Tag Archives: Fishing

Where Do We Go Now – My Professional Life Set To GNR

I would like to think that Axl Rose was tapping in the aimlessly wandering minds of millions and not trying to figure out where to score late night munchies while stoned when he sang the line, “Where Do We Go Now?” I’d also like to believe he’s still his thin, lanky late 80’s self as much as I’d like to believe I still look like I did in 2003 (oh my early 20’s prime!).  Well, we can’t turn back time but we can certainly reinvent our personal road maps.

It’s funny how the tides ebb and flow in our lives.  For the majority of mine, my romantic chapter has been a mess.  Not like a I didn’t sweep the floor this week mess, more like an episode of Hoarders Greatest Hits.  So many dysfunctional relationships shoved in such a small space!  Now that there is finally peace and balance in that section, fung shee has wavered in others.  I’ve not necessarily ignored it, but more so thrown my hands up in the air and said helplessly, “What can I do?’

Like a poison upstream, the toxins will eventually flow to other estuaries.  The deadly mental goo wasn’t quite like Roundup with overnight conquers, but more like that houseplant that your aunt gave you that you tried your best to water weekly but instead watered it daily, then forgot to water it at all, and finally overwatered it like you were on an episode of E.R. – The Houseplant Files.  (Get me a gallon jug of H2O – stat!)

I’ve not wanted to deal with this in public, but I feel like it will give me a sense of accountability.  Like Stella got her groove back, I’m going to get my life back.  My professional and my creative life.  You will be my witness and that will drive me to victory knowing someone is watching, waiting (Not creepily.  That sounded creepy.)  It might be an ugly no-holds barred fight to the end, but I’m coming in this like Napoleon Dynamite and planning on leaving like Hulk Hogan.  (Or the Rock.  Isn’t Dwayne Johnson to die for?)  Yes… let’s make that ‘I’m coming in like Napoleon Dynamite and going out like the Rock!’  Do you smelllllllllll what the Rock is cooking?  (PS- for years when I was in the ugly romantic phase of my life I had hoped that was a personal dinner invitation to me from the Rock.  No luck.  Turns out he wasn’t asking me out.)

I’ve not been able to put my finger on one thing that caused it because there are many contributing factors.  No one thing did this alone.  While beach erosion can be caused by one massive washout of a hurricane, it can also be caused by one lapping wave at a time.  Time marched on and waves slowly washed away the grains of sand in my professional happiness.

Truth be told, I have not had the easiest transition from independently owned to corporate life.  Though some can march on seamlessly, it has been different for me.  It took away the feeling of ownership for me.  I didn’t personally own my place of employment, but when you work at a ‘mom and pop’ kind of business you feel like your voice is strong and loud, heard clearly at all times.  In the corporate world, it has given me a sense of verbal meekness. I’m not trying to go all Stefanie Williams here because I still get my bills paid and I don’t think it is causing financial suffrage in my life.  I’ve gone from being a fish in a little pond to a fish in an ocean. I just feel like I’ve moved from the driver’s seat to the back bench seat in a mini-van.  I’m obviously still along for the ride but my voice doesn’t carry well over the radio and the people in the middle row.  Those people closest to me can hear me, but the people up front probably forgot I was even back here.

Presleigh’s death was so overwhelming I sometimes have a hard time placing its impact.  Was I like this to begin with?  I’d always felt 110% committed to my job.  Volunteering to cover empty shifts, coming in after hours when I wasn’t on call, skipping lunches, clocking in early and clocking out late were all part of my commitment.  The being there all the time and the wanting to be there not as much blend together with her death, the corporate buyout and honestly the healthy relationship.  Why would I want to spend long hours at a place that was causing me self-doubt and discontent when I was so much happier at home where I feel appreciated and loved?  Up to Presleigh’s death, I felt like my career had my back.  I had the training, the tools and the staff to make magical phenomenons happen.  Then my own dog died.  All of those times I was part of what felt like miracles and she perished in less than twenty-four hours.  There were so many thoughts that could basically be summed up as, “If I couldn’t save my own dog, what business do I have working on yours?”  I remember having such a sureness in myself.  I knew I completed task and that I followed through on instructions.  I double checked myself but never anything like what I do now which is like a quadruple check times fifty.  I miss my confidence.  People believed in me.  I believed in myself.  Was Presleigh dying the beginning of burnout/compassion fatigue or had it been slowly adding up all along and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back?

