February 26, 2009

Thank God I decided today was a hat day!

The train doors whoosh open. I’m watching the conductor, he’s become a buddy over the last year. Instead of walking out the doors as he usually does, he pushes back through the crowd toward the back of the entry way. I look confused, then he declares, “I ain’t goin out there, it’s raining!” I look outside in horror at the downpour that’s started in the five minutes it took the train to go from my station to the next. When I look back, the conductor throws his head back and laughs. He laughs even harder as I mock grumble, “It’s not right to laugh!”


Even in the rain, as my glasses fill with blinding droplets, as my cute leggings soak through and the water trickles down my neck, I love my bike ride. I think a big part of my stress over the last month or so was that I wasn’t riding. After Seattle, I caught the flu and Jrex and I shared the car. Lovey also loaned me her car while she was out of town one week. Not riding was probably better for my health, but when I got back on the bike Monday, I realized what I’d been missing.

Somehow in a car, the line between work and home seems thin. I listen to the news, I call people, the busy-ness continues and it’s harder to leave the business behind. On the bike, there’s a clear divide splitting work and pleasure as I ride through the quiet of the bike trail.

The moon over the bay, an egret cleaning his feathers in the morning light, the beady eye of a great blue heron three feet away watching me glide past. It’s a constant reminder that all the worries of work are fleeting. There are things outside that will outlast me, realities far deeper, higher and cleaner than my work life. I’m sure there’s the endorphin thing and exercise, blah blah blah, but that’s not what makes the impact on my soul.

February 20, 2009

Is that a glimmer?

The surgery is set for Wednesday, March 4th. OTRmama (my mom's best friend), with her dog, is coming down to take care of me that week. She's already planning to ask for 'the rest of the stories' while I'm on pain meds and vulnerable to telling all.

Yesterday we spoke with a design team from our company headquarters in Car Capital, USA. Thanks to the failing auto industry, they have no work--which means, we get their A-team, not the dregs we got from Bean Town. I'm already happy with what I've seen from them thus far. Apparently, it takes two people to replace me (a designer and a web guy), plus we get a production designer who will continue to work with me throughout the rest of the show cycle. I'm now tasked with working myself out of a job over the next week and a half. Feeding everything over to Car Capital.

Yesterday we told our internal team. Ms. Anxiety started the meeting with some general announcements and then said, "OTRgirl is with us today to make an announcement."

All eyes turned, panic and foreboding haunting their gazes. I laughed, "I'm not quitting!" They all sighed in relief until I continued, "But, it's close! I'm going in for a procedure that will require 2-4 weeks of recovery. I may be able to work from home after 2 weeks, but we'll see. I'm fine, it's not cancer or anything, but I'll be out of commission. That's why we've been working so hard to get a protocol in place and why we've got Car Capital helping out. We'll tell the client early next week, but wanted all of you to know."

The sad truth is that I'm looking forward to surgery as a "vacation"! I'm not looking forward to an overnight in the hospital (they'll have to intubate me during the surgery so they have to watch me after). I'm too busy to really worry about it and even if I weren't, I feel totally fine about getting this done. I like being married to a doctor so I can ask him my paranoid questions and get nice mental pats on the head in return.

Any books or movies I should watch? Will I need a lap desk for working on the computer in bed?

February 17, 2009

Journey out of fear

My 20th reunion (high school) is coming up this year. There's a group on Facebook, a separate networking site, photos, memories, etc. Looking through the pics that have been posted is very strange.

Our school went from 7th through 12th grade. From 7th-9th grade i tried SO hard to fit in. I couldn't afford the 'right' clothes, wasn't from a middle class background, was too weird, too awkward, too shy, so overall, I was miserable and unsuccessful. The only photo that includes me is from our 8th grade honors trip to Washington D.C.

In 9th grade, I finally found a friend that fit, MT. We were in the honors classes together, but ended up hanging out in the art room or with the stoners by the soccer field during lunch time. She grew up in the 'right' neighborhood, went to Cotillions with the popular kids, but had divorced parents and an alcoholic Mom. In her own way, she didn't fit in either. By the end of 9th grade and beginning of 10th, we found the skate punk crowd and started thumbing our nose even more at the 'in' crowd. Which of course meant that more people liked us. I took one of the popular guys to Sadie Hawkins in 10th grade, was asked by one of the popular juniors to go to Senior Prom. The whole time I was both out and in. But, by then, I just didn't care. As has been my pattern ever since, I was good friends with individuals in the various groups, but never part of my own constant 'group'.

