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.