People come and go.  Welcome to veterinary medicine.  I always thought what would hurt the most was the people going.  There are so many people who have contributed to my skill set.  This whole section could be like an Oscar acceptance speech that keeps going on even with the ‘hurry the hell up’ music playing.  When people go, you hold on to the good things they instilled in you that made you better.  It’s a bittersweet parting full of sadness and thankfulness.  With all the tearful goodbyes through the years, I never in my wildest imagination thought that there would be people I would regret working beside.  I’m so lucky that in the majority of my time in this profession I have worked beside people who will build others up.  Unfortunately, I finally did encounter those that bring you down. There are people out there who will not only sabotage your happiness but they will lead you to self-destruction. I had never been called lazy in all of my life.  I had never had someone stare me down and insist I do something that was against our standards of quality care (side note: I still stood my ground and reported it).  I could not believe that I was being treated like an uneducated idiot because I was a female with the letters LVT behind my name and not a male with DVM behind it.  (Another side note:  I know good and well I am not a doctor and I fully accept my training/schooling/experience is nowhere near that of a doctor.  This previous sentence is more about respect than education.  Rock on, doctors.)   Unfortunately, all of these bad experiences happened at the same time one of my very favorite coworkers moved on.  The poor beau.  God bless him.  It takes a strong man to watch his significant other cry over another man with a frequency of every night/ every other night/ once a week/ and eventually only occasionally and still manage to get her the Kleenexes every time without any negative feelings.  Lucky for him, me and everyone, the existence of those hateful people were short in my life and I eventually recovered from the work breakup with said fantastic coworker.

To put a spin on Axl’s quote above, ‘Where Do We Grow Now?’  In my downward spiral of not feeling good enough, I began doubting that there were any more steps in my professional growth ladder.  Not to dwell on the subject of The Departure Of Coworkers That Cause Me To Drink Heavily, but there are doctors in this world who will utilize a technician to the fullest and then there are those who treat you like you an illegal citizen who dare not dream of being anything but their personal maid and janitor.  When it comes to the latter I’ve read about them, I’ve heard about them and as admitted above I unfortunately had to work with some of them.  The kick-ass coworker that I sobbed over macaroni and cheese about was the super utilizing kind.  I felt amazing about what I did because of the faith that person had in me and the tasks they trusted on my plate.  Then, the one aspect of my job that I still felt like I was a powerhouse rockstar in, I was pulled from my ‘doing’ position and put in a ‘teaching’ position. In retrospect, this should have been a compliment (and in the end it was a blessing because I discovered it was the repetitive motions of this task that was causing my ongoing neck and shoulder pain).  However, it just felt like being shit on by the man and I took it personally.  Favorite coworker exits, not so great people enter, I feel like shit about myself, I linger on feelings about my dead dog, my work reason for getting up every morning is taken away from me.  It was the Perfect Storm to start asking myself, “Where Do We Grow Now”.  Was this the end for me?  Should I start applying to fast food restaurants and accept that my veterinary technician degree was only suitable now for toilet paper or cleaning windshields (another new career option perhaps?)

I started dreaming of other jobs.  Baking, farming, fishing, Nascar racing, Team Tanqueray’s Official Birdwatcher.

Okay, there is no Team Tangueray but if there was I would totally be their official birdwatcher.

Instead of dealing with the problem head on, I started doing exactly what I used to do in that Ugly Relationship phase of my life.  I copied and pasted.  Something not working out? No problems.  Just copy and paste something over it.  Tada!  Not happy with your current job, dream of another, cut and paste.

It was over a month ago when I recognized the pattern and realized it was Operation Cut and Paste.  I had been cutting and pasting my professional life away.  It was then that I decided I was going to work towards change.  I was going to be better.  I was going to be happier.  Operation Be Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was in full effect.
To Be Continued…..


