In search of a clue.

I like to listen to the Dave Ramsey show on the radio.  Often times people will call in and ask Dave’s advice about careers, whether it’s about switching jobs or about possibly going out on their own and starting their own business. Sometimes in Dave’s reply, he mentions to the caller “finding what you were put on this earth to do”.  I am so envious of those who know what they’ve been put on this earth to do.

I have been in the same job for eight years.  It’s the only professional job I’ve ever had and I got it after I graduated from college.  I only ended up with it because I took the civil service test and was mailed a letter a couple of months later stating I had an interview.  I didn’t even know there was a job opening for a child support caseworker.  I was just informed I had an interview.  I needed a job, so I went.  From there I got a second interview and then I got the job.  It’s certainly not a bad job.  I’m grateful to have been hired.  I have had good supervisors and good coworkers.  We have pretty good benefits.  But I have zero desire to climb the ladder where I am.  I have zero desire to be a supervisor or any position higher than that within our agency.  My paycheck staying stagnant for several years and the fact that I don’t aspire to move any higher there makes my job feel like a dead end.  Child support is an important job, so it feels purposeful, but it doesn’t inspire me.  I don’t think it’s what I was put on this earth to do.

My friend, Joe, told me yesterday about a funny e-card he came across online.  It said “Keeping your job is the new raise.”  Sad, but true.  With the economy like it is, I’m usually able to go along with the whole “just be thankful you have a job” mindset.  But then sometimes it hits me square in the face that this will be my fourth year in a row without a raise.  The bad thing about being a state employee is that as far as raises go, either everyone gets them or nobody does.  (Well, maybe not everyone gets them, but everyone is eligible to get them depending on their yearly review.)  It doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked or how much your productivity has increased; you are not getting a raise.  Nobody is.  It’s discouraging.

I’ve read Jon Acuff’s book called Quitter.  It was a really good book and in some ways I felt inspired, but I have no idea what I want to do.  I don’t know what I was put on this earth to do.  I’ve pre-ordered his next book entitled Start and am hopeful I might gain some insight.  I’ve also thought about ordering another book Dave talks about called 48 Days to the Work You Love.  I don’t know if I will ever gain any insight though.  I’ve tried.  Maybe I haven’t tried hard enough.

I am a creature of habit.  The good thing about that is that it makes me a consistent, dependable person.  The bad thing is that it makes it very easy to get stuck in a rut.  I’m there.  I’ve been there for a while.  Maybe the lack of raises for four years is a blessing in disguise.  Raises tend to suck you in.  A raise is a very effective incentive.  I hope I figure something out.  And I hope I don’t stay where I am because I’m not brave.  If I stay where I am, I hope I feel like it’s where I’m supposed to be.  And again, I don’t hate my job.  It’s just not my purpose.  I want to find my purpose, my niche.  What I wouldn’t give for a clue, a little luck (or maybe some divine intervention) and a healthy dose of bravery.

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Shrimp Fajitas

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I bought some bell peppers – red, yellow, and orange – a few weeks ago when they were on sale at Super One Foods.  I used a little bit in what I was cooking that day, but separated the rest into three freezer bags.  Lately I’ve been thinking about how I wanted to cook with some of those peppers and fajitas came to mind.  I perused the Super One website and found that their shrimp (peeled & deveined – yes!) are on sale this week, so I went and bought some shrimp and a few other fajita necessities – cilantro, tomato, avocado, etc.  My mom and sister had both gone to south Louisiana for the day, so I invited Daddy over and we ate these shrimp fajitas for supper.

I loosely followed this recipe – http://www.food.com/recipe/shrimp-fajitas-89933 – and plan on making it again.  I’m sure it would be just as good with steak or chicken.  This recipe didn’t actually call for the bell peppers like I had, but I learned in cajun cooking class to just use a recipe as a guide.  Our teacher/chef told us, in his cajun accent, “If you like onion, put in mo’ onion.  If you like garlic, put in mo’ garlic.  The mo’ you put in the mo’ betta it be.”

My sister recently gave me some of those “Perfect Tortilla – Fajita Bowl Maker” pans, so that’s what we’ll have for lunch with the leftovers – shrimp fajita bowls.  It’s sad but I had to conceal the leftover guacamole by putting it in a non-clear container because I know how my sister can devour guacamole, and I want some for my fajita bowl.  She has no idea there’s hidden guacamole in our fridge and she won’t know until our lunch is ready and half of the guacamole belongs to me!  She’s like a bloodhound when it comes to anything avocado based.  I must take extreme measures if I want any!

