February 28, 2011

Can I surmount this next wave?

Aside from all the life drama, a week ago one of our clients came to us and asked us to show them what we'd do with a sky's the limit solution for their booth. Not so much in terms of them giving us much extra money, but in terms of a new concept. Somehow I'm now the creative lead on this project! I'm pulling together a team in Austral1a, two teams in LA, and a designer from our Detr0it office. The client has mandated that we work well with two other vendors, one of whom is a direct competitor. I'm leading brainstorms between our b00th designers and our strateg1st and they DON'T speak the same language so I'm trying to translate while barely understanding myself.

Aaagh! I have support, but we're also being watched by many people in the company. It's an amazing opportunity and there's a lot of pressure. I'm trying to just focus on what I know to do each day and take it from there. I totally can't see how we'll get there from here (right now it all feels like chaos). I've seen other creative directors who come in and have The Vision and can steer the team. I've never seen myself as that person, I'm good at making it look good once someone else gets the big concept, but now I have to figure something out.

Sigh. I'm going to head home and try to do some sketching and brainstorming so that I'm more coherent tomorrow than I was today. This is rough...it's a great challenge, but I'm already exhausted and we have two weeks to go.

Sometimes though it's about being the decider and acting confident so that others feel safe. Part of me is hoping someone will come in and rescue me and part of me wants to see how I survive and triumph.

I'm going to try to navigate this wave without drowning, but we'll see!

February 23, 2011

What's done is done

The moving decision is made . . . and, not shockingly, it’s Dallas.

For a while now, Jrex has had a persistent gut sense that the choice was going to be Dallas. Last Thursday, Jrex heard from the guy in P0rtland that everything was in progress, but he didn’t have the paperwork done yet. Basically that P0rtland email crystallized for Jrex the fact that he needed to trust his gut (and the fact that I was getting the same gut sense, even if I didn’t want to listen to it) and that the choice was Dallas. The directors of both programs are good friends and are both straight shooters, so we thought it would be better for Jrex to just call them both to let them know the choice was made. That way P0rtland could stop all the logistics they were doing to get him lab space on top of the hill, etc.

It was SO hard for me to fully commit to that decision. I just didn’t want it to be true. I took some time yesterday to process everything. I wrote down what I’d hoped for P0rtland and what I feared about Dal1as. Then I wrote out key decision points in my life and how the Lord had led me and what the consequences were. For college, I decided between Oberl1n and Hampsh1re. On paper, Oberl1n made more sense. I could have come home on weekends when I needed to, my best friend was going there and it’s a great school, but Hampsh1re gave me a much better financial aid package, so I took that as the sign. And the town Hampsh1re was in had an amazing church that truly saved my faith as I worked through all the philosophical debates of college life.

Choosing to date Jrex also took me away from a known network. Matching in Rochester (which meant 3 more years there for Jrex after the 10 he’d already been there) also led us to an amazing church that started that next year. It gave me healing retreats and friendships with a fantastic group of artistic Christian women. Then in Baltimore we thought we wanted a row house with no yard work and instead the Lord led us to a house with a tree house and wisteria (i.e. LOTS of yard work), and we loved it. We discovered a gift for hospitality we hadn’t known we had. All of that reminded me that when I’ve trusted the Lord, even if it didn’t make sense on paper, there were great things that happened.

So I’m feeling better now. Still sad and will still have some grieving to do, but glad the decision is made so we can move ahead.

One comforting thought is that for family vacations we're hoping to rent a cabin in Crater Lake, or near Mt. St. Helens, etc. and let my family and OTRmama and her daughter know when we’ll be around so they can join us for a chunk of the time we’ll be in the area. It’s not the same, but feels better than nothing right now!

It's good to have the decision made. We even worked out dates for the move and Jrex's start date (July 18th and August 1st, respectively). I've emailed the realtor. It's all in motion now. Despite all mixed emotions at the moment, in the end it will be good.

Thanks for your support and listening during this process.

February 17, 2011

Trying to listen

Every single person I’ve talked with has said they can see me in Portland, even people who are from Dallas. Everyone is confused that we’re even considering the big D. I’ve tried to explain that underneath every logical, emotional, and mental process, there’s this quiet, persistent nudge towards Dallas. Most people just look confused when I try to talk about that and then keep asking logical questions that make me question the nudge. Because it doesn’t make sense to move far away from our friends and family and to turn our backs on mountains, it’s been easy to dismiss. In the end, it’s meant trying to find logical, emotional, and mental reasons to tell people why Dallas and not Portland, but it comes out muddled cause I don’t really mean it. We both WANT Portland, but we both have that persistent itch that won’t let us head in that direction.

Last night Jrex rightly called me out on it, “Hon, I love you, but I’m getting a little tired of you telling people that we can’t move to Portland because it would mean a depressed husband.” That’s been one of my ‘logical’ reasons. I think there’s some truth to the fact that we know he gets Seasonal Affective Disorder and Portland would be challenging because of that, but that’s not a real reason to not move there.

