Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Leap of Faith or Foolishness? PART 2: The Landing

When we finally land, we must stop and look around. To see how far we've gone.

NOTE: If you don’t have time for my rambling, scroll to the bottom for lessons I’ve learned. These bullet points can help you land the job you are looking for.

When I left my position, nobody could believe it. Most people said, “I give you props, that takes a lot of guts” or “That’s amazing you are taking a risk to better your life and be where you feel is a good fit.” Statements like that felt empowering, motivational and reinforced the decision I had made…for about 5 seconds. After those prideful 5 seconds, your inner voice starts talking. My inner voice is my best friend and my worst enemy, it can make or break us. REMEMBER, your inner voice is dangerous and helpful. Most people told me to go travel the world or at least North America. Although I saved, I didn’t feel I saved enough for leisurely travel. I was starting to wonder why I made the decision I had? I spent my nights and early mornings in conversation with God, writing in my journal and reading books voraciously on positive topics. One of the first things I noticed is that I started having vivid dreams again! They weren’t prophetic or anything. My dreams were still random thoughts that make you wonder, what was I thinking about last night? Dreams of people from your past and then flying or chasing a talking dog that is wearing your human clothes; just examples of course! Although I didn’t regret my decision, after many months of thinking; I felt I hadn’t prepared enough for a decision as paramount as this. I know many people including myself say, “Money isn’t everything” or “Money is the root of all evil.” With that being said, it is comedic how many times I thought about it and checked my online account. I was fretting and saw myself possibly running out very fast. Then during my first week of unemployment I realized I was getting a “generous” amount of taxes back, a healthy company profit sharing check and two weeks of pay = Oxygen. Have you ever been under water too long and start to feel that panic throughout your entire body to breathe? The carbon dioxide is building higher and higher, your heart rate accelerates into a pounding. A feeling of burning or aching comes from your chest. Then when you reach the surface, you are able to take a deep cleansing breath, filling your lungs with fresh air. That’s how I felt when I received three substantial checks in one week. Thank God.

One thing we will all be doing in life, whether we like it or not is learn more about ourselves. Most people probably don’t consciously think about it and journal their findings; I’m unique. I am always a sucker when it comes to the Myers-Briggs personality test. There are free tests online and they are fairly scary sometimes with the results. My type has changed throughout the years ENTJ/INTJ, my most recent and accurate result was ISFJ. So there are four different sections that describe your personality. It said that although I am naturally an introvert, I am the most extroverted introvert. I can build relationships with almost anyone and can start a conversation with a stranger like I have known them since birth. True story. I think a test like this is beneficial for anyone, and you can take it as you will. We are all unique and you cannot categorize the entire world with 16 personalities, I understand that. I used, you can also purchase a profile of your type. It is over 100 pages about your specific type. I’m glad I did it, it gave me a better description of my personality with the pros and cons.
An interesting free test, who are you above?

I started delving back into the book What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles, given to me from a past client and friend. It is the best job hunting book ever written, in my humble opinion. It may not put you on a single path the rest of your life, but is full of helpful information. Please also note that this book is updated every year, to change with the economy etc. They give tips on career paths, resumes, interviews and networking. It will show you what your chances are of getting an interview depending on the tactic of job hunting you choose to initiate. It is a reference that I think serious job hunters should have in their arsenal. I also read: The Hope Quotient, Mindset, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, We Were Soldiers Once and Young, The Gift of Adversity, The Heart and the Fist, David and Goliath and Fearless; just to be reading. I’m sure that I’m missing some and I am also reading now. Reading was not only an escape but an exposure to other people’s experiences and how they handled their lives. During trials in my life I also read Proverbs and Psalms of the bible. Sometimes all you can do is just look up and ask for direction. Reading is something I didn’t take the time to do when I was cranking out long hours behind a desk. I think reading benefits the unemployed explorer. Stay sharp, busy and create structure.

Structure, this is very important when being unemployed. Richard Bolles said that most people quit applying for jobs after two weeks, due to burnout and a small percentage of responses. When I read that I thought, people give up after two weeks? I then started feeling my drive dropping at the two week mark, you have to keep pushing. Just as when I received a promotion I wanted to go against the grain and spent less money; when I left my position I created structure for myself. I shaved and kept my hair short on most days, at least I felt ready to go somewhere and presentable. I spent countless hours in my “office”, the St. Louis County Library. I always run to the “Reference” or “Quiet Area”. They had Wi-Fi and of course books on every topic under the sun. They opened and closed at nine during the week. I would wake up, drink some coffee and head to my office. I would park in the same spot every day and wait for the doors to open. The same people became familiar to me, other job hunters. It was nice to associate and work alongside other people seeking employment. Sometimes I would bring a small snack or run and get lunch. The reason I did this is because I know myself well enough to know a house would not be enough structure for a focused job hunt. But as time went on and I kept applying for positions without responses, I read something in the Parachute book. Without charts, figures and statistics; NETWORKING is the #1 way to get a job. Remember the saying, “Its not always WHAT you know but WHO you know.” I’m not saying this is ethically right, but it’s the way of our world. If you are job hunting, think about who you know and TALK to them!
This book was recommended to me by a business success, not a coincidence.
Jessi’s family knew someone that had a good stable job working at a major cement plant south of St. Louis. Apparently the stretch of the Mississippi south of St. Louis has some of the richest lime deposits in the world! In other words, job stability. So I emailed, texted and talked to this friend. I applied for the job, took tests and surveys. I studied the company and what they could offer. I applied online, then had to apply in person and then had to do a personality/intelligence test. After these steps, I got an interview! Five men interviewed me and hammered me with questions. They stated the position they had open was for a laborer and kept stating I was over qualified. I stated that if there was opportunity for advancement and a stable future I would seriously consider it. They made me aware that I would work 12 hour shifts that change every 7 days. One gentleman said that “If I wanted to see every home run that little Johnny hits, I won’t.” They said the job can be hard on a man and his family.  I had a long list of questions for them as well. They also asked behavioral questions. NOTE: Study and understand what behavioral interviewing questions are, your response is vital. They predict you future behavior by listening about your past behavior. After interviewing me for one hour, I received a call the next day to take a drug test. I politely told them they literally talked me out of the job, probably their motive. I don’t mind getting dirty and working hard but this didn’t seem like the lifestyle that would work for me.

