me feel. No matter our positions in life, we are all human at the core. Keep that in mind.
7. No more conflict avoidance in my life! Take a deep breath and get it done; ask for support, if needed.
8. No longer associate with negative people in my life.
2. Get rid of clothing not worn in one year or longer.
3. Give away or sell remaining unwanted books on Craigslist or a similar site.
4. Go through old paperwork and either get rid of it or find a good, accessible place to file it.
5. Have a place for everything.
1. Challenge myself to learn more on the job. Don't be uncomfortable asking for clarification.
2. Continue to develop side business ideas for my startup and keep note of them.
3. Keep an eye out for training that could better prepare me to grow in my role, such as geology, petroleum-related courses or marketing and business classes.
5. Follow through more effectively on projects.
6. More socializing – less being such a hermit in my office.
7. Be bolder – give confident input, make suggestions, come up with more creative ideas.
8. Try finding mentorship online or in the community to find out how I could be even better at what I do.
9. Ask for help, but know when to make decisions without having to be micromanaged.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
One small baby step back to college
This afternoon was exciting for me. I held the recently purchased book within my grasp, as if it were made of gold. I felt my fingertips ablaze with the energy of one who again draws near the edge of her greatest dream. And yet, that dream… to finish my college degree… has never seemed as easy to me as it appears to be for others.
It probably was just any mundane lunch hour spent signing up for an online college course to most people, but to me, registering for Website Analysis, INET 1510, at the local Wyoming college, and again taking that fearsome leap to register for a class as an adult learner, held deep significance.
It has been over two years since I last attended college. And that one haphazard semester didn’t end well in the least. It destroyed the little bit of self confidence I had in ever getting my bachelor’s degree.
I had not taken a course in about six years when I signed up for a full load of classes in 2004, at this same local college, feeling heady with the anticipation of a degree that I considered as good as done. I visualized a smooth and already determined path stretching before me. I thought ‘this is easy’. The only hesitancy I had was the financial worries of how I’d stay afloat to accomplish this, since I’d quit my full-time job to more fully focus on this lifelong goal. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to test the waters with my big toe first. I just dove right in and continued to try to have a social life and deal with an emotionally abusive boyfriend as I halfheartedly, infrequently, studied the textbooks of my political science, biology and business courses.
Soon, I found that I was getting further behind on my coursework, and my personal life was morphing into an emotional train wreck. I knew I had a paper coming due, and I figured I could do a quick and tidy job on it at the last minute. I panicked as the date crept nearer, but stubborn as I am, I froze in my panic. I did nothing toward the completion of the paper but grew more and more fearful. I could not bring myself to ask for help, because it would mean admitting my insecurities and incompetence to someone else. I had to always appear smart and carefully put together, lest anyone notice the small hairline crack I was struggling to cover.
Although I was making A’s in two of my other subjects and passing on a third, I fled in my embarrassment and inability to catch up, and turned my back to college as if it had all never happened. I found another well paying job like the one I had before I’d taken my leap of faith in education, and it was back to the grindstone. I told myself that I just couldn’t do it. I thought it was all over for me ever getting that magical piece of paper in my lifetime. I already felt then at 32 that I was too old to be pursuing my bachelor’s, and this is something I was acutely aware of as I daily surveyed the younger students around me.
Just this month I’ve vowed to turn over a new leaf. In fact, graduating college is only one of many goals I’ve set for myself. I’m hoping to take that past mistake and turn it around. I now know that I’m in the average age range for the adult population going back to college. But I’m not worried about what other people think, but how much personal effort I can put into my studies.
I was more like a ship adrift in an angry ocean in 2004. I let my ex-boyfriend trample my confidence and alienate my friends. I had no support system, no one I felt I could trust. This only added to the fact that, even though I scored extremely high on IQ tests in high school, I never quite felt “smart enough,” or “good enough” to achieve as others. I loved my parents, but they never really set high standards for us. I never felt that anyone cared what I did; so why do anything but the minimum?
Things have changed a lot in two years. I have finally rediscovered that inner drive that yearns to learn and challenges me to do better. I have a wonderful example to follow, a supportive female friend in her late 40’s, who has returned to school herself toward a career in counseling and rehabilitating people with addictions. There is finally, for maybe the first time ever, a caring man in my life, who is there for me 100 percent. This afternoon, he signed up to take this class with me.
It’s only a small baby step – this one class -- but I’ve decided this time around that I will not let ANYTHING derail me from that track toward an education. It’s going to take a lot of concentration and discipline, at times, and it may take me having to swallow my pride and ask for help. But I can do this; because I know that it doesn’t make me weak not being perfect. The answer to my need for perfection before was to keep it intact at any cost, even by promptly “forgetting” the problem. But it wasn’t the way to become a TRUE success. Success takes patience and discipline – two qualities with which I’ve always struggled. I’m willing to work hard for it this time around though.