We’re waiting to see what the offer from Portland looks like. It’s supposed to come today or tomorrow, so the decision should get made this weekend. I’ve even asked the Lord for a specific sign if he’s opening the door to us moving north (since I need something tangible so I KNOW it’s Him if I ‘get’ to move to Dallas).

Anyway, today I was praying a bit and decided to listen more closely to the nudge. For Jrex’s career it makes sense to go south, but what about for me? If I’m giving up my family and friends, what’s there for me? I asked the Lord what he has for me in Dallas. Right away I got an idea for a class I could teach at a college. I’d have the students contact local non-profit groups (church, synagogue, mosque, community center, neighborhood historical society, etc). As a class we’d have real clients from those groups and we’d go through the entire design process with them. In the end, the client would have a full identity set, publicity materials, a web site and perhaps an event all created by students. They get all that for free while the students get a valuable real-world educational opportunity. Dallas is rife with schools from Community Colleges to Southern Methodist University.

Of course, Portland is also packed with schools, too, so the idea could work there... Sigh. See why it’s hard to listen to such a quiet, persistent thought? I can so easily override it when it’s not what I want to hear.

Big move decision aside, I’ve been thinking about the teaching thing for a long time. I don’t really know how I should go about it. Do I just contact administrators and deans to tell them my idea? Do I start at Community Colleges? Do I go back to school first? Does anyone out there know?

February 14, 2011

Decision Made!

Not about where to live since we haven't heard back from Portland yet. Rather, we found a car. Saturday I roamed car dealerships test driving vehicles: Nissan Rogue, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Subaru Outback Wagon and Forester. Jrex couldn't join me, but his absence proved to be a GREAT escape from dealers, "I love this car, but I have to bring my husband back with me for a test drive. I'm just the scout." Worked like a charm.

I came home and told him I was most interested in the CR-V. What I liked:
  • easy fold-away rear seats.
  • rear seats are movable. Kid in car seat could be pulled close but an adult with long legs could move back. The rear seats also slightly recline.
  • Two-level cargo area with a removable shelf.
  • Car didn't feel tippy.
  • Decent gas mileage for an SUV (23/30).
  • Lots of great storage solutions.
  • Steering wheel controls for sound system.
  • Reliability of Hondas in general.
Of course, my tastes are quirky: I like top of the line for thrift store pricing. Given that, the EX-L (top of the line) is my preference: leather seats (I've seen with the mutt that clean up on leather is MUCH easier than on fabric), better sound system, moon roof, and better gas mileage.

Across the bay, I found a dealer that's part of Auto Nation. Their online prices were definitely under the listed Kelly Blue Book value. When arrived at the dealership the stickers on the cars were significantly more than the prices in my little notebook. The dealer explained that they do internet pricing, but they'd be happy to honor what I'd written down. In the end the $3500 price difference is the amount they can bargain, so we weren't able to crank the price any lower. Knowing it was already under KBB, neither of us felt bad about that. As Auto Nation says of themselves, "Our associates are here to help you, not sell you. At AutoNation, we’ll guide your through a buying process that is honest, transparent and easy to understand." That really was our experience. Plus, they sell certified pre-owned. That means they check 120 things on the car and anything with less than 50% wear left in it gets replaced, so new tires, timing belt, etc.

Anyway, they had a 2007 EX-L on the lot with 43,000 miles. Online that looked like "The One", but when we got there, we discovered that it was GOLD. I couldn't even get Jrex to get in it to test drive it! I tried to tell him it was the perfect car for Dallas: lots of bling! but he was not persuaded. There was another 2007 EX-L with 74,500 miles. After we drove a lower grade 2009, we talked about the high-mileage car and realized that we didn't mind (plus it meant the car cost $3000 less). A quick test drive and we were sold!

We drove off with our (my) new baby (ours also has roof racks and runner boards):

I feel like such a device slut since it's too easy to think of these things as "My precious": my Kindle, my DroidX, my work laptop and now the car. Time to get me out of Silicon Valley!

In any case, I'm excited to really try her out in March when my climbing partners and I are scooting down to Joshua Tree from Friday morning to Sunday night. Seven hours of fun each way!

February 12, 2011

Yo Momma

In the neighborhood where we grew up, insults served as forms of affection, greeting, farewell and general interaction. This proved to be problematic for me when I went to a mostly white, liberal (read ‘very earnest and sincere’) college in New England, where insults are viewed as insulting, but that’s another story.

One example of an insult as an expression of deep affection was after our ‘uncle’ Sonny died. When I discussed it with my Mom, worried that Sonny might not have made it to heaven (he dressed up and came to church every Sunday, but he usually sat on the front steps smoking during the service), Mom laughed, “I keep seeing him waiting when we walk into heaven and hearing him say, ‘Aw! Now who let YOU in here!?” (Translation: I’m SO happy to see you, get over here and give me a big hug!)

This brings up ‘capping’ and ‘Yo Momma’ jokes. Capping involves trading insults with one or more people. The goal is to 'cap' the other persons joke with an even better one. One of the classic forms of capping is the ‘Yo Momma’ joke. It’s acceptable to dis (disrespect) on how fat, dark, poor or stupid she is. It sounds terrible in the abstract, but in person it’s an art form.