I was also in contact with a great friend who is a private business consultant, specializing in processes and work place culture. She has been a vital link for years and I am very grateful for her input throughout my life. She copied me on an email and set up a meeting with me and a friend of hers. It was to be a fairly casual meeting for advice and input on career options. He specialized in sales, his background was in chemical and mechanical engineering. One thing to remember is you never know who you are going to meet, so dress sharp, feel sharp and be sharp! We met at St. Louis Bread Co and I bought him lunch. He was a very interesting guy with a lot of knowledge about a lot of things. He had worked in many industries and seemed to settle into sales and consulting. We talked for over an hour and he mentioned that I needed to work with people. We talked about some select companies in St. Louis and what I could possibly do for them, with my experience. I was happy I met him and he kept in touch with me throughout my hunt. One company we talked about which I was already honing in on was Graybar Electric. He happened to have a contact there and I called him to ask him 20 questions. I also talked to a couple other people that knew him. Networking seemed to work, at least to start conversations within certain companies. “Put a bug in their ear”, that’s what people used to tell me. Be interested and let them know your name.

Sometimes we have to take a break and find balance in our work. Then we will realize the beautiful things that were right in front of us the whole time.
Every day I would search job boards and see the same jobs. I would try to think of new networking contacts. Sometimes I thought I should have taken the 12 hour shifts at the lime plant, jobs were hard to come by! Because of my support system and ability to be frugal, my urgency didn’t push me into future regret. My motivation seemed to be decreasing and that’s when I started picking up side jobs. I would search for jobs 3-4 days a week and work on other days. I dug up tree stumps, organic gardening, landscaping, cleaned guns, painted patio furniture, and more. One day I was tired of job hunting and went home, I got a call to make quick money! I had to deliver four packets of finished taxes for $100 cash, the easiest money I have ever made. I was grateful to have a chance to work with Jessi’s dad. His business is ASAP Gutters and he installs, repairs and cleans gutters. If you ever need work done, I’ll let him know! It is very humbling when people know you don’t have a steady job and are thinking of ways to pay you for work. I went from managing one of the largest service departments in the country (32 million dollars in equipment) to painting patio furniture. This creates a humbled person. It’s good for us to be vulnerable and humbled at times. Do you think an Olympic athlete is comfortable during the years of training leading up to the games? Do you think that Navy Seals are comfortable going through BUDS training, preparing for the darkest places on the face of the Earth? Comfort is something that is sold everywhere today, its common. I myself live very comfortably, I’ll admit it. I like A/C, I like hot water and I like my electronics. It was not comfortable to give up authority, a salary, a company truck and free gas to explore my options in this life. This reminds me of a verse I read during this job hunt. James 1:2-4 “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Sometimes it seems we have to go through the fire in life to build better character and focus.

Find time to reset, recharge and get re-motivated.
Two companies I was focusing on were Graybar and Nestle Purina. I contacted over 25 people while attempting to network for Graybar. In all I applied for nearly 60 jobs in three months. I also listed each job title, the company and the date I applied. If I received a rejection then I would write the date and draw a line through it. Some of those applications were out of desperation to be honest with you. At times I just wanted a job! Why didn’t anyone call me back or sent me rejection emails? I made nearly straight A’s, have recommendations and proof of my ability to make a difference in the workplace! What was wrong with me? Remember that inner voice we all have? Be careful. I would job hunt/network, work and go hiking. I often hiked the Chubb Trail located between Lone Elk Park and West Tyson Park in south St. Louis. It was four hours to be free and thankful for my life. I would job hunt in the AM and hike in the PM. I was able to spend a mild and beautiful Spring outside. I went fishing, hiking, hunting and was still networking. I then was told a friend of mine from high school that grew up down the street from me worked at Graybar! I immediately called him and asked him 20 questions. I mentioned that I was trying to focus on getting an interview with Graybar and he said, “Graybar is taking over man!” He had all positive things to say about the company and benefits. He was getting ready to transfer to Kansas City, MO. with them. He mentioned that the hiring process was extremely thorough, and could take a while. He couldn’t get me an interview but let me use him as a reference. I applied for positions that seemed transferable from my old job. Customer Service, Inventory Planner and Sales Trainee are what I chose. At the same time Nestle Purina contacted me about my application with them. Remember that when you apply for a position, so are at least 100 others. It takes time, especially if there are multiple openings. BE PATIENT, everyone kept saying that. I was ready to show anyone and everyone how hard I could work! It will likely take at least 1-2 weeks to hear a reply from a job application. Unfortunately the days of waiting on the doorstep and shaking the company owners hand to get hired is near extinction. I also contacted a Graybar recruiter on LinkedIn to ask his professional advice for starting a career with Graybar. He was extremely kind and answered all of my questions and gave me some advice too. I’m glad I reached out to him, he forwarded my name to HR.

Through the process of leaving my company and job hunting I went through an array of emotions. Relieved, unsure, panicked, hopeful, desperate, hopeful, hopeless, motivated, happy, hopeless, excited, exhausted, hopeful, humbled, motivated, unsure, hopeful and satisfied. I read blogs about people feeling the same thing! I just knew I had a choice every morning, stay in bed or get up and do something! To say that I was 100% driven every single day and never doubted myself would be a lie. Like Jessi told me, “You’re too young to retire and you’ll get a job soon enough. You put in the time and work.” I had to keep trying. I was contacted by Nestle Purina and Graybar in the same week! I was so excited and wanted to start work immediately! That’s when I tried to remember, BE PATIENT. They contacted me on a Monday to schedule a phone interview for the following week or after. I scheduled them as soon as possible. I knew a friend that used to work for Purina and another friend still there. I contacted both of them via phone and asked 20 questions. They were very helpful and let me know what to expect. Hiring a person is a huge decision, and a very expensive one. The hiring process has changed through the years. Now there are phone interviews, online tests/assessments and the old fashion face to face interviews. It is a process, prepare for it.  

Remember the behavioral questions I mentioned earlier? This is a very common screening technique you MUST understand. I wrote over 20 questions and had multiple work experiences for each of them. When they ask you a question such as: “Tell me about a time when your boss was not around and you had to make a business decision. Explain the steps you took and how that turned out.” What they are listening for is a Situation, Action and Outcome. Here is an example answer I would give: “We had a skid steer come back with severely damaged rubber tracks. A salesman had already promised this machine to a customer within the week for a 6 month rental. I had my men take pictures of the damage and save them in our files. I had a mechanic take the damaged tracks off. I priced three vendors and found one that was offering dealer pricing and free shipping within two days! I immediately made the decision to buy the tracks. They showed up the next day and I had a mechanic install them as soon as possible. The machine was rented for 6 months to the customer and I wrote an invoice for the damage to the previous customer.” Remember, I tend to jabber on but short is sweet. They interview people all day long. Remember, SITUATION, ACTION, OUTCOME. Learn it and prepare for it from your past experiences.

One thing that is difficult for me is to brag or make myself look better than anyone else. If you have this same weakness, I have bad news for you. Whether it is a phone or in person interview, you are literally selling yourself. There is a difference between confident and cocky; there is also a difference between assertive and aggressive. I restructured my resume twice during this process. One of my good friends gave me an option to passively prove my ability without bragging. He told me to put a small portfolio together with accomplishments, emails, and recommendations.  He told me to put it in a small professional folder and give it to them to have after an interview in person. I took his advice and started browsing through awards, recommendations, emails and accomplishments. I made three copies of this packet and decided I would add their name on the front with their emblem and the date of the interview. I always bring a leather folder to all interviews. Inside this folder is my pen, legal pad with questions for them and a calculator. It is a small thing that looks very organized and professional. I got it from my last company. You have to think of a strategy to prove you are worth looking into, calling or hiring! If I could do it, you can do it.