I’ll admit it. I’ve become a breakfast snob.

It’s rare that I’ll go buy lunch somewhere on a workday.  There are a few reasons for that.  One of those reasons is that I like to save my money.  The other big reason is that our office is now located in a part of town that doesn’t have the best food options, at least not when you only have a thirty minute lunch break.  If I were a fan of fast food hamburger chains, I’d be in trouble.  But I’d rather avoid those.  Breakfast, however, has started to become a problem.

I like breakfast.  When I say I like breakfast, I’m not talking about a bowl of cereal or instant oatmeal.  Those things will do in a pinch, but I like a tasty breakfast.  Sometimes I’ll open a muffin mix and bake some muffins before work.  I’ll wrap up two for me and two for my sister in aluminum foil and we’ll take them to go.  (I must admit, I’m a snob even when it comes to packaged muffin mixes.  If we don’t have real frozen blueberries to add to blueberry muffins or extra chocolate chips to add to chocolate chip muffins, then I’d rather just not make them.)  Sometimes I’ll throw a couple of biscuits in the oven and heat up a slice of ham in a skillet and wrap up ham biscuits for my sister & me.  Sometimes I’ll swing by McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin or Daily Harvest for a giant chocolate haystack cookie or a cranberry apple pecan muffin.  If I lived close to ULM – which, I must say, in the grand scheme of things, I’m glad I don’t – I would be liable to stop by Einstein Brother’s Bagels.  Ever since Melissa introduced me to those on my birthday, I’ve been craving them every so often.  She brought a half dozen to the house on my birthday and we ended up freezing four of them, but those have long since been eaten.  You’d think I could just buy a bag of bagels at the grocery store to keep on hand.  Nope.  Now that I’ve tried Einstein Brother’s, Walmart bagels just won’t do.  See, I told you – breakfast snob.

Every so often I’ll feel generous and decide to bring breakfast to my roommates at work.  A Daily Harvest craving hit me a few weeks ago, so I left extra early to get breakfast for myself and my roommates.  I pulled into the Daily Harvest parking lot only to see a sign on their window stating that they had moved to a new location on Cypress Street.  I took a photo of the sign so I could google the new address once I got to work.  Momentarily, I was disappointed.  I was really looking forward to a muffin and it sure wasn’t going to happen that day.  The disappointment quickly gave way to happiness, because anywhere on Cypress was going to be more convenient than dealing with West Monroe High School traffic on North 7th.  I got to work, searched for the address, and discovered their new location is much closer to my house!  I barely have to leave any earlier at all and I can easily pick up breakfast at Daily Harvest.  This is great news!  Sort of.

I think I’ve gotten Daily Harvest breakfast three times since I discovered they moved.  Possibly four times.  This is not good for my bank account.  This could become ridiculous very quickly.  So I believe it is time to institute what I’ve heard Dave Ramsey talk about time and time again – the envelope system.  I won’t use the envelope system for every spending category, but I truly need to figure out how much I will allow myself to spend on buying breakfasts (and the occasional lunch) every month.  When the cash runs out, so does the spending.  Fortunately, as I was leaving Daily Harvest one day this week (yes, I went more than once this week), I noticed a sign – Yesterday’s Muffins:  1/2 price while they last!  I don’t mind a day old muffin!  Now I just have to get into the habit of asking what they have left from the previous day and buying one of those.  That’ll give me another day I can get a Daily Harvest muffin.  Two for the price of one basically!  Alright, now comes the hard part of figuring out how much I’m going to put in that envelope every month without going overboard.  Wish me luck!

