November 19, 2013

More waiting, but I'm fine with it (for once!)

Just got a call from Go Go Engine who'd just chatted with Chicago Woman. Go Go told me she'd been concerned that Chicago Woman might be looking for a mouse jockey vs a big idea/client facing person. She knows I fit the latter, but not the former (I'm not a 3D booth designer).

Chicago Woman needs a big idea person. Go Go told her she thinks I'd be perfect for the role then. She's going to do an email introduction today and then Chicago Woman and I will chat on the phone in the next couple weeks. If we hit it off, then the next time she comes to corporate headquarters, we'd meet in person (likely after the first of the year). IF all that goes smoothly, the challenge will be to find the funding for a position that doesn't yet exist. The job challenge after we manage all those hurdles would be that people think of this company as a general contractor vs an agency. In some ways, I'd be further down the creative mindshare food chain, but that just enhances the challenge!

Another irony in all of this is that Chicago Woman is now being supervised by my previous Creat1ve Director! She's having a hard time getting a read on him, so that should be interesting fuel for our chat.

I feel really peaceful about all this. Even before this possibility, I'd had a feeling that I should cool it on the job hunt through the end of the year. I feel like the interviews I've had have helped give me a sample of the options in Dallas. I'd like to explore further, but if this works out, it seems like a great opportunity. I'd be working from an office again, but answering to a Chicagoan, so hopefully wouldn't have to fuss too much with toning myself down.

I love the idea of having the client contact, helping to do the big picture thinking and then working with a team to make it happen. I'm also really happy that we get to stick with our vacation plans and escape to our cabin in Taos for Christmas!

November 16, 2013

Letting Brex set the pace

This morning, I took Brex to the zoo so that Appa could write in peace.

Jrex is working on a review paper. He's a week behind schedule with future deadlines for talks and papers looming ahead of him. I don't know how to help him choose to set aside time to relax. The only helpful thing I know to do is make room for him to get his work done and not add to his stress. The downside is that Brex doesn't expect Appa to be a part of his usual weekend experience. "Appa at work" is one of his most common phrases. As Brex would put it, "So sad... Sad face..."

At the zoo, we didn't have a set agenda, yet it was somehow hard for me to just relax and let Brex do what he wanted to do. For example, we only rode the $2 kiddie train one time. It went around a little asphalt track, there were no animals in sight and it was over in less than 4 minutes. If he'd had his way, we'd have been on it for at least 3 more rounds. I couldn't take the bang for the buck ratio—or lack thereof, so I was mean mommy and made him go look at the reptile house instead.


The other factor in feeling rushed was needing to hit the bathroom before and after each stop along the way. Brex is officially potty trained, but it's rare he makes it through the day in the same pants. By now, we've got the routine down in public restrooms: I put the seat up, stand him on the rim of the toilet, pull his pants and underwear down, let him do his thing, pull his clothes back on, put him down, put the seat down, take my turn and we're done. EXCEPT then we have to survive his hand washing drama--let's just say it's full of "Brex do it!" and involves countless variations on faucets, soap dispensers and paper towels contraptions. In other words, in a four hour excursion, probably one hour of that time was spent in a bathroom.

At the end of the trip, when we were finally heading home—only one hour past his usual nap time—he saw an elephant fountain. There were five smallish bronze elephants surrounded by a moat of water. The water surface was lined with floating bubbles and fallen leaves. Brex zoomed over to it with a huge grin. As I was about to hustle him along, I paused. Everyone keeps reminding me how fleeting this time is and to enjoy it.


So, instead of insisting, "Time to go home!", I sat down 10-feet away and just watched. He didn't seem to care where I was. Rather, he lay down on the ground with his arms over the water and popped
bubbles. After two dabs, he sat up, pulled his sleeves up over his elbows and lay back down. Next he started grabbing leaves out of the water and shaking them. Then he stood up and started doing full-body throws to fling the leaves into the water. He'd then kneel down and reach to grab the leaf back and then start the jack-knife throw again. Various groups gathered at the fountain to take family pictures in their journey into or out of the zoo. My son neither noticed nor cared as he stood, flung, knelt, grabbed and stood again in joy.

At one point a slightly older girl in an all-pink outfit sat down on the bench right next to him. He was excited to show off for her. In delight, he placed a BIG wet leaf right on her lap. She flung it off and looked at him in disgust as she moved further down the bench. He was crestfallen and started to look around. That's when he finally looked for me. When he spotted me, he called out, "Mommy, get up! Get up!"

I smiled and joined him at the pond. He wanted my full participation and directed it. He gave me a leaf, told me, "Throw it, Mommy, throw it!" I did. "Get it, Mommy, get it!" I'd interject, "Say please, buddy"

"Mommy, please get it!"

When I tried to sit facing away from the fountain, Mr. Imperious demanded, "Turn around, Mommy!" I had to enjoy it the exact same way he had. We finally wrapped it up with a few rounds of, "Say bye bye to the elephants. Bye bye leaves. Bye bye water."

He was a crabby mess by the time I finally got him down for his nap at 2:30 (2-hours late). Yet later that day, while chatting on speaker phone with Aunt OTRsis, when she asked what he did at the zoo, he answered, "Saw elephants! Throw leaves!"

I need to remember to allow for leaf throwing time. To let our days unfold without imposing an unnecessary agenda. To sink into a moment and let it become a world. To feel the joy that's available anytime I stop long enough to let it in. Why is something so simple so difficult for me to remember?

When is the last time you threw leaves?

May we all find room this week for something small that becomes a door to the infinite. Thanks, Buddy, for the reminder.

November 8, 2013

Staying open to what might come. Subtitle: never burn a bridge

When hired in 2007, I was the designer for Tech Client. The lead Tech Client account person in our office was an amazing exec producer we'll call Go Go Engine. She taught me how to craft a team, how to run a meeting, how to pitch to clients. Then Tech Client was bought by the Evil Emp1re and Go Go Engine just wasn't thrilled by our other options at the time. She's moved on to three other agencies in the last four years.

Over the years we've stayed in touch via LinkedIn and occasional email exchanges. She reached out to me a couple days ago and we  chatted on the phone this morning. A few weeks ago she started a new job for one of our competitors. In discussions about the new direction they've hired her to initiate, my name came up. They aren't hiring for a specific position, but wanted to check about my availability/willingness to jump ship. The immediate felt need is a woman in Chicago who needs a fellow exper1ence des1gner to help create big picture solutions for major corporate clients. It would involve coming up with ideas, working with 3D designers to flesh out the ideas, pitching the concepts, then ushering them through to completion. The bonus is that the company's national headquarters are down the road from Brex's daycare. I could work out of that office for a boss in Chicago with Go Go Engine as a 2-level up advocate.

I may not be what Chicago Woman needs, but Go Go Engine at least wants me to talk with her and see if I'm a good fit for a position that's still a bit TBD. How's that for completely vague, yet deeply gratifying?

After feeling like my current boss sees me as a mediocre designer who's good for PPT, it's really, really affirming to have someone who knows and values me as a thinker.
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In other news, I've been buried alive in generating graphics for an event in 2-weeks. Jrex got all his grants submitted and now has two papers and a big talk to prep. I think we're both seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Brex continues to crack us up. He's now entered the "Brex do it" phase, which mostly means everything takes 3x as long. He feeds the dog every night, carefully balancing the cup of food and walking around the island to drop it in her dish without spilling any. He's learned to unzip his onesie pajamas "All la way to the foot". He's mostly potty trained, so that adds one more layer of logistics to every outing. Just pulling his pants and underwear down and back up is a production, never mind what goes into the potty. Sigh. Hand washing is agonizingly slow.

Yet, no matter what happens on the day to day with him, I have such a profound baseline of gratitude. Watching a dear friend struggle with infertility, another dear friend wrestle with singleness and childlessness, a third friend who had to have a hysterectomy in her early thirties, having a kid of our own was never guaranteed and I'm so, so grateful.

The challenge is to slow down enough to FEEL the gratitude and joy. It's too easy to slip into an agenda driven day and be focused on how LONG it all takes and how hard it is to not just be able to Walk. Out. The. Door. Already. Yet I know these will be wistful, fleeting, happy memories in a very short time.