My first phone interview was at 8 o’clock in the morning with Nestle Purina. We summarized my resume and they asked why I left every single job. Be ready for this, don’t say anything negative. Then they started the behavioral interviewing. I had stories for every question I could possibly think of and felt confident in my answers. I was able to ask the recruiter questions I wanted to know about the company. Throughout the interview I heard her saying, “That’s perfect, perfect!” It made me feel good whether she meant it or not. She explained that if I was chosen for the next stage it would be a 3+ hour interview process of behavioral questioning. She mentioned I would know within 3 days if I would be moving forward. The position was an Order Revenue Management Specialist. I would work with customers such as a giant chain store, I would make sure the orders are placed and delivered as expected. I would resolve any problems in the middle. My second interview was at 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon with Graybar. The recruiter was great to talk to and put me at ease immediately. We reviewed my resume and why I made the changes I had. She asked me behavioral questions which I prepared for with vigor. I was able to ask her questions and learn more about the inside, which I wanted to see so bad. She told me I would get a call within 2 weeks about whether I would be moving forward.

Long story shorter, Nestle Purina didn’t work out. They are a top rated company in St. Louis and give employees the ability to move into different departments and they promote from within. Instead of Graybar calling me in two weeks, they called me in 24 hours for an in person interview! There was still hope for me. I also had a peace about me that if it didn’t work out, I would just keep trying me best. I researched the company and wrote notes about them. I found articles online about them and what they do best. They were started in the mid-1800s and are employee owned. They have over 8,000 employees and over 130,000 customers. They don’t make or repair anything. They purchase, house and distribute over 100,000 electrical supplies for customers across North America. They also seem to do it better than most. They are a Fortune 500 company and highly rated from their own employees. These are just examples of what I learned. When the interview on May 19th at 9:00 o’clock came, I was prepared. I wore a full suit with a tie and brought my leather folder kit and “highlights packet”. The manager was extremely friendly and personable. We reviewed my entire resume and went through reasons why I made the career changes I did. He asked me specific questions about my last position and asked behavioral questions. I had stories of past situations for every question and why I made the decisions I had to. It seemed to go very smooth and I felt confident in my ability. He stated they would contact me within 10 days to know the next step in the process for me, if they were interested. If they called me it would be to set up a Sales Assessment Test online. I remembered to hand him my “Highlight Packet” and said, “This is for you guys to look over whenever you get time, you can have it.” I remembered I felt confident after the Nestle interview also, I must have been wrong? Be conscious of that inner voice, it is dangerous. Graybar called me within 3 hours of my interview and wanted me to take the assessment online. This assessment would determine if I am the right person for the position.

My "Highlight Packet"
I was looking for the assessment the next day, waiting at the library. I never saw it and emailed the hiring manager in the evening. I knew in the past that my email is commonly misspelled, RABBIT vs. RABBITT. The extra T seems to throw people off. I then received the assessment on a Friday. The assessment took me over an hour to complete and screened multiple areas. Personality, analytical skills, math skills and more. That was a long weekend of anticipation. In fact I didn’t hear anything back for about 5 days. Then I received a call from the hiring manager wanting to set up a final interview for the following week. I went into my interview at 10:30am on June 4th. I thought of new questions they could ask me, and new questions I had for them. He said I did better than average on my assessment but he could not show me the scoring. He said that his boss was very impressed with my “Highlight Packet” I put together with their name on the front. He asked me a few behavioral or situational questions. He asked what I had been doing with my time. I told him I had been interviewing and working on the side. After I asked three company related questions, I asked one last question. “You have answered all of my questions, my last question is what is next for me in this process?” He stated, “Well this is where I give you an offer and you tell me yes, no or that you need time.” He told me what they were willing to do for me and asked if I needed time to think about it. Without leaping out of my chair while thinking about the past 101 day journey of self-discovery and perseverance, I accepted the position. I will work in Inside Sales initially, helping customers buy products they need at the best price possible. I will work with contractors, industrial maintenance managers and purchasers. They gave me what I asked for and I will be working Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm. My start date is June 29th, giving me the ability to go to Destin, FL for my grandma’s 90th birthday party.  We are going to be surf fishing and relaxing by the beach, Jessi is flying down midweek to join us. Nothing but blessed and grateful to all the people in my life and God. My parents and girlfriend Jessi were my positive reinforcement that I was doing the right thing for myself. Life is not perfect and I will have challenges and trials ahead, but my belief in my own ability to overcome, persevere and succeed has inscreased. I passed up opportunities, I kept searching and staying productive. Now I have an opportunity to work for an amazing company and see where the career can take me. An interesting fact is that Graybar’s CEO started in customer service! I know I have a ton to learn and will never stop learning in an ever changing industry. I’m up for the challenge and excited to do my best and have no regrets. I want to tell you I applied for this job on April 8th, and will start June 29th. BE PATIENT.

Lesson’s learned during my 101 day journey

·         Study yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses. Know what you’re capable of!

·         Do your best to control that “inner voice”, be positive.

·         Create structure in your life. Make a schedule, wake up early and follow it.

·         Network, network, network. It is the #1 way to get a job, period.

·         Review and restructure your resume to make you the best candidate out there.

·         Be resilient. You will not be given an offer from every company, come back strong, move forward.

·         Dress sharp, feel sharp and be sharp. Take care of yourself and dress for the occasion.

·         If you are honestly doing your best, you should have nothing to regret.

·         Have a support source. Family, friends or fellow job hunter groups.

·         If you’re going to do all the work to get an interview, prepare for it and dress sharp!

·         Remember that the speed of the interview process and whether you are receiving a regular paycheck is not a prospective employer’s concern.

·         I wouldn’t recommend you ever quit a job without another job, if you do save AT LEAST 4 months funds. I read about multiple people that took over one year to land a job!

·         There is a purpose for your life. You have the ability to influence people, make changes and succeed by making productive decisions starting today.

·         When in a dark place in your life and feeling uncertain about who you are. This will show you how strong you are and who will love you unconditionally.

·         Be Patient! The hiring process is a lengthy one, keep pushing.

·         Find balance. If you job hunt all day, try to go running or do another unrelated activity afterwards.

·         Surround yourself with positive people, positive books and positive self-talk.

·         People are hired and fired daily, there are always positions opening for some reason.

·         Never make the mistake that you think you know everything. Listen to people and always keep learning.

·         Pray and or meditate. Find peace in this process, chaos will not solve many problems.


