December 24, 2010

Link Love: I am Korean American

This has nothing to do with Christmas Eve. We woke up early and are preparing to jump on the plane. Of course, I HAD to give myself a 5 AM pedicure (there is no good reason for this...)

So, I'm trolling the web looking for distraction as my polish dries, and I come across this video. Powerful, eloquent. His story is not exactly that of Jrex, but there are interesting parallels. What does it mean to be the child of an immigrant? What does it mean to survive parents who have survived atrocities? What does it mean to deal with conflict when it's been expressed in uncontrolled ways? No one in Jrex's family was ever hit with fists, but there was still rage in his father. Anyway, if you want something besides Christmas-themes, hit play:

[Sorry! Apparently the embedded video didn't work. I had Jrex watch it with me via the site I Am Koream. He found the guy fairly irritating. Rather than a discussion of Jrex's experience, it became an evaluation of the speakers prose/poem and how much was left out of the narrative. Still an interesting talk, but different than I anticipated. That's all part of what I enjoy about Jrex, he usually surprises me.)

December 23, 2010

Going to find some winter

Yesterday and today I've been "working" from home. I've done a couple small things, but watching movies with the computer open (in case I get an email) hardly counts, right? It makes it feel like a real Christmas break. Next week our office is shutting down and we're all taking it seriously: no one wants to see or hear from each other during the time off.

Tonight Jrex and I will drop off Muttola at our friends' house (where she'll play with their Welsh Corgi, Stubby, for a week). We watched Stubby for two weeks while they went to Ireland for a 'babymoon'. The dogs are HILARIOUS together.

Wrestling, competing, playing silly/petty games.

You can see the look in Muttola's eye, "You're MY human, not his. Got it?"

Then tomorrow, we fly to Seattle! My Dad has moved there so it'll be the first Body Part family Christmas since I don't know when. My sister is hosting and we'll be staying in her house. I've gone for mini-visits, but Jrex hasn't been able to visit since Blonde Nephew was born 3.5 years ago! It'll be fun to watch Jrex get to know the kids. Fun to juggle all the BIG personalities in one room (well, fun for us Body Part people, maybe less fun for Jrex and History Prof). Fun to hit a Seattle wine bar, run around outside, play inside, go to the zoo, do whatever. I like my people and it'll be good to be together. Plus, this way my sister gets some backup against the barbarian half of the family (yes, Dad, I'm talking about you boys). Jrex and I might even make a dinner one of the nights. Mmmm...tofu chocolate pudding and whatever else.

When we get back next Wednesday, he's taking the rest of the weekend off to chill out. We're hoping to take one day and get up to SF for a couple art exhibits and a visit to Terroir, a fairly grungy wine bar with a sophisticated/eclectic selection of wines. There's a chi-chi dinner truck that parks across the way and serves French/Vietnamese fusion so it's a little cheaper than some wine bars. Plus, I'm a cheap date since I just take sips from his glass (I get tipsy WAY too fast to have my own).

Somewhere in there I get to do the Christmas/Epiphany letter and ship it out. That'll be a little tricky cause I'd prefer to tell a complete story and right now we're in the middle of the drama. Wouldn't it read better if it could say, "Jrex published his paper, won a grant and got a job. We're moving to ________ and here's a picture of our new digs". Instead it's half of a great story that ends with, "And we're deciding between Portland, NYC and Dallas. Sure you can all see us in Portland, or NYC, but we might end up in Dallas. Which isn't as bad as we'd feared. But we don't know yet. So, have a great year and we'll let you know what happens!" Ah well, life is full of tattered threads that have yet to be incorporated in the great Rug of Life (how's THAT for cliché? Don't mock it, I'm proud of it)...

I'm just so, so happy to take some time off and relax with many of the people I love most in the world. May your time in the coming week be also blessed, fun and somehow restful.

December 21, 2010

I'm the bitch, Round 2

One of the 'perks' of managing others is that there are times to be kind and times where kindness won't work.

I didn't have time to write about it when it happened, but during the madness of the last conference I worked on, I had to fire one of the contractors. He kept making mistakes and worked very slowly. I can do semi-slow and meticulous, but slow with mistakes wasn't ok given how much signage we'd be generating in the two subsequent weeks. I learned a long time ago from my mother (when she consulted me on how to say 'no' to someone who loved me), "Don't give false hope, it's the cruelest way because it makes the emotions linger." When I fired the contractor, I tried to blame it all on the fact that it wasn't a good fit. We have fast-flowing chaos and he seems like a designer who needs quiet order. I didn't promise him future work and I didn't give him another chance (I didn't have time, and based on what I'd seen, if he were under more pressure, he'd just make more mistakes). It wasn't fun, I was shaking a little when I asked him to step into an empty office, but I was able to be firm and clear and not give false hope. I'd written out my script to make sure I'd be clear. I didn't have it with me in the room, but it helped to know ahead of time what I should say. He was obviously upset and shocked, but took it very professionally. I really respected his attitude (and conveyed that to the placement agency).

Last Friday, I got to have another round of being the hard-ass manager. We're working on a response for a client (R F P) that's due right after Christmas. During the madhouse of the last conference, one of the designers I hired was assigned to work over on the execut1ves' side of the building and do Powerpoints and presentations for them. They loved his work on an earlier R F P (let's call him Tall and Earnest). When this new R F P came through, the execs specifically asked for Tall and Earnest. He's been working on it for the past week and a half.

Friday evening, Tall and Earnest had already gone home when the door to the design studio burst open and Short Fiery exec burst into the room along with our Gala Guru. Short Fiery exclaimed, "Is Tall and Earnest still here?" And my 'no' she said, "You've got to call him. He put the entire book of the last R F P we worked on on his website!! Doesn't he understand that it belongs to us not him? That's got sensitive pricing on it. What the f___ was he thinking?! I just got called by a prospective employee who'd Googled the event and started talking to me about our fun ideas. WTF!!??"

I called him and he agreed to take it down. Then Short Fiery went on, "You have to get this to him in writing. He signed a non-d1sclosure agreement, he obviously doesn't have a clue what that means."

I defended him by pointing out that he's young and excited, but that I'd email him. I sent him an email that included phrases like, "I can't tell you how violated this made us feel". Unfortunately for him, he's responded since in ways that are both very arrogant and very young. He wrote back to me to say, "I took it down. I'm sorry about that. I didn't think it was that big a deal." Um, yeah, obviously! Not an effective apology to your employer... A little while later he asked if he should apologize to Short Fiery and Gala Guru. I wrote back to say, "Yes. You need to say that you're sorry, you were excited about your design, you made a grievous mistake and it won't happen again. Do NOT say you didn't think it was a big deal."

When he came in on Monday we discussed it further and he had the audacity to say, "Well, if I'm not able to use what I make here to further my career, then I might need to go with other offers."

He's a good fit for what we're doing right now and I don't want the hassle of bringing someone else up to speed right aro, but again, NOT a good answer. It felt so arrogant. I spoke about the situation with one of our long-time freelancers who was horrified, "Does he not know that he could get sued!? Does he also not know not to piss off the big fish? And you all are definitely big fish. His whole job is to keep you happy." Turns out this second freelancer doesn't use ANYTHING he creates for his clients. His business is all word of mouth, he doesn't even have a website since he can't show most of his work. Once a booth or conference is produced, all that work is then in the public domain, but any proposed work can never be shown.

Last night, my Dad also weighed in, "This kid really needs to have a chat with a lawyer. He has no idea how deep the water is does he?" Honestly, I hadn't even thought about the legal issue until both the second freelancer AND my Dad thought about it as their first reaction. I realized I needed to make sure Tall and Earnest understood the situation.

On a side note, I have to say that one of the fun things about this job has been discussing it all with my Dad. He's more of a Mr. Fixit than a Mr. Empathy, so when I'm pouring out my emotional troubles it doesn't always work as well, but anything business related, he's great. He graduated from Harvard with a focus on contract law and worked for an international corporation as their Employee Relations Manager. Management, business and the law? He's great.

Anyway, I just sent off an email to Tall and Earnest explaining the situation. Telling him that I understand learning curves, but trying to fill him in so he can learn from the mistake and not just think it's me being a b1tch or our company being parano1d. Sil1con Vall3y/San Franc1sco are small worlds, all the companies overlap, everyone is working on something cutting-edge and secret. If you're not discreet, you won't have work. I don't think he realized that.

I don't like having to be the mean Boss Lady, but I'm really grateful for my years working with messed up kids. I had to learn there how to be the villain in the piece and how to shrug off the toxicity and keep loving them after. I hope it doesn't make me a callous manager, but I'm glad I'm not afraid to do the hard, but necessary, tasks.