So here I am, busily, gratefully, excitedly checking in.

October 30, 2013

Curiouser and curiouser

While getting ready for yesterday's job interview, I had an odd sense of calm. The 'little voice' (God's quiet nudges) kept telling me to not stay up too late, not stress too much. For the most part, I listened.

Even while getting ready, I just didn't have much 'juice'. I kept thinking, well, if I get this one, it'll be like the story of Gideon where God kept taking away all the props that would have let him say he won the battle on his own. My go-to outfit needed hemming, my backup outfit didn't seem right for the company. I got that sorted and arrived with about 7 minutes to spare before my appointment.

I'd been told there would be two people in the interview; there was just one woman a couple years older than me. She started right away with this, "I hope you don't mind that I went ahead with the interview. The position you applied for is already filled, but honestly, that wouldn't have been a good fit for you. I wanted to meet you and talk through your work. I thought about calling to let you know, but I didn't want you to opt out! Is that ok?"

What do you say to that?! I was gracious, but kind of bummed.

She wanted me to walk through my portfolio. I have it all set up on 'my' iPad (I plan on returning it within the 30-day window...cause I just don't want to own one.) For last week's interview and this one, I tried to figure out the five key stories they need to hear. Last week was all about the big, sexy, fun ideas. This week was more about my capabilities for corporate clients. It's nuts that I have to spend a few hours prepping a new document for each interview. (OK, OK, 'it's' not nuts, I am!)

Here are some of the snippets from our conversation:

"Your work and thinking are very strong. You know you're not really an art director, right?"

She'd worked in California, too, so I could ask her about that, "Yeah, I'm starting to get the sense that in Dallas an art director is just a glorified graphic designer?"

"Exactly. When I hire someone from design school, they are a junior art director. You're working at the level of at least an Associate Creative Director, but really, you could be a Creative Director without a problem. If I were you, I'd consider freelancing in town for a while. Speaking from experience, if you go straight from a California company to a Dallas company, you're in for a lot of culture shock. It's better to get a sense of the players before you commit to one place. I think you could stay very busy as a freelancer. Would you mind if I tell people about you if I hear that someone is looking?"

Of course! I asked her about the need to 'tone it down' as a woman leader in Dallas culture. She nodded emphatically, "You have no idea! Not only have I worked in LA, I'm from Chicago!" I cracked up as she continued, "They had no idea what hit them. Eventually they realized my assertiveness was all on behalf of the client, so they stopped taking it personally and got used to me, but it was an adjustment for all of us. It helps that only 10 percent of our company are Dallas natives."

In the end, it was a great talk, she wants me to keep in touch, seems like someone worth meeting for lunch every month or two, and I'm really bummed I don't get to work with her (yet)!

I'm also bummed that I need to rework the website and redo my business cards. My Dad wants me to pause and rethink everything. What would I do if I had $100,000/year for the rest of my life. If money were no object, what would you do? I need to think about it more, but I think I'd still do design; perhaps teach it in underserved schools (after buying computers for the class) or do design for non-profits, etc.

In the meantime, given that it's nice to be paid for my expertise, I'll likely spend more time thinking about how to retool my 'brand'.
What do you think about the presumption factor? I can easily claim the title of Art Director on a business card, but calling myself a Creative Director is a bit of a leap. Do I put my current title: "2D Exper1ence Designer" and explain that it involves art direction and creative direction and that I'm seeking a job as a CD?

This definitely helps explain why it's been hard to find a good fit, or even get interviews. I'm overqualified for the job title here. It's amazing to get such a strong vote of confidence, but I'm intimidated!

October 24, 2013

Keeping the balls in the air!


Tuesday
Thought I aced the job interview. I'd set up my portfolio as a Choose Your Own Adventure with the five key stories that applied to the company. All went well. Left on a total high. Loved the job and the group.

Hosted book club to discuss Breakfast at Tiffany's. Had a great talk, lots of fun.

Pulled an all nighter to catch up with all the work I'd neglected while prepping for the job interview. Had very little interest in my current work. Was practicing my resignation speeches/emails in my head.

Wednesday
Met for "Lunch L@b" with a group of folk trying to get protected pedestrian/bike baths put in throughout downtown. We meet once a week and are putting together a pitch document with the goal of meeting with foundations and donors in January. In Big D, you get the money first, then you loop in the politicians and the city. Money talks and it's a proven test of concept here. Got the outline put together and agreed to put it into a Keynote/PDF format.

Ate lunch with a grad student who's helping on the project. Did some mentoring/career advice.

Got home to an email that they'd selected an internal candidate. Total Depression. UGH.

Dragged myself out to pick up Brex, took him to Jrex's office for a networking dinner. They went home together while I dragged myself to a networking event for the area Big Design Association 'meet the board' night. Had some great chats and loved being around people. Left feeling less depressed.

Thursday
Tried to get my head back into my current projects.

Got a call from another agency to come in for an interview next week. They're in the same building as the Tuesday group! 

Met someone for a networking lunch. Thought it would be more personal connection, less professional. Turns out she knows everybody and gave me ten people to contact. She'll be feeding me their emails. She worked with one of the people I interviewed with on Tuesday and told me to say hi. Even more helpful, I could ask her about the weird vibe I've been getting here that I'm 'strong meat'. I feel like I come across too forcefully. Stuff that's totally normal in the Bay Area (she lived and worked in San Francisco) is pushy here. There's enough Southern in the culture that I need to pull back, soften the approach and let there be a velvet glove over the steel. Also, contract negotiations take multiple steps, so I need to be less 'all cards on the table'. I HATE playing games, but if there's a game to play (and there seems to be), it helps to know the rules.

Now I have to do Thank You cards for the job I didn't get. Sigh. However, it's a small community here and everyone knows everyone, so it pays to do things well and honorably.

Small group tonight.

Oh, and I also have to finish revising my 'real' work deliverable by tomorrow morning.

October 18, 2013

Grooming Behaviors

I've always been a kid magnet. Without trying, in many social situations, I end up with children climbing all over me. So other people being friendly or enjoying playing with children never seemed like an issue until I worked in a residential treatment center for behaviorally disturbed kids. In English: they'd all been physically and/or sexually abused and had behaviors that resulted from the abuse.

One of the 10-year olds started dressing like one of the 9-year olds. She started making gifts for the other girl. One of the staff said, "We need to make sure those two are never alone together; those are grooming behaviors."

"What do you mean? Isn't she just being nice?"

I got a Look, "Girl, lissen up. If someone wants to abuse a kid, or anyone, sexually, they usually set them up. They get them to want to spend time with them: gifts, fun events, fun yard, stuff like that. That girl is setting up her friend to try something."

So much for innocence. Mine.

At church, Brex and I often share a pew with an older couple. At first I thought they were irritated by his antics, but they slowly warmed up. One Sunday they had a friend with them. He and Brex made faces at each other and did other cute interactions. I assumed he was just good with kids.

The next Sunday, the older woman gave me a new toy truck. "Our friend Big T wanted to give this to your son. He really had fun playing with him the other week. He just loved your kid and wanted to make him happy." I said thank you, and Brex loved his new truck.



A gift after one interaction sent up a warning flag. I usually wait for another data point before concluding anything, but I knew I'd never leave my kid alone with Big T.

Another data point came the next Sunday. During worship the older woman signalled she had something for me. I nodded. I took Brex back for Sunday school and then came back and sat in the back. After the service, the older woman gave the card intended for me to the pastor's daughter who was working in Sunday School. When the older woman saw me and told me she'd made a mistake and gave it to the wrong person.

"It's ok. I'll get it. Don't worry about it.

When I got the the Sunday school room, the pastor's daughter looked stricken, "I'm SO sorry, she gave me this and I opened and read it cause I thought it was for me. Are you ok?"

I was confused by her concern. The card was from Big T. In it he wrote that he's sorry he hasn't been able to come by church, but he's a missionary and travels alot. He's been praying for us and wants me to know that everything will be ok (I often cry during worship. Usually cause I'm just so struck by something about who God is that feels so big or amazing). He gave me his phone number and told me to call any time. Apparently my facial expressions reflected the same emotions the pastor's daughter had experienced.