         The last thing I want to say is that most people don’t have their life figured out, that’s okay. I don’t have my life figured out, that’s okay. General Ulysses S. Grant was a superstar in the 1800’s, he met royalty all over the world after the Civil War. Did you know that he chose to leave the army before the war started? Did you know that he failed almost every effort to make money? Many called him an alcoholic and a failure. He was given land to make money, failed. He tried farming in California, it was in a flood plain; failed. He had to move back home with his wife and kids, to work under his father and brothers. When the war started he was not even in the military! He eventually got back into his niche and was one of the most successful generals in the history books. That is one story of thousands. Its seems the common link is these people just keep trying! Wherever you are in your life, its okay! Think about what you want and where you want to go. Start making changes, take action and set small goals. We have the ability to live safe lives and be under the radar our entire life; we also have the ability to create changes which can produce situations we never dreamed of. There is nothing wrong with either decision, which will you choose? Life is very short, how will you choose to live it? I’ll tell you how I plan on living mine, without regrets. I want to push more, try more, love more and be more. I could be in the same position I was in 2003, but what fun would that be? Continue to become the best version of yourself. I wish you the best in your endeavors and hope you live life to the fullest. Carpe Diem!





Monday, June 1, 2015

A Leap of Faith or Foolishness? Part 1: The Leap


The Leap!

                This is a story about life and how it shapes us, to make us who we are. I recently left my job without having anything lined up on February 20th, 2015. With that being said it is the most uncharacteristic thing I have ever done. I understand life is not perfect, we are not perfect, but we can make moves and choices that directly affect our quality of life! Sometimes we have choices and can make changes; they may not happen overnight. Is our life just the outcome of thousands of daily decisions? How hard we work, how much we sleep, how much we exercise and how healthy we eat? I was told once in college that “Success is the management of our opportunities”; I believe there is much truth in that statement. Others might say “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet” or “Success is where luck and preparation meet.” Everyone has their own definition of success, it is a subjective thing. What does it mean to be successful? I always think about these things at 3am for some reason. There are people in the world that struggle to feed their children, provide income just to pay the bills each month and maybe have enough for extras, but they feel successful! Now and then I hear people talking enthusiastically about their job and want to know where that amazing place is! That’s when I realize that we all have our own definition. Last week I met a nurse that went back to school at the age of 45, because she was tired of working odd jobs and not having stable employment. She is now doing great and much more stable. She said it was hard, but possible. She made a change at 45, why am I so worried about who I will become at 30 years of age? I stay up many nights and think about people from the past, history repeats itself right? Cicero said, “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to always remain a child.” I think about people like Jesus, Alexander the Great, Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, Grant, Louie Zamperini, Marcus Luttrell, Adam Brown, Schindler, Theodore Roosevelt, Napoleon Hill, Mandela, Dale Carnegie, Philip Petit, Sargent York, William Wallace (the real one) and many many more. What made them different? Why are people still learning about them and how did they influence the world? This may be off track, welcome to my mind. I watched a credit card commercial the other day that was called, “The Journey Never Stops”. It explains some of these stories below. My point is that you will fail, and that’s okay. A single trait that can turn failure into success is resilience, the ability to learn from a trial and come back strong.

In our lives we will be tested continually, whether we are being evaluated throughout is up for discussion. We will all face trials, and this is as sure as death and taxes. As much as we might worry and prepare, we can never predict the events that will take place. This is not an amazing story of survival or living in the gutter, but you might be able to relate to my trials. I used to be jealous of my grandpas because they were so sure of themselves. They were so smart and seemed to have made all the right choices their entire lives! This was not true of course. When I found out my grandpa Turnbough dropped a math class, I was floored and thought about it for a week! He was a mathematical genius and he failed at one point in his life? I later realized their life is what made them who they were and the experiences had shaped them into great men. I just turned thirty and am being “shaped” as you read this. One thing I found out in my late teens is that we ALL WILL fail, how we respond can make all the difference. Garth Brooks was told multiple times that he should pursue something besides music. Lincoln failed at more things than he succeeded in. Oprah and Steve Jobs were fired at different points in their career. Bill Gates tried to start a company and failed, the first time. These people were resilient in the face of adversity.

When I was in high school I was unsure of just about everything in my life, except that I had a great family. At the end of my senior year I decided, I guess I’ll take the ACT and apply for the local community college. I had met with recruiters from the Marine Corps and taken tests to see what I might be placed for. My ACT score was a low 18; it seemed my shop, weightlifting and hall monitor classes didn’t prepare me very well my 12th year of schooling. My score from the Marines was pretty sad also. I was voted “Most likely to become a comedian” and “Best Personality” in my yearbook, but the Marines didn’t seem to care about that either. My grandpa Turnbough told me, “go to school for three years and then do whatever you want.” He had seen suffering and death first hand fighting the Germans in the 1940s, he didn’t want that for me. My grandpa Rabbitt on the other hand said joining the Marines was one of the best decisions he made in his life. He fought in the Pacific on some of the most written about islands during the war, including Iwo Jima. I knew my grandfathers changed their destiny by attending college in the late 1940s. My grandpa Rabbitt became a lawyer and provided for twelve children, my grandpa Turnbough became a prominent mechanical chief engineer that travelled North America and Europe. This seemed to be the easy choice in 2003, I joined the masses at St. Louis Community College. It was an easy transition and some of the best teachers I have ever had to this day. My main interests were lifestyle change for the unhealthy populations and wildlife conservation, not exactly similar. I chose to focus on health because the “job outlook” in 2003 was better. After entering the community college with a high school mentality, I dropped my first math class that my grandpa offered to help me with daily; I would lose my grandpa that year. I was 19 years old and something inside me would change forever, I should have taken his help. I joked around less, I became more serious and spent most of my time in the library. I became somewhat of a reader, something my dad always said was extremely beneficial for anyone. He was correct, of course. I pursued school with a relentless vigor and would have a GPA between 3.7-3.9 for the rest of my school years. I finished my college years at twenty-five, earning a Master’s of Education in Exercise Physiology. Losing my grandpa was the biggest tragedy of my life, the biggest psychological trial. It introduced God into my life and changed my urgency and mentality on almost every endeavor. I think about my grandpa every single day and in most things I do. I hope to be a man like him, extremely humble and extremely competent. Although falling short stressed me out there is something I repeated in my head to bring me peace, “If I honestly did my best in that situation, then I shouldn’t have any regrets.”

My master's graduation in 2010.