December 14, 2010

Gratitude Project #3

I am very thankful today:
  • for being home safely
  • that I took today as a comp day. It was especially good to know that last nightwhile announcements that our plane was delayed kept coming at the airport. Only left 3 hours late (due to fog in SF).
  • for the interesting woman who struck up a conversation with me in the airport. She was an African-American woman who looked at most 42 and proudly announced she was 51. She kept trying to ask me questions about our diet, if we get massages, what we do to stay healthy (since my obviously Asian husband was next to me, my impression was that she was asking about Asian secrets to health and long life. I've had Caucasian friends ask me if my MIL has taken me for special Korean facials. Anyone else know any Asian longevity secrets? I sure don't!) She certainly helped pass the time.
  • that Dallas is a really intriguing city (since Jrex glows every time he talks about the research there...)
  • for a future that is unknown, seems like it will contain some unexpected twists, but which will still be interesting.
  • that I get to go toward that future with a man I enjoy and respect.
  • that a bunch of women whom I really enjoy are coming over tonight for tea and biscuits.

December 12, 2010

Promises promises...

This is why I've never tried to do any blog program that would require me to write every day: I just can't be consistent on a daily basis! It's the same principle as my cleaning program: clean when company is coming over but the rest of the time, not so much.

ANY way. We're in Dallas. Jrex is in the room doing research for his 2nd round of interviews tomorrow at S0uthw3st3rn. I came up to the executive business center to print our boarding passes and then started jonesing for a fix of the blogosphere.

This is going to be a tough decision. The good news is that Dallas isn't so bad. It's a big city with lots of amenities. Tons of art museums and festivals. Lots of friendly people, great restaurants and things to do. We'd even have some built in community via Jrex's friends from Hopk1ns. Last night we had dinner with the wife of a guy who used to be in Jrex's lab. He was out of town visiting Stanford while we were here with his wife. Ironic. She's a petite, fiesty woman who works remotely and has only made one friend in the five years she's lived here. (That made me nervous if I work from home, but she's much more of a hermit than I tend to be.) Originally from the NYC area she could compare things to areas in terms we could understand, "They have a neighborhood they call the 'West Village', but that's a joke compared to the real thing." Jrex chimes in, "Yeah, but the West Village doesn't even measure up to its own reputation anymore." She's someone I could call to go out to see weird independent movies, or to go for a hike or for food (since she's married to a scientist, she's also a 'married single' woman, like me).

We drove around with the realtor for a couple hours both yesterday and today. I'd picked a wide range of properties around the city. It gave us a good sense of neighborhoods and what we might like. It also showed us that we'll likely pay as much here as we would for a house in Portland. It would probably be a bit bigger (it IS Texas after all), but not much cheaper. Somehow we thought we'd find an amazing bargain house here, but the ones in that price range were SCARY. Apparently the soil here is sandy clay or something and houses can settle in very twisted ways. If you don't consistently water the soil around your house (yes, you have to water your HOUSE) then the difference between wet and dry spells is so extreme that the ground expands and contracts and ruins foundations. So some of the houses had floors where you could put a ball on the floor and watch it roll downhill. None of the homes have basements.

When I heard that I exclaimed, "Oh, so they must not have tornadoes here!" The realtor laughed, "No. I guess you're supposed to hide in your bathtub." I responded, "That sounds the same as what they tell you for earthquakes in California. I think they just say that so you'll think you have a plan."

We went to church this morning. I wanted to get a feel for Christian community here and to have some time to try to tune in to whatever the Lord might want to say. It was a good time. Via the internet I found a young, hipster church that meets in a warehouse in an inner city area. It's not 'it' for me in terms of a church, but it was fine. I was able to hear some stuff from God and that was great. I asked him, "Where do you want us to be?" and the first thought that jumped into my mind after I asked was, "With me." It felt like the Lord's humor (and direction) to me. I sort of got the sense that He has good things in store for us wherever we end up. When I told that to Jrex, he nodded. I think he's had the same sense.

That leaves us in a good, but tough place. Neither option is the be-all-end-all, neither is a home run, but neither is awful either. I guess it will come down to whichever institution makes the better offer. In January he goes back to NYC alone for a second interview there. We keep joking that NY will be the dark horse that comes from behind, but it's really a long shot. The good news for me is that I'm not in despair or afraid that Dallas would be a prison exile for the rest of my life.

Tomorrow we're having breakfast with the head of the program (at 7 AM. Uncivilized medicine people wake up at the crack of dawn and think that's normal!). Then she'll drive Jrex over to do a day of interviews while I drive around and check out the climbing gym and see if I can find cheap cowgirl boots for my sister.

That's all for now, y'all!

December 8, 2010

Thanks, Day 2

  • For a job that includes being able to see St3v1e W0nder in concert. I'd expected a VERY boring recap of his greatest hits. Instead he improvised with the audience, with his other singers and, for the last couple of songs, with from The B1ack Ey3d P3as.
  • For listening to the nudge that told me if I wimped out and took the 10:40 train home from SF I'd regret it. I stayed for some amazing DJ artistry by w1ll. Then I took the midnight train to Menl0... (cue music)
  • For a chat with a coworker (a native Californian) who is married to a guy from the Northwest. She just moved to Texas and gave me her thoughts on moving to Texas. (Lots of friendly people, no regrets)
  • That Jrex turned in his list. Phew! I'm so proud of him
  • For today, where instead of sitting at a desk and working, I get to go to IK3A to buy frames for a poster I designed. Then I get to drive them up to SF where I will load the posters into the frames in preparation for them being given to our clients as gifts tomorrow.
  • For a walkthrough of the conference with another client which will end with a keyn0te by B1ll Cl1nt0n.
Talk about a non-work work day! I'll TAKE it!

December 6, 2010

Time to purge

I've been thinking a great deal about negativity and complaining. I do think there's a difference between venting and whining, but I'm not sure where the line is and know that I cross it. There's also a difference between analyzing and criticizing, but the line is also hard to find. Lovey and I talked about giving up complaining for Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas). Yesterday during church I realized it wasn't so much about giving up complaining as replacing it with thanksgiving. I'm thinking of it as my pre-Christmas spiritual 'cleanse'. Each day between now and Christmas (or maybe Epiphany), I'm going to post things for which I'm grateful. Might be a bit boring for you, but it's definitely necessary for me!

For today (so far):
  • That I brought my computer home on Friday. Which meant that this morning when I realized NO ONE will be in the office (this year's huge conference opens today so everyone is on-site), I could decide to work from home and change back into my slouchy clothes.
  • For a comfortable apartment that gets morning sun.
  • For a very cute mutt lounging in the sun spot.
  • That Jrex is submitting his list to P0rtland today. He had to get estimates for microscope systems that cost @ $100,000 and other similar kinds of equipment. Yikes!
  • For my new porn addiction. House porn. The Dallas realtor is supplying me listings and I get to troll around, fantasize about life in each house and pick my favorites.

December 2, 2010

Just figured out the perfect way to fight

During the past couple weeks I've known something was bothering Jrex. I tried to draw him out and find out what was going on, but he wasn't yet ready to discuss it. We finally made an appointment to "talk". A couple days before our impending chat I was praying before work when I had a thought: let him say everything that's bothering him while I take notes (and write my counter arguments in the margins). Then, I'll process what he says and write him a letter in response. That removes the risk of confrontation for him and gives me time to give a considered response. Too often our discussions get derailed when one of us hits the other's trigger point. I told him the format ahead of time so that he would know he didn't need to be geared for battle.

Last night we had our 'discussion'. Yes, there were a bunch of things bothering him, but somehow taking notes distracted me enough to hear without personalizing the whole thing. By the end we both felt reconnected and happy with each other.

I still have to write out my response, but it was definitely the most pleasant fight I've ever had!

November 30, 2010

The CalyDo List

Knowing we're moving, I'm making a list of things I want to do before we leave. We've already done many of the things that were on my original list (see redwoods, ski Tahoe, visit Yosemite, see the Sierra Nevada and Sequoia National Park, hike Joshua Tree, stay in Mendicino, visit Pt. Reyes, explore San Francisco, let the dog play in the ocean, climb outside, hike the headlands north of Golden Gate bridge, visit Vancouver/Whistler, wine tasting in Napa/Senoma/Anderson Valley and visit California Academy of Science & Monterey Aquarium).

My current list:
In terms of other items to add to the list, I've offered to give a friend from church a ride to the airport. He made an offer that gave me something wonderful to check off my list. Something I hadn't considered even attempting, but once he offered, it was a definite 'check!'.

Would I want to join him at Google for dinner? (he invited me to bring another guest as well, so James will try to come with us)

For those of you not privvy to Silicon Valley's quirks, Google provides gourmet meals in four or five different cafeterias on their campus. Just seeing the Google campus is worth it, but dinner there is a definite bonus.

Can any of you think of something I'm missing from my list?

November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

As mentioned before, one of the first things I did after my promotion was run out and buy a smart phone (Droid X on Verizon). I think Jrex hates it already, but it's been great to have all my organizational tools at my fingertips. In order to spread the joy (to the ten of you with smart phones...), here are my favorite apps:

Easy Money. Jrex and I have very, very deep differences in how we spend money, but also in how we track it. We solved many of our fights by separating our accounts a bit. I now control my own mini-empire (tithes, my spending, haircuts and train) while he's in charge of our main account (since he saves and I spend, that seemed the wisest course of action). In my little world, I was writing down how much I spent in a tiny notebook that I tucked into my wallet (in his world it's an intense Excel spreadsheet that makes my eyes glaze over; it impresses our mathy friends though!). Of course, I never added up my scribbles and when I did, it was just to discover that I was broke (or worse). Enter a phone app that does the math for me. It's not uber-sophisticated, but it's perfect for my needs.