 

I quickly explained the situation. I laughed ruefully, "Since Jrex doesn't come to church, he must think I'm a single mom. I thought Brex was the target, but it looks like it's me!" Of course, the terrifying truth is that there are men who target women with children in order to get to the children. How sad that if I were single and feeling unlovely and unloved, and if I didn't know about grooming behaviors, I might be drawn to someone who seems like a very nice guy.

Now, I don't KNOW that's he's an abuser, but two data points confirms my first conclusion: he will never be alone with my son. It also means I need to write him a note to thank him for the gift and let him know that I'm happily married, fine with interacting with him when he visits church, but not looking for anything else.

What truly struck me was coming home from church and telling a friend about it. "You mean people like that go to church? Surely not!"

Did she miss the whole thing with the Catholic church? Never hear about youth group leaders abusing kids? Many pedophiles and sexual abusers are charismatic,  compelling, friendly people who are great with kids. As much as part of me is sad that I need to be on guard, I'm grateful that I know some of the warning signs and know when to proceed with caution.

Real life incidents that I look back on and see red flags:
  • The nice policeman with the pool who was great with neighborhood kids and would take groups of them to his house for the afternoon. My brother and sister went. He abused one of their friends, or at least did inappropriate touching.
  • The discomfort I felt when our pastor treated me like a beautiful woman when I was a shy, awkward young girl. I thought he was being kind and I just didn't know how to respond. I found out later he was inappropriate with adult women in church; I suspect I was picking up an 'off' vibe.
Given that it was news to me in my 20's and was just news to my friend in her 30's, consider this my public service announcement for the day.

October 15, 2013

Reasons, shcmeasons

Why so little blogging?

As I've driven around town for various networking events or for the (rare) job interview, I've considered the issue. Most of my blog posts percolated during my daily commute. Since moving here, the only driving I do is to drive Brex to school or pick him up. That means half of the drive is filled with, "Ex-ca-va-tor! Mom!! Ex-ca-va-tor!"

"Yes, Brex, you see an excavator. Isn't that exciting?"

"I see it. Ex-ca-va-tor."

"Mom! No train on bridge. So sad. Un-da-neat!"

"That's right, buddy, we're going underneath the train track. No train, so sad!"

Let's just say, while fun, those drives aren't conducive to meandering thought.

The other factor, as I told a friend from the Bay Area recently is that each day is so filled with the little busyness of life that I just don't have much of an interior life. Sure, there are emotional issues I don't have time to delve. However, I'm not going out of my way to avoid them. Rather, I just don't have time to cry or journal or make art in order to process the emotion. There's nothing so overwhelming that it NEEDS attention, just some of my/our ongoing themes.

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In terms of the one area that I'm working hard to change, lots of motion without much forward movement.

I've only had one job interview so far and I blew it. I was so intent on going through the portfolio I'd labored to set up that I didn't realize her main issue was understanding why I might be interested in working at her firm. Apparently my online portfolio is impressive and the fact that I'm coming from CA means most people are assuming I need an astronomical wage. I'm used to having to prove myself in a job interview, apparently now I need to convince a boutique agency that yes, I'd actually love to step away from the big career track and get back into a normal life.

In the midst of all that, I got a call yesterday from a recruiter. She works for a big market1ng agency downtown. On Thursday, I'd done an online application for an Art D1rector role and expected nothing from it.

I have an interview there in a week.

This job would not be a step away from a career, rather it would be a big step into a more responsible, creative, big picture role. I'd be the conceptual art d1rector running the team and the entire portfolio for Big Name Chip Company. This could involve helping do concepts for Super Bow1 Ads among other things. It's intimidating! From their website, and from a fun team video they'd just done, it looks like a team filled with skinny Dallas Millennial women and bearded, hipster Millennial men. That's also an interesting factor. Sure, I'd like to move into management, but it's a big leap to run a team of 25 people!

I think I need a new outfit...and an iPad. The last interview, I borrowed my MIL's iPad since she was visiting, but it would be nice to have one all set up in case there are multiple rounds at this same place.

Last night Jrex and I were both awake in the middle of the night. Me anxiously reviewing what I need to do for the interview, him thinking through what he needs to do to prepare for a Big Government Grant application. We prayed together for a while.

It's a good reminder that there is a place for me here in town and the right thing will open up at the right time.

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I'm sorry for the long silence! I can't promise to be better, but at least I have a couple thoughts percolating in my head. Here's hoping I make time to write them down soon!

August 7, 2013

I'm still here!

Wow. It's been a busy few weeks. I started this blog post two weeks ago...
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We had a wonderful week away though we've agreed that we need to build in two days of 'nothingness' on either side of vacations.

For this trip, we bought Brex a plane ticket. He's too restless to sit peacefully on our laps, but is used to being in his car seat for road trips. Apparently they no longer have families with small children pre-board the plane! Poor Jrex had to haul the car seat over head to the back of the plane. To add insult to injury, the one that had the anchors we needed for the car seat trolley has a leopard print seat cover. Jrex is the kind of guy who only wears blue, black, gray or tan colors and here he was flaunting an animal print.
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In conclusion: vacation was fun. Brex had a great time and was able to roll with all the new faces and places fairly well. My back started killing me mid-trip since he wanted me to hold him every time we encountered new people.

Camping went really well. I thought he'd be unable to sleep until dark, but once he reached his manic phase (his indicator that he's beyond exhausted), we took him in the tent and did the bedtime routine. He was fine. We bundled him up in tons of layers and piled blankets on top of him and he seemed to sleep well despite the drop to 50-degrees at night.

He LOVED his cousins. They gleefully tromped around the campground, played stomp rocket and didn't have any fights or issues. It helps that my sister's kids are really cool, kind and generous. My 5-year old nephew seemed to delight in his mentoring/teaching role. "OK, Brex. Hold my hand now so I can show you how to walk on this path." I'd expected that from my niece but was happily surprised to see my nephew do that, too.


Once home, I got buried alive by work and am finally coming up for air.

During the momentary lull, I'm working on my logo/identity/website. Jrex and I are in total agreement that it's time for me to look for work locally. One of the reasons that graphic design works better for me than fine art is that I LOVE people contact. I like meeting with the clients and the internal teams to figure out the best solutions. I miss that. I don't like who I'm becoming in isolation and my design is getting stale. I'm not having fun as a designer anymore.

Of course the biggest factor (that I won't say in public) is that the new Creatv Directr is chaos on wheels. He doesn't manage well though he is good at the big picture thinking. Once he has a team in place, I think that department is going to be doing some wonderful work, but he's terrible for me to work for. He doesn't do verbal encouragement, and honestly, I don't think he likes my design style. I don't think I'd do my best work for him.

We're both excited to see what comes next, but first I have to get a LOT done. In addition to the website/business cards/resume, I'll need to buy or borrow an iPad for showcasing my portfolio in interviews. Plus buy some interview outfits. It's not cheap to look for work!

July 2, 2013

There's no place like home

Last week was insanely busy. On Friday we presented a creative proposal for a us3r c0nference, we treated the standup presentat1on as a mini-confer3nce. It's a great idea, but meant designing a website, email blast, give-away bag and water bottle in addition to the regular standup presentat1on deck. Unfortunately, at the moment we don't have a robust pool of freelancers to pull into the office, so the only other design resource I had in hand was more of a production artist. That meant I couldn't just give her design and let her own it, so I had to do it all. On top of all that, we got hit with deliverables for a new client.

Needless to say, I barely saw anyone. I made time to see friends on Wednesday night, but otherwise I was buried in the office. I did get everything finished Thursday in time to catch the last 2/3rds of Much Ado About Nothing. It's a modernization, but Joss Whedon did a smart thing and filmed in black and white. It gives just enough of an 'old' feel that the language doesn't feel contrived in the modern context. That said, a plot that revolves around whether or not a woman in her early 20's is still a 'maid' feels far fetched, but they made it work.

Beatrice hiding to listen in on Hero telling the maid
about Benedick's hidden passion for Beatrice.
Once back home, we spent a mellow Saturday just hanging out as a family. Long naps for all three of us that afternoon. Then Jrex and I went out to see Superman. The casting was amazing, the acting was really good, the Messianic moments cracked me up, and the ending was over the top, but overall we enjoyed it.

