Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Search for the Unicorn




Lately I’ve felt like my life is one big on-going unicorn hunt.
A relentless search for mythical creatures, hoping they exist. 
My never-ending job hunt feels like a unicorn hunt, and so does my social life.
On the job front, there is evidence all around me that the perfect job is out there. The job that I was made for, and wants me. In my mind that job is a social media marketing position with a large, dynamic, non-profit organization rooted in humanitarian causes, and comes with a salary that would allow me to eat more than ramen, and buy new shoes once a year. 
In my personal and dating life, it isn’t too different. I’m searching for a man about my own age, preferably 35-41. Someone in a very similar place in life- educated, professional, motivated, hard worker. Someone smart and involved in the community, with a well-rounded view of the world. He must be as devoted to Mormonism as I am, family oriented, kind, compassionate, and loving. And someone with an outgoing and adventurous side. And must get and share my pop culture geeky side. And if it isn’t asking too much, I’d like to like his outward appearance too.
Twice recently it felt like I had a unicorn in my hands- a perfect job, a perfect man. But both seemed to have slipped away like the mythical creatures they are. The heartbreak that follows seeing the unicorn and losing it hurts more than never knowing if they existed at all.
And so my search for the unicorn continues. Will I ever find one again? I don’t know. But I hope I do.



Hey You! Check out my new novels, "You Heard It Here First" and the sequel "This Just In!"

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's cloud illusions I recall


Today was just one of those days.
The kind that comes after 3.5 years of unemployment, and the accruing disappointments and setbacks that often pass with nothing more than a shrug, just hit you and knock you out for a while.
All it was was another rejection letter. Yet another company turning me down without really giving me a chance. It was a job I was perfectly qualified for, and really, really fit my personal hopes and needs. I had really hoped something would materialize with this job. But all I got was the standard rejection letter instead.
It was the tipping point.
I've spent the day sad and depressed. There were a lot of tears shed.
It wasn't just about the job that didn't happen. It was everything. Just the accumulation of disappointments over the past few years.
And the lack of control I have over the situation.
This article in the Wall Street Journal describes my situation perfectly, "Some Unemployed Keep Losing Ground."  (I believe the article is behind a paywall. Sorry.)
This is the part that really hit home-
"... there are signs the job market is splitting into two. Close to 25% of the short-term unemployed—those out of work for six months or less—find jobs each month, a figure that has shown steady improvement since the recession, though it remains below its long-term average of 30%.
The nation's 4.4 million long-term unemployed haven't seen similar gains. Only about 10% of them find jobs each month, a number that has hardly budged in the past two years."

"...long-term job seekers are twice as likely to leave the labor market as to find jobs, and many experts worry that many of them will never return to work. That could create a class of permanently unemployed workers and leave lasting scars on the economy.
"Once people reach a point where they no longer consider themselves employable…it is very difficult to pull them back," said Joe Carbone, president of WorkPlace, a Connecticut workforce-development agency that has developed a program targeting the long-term unemployed. "We are losing thousands of people a day. This is like an epidemic.""
I'm starting to wonder, no, strike that, I've worried for a long time, that finding a job is nothing more than a numbers game. It's just playing the odds, a gamble really. It has little to do with actually being qualified for the job. (The job I got rejected from today I was slightly overqualified for.)
But the longer the game goes on, the more the odds work against you.
I've been looking at my friends and former colleagues who are or were long-term unemployed. How did they finally get jobs? Who can I learn from?
And I realized only one friend has found a job. And (she readily admits this) she only got a job after 2 years unemployed because a cousin created a job at his company for her.
I can't think of one other long-term unemployed friend who has found work. Or at least not work in his/her field. Several are like me and have resorted to accepting a life of underemployment in a store or mall, and not in the professional field they were educated in.
It's hard accepting the underemployment. You know it means taking two steps forward and one step back. It's a paycheck, and you need it, but it makes it that much harder to get a "real" job.
I wish companies were not so biased against the long-term unemployed. They are wrong to be so biased, assuming we've lost skills, or there is something wrong with us. We're the survivors. If anything what we have done is more impressive. The underemployed have proven we are hard workers that will get the job done. We'll do what we have to do. We're not going to sit around and waste company resources and collect a paycheck. We're going to work our butts off and make ourselves the most valuable asset the company has so that no matter what, we never see ourselves on the pink slip list again.
If a company really wants to hire the best person for the job, they should look to the long-term unemployed and underemployed. No one else could ever be as grateful for a job as someone who has endured long-term unemployment. You want a long-term, faithful employee? Hire the long-term unemployed, and not the guy just looking to move up the ladder. He just wants a paycheck. Some of us want (and deserve) a lot more.


