Category Archives: Writing

Cave Dwelling

I heard yesterday (Saturday) was going to be really hot, so I thought it would be cool (pun intended) to hide inside the earth for a bit. Near Mt. St. Helens, Washington, there’s this part of the park called Ape Caves, which is a former lava tube.

Ape Cave Lava Tube
(Used under creative commons, thanks iwona_kellie!

As we began our descent into the cave, there are a couple things you notice: a stark change in temperature – from 90°(f) to the average temp inside the cave of 45°(f) – and there’s a really interesting breeze blowing through. Immediately, you’re struck with a decision. A decision you have to make quickly because if the cave is busy there’s many people behind you, pushing their way in. Your two choices are this: Take the lower (or easier) cave or take the upper (harder) cave. In “life+art=reality” and in spelunking, we took the more challenging road.

As you make your choice and walk further into the cave. You lose all sense of perception as your mind, and optical nerves, adjust to the reality of complete darkness. The cave walls seem to absorb all extra noise and soon you find yourself in a weird, yet comfortable, sensory perception deprivation state. It’s blissful, almost, you’re now on your journey, flashlights in hand and ready to climb throughout this former volcanic river.

Cave Wall

Then the real “climb” begins. As you’re walking into (or out of) the cave, you have to climb and scurry around, having chosen the more difficult path. Over large boulders of rock that once floated through the canyon, watching your head for low hanging objects, squeezing through tight spaces requiring you to use your mind and body in unison to get through a difficult pass. Inside each pathway, I noticed there were almost always two decisions, two routes to take, the more difficult and challenging (or sometimes impossible) route and the relatively simple, well-traversed route. Many times you didn’t know the outcome of your choice until you took that first step. Then, it was too late to go back and start over.

Placing your feet in the correct spot was one of the more challenging tests. Each rock was either: solid and stable, shifted slightly, or was completely rickety. The problem was, no matter how many ways you tested it with your toes, you really didn’t know which state that rock was in until you put your full weight onto it.

Much like life, you never know the outcome of something, unless you give it your all. Having scurried through the cave; I did not fall once. I doubted myself many times; but, I did not fall. I have some bruises, sore muscles, and reminders of low-hanging stalactites. But, every step I took turned out, in the end, to get me to my destination. I never considered turning around. I kept putting one foot, in front of, or high above, the other. My spelunking partner and I made sure to support each other in each difficult pass, every challenging route, and every moment of rest, including moments to stop and look around at the cave’s beauty.

The toughest challenge was wall-walking. If you’ve seen someone rappel down the side of a cliff or mountain then you’ve seen someone do this before. You grab the rope, lean all of your body weight into your legs, and walk up the wall. Yesterday was my first experience with this.

There’s a part of the path which used to be a lava-waterfall and it is only about ten feet tall, but it’s still challenging to climb. Having examined the wall, I noted it’s cover of cave-slime, instantly you’re nervous about placing your feet on the wall, afraid of slipping. Up I went. I grabbed the rope firmly, leaned back, took a deep breath, placed my feet on the wall, and pulled myself up. The adrenaline kicked in and I went for it! Up the wall I climbed, over the edge and sure-footed on the top. A challenge overcome.

There were a couple places in the cave, where the groups bunched up, waiting for the last climber in their team to navigate the pass. As with life, there’s always one or two people who are impatient or unwilling to wait for someone else. There were a few of those inconsiderate people in this cave, trying to climb over/around others to get through faster. Luckily peer pressure, in this case, succeeded in forcing them to back off and wait their turn.

As we rounded a corner, we started to see light. Which gave us hope. Nearing the end, (or so we thought,) spirits lifted, we walked a little faster, and started looking around. Only to find out, it was a skylight. A place where the cave had collapsed the roof, giving us only a small peek into the outside world.

Cave Skylight

We pressed on, undeterred, and made it through to the end. Climbed out of the cave and made the hike back to the car in blue skies and beautiful weather. Challenging as the hike was, the reward was really worth it. A day spent with a friend, pushing myself to new limits, understanding what I’m fully capable of: climbing a wall of slime, seeing how nature survives in darkness, and coming through the other side.

All these things, I think, we deal with in real life, I just don’t think we take enough time to celebrate the successes. In that cave, especially in the extreme darkness, I felt great fear. No cellphone service, no light (except from our flashlights,) fear of bats(!) and virtually no sounds (except for our breathing.) Well worth the experience.

Lake Merwin through the trees

While I never intended, when we set out yesterday, to come back with a fable of cave dwelling and it’s application to real life. There are so many connections to be made here: People climbing over you to get ahead, feeling alone in large caverns, being unsure of your footing and pushing yourself to do things outside your comfort. Job well done!


You Want Me To Do What?

A friend of mine was asked some strange things in an interview. Well, I think they’re strange and some people think they’re perfectly normal. So, I went to go get a different perspective. Thanks to my love of LinkedIn, I’ve found some great HR/Career communities in there and I’ve been commenting and reading a lot of the things HR-Types look for and passing those on to friends.

