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.