Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner of crab (a Northern Californian Christmas Classic), lots of family time, some shopping and a morning viewing of "The Princess and the Frog." It's already been a great Christmas.

I wish you much joy, much love, and lots of laughter today!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So, This Santa Walked into a Bar...

A couple of weekends ago, my family (Mom, Dad, Sean) all went out for a night on the town. San Francisco is often amusing and amazing, especially during the holidays. That night, we headed to The Castro and what did we see roaming the streets? Big packs of Santas, making merry! It was Santacon 2009!

Here are some Santas on the street:

Imagine my surprise when we walked into the Lucky 13 and saw this. No really, we were surrounded by Santas.

What a night! I have never, ever seen anything quite like it :)

What surprises have you had this Holiday Season?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chickens Dance, The Pig Sings, and The Rat Gets Food

The Muppets were definitely one of my favorite shoes as a kid. They ranked right up there with Donnie and Marie. I was surfing around and came across this great scene from The Muppet Show:

I love what Kermit is saying here :) - he's embracing all that is good and right about his cast. He's playing to the strengths of his friends, and he clearly loves them all for who they are. In contrast, Sam the Eagle wants to find fault in things, wants to document reality harshly, he wants to be in control. But Kermit lives in the moment. He's grateful. He doesn't see a problem with the rat who wants to bring him lunch, he delights in dancing chickens and he sees the joy in a singing pig. He's accepting, saying that is "how things are around here."

I wish I could be more like Kermit, taking things for what they are, letting people be who they are, and taking delight in it all. In this holiday season, I will keep the spirit of Kermit in my heart and learn from him. His lesson is one of love and acceptance.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tis the Season to Give: Comments for Charity

Last weekend Sean and I packed up a bunch of very usable and gently worn items to donate. We usually go do a drop off at Goodwill, but this time we had some new stuff that someone else had asked we donate somewhere, too. I thought about how these clothes, towels and other items could be used right away and realized that a homeless or women's shelter would be a great place for them.

We packed up the car, and took Joey (my sister's dog) with us and headed out for Shelter Network in San Mateo. I'd worked at Shelter Network for a little while about ten years ago, so I knew they did good work. Once we were there, Joey charmed the folks, giving out kisses and love to people. He really is joy embodied in one small dog. What Shelter Network couldn't use or didn't need, we took to Goodwill.

Last week, Shannon over at the Nut House recently had a "Cans for Comments" campaign, and it really inspired me. She donated 30 cans for the comment she received. So cool!

I know that both Shelter Network and San Damiano Retreat (the place I lead retreats) could both use donations, so I figured I'd combine Shannon's idea with those needs.

Starting today, and running through Christmas at midnight, I'll be setting aside a dollar for every comment I get.* On December 26, I'll tally those comments up and split the total to send a check to both San Damiano and Shelter Network.

So, leave a comment!! It's going to a great cause :)

And tell me about how you've given this season below!

*The fine print: To be included in the tally, comments from guests must be made on the blog posts that I, Paula Jenkins, make on between December 11, 2009 through December 25, 2009 at 11:59pm. Any comments left by guests on posts from before 12/11/09 (ie any comments on post I've made before this one) or after 12/25/09 at 11:59pm will not be included in the tally. Comments must be "real" comments, any spam, or repetitive comments made by a single person or persons will be deleted and not be included in the tally. I reserve the right to delete any comments I do not feel are in the spirit of this give away.

The total dollar amount that I will donate will not to exceed $500, specifically, it shall not exceed a one time $250 donation to San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, CA and shall not exceed a $250 one time donation to Shelter Network in San Mateo, California. Donations are based on the number of comments recieved on this blog and are subject to my discretion. Lastly, these donations are being made solely by me (Paula) and will be funded by my own savings. I have no idea if I'll get 500 comments, but I sure hope that I do!!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Multi-tasking is Blowing My Mind

In a recent post I mentioned that I'm working hard to keep focused and in the moment at work. The last couple of weeks have been a challenge in that arena. We've got four pretty big projects going on, and I just hired two new people for the department. In a few minutes, I'm headed out to a photoshoot.

But right now at this moment I'm on a conference call for work and eating breakfast. I was working until about 12:30am and got up at 6:30 for this call. I'm blogging and creating a list in my mind of things that I need to grab before leaving the house. And I probably need to find some shoes and socks. Along with a sweater. And makeup would be good before leaving the house.

You can see where this is going. In the mind-boggling amount of stuff that's going on, I am feeling like my head is not really in any one thing. And that's super frustrating. I'm very much a planner, and I'm a project manager by trade. I like order.

What I want is to slow down and not feel so harried. I'm craving order, and craving some time for just me. I'm not sure how to make that happen.

When so much is being requested of me and my time, how do I force some order here? I get worried that if I don't do everything, read every email, help every person at work that I'll miss something important.

I don't know what I think will happen after that. That people will see I'm human? As this call is moving into slide 15 of about 40, I'm wondering what the actual point is around "brand engagement" and "consumer interaction." With my background in religion, I often find myself wondering what the value of my work in advertising is.

OK, but I need to get going. How do you all balance your time, and keep time for yourself day to day when you're in a job that would eat every second of your time if you allowed it?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our Tree is Up! Pee-Wee Herman and Fun With Jesus

It's about midnight and we just finished vacuuming and finishing up the tree. This year, we looked around for something good to watch on TV while we were decorating, but alas! there was nothing Holiday-ish on.