Sayid Loves Daylight Savings

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Last fall, a fabulous dog park opened up in our town.  It’s located inside the nicest park in our area – Kiroli Park.  I remember being very nervous about taking Sayid to an off leash dog park because he tends to come across as aggressive to other dogs when on his leash.  Imagining his aggression coming to fruition when I was unable to snatch his leash and get him back in line was quite nerve-wracking.  Someone explained to my sister that when off their leashes, the dogs realize they don’t have to be protective and on guard, and they can just run and have a good time.  They said if two dogs don’t get along, they will likely just ignore each other, just like kids on a playground at school.  I was skeptical, but it turned out to be true.  Sayid does great at the dog park.  And now that the days are longer, we have gone out there after work the past two days.  The photo above of Sayid, Taylor, and Apollo was taken today.  Those three boys had fun. Yesterday, I took Sayid’s frisbee just in case he was the only dog there and needed something to play with.  It turned out Sayid had zero interest in the frisbee but Taylor, the Weimeraner, came up and snatched it right out of my hand.  Then two others – Apollo and Luke – joined Taylor for a three way tug of war.  They chased each other all over the place with that frisbee.  Sayid would only occasionally intervene if the others were getting too rough.  He was the referee bouncing around next to them, making gremlin sounds.  That frisbee wasn’t anything new to Sayid, so he wasn’t concerned as long as it got to come back home with him, I suppose.  I was so proud of him for sharing so well, because he can definitely be possessive sometimes!

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That frisbee felt about three times heavier when we left since it was caked with dirt and the slobber of three dogs!  The dog park is such a fun place to go.  You get to visit with nice people and it’s really fun to watch all the dogs run and play together.  I laugh so much when I’m there just watching all their silly antics.  Tomorrow we’ll take a break and just play basketball in the driveway since it’s Survivor night.  Otherwise, we will take advantage of the dog park as much as we can while the weather is so nice. I highly recommend dog parks if any of my dog loving friends have access.  They make for happy, well exercised, tired puppies with dirty noses.

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My Selfless Father – Exhibit B

I was on the middle school basketball team in 7th and 8th grades.  I was a high quality bench warmer.  Honestly, in two full seasons of basketball, I scored one point.  One.  It was a free throw, obviously.  I remember sitting on the bench with my fellow second stringers.  We’d talk amongst ourselves about how we wished we would get put in the game.  I never got put in the game unless we were up by at least twenty points with less than two minutes left.  But I was a big dreamer with my friends.  We were ready.  We were hopeful. But in those rare moments when Coach Reed would yell my name and I would make my way to sit next to her for my instructions, my stomach would start turning flips.  I’m not sure if my friends got as nervous as I did when actually put in a game, but it always took me a good ten or fifteen seconds on the court to settle in.

Mama was a teacher, so it wasn’t difficult for her to come to the games.  She got off work the same time I got out of school, so she would just head on over to wherever our game was.  Daddy was always there, too.  This realization of Daddy’s selflessness was similar to the one regarding my first car.  It wasn’t until I was an adult with an actual professional job of my own that I realized people have to request and take leave if they want to be somewhere else at 4:00 in the afternoon.  I scored one point in two years.  But I don’t remember Daddy ever missing a game.  Fortunately, I had some very talented teammates who kept the games exciting and we usually won.  In addition to always showing up, Daddy actually filmed our games with one of those massive, heavy 1990’s era camcorders.  He gave the game tape to Coach Reed after every game, so she could watch and critique our gameplay.  I remember they gave him a plaque of appreciation at the awards banquet one year.

I don’t know that I even really thought back on this sacrifice Daddy made, to leave work early about two times a week for about three months to watch his daughter sit the bench, until I realized one of my coworkers does the same thing.  Well, from what I understand, my coworker’s daughter is an exceptional basketball player and probably gets a lot of playing time.  But my coworker takes an hour of vacation time multiple times every week during basketball season to go support her daughter.  I told her that even if her daughter doesn’t realize the significance of that now, she will probably look back as an adult and feel very honored and thankful, like I have.

Daddy’s truck

In several instances in my life, it hasn’t been until years – usually many many years – after an event or experience that I’ve looked back and realized just how uniquely blessed I have been.  A large percentage of those blessings that I’ve taken for granted at the time have to do with my parents.  As an adult, I have realized just how elaborately God blessed me when I was born the daughter of Bo & Ginger Leporati.