                I finished my Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology in 2008. I was grateful to be hired full time by Washington University School of Medicine! I was working for Dr. Dennis Villareal, studying the effects of exercise, diet and education on the frail/elderly/obese population. I did testing, instructing, data entry and much more. I prayed about going back to school or looking to get on a different government grant in research (2008-09 were not the best funding years). It was a great experience working with very intelligent people. I said that if a door is opened I will walk through it. I was accepted into graduate school and was chosen for an assistantship at SIUE. I created and taught classes, did anything my mentor wanted and gained many skills in leadership and completing objectives. My path from there was a PhD or to leave academia and work in the field. I had a prolonged period of unemployment and it was a big wake up call. Looking for a job seemed like a full time job, it was challenging and exhausting. It is a feeling between determination, hopelessness and adventure. After much prayer, patience and four interviews, I got a job at a high end personal training facility. I really enjoyed working with my clients and watching their quality of life improve quickly. To be honest I was frustrated that a highschool graduate with a personal training certification could make the same as me, and not owe tens of thousands of dollars in college loans. Many exercise physiology jobs were consolidated and nurses took on the tasks; specifically in cardiac rehab, weight management and clinical research. Rightly so, nurses earn their living I know that for a fact. I was able to observe in an operating room to watch a double bypass, the nurses did about 95% of the work! I personal trained for one year and didn’t feel the schedule fit my lifestyle. I woke up at 4am most days and went home between 7-8pm. There were some mornings I set the alarm off at 4:45am while opening the building. I worked with some amazing individuals that had a unique drive and more energy than most. I was falling asleep at stop lights, overusing energy drinks and struggled to keep Sundays off for myself. A strange fact is that during this time in my life, I had dreams there was a large dark figure standing in the corner of my bedroom staring at me. All I could see was its eyes, then it would jump across the room and put all of its weight on my chest. Every single time I exhaled while lying in bed, it would push further, not allowing a single breath in. I would wake up gasping for air! I don’t ever try to interpret my dreams but that was just a strange period in my life I suppose.

Once I decided that the job was not for me, it was time to make some serious decisions. Up to this point it, I had almost every single job fall in my lap. All my past employers vouched for me and I had a previous boss say that I was nineteen going on forty in 2004. I took all my tasks and objectives extremely serious, sometimes people made fun of me for that. After my first year at SIUE, I was asked how many times I had been to “town” (Edwardsville, IL); my answer was twice. My classmate said, “maybe you need to get out of the library and stop hiking alone in the woods all the time?” Anyways, I interviewed at Washington University via skype with a brilliant doctor in Italy. We kept interrupting each other because of the delay across the Atlantic Ocean! I had an interview at a local YMCA to be the “Director of Fitness”, I had every qualification except management experience.  I applied and had a phone interview with a weight management clinic at a local hospital. I was not chosen for any of the positions and needed to re-evaluate my situation again. I knew I really wanted the weekends off for my outdoor adventures that keep me happy. I knew that I didn’t want the schedule I had personal training and that I did enjoy working with people. Many of my classmates were not using their degree and had either gone back to school or changed careers fields. I thought about every possible option as if I were playing chess. I knew a change is something I had to make.

                I found it hard initially to take rejection because I wasn’t used to it. It seemed that I achieved most things I strived for and most people generally liked me, why not give me a chance? Did I look sloppy or say something wrong? Remember assumptions are an extremely dangerous thing. I later found out that you don’t always succeed the first time. After much prayer and effort, I was given a lead through a friend at church. An industrial rental company needed a service assistant. I felt I was wasting my education, I was letting my family down or going through life aimlessly. When I met the managers, they asked if I was okay with working Monday through Friday 7am-3:30pm, I almost started laughing in front of the director of operations. I had prayed about hours and income, they offered exactly what I wanted to the dollar and hour, it gave me goosebumps. The only thing missing on my resume and something I prayed about was management or leadership opportunities. They said they didn’t care what my degree was in, I was willing to work hard and learn. I was immersed into a work culture I had never seen, people enjoyed it for the most part. My first work function was the Christmas party. The owners of the company stood at the front door with their wives shaking everyone’s hands, then carried h’ordeurves around for their employees like waiters! The bosses were friendly and genuinely interested in their employee’s lives, it was incredible. I found myself going from being on my feet all day to sitting all day at a computer, big change. I balanced that out with 5am workout sessions at the gym, which was one block east. I asked the director of operations for tips on being successful, he then asked if I have read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie? I had read it but not in a completely focused state. I was a bigger fan of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Both of these books are STILL top selling business books that were written in 1937. When our company was bought by a construction giant from Europe, they offered to pay for tuition up to $2500/yr. I found a Dale Carnegie class in St. Louis and signed up immediately. The leader of the class was Chris Kroeger, an amazing instructor that practices was he preaches. He truly is an example of what Dale Carnegie was trying to communicate.

We all evolve into something better in life, if we want.

                With time I was promoted to service manager. I worked with a lot of great people that worked hard and accomplished more things than I thought was possible. I was slowly introduced into the management role and there was fair amount of corporate steps to take as well. I was nervous and excited to have the opportunity to be in charge of 32 million dollars of equipment and 13 men. This is exactly what I prayed for three years earlier and it fell in my lap, I worked hard to earn it also. We were bought again by a giant merger/acquisition company from California and things changed again. We went through many software changes and process changes, it was a good challenge on learning new things fast. When managing 13 men you are managing time cards, discipline, vacations, injuries and disputes. I’m sure there were things I could have done better, but I cannot say I didn’t try my best. Remember my phrase from earlier? If you honestly try your best you have nothing to regret, keep moving! To mention a few tasks: I was reconciling 5 credit cards, doing daily timecards, processing invoices, taking all customer calls for service, dispatching four mechanics, stocking and ordering RMO supplies, researching parts for repairs, managing open purchase orders, managing all field and billable workorders ,leading the division in warranty revenue, managing the unavailable percentage of 32 million dollars in industrial equipment, implementing new rules and processes daily, managing building repairs, maintaining vendor relationships and pricing, always striving to make my men know they are respected, manufacturer rebates, calming irate customers down and solving everyone’s problems 24/7. I received service calls on my work phone in the deer stand and duck blind. I remember a customer in Forest Park asked, “Is that a duck I hear?” I told him the truth, I was in the middle of Wappapello lake hunting! I called a mechanic and he took care of the problem for me. People would call at 2:30am yelling at me, then I would call to wake my mechanics up. I was once in the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL and playing phone tag with mechanics and customers, it was part of the job. To say that this job was a blessing would be an understatement. To say that this job was beneficial for my character and traits would be a major understatement.