So, I gleefully put on Pee-Wee's Christmas Special. Have you seen it? Sean first said he had no interest in seeing it at all, but then as the ornaments came out and the Pee-Wee humor kicked in, I found him standing there staring at the TV. So funny :)

Another funny thing, after the ornaments were all on the tree, I noticed this lovely grouping. That's right, Jesus, C-3PO and R2-D2 are all happily hanging out together right near the top. I hope this isn't sacrilegious. Actually, I'm not even sure if you should have Jesus on the tree, but the little ornament is Jesus on the San Damiano cross, and it is the cross that Saint Francis had a conversion experience in front of. So, it's a loving reminder of a pretty amazing saint.

Is your tree up? Do you have any favorite ornaments?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Learning to Live in The Moment at Work

This week flew by. I'm sure it's the combo of lots of work, of getting back from vacation, of feeling the "I've got to do all of this right now" nature of December.

At work, we're planning some big projects, that we need to triple bid and brief lots of people on. I'm setting up a photo shoot for next Thursday. (Stay tuned, folks, I'll likely be doing my first voice over and hand modeling for this!) We had a project launch on Tuesday.

As the new boss person, I get to help the team with all of this exciting stuff. I love that. I love helping the team tackle big, fun projects. I love seeing everyone grow and learn new things. It's fun. It's also really hard because I want to be the kind of boss that's always available for the team. That means putting my own projects and work on hold as things come up so I can listen and be present when someone else needs something.

I find I'm learning a lot every day about being present, being in the moment. It's amazing because in my head, I'll admit, I'm dying to look back at my email as people are talking. There's so much going on that every moment seems precious.

But then I remember what it was like to have a boss who really listened, who stopped what they were doing and looked me in the eye when I needed something. That's how I want to be. I want to be present. I want each person to know I'm not wasting my time or their time multi-tasking in that moment. It's been a really amazing week in that regard, really recognizing what great bosses I've had and trying to learn how to be more like each of them.

How was your week back from Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving In Vegas

Hi guys, I just floated in from Vegas. My family decided that this year, instead of everyone traveling to my parent's house, we'd all fly to Vegas. We rented a house off of VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner).

All in all, it was a great time. We did a decent amount of eating, played some games like Wise or Otherwise, saw a couple of shows (magic, and a Cirque show), and OK so we gambled. My favorite slot machine was "Wheel of Fortune," and I did pretty well on it. I was playing the quarter slots and hit the 500 coin jackpot once, and the 400 coin one this morning in the airport. I also had a great time shopping at Mandalay Bay. I'm planning on posting about that on Ruby & Caroline this week.

So here are a couple of artsy (or possibly ridiculous) shots from the trip.

Me, by the pool in the backyard. We like to take fake "glamor shots":

At one casino (The Orleans), I ordered a chicken sandwich, prepared Gluten Free. The waitress said "Oh, OK, bun on the side," and I half thought she was kidding:
Gluten free at The Orleans

Surreal lighting at The Tropicana produced by the sunlight bouncing off of other buildings:

These leaves were below the banister in the house we rented, very odd, but made for a decent picture:
Rental art

OK, and only in Vegas - dog toys in the shape of bras, panties, and briefs. I bought the black and white bra for my sister's dog. Any guesses on what that brand name is in the bottom right hand corner?
Dog toys in Vegas

How was your Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Put on Your Game Face: What Do You Show to the World?

Today as I was going through pictures, making a 2008 photobook over at Shutterfly, I came across these beauts. My family and I went to a 49ers game last year, and we got these stickers to use so we could put on our "Game Face." My family went crazy ... posing for a ton of silly photos. I'm only sharing mine here, and only because I love you guys. Honestly, this first one makes me laugh EVERY time I see it (OK, they both make me laugh).

These photos made me think a little about the Game Faces each of us put on every day. I know at work I put on a different Face than I do with my family, or my college friends. Most of the time, I try not to show that I'm angry or irritated with something. I know that at the heart of the matter, I'm pretty easy to read and wish that at work I could disguise my feelings better.

I think a lot about how a Game Face can also be a Brave Game Face. I know that lots of us pretend nothing is wrong, everything is fine, regardless of that being the truth. For some reason, society wants us to have a Brave Game Face and not ask for help or admit if we are hurting. That tends to be something that can make us feel lonely, sad, alienated, because we can't show our Real Face.

I think that's because we're all afraid. Or least I am. Of being not good enough, of being judged, of not meeting expectations. Of seeming weak. Of coming across as stupid.

In the past few years, though, I've worked hard to face things with love. The love of knowing the true person in each of us is valuable, perfect, and wonderful. Each of us is here for a reason, has a purpose in this life. Instead of being afraid of things, I now try to meet things with love, respect, and gratitude.

My heart took flight this evening when I was reminded of this passage by the blog Shrinking the Camel: "God’s grace is sufficient for me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness."

His strength is made perfect in my weakness. What a concept. I can be broken, messy, goofy, ridiculous, AFRAID. And it is all OK, because there is a perfect match for those weaknesses in God. God and His Grace can even it out. This makes me want to dance, hug, twirl, giggle all in one movement. It truly makes me giddy. Talk about feeling strong.

Looking at these photos again, what I love is that they are a glimpse of my Real Face. This is who I am with my family, my close friends, those people who I love the most. The irony is that here my Game Face is mirroring what is Real and True inside. Apologetically silly. Unconcerned about multiple chins or fly away hair. I am just being me and loving the moment. It's my hope that I can remember to let down the Brave Game Face, and just be the real me more. Because it's who I am supposed to be, and there is love and strength in that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

And for the Cliff Hanger

I loved that my Mom called me over the weekend and wanted to know what happened after I posted a cliff hanger on Friday. I explained that I was just taking a queue from how they do things on "Days of Our Lives."

So my big news, which was announced officially today ... After my boss was let go, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do. Being pretty new, I could head back out and keep searching for yet another job. Or, I could wait around and see who they hired above me as my new boss. Or, I could realize that I had a great opportunity and ask if they'd consider me for the position.

