January 30, 2009

Three for One!

I've never done three posts this close together. Sorry about overloading you.

Doctor visit today about my benign dermoid cyst. Surgery is the recommendation. It's elective surgery cause these are slow growing and not cancerous, but it's 8 x 7 x 5.5 cm, so it's big. Better out than in. Last year I sacrificed my life to make the big show happen, this year? No way. Based on our discussion, lapariscopy isn't the right solution. Because of the size of the mass, they'd have to try to put a bag inside me and then burst the cyst in order to remove it out a 1 cm opening. It makes more sense for them to do a "mini-lap" and just do one 5.5 cm incision. Downside? One month of recovery time! (Basically, I'll be getting half a C-section--since those are 11-12 cm openings) Jrex came with me and liked the doctor, felt comfortable with the surgery options given. (OTRmama, we should talk soon!)

After the lesson learned from the layoff ("you may love the institution but the institution doesn't love you back"), I'm not putting my life on hold for a job. I told my OB to wait until after February 13th so I can do my lead climbing class, but otherwise, go ahead and schedule as soon as possible.

I came back to work and told EP and CD about it. They both got a little pale, but said, "Do what you have to do." We're all assuming that I can start to work from home the third and fourth week, but we'll see.

Drama, drama!

Update on the elephant situation

It turns out it was a prank! The poor guy left his laptop on with his email running. One of his lab mates wrote that email and sent it out. I know I should feel like that was mean, but I find it even funnier now!

January 29, 2009


I LOVE my creative director. The chat with Boston did NOT go well the other day. Our Executive Producer here had a different idea of what was needed than CD and I had. In EP's mind, we've hired a traffic manager and what we need is a second designer. In my mind, I need someone to do grunt level design and production and someone to handle all the details on my end. So, Boston got confused and I got frustrated. After EP left and we hung up the phone, CD did a great job of asking questions and sorting out the mess.

Eventually he put a bunch of sheets of paper on the wall, "OK. Let's break out just the trafficking portion of the job and figure out who is doing what." Trafficking is pulling together all the details, what needs to be included, when is it due, is there printing involved?, call the printer, gather info from people internally, gather content from the client, etc. He listed the three shows I'm working on between now and June. Then across the top he started listing deliverables: onsite signage, ads, web elements, email templates/graphics, registration elements and program guides. Basically, except for the guy hired to do onsite signage and the woman hired to do the big show's program guide, there were blank squares everywhere else.

We looked at it and I sighed, "THAT'S what I do all day. Then at night and on the weekend, I have to do the design work."

He pulled the EP back in, had a meeting with her last night. Today they hired a local woman who's worked on these shows on the marketing side to do 12-15 hours of trafficking a week (or more as needed). She starts tomorrow. In the internal show meeting today, EP made it clear that no one can contact me anymore, it all goes through this new woman. All editorial/text changes in already designed work will be handled by our Boston designer.

Now I just have to be disciplined and use my quiet time to work and not go on the internet!!

Speaking of the internet, there's a crazy "25 Things" burrowing it's way through the Facebook world. I did it yesterday and some of my other friends have also been joining the fray. One of my best friends from college put this one on her list:
Although I am an agnostic Jew, my best friend in college was a born-again Christian. It was one of the most interesting, depthful, multi-layered friendships I've ever had. We're still friends, although haven't talked about god in a while...
TOTALLY made my day. I feel so deep all of a sudden. (And, lest you think it's presumptuous of me to think she meant me, there were only seven or eight Christians in my college at any one time.)

January 27, 2009

Getting Better

Had a conference call between my creative director and the person coordinating from our other office on Friday. I felt totally corporate as I sat in the airport chatting about deliverables, events and project management. You know that surreal feeling when you watch yourself doing something and part of you is thinking, "This is not my life!"

In any case, the good news is that as I talked about the job, the coordinator finally broke in, "It doesn't sound like you need another designer, you need an event manager and a production artist." YES! EXACTLY. That's what I'd been telling my team and instead, kept getting fed the option of a second designer. I felt SO relieved that she got it and could so quickly offer the right solution. Perhaps this will work better than expected. We have another con call at 1 pm--so my corporate 'fake' life continues.

