January 26, 2012

Trust your gut

One of the reasons I enjoy direct contact with clients is that I often get an intuitive sense for what needs to happen next. We had a call on Friday afternoon with a client who needs an identity for an event by tomorrow. He was full of 'strategy', but none of it translated into visual terms. Having gone through a hellacious process last year with a different strategist, I've learned that the best thing is to get a bunch of visuals in front of them and see what sticks.

Monday morning, while waiting for the client to give us art direction, I started pulling images for four concepts I thought could work for the show. He wanted 'anti-trade show': nothing traditional. No booth rentals, no vinyl signs, no bright colors. In the meantime, my fellow 2D designer had come up with a concept that he was really excited about. When I mentioned my deck, he didn't think it was necessary. I discussed it with our 3D designer who was lukewarm. The truth is, this is all a bit muddled since there's also a creative director working on the experience in the booth, so my deck crossed the line a bit. When we met with the client, it was just the 2D designers and our instructions were to use a specific font, specific font color and specific background color and 'have fun exploring'... Really? Whatever.

In the midst of all that, I almost didn't finish my deck. Our other 2D designer sent out a nice 4 page PDF while I was still assembling the PowerPoint (the client LOVES PPT, even though as a designer, I hate it). I thought that he'd come up with something that made a lot of sense from a conceptual level. My ideas seemed much more about 'interior decorating' and less about a strategic concept so I felt fairly insecure about them. Yet, I felt like it was the right thing for that particular client so I ended up sending it at the end of my day to our client services person to forward if she thought it best.

In the meantime, Jrex was struggling with whether or not to apply for a certain grant. If he won the grant, it placed restrictions on how much time he could spend on other projects. He was hearing from various people that he should apply, but it wasn't sitting well in his gut. As a result, even though the deadline was beginning to loom, he'd still not asked for recommendation letters from his usual suspects. One of the great things that U T has set up for him is a requirement that he meet 2-4 times a year with a mentoring committee. He's got three amazing guys: Optimist, No BS and Middle Ground. When he met with them on Tuesday, No BS immediately asked why he was applying for the grant. "Your CV is amazing. You should be applying for an RO 1 (one of the biggest grants available from National I nstitu tes of H eal th). This will tie you down. Forget about it."

Jrex was really excited after that meeting. Middle Ground said during the meeting, "This is amazing, I wish we'd had this system in place when I was starting out." The three mentors all seemed to enjoy spending time together talking science. Obviously, for Jrex, it's wonderful to get more experienced voices helping him think about the bigger picture. It was yet another degree of confirmation that we made the right choice. The P ortland program had no peers for him in l un g research only some other clinical people. These guys are all hard-core scientists.

On my end, throughout the day on Tuesday the client service rep kept forwarding feedback from the client. He really didn't like my coworker's idea. Of mine, he didn't like the first one and liked little bits here and there from the rest of the deck. He really liked an idea I had for creating relatively open 'cabanas' at the edges of the trade show space. They allow for more intimate conversations and gatherings, but open into the common area for the big end of day speech by the guru.

In the end, for both of us, it was a great reminder to trust our guts.

January 19, 2012

Doing the right thing shouldn't feel so sad

As Brex, Muttola and I entered the park, she slunk from between two parked cars. She crouched just ahead of us, ears pinned back to her head, tail tucked hard against her belly. Her distinctive head made me nervous about cornering a pit bull mix. I didn’t want to walk away either and trigger any prey instinct. Muttola was on full alert, but relaxed. In a soothing, happy voice I murmured, “It’s ok, sweetie, we’re not going to hurt you. You’re ok. Don’t worry, it’s ok, relax...”

Slowly she stood up a bit, after a minute or so, she half crept, half scrambled so she was in the free space behind us. Her blue collar made me think she was someone’s pet, but there were no tags. She looked skinny, but not gaunt (though I worried her round belly might mean she was pregnant). As she relaxed, we walked ahead and she perked up and scampered along with us, always behind Muttola, as close to me as she dared.