I had a couple of conversations with the president. I walked him through how I would structure things. I gave him insights about how I'd managed people before. I knew that he and I hadn't ever spoken about this stuff before, and so I dug deep, mustered my courage and just walked him through everything.

Well, yesterday he let me know that he'd thought it over and was super excited to offer me the position of "Director of Production"!!! And the big announcement was made today.

I'm pretty excited, and I'm pretty proud of myself for going after what I wanted. It's funny how these things can strike you in the shower...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wrestling with the Idea of Living Simply: Removing the Spiritual Clutter

Our Retreat Planning Team met today, for the first of our meetings leading up to an April 10 retreat. At these early meetings, we focus on finding a theme. It's amazing to see the creative process at work; all of us striving to find something that is at the core of what we face as a person in the world today.

This afternoon's discussion danced around about the idea of Gratitude, Trust, and Living Simply. I think it's especially difficult in today's world to focus on simplicity. Our culture encourages us to do more, better, faster. We are praised if we are good multitaskers. We begin to think we're good multitaskers, but even research shows that the human brain is not that adept at doing more than one thing at once.

So where does that leave someone in today's world? At work, I run multiple projects all at once, and it's not unusual for me to have email, several instant messages, a finance program, MS Project, a blog or two, and a Word document all open at the same time. You know, so that I can look at those things in between meetings. And I take my iPhone with me to meetings.

What if I started doing just one thing at once? Like just now, tonight... I turned off the TV so I could write this post. Silence. Wow, it's delicious.

We're hoping that our next retreat can focus on reducing that clutter - the mental, physical, even spiritual clutter that clouds our days.

Mentally, am I focusing on the now, on being grateful for what I have, for this moment in time that will never come again?

Physically, both in body and in surroundings, am I being a steward for what I have, treating my body with respect, and only continuing to keep the things that are useful for me in my life?

Spiritually, am I letting go of things that are keeping me from God? Am I able to acknowledge habits, small addictions that distract me from Love and good relationships? Am I continuing to push myself to better understand myself and my purpose here?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Following the Inspiration from Softball

It's uncanny to me that as I wrote my entry about "Why I love Softball and Growling at People" this week, I was in fact following my two old ways of gaining respect from others.

Looking back, my first one was the head fake. As a catcher, I used to make sure that the other coach knew I could make the throw to second without any effort. My hope was that they'd take note and never even send their runners.

My second means, if the subtle one didn't work, was to cause a commotion. If that runner was sent after the pitch was in motion, I jumped up and growled and yelled. I made the runner know I saw them and they often got pysched out and ran too slow to get to second.

I think over the past few weeks, I've been slowing showing my new co-workers at my new job that I can figuratively throw the ball to second without much effort. I don't draw attention to myself, but even in the quiet persistence, people noticed that I was getting things done.

It was in a quiet moment all alone (in the shower actually) when I was pondering my next steps that I remembered a famous man from the Bible. When God called, he said in Hebrew, "Heenayni." "Here I am. And I knew, even though my next steps were not of a Biblical calling type nature, I knew I was having a Heenayni moment. I saw an opportunity, I saw my chance, and I knew I needed to take it.

In fact, I saw that it was time to run, screaming, yelling, headlong into the arms of fate. Last week, I sprinted straight at what lay ahead, grabbed it and lovingly wrestled with it. I put my own destiny in a headlock. I had taken everything in, I'd assessed my situation, and I knew what I was doing. I made a commotion. I knew my strength and I knew that it was time for me to make myself known.

Anyone else wrestling with fate? I can't wait to tell you what happened next :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Photo Friday: Pictures from the Dogpatch in San Francisco

My new job is in a funky neighborhood called the "Dogpatch." It's way south of downtown, south of the ballpark, in an area that's full of warehouses and factories. The building we work in is an old packing plant that's been divided up into offices. It's quirky and has a very industrial look. Here are some photos from around the neighborhood that I've taken in the past couple of weeks.

Out the back door of our office:
Out back

Across the street is this building, which is surrounded by bars:
In or out

A couple of blocks away is this lovely door with a transom window, and awesome detailing on the glass:

And here's a wild posting down the street. I love the way the artist has made deer out of newspaper to the right of the person (click to make the image bigger)
On the wall

I'll keep exploring and taking photos to share. Hope you guys have a wonderful Friday and a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Voice of a Stranger: New Insights on the Vietnam War

As an undergrad at University of California, Santa Barbara, one of the most popular courses was called "Voice of a Stranger." It was a religious studies course, taught by Walter Capps. The idea behind the course was that sometimes a "stranger" may challenge our own beliefs, offer us insights to things we had never thought about, and give hopefully give us a new lens through which to see the world.

One of the most moving, memorable, and amazing lectures was by a Green Beret who fought in Vietnam. He was the head of his platoon, and they were stationed deep inin the jungle. They had a post to defend, and after some time, they were surrounded by the Viet Cong, and were attacked. As the tale unfolded, this Green Beret had us hanging on his every word, riveted on by his descriptions, his intimate knowledge of the location, the post, the men he was stationed with.

I'm going to admit that seventeen years later, I can't remember the details of the brutal battle. What I remember was that there was this man, of impressive stature, wearing a Green Beret, telling a harrowing tale to 700 college students. His story conveyed raw emotions of brotherhood, of patriotism, of pride, and of a deep sadness. A member of the Special Forces, the bravest of the brave, told us of how after the fight was over, and he was the last one standing, that he went to each of the fallen men and gathered their Beret and their dog tag. As an act of honor, he gathered these things to take home to each soldier's family. And this brave and powerful man was crying as he told us his story.