So I posted the following question in one of the forums:

I had some questions from an actual interview. A friend interviewed for an Administrative Assistant-type job and the interviewer asked questions like: “Tell me about a time when you’ve lied.” “Tell me a time when you’ve been sent to the principal’s office.” Then, after hearing that the applicant went to school for an English major with a vocal minor, The interviewer asked the applicant to sing a song for him.

Does any of this sound legal?

Here are the responses from the community – Actual HR Directors and Recruiters.

CEO and Executive Director:

Nicholas – illegal, no. Incredibly stupid? this one takes the cake. If I were asked something like that (lying), I’d give some innocuous example of a white lie told to my kinds about Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. OR better yet, if as an Admin assistant, ‘I told someone my boss was not in the office after he told me to tell everyone he was out’ needing to finish a report or something official. As far as the song, I’d tell them ‘my vocal coach advises me not to sing unless I’m getting paid to do so’, or ‘in front of an audience of more than 25’.

I really enjoyed his response. I think, if you’re put in that position, you might have to respond with some sort of silly snark.

Sales Manager at a National Furniture Company:

If I were asked such questions, I would ask MYSELF if this is really a company that would be a good fit for me.

I wholeheartedly agree with the above sentiment. I think I’d have to walk away.

A Job-Seeker:

I have seen similar questions on personality exams. I do not see the questions being illegal, but I cannot see how singing a song is relevant to being an Administrative Assistant. Unless perhaps entertaining is part of the job description. The other questions seem like a catch-22. I agree with “Sales Manager” in wondering if that is a company I would want to work for.

I’m noticing a trend here, from manager and employee alike.

Store Manager at a National Clothing Company:

Tell your friend to run for his/her life.

It’s true, A real trend.

Human Resources Director – Education

Wait a minute…there’s no Santa, no Easter Bunny? I’m bummed. Love Steve’s response. I agree that they are questions probing for your reaction and creativity when faced with unforseen spur of the moment challenges, and how you would respond. I would’ve sung jingle bells!

Finally, A response in the other direction. I think this is a case of what you see, is all there is. While my personal reaction was that of shock, horror, amazement and extreme annoyance, my friend didn’t see anything wrong with it. Just part of the interview process.

I agree with a lot of people, and commenters above, is that somewhere you’d want to work everyday?

Top 11 Posts of 2011

Well, we’re almost to 2012 and recently I posted my top 11 photos of ’11, so I thought I would dig around in my stats and share with you the items that a plurality of you decided to visit over the year. They’re ranked by number of views.

11: (Dis)Engaging Google+ – I’ve written that I’m not a fan of Google+. Based on my experiences, my opinion hasn’t changed from August 11, 2011.

10: 10 Things (About me) – Interesting, this post, written around my birthday in 2010 garnered enough views this year to make my list. I find it funny that it’s number 10. 🙂

9: Oh, to be Popular. #199 – My 199th blog post here. A photo essay of my top Flickr photos. Be sure to check out #1 if you haven’t already.

8: Crossroads. Help Me, Pathfinder! – A great post about my future education and where I want to go from here. I say it was a great post because it offered me some good conversations with people about the state of education, what I should focus on as I continue forward and helped me figure out where I truly am in my head.

7: Good Customer Service: America’s Tire – I’m thrilled that a “Good Customer Service” story made the list. The adage goes, a happy customer will tell no one, while an unhappy customer will tell everyone. That’s not true in my case, I try to give equal time to good and bad customer service.

6: O.H. in the E.R. – On of my funnier (and sad) posts about an ill-fated trip to the ER last August. My pain is your joy. The things you hear in an ER waiting room are rather funny. If you take the time to listen.

(Photo Credit: Sea Turtle on Flickr)

5: Following the Pack (or not) – A post from last February where I offer my commentary on a “gorilla marketing tactic” on Twitter that was horribly spammy. I found it interesting that my desire to speak up was met with extreme hostility and mob mentality, which border-lined on bullying. I still stand by my opinions and observations. Sometimes you have to go out on a limb. Be bold.

4: The Lone Zebra, an Educational Opportunity – Written regarding a kerfuffle in the Real Estate Community about copyright and trade dress infringement. This gave me an opportunity to put into real life practice some things I had been learning in my Business Law class. It was a great case study.

3: Guest Post: Judgment Between The Lines – I’m so thrilled you liked, or viewed, this post. It was an important post. A guest post by my close friend Sarah Salter, she writes about something I think we all struggle with: Judgement and its many forms. An extremely timely, timeless and poignant post, worthy of read, whether it’s your first time or tenth.

2: Missing The Mark: Sears – Christmas Customer Service – Wow. This post, written just six days ago, outlined some poor customer service I received from a National big box store. Outlining the systemic issues from corporate culture, to employee detachment (An employee adds his comments to the post) it has become one of my most popular Customer Service Commentary posts.

Singapore Fireworks Celebrations '08 - Korean Fantasia 3
(Photo Credit: Synchroni on Flickr)

1: You’re Welcome?!? – A post from this summer, I volunteered at a women only half marathon this year, I was struck and moved that almost every single runner, no matter how fatigued or festive, took a moment to thank the volunteers, when all I really was doing was standing in the middle of the road. I’m very thankful and grateful that this is my number one viewed post. It makes me believe that you all enjoy a little bit of gratitude in our world and maybe we/I need to be sharing a little more of it.

