Thursday, January 28, 2010

We Are Okay ... Remembering our Spirit

My next retreat is in March and so I'm in that fevered race to find things that inspire me. And that I can share with other people. I love this part of the process.

One of my favorite stories that Father Rusty shares with others is about a little three year old girl. She's a brand new big sister; her parents have just brought home a new baby. She's proud to be a new sister. And one night she says to her parents, "Mommy and Daddy, can I talk to the baby by myself?"

The parents hesitate, but figure it's fine if she goes in and talks to her new brother all alone. They stand outside the door, and listen.

She goes to the crib, and puts her hands around the rails, leaning in close to her brother.

"Quick, you just came from there, so can you tell me what tell me what God is like?!?" she says,"I need to know, and I'm beginning to forget."

For some reason, I was reminded of this amazing story when I heard this song. There's such a longing to return to an innocent time, even at the early age of three. We all long for a a time when we all approached the world with new eyes, with "beginners" eyes. What if we could go back, and remember what God is like? What it was like to be so close to God's love and our native, inspired state of a soul that has just arrived into a body here on Earth? It strikes me that for our whole lives, we long to return to something we barely remember. A faint dream of a God who loves us, who named each of us, who knows us completely, and who kissed each of us as we arrived here to find our way.





Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gluten Free Reviews: Pasta, Mac and Cheese, and Pretzels

Some of you all know that I've been gluten free for about a year now. I have fructose malapsorption, which means I don't have the enzymes required to break down fructose. It's a little like lactose intolerance, if only in some of the ways it effects digestion (both result from a lack of enzymes) and in some of the symptoms. I'm open to questions (you can email me at welcomingspirit [at] gmail [dot] com or ask them in the comments area), but of course I'm no doctor and can only really speak from personal experience.

One of the hardest things for me in giving up gluten was that I had been a bonified pasta addict. I'm talking eating pasta several times a week. I went cold turkey when I cut out gluten, and for the first few weeks ate a lot of rice and meats. And corn based products.

Product: bionaturae Organic Gluten Free Pastas
A big step to returning to my pasta-devouring ways was made when a colleague who's daughter has Celiac introduced me to the bionaturae line of pastas. She said that of the products her family had tried, their pastas held their form the best, and had a great texture. I totally understood what she meant, many gluten free pastas fall apart and have slimy feel to them. Gluten acts as a bonding agent, so it made a lot of sense. I completely recommend the bionaturae line - my favorite is the fusilli.
Found at: Whole Foods, Amazon.com, specialty stores
Price: about $5.50 a bag at Whole Foods, bulk at Amazon gets closer to $3.50 a bag

Product: Glutino's Gluten Free Pretzels
I went on a shopping spree at Whole Foods having heard that they have a really great selection of gluten free foods, and that they clearly label their gluten free products. I took a chance on the Glutino pretzels. First thing I did when I got to my car was rip open the bag and try one of the Pretzel Twists (in the red bag). I'm not going to lie. I literally had tears of joy in my eyes after I tasted it. They totally nailed the pretzel taste and texture, and even had the buttery undertones that are in really good pretzels. I prefer the Twists over the other kinds I've tired.
Found at: Whole Foods, Target, Specialty stores
Price: Big bag, around $8. Smaller bag, I think $3.50

Product: Annie's Rice Pasta and Chedder (aka Mac and Cheese)
I've been a long time fan of Annie's products - homegrown, organic, cute bunny on the package. So, I was delighted to find they'd made a gluten free mac and cheese, and even more delighted that I found it at my local Target!! The taste is good, true to the Kraft flavor, and is made about the same way - cook the pasta, and add a packet of cheesey stuff with milk to the cooked pasta. I don't know if gluten eating people will like it as much as I did, my boyfriend reported that it was not the same. Meh, I'm not trying the Kraft variety to run a taste test ;-)
Found at: Target, Amazon.com
Price: about $1.85 a box at Target, $2.18 a box in bulk at Amazon (you have to buy 12)

Those are a few of the gluten free highlights from my past few months of experimenting. I've got some decent dinner rolls I need to review (threw out the package), and some other items that have been exceptional.

Do you have any gluten free favorites?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My New Job! My Couch Becomes an Office

My dear friend Katey asked for another update and by golly, I'm happy to give the people what they ask for.

My new job is with a small ad agency that started in Canada, but is now relocating to Oakland, California. I knew one of the guys, Darren, from a previous job. The team we were on did a lot of work on a major campaign for a large credit card company. We got along well, and we laughed a lot and we liked each other. While it was still a hard job, it was a great team.