Retro Camera: This app gives me five old-school "cameras" that let me take pictures like these...

Our funny little mutt likes to have a vegetarian course during her walks. This is one of her favorite weeds which she proceeds to strip down to the stem.

Google Sky: Allows me to use my phone to identify the stars that are above me (uses GPS data to give me exact sky configuration depending on day of year and location).

Urban Spoon: Because it's fun to be able to shake my phone and get a slot machine 'answer' to the question, "Where do we want to go eat?"

And of course, because I AM a geek, Angry Birds. The pigs have stolen the eggs, now we will waste countless hours of our lives (Jrex likes it, too) lobbing birds via slingshots. Sounds simple, but it's evil and addictive.

Any apps I'm missing? What's your favorite phone time waster?

November 22, 2010

Ironies abound

I wrote Saturday's update and felt so empowered and excited, but then...

I woke up.

One of my friends just told me she's pregnant and I'm thrilled for her, but... it's just a reminder of an arena in our lives that has NOT been easy. As I told Jrex on Saturday night when we hung out and chatted, "Hope is the most difficult emotion." On Sunday morning, I was totally out of sorts. Then figuring out how much we owed in tithe given my raise led to a money talk. Let's just say that money and baby-land are our two most emotionally charged topics. It didn't go well. By the time I left for church (late), we'd found a relatively peaceful meeting point in the middle, but I was emotionally very thin and close to tears.

At church I've been helping teach the junior high girls. This fall there have only been three teachers. As part of the church's Reducing the Risk (of sexual abuse) policy, there need to be two adults at all times with the children. Combine that with travel and work and I've only been in a church service once in two months. I'm desperate for that time to be with God to cry and process and hear his response. Yesterday was yet another teaching day, so I didn't even have church to help.

On a side note, the funny thing about really studying the Bible with kids is that it's VERY "R-rated". How would YOU define 'debauchery, orgies and the like' (actual Bible verse) to a bunch of protected Christian children?

My one ray of hope was my new small group. A few weeks ago my pastor's wife invited me to join their group. It meets every other Sunday afternoon and is followed by dinner. Most people in the group are couples with children from 3-17. As we studied Psalm 73, I had tears in my eyes. I could feel how completely and utterly empty I was. After the study, we split up into men and women for prayer. First we prayed for one other woman and then they asked if anyone else wanted prayer. Part of me thought about letting someone else have an opportunity, but I knew that I was too desperate for that. It felt great to have a group of mature women surround me and pray for me.

Today I feel sane again. The whirlwind in my head has ebbed to a quiet breeze. This pattern is so familiar. I hit on some big insight and then life smacks me in the face with a test of that very concept. If I keep seeking God in the middle of the smack-around, good things happen. The test was where will I focus my attention. Psalm 73 deals with that very idea. When David envies the wicked he feels embittered and overwhelmed, when he enters the sanctuary, he discovers that God is all he wants. I don't know that I'm at the point where God is all I want, but I'm definitely happy to have some of the clutter between him and me cleared away.

Anyone else dealing with life's ironies? Or having to explain orgies to 13-year olds?

November 20, 2010

I found out I have super powers today!

Today at the climbing gym I challenged my climbing partners with this idea, "We've been watching the really good climbers and we've all commented on how they use their feet and not just their arms. Let's climb a couple grades below our regular level and really focus on good foot work."

As I climbed, I looked around to find good foot placement, I twisted my hips to get closer to the wall, extended my foot and used my toes to grip the rock and pull my body up. The part of my brain that was always afraid of bad handholds, or of getting burned out, or of swinging far if I fell got filled instead with a quiet peace as I just looked for footholds. My knees and ankles didn't get tired, I didn't get bruised from banging myself carelessly into the wall. From the ground, my climbing partners said my climbing looked totally different.

I truly felt like I could take on any climb! It was like I'd been using 40% of my capacity and found an extra 30-45% sitting around unused. Somehow the 'engine', the center of my power shifted from my chest (focus on my arms) to my pelvis. I could push past any barrier, creatively solve any problem. For months now I've enjoyed the time with my partners, but not the climbing itself as much. Today I fell in love all over again.

Where else in my life have I not been using my feet?

At work I've been functioning in my own abilities without asking / praying for guidance, wisdom, order or anything. I've been facing the future move with my own wisdom. Trying to CONTROL my way toward getting pregnant. Working furiously until I just can't give anymore. I've got so much more juice than what I'm using! Just look around. Find the small holds and pull up with a centered gravity.


November 19, 2010

Do you want cheese with that?

My sister and I had a really great conversation recently where we talked through her perception that I've become critical, negative and whiny. It was one of those hard/good conversations. The interesting thing to me was how surprised I was. Not that she'd bring it up, but because in most of my circles here, I'm one of the more positive, cheerful, encouraging people. I started to wonder if I'm surrounded by whiners and have adopted the communication pattern as a default.

Two days after the sister talk, our department interviewed a potential creative director. He asked us questions about our department and our company. The list of frustrations and negatives came pouring out. All the 'us' vs. 'them' mentality that the guys in the department have. I've worked on a team where the account exec made EVERY team member sit at the table. She ran a very tight ship, the meetings were over in an hour and a half, but it fostered a team. I tried to counter their perception by talking about that experience, but they kept on going. Then the creative director candidate asked, "What brings you into work each day?"


"A paycheck."

I chimed in, "I like to learn new things and I like fixing things and making things better."

A little later he asked, "What do you like about working for this company?"

Silent stares around the table. I waited.

"Good benefits." "A paycheck." "The people here in the studio."

My two-cents, "Everyone here works very hard. I respect the people in this department and love working with them."

Hmm... I can see why I've become a negative whiner! Anything else is so cross-cultural that I sound like a ditzy Pollyanna.

November 14, 2010

Decisions, decisions...

I've been avoiding my blog and the phone because I'm not sure what to say about our Portland trip. On the one hand, it was fun to get away together and explore a new city. It was GREAT to see OTRmama and her daughter (we became friends in preschool and were the reason our Moms became friends). We had three days of sun and only one day of rain (but it was good to get a 'realistic' sense of what Portland feels like in the rain).

Overall? Not a home run. I was really hoping for a mutual "Yes!" and neither of us got it. I know I could make Portland work, but then, gray weather doesn't affect me. Being in a whole city of liberal white people would just feel like being back on my college campus. The small town feel with access to nearby mountains and hiking also reminded me of college life. Housing was much more expensive than we'd anticipated (lessening the 'bang for the buck' we like to have), but much better than San Francisco.

I think that what I'm resisting is this underlying sense (dread?) that Dallas might be where we're 'meant' to be next. I'm so enchanted by the idea of being so close to OTR mama/daughter and my immediate family, who all live in Seattle, that it's been hard to listen to that still, persistent voice underneath it all.

Today I lunched with Artistic Scientist. She grew up in South Texas but is as 'crunchy', artsy, Christian and progressive as I am (we bonded through a love of a local farmers' market). I asked her to give me the scoop on Dallas. Could she see me there? Her evaluation is that if she wasn't in Austin, she could move to Dallas, "It's metropolitan, has great art exhibits and a bustling downtown. For Texas, it's progressive: they have a light rail, bike paths and an 'out' gay community. I think you could find people you'd enjoy. Honestly, people in Texas are much friendlier than people in Silicon Valley. Sure sometimes it can feel like fake Southern friendly, but most of the time it's very genuine. I think you could be happy there and I'm not just saying that."

I'm nervous that we're going to reach a point where I really want Portland and Jrex really wants Dallas. How do you choose? Who 'wins'? My prayer has been that if it's supposed to be Dallas, I would fall in love when we go in December; if Portland, that Jrex would be changed. I dread having to make a decision where one of us would have to face dreadful loss and be bitter with the other. I really am praying that we'll have one mind about this before we move. I have told Jrex that if we end up in Dallas, I'd love part of the deal to be that I don't get grief for flying places to visit my family or to go meet my climbing buddies...

Yikes! This is high stakes.

November 10, 2010

I'm running a sweat shop

As I suspected, it's very difficult to be both the manager and the designer. Thus far I've brought in four freelancers in the last week (in addition to the one I found a few weeks ago). I'm talking with a Flash designer about four screen savers we'll need. Even that may not be enough!

It would be one thing if I were just responding to their designs and directing them. That part is FUN (I'm the boss lady and I feel the POWER). One of the designers is GREAT. I've got him working on the other side of the building with the execs and he's doing wonderful work. It still means an hour yesterday and today to look through his work and nudge him in the direction that will make my internal client happy. He responded well though, so we're on track.