I’m extremely proud of these posts and some of them I think are close to “my best.” I hope that this streak continues in 2012!

On A Wing


I’m not a confident flyer.*

I hold my breath as if it is going to help. I know the logic behind it, more likely to … car wreck etc… But, I can’t help it. There is something about flying that defies all logic. That the science of aerodynamics defies the laws of gravity. There are many things I think of to help me through.

I try to enjoy the beauty of that moment when we mortals leave the ground, to experience that momentary life from our Earthbound duties.

I enjoy the scenery when we punch through the clouds. When we shed the burden of the dark grey skies and reach for the sun.

I take solace in knowing that at this moment, i am ok. I am leaving fear behind. I may be holding my breath and closing my eyes, but my heart is still beating and I am going places.

Sometimes you have to swallow your fear, hold your breath, close your eyes, listen to your heart and leap forward into the clouds.

* This post written mid-flight from Portland to Santa Rosa, California

Crossroads. Help Me, Pathfinder!

I’m at a crossroad with my education. I am getting close to graduating with my Associates of Business Administration degree. (YAY!) However, I am also looking at what the future holds for me.

crossroads at night
(Used via Creative Commons, thank you dsmoljanovic!)

I am a storyteller, not as in, “the fish was this big” stories, but more so, “this is why you want to partner with us” stories. I also believe in great customer service; sales helps the bottom line grow but customer service is the key to retaining those customers. As I look at my career and what the future holds for me, I have come to the realization that I need to be working towards something greater when dealing with my education.

As you may have read in previous posts, I find it very sad that experience is not enough in this world, and that very few things that I have learned in the community college environment have been new applications to me in business. I’m certain there are things I will learn in the future that will help me in my career, but I’m having a hard time finding new things to learn, when I’ve been working for more than a decade.

3/52 Un trabajo duro / A hard work
(Used under creative commons, thank you bibigeek!)

Now that I’ve rambled on a bit, this is where I have to ask you, dear readers, for some help. As I near the end of my Associates program, I have to decide to go down one of three pathways:

1: Be done with education; take my Associates degree and run.
2: Spend more time in Community College and seek another specialized Associates Degree.
3: Pursue a Bachelors degree.

The first option is simple. Pack up my knapsack and run.

The second option is a little more difficult. I would have to do some serious soul searching to decide which program I would want to complete.
The Urn Burns (All Souls Procession)
Used under creative commons, thank you cobalt123!)

The third option is much like the second option, although I have narrowed it down to four disciplines: Communications, Public Relations, Marketing, or Journalism.
Storytelling at West Lothian libraries
(Used under creative commons, thank you Scottish Libraries!)

The reasons for one of the above four degrees are simple:

I want to tell your story.

I want to communicate with your consumers.

I want to make the consumer experience better.

Looking forward into my crystal ball, I note that I have to have a degree or pedigree, to do so. So what direction do I take?

My grandmother has always told me, “when in doubt, punt,” so I am. Any advice/observations you may have would be greatly appreciated.

Feelin’ Fine…

Sometimes this is just how you feel.

There’s a Simpsons Episode for every moment. Please enjoy.

Repudiate or Reputation?

Reputation is based solely on public perception. You can say how awesome you are, how smart you are, how fabulous you are or how magnificent you are, but if you are perceived as anything less; it’s all smoke and mirrors.

I was privy to a discussion online recently where a person decided to rant about another individual’s use of Social Media. Now first and foremost, I’ve built a reputation where I tend to debate a side of an argument whether I agree with it or not. It’s just who I am. I like to argue any side as it forces me to see things from a different light. In this instance, I just felt that the passive-aggressive nature of the comments were uncalled for and I happened to personally like the target of this berating.

(Used under creative commons, an amazing photo thanks to Half-Blood Prince!)

So, doing what any good person should do? I said it was uncalled for and I stood up for my friend. I wasn’t arguing the merits of the disagreement, but the method of attack.

The nature of the “attack” was passive aggressive, yet pointed in its nature. I disagree with this method, and I set out to say so. This person was someone I admittedly didn’t know very well to begin with, but based on my interaction, is/was someone I don’t necessarily care to interact with in the future. And it was all done in Public.

And that’s all it takes:

Shattered Dreams
(Used under creative commons, and amazing photo thanks to Hollud!)

One interaction.
One Tweet.
One Status Update.

And everything you’ve spent so much time building online, gone, or at the very least, damaged.

While I have received an apology privately from this individual, I chose not to respond. I said my peace, publicly and privately when it happened. And I really didn’t care to have interaction beyond that. Social Media means that I’m certain we’ll end up in the same circles in the future, and I’ll remain cordial, but it’s not interaction that I will seek out.

I also find it pretty telling about a person who will call out someone in a passive aggressive manner, under that much ruckus, and doesn’t have the respect/decency/kahunas to say they may of acted foolishly in public, they only do it in private. I’m not sure what that really says about a person, but when it comes to perception, I get to have my own.

That’s just how the little bird squawks. 🙂