The sun rises and sets on seasons in our lives. "This too shall pass"

                Having this job kept things stable in my life when not everything was, I tend to like structure. If I don’t have structure then I make it. In my last job I attempted to turn chaos into harmony. I went across the world on a mission trip to Kosovo, a vacation in New Orleans/Gulf Shores, went on great hunts, bought new guns and much more. During this time I went through a tragic divorce that I will choose not to talk about. It was another major trial in my life that brought on the feelings of embarrassment, resentment, anger, fear, and more. I had lost a spouse and incredible family also. To be completely transparent, there were days I barely got to work, just to come home and sleep on my living room floor by the front door to stop thinking so much. I have seen people respond to this many ways and with many different circumstances. There are things that I don’t think we will ever forget or heal from, we just choose to learn and keep living. My personal goal is to not have any amount malice toward her, and I am there. Thank God. I was able to independently pay for my two bedroom apartment, pay off all my credit card bills and two small college loans. Blessed. While it was one of the worst years of my life, in many ways great things happened also. I wasn’t feeling the position was for me in the service department because of many variables. Yet another fork in the road of life! What to do now? I knew I wanted to work hard all day, I wanted responsibility, I wanted to build relationships with people and lastly wanted to keep my outdoor hobbies that bring me internal peace. I was working 10-13 hour days and realized I stopped dreaming when I was divorced. Insomnia took a hold of me in bouts. I was tired all time and knew I had to make a change. At this point I thought about people that worked jobs they hated their entire lives because they didn’t think they could make a change. Although I didn’t hate anything, I knew I needed to create a change.

I was focusing on being financially responsible and was looking for a way to cut my costs dramatically. I chose to move back in with my parents at 29 years old, with their permission of course. (I can write an entire blog about what it feels like to move back in with your parents after college, marriage, divorce and managing good men 10-25 years my senior. Someday I might just do that.) Fortunately my family has been the biggest blessing in my life. My support system. They practice unconditional love and know that I don’t plan on living with them forever. They know how much it bothers me, but they also know it was the logical and responsible decision. I try to do repairs on the house and not be in anyone’s way. After many conversations with God, I felt my situation pushing me to make a major change in my short life I was given. Three decades are gone, there is no going back in this life.  I hit a point at work where I felt in my very specific situation, it was best to look for something else full time. I’m not saying that I recommend it, I’m just telling you what I did. I called my mom and then my girlfriend Jessi. I told Jessi, “Hey it’s just me, if you are dating me for money then you might want to change your mind.” I was half joking, but she reassured me that I made the right decision and she was not basing our relationship off of my income. So that was one thing I had going for me. She had two great jobs within 2 miles of where she lives, yeah she is sharp. I know that not everyone will have the opportunities I did, and I am thankful. I respectively turned in my two weeks to my employer and chose to go out into the world without a designated plan. I felt it was something I had to. This is not a story about bashing an employer, I was grateful for the opportunity they provided for me. This is a story about finding my way in this life, finding something that can use my traits to be productive and successful. This is not a story about getting rich, making millions or becoming famous. If we make a leap, we must land; in much the same way as “what goes up, must come down.” This is part one or what I call “The Leap”, part two will be “The Landing.” Follow me on my journey. In Part two I will talk about job hunting, networking, and tips on things I experienced.
- Austin

Remember the path of our lives will have peaks and valleys, sunshine and rain; even forks in the road. Keep moving, crawl if you have to and don't give up. A new journey begins every single day.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

My Grandma's Journey to becoming a City Mouse

         My grandma Minnie teaching her two oldest daughters how to be the best mom possible.

           When I was young my grandma used to read me "The Country Mouse and the City Mouse." While it is my dream to leave the city, she had to make a journey to the city in order to make a living. I never asked her all the details of her endeavor until today.  I went over to my grandma's house to set up a new digital tv box and put away some decorations in her garage. I knew if I didn't she would be climbing the ladder, she will also mow her lawn if you don't first. She insisted I climb the ladder and   she hand me these fairly dense boxes. I know if you have a blog that you are supposed to focus on one central theme and gain fame and followers; I've never been one to follow the herd. Any time I go to my grandma's, I hear a new story from the past. I lock in and ask questions, I imagine her rural upbringing and transition to the  city life in the 1940s.
       She is 90 years old and independent. She remembers street names, maiden/married names and dates. I could ask what town a friend was from or what year they were married. With that being said, if something is wrong I will take the blame. This conversation started by her handing me a typed letter in a frame. This letter was from Europe, congratulating my grandpa (Harold L. Turnbough) on his retirement in 1986. The letter from Allan Light and Bob Levison stated that his "influence has reached beyond the American continent." Thanking him for his invention of the "Zip-Sorter", only one of his contributions he received plaques for. He never showed me that letter and never bragged about his inventions. I remember somebody telling me, "a lot of people made money from his inventions and he could have been rich if he marketed them himself." He was the most humble man I've ever known and intelligent as well; my idol. When he was a boy, "he was always building or creating things", his sister Nadine always told me. He was born in 1921 and grew up on the highest point around, "Turnbough Hill". He had two sisters, Nadine and Hilma. As fate would have it, this "boy" was chopping firewood one December day in Quaker, MO. It was December 7th, 1941 to be exact. He had a small radio and heard men saying, "The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, America is going to war!".  He told me he had to run into the house and look on a map to find Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. Soon after he was hand picked by Uncle Sam to go to Europe, Austria and Germany to be exact. His father fought in WWI, in the same location in Europe.

   So with my grandpa being trained to fight and shipped across the world to protect our freedom, my grandma was finishing high school at Dillard High. She grew up in Curtois, MO on an isolated farm with three older sisters (Eunice, Geraldine and Beatrice) and one older brother (Orville). My grandma Minnie Crabtree was born in 1925, four years before the great depression tragically struck America. Some pivotal things were happening in 1925, Adolf Hitler was released from Landsberg Jail and published his influential book: Mein Kampf.  He was given a five year sentence for treason, but only served nine months due to political pressure and popularity. Chrysler the automobile company was started, the famous gangster Al Capone was "promoted" to run the mob and The Great Gatsby was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Some other people born on this year were Paul Newman, B.B. King and Johnny Carson. She graduated high school in 1942. Without any hope of going to college, she needed to find a job!

                                    My grandma is on the right, a high school graduate in 1942.

     Her sister, Geraldine was five or six years older and also needed a job. Geraldine had different jobs back then, but my grandma remembers her making school lunches in the basement of a two room schoolhouse. This schoolhouse was up the creek from her family farm and would be where she met my grandpa in grade school. My grandpa bought this schoolhouse later in his life, which is where the majority of my favorite memories were made. Most people in rural Missouri either farmed or mined by the nearest town of Viburnum back then, which didn't leave her with many options. Her older brother Orville Crabtree worked on a farm to provide for his wife Lucille and family. Her sister Beatrice and husband Jake Adams lived and worked on a chicken farm to make ends meet, they finally came to St. Louis years later. My grandpa's sisters Nadine and Hilma eventually moved to St. Louis with their husbands, Winford and Paul. Not many people had the opportunity to live in the country where they grew up, they had to relocate to survive. Her older sister Eunice was living in St. Louis, with her husband Harry Woods. Eunice worked at a cleaning company and Harry worked making ammunition for our soldiers. Her parents didn't have electric on the farm, and sure didnt' have a telephone! People communicated by letters and just had to be patient to learn of any new developments with their loved ones. Recently I was texting friends in Europe, I'm still amazed that it only takes seconds to send a message across the Atlantic. She was told if she could get a ride to St. Louis, she could look for a job and stay with her sister and brother in law. Geraldine and grandma had one old case for luggage, and put everything they owned in it. It was rare for anyone to have a car back then, they managed to find a ride in the back of a guy's truck! If I were to drive to the Crabtree Farmhouse today, it would take me approximately 2 hours from St. Louis County. It was a normal thing to ride in the back of trucks then, "that's how groups of people got around back then."  They didn't have a job yet, but did have a place to live, on Delmar Blvd. in St. Louis City. 
         St. Louis in 1942 during the clearing for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Notice the Old Cathedral, built in 1834; the first cathedral West of the Mississippi River. Now you will see the St. Louis Arch here.