At this point in my life, to my husband's constant chagrin, I don't care that much what people think of me. Yet looking at those photos takes me back to a time filled with insecurity and fear. I was SO afraid of what people thought of me, even through my first couple years of college, I retained some of that.

From 7th-9th, I wanted to be noticed and liked. 10th grade was my "F__ You" year; it was so liberating to Just. Not. Care. End of 10th I became a Christian, and then I was TERRIFIED to talk about my faith. Scared of rejection. Scared again of what people thought of me because of that. Here I was, growing up in one of the most Christian cities in the country, but was one of only three Christians I knew in my high school class.

In college, first I learned to talk about my faith on a personal level, but was still terrified of any public venue. I had a philosophy class, taught by an African man who hated Christians. I never opened my mouth no matter what he said. Then, my junior year, two huge things happened. The first was in an art class: we had to use a piece of 4x8 foot plywood sheet to make a collage. I had a sense God wanted me to make a crucifixion, but I was totally resistant to the idea. Then, when I looked at the plywood, the body was already there in the wood grain: knees, groin, shoulders, two knots for nipples. All I had to do was outline it. So I did.

I used newspaper headlines to make the crown of thorns. The idea of the black swirls was of sin being consumed. I worked on it for 60 hours in a 72 hour period. Was TERRIFIED going into the critique. Yet, the integrity of the piece spoke for itself. I barely had to talk about it. People saw a stream. They saw an egg in fallopian tubes. All valid and evocative responses.

That same semester, I was in a literary journalism class. We had to write autobiographical pieces about each phase of our lives. Then in class, the teacher would randomly call on students to read their raw piece. The class would critique and then the next week, you'd read your revised work. I wrote a hilarious story for ages 5-12 about Valentine's Day. Wasn't called on. The next week was 13-18. The only thing I could think to write was my conversion story. I totally resisted, but could NOT think of anything else of greater consequence. Wrote it the night before. I used humor and honesty, so it didn't feel like a tract. And, of course, was called on! I was shaking as I read the story. I think I expected people to jump all over me and yell at me or reject me outright. Instead they responded to the writing.

Both of those experiences were hugely liberating for me. There have been other moments in the long, slow journey from fear to confidence, but those were big.

It's just weird to look back at photos from that time and be launched back into a visceral, gut-level fear response. I can't believe how much I'd forgotten the depth of paralysis I used to feel.

Phew! I'm SO glad that life is a journey. I can't wait to look back in 20 years at the things I think are huge now and see them as irrelevant to life then.

February 15, 2009

Quote of the year (so far)

Tonight at supper club, Jrex was discussing the sad news that he has to do yet another experiment in order to finish the paper (that he's been 'finishing' since September).

Redhead exclaimed, "Oh no! How many mouse must die for this?"

Jrex: "30."

Redhead, laughing, "You already know the number!? That's so sad . . . but, then, if you're an exterminator, I guess that's Tuesday."

February 13, 2009

It really IS this boring

I apologize for the state of my blogging life lately. My whole world has shrunk to work, time with Jrex and the mutt, and trying to figure out this surgery deal.

They called yesterday to tell me I was scheduled for next Wednesday! There was/is no way all the balls being juggled in the air could land without disaster by then. I told them I need two weeks notice. It sounds like it will be either Wednesday the 25th or March 4th in that case.

What's in the air? We have to tell my clients, but before that we need a rock solid replacement in hand. Unfortunately, due to the economy, my company is just not allowing us to hire a local freelancer. The Boston designer goes home by 4:30 every day. I totally honor the working Mom thing, but not having a designer from 1:30 in the afternoon is NOT going to work. My CD is trying to find someone who can float to West Coast time. Basically, before hiring locally, we have to fail the Company system. And we haven't, yet. So, no time to truly train a replacement. I warned Cool Guy, the other 2D designer left in our department, that he's the warm body on the ground and will get slammed. Yesterday, I did three rounds of corrections that were handwritten on a print-out. How does that work long-distance? Today I'm passing around a full-size mock-up for look/feel review. That's a lot of FedEx dollars! I hate when I know exactly what I need, but am told to make it happen with my hands tied behind my back.