Jrex turned 45 while I was in California. I'd left two gifts hidden for him. I wrote in the card, "Here's hoping you don't have any lingering Korean superstitions. If you do, I'm going with the 'two wrongs make a right' theory."

I gave him two clocks.

In Korean culture, if one gives a clock, it's a death wish for the recipient. As in, time is ticking toward your demise. Nice, right? Obviously, NOT what I want for him. He'd been wanting one next to his bed as well as an atomic clock in the bathroom. For the bedside clock, look what I found!

It's a water powered digital clock. You fill it with tap water and the ions in the water are enough to power the clock for up to five months.

Sunday night I'd invited a couple to join us for Korean food. They brought a homemade cake and a box full of gin and whisky. After dinner, the wife and I chatted and played with their 5-year old son while the guys did a 'tasting'. Let's just say Jrex was quite relaxed and happy when they left!

It's great to be home. The fun continues tomorrow when Jrex's mom and niece arrive from California. They'll be with us through Sunday. We're really looking forward to seeing Asian niece and watching her and Brex fall in love. She's 8-years old so I expect she'll really enjoy Brex and his antics.

June 23, 2013

And back again.

I'm off to Cally in the morning. Another work trip. This one was planned in advance. Our other 2D designer is gallevanting around Europe with his family and I'm going in to cover one of the weeks that he's gone.

This trip feels harder in terms of leaving Brex. He's learning so much each day, also testing limits and trying our patience, but then giggling and cuddling to make up for it. Each day the tricks I use to motivate him seem to evolve. It's like he's a super adaptable virus and I can barely keep ahead of him to suppress the outbreaks. The current 'go to' tricks include tons of reverse psychology. "Oh, you don't want to go to bed. That's ok. You stay downstairs, I'm going up." He usually comes running. This technique often involves conversations with Muttola, "Mmmm...this snack of banana and peanut butter is SO good. Too bad Brex didn't want any." At that point I'm usually interrupted by a little voice next to me proclaiming, "Chair!" (he wants up into his chair so he can partake)

For transitions we say 'bye bye'. As in, trying to get him to leave the water table at the Science Museum, "OK, buddy, it's time to say bye bye to the water. Bye Bye boats. Bye Bye cup." He cries in protest and then tearfully begins to join in the Bye Byes as we make our exit.

To get him to let me change his pajamas into his day clothes, we say 'bye bye' to whatever is on the pj's and hello to whatever is on the clothes. "Ready to say hello doggy and bye bye dinosaur?"

Jrex has also been really busy trying to get another round of grants submitted. Each time he gets subsumed by work, Brex begins to prefer me to an extreme measure and even seem to get nervous around his Dad. All it takes are a couple play sessions and Brex is fine, but it makes it that much harder to leave. On the other hand, I'm sure it's nice for Jrex to get some time to figure things out on his own.

I've prepped Brex that I'm leaving. I made a paper chain with five rings so he can tear one off each day. I "charged up" his stuffed rhino with hugs so he can hug it any time he misses me.

In the end, it'll be a nice break to recharge a bit, but the last couple days will be tough. Flying home Friday night helps. It makes if feel less like I'm missing out.

I've only scheduled one social visit while I'm there. I anticipate a heavy work load this week and suspect I'll need the down time. I'm hoping I can get away from work early enough to catch a couple movies. I'd like to see Before Midnight, Much Ado About Nothing and possibly, This is the End. Anyone have opinions on any of those (or other suggestions?)

I'll keep you posted!

June 20, 2013

The Manifesto

I just saw a job posting for something local that is written for me. Problem? I have no website, no online portfolio, and no resume. I did buy the domain for  [My].[Name].com last year, so I have that in my favor. I'm trying to whip all this together so I can apply for it. I love my job (believe it or not), but local might be a nice change.

Either way, I should have a website up. To that end, I sat down to write out my design manifesto. What do you think:

I believe...

we are all creative
strong leadership doesn't have to be abrasive
your input is valid
working fast ≠ working sloppy
the person matters more than the task
in sophisticated boldness
in simple elegance
in tickling children and wrestling dogs
organization is beautiful
family dinners matter
it's more important to be resilient than safe
Design Divas waste all of our time
everyone has a story
strong opinions streamline the process
I'm an awesome Mom and a so-so wife
in mystery, silence and beauty
in laughter, tears and good wine
in the power of white space
mood boards matter
listening first never hurt anyone


Anything I should add? Delete? Rephrase? (see point #1)

June 17, 2013

Kindness when I needed it

Sunday morning. Sitting in the creaky wooden pew with Brex on my lap. He's playing peek-a-boo with a boy in the next pew. They're giggling as the music covers any sounds they make. I'm trying to enter into the music, the sense of God's presence, but I'm having a hard time.

In the last few weeks, I've been experiencing more stomach churning anxiety than I have my whole life. There have been times in the past when I feel things that are happening to someone else and it's a clue for me to pray. Once I kept thinking about driving my car off the road on purpose. It happened over and over and was definitely not 'me'. When I prayed, I kept thinking of one friend in particular. I asked if she were feeling suicidal. She was. The only thing that's changed in my life of late is my new Creat1ve Director. So, I've been praying for him. While I'm at it, I've prayed for my husband. Now, that all makes me sound 1) psyco/psychic or 2) holy. Neither is true! Mostly I pray just enough to get my stomach to calm down.

As I tried to pray during the worship time at church, I just felt so bad that my real motivator in life is my own comfort. I'll do just enough to get comfy again. I'm not really pursuing God, not really doing much to strengthen my marriage. Yes, working hard as a Mom, and as a designer, but letting most of the rest fall by the wayside. I paused and prayed, "What do You have to say?"

In the pause after I asked, this popped into my head, "O little fretful one, you're judging yourself much more harshly than I am. Just look to me and the selfishness will fall away." That sounds so small when I write it down, but there was a sense of being smiled at and enjoyed behind the words.

There's a verse that says, "It's Your kindness, Lord, that leads us to repentance." I cried in gratitude as the songs continued. He sees me and he loves me anyway.

=========

This is off topic, but Brex is at the point where anything works as a "hat". He wanted this on his head and was quite proud of it for the two minutes he wore it.  His stroller is also "chair!" and he loves to just sit in it and watch us cooking in the kitchen. A prince indeed.

June 12, 2013

Checking In

When I get overwhelmed at work I lose my capacity to handle other people. Until yesterday I was juggling frantically and not wanting to call anyone, read blogs, write a blog entry or check Facebook. My social needs are based on boredom? Or more aptly, capacity I suppose.

Yesterday I woke up at 6 AM with my stomach churning and my to-do list prodding me out of bed. I did the math and realized I didn't have enough hours in my week to finish everything in front of me. I sent an email to our GenMgr and my new ExecCreativDirector. Without whining, I outlined the new jobs that had hit my inbox since Friday and estimated design hours against those jobs.

On top of that, I was spearheading an RFP response. That particular RFP was shaping up to be a trainwreck unless I intervened like Super Woman holding up the track so the RFP could be safely delivered. We had a bunch of Chiefs who weren't actually doing any thing. It felt like everyone on the team was letting me handle it. Our ECD was justifiably overwhelmed. They've been flying him around the country to let him meet the other offices. As a result, he kept not being in Creative Bra1nstorms that he was supposed to lead! Then I'd have to lead it, while not knowing what He would have done. Then talk to him on the phone to give him a recap. Total chaos, though not his fault. 

To his credit, after the Hail Mary email, he pulled in resources and now I find myself not doing much! We brought in an amazing freelancer to cover the RFP so I'm out of that. Phew! I'm waiting for access to client files on one job and waiting for approvals on another.

In good news, we've been selected as The Agency by the last three RFPs that I helped generate. I guess now we need to find people to interview and hire!

======
In Brex news, each day he surprises me by something new that he's absorbed. His word for any letter is "E"? Since there's usually an E, it makes him sound brilliant when he points to something and says, "E!"

He loves to point, well, poke, body parts while naming them. It's cute when it's "Mou", "Chee" and "Haih", but not so good when he wants to move my glasses to poke, "Eye".