My dad got a truck last night.  Daddy’s truck.  I like the sound of that.  My dad has always preferred pickup trucks, so it seems.  He usually had pickup trucks when I was growing up.  I remember when I was in high school, the truck he really had his eye on was an extended cab Dodge Ram.  When I was a sophomore in high school, he got one.  I remember the day he came home with it.  He was smiling ear to ear and told us, “Go look under the carport.  Look what I got today.”  Melissa, Jana (our exchange student from Switzerland), and I all went to peek out the door.  The truck was sitting there right before our eyes, but we didn’t believe it was truly his.  He had talked about wanting one, but was sure he couldn’t afford it.  He convinced us though, and told us the almost unbelievable story of how he got an amazing deal on it.  (Truly, that story became famous among my friends.  My friend, Joey, was so amazed that he said, “I’m taking Daddy Bo with me next time I go buy a truck!”)  He was proud of that truck and took great care of it.  He always has taken great care of his vehicles.

Not long after he got the beloved Dodge Ram – either during my junior or senior year – he sold it and bought me a car.  He drove a company car from then (1997, I believe) until probably at least ten years later.  During that time, he didn’t have a personal vehicle.  He drove the company car for business and Mama’s van for personal errands.  Around 2007, I would guess, he bought Memaw’s old car for Mama and he drove the van.  Once the van was no longer drivable, he bought a used SUV for himself.  Mama has since gotten a new car – a convertible, which is what she’s always wanted.  Then just last night, Daddy finally got a truck again.

It’s a great truck.  I went and saw it tonight.  I even test drove it around their neighborhood.  It’s awesome.  It has all kinds of bells and whistles.  It just suits Daddy to have a truck.  It genuinely keeps putting a smile on my face to think that Daddy finally has a truck again.  He finally has a truck after selling his beloved truck to buy me a car as a teenager and spending a decade without a personal vehicle of his own.  He is the most selfless person I know.

I also might add that he is retired and all of his children are grown.  His youngest child is 33 years old.  But because he is such a family man, he bought a large enough truck that he can drive several adults around at once and nobody will be crowded.  I’m ready for the next road trip to Dallas to visit my sister, Ashley, and her family.  Also, when he showed me his truck tonight, Sayid was a bit hesitant, but Daddy gave him a boost into the bed of the truck.  I told Daddy that if Sayid ever rode back there, I would want him to be restrained with a leash.  Daddy’s response was, “I wouldn’t make him ride back here.”  Even his grandpuppy would be allowed to ride inside the cab.  And like I said, Daddy doesn’t keep a junky vehicle.  What a sweet man he is.

When I was seventeen and my parents gave me my first car, I was thankful for it, but I just assumed that was how it was supposed to be.  That’s just how it worked.  Parents (at least my parents, and I think I assumed most other parents) bought their teenager a car.  As an adult I realized they didn’t have to do that.  It certainly wouldn’t have made them bad parents if they had made me work and buy a car with my own money.  But the fact that my dad was without a personal vehicle so I (his child with her entitled mentality) could have one was overwhelmingly selfless.  Wow.  Selfless, indeed.

I am so blessed to belong to Bo & Ginger.  I’m certainly not their daughter because I deserve to be so remarkably blessed, but I sure am glad God picked me for them.

Soon I’ll have to write about Daddy’s selflessness regarding my middle school basketball career.  Career is quite the exaggeration.  Stay tuned.  You’ll see.

33

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I turned 33 this week.  My roommates at work got me a birthday cake a couple of days before my birthday.  My sister, Melissa, got me a surprise breakfast of bagels from a place I had never even heard of but loved, and then we spent a fun day in Shreveport on my actual birthday.  I love taking the day off on my birthday, and I love that my sister will take the day off with me, so we can go have fun.

I got a whistling tea kettle!  I just love it.  I’ve always admired whistling tea kettles, but I don’t really know why.  I used it for the first time tonight and I like it.  The tea is tasty and it was nice to be alerted that the water was boiling with a sound other than the water boiling over and making a big mess!

My parents took me out to eat earlier in the week and this Thursday will be my special home cooked meal at Family Night.  I still am not sure what I want.  My mom cooks so many great things that it’s kind of hard to choose.  The dessert, I am sure of – lemon blueberry upside down cake.  The actual meal is still a mystery.

On the night my parents took me out to eat, we went to Tokyo in West Monroe.  My fortune said, “Your lost possession will be found within the month.”  It took me a minute to figure out anything that I had misplaced, but then I remembered – my tweezers!  I lost my good tweezers and have bought two (not very good) replacements since.  Oh how my eyebrows would benefit from my finding those tweezers!  I also realized I’m missing a pair of snowboarding socks, so I’d love to find both of those items.  Here’s hoping my fortune is correct twice!