After all this, I'll be very ready to start my small boutique agency with me, an admin person (accounts, phones, details), and a super-skilled web designer. Cut out the BS.
The trip to Seattle was great. I had the wrong expectations for the trip though... Somehow I envisioned a relaxing time hanging out with my sister and her family. The good and the bad was that my brother cleared his schedule and was with us most of the time. The good? He's a great guy and it was fun to see him. The bad? He lives life in such an intense way that I'm tired now! When the kids took naps, Bro and I drove all around, went to the beach, rented videos, dropped by his apartment, etc.

Plus, I miss my sister and had looked forward to time to connect with her. Nothing was bad about the weekend, it just turned out differently than I'd anticipated. That's a whole 'nother topic: setting expectations and how that impacts experience.
It was great to get home. Jrex brought the mutt to the airport so it was quite the greeting committee. Then at home, he let me get work done while he made food to celebrate the Korean New Year (dumpling soup and seafood/scallion 'pancakes')
Sorry for a post without much snap. I'm tired and detail-overloaded, it's hard to be witty in this mode.

Overall, I'm grateful for the family I have and glad for the family that Jrex and I have become. Both are really, really good.

January 22, 2009

Where I'll be

January is a very silly time to travel 15 hours north. However, tickets are cheap and I figured the show stuff for work wouldn't be fully ramped up yet. I was wrong.

Ah well, life goes on. I put it on hold during last year's show and I just don't want to live like that for half of the next year. Let's see what happens when I have to be out for surgery! They're acting like it's the apocalypse for me to be gone Friday and Monday. (I meet with the doc on January 30th, so no further updates yet. I'm used to the idea and not freaked out by my hairball anymore, but will be glad to know next steps).

Looks like I get to try to use a designer on the east coast as my 'assistant' on this show. If that sounds ungainly, it IS! I'm very stressed about that process. I've realized more and more how hard it is for me to ask for help, esp when I'm under the gun. It's easier to just do it than to wrap my head around how to tell someone else to do it. I know it's a valuable life skill and part of becoming an art director, but YUCK. It would be a little easier if the person was sitting next to me. The Devil is trapped by his bosses (yes, the Devil isn't the top of the chain) and we have to give our internal system a try before I can hire a local solution.

So, yeah. Hmm... asking for help. Via web cam, ftp and screen share. We live in the future and I'm NOT happy about it. I guess it will give me great stories when people ask why I left my last job... ;-)

I AM, however, very happy at the thought of playing all weekend with my niece and nephew. There will be no pictures here due to privacy concerns, but I'll put some up on Facebook over the weekend.

January 21, 2009

TOTALLY off-topic

Not to move too quickly away from the election, but Jrex got this email last night and it's HILARIOUS.

Dear [group],

I have a favor to ask of you. You see, my brother is getting married. He and his fiancee are putting me to the task of arranging a wedding for them here in the Bay Area (this is an Indian tradition, that the eldest sibling organizes the wedding).

As this is an auspicious occasion for my brother and his fiancee, and they would like to respect our parents wishes of a traditional Indian wedding, I would like to hire an elephant for the wedding. Basically, this should be an elephant that is about 3.5 meters in height. If it is a bit difficult to find an adult elephant, a baby elephant will suffice (perhaps 2 meters in height). My brother will sit on the elephant and there will be a procession accompanying him, as he goes to greet his wife-to-be. We plan to have the wedding in [neighborhood], as there is a street close to where I live that is quite wide and long enough to accommodate a sizable crowd and an elephant.
I would much appreciate it if you tell me where I can hire an elephant, or if you know someone at the [city] zoo who can lend me an elephant for a day, I would be so grateful! I promise you, your assistance will be rewarded!


January 20, 2009

Random Reactions

On Saturday, we attended a Social Justice Expression Party. Everyone there was white (Jrex couldn't come). We listened to the entire MLK "I have a dream" speech. I'd heard the last part many times, but never the whole thing.

My Mom was at that March on Washington. It happened while she was living in Baltimore. She told me that when they went, they literally expected snipers to be picking them off from rooftops. They truly thought they might die, but went anyway. I asked what she thought of the speech, she smiled, "Well, we'd already been standing there for two and a half hours, so we were working our way out of the crowd and away when he started. We didn't know the Baptist tradition of saving the best for last."