                                            This is a streetcar in Forest Park, St. Louis.

                          The St. Louis Cardinals beat the dominant New York Yankees in 1942!

      After their truck ride into the city, they were immersed into a the new bustling world of St. Louis, Missouri. They had never seen a town of this magnitude. The population being just over 800,000 was quite the contrast from living in the Missouri Ozarks with nobody within miles. The St. Louis streetcar and train system was started in the 1890's. She said the streetcars were so packed with people, you had to hang on the edge and squeeze in between everyone while riding anywhere. She said she remembers. "everyone was watching the street signs like a hawk, making sure they didn't miss their stop." Since almost nobody owned a vehicle then, most people still lived in the city limits and "suburbanization" didn't start yet. One could drive just minutes from the city and be in the woods or on a cattle farm, which is now considered "South City."  The most technological advancement she came in contact with daily was electricity in their rental house! She said when she was back home, they "went to sleep soon after the sun went down or lit candles." One time I believe it was her parents that rearranged her brother's room by moving his bed, when he was told to go to sleep he ran through the door and jumped in the air thinking he would land on a soft bed; instead he landed on the floor. Having electricity in every room was an amazing feature not yet commonly seen in rural America. Once they got settled, they put an application in where Eunice worked, Lundstrom Cleaners. They were asked to come in and were hired! This place was near Tower Grove Avenue and South Vandeventer Avenue. Her commute included a streetcar ride to the bus station and then waited for a bus to get closer to work; it wasnt' fast but it was a paycheck. Her starting wage was a hefty .38 cents an hour, eight hours a day. She pressed men's slacks and made sure the creases were perfect, then people could look professional and put together for church or work.

      She learned this job quickly, she said she remembers her sister burning her arms on the industrial presses. She heard someone mention that a factory down the street named Prince Gardner Billfolds, offered .42 cents an hour. She applied and was quickly hired, gluing seams on wallets. She said she didn't really like it that much but was happy to have a job. She also skipped most "extra expenses", such as the movies or a banana split from Walgreens. She said that sometimes she would walk by The FOX Theatre, but "we never really went in ." She shared a room with Geraldine and they had a stove. The house she was living in had a wooden ice box. You would place a card outside the window saying what size block you wanted; 5, 10 or 25lbs. There was a metal tray below that would catch the melting water. When my grandpa was in college his roommates and him forgot to empty a similar tray, dripping water all over his neighbor's clothes in the closet below him. She moved from a house off Delmar Blvd to an apartment on Westminster Pl. Eventually she was told about a "government job", closer to home and contributing to the war. She was hired at Mine Equipment Company, off Clayton Rd. Her job was to inspect huge communication cables being spooled up. She would wear gloves and all the cable would run through her hands, if there was a knot in the line, it was repaired. I remember her showing me her picture there with her sisters/co-workers. It was a good job and paid .65-.80 cents per hour. With Germany surrendering in May and Japan surrendering in August, the demand for communication cable stopped.

     Her next job in 1945 was at the American Can Company off Kingshighway Blvd. She inspected cans that did not yet have a top or bottom, for any flaws. She didn't like the job much and said she was looking for a new one soon after. She worked until midnight sometimes. She applied for a job with the American Thermometer Company and was hired in 1946. I love how everyone was proud to put "Made in America" on their product, or put America in their company name.  She installed thermostats on ovens, it was new technology to control the temperature for the best cooking results. She said her hands and fingers were callused from the work. It was a union job and very sought after at the time. During that time my grandpa finished college, they were married and my grandpa was looking for steady work. He went through multiple hiring agencies and eventually found a great 30+ yr career with Alvey Conveyors. They bought a house in the early 50s off Union Rd, south of the city. She stayed with the thermometer company from 1946 until months before her first daughter was born in 1954. She had three daughters and then committed her life to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She is the sweetest lady I have ever met and has always had the strongest will to stay active and independent. Although many people that lived in the hills of southern Missouri became familiar with the city life, this is how my grandma went from being a country mouse to a city mouse.
Opening a wedding gift with my grandpa at her parent's farm in Curtois, MO.
My grandpa grabbing a picture with his daughters in 62'. From left to right: My mom Brenda, my aunt Jan and my aunt Sandy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I'm back, ALIVE and experiencing new things in this life!

     My life has changed in many ways since my last post. I have been around the world, promoted at work and divorced; but I'm still alive. The last year has had many ups and downs. Even though I felt more pain than I ever had before, I also experienced great things I never had before. Life is a crazy thing that we cannot fully plan or predict, but it can still be beautiful. Life is not easy but I still know that God is with us no matter what.  If anything in my life, I want to be honest and transparent with everyone.  My first adventure was going across the world.

     I was given the opportunity to go to Kosovo! When I first heard about it from my friend Nathan at church, I immediately thought it wasn't possible for me. I talked to another friend Mike, the team leader who just told everyone they were going as if we no longer had a choice. So I raised the money through church, family, friends and co-workers. We flew from St. Louis to D.C., to Austria and then to Prishtine. There was a lot of culture shock and I had to remind myself that this country is 97% muslim. The people in Kosovo were very friendly and curious. Everyone immediately knows you are from America a mile away. We lived with two saints that were husband and wife, the most Christ like people I have ever met. I slept outside every night under the stars, some people thought I was nuts. I figured if I'm in Kosovo I might as well sleep outside and smile at the night sky. One night I did hear a fully automatic AK-47, but fell asleep soon after. My team leader assured me it was a night of weddings and birthdays... We worked in schools in the community holding classes of English, Physical Education, Crafts/Art and more. We drank a lot of tea and bonded with many people.