This park, two blocks from our house, has a small pond with a sidewalk all the way around it. It’s a favorite with families, walkers and people who just like to chill on a bench and watch the ducks and herons. As we strolled around the pond, the brindle pit bull’s ears began to stand up, her tongue came out, her tail began to raise and she began to bounce as she walked. Muttola was completely on her dignity. She barely marked (which if you knew her, is close to a miracle) and when the little dog began to run in joyous circles under the leash, around the mutt, up the hill, back down, around the leash, up the hill, tearing quickly over the ground, Muttola just stood still and watched the antics. I laughed since just this past weekend she tore similar circles around Jrex when we took her to an off leash area. Big faker.

As we came to the other side of the pond, the little dog ran off to the basketball court and was petted by a guy there. I assumed it was her owner and kept on going. Within 20 feet, she was back. As I walked home, she stayed close to my side. I hadn’t said anything to her, didn’t want to encourage her and hadn’t petted her at all. She stayed right next to us all the way.

When we got to the house, she scampered up the stairs after Muttola. As I unlocked the door, she sat on the mat and looked up at me with confidence. I felt awful as I let our mutt in, but gently kept her out on the porch. Our big wooden front door is flanked by narrow panels of leaded glass. I could see her shadow on the other side as she silently looked in. After a while, I didn’t see her there. It got dark, I’d heard nothing on the porch, our motion lights hadn’t gone on, Muttola was relaxed. Just to be sure, after an hour, I opened the door to make sure she’d left. Out she crept from the corner of the porch. I said, “It’s ok girl. I’m sorry!” and quickly shut the door on her again.

Now I had to do something.

I called a neighbor who frequently handles strays. She wasn’t able to take this one on. She told me we should get the dog into our yard and then call animal control or put out notices that we found a dog.

I walked out the front door with Muttola and Little Grey scampered behind us as we walked around the house to the back yard. I left them both out there while I went in to get food and water for Little Grey. Muttola let her eat and drink in peace (also a miracle) and didn’t seem at all jealous. After Little Grey finished her food, she came over to be petted. As eager as she looked, when I lifted my hand to pet her, she cringed belly to the floor. As I petted her, she eventually raised back up. After seeing that, I had NO desire to let her owner know where she was. I left both dogs in the back and went in to help Jrex with the baby’s bedtime routine (Brex cries if I don’t sing to him and then put him in the crib. Nothing Jrex does seems to equal that mommy moment. Poor guy.)

We came downstairs and started trying to figure out the animal rescue deal. We worried about leaving her outside all night since it was supposed to get cold. All offices were closed, but I saw that the main SCPA near our house had evening drop off hours. Jrex began cooking soup for dinner while I went out to take the dog to the shelter. Looking at her hopeful brown eyes, I was SO tempted to keep her. Yet, two dogs and a baby? An abused pit bull mix with an eventual toddler in the house?

To get her in the car, I had to climb into the back seat and call her gently to jump in. As soon as she got into the car, she again cringed and slunk along the floor. I climbed into the driver’s seat and she ended up standing with her feet in the back seat area and her paws on the console between the seats. If I petted her, she tried to put her head in my lap. It would have been cute, except she smelled like long dead fish.

We pulled in front of the building. No lights. No open doors. Then I saw a lit area to the right of the front doors. In the wall were eight metal squares with handles. Most of them gaped open. I drove closer. It looked like kennels built right into the wall. If I could get her to go into the outside door, there was an inside door on the other side for them to admit her. A doorbell and papers to fill out meant this could be totally anonymous, or you could give them what info you knew about the dog. Talk about a no shame system!

I had no worries about her running away when I let her out of the car. Sure enough, she stayed right next to me as we walked over to the kennel doors. When I waved my hand for her to get in, her belly hit the pavement and she wouldn’t move. I moved slower and called for her to go on in. She got up and crouched as she sniffed the kennel, but she wouldn’t go forward.

I heaved a sigh and then crouched down and duck-walked into the space. She crowded in after me. I got her in front of me and then gently petted her one last time. “Stay, sweetie. You’re ok”. I closed the door, rang the bell, saw her little shadow as they let her in and then turned and walked back out into the darkness.

January 13, 2012

Lovin' Texas

Since October, I've gone most Friday mornings to join a group of women for Bible Study. We've been making our way through a book by Beth Moore called "Jesus". Good times, great women. Most of them grew up in Texas, many of them here in the 'Cliff.