There was not a dry eye in the lecture hall. We had been given a real glimpse of war, of what it meant to serve, and some of what it meant to be stationed in the Vietnam War. At the age of twenty, we'd seen the glorified tale of "Good Morning Vietnam" as teenagers, we'd studied the stats and read the history of the Vietnam War in high school. Some of our parents may have even served in the war. And yet with this one person sharing his story, the war had come alive in ways none of us could have imagined. It was real, it was raw, and it was right in front of us.

Walter Capps very much wanted us to understand the Vietnam War in a new way. He explained that when soldiers came back to the United States after serving in Vietnam, they were not given a hero's welcome. This was the first time in America's history that there were no ticker tape parades, no warm greeting for our service men. Instead, they were shunned and pushed aside.

At the end of this lecture, after we'd all been astounded by this man's story, our professor stepped on to the stage and thanked the Green Beret for sharing with us. And then, while shaking his hand, he looked the Green Beret in the eye and said loudly, and clearly, "Thank you for fighting for us and WELCOME HOME."

To which, the entire lecture hall jumped to their feet, clapping, crying, cheering, chanting "Welcome Home." We knew that while we could not make up for what happened before, we could show in this moment how grateful we were to him. We did what we could in that moment to welcome this brave American soldier home.

And on this Veterans Day, I say "Thank you" and "Welcome Home" to all of those who have served and who have supported those who have served.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Why I Love Softball and Growling at People

Growing up, we all have our favorite activities. I started tee-ball as a little kid, and transitioned to playing softball, which I did all the way through high school. I must say that spring time was always a favorite time of year for me. My birthday is early April, and softball always started up around the same time. There was something glorious about the cool air of spring in the evenings. Something refreshing about joining a new team, hitting the field, experiencing the twilight with new friends.

In softball, there are two players who touch the ball in virtually every play. The first one that comes to mind? Probably the pitcher. She is in control, in the center, often times the star of the team.

The other player in the center of the action is the catcher. In contrast to the role of the pitcher, the catcher's role is hot, sweaty, and usually unglamorous. As the catcher, you wear a stinky helmet, shin guards that have been in rotation for several years, and you often get dirt in your face.

In my years in the game, I played both pitcher and catcher, obviously not at the same time. While the crowd cheered for the pitcher, I loved being behind the plate. A good catcher is a force to be reckoned with. The catcher has to be able to stop people from stealing bases, and stop plays at the plate.

I learned a lot being the catcher. At 4'10", the opposing team was rarely frightened by my stature. I knew I had to get into their heads in other ways, and I learned two effective ways of doing that. One is brain, the other braun (or something.) As the catcher, I knew that any ball thrown was a possible liability. The best way to stay in control was to refrain from actually throwing a ball more than needed.

As my team warmed up, the catcher gets a chance to throw the ball all the way down the field to second base before the first pitch goes out. I'd make sure that the coaches from the other team were watching, and I'd make that throw while still squatting in the catcher's stance. I wanted to make sure the coaches knew I could make the throw, and that I could make the throw without any effort. It was my hope that if the coach knew that I could make the play, they wouldn't send the runner to steal a base.

My other move was less refined. If a coach hadn't paid attention to my arm early on, I still wanted to make sure I could stop the runner. The first time I saw a runner going, I'd jump up as fast as I could, throw that mask off and ... YELL. No kidding, I'd yell at the runner. Sometimes I'd yell that "we've got one running" to my team, or "OH NO you don't!" at the girl, or I'd growl. I'd take off in a full run towards her, roaring loudly, making the most noise I could.

It wasn't a proud tactic. At first it wasn't even a calculated tactic. But I realized that there were a couple of things that happened. The runner, usually stunned, stopped dead in her tracks and didn't continue towards the base she was trying to steal. I was usually all the way to the pitcher's mound by that time. The other thing that happened? An equally loud roar of laughter would erupt from the people watching the game, as they'd never seen anything quite like a tiny catcher growling with all of her might, running strait for someone trying to steal a base.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Botox for Migraines? Fascinating...

Some of you who stop by regularly (I love you guys!) know that I get migraines. They popped up probably in my early 20s, but I wasn't officially diagnosed with them until a couple of years ago. My first line drug is Amerge, which works wonders for me.

More recently, I figured out that I'm crazy-sensitive to fructose and cut that out of my diet completely. What's nuts about that is that fructose is in so many things, even ... in ... gluten products. So I don't eat any gluten anymore. Removing both fructose and gluten from my diet has been honestly life changing, if even just from a diet standpoint. Truly, it's a day by day tactic. If you want to read more about that issue, it's called Fructose Malabsorption and you can read more at this blog.

Well, tonight I came across a news story on iVillage that states there may be research that Botox can help people who get migraines. The research starts as far back as 1992 when some people who were having Botox done for cosmetic reasons noticed that they were also getting ongoing relief from migraines. As more research has been done, some severe migraine sufferers have had as much as a 50% reduction in the frequency of attacks.

It's so strange that much of what doctors seem to learn about the treatment of migraines comes as secondary effects from other treatments. Except for the triptan class of drugs, which were designed specifically to treat migraines, most prescription medication for migraines was originally created to treat something else. Some were originally for epilepsy, others for headaches, and others for neurological disorders. The realization that magnesium helps some people also came as a secondary effect from another study. It's very interesting that botox may also help some people who get migraines.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Happy 40th Birthday to Sesame Street

On the way home from work today, I was tuned in to Fresh Air and caught a GREAT story on fresh air about Sesame Street. You can listen it on the NPR website.