I've learned that I can't assume he's wrong when he's saying a word. Yesterday as he sat in his car seat looking at his favorite book:


I kept hearing him say, "Cheep"...."Cheep". I was going to say, "There's no chicken!", but turned to check (at a stop light), and saw he was looking at a Jeep. So, instead, "That's right, buddy! A Jeep."

======
Overall, life is good. Busy, happy, content, overwhelming and tiring all at once.

May 30, 2013

Third time's the charm?

Rochester: Car next to the house while we were sleeping. Cops showed up within a few hours. Car found within a week.

Baltimore: Wedding ring, engagement ring, jade ring, laptop. Through the back door during the day while we were at work. No cop ever came. I had to request a crime scene investigator. Then waited until 1 AM for him to have time between murder scenes to swing by and fingerprint. Nothing ever found. No follow up.

Dallas: Bike, Bike pump, 8-foot aluminum step ladder, toolbox (old tools). Contractor's tools, 6-foot ladder and paint supplies. From the open garage, through the open gate while we were doing things on the far side of the fence.

We weren't going to call the cops about this burglary. None of the stolen items added up to our deductible, so it didn't seem worth it. However, after a Facebook post about the burglary, a friend asked about recent neighborhood break-ins, "Do you think this is the same guy?" In the most recent incident, he'd kicked in a garage door.

I called the detective on those cases to see if he thought it was worth reporting. He asked me what they'd taken. I listed the stuff above, then added, "The ballsiest thing they did was go through some thrift store donation bags I had in the garage, strew the clothes all over, then take one of the three bags to carry what they took."

He got excited, "Ma'am, what were the bags made of?"

"One was plastic."

"Could you please call it in and ask for fingerprinting? All I've got for evidence are a couple of photos that could be anyone and a bad video. None of the other victims asked for prints."

So, in the midst of a day full of deadlines, I called 9-1-1. Within 30 minutes, an officer knocked on the back door (the gate was open since our contractor was working in the alley). Muttola went CRAZY. No one comes to the back door first.

"Good girl. That's your job."

I praised her as I held her back and opened the door. The cop asked for details, and we toured the garage. Then we headed to the alley to chat with the contractor about what he was missing and when he noticed it. While we were talking with him, as a collarless Muttola sniffed the grass at my feet, two cops rode into the alley. I held the dog back so she wouldn't attack the horses. (We're definitely in Texas, y'all! Horses!!) The officer told them the crime had happened sometime in the last few days so there wasn't a need for them to do street patrol.

[pause. Now visualize being a thief running down the street as you're being chased by a horse...]

An hour after the officer left, the doorbell rang. I assumed it would be the fingerprint team, but NOOOOoooo. Alarm chasers. They must listen to the police scanner and then show up to the house to sell an alarm. Half an hour after they left, it was my neighbor. They'd knocked on her door, too!

THEN it was the fingerprint officer. I loved the irony that the woman responding to the actual crime was a petite, though tough looking, woman. The guy doing the post-crime analysis was over six feet tall and obviously lifted weights on a regular basis.

The good news is he found three viable prints. Now we just hope that one of them belongs to the thieves.

May 22, 2013

You know you live in Texas when...

...you get an estimate from a guy named J1mbo. Turns out he went to high school here in the Cliff. Great guy. Warm Texan accent.

He's been a mason his whole working life and prides himself on doing his work well. As we looked a project we need to finish in the back yard, he examined my cousin's work on our circular patio.




He couldn't believe that JR was able to do eyeball cuts with a tile saw.

"Them's some tight joints! I like to see quality work. He's a real mason. That's just beautiful."

I agreed, "Yeah, he's definitely an artist."

After business was finished, we launched into the story swap. We'd both seen (and cried) watching the video of the woman in Moore whose dog shows up while she's getting interviewed: http://houston.cbslocal.com/2013/05/21/woman-finds-dog-lost-during-tornado-while-being-interviewed/

Then he tells me about a tornado that went through Wichita Falls 35 years ago. They'd dropped off his 7-month old son to visit the grandparents. The next day a half-mile wide tornado went down the town's main street. He and his wife drove up that night, black cloud still looming on the horizon.

When they got to the house, it was cut in half with a car up against the side of it. They found the family dog in a locked bathroom, but not his family. As they were panicking a neighbor came over and told them the family was safe down the street at the church. Phew! His father-in-law had held the closet doors shut by sheer force of will less the twister suck them all out the door.

"Them twisters is freaky! We found a loaf of bread, still closed in its wrapper, but packed full of dirt so's you couldn't eat it. There was gas tanks, still closed with rags hanging out the pipe. It sets up some crazy vacuum. Straws was stickin' out of walls. I hope I never see the like again."

Me, too, sir. Me, too.

May 21, 2013

Moore

I heard an interview this morning with the Congressman from Moore, OK. He said that the tornado in '99 was three blocks from his house one way and the one yesterday was a few blocks away in the other direction. As he reflected about that, he said, "We've been blessed twice."

That phrase really bugs me. After disasters like this, people talk about God protecting them, watching over them, blessing them. The implication is TERRIBLE. That means that all the kids that died were cursed and outside of God's eye? God didn't listen to their prayers for safety?! The truth is in the middle, we are neither blessed nor cursed in that way.

I respect that Jesus addressed it head on:
"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
The answer isn't emotionally satisfactory because it doesn't sound kind at first. The point is that it's not your circumstances that show if God likes you or "you're in", it's what's happening inside your spirit that matters. We all will die. We all will suffer. Bad things WILL happen. What happens to us inside in the midst of those circumstances? How do we let circumstances draw us towards God or give us a  reason to push away?

I am SO freaked out and sad when I look at the pictures of Moore, but I'm grateful that the path of the storm is not a direct 'finger of God's judgement' either. 

It also bugs me that anyone is still questioning Global Warming. They told us decades ago that storms would get worse as the temperature rises... Now that I live in a very warm state that's in the southern edge of tornado alley, that's a terrifying, sobering thought. 


May 16, 2013

Cue the Wizard of Oz music

Dangling in our sky chair on the front porch, the mutt trembling beside me, I watched lightning claw the sky and listened to the crack and rumble of thunder. Every so often the wind shifted enough to send a bracing spray of rain in our direction. I love storms. It's one of the things I missed most living in California. Earthquakes are dramatic, but there's no anticipation, no enjoyment while it's happening. They occur, you don't trust your senses until it's almost over, and then either you're fine or you're not. A good thunderstorm is so much more satisfying!

As we sat there, I heard sirens. At first I thought someone's home had been hit by lightning, then I realized they were the tornado sirens. Crap!

I ran inside with a velcro mutt hugging my leg. Jrex and I checked our phones for alerts. Sure enough, the thunderstorm was prime for a tornado and was heading our way.

"Should we wake up Brex and hide in the bathroom?" I wanted to just shrug it off and keep sitting outside.

"I think we should," wise husband decided.

Sigh. I threw a bunch of pillows around in the downstairs powder room then went up to get Brex up from bed. I rarely see him sleep since he usually pops awake and starts talking if the door opens. We don't get to do the fond gaze at the sleeping child bit. As a result, I love it when I get to be around him when he's sleepy. He snuggled into my shoulder as we went downstairs. We left the light off in the bathroom (there's a night light) and got him settled on the pillows.

The sirens kept sounding every fifteen minutes, and we'd check one or the other of our phones. Each time, it woke up Brex. At first he settled back to restless sleep, but finally, he woke up, crawled past my legs and tottered into the corner. He looked up at the light, "OOOOhh. LITE"

"Yes, light."

"MUTT"

"Yes, mutt."

"Appa!"

"Yes, Appa"

Then, "E.I.O.?"

I launched into Old MacDonald and added verses about the mutt, Appa, Mom.

As I sang, he bounced in place doing his only big dance move, the toddler bop. At the end of the verse, he clapped and said, "Yea!" Sadly, it's the only time anyone has ever clapped after one of my solos!

After 45-minutes total, we were able to go back upstairs. He ran around the room in a manic state. I finally scooped him up with a book and sat down to read to him. After doing his book/prayer/song routine, he settled back to sleep.