I've got layouts I've been trying to get to ALL day. Stuff that I'd normally bang out in 2 hours of focused time is taking me eight. Unfortunately the guy I picked from the pile to be my mini-me is s...l...o...w. It's taken him 6 hours now to lay out one graphic. That's NOT the speed of trade design. We've got 10 of these due by end of tomorrow. How am I going to squeeze out 7 designs tomorrow to make up for his lack o' speed?

Oh well, perhaps if I weren't blogging right now I might get something done? Better than whine for a while than really focus, that's what I always say.

November 9, 2010

Spoiled Rotten

As we think of moving next summer, I'm realizing how spoiled I've become. Honestly, when we moved to the Bay area, nestling into our little apartment half-way between San Francisco and San Jose, I resisted falling in love.

Autumn is my favorite time of year and the weather here is always autumn, never summer or winter. Warm days when the sun shines accompanied by cool evenings which mean we never have to put away the down comforter. Locals complain about winter, but it's just a bit of rain with sunny days in-between.

On the east coast, it was EXTREMELY rare to see an Asian / Caucasian couple where the Asian was the male. We'd never seen anyone older than us who fit the pattern until we moved here. In the Bay area, it seems like the default is for a mixed race couple. I'm working with Junior High girls at church. I meet the girls before the parents. As a result, I've had some faux pas where I didn't connect the right kid with the right parent until I saw both parents together. Oops, he's obviously not the parent of the cute, quiet redhead, since he's a tall brunette Caucasian and his wife is a petite Philipina, they must belong to the girl who looks Persian.

With CalTrain running up and down the Peninsula, it's normal for all classes of people to take advantage of public transportation. The bike culture is deeply ingrained here. Sure, it was challenging, but it was totally doable to survive with only one car. I value walkability and having public transport as a viable alternative to driving.

The food culture here has truly corrupted us. Sure it all costs an arm and a leg, but there's a vast array of great food choices. I knew we'd become snobs when we were underwhelmed by Portland's best restaurant (granted, the wait staff seemed flustered to serve a table of 11, so the food may have sat around and dried out). Farmers Markets run year-round, there's a market in each 'town' (aka neighborhood), and most markets take place within sight of the train station.

On a personal level, I LOVE the climbing gym. It's huge, has tons of workout equipment, tall walls laid out by amazing climbers and a great community of other climbers. As a comparison, it's part of a chain of gyms between San Jose and San Francisco. At 40,000 sq. ft., the one I use is the largest of the three. Portland's single climbing gym is 12,500 sq. ft. Dallas has one that is 20,000. Neither are as tall as mine. Having two women to climb alongside is also an amazing joy for me. The fact that we're venturing outside is phenomenal and one of my griefs about leaving.

Of course all of this comes with a price tag. The cost for the weather is the brown hills and the gray-green foliage on the native trees. For housing? "You can't get a $600,ooo fixer upper". Jrex has paid a high price being at Stanf0rd. They are notoriously slow and disorganized unless you're an "It" person. His advisor "Isn't" and Jrex certainly isn't even on their care-about radar.

So, sure, we're ready to move, but as much as I've resisted, I've become accustomed to what we have here. Nothing else will compare. I'm sure there will be compensations, but it's hard to not what THIS with lower housing costs. Surely that's not too much to ask?

November 3, 2010

Colored Blue

It's harder to vote in California than anywhere else I've lived. Not the actual voting process (vote by mail, yeah!), but what I'm required to know in order to vote the entire ballot. As an impassioned high school student studying the US Electoral system, I thought I believed in direct democracy. What's this stupid electoral college business?! Power to the people!!

Well, California has it and it's a mess!

Based on reading a few brief paragraphs (with rebuttals printed alongside) and a list of who supports or opposes a measure, I'm supposed to decide whether to legalize pot, continue to support clean energy, fund a project in my neighborhood, allow a simple majority to pass a budget, expand or contract the Congressional Redistricting group (measures in both directions were featured), restrict pensioning for government employees in my neighborhood, allow an $18 surcharge on car renewals to fund state parks... and those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. That's not even touching WHO to vote for!

I hate that when it comes to city council members, I'm literally picking people based on their last names. "Ooh, that sounds Japanese, let's get some diversity into this rich, white board." I vowed to never be that person, but here I am. Sigh.

Anyway, watching Jerry Brown and Meg last night as the results came in, I thought about why he won. Disregarding all facts about California as a blue state, there were other elements. I've been buried alive in Meg mailings. One even had pictures of her with smiling Asians that had Korean translation alongside the English. She felt slick, wealthy and naive. After hardly ever voting, she promised her commitment to California. While spending MILLIONS, she preached fiscal responsibility. I don't even know what the housekeeper incident was (anyone?), but that obviously played into it. Jerry felt crusty, edgy and unscripted, but in this era, I think authenticity sells. His campaign managers were himself and his wife; Meg had 60 consultants.

Actually, I think that's part of the energy in the tea party campaigns. Authenticity. Not that they're right, but they are expressing a genuine passion through honest-feeling words that seem earthy and 'real'. We'll just see what they choose to build after all their tearing down speeches.

Anyone else have reactions to this election? Did you vote?

Just remember, someday YOU might want to run for governor and if you don't vote while you're an ordinary business tycoon, you won't look so good . . .

November 1, 2010

It's dangerous out there

"What did you dress as?"

I looked down, "A graphic designer."

A laugh, "I meant yesterday!"

I smile, "A graphic designer on the weekend going to a baseball party."

When I reached home, Jrex was watching the game and the mutt was eager to head out for her evening walk. We set out in the growing darkness. As we passed one of the houses on the street, I glanced in their huge picture window to see a very large flatscreen TV and a woman hovering over her laptop. I shook my head and thought, "We definitely aren't living in a city! That's a screaming invitation to get robbed."

The mutt trotted across the street and as I followed behind, I hear hysterical screaming behind me. I looked back and saw two shapes running toward me and braced for disaster relief and/or attacki, then I started to understand the words. "Oh my GOD!!!! Yeeehah!! It's over!" As the shape became more distinct, I realized it was the blind woman with her dog. She was out for an evening jog and listening to her radio. I laughed and called out, "I'm ahead of you with a dog. Did the Giants score?"

In an excited tone, "Yes! Three run homer bottom of the 7th. Yes!!" As her exclamations continued, I heard screaming from three nearby apartments. "I guess the TVs are behind the radio!"

I don't really care about sports, but it is fun to live in a winning area during the final rounds.

October 29, 2010

Weird complaint (be careful what you wish for)

It looks like I'll be getting a promotion.

Which sounds great, but... (I hate to even complain about this. I have a job in the midst of 'The Great Recession' for which I AM grateful.)

They want me to become the "Studi0 Pr0duction Manager". It would involve making sure we have the personnel resources to cover the work flowing through our office. I'd be moving more into an Art Director/managerial role where I supervise and direct the freelancers.

My hesitation is because they aren't planning to replace my design role. The Boss Lady thinks that we get slow enough throughout the year that we don't need two full-time designers. Yet, it's fairly rare that I'm twiddling my thumbs: maybe two months of the year get a little slower, but the rest of the time, it's rare to work a 40-hour week. So now they are expecting me to remain 50% billable and be 50% administrative. I'd hoped for a job where I could have design optional, but not required. This way, it really sounds like they're just giving me MORE work without taking anything away. The theory is that I'm being empowered to bring in the contractors that we need, but we'll see...

I had to remember to thank KBig and Boss Lady for the opportunity. They both commented that I didn't seem that excited. I told both of them my concern that I'd end up doing 70% and 70% rather than 50/50. Jrex had a great suggestion: if I have design to do, I stay home in the morning and get it done, then come in for the afternoon to manage things. I'll have to discuss that with Boss Lady.

On the plus side, no matter what, I know that we're moving in late spring or summer. I get a promotion on my resume, a little more money (don't know how much yet...) and I gain some valuable experience. Knowing it's not a death sentence or a DOOM for the next few years of my ever shorter life, I can make it work. If I were staying here, I think I'd feel trapped.

Do I sound like a whiner? An ungrateful brat? I feel like one.

October 25, 2010

Too much to say

I've had blog posts sloshing around in my head since last Wednesday, but haven't had time to shape them. Rather than not writing, here are quick updates:

On Wednesday night, I scooted up to San Francisco to see a documentary by a college buddy: Adam Blank Gets A Vasectomy. Not a pseudonym. His name AND the (graphic) content. My brother was in town visiting his girlfriend and met us after the movie. We all hung out together a few blocks from the theater. When OTRbro and Adam stepped out for a smoke break, Adam was greeted by a stranger who declared, "Hey! I just saw your balls!"