It was so amazing reliving some of the happy memories, the great songs, and remembering the characters we all knew so well. Who knew that when the "puppets" were first created, the creators didn't plan on having them talk? One of the lead writers, Jeff Moss, proposed the idea to the puppeteers when he was writing a scene with the blue creature that would later be known Cookie Monster.

One of my more recent favorite events on Sesame Street was Feist's appearance where she taught us all to count to four. Here it is :)

A funny personal story - Growing up my sister's favorite character was Grover. I later worked for a man named Grover, who's uncle had worked on the original Sesame Street. It turns out that my former boss is who the monster Grover was named after! Totally strange, right?

It's delightful that this show has been entertaining and teaching kids for forty years. A very happy birthday to Sesame Street!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Strange Twist of Fate at My New Job

While I'm admittedly an extrovert, new beginnings are still hard for me. Especially when I'm starting somewhere and know no one else in a new company. I started my new job just about a month ago. I find myself feeling a bit like a kid at a brand new school, coming in half way through the school year. It's funny, because that's familiar territory for me. We moved five times by the time I was ten, so I'm accustomed to being thrown into "new" situations. But still, I can't shake that feeling that I'm in the early weeks of "Survivor" and I still don't know quite who my alliances should be with or who to trust.

Work is going along well. I've been trusting my gut as much as I can. I got to help out with a big advertising campaign, one that I can't talk about much just yet. When it gets created, I'll let you guys know. Suffice to say that even though I'm a project manager, I threw out an idea that my creative team loved and it was presented to the client as part of the winning campaign idea. I'm excited about that. I like that my new coworkers take "collaboration" in stride.

Yet today, they let my boss go. Honestly, it's for the best. I liked him a lot as a person, but also felt like he was not the most effective person as a project manager. Other people had commented that everything was falling to me, and I'm glad that they recognized it, because I felt that it was true and wondered if it was just par for the course. The president and other people have said they want to support me and will help hire around the hole that is left now.

I am fine and I will be fine. But, it's disappointing. I feel like I was just in this position at my last job. It's just frustrating, you know?

A tree at dusk, taken by me this summer

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

All Saints Festival at San Damiano

On Sunday, San Damiano had their All Saints Festival, which was a dinner and auction. There were about 220 people that attended, which seemed like a pretty big crowd. I wish I'd taken a picture of the dinner tables - they extended way past the dining room and out to the back parking area.

Here's the team with Father Ray:
Young Adults Team with Father Ray
Tammy, me, Father Ray, Earl, Marc, and Kevin (without cake on his pants)

And here's the courtyard with the pretty fountain:
San Damiano All Saints Festival

Our planning team helped ring up some of the auctions after the bidding was over. It was really nice getting to meet some people who have been attending retreats up at San Damiano for years. I even met a lady who helped build the retreat center over 45 years ago! What a great evening out :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Company Offsite at Angel Island

This week my company had it's offsite, and we went to Angel Island out in San Francisco Bay. We took the ferry over, spent the day playing on a gorgeous green lawn, and had a ton of fun. I've only been working there a month, and it was so wonderful to spend some time getting to know people out of the office.

We headed out past Alcatraz:

And we kept on going past the Golden Gate Bridge:
Golden Gate_r

Until we came into this little cove with a pretty harbor and house:
Angel Island

We brought lunch, beer, wine, and lots of games to play. Of course, once the kegs were tapped (yes, kegS, we brought 3 with us!) and the football was out, the boys invented a game of their own. It was called "Football Beer Pong," and it consisted of each person defending their own pair of picnic tables. If the ball hit the person's pair of tables, that person had to drink. They literally played this for about four hours:
Football Beer Pong

After a few hours, we took the last ferry out and headed back into San Francisco:


San Francisco from the Bay

I love being out on the water and seeing the great views of the City. It was the perfect offsite and I'm so glad that I found a really great new job!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Inspiration: The Prayer of Saint Francis

I find it funny how some thing I have seen or heard a million times can suddenly take on new meaning in my life. This often happens to me with music, or poetry. These moments of realization occur when I take the time to really listen to a prayer I'm saying, or read something with new eyes. Often times. it takes slowing down, paying attention, being in the moment. Some times I think that after living more, experiencing more, I'm able to see new things in favorite passages or songs.

That is exactly what happened to me with the Prayer of Saint Francis. I know I'd heard the prayer before, but I don't know that I'd ever heard it sung. But, one day I heard it sung on TV, and it captured my heart. Later I heard a version by Cecilia, and it quickly became my favorite. Her voice is breath taking.

Earlier this month, my car was broken in to. It's was a rattling experience to know that someone, a stranger, had gone through my things. I knew right away that they took some money, and my Fastrak pass. Maybe some receipts, and possibly one of my registration papers.

I couldn't think of anything else that was missing until I was driving out to San Damiano to lead a retreat a couple of weeks ago. I like to listen to my "Amazing Grace" CD by Cecilia on the way out to do retreat work so my mind can slow down, so I can start to get in the zone. To feel peaceful. That Saturday morning, I reached into the side pocket of my car for my trusty, favorite CD, and it was not there.

Of all the things that a thief would take, they took a CD called "Amazing Grace," which also has "The Prayer of Saint Francis." The moment of realization held many things for me. Disappointment that I didn't have my CD, and then later I thought about how none of us really "own" anything in our lives. We can certainly be the one who purchased something, who have it for a brief time. But who can really own a song? Can we own a prayer? Aren't these both things that were meant to be shared as part of a community experience?

I continued thinking of this, and decided I would share my favorite version of "The Prayer of Saint Francis" with you. The pictures are all ones I took in Maui last year, a very peaceful and inspiring place. I hope that you enjoy it, and pass it on.

The Prayer of Saint Francis from Paula on Vimeo.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Uniform Project: Inspired by Simplicity is a simple idea. Sheena Matheiken wears the same dress for 365 days, and she dresses it up differently every day with various accessories.