The Heart Aroused, by David Whyte
I happened to pick this book off of the shelf just yesterday, after having owned it and kept it shelved unnoticed for years. I don't think it was any small coincidence that I chose it. As I plowed along to page 60 in what seemed mere minutes, I felt the author, David Whyte, was speaking directly to me. I've been deliberating quite a lot with myself lately over whether I'm really happy working to pay the bills, but not really feeling alive or on purpose with what I am doing in my life.
Amazon's editorial review on Heart Aroused reads, "The call for increased creativity in the workplace brings with it a concomitant challenge: how will the world of cool professionalism stand up to the inevitable heat and volatility that accompanies people's emotional and spiritual lives? It is problematic to assume, poet David Whyte explains, that you can ask people to create and also to behave. The Heart Aroused explores these and related issues in an inspiring, grounded, thought-provoking way, and is the best nonverse book by a poet since Robert Bly's Iron John. Interwoven with carefully selected poems to illustrate Whyte's points, The Heart Aroused is necessary reading for any professional who secretly harbors a poet's soul. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Thursday, September 21, 2006
HTML Web Design For Friendly and Effective Websites
By Stephen Brennan
At last we are seeing a navigation away from the dynamic or fancy type of website that has been inundating the Internet through virtually anyone who has had the funds to pay the sometimes ridiculous fees demanded to have a website designed and created. I'm speaking mainly, of course, about Flash, that wonderful web design program that makes it possible to have a website do virtually ANYTHING - except rank in the Search Engines.
Of course, many will be thinking to themselves, "You design a website for users, not Search Engines." I agree 100 percent. In fact, the two are so closely linked, as I see it, that you can hardly do one without doing the other. Internet users want information and they want it NOW! There is no information contained in a spaceship flying across the page or whatever weird and wonderful Flash gimmick has been created. There is nothing for the user in waiting for the huge amounts of time it takes for Flash sites to load. Also, users need to be able to navigate a website easily and quickly. They need to find what they want without having to search for the means to get to the appropriate page. I've rarely seen a 'total' Flash site that has anywhere near the simplicity and ease in navigation that plain HTML can give.
I recently redesigned two websites, for different clients. Both websites were made up COMPLETELY of Flash. Checking the Source Code was basically a joke - there almost was none! At least nothing that a Search Engine could read, index and rank effectively. WHY? I have no idea. I was told by one of the clients, after they got upset when I told them why their website hadn't achieved anything in the SE rankings after three years, and they asked their previous designer why the website had been designed in that way. Their answer reportedly was, "I didn't know you wanted a website that would rank in the Search Engines."
I suppose that's not so laughable when you consider that there ARE websites which simply serve as an extension of a business for use by existing clients to download reports, use as reference sources or maybe access tools or updates. However, I would think any half intelligent person would be able to tell this type of website simply by looking it. Especially a web designer!
As HTML text is the main component of a website that the Search Engine robots can recognize, read and index, keyword rich HTML text should be the major content component of any website. Of course, aesthetics are important too, so a balance of imaging, logo, background and navigation utilities can be used to design and build a user-friendly website, which is also Search Engine friendly AND aesthetically pleasing, in fact, often downright beautiful to look at. HTML websites can be made to look every bit as attractive as Flash websites, even if they may sometimes lack the 'dynamic' and the 'exciting'.
I've always had a rule of thumb as far as designing and building my own websites and I apply it also now, to the design and creation of others' websites. I have always been familiar with what the 'leaders' are doing. Websites like Adobe, Microsoft, Yahoo, MSN, About.com i.e. websites that millions visit every week, if not every day, and continue to do so. Those websites with PRs of 9 and 10. Even when Flash was THE thing to have, they only used it sparingly in a corner or in a strip across the top of the homepage (as Adobe are doing right now). None of them EVER used Flash to the extent that many web designers decided to, and I have to assume that these 'top' Internet concerns have the very best minds in the world advising and designing their websites.
Again, as always, it comes back to the same thing... As with life, ALL things can be beneficial and worthwhile but as soon as you begin to overuse anything, you end up in a place called 'trouble'. I don't believe anything at all was ever designed, built, invented or discovered to be used in excess. But nothing has ever been more obviously harmful online, in excess, than Flash.
Stephen Brennan is an accomplished web designer, SEO consultant and optimiser, Affiliate Marketer and Internet Author. He operates numerous Affiliate and information based websites. He has written 'The Affiliate Guide Book' - The Definitive Guide To Affiliate Success. He also designs and builds websites and performs SEO for HTML Web Design ®
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Stephen_Brennan
We all have to begin somewhere
Life is not perfect. I’d rather be a freelance maverick web designer living in… say, San Francisco, or making my way around the globe, with my handy laptop strapped to my side, diving into coffee joints here and there to suck up some WiFi time and seeing more from 8 to 6 than the confines of my fluorescent-lit jail cell.
But we all have to begin somewhere. In my spare time, I hope to make use of all of those abundantly available tutorials I've bookmarked at Blinklist, so that I can get on the road to that dream.