Jrex flew to Dallas Wednesday morning and returned late Thursday night. His interview went REALLY well. They want us both to visit for another round. In Dallas, the collaborations, science, cross-pollination and technical capabilities are years ahead of what's happening in Portland. There's even a posse of ex-Hopkinites who would love to work with Jrex. Unfortunately, all that wonderfulness is in the center of Texas. Sigh. I asked Jrex whether it would be a no-brainer without me in the picture (since I'm clearly biased toward Portland). He said, "No". I asked why, "Because I saw Mt. Hood," was his answer, "If Southw3stern were in Portland, it would be an easy decision. I've had a feeling it was going to be a tough decision and come down to Dallas vs. Portland."

I've had the same feeling. Even worse, I'm scared that my "I'm won't do Texas" statement is going to come back to haunt me. My hope and prayer is that somehow it would all become more clear once we visit each city together. He's still got a second round coming in NYC, but at the moment that feels like a distant third.

Saturday, I drove over to the east Bay to visit old friends. I had a great time, and have a lot to think about after those visits (post-feminism, life choices that dim our brightness, contentment and the ingredients thereof and the mental/emotional fragmentation that come with motherhood).

Sunday night I flew to Los Angeles (after a three-hour fog delay in the airport). I'm here to attend Ad0be MAX. It's a show for developers and designers who use Ad0be software. This opportunity to be creatively refreshed and technically recharged has been amazing. I keep wondering how to create interactive/matchmaking opportunities for all these women designers and male developers. I'm also realizing how bored I am by conference design. I'm profoundly grateful that I've had a steady job through this Great Recession, but I'll be happy to move to a new city and find something new to try.

Anyway, that's why I've been a bit silent (both as a writer and a reader). I'm missing my blog fixes!

October 18, 2010

Survival is sweet

We naively assumed if we arrived at the crag by 9 AM, there'd be some open climbs. To further that aim, we hiked in for 2.5 miles (figuring most people would be too lazy). We were wrong. As we approached the big rock, we saw ropes attached to each anchor. Turned out the boy scouts set up climbs on EVERYTHING. As we were exploring the big rock (checking out the scary approaches required to clip in to the anchor bolts on the wall...hike a knife ridge 100 feet off the ground, anyone?) yet another group approached and started laying their gear out. They were setting up for a group of 20 climbers.


We turned around and explored a little herd path that ended up leading us to a nice smallish cliff. No one disturbed us as we flubbed around trying to remember the details from our class. Let's just say the first few knots looked VERY sketchy.

However, between the three of us (and a refresher book on climber's knots that I'd bought), we figured it out. There's something completely terrifying about preparing to walk backwards down a cliff knowing that YOU set up every single anchor and YOU tied yourself in and your hand is the ONLY thing keeping you from plummeting 25-feet. Yeehaa!

The photos of me rappelling are not so great, so here's one of me climbing back up instead:

Climbing outside with women that I enjoy has been on my life list for at least 8 years. I'm really excited that it might happen frequently for the next year (if we move in July as anticipated, it would be a bit less...). We're contemplating a trip to Joshua Tree in March, which makes me super happy. (Climbing J-tree is another item on my life list. Going there with Jrex merely to hike was TORTURE. Lovely and fun torture, of course, but getting back there as a climber is definitely on my list.)

I've been terrified to lead climb in the gym after taking an 18-foot fall a while ago. After being outside, doing two lead climbs in the gym on Sunday was a piece of cake (OK. OK. I had to stop four times to let the adrenaline 'shakes' subside, but on the second climb I barely had any fear surges).

Explanation of terms:

"Top Rope" climbs involve hiking up a hill and setting up ropes and other gear to create an 'anchor' at the top of a cliff. The rope dangles from two 'locking' carabiners that hang off the anchor system. To climb, we first lower ourselves down the rope (rappelling) and then climb back up using holds on the cliff. When done, we hike/climb back to the top to remove the anchors and then hike back out with our gear. Falling isn't that big a deal unless you're under an overhang and will then 'swing'.

"Lead climbing" means tying the rope onto one's climbing harness then climbing up the wall with the rope dangling below you. As you go, you pull the rope up and clip it into carabiners attached to the wall. Falling is a bigger deal because it's a direct force (not diluted by the anchor at the top). As I fall, I lift the person belaying me off the ground. Plus, I fall twice the length of whatever rope is past my last clip. Which means that when going for a clip that's 4 feet above my head, if I get to the clip and miss it or fail to clip in and then lose my grip, I fall 8 feet + whatever amount my belayer is pulled off the ground (I'm heavier than both my climbing partners, so I always pull them up). It looks beautiful in theory, but it's terrifying in person.

October 15, 2010

The End.

On my way to pick up the book "Bay Area Top Ropes". Earlier this week Graceful and I ordered the gear we need from REI to go outside and set up our own anchors. We took an anchor/belay/rapel class a month and a half ago.

We're going to try top roping all by ourselves (no guide) tomorrow.

This may be my last post. It's been a delight and a pleasure knowing you all.

October 14, 2010

Work and more work...

Last week at this time, I was in Vegas. I was just starting what proved to be 6 hours of edits and revisions to get a final version of a Keynote presentation ready for the clients. At 4:30 AM I emailed the final PDF to our team so they could review when they woke up.

As a designer, I was sick of being on the receiving end of last minute deliverables. When I was invited to participate as an organizer in what proved to be a 2-month process, I welcomed the chance to be part of the solution. Getting files to the designer AHEAD of the deadline was my goal.

I didn’t succeed.

It was so much harder than I anticipated to get the whole team to commit to decisions, to revise the writing, to just MOVE quickly. For the first phase I was able to pass all the assets to another designer. I worked alongside him to create charts and tables and help him get a 60 page book finished in 48 hours.

Then I was the one on the line to get the standup presentation organized and designed. I did everything I could to show the document ahead of time, to get the team to agree to the storyboard, but it’s hard to get an executive to focus before things are truly ‘hot’. It all got done, the presentation went well (haven’t heard the decision yet, but we heard that they’re leaning in our direction), but that last night was painful.

Now I’m suffering from more of the same. I’m back in my normal seat as a graphic designer, but I’m waiting for the discussion with our GM and KBig. It’s been rescheduled and reshuffled too many times to count. At the moment, its on the calendar for the end of October.

Quite honestly, our GM is in over her head. She’s a micromanager who has now been thrust into a larger office than she’s run before. Her management style doesn’t work for our office. She’s from the British Isles and used to a hierarchical system, protocol and all that good stuff. Our office is THE most collaborative and the most technologically savvy of all our global offices. People have been quitting almost every other week. And she’s so overwhelmed by details that she doesn’t have time to replace them.

Quite honestly, if I didn’t know we’d be moving (according to Jrex, not until July) and if I didn’t have the carrot of a possible new position, I’d be another one of those fleeing the ship. I don’t even know if I can make it until July, but I guess that’s not up to me.

On the Jrex job front, he’s heard from UMich that they don’t have room for him (he thinks the real answer is that he doesn’t have his own funding). Next week is the first round at Southw3stern. He has a second round coming up at Mt. S1nai and we have a round in Portland in November.

I guess my question is, should I be looking for a new job, knowing I might only be there eight months?

October 11, 2010

Aunts & Cousins weekend

There’s nothing better than actually feeling relaxed and happy after five days with family. It’s hard to sum it all up in a tidy package, so here are a few highlights and tidbits:
  • Driving the van turned out to be fine. It handled similarly to our Subaru and Aunt Bird was next to me and she was able to tell me how to parallel park the beast.
  • I found out that my uncle died over a year ago! NOW I feel bad about my post about him... I guess he’d developed lung cancer and died in prison. My aunts had visited him after their Mom died a few years ago. From what they said, he never expressed remorse, but he did say that prison was the best place for him because he couldn’t control his urges.
  • Apparently the aunts have traditions for their sister weekends. They usually have tshirts made, give each other jewelry and buy a commemorative pin. The aunts’ shirts were pink and said, “Who needs a therapist, I have a SISTER”. For the cousins, navy shirts with “If you met my family, you would understand.”

  • I always thought my Dad was the playful one (doing puzzles, playing card games, dancing), not my Mom. Being with her sisters showed me why she must have enjoyed him: our default option was to play together. I learned to play cribbage, we watched movies, and we obsessively put together puzzles (no one got to go to bed until the last piece was IN that 1000 piece puzzle, darn it).

  • When we figured out how to play music through the house stereo system, OTRsis exclaimed, “We should have a dance party!” So we did. We moved back the table and chairs then did a conga line, had party lines with a soloist dancing down the middle (including a very impressive ‘worm’) and in general had a raucous, fun time.

  • Every time one of my aunts said they missed my Mom, I asked what they missed about her. “She always made me think about God.” “How she lived her life.” “She read us the Narnia tales and she really made them come alive.”
  • When everyone else left for a wine tasting tour, my cousin E and I took off separately for a day of wandering the town of Point Reyes as well as a dash out to the lighthouse. We found some great buys including To Go Ware. It was fun to have a two-person day in the midst of so much big family activity. We’d been the last to leave the rental house and had carefully locked up. At the end of the day, as we left the lighthouse (with an hour and a half drive to get back to the rental house), we came into cell phone range to find texts and voice mails that everyone else had returned and they were locked out! We freaked out, but were on little twisty roads (which I took as fast as possible). After twenty minutes of non-stop guilt and not enough consistent signal to call out, we got a text that two of the aunts had climbed up to the balcony (which hangs over the cliff...) and managed to get into the upstairs door. Phew!!! Dinner was ready when we got back and no one was TOO mad at us.
  • At the end of the weekend, they were overjoyed to be able to pack up boxes of leftovers for me to take home. On previous sister weekends they’ve had to throw away food which was awful for them.