The really amazing part about it is that it's not about her, or her style, or her own wishes. The amazing part is that she's really doing it to make a point, and to raise money for children to go to school in India as part of Akanksha. The accessories she uses are all recycled or donated to her. The point is that fashion and our clothing should be sustainable. And that it only costs $360 to send a child to school for a year. The inspiring part to me is that she is also showing us how we can all do so much, with what seems like so little.

The Uniform Project Trailer from The Uniform Project on Vimeo.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Changing of The Guard, or How Cake can get on Your Pants

Kevin has been the leader of our retreat planning team for about three and half years. After our last retreat, he announced he would be stepping down. We've all been through a lot; with any group there's so many things that happen over time. Kevin has been an amazing and capable leader, and we've been really lucky to have him in that role. He's handled some uncomfortable things with poise, balanced out people's feedback and feelings, and played all sorts of administrative roles.

To celebrate Kevin's tenure, fellow team member Tammy graciously ordered a cake, and bought some champagne. She chose the "Transformer" cake because it matched our last theme. A little cheesy, yes, but we all loved it.

Here's the cake:
Transformer cake, fresh outta the box

We all decided to gather around Kevin and his cake. I'm not in this photo since I was taking it. I later ran in to Kevin's left. (He's the one holding the cake).

Cake is still safe 'n sound

We were all in place and ready for a group photo, and that's when it seemed like Kevin was tipping the cake. I thought he was joking around, as I saw him fumbling with it. Before I knew it, Kevin was yelling "Oh, no!" and the cake was being wildly launched from it's tray, and then coming crashing straight down onto Kevin's shirt and pants. It happened in the blink of an eye.

Here's Kevin laughing right afterwards. He said he was trying to "save the carpet."

The cake slipped

I can't even think of the last time I laughed so hard. Here's the cake after it had had it's little accident.

Shortly after this hilarious turn of events, I offered to take on the role of the team leader. So, I'll be leading the team for the next couple of years. I'm sure it will be a great challenge. I'm super excited about the fun that awaits, the friends that I'll have by my side. And I just cross my fingers that Kevin didn't accidentally create a tradition that will need to be carried out when I someday step down from the post.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Box Full of Smiles and Goodie Bags

One of the things we did at the last retreat was assemble goodie bags to be sent to Tabitha at A FiveOhFour Uplifting. Her family's mission is to provide and send goodie bags and other uplifting mail to children and adults in hospitals with illness or disabilities, homeless individuals, or to anyone needing to be cheered up. The team had planned on doing the assembly line over lunch, and it seemed like the retreat goers were excited to be doing something to spread some love to others. After lunch, we cleared our plates and broke out the goodies. I'd pre-ordered various items for older kids, and adults, and we put the goodies in groups of threes into cellophane bags by way of assembly line. A little dinosaur bag sealed each bag, and they were ready to go.

I'll be dropping the box of about 180 goodie bags off at the post office today - it's filled with tons of love and good wishes.


Hope you all are having a blessed Sunday!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My New Job (Week Two) and a New Retreat to Lead

I'm chugging away at my second full week of my new job. So far, I like it a lot. The change of pace and scenery is definitely a welcomed event for me. Even though it's a little crazy, everything seems "do-able." I'm going to admit, even things that might have set me off at the old job are much easier to deal with now.

This retreat over the weekend was really nice. I led a Psalm writing session and I have to say, the two women who participated wrote some very moving and inspirational Psalms. It's always cool when things turn out even better than you could have imagined.

At the retreat, Father Rusty asked if I would help lead the weekend Lenten retreat next March. I've accepted and I'm excited about it!

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Seeing 'Rent' (the musical)

Last night, two of my friends and fellow awesome bloggers (a shout out to Katey and Chrissy) and I went to go see Rent. It's a musical. It makes me cry, a lot, every time I see it.

What was truly remarkable about this latest touring group of Rent is that it includes the original Mark (Anthony Rapp) and Roger (Adam Pascal). I knew it would be an amazing performance. What I didn't know is that I'd literally be moved to tears when the curtain went up and the two of them were there, live, in front of us. It was like I was a teenager watching the Jonas Brothers live.

Rent is amazing because of it's story and it's message. I can't even tell you what my favorite song is, but I have to say that "No Day But Today" has been in my head all day. Here are Mark and Roger and the cast from the movie singing it:

After we'd gotten in to my car, we were driving past the theater, and saw that there was a crowd gathered. It was Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp leaving from the artist door. I pulled my car over, into a no loading zone, and Katey and Chrissy jumped out to see them. They got autographs. None of us could believe we got to see them again!

Here's the lovely and amazing Katey face to face with Adam Pascal:

There's only now
There's only here
Give in to love
Or live in fear
No other path
No other way
No day but today...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Change and the Power of Choice

I've been neck deep in change over the past few months, as I imagine many of you have. My job got nutty, looking for a new job is stressful, and to top it off ... this morning I went down to the garage to find out my car had been broken in to. It was stressful to have to call my boss, on what is my fourth day of working for the company, and explain to him I'd be quite late.

On Saturday, we have our retreat and our theme is about Change. And how each of us reacts to it. The team gravitated to the topic because we know how much upheaval everyone's life has been in.

Without revealing too much of the planned discussions, one of the powerful things we all realized in discussing the topic is that while change is constant, each of us actually has a tool in the face of change: we have choice. We can choose how we react to everything that comes in to our life. If we like it, we can choose to keep whatever that thing or person or situation is. If we don't like it, we can choose to make our own changes that remove an undesirable thing or person or situation from our lives.

We can meet any kind of change with our own powerful choices.