This morning I was sharing that the Lord's been taking me through a passage in Revelation about a church that's lukewarm. He tells them that He wishes they were hot or cold. That they think they have everything and therefore don't realize they are cold, naked, blind and poor and desperately need him. It's actually the place where an oft-quoted verse is, "Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone would open to me, I'll come in and dine with him/her." For me it's a call to deeper intimacy during a phase in life where I'm not desperate for God. That I need to invite him in, pursue more time with him, and ask for eyes to see where I need him.

As I shared about how good life is right now, I joked, "I mean, who knew I'd find my dream neighborhood in TEXAS?!"

Amidst murmurs of agreement around the table, the sweet, gentle Texas Grandmother next to me lovingly patted my arm and said, "Get a rope!"

She apologized later, but I thought it was HILARIOUS.

January 10, 2012


Is anyone else fascinated by dreams and how our minds process our lives throughout the night?

Each morning when I was young, I'd come into the kitchen and Mom would ask me, "What did you dream?" In order to have an answer, I started trying to trace the threads of my dreams as I woke up. Over time, apparently, this is how one trains to become a lucid dreamer. I became aware of what I was dreaming as it happened. Eventually, my semi-conscious mind was able to argue with my sub-conscious.

After my Mom died, whenever she showed up in my dreams, my dream self would argue with her, "You can't be here, you're dead!" We'd actually end up going back and forth and negotiate the terms of her presence in the dream. Over the years I had a few dreams where she'd show up, still in her cancer body with a little skull cap on her head. I no longer had the active shove when she showed up, instead it would gradually dawn on me that she shouldn't be there. At that point in the dream she'd usually say something like, "I know you thought I died, but I've been here all along." Which usually made me really mad, "What?! You mean I'm going to have to grieve your loss AGAIN?!!"

While we were living in California, must have been three years ago now (so 12 years after her death), for the first time she showed up in a dream looking like she was in her 30's. Longish red-brown hair, no glasses, vibrant, healthy and very alive. In the dream I was busily cleaning the house or doing something very agenda driven. She kept trying to get me to stop and talk with her and I kept saying I was busy and she'd need to come back a different time. She finally said, really emphatically, "We only have a little time left. Stop. I have to talk to you." I stopped.

She brought out a long, narrow jewelry case, blue velvet, and gave it to me. As I opened it, she continued, "I've wanted to tell you for a long time how proud I am of you. You've fought for your marriage, you've been really patient and loving with Jrex (mostly), you've made a good life. I'm proud to be your mother and wanted you to have this. We won't have any more time together so I wanted you to know how much I love you." It was a beautiful necklace. When I looked up, she was gone.

I haven't dreamed of her since.

I have no philosophy of dreams. I'm not sure of my theology around them. Most of them feel like random firings based on events of the day. Every so often there are some, like that one, that feel 'real', feel significant and weighty. In the Bible there are many people who have significant dreams. Joseph was told not to divorce Mary in a dream. He was told to flee to Egypt in a different dream. In my life, there have been four or five life-changing dreams. Each felt like an amazing gift. Three happened on my journey out of fear, each marked a juncture where certain fears were conquered (and subsequently didn't have the same power over me in real life either).

On a more humorous level were the dreams while Jrex and I were dating. We'd known each other briefly during college and started dating long-distance. As he became more and more important to me emotionally, he started showing up in my dreams. Except my sub-conscious mind didn't have a template for an Asian man. Seriously. Sometimes he'd be an old white guy, sometimes a young guy, on rare occasions even a woman. In the dream world, there was often an announcement feeling, "This is Jrex for now, ok?" I'd shrug and go along with it. It really felt like my brain just grabbed the first 'skin' it found. None repeated, none felt like a substitute, just a template for the sake of working through any emotional scenarios. Once I moved to the same city and started seeing him often, he began to have his own skin on in my dreams. (MUCH better, I must say)

All this is to say, I haven't yet dreamed about Brex. I can't figure out why not. My main theory is that he's not doing anything that requires an untangling by my brain. No emotional stressors or complicated feeling. Sure it's hard when he's crying, but it's usually a fairly logical deduction to find a reason why and solve the problem. The other possibility is that I'm not getting deep enough sleep and therefore having 'shallower' dreams in general.

Is anyone else a lucid dreamer? Do you rarely remember even having any dreams? (if not, do you have a theory why not? I find that as interesting as the content of a dream.) Do most mothers dream about their children? (I would imagine the answer is yes?)