Who knows, if we move to Texas, I could be ‘host’ for the next one, too!

September 29, 2010

Your poor uncle!

Yesterday at work, I was talking with a couple people about my upcoming weekend (starting today!!), Gentle Man overheard me and asked, "Wait. WHAT are you doing?"

"I'm spending the weekend with my seven aunts and the oldest of the girl cousins."

"You have SEVEN aunts?"

I thought I'd told him the litany before, but apparently not, "Yeah. My Mom was the oldest of ten kids. There was her, then one boy, then eight girls. I have 26 first cousins."

He looked shocked, "My family is so small, I can't even imagine something like that. Your poor uncle!"

My turn to be shocked. I really hadn't told him the litany since that was a phrase I'd never heard nor imagined. I tilted my head and mused, "Hmm... not a phrase I'd use. He was a sociopath who abused everyone in the family. My Mom worked hard to protect me from him, so he's more of a theory to me than an actual person, but I don't think he is the one who needs the sympathy."

As a result of that intense family life, my aunts are some of the strongest, most vibrant people I know. We've rented a beach house north of San Francisco where we'll hang out, cook, talk, laugh, play games and tease each other for the next five days. My sister and five of our fabulous cousins are coming as well.

Their all en route as I write. I'm off to rent (and learn to drive) a 12-passenger van. Picture us all stuffed in there and attempting to survive Route 1 (think of all those car commercials with the cliffs and the ocean and the hair-pin curves).

See ya on the other side!

September 23, 2010

Oh, the irony!

We don't own a scale. The only time I weigh myself is on the scale at the climbing gym. I haven't been in weeks (thanks to my crazy job and a weekend away). Since buying the car I've only biked to work once (I've needed the convenience of being able to zip out of there without having to cut people off so I could catch the train).

Consequence? I weighed myself tonight and found out I've lost 6 pounds!

I suspect that biking made me hungry without really burning enough calories.

September 19, 2010

A strange experience on many levels

This past weekend, Jrex and I were in Staten Island for the first anniversary of his father's death. As part of the experience, I put together a slide show of photos of his father. Below is one of my favorites. One of Dad K's most lasting legacies to his son is a love of the outdoors. Plus Jrex has on some fabulous '70's pants!

One of the other weekend events was a visit to Flushing to see Jrex's uncle who runs an acupuncture center. A number of years ago, we were all tested on one of Medicine Uncle's fancy machines. Everyone else had lots of abnormalities, I came up normal on everything. Medicine Uncle had never seen anything like it. I happened to notice the machine was made in Germany, so Jrex and I suspect it's calibrated for my people group. Anyway, Mom K wanted to try again on a new machine he has. Also something Anglo made.

Basically, it's a machine for reading meridian points. He pushes an electronic tool twice into each finger and toe and then pulls up the results. There's a circle that shows what is out of range and then an image showcasing all internal organs. Green is normal, yellow means things are a little out of whack, red is bad.
Mom K had four or five yellow organs, two red ones and a few green. Jrex's sister had six yellow organs, a red one and some green. Me? Two yellow and the rest green.

Turns out, that wasn't the end of it. Medicine Uncle (who barely speaks English) pulled out a piece of paper (in English) for my medical history. It included questions about how many bowel movements I have a day and what consistency. If periods are normal, heavy or light, if my feet or hands are cold, if I get headaches. I filled it out and then, in front of my MIL, SIL, Jrex and his aunt had to try to discuss how often I have bowel movements and what color my period fluid is through a language barrier. After all that, the conclusion was that my body runs cold. Cold bodies can't maintain a pregnancy so I'm not supposed to exercise. Apparently exercise pulls energy from the body into the physical feat and away from any developing baby. If those are the terms, looks like we won't have children! Jrex was rolling his eyes (discreetly).

Jrex wasn't tested. Because, of course, it's all about the woman, right? I'm choosing not to get offended, but sheesh.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, it turns out Medicine Uncle's office is on one of the streets in Brooklyn where a microburst struck on Thursday. One doesn't expect to see tornado damage in New York, but voila! All this happened in a 10 minute period.

September 16, 2010

The interview progress for Jrex

As mentioned earlier, the interview with Portland went really well. The loved Jrex and definitely want him back. In fact they've asked if the two of us can come up in November for five days. Works for me! They'd really sell us on the city including a realtor led real-estate tour. I love looking at houses, so that sounds great. Plus dinners and lunches and fun excursions! Cool. Poor Jrex, his Korean side is kicking in and he feels bad accepting so much when he's not sure he'd accept their offer. Being the kind compassionate person that I am, I laughed at him for that.

For the past three days, he's been in Ann Arbor. Two dinners, a talk and a day and a half of interviews later and he feels wanted there as well.

Neither option is a slam dunk, we'll see if NYC or Dallas is, and if not, we'll be choosing the best offer from a bunch of great places.

Portland has a young department full of people who are hungry to succeed yet are friendly and collaborative. Ann Arbor is more established and he'd start lower in the pile, but have access to more science resources.

It feels like the difference between joining a startup or a big corporation. In a startup you have more visibility and there are plenty of financial resources (in a Silicon Valley Venture Capital endowed startup), but not as much depth to draw from. Working in a corporation means layers of bureaucracy but also layers of support.

Much depends on many things, but it's fun to see him valued and sought after.

September 14, 2010

Tell your story

I just stumbled across the blog of a Mom who lost her 19-year old son in a car accident. He had three younger siblings and she asked readers to help her children by telling their stories about losing a parent or sibling at a young age and any wisdom they'd learned for how to cope.

I was in tears by the time I finished reading her post and the comments. Rather than filling her comments, it made me want to write it out here. None of my stories are likely to help a teenager cope, but it was interesting which ones popped into my head.

Three stories jump to mind about telling people my Mom was dead. The first filled me with unholy glee, the second was difficult and the third was maliciously fun.

Right after Mom died, my sister and I remained home for a month. Together we cleaned out the house, returned the hospital bed, and answered the phone. This was before the 'do not call' option, so there were a lot of telemarketers that called to ask for my Mom. It's really hard to derail a telemarketer script without just hanging up on them. I'm sure it's my wicked sense of humor, but it was actually fun to just say, "She's dead" and wait to see how they'd react. "...oh. um. OK. well, thank you..."

When I got back to my job after the leave of absence, one of my annoying coworkers heard me tell that story and said with a look of deep sympathy in her eyes, "That must have been healing for you." I just nodded at her, but inside my head I snorted and thought, "No, really, it was just very amusing. Crying and telling stories about her is healing. Stopping a telemarketer in their tracks is just fun." I knew she saw herself as empathetic but she'd never said or done anything that showed me she 'got me', so I didn't bother to clarify.

The next time when I had to tell the uninitiated about Mom's death was at my 10th high school reunion. Mom died in '97, the reunion was two years later. Jrex was in residency so he couldn't join me. I wandered the room alone chatting with many amazing people. Unfortunately, during high school, I'd had many of them over, or they'd met my parents in various capacities. Because my Mom was an amazing listener and a truly empathetic woman, she made an impact wherever she went. I must have had 10-12 conversations where friends asked how my parents were doing. "Well, my Dad has retired from his non-profit housing firm. He's now doing lots of writing. And my Mom died two years ago from cancer." Cue sympathy moment. Somehow by burying the lead, it made it easier to say, but it was still hard each time. What WAS healing was that they would tell stories of what they remembered about her.

The third time was three years later. I was working as a designer within a printing company. I was the ONLY woman in the pre-press department. I had a great sister/brother vibe with most of the guys and we'd tease each other about lots of things. One of them was a big, burly guy with a loud laugh. He ribbed everyone really hard all the time, but he had such a warm heart that it never stung. He came in on a Thursday and chatted about what he was going to do for his mom since Mother's Day was Sunday. He went on and on for a while. I guessed what was coming and braced for it a little.

"So, OTRgirl, what are you going to do for your mother this weekend?"


"Nothing!! Nothing?! What kind of daughter are you, you have to do something for your mother." He blustered on for a while and I just let him dig a nice deep pit (cause I have an evil sense of humor...) When he finally slowed down, he asked, "Why aren't you doing anything?"

I grinned, "I'm going to answer your question and you're going to feel bad, but you really don't have to..."

He looked confused.

"She died five years ago."

"Ah, shit, OTRgirl, you should have stopped me. I'm so sorry!"

I laughed at him, "I told you you'd feel bad. I couldn't resist letting you walk into that one."