The weird truth is that I'm actually happy to be able to pass along the Tornado Huddle tradition. I loved it when we gathered as a family in the basement. It was exciting, a little dangerous, but lots of fun to see everyone in the middle of the night. Of course, the only reason it's a fond memory is that nothing bad ever happened. Let's hope that's true for Brex, too!

May 9, 2013

Two posts in one day!

I've never done a two-for-one deal here, but this just happened. My company does a semi-monthly "All C0" meeting which includes a time for employee recognition. I won this month and this is what my coworker said about me:

I would like to recognize OTRgirl. I have the pleasure of working with OTRgirl on our New Business Development efforts as well as various office projects. Not only is she extremely Creative and talented in her craft, but she contributes to our Strategy and the overall experience we want to communicate to our potential clients. Her hardwork, attention to detail and tireless efforts are so appreciated and should not go unrecognized.

Most RFP responses have a very short timeline. Design layouts & edits often end up in the race to the finish line. She has worked many weekends, pulled all-nighters, and recently on the [client] pitch made 2 trips back & forth to the office from Texas in one week, BUT always with no complaints, a smile and a great attitude to get 'er done no matter what. She truly epotimizes the Company Way and puts her heart into every project. I would like to say, "Thank You" to OTRgirl for being ah-mazing!
I know I whine a lot about my job, but stuff like this helps make it feel worthwhile.

One of the fun projects I did this week involved dropping cartoon characters into our capabilities presentation. That deck helped us win the business for helping a TV studio sell it's 500 episodes of [prime time carto0n] to cable companies. We'll help create a fantastic immersion experience of the cartoon world to help the potential buyers realize that they aren't just buying the right to show the cartoon, but the right to own the whole show's world. Good times!

Mother's Day and Heroes

I just read this Anne Lamott article about Mother's Day. When we were struggling with infertility, it was an excruciating day. Part of me hated all the mother's and all their stupid children. I skipped church. I couldn't deal with whatever the church was going to do to honor Mother's. Some churches gave flowers to every woman, which is a nice gesture, but barely touches the core pain when you want a kid but can't have one.

Anne takes it one step further and talks about the need to honor all those who played mothering roles, including gay men. She says that she intentionally didn't raise her son to celebrate mother's day.

http://www.salon.com/2010/05/08/hate_mothers_day_anne_lamott/

Now that I have a kid, am I on the Mother's Day bandwagon? Meh. As she states in her article, my feelings are similar to what I think of Valentine's Day. It's a holiday that is unnecessary if you have a sweetheart/child, but makes you feel horrible if you don't. I don't enjoy situations that make others feel left out or hurt, so I'd be OK if both holidays disappeared. Frankly, every morning I wake up to a little voice next to the bed saying, "Mom?" is mother's day. I'm intensely grateful for our funny, stubborn, opinionated, intense little guy. I guess a gift certificate for a 90-minute massage and guilt free permission to go enjoy it sounds nice, but why wait for a Hallmark moment for that to happen?

========

The other thing rolling around in my head is the situation around Charles Ramsey. He stepped in to help free three kidnapped women and now is being rolled in the giant American media mixer and getting thrashed. He seems like a level-headed guy with a great sense of humor, so I hope he's not getting messed up by our weird need for heroes to be larger than life and perfect in every respect.

Stay real, Mr. Ramsey.

http://www.salon.com/2013/05/07/charles_ramsey_hero_and_viral_superstar/

April 30, 2013

It sounds better than it is!

I just ate a lobster salad with cheesecake for dessert, delivered to my room here in a 4-star hotel.

I wish the next part of this story involved my husband!

Sadly, no. I'm in California for work. It turned out that the 4-star hotel was only $30 more a night than the cheap dive hotel near the office. Both are very close to work, so it's easy to grab a cab.

Room service? Allowed me to get to my room quickly and jump onto the edits for the presentation book which has to go to the printer in the morning. Don't get me wrong, the salad was delicious, the cheesecake enjoyable, the room is lovely, I'm grateful, but wouldn't it be nice to share with someone rather than sitting up working all night?

It should be noted that I was just here Monday through Friday morning last week. If we didn't have the kiddo, I probably would have just stayed here for the weekend. Jrex would have actually been quite happy to have time to get some of his work done. That said, it was wonderful to go home and see my guys and the fabulous Muttola. 

Tomorrow night I jump on the red-eye plane so I can hug my kid in the morning.

The cool thing is that Brex has seemed relatively unfazed by these last two trips. As an experiment, last week I told him on Sunday that I'd be 'at work' the next day. Most weekends, Jrex goes into lab for at least a few hours each day. So I have the following conversation more times than I can count:

"Appa?"

"Appa's at work."

"Appa?"

"Appa's still at work. He'll be home soon."

As a result, he knows that the phrase, "At work" involves someone being gone, but coming home eventually. To both of our surprise, on Monday morning, he woke up but didn't go to look for me at all. Most mornings I wake up to a little head next to the bed chiming, "Mom? Mom!" but Monday he seemed content without me and happy to go to 'school'. Seems like it was the same today.

For his sake, I'm quite happy about he's fine. On general principle however, I'm offended that I'm not the center of his little universe. Hmph.

April 19, 2013

Major husband points

Last night, I told Jrex I was getting a haircut in the morning. I asked if he had any specifications.

"Sure. I'd like it to still be dirty blonde, though I can deal with a little red if you need to go there. It would be nice if there's still some hair to swish and not just a butch cut. Otherwise, whatever you want."

I showed him this haircut and asked for his opinion:


"Really?!" Then he looked at it a little longer and said, "Actually that will be fine. It'll look better on you anyway."

I was shocked, "You think so?"

"Definitely. I've never found Victoria attractive."

I must say, I don't think many people would rate my looks above VB's, but if my husband does, that's all that counts, right?

April 17, 2013

AWOL

Talk about disappearing, huh?

The last two months feel like a blur. Between surgery, sickness, work insanity/travel and then my cousin being here for much of the last three weeks, we have not had much down time.

The hernia seems to be healing well. I have a final post-op with the surgeon in May (he is MUCH more thorough than Surgeon One). He told me I could do basic cardio, but I should avoid core specific exercises until after I see him next. It doesn't bother me to pick up Brex at all, so that's nice.

For three weeks, my cousin JR has been working intensely around our house. He came for a family visit in January. I chatted about my big plan for the yard and he said he could do it. He asked how much I was willing to pay to get stuff done and we agreed to the amount. Unfortunately, as with much of construction, everything has taken longer than anticipated. JR is also ambitious and has taken on more than I even dared to request. The poor guy had to get home last week and then come back for this past weekend (and is leaving tomorrow). He's in San Antonio so it's a 6-hour trip to get here. That said, he's done amazing work. Now it's just on me to get my butt in gear and get the landscaping done!

In terms of work drama...phew! The Creat1ve D1rector had verbally agreed to the offer and came to visit the office and meet all of us. I think we might have been a little too honest. Basically, but the end of the day, he turned around and rejected the offer! Yikes. Our Gen. Manager was furious. Personally, I think that Eey0re was a little too 'honest'. I heard later that he really enjoyed talking with me so I know I'm not part of the bad children club. To reinforce that notion, last week my GM called to tell me that they think they are going to move ahead with the promotion (didn't say when) given that we won't have a CD for a while now.
She really encouraged me that if/when Jrex looks for a new job (she's hoping it's 'when'), we'll consider cities where there are offices for our company. If I can live in one of our company towns, I have a bright future in the company. If not (she didn't say this, but I'm reading between the lines), the best I can hope for is this promotion. It's not a bad proposition since the available options include Boston, New York, SF, LA and Austin. Of course, we're 5-7 years away from any possible move, so it's unlikely that I'll advance very quickly.

The irony of course is that I always thought I'd be a stay-at-home mom if I ever had a kid! I liked having just a job and never planned on having a career. It makes me laugh to be in this position, but it's a fun gig while it lasts. It's nice to know I can swim with the big fish, but also nice that it doesn't feel like my life's meaning is defined by this job.

The Brex department gets more and more fun (and challenging). His language is really starting to explode, he's picking up words on a daily basis, we just have to be good at interpretation. For example, he's really into the word "Giraffe", but says "Aff!" Now that he's figured out "Cacka" (Cracker), it's the main thing he wants for dinner...