    My most memorable night was in Vushtrri, a small village of people. We went to a bible study, carrying our bibles in a Muslim country was an odd feeling. I never felt in direct danger, it was actually invigorating. When the night started they took prayer requests and I stayed quiet. After the study I raised my hand and mentioned my needs. I explained my deteriorating marriage and that I didn't know what I was going home to exactly. As I sat there openly crying my eyes out, I had many people pray over me. They prayed in Albanian and English, as we all cried together. Our friends from across the world also mentioned their struggles more openly after I made a scene. They explained the struggle of following Christ in their country, going against family, culture and more. One of my friends over there stopped me before the end of the night and said, "Thank you for your tears." I prayed for them and have never felt more close to God than that particular night.   I felt like he was holding me in his arms saying, no matter the outcome I will love you. The trip was amazing and I could write 20 pages about it but since its 4:25am, I'll continue onward.


     Before I left Kosovo someone told me that although we were all on this "high" from doing this awesome stuff across the world, Satan would soon try to tear down our hope and peace.  This prophecy became true in my life. After returning home a series of tragic events took place and the result was my marriage ending.  I will choose not to go into detail out of respect and for the fact that its over. I never thought I would be a divorced Christian, that's almost like being a Christian amongst your Muslim family. I had nothing but an outpouring of love from Rooftop Community Church. My pastor Matt even met me at Steak N' Shake from 10pm to 12:45am, even though he had a flight to catch around 5am to seek help for his son's neurological condition. I have pulled away from almost everyone at church and haven't been in a year. They all gave invitations of love and open arms. I spent many hours in my silent apartment wondering if God was hearing me or if it was all worth it. Some days I would come home from work and lay on the floor feeling nothing. I stopped praying for a while but that didn't last.  I felt God's grace and knew he was holding me together. My view on divorce has changed a lot and it is incredibly humbling. If someone ever asks me advice on marriage problems all I say is, do everything you can to save it. Over the last year I am coming to terms with choices that we made and maybe this is part of my journey? Maybe God has different plans for my life. Not everything has been doom and gloom over the last year and four months.

    I spent many hours in the wilderness, talking to God and being in his creation. The woods is where I find true peace and clarity. Healing took place in the woods, I was able to meditate and talk to God. I delved into bow hunting. After three years of never seeing a deer with a bow, I was determined. I moved my stand on a Saturday afternoon about 25 yards from a path I found in the woods. I found some deer sign but nothing promising. That night I saw a coyote and a bobcat up close and personal. I returned to the stand the following morning and got in place while it was still dark. One of my favorite times is listening and watching the wild come to life as the sun rises. I could barely make out my surrounding and heard something about 75 yards away. Scanning the trees and surrounding area, I caught a glimpse of movement! It looked like a doe which at that point I would have been happy taking with my bow. A minute later I realized this was a young buck walking right into my path. I was frozen, I could feel my heartbeat in my face from the adrenaline. I could now see the steam rising from his black nostrils. He stopped about 25 yards from me and looked as if he had spotted me. I was praying to stay calm and focused, "God give me a chance, all I need is a chance please." He was actually sniffing a leaf and never spotted me. I was chanting in my head, "Look away, look away, look away." Finally after all the torment of staying perfectly still and staring at this buck, he turned his head away and sniffed the ground for a second. I simultaneously pulled by bow back hitting my stand with the bow cam! The metal on metal clank made him aware that he wasn't alone. He swung his head around towards me and I released an arrow through both of his lungs. He did a typical jump/kick combo that is usually a good sign for the hunter. I was gasping for air and so happy I felt like crying, God was in the middle of the entire scene that took place. It was an incredible feeling. I found him about 50 yards away and was able to share the moment with my sister and brother in law. A 9 point buck as first bow kill, how blessed am I? I called my dad while still in the stand and he said, "I know you aren't calling me this early because you missed something."

     I also got to go to Montauk State Park for opening day of trout fishing with my friend Ryan. It is an interesting thing to be fishing with 1900+ people, shoulder to shoulder. Not my typical choice for a fishing atmosphere but quite the experience. Ryan and his family have been doing this tradition for years. His brother Tim caught a big brown trout and made the "Lunker Board" at the lodge.  I ended up shooting a doe during rifle season and was done with my deer slaying for the year.

      I was also introduced to duck hunting by one of my first childhood friends Jessi. I bought a new Berretta shotgun. She was sponsored by Berretta while shooting in college and told me they have been around since the 1500s and is the oldest active firearms manufacturer in the world. So needless to day I bought the Berretta Outlander because of its reviews and affordability. Duck hunting is the opposite of deer hunting, it You can joke around, cook breakfast and relax until ducks come in. Watching Jessi's dad Shawn Battles work the ducks was incredible. He could turn a flock of duck's direction by calling them in. As they get closer and closer we just freeze and stay behind the camouflage in the blind on Wappapello Lake.  Right before they land in the decoys or pass us Shawn yells, "GET EM"! Then me, Jessi, her dad and her friends unload our 12 gauge shotguns. It is pretty darn exciting and definitely a new adventure for me. They said I didn't even have a good day but when I do I will be truly addicted to duck hunting. It is a rush unlike deer hunting, unique in its own way and a social party. I was also invited to hunt my friend Joe's land. It is 80 acres that he tends to throughout the year and floods for duck season. I hunted with him and his son in the rain for two days, we did alright. I helped both duck clubs on work weekends this year and plan to slay some waterfowl soon.

      Yet another new thing I started was horseback riding with Jessi. She grew up on horses and can do all of the tricks and not hold on. I on the other hand was getting yelled at by Jessi often, "quit holding the horn!" I thought that's what the horn was for? I am now working on loping and sometimes get into a gallop! I am learning many new thing about a horse and their behavior. I watched an emotional documentary called "Buck", about a horseman. He is amazing with horses and gains their trust and willingness attitude sooner than most. He relates to the fear in horses and talks about his personal wounds from his childhood. Jessi tells me that horses are prey animals and sometimes get injured or injure the rider because of irrational fear. I have to say, when I am on a horse I feel alive. Travelling through the woods and running is such an awesome feeling. My goal is to someday buy some acreage and live in a more rural area than south county St. Louis. I think the more rural life will suit me better as the city tends to exhaust me. Everyone is in a hurry and there is traffic everywhere. I prefer the slower life and towns if possible.


      All in all I have had my ups and downs in the last year and a half. This is reality; if you find someone who has only had ups, please introduce me! I have read multiple books on Lincoln lately and found that against all the turmoil, odds and depression in his life, he was able to do amazing things that changed the world forever. I also visited Springfield, IL to see where a lot of this took place.  I am not choosing to dwell on things but instead suck the marrow out of life. I get bogged down by work and bills but still continue to experience new things that make me feel alive and not programmed. I am now dating Jessi and am excited to see where life takes me. She is a country girl with incredible intelligence and an unwavering calmness. I am only known her for 26 years. I read something the other day that said  "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and preserved body, but rather used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "what a ride". " I am going to choose to live without regrets because life is too short and God has a lot planned for us. I choose to look ahead and not behind. I want to feel more alive everyday and will continue the search of how. What choices will you make to feel alive today or this week? Leave comments below. Well since I slept three hours and now have to go to work, have a great day.