Hey You! Check out my new novels, "You Heard It Here First" and the sequel "This Just In!"

Monday, June 24, 2013

And we're back!

I'm back after a few fun-filled and exhausting days at youth conference!
Or something like that.
Attending youth conference as an adult is definitely nowhere near as exhilarating as it was as a youth. Now it is just a lot of walking, and counting heads, followed by more walking, and head counting. I am now a pro at identifying and counting the heads of my girls from behind, even when 325 kids are all wearing the same shirt.
It's a good thing that my kids are all so dang good. The biggest problem I had to deal with was that a few of them were late getting back to the dorm one night. But can you really get mad at them when they don't have watches or cell phones (with clocks) to tell them what time it is? And I knew exactly where they were and who they were with the whole time? No, you can't get mad (for long) when that happens. You just smile on the inside while doing your best to look gruff on the outside, that you have the good kids and don't have to worry that they were off doing who knows what in those few minutes they were late.
Unfortunately, not all of the adult leaders had it as easy as I did. I was aware of much bigger, much more difficult problems other adults were trying to manage. It made me much more grateful for my good kids than ever before.
There's just 3 more weeks till I take off with the girls again and we head to girls camp for a week. (Youth Conference often feels like the cleaner, co-ed, "with beds", dress rehearsal for girls camp. It gives you a good heads up which kid(s) won't listen and will drive you crazy at camp.) But before that happens I have a house to clean, jobs to apply to, a book to keep writing, my mother comes, a job interview, and lots more!
But first... sleep!

Hey You! Check out my new novels, "You Heard It Here First" and the sequel "This Just In!"

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

You can help end child and sex trafficking in Cambodia today!





I took this picture in the actual neighborhood where RiverKids families live. Can you imagine walking through this filthy water to go to your home every day? Or if your children lived in the shacks above that filthy water? These pictures weren't taken on some extraordinarily bad day. These were just every day scenes I passed.  
 
It was heartbreaking to see how these kind, loving, innocent people lived. It wasn't their fault that they were born into a life of poverty with little hope of escaping. But I knew that the work I did in Cambodia would help several children escape poverty, and the horrible repercussions of child and sex trafficking, by giving them clean food and an education. 
 
The wonderful organization I volunteered with, RiverKids, is making a REAL difference in Cambodia. They save children from a life of forced prostitution (sex trafficking) every day with the amazing programs they offer. 
 
And today that wonderful organization, RIVERKIDS,  receives matching donations from Global Giving. Your donation, no matter how large or small, will be matched up to 50% by Global Giving, and the entire donation (nothing lost to administrative or overhead fees in the process)- ALL 100% of it, goes directly to RiverKids!




 




 
You will probably spend more than $10 on lunch today. Consider saving money on lunch and donating the difference to RiverKids!! As unemployed and underemployed as I am I still manage to make a donation each year because I know just how much good comes from just my $10!
 



The mothers wash the food, clothes, and even the children in this filthy water. There is no running water in the homes. "Toilets" are just a hole in the floor that they squat over- the refuse dropping right down into the same water they walk through, and clean with.

 
Your tax-deductible donation goes 100% to RiverKids, and provides meals, education, and shelter for victims of human trafficking. I've been there and have seen the good RiverKids does first-hand, and can promise you that a donation as small as just $10 (OR MORE!) will give those families clean rice, and a chance at an education.
 
This little boy walked past my house every day. I saved my empty water bottles to give to him. He earns money for his family by collecting trash (recyclables) off the street. He is exactly the kind of child who benefits from RiverKids programs. With your donation, RiverKids would be able to provide his family with the income he will lose when he is enrolled in school (about $21 a month- he is lucky to earn even $2 a day). He will be provided a school uniform, meals at school, and an education. Not to mention, he will be at far lesser risk of contracting a disease like Hepatitis, or getting kidnapped, or injured.
A $21 dollar donation from you could really change his life!