Sand And Saltwater

If you were to analyze my DNA, you would see that it mostly contains sand and saltwater.  None of those difficult chains here, 50% ESVA (Eastern Shore, Virginia) and 25% Outer Banks.  I grew up in a family that worked on the water, prepared food from the water and ate that food from the water.  I spent many a childhood day reeling in a line, baiting a crab pot or signing for clams.  The beau is also of watermen decent.  (We have joked it is this heritage that contributes to our amazing tolerance of alcohol… though my remaining 25% is coal mining people… so I say I’m tougher based on that West Virginia breeding.  That’s moonshiners country.)

Dinner last night was like many meals of our childhood.  We had puppy drum that the beau had caught Saturday.  I decided to bake the drum in the oven along with some roasted veggies.  We still had half an hour before that would be ready which left plenty of time to steam up a bag of clams.  Mmmmmmm, steamed clams!


Soooooooo good!  I love steamed clams, and not to get all Benjamin Buford Bubba Blue on you here, but I love clams in every five thousand ways you can prepare those things.  Chowders, stews, fritters, raw!  I love clams.

I began culling through the bag of them, checking everyone for liveliness before I chunked them in the pot.  I came across one whose shell was slightly ajar.  This could be a sign that the clam is dead, and for you who have never steamed your own clams… lesson number one … a dead clam is a bad clam.  Don’t eat that mofo!

I turned on the faucet and ran a gentle stream over the clam and he quickly closed himself completely.  Yay!  Good clam!  With the pot filled, I put in on a burner and let that heat rip.  It was time to get these guys steamed.

This may seem off subject here for a minute, but being Buddhist does not require you to be a vegetarian.  There are different teachings and one of the beliefs is that it is okay to eat things other than plants as long as you are not wasteful and that you use resources that are available to you locally.  

As a cloud of steam started to rise from the pot and the occasional ‘pop’ of shells started, I peaked in on our appetizer.  I began pulling clams out on a tray.  Suddenly, I was hit by a wave of sadness.  I had just murdered thirty living things, right there in my own kitchen.  They had just spent ten minutes being steamed to death.  Holding tightly to their shells with all the muscle they had until they finally couldn’t fight the inevitable any longer.  ‘Pop’ goes the clam.  Another little soul off to heaven.  

Bah!  What is wrong with me?!  I have spent my whole entire life preparing seafood.  There is a percentage of those creatures that walk the plank to their final moments.  Like crabs for example…

Sometimes, they hold claws like a line of kindergartners on the way to lunch.  

Pan of steamed clams on the table, we start to dig in.  The fish and squash still have a bit more time in the oven, so this gives me the opportunity to discuss my inner turmoil.

“It’s funny how your perspective on death and food changes the older you get.”

The beau dips a clam in melted butter, “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.  As a child, I never gave much consideration to steaming clams.  You just did it and then you ate.  Tonight, I was testing a clam to see if it was still alive.   It was, so I tossed him in the pot.  After the water was steaming away, I felt bad.  You know, I just steamed something to death.  DEATH!”

“And you feel bad about it?”  The beau looks at me as I throw another perfect little clam in my mouth.

“Well, not too bad I guess.”

I just can’t imagine what I’ll be like in another twenty years if I keep going at this rate.  When will I start feeling bad for the tomato, the banana, the lettuce?  I can’t see myself ever giving up meat totally, but boy does it feel bad listening to the hissing sound of a clam about to throw in the towel and wave the white flag.

Well, not that bad.

Mmmmm … clams.


Knee High To A Grasshoppper


Time will steal pieces of you along the way.

That sentence came to me two weeks ago as I rode along on the bush hog of my grandfather’s tractor.  He glanced back at me, I’m sure to check to make sure the decoys were alright.  His glance went to me momentarily and then back out to the path ahead of us.  I wonder if in that glance he thought about the things I did.

