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!