January 9, 2012

100 days

Apparently yesterday (Saturday) was Brex's 100th day of life. The only reason I found out was that all of a sudden I got a flurry of text messages, voice mail and email from Mom K. We were in the middle of cleaning for a dinner party so we didn't hear the activity until it was too late to respond.

In Korean culture, a child isn't celebrated fully until they reach their 100th day. Historically, unfortunately, many kids didn't make it that far. Mom told us that she was hosting a lunch celebration after church, that her pastor was going to pray for Brex and that they were going to sing for him, too. I felt bad that in Brex's immediate surroundings there was no celebration. Rather I wore him in a pouch while vacuuming and mopping. He's lucky he survived his actual 100th birthday!

This morning at church I decided I should do something to honor the occasion. I took Brex down front after the church service. After snagging the worship leader (who is Korean) and the pastor, I asked them to pray for Brex. I'm always happy to get prayer for him, but today I mostly did it so I could tell Mom K that I'd done it. As a side benefit, it was a great way to introduce myself to the worship leader. She seems really cool and seemed to enjoy being able to talk Korean culture without having to explain things. She tipped me off that hulu has a Korean channel and that a Korean drama that we watched with Mom K in California has a sequel. She suggested we also check out "Thank You". It's a K-drama about a little girl who gets AIDS after a blood transfusion. It's a HUGE deal to have any Korean show talking about AIDS at all. It's not Angels in America, but it's a start.

When the pastor prayed he did the whole prayer and didn't really leave room for the worship leader to pray. In the evening when Jrex and I were discussing our day I expressed my disappointment that she hadn't been able to pray, too. "I wanted a Korean to pray for my Korean kid for such a profoundly Korean occasion." Then it hit me (I'm a little slow sometimes), "Wait! I DO have a Korean on hand!" Jrex laughed and then we prayed for our kid.

Happy 100, Brex! May there be many, many more.

January 2, 2012

Sorry about the hibernation!

Without planning on it, I've been avoiding the phone and most media since my last post. I/we worked through the pros and cons about working or staying home and are opting to go with the daycare that we found (that's a whole 'nother post...). He starts tomorrow and I think I've just wanted to spend my time either with him or reading a book (when he was sleeping). Overall I feel really peaceful with the decision, but that doesn't mean I wasn't wistful today as I watched him napping.

Because this is how I am, I put together a dossier for the daycare. It's even laid out (like a professional designer created it or something. A designer who is actually looking forward to designing things again...) Thought you'd be amused at further evidence of my anal streak...

The skinny on Brex

  1. Not yet on a set time-based schedule. (willing to work with you to get that in place)
  2. Based on when he wakes up (anywhere between 6 to 7:30 AM), he eats every 3 to 3 1/2 hours after for the rest of the day.
  3. Overall pattern: eat, awake time (including as much tummy time and bumbo seat time as possible. He shouldn’t be lying on his head except to sleep. Trying to fix his flat spot...), nap time.
  1. He sleeps well in a swing. Up to 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  2. Half the time he sleeps well in the crib, the other half he screams for 20 minutes (or more) before falling into a fitful, relatively short nap (30 to 60 minutes). We’re trying to get him to nap easily in the crib, but it’s become challenging in the last two weeks.
  1. Generally likes music and sound effects. They work well for distracting him.
  2. If gassy, prefers to be held vertically
  3. Unfortunately, in the last week he’s seemed to develop separation crying if someone else holds him too long. Call me if I should come down to help ease him into daycare more gradually...
  1. We don’t force it, but when he starts chewing on his hand, we try to replace it with the pacifier (trying to avoid thumb sucking).
  2. For the first hour after eating, he seems happy without the pacifier, but then gets more and more fussy without it. Definitely prefers it when he’s going to sleep.
Cloth Diapers
  1. We’re not fanatical about cloth, so if you need to use regular diapers on him at any point, that’s fine.
  2. Make sure the diaper fabric is tucked into the diaper cover in the back and around the legs. Anywhere the diaper cloth touches his clothes, the urine gets wicked up onto his outfit.
  1. Generally drinks 5-6 oz per feeding. Will supply bottles each day.
  2. He’s been fine with formula when we’ve needed to use it.