As a child, I loved riding on the tractor with my grandfather.  Most of the time I sat on the fender beside him.  Sometimes I rode in the bucket on the front.  On the rare occasion of snow, he pulled a sled behind.  I fell off one time, but I got right back on like nothing ever happened.  Travel around his property was often accomplished on that tractor.

I remember a lot of walking as well.  I followed him around, helping in garden with the tomatoes, cucumbers and corn.  I picked apples, figs and mulberries.  I worked tirelessly gathering pecans.  I never complained and I just did what I was told, because I enjoyed completing those tasks.

There were woods we explored.  “Man can be greedy, Melanie.”

I looked up and nodded, with all the understanding I could have at that age.  I can’t pinpoint the year but I know I was little.

“He’ll cut down trees and not think of the consequences.”

I’m not sure what brought on the conversation, but he covered the purposes that trees served.  Fruit trees and nut trees provided food.  Trees provided homes for wildlife.  Trees provided shade.  They drank up the extra water from a storm.  “Sometimes you need to cut down trees, but you have to respect them, too.”

“Granddaddy!  It’s a mockingbird in that tree!”

It’s true, since the beginning of time I have always been able to link a conversation to the subject of birds.

He taught me all about waterfowl.  He cared for a flock of Canada Geese and assorted ducks.  I named them all, some after characters from the soap operas my mother and grandmother watched.  I was probably the only person in my elementary school that could successfully restrain a goose or could describe how to trim wing feathers.  I remember writing a report  on the Canada Goose.  On one special occasion, I was allowed to play hookie from school and go to a wildlife refuge and a waterfowl museum.  While riding through the refuge I remember seeing hundreds and hundreds of geese.  I sat with my little knees under me so I could press my face as close to the window as possible.  I was so amazed by all the birds.

“That one has a neckband!”

My great grandfather was with us that day.  He praised me for my observation.  He was always impressed how observant I could be.

My senior year, I was about to have my mother committed.  She had asked me to go to Kmart with her one afternoon  and I obliged.  I had just gotten home from school, so imagine my surprise when she made a sudden left turn and pulled up in front of the school.  “Get out.”


“Just get out of the car!”  By then she was crying.

“You’ve lost your mind!”

I finally got out of the car and wandered into the school, desperately trying to pull my thoughts together on how to explain what just happened.  Surprise, surprise for me.  It was an ambushing for a top secret award ceremony for the arts.  I had received recognition for my photography.  As I was ushered into the library, there was my grandfather sitting in the front row as proud as a peacock.  I’m not sure if he arrived early or beat somebody to get the closest chair to the podium.  I never questioned it, but always assumed he was invited by my photography teacher.  He was the one that introduced me to photography.  He entrusted me with a camera my little spaghetti arms could barely support.  He taught me how to focus and how to adjust the settings to make the light meter happy, and he showed me a magical world existed in that little viewfinder.

Turned out that day, my mother didn’t need to be sent to the insane asylum.  Looking back, I’m sure my mother was acting the part of a lunatic because a.  tricking a teenager wasn’t easy and b. her feelings may have been hurt she wasn’t my honorary family member to attend.  (No worries though, my first book is dedicated to her.  That is the talent she instilled in me.)

Granddaddy pulled the tractor beside the pond and brought the little wooden boat over.  I stood on the bush hog and handed over decoys one by one.  Once we were out on the pond, we tossed each decoy.  All of them were either made by him and my great grandfather, or they had a tie to our family.  Slowly, we collected them back and cleaned them off.  He insisted on these decoys being presentable on their journey back home with me.

Once the decoys and I were seated back on the bush hog, he drove us back to the house to tuck them into my Blazer.  The ride on the bush hog had the gentle sway that you feel on a train.  That in combination of the warm sun relaxed my soul.  I reached over and picked a wildflower as we passed it.

Being a grown up is not always what it is cracked up to be.  Time has stolen pieces of me.  It had taken away my rides on tractors.  It swallowed my afternoons picking pecans.  I can’t remember the last time I dug earthworms to go fishing in a pond, because time is a thief.  What I would give to be knee high to a grasshopper again, or at least knee high to my granddaddy.