So way back when Darren left to start his own agency, I told him to let me know if they ever needed a project manager because I'd love to work with him again. And, Darren IMed me like a month ago and asked if I knew any PMs looking for work.

The great conundrum. I was already at a new job. I felt bad leaving, but not really that bad because it wasn't a good fit. And, I really, really, wanted to follow my heart. So I excepted the new job!

My new title is Program Director, which sounds a little like a cruise director, but isn't. I do Project Management, and I get to work directly with clients. See, at most online agencies, you have one person that leads the internal team (the Project Manager / PM) and you have another person that owns the client relationship (the Account Manager). I totally loved working with my clients at my last job, and I know that it will be fun getting to work directly with clients again.

For now, there is no office. The company is looking for a spot in Oakland, which will mean I can take public transportation there when we find the right office. For now, though, I am working from home. It's a virtual office! See. TV off? I'm at work. TV On? Oh, it's my living room.

There's also a great joke that's already started about the "Cafe" that's conveniently located to my office (which has been on the couch now for two days). The Cafe is steps from my office and has all my favorite foods. They serve gluten free things, and have coffee ready for me when I wander in. Sound like a dream? Well folks, here's the secret: The Cafe is my kitchen.

This week I'll be meeting my co-workers on Thursday onsite with the client. We have a lot of calls together. And we're all on IM. But I have to be honest, I miss human interaction during the day. And going to lunch or going to coffee and chatting with people face to face.

Well, the Cafe just whipped up some home made fries and chips in the new deep fryer they got over the weekend....

Do you guys have any tips for staying sane while working from home?

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Date with Guy Fieri and Cowboy Mouth

Last Thursday, Sean and I headed into the City (SF) to see Cowboy Mouth. They're a great band from New Orleans, and they really put on an amazing show. One of the most incredible things about them is that their lead singer, Fred LeBlanc, is also the drummer. Nuts, I tell ya.

So we walked into Slim's and immediately started looking around. Sean wanted to find a merchandise table so he could buy a Tshirt. I decided to nose about and look at some of the tables on one side of the room. And! Bingo! I saw a sign that said "Reserved for Guy Fieri." Further investigation revealed that Guy is the band's chef...As I said on Facebook, "Hot Damn!"

The show was just crazy. Fred LeBlanc rocked the place, hard. As they all predicted, I was "very sore, very hoarse, but very happy" when the show was over. Guy Fieri got up on stage and played the drums with Fred. Guy also danced with the crowd, surrounded by guys in black jackets with "Kulinary Gangsta" written on the back. Awesome. Seriously.

Afterwards, we hung out with the hopes of meeting some of the guys. Sean has been a fan for a long, long time. So, he was beside himself when he spied Fred chatting with fans. Sean grabbed one of the play lists and got an autograph. I got pictures with Fred, Guy, and me. And I got some hugs, which were quite nice, if not a little sweaty. :P

When I asked Guy Fieri how the traveling gig worked with he and Cowboy Mouth, he said, "Well, Fred is the Captain of the Starship Enterprise. And I am the Captain of the Nebuchadnezzar." To which Fred looked at him and said, "Dude, what the F$CK are you talking about?"

I personally loved the kickass reference to two scifi captains - and loved the analogy of Fred to James T Kirk and Guy Fieri to Morpheus in the Matrix. Guy, you make us love you even more!!

Here are some of the photos:

Me, Guy Fieri, and Fred LeBlanc


Guy and Fred on stage:

I also really love the spirit that Cowboy Mouth brings to a show. Every time they play, Fred says "Forget about yesterday, don't worry about tomorrow, right now is all that matters..." and he totally means it. I've never seen such energy, such love, such a great performance. If you get the chance, you should go see them :)

Can't get enough and want to see more? Check out my Flickr stream.

How was your weekend?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ready to Put On My Big Girl Shoes

Finally, the president of my current job made the announcement that I had resigned. I had been walking around on pins and needles waiting for it to happen for a week and a half. Other complaints aside, I'm relieved.

Tomorrow I am officially double booked. In the morning, I'm meeting my new co-workers to attend a meeting at our clients' offices. I get to be reunited with some previous co-workers (Darren and Sophie! hooray!) and meet my new boss for the first time face to face. It may be strange, but my new boss hired me sight unseen.

So, I get to put on big girl consulting clothes, do my hair, and drive myself to a real office park. (I've been working in a warehouse for the last three months with an industrial bakery next door, so we don't really dress up there. The neighborhood is funky, at best.) I'm super excited to be headed to a professional setting with some straight up professional people.