Click here to donate: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/feed-our-children-give-them-wings-to-fly/
After a street child or "river kid" collects the trash off the streets, he or she will bring it here to get weighed. They are paid by the pound- usually just pennies. This weigh station is located right in the middle of the slum shack neighborhood the families live in. Can you imagine if this was just a few steps away from your door?

Some of the women enrolled in a RiverKids program that teaches them useful skills like sewing that they can use to start their own businesses, or get a job in a factory. Without these skills these women have no choice but to turn to a life of prostitution. Many, if not all, of these women were forced into prostitution already (this is the definition of sex trafficking).
 


You can read more about RiverKids and what I learned and saw in Cambodia here- (articles written by me)
Fighting Trafficking in Cambodia Part 1
Ending Sex Trafficking in Cambodia Part 2

And my blog posts during my time in Cambodia.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Mystery of Nannie Ferguson


I think I have caught the family history bug. Unfortunately, with that bug, does not come a knowledge of how to deep family history research.
I have been researching the history of my family and their relationship to the Mormon Church, and have found interesting stories I have never heard before. Many family stories come with an oral history, and change from generation to generation. A few decades ago a family member recorded many of our family stories and published them as a collegiate research paper. I've used her book as my primary form of research.
I noticed throughout her book (written in the 1980's) that when there was a discrepency among the oral histories that she recorded each of them. During my review of her work I realized I could probably clarify some of the discrepancies with some of the more recent technological developments. Sure enough, within a minute of Googling, I was able to figure out the real names of a few people. One of those names was Ammon Mercer, the missionary that baptized many of the earliest members of my family.
Originally I was searching for more information about Ammon Mercer, in hopes of maybe finding a missionary journal that might shed some light on a few of the other open-ended questions. During my search I stumbled on something interesting- he had more than one wife! He was most definitely a polygamist. And one of his wives was Nannie Ferguson.
Why do I care?
Well, the family history I am researching is the Ferguson family!
Who is this Nannie Ferguson? And why have I never heard of her before?
The man who baptized my earliest Mormon ancestors married a Ferguson, and somehow this detail has never been mentioned before!
I am intrigued.
And I have gone on a search for more information on this mysterious Nannie. But I am thwarted at almost every turn.
Here is what I know-
She was born near Roanoke where my line of Fergusons hail from. This strongly implies she is related, but Ferguson isn't an uncommon name.
I have found her father's name, and her mother's name. her mother is a Poage. The Poage family are from right here in good old Back Creek. In fact, there are still a few roads and buildings named after them. Again, strongly implies they are from Back Creek, and therefore related.
Her siblings include multiple Williams and Henry's. Significance? It is a Ferguson family tradition (still going strong today) to name a son William and a second name with an H, particularly Henry. There is a long list of William Henry Fergusons. A very long list. Of all the evidence, this is the one piece that implies the most that she has to be related to my family.
BUT!
Her father is where things get complicated. I have his name, wife, and birthplace. What I don't have is where he died, or any of this siblings, or the names of his own parents. This is the problem. Without knowing who his father or siblings are, I can't figure out who he is related to!
I so very badly want to figure out if Nannie Ferguson is related to my line of Fergusons!
I've studied the dates I have tracked down very closely. All details indicate that Ammon Mercer met Nannie on his mission, married her, and took her back to Utah shortly thereafter. Sadly, it appears that she passed away a year later.
My guess is that she was a second cousin to my great-great-grandfather. But since I can't find the great-grandfather to either of them, this is nothing more than a guess. I think it is a good guess by the fact that a man named William Griffin Ferguson was one of the first people baptized in Roanoke, and he was the second cousin to my great-great-grandfather, William Harrison Ferguson. (See, I told you they really liked the name William!) And William Griffin was born in the same small town that Nannie was.
But alas, I'm stuck. I can't seem to figure out how to relate Nannie's father to William Harrison's father. All of the similarities in the world just don't matter if you can't prove them! (Did I mention Nannie's father is John W. Ferguson? See! Another W!!)
What kills me more than anything else that is in a family the size of mine (William Harrison has well over 2,000 descendants) that no one seems to have noticed Nannie before.
AAGH!
Darn you family history bug!!

PS- ignore the marriage date for Nannie and Ammon in the image above. That is the date their marriage was performed in a Mormon temple long after her death.

Hey You! Check out my new novels, "You Heard It Here First" and the sequel "This Just In!"