As many people have observed, you couldn't sell this as a script in Hollywood, "OK. The day after Martin Luther King Day, let's have the first black president sworn in."

I'm just so happy that this has happened while so many of the Civil Rights warriors are still alive to see it. At that time, I doubt any of them imagined a black president could happen in their lifetimes.

My office broadcast the ceremony in the lobby this morning. They served breakfast and most of the office sat rapt in front of the three large screen TVs. Jaded Californians were crying. I realized that most Americans DO want to be patriotic, but have been waiting for a reason. Barak's ability to draw sides together and create a new platform for discussion are drawing forth the hope in this country that most people have been afraid to acknowledge. I know he's not the next Messiah or anything, obviously the shine will get knocked off, but I'm really happy today.

The fact that he said, "All are created equal." He included women.

The fact that he reached out to enemies and tried to create grounds for discussion without providing a laid down 'walk-on-me' carpet.

The fact that he wants a discourse based on our common country, common interests, honesty, integrity. That he gives us permission to find those together.

I'm glad to be alive in such a time as this.

January 19, 2009


We interviewed someone today with the hope she could help share my work load. She's recommended by someone we trust, but her portfolio was NOT impressive. The thing is, we need someone willing to do traffic management and production--not glamorous work. If I get someone with the technical skill set that I'd love to have (Flash, html, great sense of white space and love of shape, sense of humor, gets along with people, handles stress well and works really fast), I doubt they'd be very interested in the grunt work. In this economy, I could be wrong, but probably not THAT wrong...

I've never hired someone before. Our new studio manager (who is turning out to be great) sees me as an Art Director and wants me to head in that direction. He's being wonderful about supporting me: guiding the interview while deferring to me and then valuing my gut reaction. He's willing to look further for a couple more options. I'm grateful to have someone who is taking on the logistics of bringing in someone for interviews. It's such a change to get solid, quick help instead of words, words, words.

Busy Nothingness? We had a meeting, he sent out email about the interface between marketing and creative, and then the next time I needed him to give me a concept or specific direction? Vague and unhelpful.

Things will really hit the fan after I meet with the OB/GYN on the 30th. I don't know yet what kind of procedure they'll want to do, or when. One of my friends had laproscopic surgery and said it took a week to recover and then another week before she could go in to work. Everyone is freaking out that I'll be on PTO from Friday afternoon through Monday morning! Frankly, right now, I could care less.

Now I'm off to lead a women's group where we ask God to help us in places where we grumble. Hmm...

January 16, 2009

I'm SO glad it's the weekend.

Growing up, I took for granted how socially connected my parents were. Most weekends we had people over or we were going to an event. Since Jrex is an introvert, that pattern is different for us. We've also moved every few years, so it's hard to reach critical mass. I've noticed it takes four years in a new place before you have your connections established (including hairdresser, dentist, doctor and mechanic). Of course, we keep moving as soon as that happens!

One thing I'm grateful for in our life here is that in two years, we have most of those pieces in place. It helps that two other couples from our church moved here from Baltimore close to when we did. In addition, since Jrex's whole lab moved, we have a lot of built-in relationships.

This weekend's activities feel more like my Mom and Dad's lifestyle than ours.

Tonight: free tickets to the San Francisco Symphony. They do concerts in San Jose during the winter.

Saturday afternoon: "Social Justice Expression Party". Our friend Red-Hobbit has begun monthly expression parties around seasonal themes. This one is based on MLK, Jr's birthday. A bunch of white, middle-class folk gathered in a cottage in the redwoods singing spirituals... should be amusing if nothing else.

Sunday: nothing? No, wait. Climbing. For me though, that's relaxing. Jrex can watch football. Both of us will be happy.

I'm afraid I'll fall asleep during the symphony tonight...

Anyone else doing anything fun?

January 14, 2009

Warning: Whining Ahead.

This is all so complicated. I'm design lead for two shows at once. Most of my team overlaps between the two shows. Before I can even show anything to a client, I have to run the gamut of all these internal people (two show leads, three marketing people, a copy editor, a copywriter, and operation leads). The Marketing Lead for Green Show, let's call him Busy Nothingness, treats me as a tool. Never enough information, never a strategic picture or direction, what he gives comes in drips that don't help me. I'm mostly making up headlines and creating layouts on my own.