In my rush to get outta the old office tonight, I "neglected" to tell anyone I won't be in the office in the morning. What should my excuse be? Comcast cable coming? Or just keep it vanilla and say I have personal matters? Can you tell I'm excited to be on my way to something new? :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hope is a Strategy

"It's not a matter of being correct, but of being connected."
- Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

This little quote has been tumbling around in my heart and my brain for several days now. It think it's because I've been yearning for something that has been missing from my current job. On the day that I started, I remember telling friends and family that I really missed my old co-workers. I didn't feel connected. Instead I felt alone. Without a support group.

As time has passed, I've come to see that much of my current workplace is obsessed with being unequivocally correct. In the main conference room hangs a sign that says "Hope is not a Strategy." Egos are large. People do not speak to one another. There is a huge preoccupation with being right, doing things "as they've always been done," and avoiding scrutiny. While some people are just afraid of being wrong, others just avoid input from others because they think it's easier.

The result? A quiet office place. A culture that relies on excessive amounts of meetings because no one person will take the risk to make a decision on their own. The fear of failure and scrutiny is too great. After all, without Hope as a Strategy, there is little to hang on to.

"It doesn't have to do with being perfect. I has to do with staying in relationship, holding onto union as tightly as God holds onto you, staying in there. The one who knows all and receives all, as a mirror does, has no trouble forgiving all."

Rohr's quote reminds me of another way of doing things. If we each choose to be connected to others, to see people for other equal parts of divinity, if we believe in the inherent good in all people, an amazing thing happens. We enter into right relationships. If we believe in goodness, we are met with goodness. If we come from a place of hope, love, and grace, we find ourselves met with the same. If we practice forgiveness, we are granted forgiveness.

In these last four days at this job, I am trying my hardest to remember that Hope is indeed a Strategy. Hope grows in communities who enter into good relationships with each other. When we can create and stay in unions, can rely on each other, carry each other, we pass Hope on to others. This Hope is one of the things that makes a difference in our lives, and in the lives of others. And it's Hope that I want to share, to spread, and to hold on to.

How have you spread hope?

Friday, January 1, 2010

And a Happy New Year: A New Direction Yet Again

We've had a very busy couple of weeks. Here, on New Year's Day, I sit with the Christmas tree lit, candles going, a mug of tea by my side. Sean and I have agreed to leave the tree up, and the decorations up until next weekend. On purpose, because he says he likes how it looks. I am happy to keep the magic going. (that's not to say I won't get antsy and start to put other pieces away...)

This last week has been pretty amazing. I have lots to share. Most important, over the last week, I've resolved that Happiness and Following One's Heart are what will be the focus of 2010.

In this last year, I have found myself at a couple of jobs that have been less than ideal. By mid-December, it was obvious to me that the most recent post was wearing me so thin that I no longer felt I had a personal life at all. I'd work twelve hours in the office, come home for a bit of dinner, sleep for an hour on the couch and then work a couple more hours online before falling into bed. I had given the job all I could.

Even with the long hours, the leadership and some of the people I interacted with were difficult. I was getting yelled by the leads of other departments at because I was doing things differently from how this company had done things in the past. I was being asked to make changes by the president, but the other employees wanted nothing to do with it. I felt stuck in the middle, but without any support to do what I was being asked to do.

I prayed about what to do.

A friend named Darren contacted me and asked if I knew of any good Project Managers that might consider a new job. He and a long time colleague had started a new company a couple of years ago out of state and were looking for people in the SF area. At first I said that I was bummed that I'd made a leap only a couple of months earlier. And I kept on with my routine.

And then I thought about it. This was a person I had thoroughly enjoyed working with before. He's smart, respectful, and very good at what he does. I would be a fool to turn away from this kind of opportunity, especially when I'd put it out into the universe that I was hoping for something better.

After a lot of thought, some agonizing, and a whole lot of chatter with Sean, I made my decision. I'm changing jobs. Three months to the day after I started the new job, I am leaving for another. This is not like me. I am tried and true and stay loyal for a long time.

On the other hand, this job has a ton of opportunity for me. It will be in Oakland, which is closer to my retreat work and team, and closer to the Graduate Theological Union (maybe I can take more classes? I'd said I really wanted to consider more classes and now, look, I'm going to be physically closer to the school!). I will be working with a team that wants a work / life balance, who wants to do good work for clients. Who understands that advertising is not rocket science, and who understands that we can find joy in every moment.

Last night, to celebrate a New Year, Sean and my sister and brother-in-law and I went into the City and checked out the fireworks:
And we wore masks ... because it was a celebration, after all :)

How did you celebrate the New Year?