What brings this up is that yesterday I found a “Yo Momma” app that’s just one “Yo Momma” joke after another. Yup, there’s an app for that. Of course, I called my brother and sister right away. No one else would know to laugh when I said, “Yo Momma so stupid she brought a spoon to the Super Bowl.” I told OTRbro about it and rattled off a couple of the jokes. He came back with, “Yo Momma’s so fat, she got on the Greyhound and popped a wheelie.”

I told Jrex about this over dinner. He’d never heard of the ‘Yo Momma’ joke, but he gets wit and sarcasm, so he found some of them funny, too. Here are a couple that cracked me up last night:

Yo Momma so fat that when I tried to drive around her, I ran out of gas.

Yo Momma so dumb, she thinks socialism means partying!

Yo Momma so ugly Bob the Builder looked at her and said “I CAN’T FIX THAT!”

Yo Momma so fat her BMI is measured in acres.

Yo Momma’s house is so small, the cockroaches are hunchbacked.

Yo Momma so old she owes Jesus 3 bucks.

Yo Momma so fat when she steps on a scale, it says “One at a time please.”

Of course, on a sociological level, it’s interesting that one of the other forms of capping goes the other way with “My Daddy” comments. “My Daddy can beat up your Daddy” is the classic little child taunt. It gets more refined with “My Daddy so tough, he picks his teeth with a nail” or other variants.

Interesting in a neighborhood where very few of the kids had a Daddy at home that they’d pull out a fantasy Dad to one-up each other while insulting each others’ mothers.

February 9, 2011

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

Well, the time I'd normally spend blogging and reading blogs has been filled with looking at cars, or looking at houses in Dallas or Portland. We can't decide on a car and haven't yet determined a city.

Jrex wrote back to each institution with the changes he'd like to see in their Letter of Intent (LOI). He's still waiting for the response from Portland (the guy there is SUPER nice, but tends more toward benign neglect. Though, to be fair, Jrex asked for a third option for lab space and that takes a bit of work to figure out what's available.). The woman who's the director in Texas is PUSHY. Really, really nice, but the kind of nice that a mother can be where you want to tell her to just back off. She knows that we're waiting to hear back from Portland before we make a decision. We both want to live in Portland, it's all dependent on whether they can meet Jrex's requests. My prayer is that it would be clear either way: they hit a slam dunk and we both feel peaceful about picking the big P, or they flub it and we can take that as a sign that it's a move south.

I've been researching the neighborhood we liked in Dallas (trying to build up emotional padding in case that's where I end up). The local public elementary school sounds really cool. It's mostly Hispanic kids, but it has an active PTA. In the past few years they've raised over $100,000 for arts in the elementary school. Dance, orchestra, sculpture, art class, and individual music lessons, all available for K-6. In addition, the PTA welcomes parents who don't even have kids in the school. They set up baby play dates and Mom outings. So, we could potentially tap into a great network there (which is a small bit of comfort if I don't get to tap into family...)

There's also a great fair trade store. Plus folks in that neighborhood started A Better Block. They took over a section of a busy street for one day. Using borrowed trees and shrubs from landscapers, they terraformed a block with bike lanes, turn lanes and trees on the sidewalk. Along the edges they put café tables and chairs and brought in bike stands. As a result, stores did more business and visitors were happily surprised by a part of town they thought of as 'blighted'. It's a movement that's been spreading around the country: a way for urban visionaries (and rebels) to share their dream and get others to buy into it.

It's hard to stay invested in work at work when all I want to do is surf the web and research each city. Ah well, the future will come fast enough without me trying to drag it here sooner with my fretting.

February 3, 2011

Help! Need CAR advice asap.

The mighty Subaru has died. (moment of silence, please)

It overheated and Jrex had to get it towed to the mechanic. The bad news came back today: either the head gasket blew (again. $3500 the last time to fix it...) or the engine block is cracked. We'd decided that anything over $1000 on our beloved '99 Outback would signal the end.

Thus (swelling orchestral music), The End.

Sooo.... we need a second car AND we're moving this summer. Don't yet know if we need a cozy car for a land of rain and mountains or a breezy vehicle with tons of A/C for a HOT desert environment. AWD? Not so much need for it in Dallas? Portland: it would help. Kid factor? Hopefully, but definitely no need for a mini-van at this stage. Our biggest need in either case would be great gas mileage. We'd prefer something that can handle mild off-roading to get to a trailhead. Room to tote furniture or plywood (any homeowner knows the need for hauling capabilities...). Stick shift is fine.

As you may recall, we bought a used '95 Civic from a friend a couple months ago, but haven't decided yet if we bring her for the move or let her retire in sunny California. Ideally this second car would be the one we can drive cross country and use in our new lives.

What do you recommend? We'd prefer to buy used and not spend more than $15,000 (preferably less). I've looked at craigslist. Any other sites people have used and loved?