Tonight, I'm drafting the closing thoughts for the day. Here they are:

So as we leave each other today, may we leave with new strength.
A strength from what we’ve learned from ourselves
Strength knowing our inner hearts
Strength from all those who are here today, sharing our journey
Strength from our faith in God
Strength in God’s allowing us to make choices
Strength knowing that when we are faced with change, we will make good choices that keep us true to our mission and purpose
Strength knowing that should we falter we have God’s strong hands to keep us on track.

I wish each of you this same kind of strength.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Orleans, Oak Alley and Laura Plantation and a Swamp Tour

The second half of the New Orleans trip was awesome. My Mom and I spent five nights and had a grand time.

On Monday, we decided to head out to a couple of plantations. We started with Oak Alley, which is famous ... because folks, it's where Hope and Bo got married in 1985 on Days of Our Lives. To commemorate the vast import of that historical event, Mom and I watched that footage on YouTube as we sat in the cafeteria on my iPhone.

Oak Alley has 28 Live Oaks out front, and it makes a lovely entry to the old home:
Oak Alley from River Road

We had a mint julep on the veranda. Here I am enjoying mine:
Mint Julip

And lastly, here's my Mom and I out in front. Mom, I hope you don't mind making your blog debut here...
In front of Oak Alley

Next, we drove just down the street to Laura Plantation. Laura is a Creole Plantation, and it had bright colors and a lively feel. I told my Mom that I was clearly of Creole decent because I loved how everything looked.

Here's the front of the house:

And the backyard, check out the sky!
Off the back of Laura Plantation

The next day we went on a swamp tour. It was pretty cool - the best part was the very end, when we came upon Brutus. Brutus is a 15 1/2 foot, 35 year old alligator. He was actually very nice, and loved eating hot dogs and marshmallows. Check him out...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

How do You Cope with Change?

Our next retreat theme is "Be the Change You Seek," and the retreat is Saturday, October 10th. The last year has brought change for a lot of people. One of the things we're looking at is how change impacts people. We recognize that there are at least two kinds of change:

1. Internal change, or the change that goes on inside a person. This can be growth, or changes of heart. Internal change is often the reaction to external influences, but can be the result of learning new things, or coming to understand things differently.

2. External change, or the change that comes from a place outside of one's control. Sometimes external change is the first kind of change we face. While it seems like the obvious kind of change, it often challenges a person to their core.

It's always hard to be met with change. What do you think about it? How do you deal with change? What advice do you give to others who are going through change?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Trip to New Orleans: Part One

Over the past six days, my Mom and I headed out to New Orleans for a little vacation. It was fabulous, and we had a great time. It was so great spending some time with my Mom, and getting to do lots of fun and interesting things.

Here's a little bit of what we did:

Bourbon Street the first night - wow, it's even better than Vegas!
Bourbon Street at Night

Garden District our second day - so many gorgeous homes with awesome details. We also had lunch and gelato.
Garden District

That night we went to Pat O'briens and spend hours at the Piano Bar. What a treat to get to see a friend's sister in law perform. Here's a rousing rendition of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," my favorite part is Alvin, who played drums on the large tray he's holding:

Sunday we went to the Seafood Festival, with lots of delicious food, and live music. It was super hot out, about 95 with 90% humidity. We're not used to that kind of heat. Check out the policeman with his iPhone.

Policeman on iPhone

And some absolutely amazing Coconut and Basil gelato - what an refreshing combo that I hope to try and replicate at home:
Coconut and Basil gelato

Stay tuned for part two which will include plantations and alligators!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

And the Winner of the Gratitude Journal is...

Amy! of "Keeping up with the Schultz Family!" She was the second entry in the responses to the original post, and good old picked "2" for our winning number. Amy's list of what she's grateful for is really lovely - do stop by and say hello if you get a chance. Her family is gorgeous and their love for each other beams from all the pictures she posts. Here's her list:
1. I'm Grateful for my loving and hard working husband. It is because of him I can stay home with our little one.
2. For loving daughter who I love very much. She is the joy of my life.
3. For my friends and family for always being there for me.

I have to say I was totally blown away by how uplifting and wonderful it was to read the list of what everyone was grateful for. Thank you for posting and sharing, everyone :) It continues to be really affirming; so please take a moment and read them, if you haven't and read the responses. I know you'll come away with a smile.

I want to thank all of you readers (and especially those 25 followers! wow!) for making this last year so special. It's been fun finding friends and finding my voice. I'm grateful for each of you who come and read, and who participate. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Big blog hugs to all of you! Are those called "Blugs"?!?! :P

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Get Away to Olema - Cheese, Chickens and the Ocean

As some of the regulars know, I left my job for a new one. I'm gonna be honest here, I originally gave two weeks, but then decided I wanted more time off between jobs. And, I'd totally had it with my old job. So I cut that down to about seven days notice.

To celebrate the end of something and the beginning of something else, I've decided to be a "woman of leisure" for a couple of weeks. On Sunday, my guy and I went up to Olema to eat some cheese, drink some wine and take in the sites.

We stayed at the adorable "Olema Cottages," which is an old farm house turned inn, complete with chickens. I totally loved the chickens and we started fondly calling them "The Ladies." We also went to the somewhat famous "Cowgirl Creamery" and got some local cheese. Our favorite was the "Mount Tam" (short for Mount Tamalpais, a local mountain in Marin County) - it was buttery and delicious. I'm on a mission to get more tomorrow at the Ferry Building when I'm downtown.

On Monday we also went to an oyster farm, on Tomales Bay. This whole idea got into my head when my friend Antonio mentioned he'd been up there and had oysters. Then suddenly I was kind of obsessed with finding a way to get up there myself. I'm going to admit, I didn't love the oysters as much as I thought I might. But the views of the bay and the surrounding area reminded me a little of Scotland, and it was gorgeous. Thanks for the tip, Antonio!