Our current challenge is at the day care. They put an activity center in the foyer. Most of the kids are content to play there for a couple minutes and then head out the door. Our kid however, not so much. When he gets into an activity, he can focus on it for 20 minutes or more. One example, we were sitting on the front sidewalk a couple days ago and I handed him an acorn with it's 'hat' off. He sat there a LONG time just fitting the acorn back into the lid and pulling it back out. So, at daycare, he settles in to explore that activity center. I'm usually rushing to get somewhere and don't have time for it. I give him a few minutes and then have to drag him from the building in hysterics. The first day he cried most of the way home. Sigh. Yesterday was a little better. Today I'm bringing snack distraction.


March 22, 2013

Upon further reflection

I'm getting a little annoyed about my review. I love all the kind things they said. However, I thought I'd be getting tangible steps to take towards a promotion. My GM made it seem like it was almost a done deal when we talked in January. Now this VP of Creat1ve, who is just starting to know me, is making me prove myself all over again. PLUS, now I have to do that with the new Creative D1rector they just hired.

I'm grateful for the good from the review, but it feels like I could see the next step and all of a sudden it grew into a mountain.

It also seems like a great way to make me invest more blood, sweat and tears into this company. Hmph.

Which is why, when they asked if I'd come for the latest pitch rehearsal on Monday, I said, "Sure!"

March 21, 2013

My review

Good news: Brex is in daycare today. He woke up 'in his right mind' vs the screaming banshee with flailing arms that we've dealt with since Sunday. The reason that's perfect is that I had my review call with my General Manag3r (GM) and our VP of Creat1ve (VP).

I'd told GM that I wanted to find out what I had to do to become an Associate Creat1ve Director. I've been nervous since then because the VP posted some things on our company Chatt3r group about why it's impossible to have remote creat1ve teams. The irony is that before I moved here, I completely agreed with him! Every time my company tried to force me to work with rem0te creatives, I kicked, screamed and whined.

I didn't get the promotion. But...here was the feedback (and yes, I took notes. Don't judge)

  • You have a wonderful, 'can-do' attitude that's refreshing
  • You have the poise I look for in a leader
  • You're a strong communicator. In fact, there are many times when yours is the main voice in the brainstorm, why is that? (I gave a few answers: I'm an extrovert, faster at thinking on my feet, depends who feels ownership, personality of the other guys. The irony is that I've been impressed with myself lately because I've managed to draw out tangible answers from my guys!)
  • You need to raise the level of the Big Ideas that you bring to the table. Throw some pasta on the wall.
  • We have a new Creative D1rector coming in. Right now you have amazing rapport with your current team, how do we build that with the new leader?
  • We need a plan to keep you in the heartbeat of the studio, especially if we start adding new people to the team.
  • You are incredibly special and we want to keep you involved, this isn't a way of trying to manage you out. You bring a value that's intense and we want to keep you.
In terms of wanting the promotion:
  • Being remote is the biggest hindrance.
  • We look for three elements in a creative leader: Outward (being the lead in the eyes of the client), Being a partner to client services; Being a creative leader to the staff.
  • If you were still in the area, you'd be in the position. You have it all. 

So I responded, "I have a proposal then."

"Great, we love proposals."

"Let's give it six-months with the new leader. See how it goes. I know it will mean I need to travel there frequently. I'm willing to do that. Then after six-months, let's evaluate with him if he thinks this might work."

They agreed. In fact, the VP added, "I have to say, before meeting you, I've been completely opposed to any creative working remotely. You are challenging and breaking the mold."

I laughed, "The problem will be that if I do it others will want to as well!"

He chuckled, "I'll just write up the OTRgirl model for rem0te creat1ves and no one else will ever measure up."

In other good news, after giving me a speech about how our company didn't meet its objectives and how they took a cautious and aggressive approach to any pay increases, they gave me a cost of living adjustment as well as a bonus. Sounds like most people aren't getting either.

I'm feeling good! Well, despite having caught the cold Brex dished out, and despite having a TON of work to finish in the next two days.

So now, back to the drawing board (literally).

March 18, 2013

Second week post-op is the culprit

I'm wondering if the reason the hernia keeps coming back is that by the second week, I feel fairly normal so it's easy to push it.

Brex was sick this weekend starting with a low appetite Friday night and a fever Saturday morning. He seems to be better today, but we're both working from home to given him time to recover. Jrex can't leave me alone with Brex since I can't lift the baby into his high chair, or into my lap for story time, or up the stairs, or into the bathtub, or onto the changing table. The problem is that after a week of me not being able to do what I normally do with him, Brex is OVER it. He wants me and only me, is getting frustrated by the situation, and therefore taking it out on his Dad. Any time Jrex approaches Brex, Brex waves his arms in a 'get away!' motion and then reaches his pudgy arms towards me with tears streaming down his face. It's really sad. Since I feel 'normal', it's easy to want to just pick him up. I'm realizing this is what I caved into the last two go-rounds. Not that Brex was as opinionated then, but I'm so used to being independent, that having to call for help all the time feels humiliating and frustrating. This time I'm really trying to be good.

I may have done a foolish thing this weekend. As I've mentioned, thus far, the only TV that Brex has seen has been sports when Jrex is watching on the weekend or a fun kid show to mesmerize him so I can trim his fingernails. Well, with a little sick kid, a sore belly and a husband stressed out by all the work he needed to do, I turned to Shaun. Friends from daycare have mentioned the show before and I decided to see if Brex would like it. Well... I'd say 'like' is a small, tiny, fragile word for what he felt.

http://www.shaunthesheep.com/clips/
The claymation is whimsical, the music and sound effects mesmerizing, and the story lines are funny for adult and toddler alike. In short, I may have created a monster.

On the other hand, not only did he get all twenty nails clipped, he got a haircut, too!

March 13, 2013

Post-surgery update

My Dad just emailed me some questions. I figured they were worth answering for all four of you still reading this scattered, slap-dash blog.


When the surgeon scoped your interior, did he find other causes of your hernia?
He didn't see anything else wrong and assured us that this would fix it. Unfortunately though, the last two rounds of surgery were one layer up and so they couldn't see what was going on there. As in, they were below my stomach lining and those repairs were above it? Something like that. (I will clarify this with the surgeon when I go in for my follow up in a week and a half. This is my interpretation from what Jrex heard from him).

If so, was he able to repair them?
He did small incisions and was happy with the result and says this should be it.

Did the surgeon do anything differently from prior repairs?
No idea since he couldn't see the details of the prior repairs. His opening seems to be smaller and I'm recovering faster, so that's good.

Is the surgeon pleased with the results?
Yes. But I doubt any surgeon would admit to less! They tend to be over-confident and a little cocky.

How are you feeling?
By Sunday afternoon I was done with the Vicodin (narcotic pain med) and able to just use ibuprofen. Yesterday I got through the day with no naps or pain meds, so I'm feeling pretty good considering. Still sore. Still can't pick up Brex, but I can sit on a stool near him when he's playing and give him lots of hugs. We normally play fairly physical games (him leaning back in my arms, twirls, upside down, fake drops, etc) and I think he is missing that, but overall we're managing.

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A funny side note:
After my second hernia repair, when I was in the recovery room, they kept asking me if I wanted to wake up and I kept saying, "No" and continuing my blissful nap. This time, my surgery was in the afternoon. It meant that Jrex waited to hear what the surgeon had to say post-op and then headed back downtown to pick up Brex from daycare. Which meant a toddler in the waiting room. He kept telling me, "You can't do three hours in recovery this time!" It was rough to force myself out of happy sleep to wake up this time. In fact, I suspect I did it a little too fast cause the ride home was NOT fun (nausea).

A less funny side note:
A freaky thing that happened the post-op evening. We got home, I fell into bed and slept for four or five hours. I woke up because the mutt was whining to get into our room. Jrex had gone out to do some shopping or something, Mom K was home, but not sure what she was supposed to do about the dog. I shuffled out of bed to let the dog into our room. Then I shuffled into the bathroom to get my pain meds. By the time I got to the bathroom, my teeth were chattering and I started to shake. Thankfully, Jrex came in at that moment and helped me back into bed. I was under the covers but still shaking. He took my pulse for the normal 15 seconds. Then he repositioned his fingers and did it for a full minute. I knew that meant something was bothering him. "What's wrong?"