Seriously, before Christmas Break, I laid out an ad knowing we had a deadline two days after we came back. No one in Marketing saw it. I showed it to the client for layout, told him Marketing hadn't seen it yet. He loved it, wrote some copy, we tweaked slightly and it went to print. However, we're an agency, so we have to go through proper protocol. No wonder boutique ad agencies (with three or four people) can be so much cheaper than my company!

The last THREE days I've been trying to get feedback from Busy Nothingness for Registration Email Templates. He'll send one-sentence responses that are off topic and never really look through everything with a critical eye. He's not as bad as Captain Chaos was, but he's on the same playing field. I'm going to email him tomorrow to see if we can talk Friday.

None of that even touches the complexity this year on the client end! Plus, for more fun, I can't hire anyone as a production designer or as a junior designer. Basically, since we have other offices with people on salary, I'm going to have to Art Direct someone in a remote location (potentially a different time zone). I've never Art Directed anyone, have no idea how to get someone else to be my clone without crushing them, I NEED eye-contact! This is going to be more of a nightmare than I want to contemplate.

The annoying thing is that I'm eating my frustrations. Sometimes, I can't do anything about the client, or our internal people, so I just need a break and I end up eating. I don't want to be overweight, depressed and miserable by the end of all this.

Whine, whine, whine. I have a job, right? Gratefulness Music wafts softly in the background . . . I love my clients . . . I love my coworkers . . . one big happy family . . . SMASH.

My creativity is draining out of my with this client. I don't know if I could make it through another year. Yet . . . it's getting us on good financial footing. Theoretically, this summer/fall, Jrex might apply for a 'real' job. I know that means we'll likely move sometime in Spring/Summer 2010. I feel like I could make it through December this year. Mostly I need to pass off Green Show and his sister, Blue Show. I can't do another cycle of this insanity. To be fair to my company, if I quit in the middle of the spring, I do them a disservice. They need a designer here for the whole Blue Show cycle.

Hmm . . . I'm coming up with a plan. Survive the spring, enjoy the summer and fall. Quit in December, enjoy my break. Do contract work and house hunting (in another city) next spring. I think if I lie to myself with that 'out', I might make it through until we move . . .

January 12, 2009

Merry Christmas to me!

Decision made.

Saturday morning I strolled into the local camera shop and asked to see the Panasonic LX3. I even used some mad bargaining skills (I guess the Dave Ramsey class paid off!). I loved what I saw of the camera. It's truly a photographer's point and shoot. Small, light, f2.0 lens. I thought I'd miss not having an articulating LCD screen, but the one on the camera is so bright and clear that I can see enough to frame the shot, even when I'm holding it below my waist or above my head. If I had a big SLR, I'd use it for 'official' photo shoots, but I think, would feel too self-conscious to have it with me in my friend's car,

on the street,

or in church,

or in a restaurant.

I told the guy at the store, "I know that I can get this camera for $409 on Amazon with no shipping cost. I'd rather the money go to a local store, is there anything you can do for me?"

He went and typed on the computer for a minute and came back, "Well, the only black model we have in stock has been opened. So, based on that, I can give it to you for $450."

I looked at him, "Could you do $425?" He went away, typed a bit more and then nodded, "Yes. We can do that." Of course, with tax, it's more like $460 which is an ouch (well, all of it is an ouch...).

It's been 24 hours and I've already taken 243 pictures! Most of them bad, but a few I'm happy about.

When I brought it home and inflicted my ravings on Jrex, he smiled, then hugged me and said, "Merry Christmas."

Indeed! And to all a good night.

January 6, 2009

This and that

One of the things that was freaking me out a bit around my OBGYN and all that fun and games was my insurance. I'd received a bill in the mail where everything had been rejected with "Not Eligible". I was freaked out this doctor I'd fallen in love with was out of network. As I got the ultrasound, I worried how much it might cost me. I finally called yesterday and found out someone added an extra zero to my account number and therefore, according to Blue Cross, I didn't exist. The doctor's office is resubmitting the bill and all should be fine.

It made me think of other friends who've endured even worse health journies with no insurance. I can't imagine having that extra level of junk to deal with in the midst of stuff that's already hard. Jrex pointed out a while ago that the number one reason for bankruptcy in this country is medical bills.