Monday included a stop at Point Reyes Seashore National Park, and a walk along the "Earthquake Trail". On this path, you get to see the a fence that was split by 20 feet in the 1906 Earthquake. Totally fascinating.

Here are some pictures of our adventure. Up for tomorrow's day of leisure: a hair appointment, I officially become a "lady who lunches," and then I have an evening meeting to talk about our next retreat. I will also be doing some shopping.

Me, feeding the chickens at Olema Cottages
Feeding Chickens at Olema Cottages

The main building at Olema Cottages
The main house

Our appetizers: tomatoes from the inn, Mt Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, and Fume Blanc by Ferrari Carano

A shot of a barn across Tomales Bay

Fog coming in over Tomales Bay
Where the river meets ...

Want to see more? Check out my Flickr photostream!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bible Study: The Book of Ruth

This page has been moved to my new website. You can find it by clicking here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Big Swap Reveal

Don't forget to sign up for my Gratitude Journal Give Away!

So, my swap buddy was Shannon from Welcome to The Nuthouse! As a reminder, here is what Shannon sent me.

I must say, she wrapped everything in lovely wrapping paper, and the whole package was such a treat to open. I got the note from our front desk person at work, and hurriedly opened it all in my office.

OK, this packaged rocked. I love stationery. Shannon picked two of the cutest packs of note cards ever. I've already used some of them :)

She included Ghiradelli chocolates. I also included those as some of my favorite things. These went out on the dinner table when we had my sister and her hubby over and were eaten right up! Delish!

The candle ... it's a cinnamon flavor that Shannon picked out because she loves fall scents. Wow, it's amazing. A nice, light flavor that warms up the apartment. It's become my new favorite.

And, I got a great movie (Sense and Sensibility), a cute makeup bag, and some nice lipgloss, and anti-bacterial gel! Packaged up with a sweet note, I just was beside myself with how lovely, thoughtful, and nicely put together the whole thing was.

Shannon totally made my day, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for being my swap buddy. It's been so fun participating, and great meeting two new bloggers!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Give Away: A Gratitude Journal

As part of the ongoing one year anniversary of Welcoming Spirit, I'm having a happy give away!

The other day, after work, I stopped by the Chronicle Book Store. I love looking at all the books they have, so many craft books, journals and unusual things. Something special caught my eye and made me think of all of you.

It's a Gratitude Journal, and it encourages the journalist to jot down the things they have been grateful for that day. I loved looking through it. It reminded me that it's hard to be angry or down when you approach things from a departure of gratitude. When we are grateful for what we have, it's hard for the ego to sneak in and try and tell us that we want more.

As my one year give away, I'm giving away one brand new Gratitude Journal. All you need to do is tell me three things you're grateful for in the comments, and you're entered.

Here are the things I am grateful for:
- Having had a wonderful job with people I really love, and knowing that I have a new adventure ahead of me.
- Having an amazing family who stand beside me through everything. I'm grateful for my parents, my sister, and all of my extended family.
- My home. It's cozy, happy, and has a loving vibe. I love having people over, and I love having a nice place to hang out with my guy.

So, the details. Leave me a comment below with three things you're grateful for. Please leave your email address so I can contact you if you're the winner. The give away will be open from 10pm PDT on September 16, 2009 and close at 11:59pm on Wednesday, September 23, 2009. I'll be using to pick a single winner. Only one entry per person. Good luck!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Blog-aversary and Other Celebrations!

This week marks the one year anniversary of Welcoming Spirit! Oh my! And to think that the one year day was actually the same day I was offered a new job... wow.

I've got a houseful of college friends coming over tonight, but in the next week, in celebration of so many good things in this life, I'm planning:

The first of the Blog Bible Study group posts

A give away in celebration of the blog's first year

I can't wait - thank you to all of you who stop by and visit and comment. This year has been amazing, getting to know so many new blog friends :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Breaking the Silence on My Day to Day Job

As some of you know, I work day to day in advertising. Specifically, I'm a project manager that oversees builds of big websites. I usually love my job, and have been in the field for eleven years. I joke that I'm a WWW Veteran and seriously, I can't imagine doing anything else for a job.

I mentioned that in July they let my boss go, let a dear dear friend go, and let another woman in our department go. Another two coworkers left within two weeks. Another two have left since then. And this week, I announced my own departure.

What ultimately helped me in making my choice of where to go next? Some very inspirational people, who have been in the business for fourteen years. They are a small shop who has had their best year ever this year. This year. I see that as an amazing feat, and see it being something that happens when leadership is focused on people, on doing the best work, on being inspiring, and on taking risks.

I simply can not wait to join them.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Some More Views of The Coast

A few weeks back I posted pictures taken from my phone on the way up to one of my favorite places in the world. It's north of where I live, at The Sea Ranch, California. My family has been going there, renting houses since I was about 11 years old. It's a mellow place, with little to do other than walking the bluffs, checking out tide pools, seeing lots of wildlife like seal lions and deer, and soaking in the sun. It's also a wonderful place for people to gather together and spend time catching up.

After Bodega Bay, you hit famous Highway One. This picture is still the wallpaper on my phone.

At The Sea Ranch, there are lots of homes perched for a great view. Check out the homes on the cliff in the upper right.

There are tidepools with starfish and sea anemones.

And, when we were sitting watching the waves, this big boy popped out of the water and started barking at us. Don't worry, we weren't this close...

Here he is, striking his "Little Mermaid" pose. What a gorgeous place to call home:

It's easy to be inspired when you're close to so much nature.