I'm good at seeing patterns and recognizing what can make things flow better. Either in terms of the physical layout of the space, or in terms of people dynamics. I was right about the traffic manager, I also know what we need in terms of a designer. Sigh.

Whatever. Like I said, all fairly boring to read. Dramatic to live. This is where I love reading Dooce or Amalah or Metro Dad, they can write about the mundane and make it hilarious. No such fare over here in the land of toiling Sojourners.

February 10, 2009

Totally Random

Jrex and the mutt picked me up from work this evening. We let the mutt run (and run. and run.) all around the building. She would NOT poop. Then we went to pick up some mediterranean food for dinner (YUM). While waiting for the food, I took her for another walk. We found some ivy and she dove right in and did her business.

She's definitely been spoiled living in this chi-chi neighborhood.
I STILL don't have a surgery appointment. I'm losing my window. If it doesn't happen the last week of February/first week of March, I'll need to postpone it until June. I've got a window in these shows that I'm designing for where nothing too horrible should happen if I'm out of commission for a couple weeks. I have to call them back tomorrow and let them know I need to know!
Jrex and I are just now recovering from a virus that's lasted for two weeks. Ugh. All I can say is that Breathe Right strips are miraculous!
My Dad sent me an email tonight titled 'disaster report'. Was it ever! His water was out for two weeks (broken water main and tree roots in some pipes). He had to drag water from all over town for clean water. For flushing toilets? They shoveled snow into garbage cans and brought it to the basement to thaw, then dragged 5-gallon buckets upstairs.

The whole time that's happening? He's fostering two boys on the weekends: a 12-year old and his 5-year old brother (nicknamed 'Hurricane'). Fortunately, they're great at shoveling snow.

He blew out his tire while transporting our 'sister'. She's a 40ish-year old woman that none of us kids have met. Dad's known her for a few years now. She's an ex-crack addict and ex-prostitute. He worked with her and her church both to free her from demonic stuff as well as get her clean from the drugs. She's been clean for three years and has been visiting Cincy for the past month.

He's also experienced the death of a housemate in the last week.

I don't know how he's still standing. His email tonight reminded me of all the reasons I'm proud to have him for a father.

February 6, 2009

Signs of a Misspent Traffic Manager

I LOVE the new traffic manager. While she's dealing with all the logistics and meetings and politics, I'm actually able to design! It's shocking how much time that leaves in my day now. For the most part, I've been using my new-found time wisely, but I've had a few temptations.

1. NetVibes. I have my blogroll, news feeds and design feeds set up there. The Wiki-how feed can absorb hours if one isn't careful.

2. Freerice. Thanks to swallowflight, I found this site that tests your knowledge. I've only managed level 7 of 10 in vocabulary, but 9 of 10 in art recognition. Chemical symbols? I'm in the 2-4 range.

3. Scrabble via Facebook. Evil addiction. I now have most of the two-letter Scrabble words memorized (AA, SH, QI--who knew?!)

Is there anything else I should(n't) know about?

February 4, 2009

Signs O' the Times

Found out yesterday that our company is doing a 5% pay reduction nationwide. We will now have 15 days off instead of 20. On the plus side, we are required to take one paid day off a month that's NOT a PTO day. Hey, I'm bribe-able!

I haven't yet heard from the doctor about when the surgery will be, but I definitely want to get this done before anything happens to our health benefits!

I heard a piece on NPR where people can call in with Hard Times stories. One woman mentioned that at a McDonalds drive through, when she asked for Splenda, they gave it to her and then asked for the sugar packets back.

Despite all the stress at work, I'm definitely grateful to have a job right now. This is all feeling very scary. In college, we read a book by Studs Terkel called Hard Times. He interviewed Depression-era survivors and it all sounded so fictional. That was a generation that already knew how to live within their means, that didn't like to accept charity, that knew how to work with their hands. Our generation has no such advantages! We're having to start from scratch. Not that it's a bad thing, but it certainly seems like it will be a challenge. "May you be born in interesting times", indeed.