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 :)