I really hope Obama, et. al., can come up with a workable solution. It's just embarrassing for a country as wealthy as ours that everyone has to fret about the doctor.

Over Christmas break, Lovey loaned me her car for two weeks. It was great to be fully independent. I could set up visits with friends without having to juggle husband, dog and timing. I could bring the dog to work (I got her car washed before returning it). I also realized anew that if I don't HAVE to exercise, I will rarely volunteer for it. (I haven't gone running in three months. Sigh. I guess it was a phase.)

That said, it felt great to get back on my bike today. I hadn't thought I'd missed it until I was gliding past 'my' egret on the way into work.

Still no resolution on the camera debate. Yet it's all I can think about. Last night, Jrex gave me the go ahead to buy a plane ticket to Seattle. In two weeks I'll get to play with my niece and nephew. I'm thrilled! Yet, back to the camera issue. I'd love to have one to bring with me . . . I've been looking at the Shutter Sisters website and drooling even worse. I want to post links to MY pictures! I want to do cool night photography and find the overlooked and underappreciated stories to highlight with my lens. I'm SO tempted to just by the Panasonic LX3 and just have something I would enjoy that will tide me over until the SLR issue can be resolved. I'm hoping to go look at one this weekend and see what I think.

Yet, given our recent budget discussions, I feel horrible about asking to buy something so expensive. What can I sell on Craigslist to offset that purchase? I don't have time/energy to offer design time. My cross-country ski set isn't that valuable. I don't have any furniture to get rid of. The barely used bread maker?! That could get us a little bit. Must get creative . . .

January 3, 2009

I've been spoiled!

Five years ago, I walked into a local Baltimore camera shop prepared to buy either a Nikon or a Canon Digital SLR. I was greeted by a slight man, yamika perched on his head, prayer shawl tassels poking from beneath his shirt. As I explained what I wanted and mentioned either brand, he gently interrupted, "Those are fine; but, may I sell you a camera?" I shrugged, "Sure."

He sold me an Olympus C-5050.

It was compact yet felt solid in the hand. The lens was an F1.8, which meant it could shoot great photos in low light. The lens motor died once and I had it repaired. When it died again, I set out to find a great new digital camera. Yet again, I'm ready to get a DSLR, but looking for options. In forum after forum I run across comments like, "I had an Olympus 5050, is there anything out there that compares?" Apparently, the answer is NO. Sigh.

This leaves me in a morass of digital camera reviews, thousands of opinions and no solid answer. I want my little Jewish salesman to cut through all of that and sell me a camera! In contrast, I went to the camera store down the road and explained I wanted to replace a point-and-shoot camera with an f1.8 lens. The proprieter just blinked at me and said, "Never heard of such a thing. There's nothing under 2.0. You must be mistaken."

I was all set to buy the new Panasonic micro-four-thirds model, but the sample photos look a little cold, plus the price is high.

One other factor: after receiving the photo books I sent for Christmas, my MIL called to rave, "Daddy looked at the books and said you need a better camera. He's going to give you his." Well, if it's his Nikon D60, that's worth waiting for! I could buy a fast prime lens for that body and be in business. However, maybe he only means his old film camera? I have my grandfather's old cameras and don't need another. In addition, when was he thinking of giving me his camera? In the next couple months? In his will? Do I invest in a different system knowing there might be a Nikon in my future? Now I'm trolling the photo forums for a great proam point-and-shoot.

At the end of January I have a potential photo shoot. My friend wanted a family crest for her daughter with all the elements of the girl's name included. As I collected images in order to create a 'mood board' for discussion, I found some great photos. I suggested doing a photo shoot instead that hinted at the name elements. She loved the idea. I know I could borrow a camera, but I also love the idea of having one of my own.

I know, I know, who wants to hear me whine about a camera!? The economy is collapsing, people are in slavery, you still haven't written your Christmas letter and you want to whine about not finding a camera? Sheesh. Well, hmph: it's my blog and I'll whine if I want to! In the meantime, I swoon over the photos that MN and Dooce take of their kids, knowing they both have DSLRs. Our little Casio point and shoot is only good for putting pictures up on-line since all the photos have noise and a purple fringe. It drives me NUTS.