It's interesting to write these down. Obviously a big part of my coping is humor. The truth was that the healing for me was in having a husband who listened to my stories about her. It was in talking with my brother, sister and Dad. It was remembering, writing, painting, and drawing. It was working at the time with kids in residential treatment--looking at each of their awful mother experiences and knowing that even losing my Mom at the age of 26 wasn't a reason for self-pity. I knew I'd been loved and I had amazing riches of wisdom and compassion deposited in me for 26 years. Yes, I was overwhelmingly sad/angry/depressed for a year. Then year by year the emotional intensity lessened. It took 7 years for life to feel 'normal' again. To always have a Mom-shaped hole, but to know how to live around it.

September 12, 2010

Good to know.

The offers began coming last week.

Not for Jrex. For me.

It happened after I'd shown them some quick type studies I'd done the night before. The two execs in the room, Kind Big Idea Guy (K-BIG) and Tall Exec had traveled from Detroit and LA respectively. We were trying to slam together six BIG ideas in two weeks. They immediately started to give me feedback: liked one of the typefaces, liked the version with this and that, but could I mix that with the other? Then Tall Exec stopped, "I'm so sorry. These look really good, I'm sorry to jump in like that."

I shrugged, "I'm not a design diva, I just want to get it done and your feedback is good."

He looked shocked, "Do you want to move to LA?! I've got a great job for you."

K-BIG jumped in, "No way, I've got dibs since her husband is interviewing in Ann Arbor. How large a house do you want? I'll call my realtor."

I laughed at both of them and we kept digging into the project.

It's so weird. I'm doing all this ambitious seeming stuff, but I just don't care that much. I get invested in each project and I've TOTALLY made this one happen to the detriment of my body, eyeballs and that poor stranger in the cold, lonely bed, but my identity isn't in being the best designer of all time. I want to do good work, but if we lose this $4.5 million dollar deal, I'll know I did the best I could but otherwise it won't affect me. Even if I get a promotion, I don't care except for the general principle. I want to learn more and be excited about work, but that's for my own sake. I know that this job isn't the be all end all, even though I do get absorbed in my projects.

I keep thinking about what's next. What do I want to do when I'm finally a (poor) doctor's wife? I've got a business model going in my head for package deals for non-profits. Part of the idea is to actually help them pitch me to their biggest donors and help them raise the money to cover my fees. I see that as a small studio with me employing a numbers person and a web developer. Another idea is to go back to school to become a teacher. All I know is that I need to either be directing others to 'make it so' or I need to get out of the agency behemoth and get back to having 'just a job'.

I feel like I've gone far enough down this path to know that I could be a big designer. Win some awards, travel the world, yada yada. Yet it's just not meaningful enough to sacrifice the people in my life for work, no matter how interesting. I've got to get smaller and reconnect with LIFE.

It's definitely cool to know that I was able to jump off the deep end on this project and complete 'the Avatar of RFPs' as one of the participants labeled it, but at the end of the day? It's ideas for parties for some of the world's richest people. Fun and interesting, but not profound. I like not having regrets and this is helping me to check "Big Deal Designer" off my list. I've seen the cost, and though I don't want to pay to play, it's really cool to know I could have. Makes it easy to walk away.

Even if we move to Ann Arbor, I don't see myself taking him up on his offer. (Jrex is off to interview there this week!)

September 5, 2010

Longer hours, but more love

It's been a really, really long time since I've enjoyed my work. This past week has been INTENSE and the next seven days will be as well, but I'm loving it.

What do I love? Writing narratives that are then digested by a professional writer who transforms our copper to gold. Watching as my nudges and suggestions are manifested in great floorplans and renders. Pretending I'm the decider all day today when no one else is chiming in for the designer and the writer. Knowing that at the end of the day, I don't have to make the actual creative magic happen, all I have to do is organize and direct and brainstorm with fantastic people? It's working for me, baby.

The scary thing is that if I continue doing this job, right after the conversation about getting a significant raise, is that I'll need to get a Blackberry or an iPhone (do iPhones work with Lotus Notes yet?). Sigh. It's impossible to juggle a Silicon Valley project without one.

I've told people in the past that my job is an 'exp3erience des1gner', but this is the first time that it really feels true.

The other thing that helps is that Jrex is still working on writing his grant, so we're both toiling away and happy the other is busy, too. So it doesn't feel like I'm being cheated of my holiday weekend.

I hope the rest of you are relaxing!

September 3, 2010

Be careful what you ask for...

I'm getting a trial run at a job I'm campaigning for within my main office. Basically right now I'm helping to art direct and produce a Request for Proposal for a Car Company big wig convention. We've been asked to create three evening events during their three-day conference. All CEO level attendees. (The guy from Saudi Arabia is one of the princes and will be flying in with his entourage in their private 747).

I'm really enjoying it, especially knowing that someone else will be laying out the book! Yeah! So I get to lose sleep here at the front end and let someone else lose it at the back end. I'm trying to make sure they don't have to lose too much.

My brain is reeling. We're working with a food designer who drops phrases like, "The last time I worked with the Venetian (in Las Vegas), we ran a special training for their servers." On the phone last night with our Australian team I was getting advice based on their recent experience with the Vancouver Olympics. We're in contact with our office in Japan who is giving us their take on our ideas (audience will by half Japanese).

I'm remembering why I like my job! (But I'm not sleeping much...)

If this goes well, I think it becomes a great 'sell' for them to give me the promotion, money and Blackberry so I can do this job.

More on this later, Jrex just came back from his first job interview in Portland. They've already asked him (and me) to come back (basically meaning they will offer him a job). The founder of the program drove him around. Someone said to him, "You have two of the most glowing recommendation letters I've ever seen. I want to frame one of them." Another guy said after his talk, "I've just come from a really poorly presented talk. It was great to hear a good talk with great science. It restored my faith in science."

How that process interfaces with my job stuff, God only knows! I read a piece by a woman exec addressed to women that suggested not pulling back in anticipation of events (pregnancy, etc). Keep going for it and then see what happens. That's what I'm doing.

August 30, 2010

Adventures in suburbia: what the beep do we know?

It's hard to fall asleep. At work we have a chance to bid on three evening events for a big distributor meeting. Somehow, I've been put in charge of the creative. Normally, I'm the person who lays out the book once other people figure out the overarching concept. This time, I'm being asked to run the brainstorms, corral the big egos in the room (a scenic designer, a stage designer, a menu designer, a writer and they guy who will lay out the book), coordinate the creative and direct the process for the next three weeks. It's similar to the job description I wrote for myself, so I'm excited to try it, but also a bit freaked out. The kickoff meeting and initial brainstorm are today. I have to put together a capabilities presentation by 1 PM. I pray my way to sleep...


I bolt up in the bed and run to grab our car keys. I point them at the floor and push the 'unlock' button.


The sound continues, louder, as I open the patio door and try again to point down at the carport. Still going. I run downstairs and try again. Then I see our neighbor in the next carport doing the same thing. I realize it's not the Subaru. I go over to help her. She's frantic. "I can't get it to stop!!" She pulls out the owner's manual and is going through it. Of course there's nothing in there for how to stop a runaway car alarm. She runs inside and I keep flipping through the manual. Upon returning, she pops her hood and then some tall stranger is standing behind her car, "You can unplug the battery!" he shouts. "That's what I'm about to do!!" she shouts back.

Silence. She hadn't touched anything. We breath a sigh of relief and head to our apartments. Jrex mumbles, "What was that?" I explain and we try to sleep. It's 1:30 AM.


It stops on it's own. I grab my Soduko and try to calm my whirling brain. As I'm drifting off...


I try to ignore it. Jrex gives up and rises to continue his daunting pile of work. I lay there and imagine my neighbor alone as she tries to figure it all out. I sigh and head downstairs.

She's totally freaked out, "I've disconnected the battery. I've pulled out the fuse that goes to the alarm! Nothing!? I called my Dad in Nevada. I don't know what else to do!!!"

I look around the car port. The upstairs neighbor's little old car is next to hers. I touch the hood and it's vibrating. I run upstairs and bang on their door. He opens it and says, "We don't have a car alarm!" I nod and exclaim, "That may be so, but it's your car!"

He and his wife (both fussy, anxious people) come running downstairs and try to turn on their car. That doesn't do anything. Then he's trying to open the hood from the top, then in the front, he doesn't know how to open it. Two cops show up. Finally one of them disconnects the battery.

Silence. Blessed, lovely, thick, heavy, delicious silence.

The Anxious Couple keep insisting that they don't have a car alarm. I smile at them, "It sounds like there's a short in your system or a fuse that might need to be changed." The couple keep apologizing and the single woman keeps telling what happened to her. When they start to repeat for the third time, I sneak away and stumble back to bed.

August 25, 2010

Did it have to be so hard?

Last Sunday I shared a farewell lunch with Math Artist. We met in February at a women’s retreat and bonded quickly over our love of farmers’ markets. Since then, most Sundays we’ve gone from church to the best local market and wandered, sampled, bought and talked. Her PhD in an incomprehensible form of math/sociology/engineering completed, she’s heading overseas for a post-doctoral fellowship.