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Devices, tablets, and computers

After a week of vacation with lousy internet access, I came home with a long list of projects to tackle. My employment situation has recently changed, and now more than ever, I am a freelance writer. My laptop and an internet connection are essential to my livelihood. Without them I cannot work and cannot earn money.
On Sunday night my laptop made a flying leap off of the couch. I wasn't even on the couch to witness it. I did hear the thud as it landed though and feared for the worst. My laptop has not turned back on since. It is currently in the laptop hospital, where I hope and pray my documents and photos can be recovered.
With little other choice, I went out and bought a new computer. I had heard good things about the Microsoft Surface, and was intrigued by it. Half computer, half laptop? It sounded like it might fit my needs. $500 later, I took one home with me.
I was wrong. I hated it. It is actually a fabulous device, but incredibly impractical for someone like me who needs to be typing and working all day.
24 hours I took it back to the store for a full refund, and purchased a new laptop.
Laptops only come with Windows 8 on them now. If you have not yet had the experience of using Windows 8, you cannot imagine my frustration. It is the unwanted love child of Microsoft and Apple's ugly cousin. It's Microsoft pretending not to be Apple. And it fails big time.
And yet we are stuck with it.
It works best with a touchscreen laptop, and I was informed at the store that by the end of the year all laptops will be touchscreen. (So I bought a touchscreen, because I have no idea how to use 8 without it.)
But all of this got me to thinking. A friend made the comment that she didn't see why we had to move to apps. Why can't we just be happy with the way Windows used to work? (I would venture a guess that she's probably never used a Mac.) Why touchscreens and apps?
As I looked around the stores tonight at all of the different options, I was surprised how few actually pertained to me. Here I am thinking I just need a truly basic computer- Microsoft Office and an Internet connection. A webcam would be nice, and an HDMI port. And really, that's about all I ask for- a working computer. Or a computer I am able to work on, would be a better way of describing it.
And how do swiping or touchscreens make me more productive or a better worker?
In short, they don't.
And that's what hit me tonight.
Computers were originally designed to compute, and do work. And then along came the Personal Computer, or PC. They were intended to allow individuals to do work from home. But we added games to them. And then the internet.
And computers began to become gaming devices, entertainment devices, and media devices, that just happened to also have document writing or spreadsheet creation capability.
And then there are tablets, which are not designed at all to be working tools, or computing tools, but mostly entertainment devices (with rare exceptions), made most evident by the fact that they don't even have real keyboards. They aren't designed to be typed on for more than a few lines.
There is an entire generation growing up that don't think of computers as work devices, but as entertainment or personal devices. They don't think in terms of typing, but swiping and touching. And as I saw first-hand at the store tonight, that is what is sold now. It was harder for me to find a computer that was built just for work computing than it was to find an entertainment device. And as I work my way around Windows 8, I realize that even the operating systems have changed now.
There's a lot to think about there.


 Hey You! Check out my new novels, "You Heard It Here First" and the sequel "This Just In!"

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Survey of LDS Singles Regarding Marriage

I'm collecting some data for an article (and maybe a future book) I'm working on regarding Mormon singles and marriage. The focus of the article will be on how marrieds perceive the challenges facing singles regarding getting married, versus how singles view those challenges.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/MVR2F7F

I would like to get a survey of lots of LDS singles, as well as marrieds! Can you take 2 seconds to answer these 8 questions? All information is completely anonymous!

I will be closing this survey in 1-2 days! Please take it if you haven't already!

And please feel free to share it in Facebook groups, or with friends, or ward list-serves. The more respondents and answers the better!!

I'll be closing the survey in a day or two.

THANKS!!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Back to Life, Back to Reality

I am home from vacation.
I don't want to be, but apparently you can't stay gone forever, no matter how hard you try.
This was my first non-working vacation in... so many year I can't remember the number. Sad, but true. I've always worked on vacation. This was my first time to ever attempt to not work. I have to admit, it's a pretty nice gig this whole vacationing thing. I'm going to have to try it again sometime. It only took me about 5 days to really get the hang of not working or being on an agenda. I liked it!
It was a wonderful week away. I made several great new friends that I really hope to be able to see again soon. The hardest part really was coming home and knowing that it may be another 6 months or a year before I get to socialize and make friends again. And that really depresses me!
I re-calibrated my priorities and ideals while I was gone as well. I had a few small wake-up calls that really helped put a few things into focus. It was a very good and healthy week for me.

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