The subject of her upcoming 30th birthday raised a question, “Are you at all worried about being intimidating to guys now?”

She laughed, “Well, I don’t really look like an engineer and I can describe what I do in lots of different ways. Really though? No. I told the Lord a while ago that I trust Him. I know that He can satisfy my need for relationship and I trust that, even if it doesn’t look like what I expected, He WILL satisfy me.”

I was so struck by that. Jrex had challenged me (lovingly and very gently) that I might need to let go of my perception of motherhood. Bemusedly, I commented to Math Artist, “Jrex told me to let go, but I didn’t have a sense of what to go TOWARD. What you say gives me a better direction. The Lord made me with a gift for mothering and it will get expressed. In the meantime, I may need to let go of my idea for how that’s supposed to take place.”

At another point she said, “I asked the Lord if my life, particularly the last six years, really had to be this hard. He said ‘yes’. I knew he was right. I would have never, ever let him into the deep places in me to break me and heal me without all this. I wish I’d been made bendable instead of strong and stubborn, but I’m much more pliable now than I’ve ever been.”

This morning, I read a post by Joe about not defining how God is good. It’s a long post, but a compelling read. He’s been sick since he was a teenager and has some interesting thoughts--some are parallel to questions I’m still trying to sort through.

Here’s the thing, both Math Artist and Joe have been through years of pain and trauma. If they said the same things without suffering to back it up, I would nod and smile and keep right on walking. To assert that God is good in the midst of confusion and darkness makes me listen. Hearing it from a young friend who hasn’t been battered yet? Call me in a couple years.

I look at my life and ask, “Did it have to be so hard?”


I haven’t welcomed the process, but I wouldn’t trade who I am now for the zealous, cartwheeling 20-something version who gleefully declared she’d give EVERYTHING for God. Now I know how hard I clutch, yet what freedom I find when I let go and trust goodness in the middle of all that confuses me.

August 17, 2010

Some highly random link love

The licking is really loud and my foot is really warm. Her butt rests on my foot as she leans over for her nightly grooming. I swear this dog is a cat. She even coughs like she has hairballs.

I've been wandering all over the internet tonight. Jrex is working on writing a grant, a review paper and his interview talk (a 55-minute lecture with 40-50 PowerPoint slides), so most evenings he's busy and I need to keep fairly quiet after dinner.

On Gifts of the Journey I read one of the most horrifying posts ever. She told of a near drowning experience she'd had and linked to a story that relates how drowning doesn't look like drowning. My horror is not just at the facts in the article, though they are scary enough, my horror is that my two rounds of American Red Cross lifeguard training did NOT cover the symptoms of drowning!!! What the heck!?

Then in a complete tangent, I jumped over to Psychology Today. One of my college boyfriend's is now an Autism expert and has a column. He was one of the least altruistic and most self-absorbed people I knew in my hippie college, so the fact that of all of us he's probably helped the most people is bizarre. I'm oddly proud of him.

From there, I read a bunch of Asperger articles, including a link to a Wired article about how Silicon Valley is the genetic breeding ground for severely autistic kids. Also another one about affluent couples being most likely to have autistic children. Which leaves me wondering, does the fact that Jrex and I met OUTSIDE of the valley when we were poor mean we're less likely to breed an autistic child? (sorry, gallows humor)

August 16, 2010

This one's for you, babe!

In a slightly discouraging, but humorous presentation, Matt Might, professor of Computer Science at the University of Utah, explains what a PhD really is:

Now, I'd argue that Jrex has a little more knowledge than that, given Med School, Residency, Fellowship and a post-doc, but he doesn't know EVERYTHING. As witnessed by the reality that when we go for hikes, he has no idea what kind of rock, tree or bird I'm asking him to tell me about. I keep asking what good it is to be married to a scientist if he can't answer all my science questions. On the other hand, at least he can examine my bruises and fevers and tell me if I should call my official doctor.

On a humorous note, I heard from my friend that the designer that New Company hired is slow, not that good and turning out to be a disappointment. Turns out she doesn't know web design either!!! I guess she was $25,000 cheaper than me and they saw dollar signs vs value.

In other job news, I met with our General Manager this morning and it sounds like she might want me to do the Production role, though she wouldn't let me jump to director status. We'll talk further and I'll try to figure out if I really want it. They're in 2nd rounds with a potential creative director so we'll see what happens.

August 13, 2010

Tonight's Conversation

[After something silly I'd done...can't remember what]

Jrex speaking in a mournful tone to the dog, "Muttola, your mama is a cru-el woman."

I snorted, "Really? You're just now figuring that out? And here I thought you were a smart man."

He sighs, "I was blinded by luv, but no more!"

August 11, 2010

Only the images remain

September 17th will be the one-year anniversary of Dad K's death. One of Mom K's requests of me is to put together a book of his photographs. She sent me a box FILLED with poor quality print-outs he'd done from his digital photos. The box also contained a stack of 20 CDs. As I've sorted through the CDs, there are essentially the same 5 folders on all of them. The folder labeled "South Africa" doesn't contain a single photo from the South Africa trip, it's filled with photos of their only grandchild.

So...having gone through everything today, I'm missing all pics of that trip. I'm also missing his award winning photograph. I have pictures of him posed next to it (with a nice flash flare obliterating the image), but not the actual photo. Sigh.

I'd hoped to have a wonderful memento book including older pictures of him. Instead I have the last five years worth of so-so digital photos. Mom K wants to give these away at the anniversary service, but I'm not sure how to shape this blob into a compelling book.

Going through the pictures brings back so many memories. Dad K and I shared a love of photography. Every time we'd go for a hike or an outing, he'd have his big Nikon and I'd have my high-tech point and shoot. Most of the time, I'd take a picture, then he'd come behind me and take the same picture. "LOOK!" he'd exclaim and point at his camera's LCD screen. I'd always exclaim, "Wow, Dad, that's beautiful." He'd wave over my camera and want to see my version. I always said a variation on, "Yours is so much better. You take wonderful pictures." He'd usually nod then fall behind to smoke a cigarette.

Below is one example. I took an image without the flash, trying to get the glow of the yellow leaves (I don't have my image anymore). He just let the flash burn away the gloom.

He did have a decent eye for landscapes, but all of his people photographs have the subject dead-center surrounded by vast spaces of non-interest. I wish he'd been the kind of man to humble himself and take a class to learn the craft of photography. More than that, I wish he'd had a father who'd praised him. No matter how much encouragement my MIL and I poured into him, it was never enough.

Looking at the pictures makes me wistful for many things. In his photographs I see his eye for birds, flowers, sunsets, and people he cared about. There was a sensitive soul in him so battered by life that it shriveled and starved. He exuded so much gruffness it could be hard to find that warmth. He was a man who craved love, yet pushed it away.

I wish I really missed him.

August 9, 2010

The freedom of the wide open road

Due to my upbringing, I’m a strange combination of VERY independent and yet casually accepting of ‘charity’. Since my father ran a non-profit housing ministry we were given cars, clothing, money and food by strangers. This results in a sense that it’s ‘normal’ for people to give me material things. At the same time, my parents went out of their way to foster independence. When I was 5 years old, they flew me down to Florida to stay with my grandparents as long as I wanted (which lasted until Grandpa made me turn off the Mickey Mouse Club to come to dinner). Having an absent-minded father meant that I was usually the last one waiting to be picked up from soccer practice, or my friend’s house. So I learned the bus system and figured out ways to not ‘need’ anyone else.

For the four years we’ve lived in California, we’ve managed to share one car. It’s meant Jrex and I have had to closely align our schedules and constantly communicate to make this lifestyle work. Yet much of the ‘burden’ in that arrangement has been on me. I found jobs that worked with a train/bike commute. I’ve figured out climbing gyms, small groups, friends I can visit--all based on the train and my bike. I’ve asked for rides and been loaned cars. I think that all the shared rides have drawn Jrex and I closer together as well as providing bridges to getting to know other people more quickly. I’ve really enjoyed living a simpler life.


It’s also been limiting. We’ve had it in mind that if I ever get pregnant, we’d buy a beater for a couple thousand. While that hasn’t happened yet, we got an email from a friend who is selling her 11-year old Honda. Knowing her, we know it’s THE most meticulously cared for car EVER. We both felt really peaceful about jumping on the deal. Nothing is signed yet, but we’re all fairly certain about it.

Which has released a floodgate in my mind that I didn’t know was there. Now I can visit my college buddies who live up in San Francisco and over in the East Bay without waiting for a time when Jrex won’t need the car for a day. I can easily meet people for lunch, for coffee, and for outings. I could sign up for an agility class with the mutt and not have to fret that the car won’t be home in time to make it. No more coordinating rides, checking train schedules and waiting for late trains. I want to still ride my bike to work most days, but it opens up my evenings and weekends. No more dependency!

I’m sad that my ‘green’ aspirations are so easily trumped by convenience. It’s also showing me how strong that independent streak is and how much less comfortable I’ve become accepting charity as an adult.