"Has your pulse ever been below 55?"

"No"

"Hmm...Let's get you hydrated and get you some food."

I asked the next day, when my pulse was back to 68 and I felt normal, what was going on. Apparently, my pulse had been 48-52 and irregular. It was likely an after effect of the surgery and not having much to eat or drink for 24-hours, but that was scary! Another time that it's nice to have a doctor for a husband. I certainly take advantage of him a lot.

March 8, 2013

Water in the desert

I thrive on 'words of affirmation'. (From The Five Love Languages)

One of the challenges we've faced as a couple is that each time we move Jrex is my only 'real' friend for a while. Usually once I dive into a church, I get surrounded by people who affirm who I am, my gifts, my friendship, etc. Poor Jrex fights an uphill battle since compliments are not his style. This move has been doubly challenging because we've added a kid to the mix. Therefore, it's taken more time to find a church, and despite having found one, it's taking a while to get connected. Having a kid in tow provides quick connections, but lengthens the time required to achieve depth. As a result, I've not been getting many affirmations. If I ask him to 'tell me something nice', he always responds in a wonderful way. It's good, but somehow, just not as 'real' as if he spontaneously tells me I'm the best wife ever (a girl can dream, right?).

Sadly, the love desert works the other way, too. Jrex's primary way of showing (and therefore of receiving) love is through serving others. Well, that's the one that's hardest for me to do. I'm already doing most of our laundry, much of the childcare, most of the house straightening, and in my oh-so-abundant (not!) leftover energy, various house projects. Therefore, he does most of the cooking, yet in Korean culture, food=love. Sigh. We're both starving each other despite our best efforts.

One of my best friends sent me an email today that was a HUGE help:
What's so great about you?

1.  You are so fun to watch / hear as a mom.  I love your heart for your little boy and how much fun motherhood is for you.
2.  You have modeled perseverance and love in your marriage, in a way I've not seen in anyone else. 
3.  You love life, and you are able to connect with anyone and anything.  :)
4.  You are honest and caring in your communication.  I know you will always tell me the truth—even if I don't think I want to hear it.
5.  You are careful with your friends... I feel safe with you and always have.
6.  You see beyond the exterior of people and into their lives.
7.  You are a constant that I'm so thankful to have in my life.
8.  You have ideas beyond what a normal brain can hold. 
9.  You don't give up - you figure out a way to make things happen, in relationships, in your job, and even with small details.
10. You recognize God's hand in and on your life, and you are mindful of His blessings.
11. You are a great communicator—I have learned so much about communicating what's in my heart because you have been open and patient with me over the years.
Obviously the list could go on, and I could elaborate on each of these things as well. But basically, I just want to let you know that you are
beautiful and loved and appreciated!  I truly don't know what my life would be without you. Thanks for showing up, and for staying through all the stuff we've walked through over the years.  You are more of a blessing to me than you may ever know. 

Part of the point in this fraught and fragile life is to be truly known and truly loved. I think there are points in a marriage where each person feels truly known and truly tolerated. Jrex and I are working on rebuilding our emotional adoring core (we're still enjoying our 'in home' date nights), but while we're working on that, it was wonderful to hear from someone else who truly knows me and has the words that help me feel loved.

March 4, 2013

Yikes! Where did I go?


I just scrolled through my last few posts and realized there's nothing personal in them. Sorry about that! Here are the latest tid-bits.

I'm getting my THIRD round of hernia surgery on Friday. Yes, the sucker came back again. I'm going to a different surgeon (cause, "fool me twice, shame on me"). The new guy's going to go in with a camera first and make sure all systems are normal.

Mom K is arriving at 10 PM the night before the surgery. We'll have Friday morning for Brex to get used to her, then they'll drop me off for surgery, take Brex to daycare and come back to sit in the hospital until I come out. Maybe we'll see if Mom wants to go to daycare with Brex instead? I won't be able to pick him up for two weeks and I'm a little worried he will be very testy about a Mom substitute when he hasn't had a chance to adjust to her first.

In preparation for not being able to pick him up, I bought him a toddler bed off of Craigslist. This way, neither Mom K with her severe osteoporosis or me with my sutured stomach will have to pick him up to put him in a crib. Brex is DELIGHTED to be able to tumble into and out of his OWN bed. I put the step stool next to the bed and he's quite adept at using it as a launching pad. I can change his diaper on the floor. He's happy to climb and descend the steps under his own steam. Mom will be here for a week, Jrex will have to do drop off and pick up since I can't drive. We'll make it work. It's just, sigh... I'm SO over this whole process.

Sunday we invited another couple over for brunch. They have many eerie similarities to us: he's Asian (Chinese), she's Caucasian. They moved here when she was 7 months pregnant. She's in the arts (Museum Registrar), he's one of Jrex's peers at work (another Physician/Scientist). They have a perfect child. He does most of the cooking (says it's an extension of the experimentation he does in lab). We had a great time despite the fact that I'm becoming the Crazy Lady who works from home and talks WAY too much any time there's a breathing human in the same room. Over share with the poor cashier at the grocery store? Check. Accost my poor neighbors? Yup. Interrupt our gentle, quiet guest? Sigh.

Still working on the office decor project. We found out Friday that the Exec (who is over the two people we've been working with) vetoed the overall direction we were heading in. Not only do we have to revamp, we have to have a new deck ready to show our general manager on Thursday to then send to the Exec on Friday. The four of us went off to look for inspiration last Friday and did Show and Tell today. There were common elements we'd all found, so we're using those as the main motifs moving forward. I started the phone call by announcing that I'd jumped into Eeyore's camp and was totally demoralized. By the end, it felt like we were back on the same team and I felt excited again.

Jrex and I continue to do our weekly 'in home' date nights. We migrated away from take out and Jrex did an amazing meal for our most recent one. I realized that as much as I LOVE his food, part of what makes it feel like a 'date' is not having to spend the evening cleaning, cooking and cleaning. So we'll go back to the take out concept. We just need to find places open on a Monday night...

In the next month it looks like we'll be having a constant flow of overnight guests as well as out of town friends stopping by for dinner or brunch. It's surprising how many of our far flung friends swing through Dallas to visit family or for work. Having a house that can accommodate the influx has restored my enjoyment of hospitality.

So c'mon down, y'all!

February 20, 2013

Observations of Korean culture based on Korean Dramas

My sister emailed this and I'm publishing it here with her permission. I think she's brilliant, but I'm prejudiced. While some of this is more true of the drama world than the Korean one, there are some truths that do seem to play out in my experience.

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So since I'm on my Korean drama kick, I thought I would try and write down some repeated themes. I realize that these observations do not necessarily correspond to real life, just like American television shows don't really represent us.




The similarities to regency novels: The male hero(s) are usually very handsome and very wealthy. This sometimes translates to also being spoiled or workaholics (depending on how they got their wealth). The girls are usually poor, sometimes ordinary looking, but tend to have lots of personality (e.g., quirky, self-reliant, feisty). Through the process of the show, the guys become more humble and realize the importance of the people around them. The women become more mellow, learn to trust, and also have more confidence in themselves.

Korean actors are masters of subtle non-verbal communication. And as you know well, silence is always an answer. It doesn't always mean no, it tends to mean whatever is the more difficult or hurtful choice.

All Korean actors, male and female, seem to be able to cry at the drop of a hat. It's actually pretty amazing. It must be a requirement during auditions.

Flirting tends to take the form of insulting each other. One of my favorite expressions is "Do you want to die?"

Dating is never straight-forward. It's a power struggle of who is needier than the other. The one who confesses first 'loses'.

When a couple or family members really fight, it quickly goes to hyperbole (e.g., I wish you never existed! or I hate you, you're the worst daughter ever!) These usually take the form of screaming matches.

Actually hyperbole and exaggeration are used quite often in all sorts of communication. Similarly to sarcasm to East-coasters.

Female villains are WAY scarier than male ones. They can skin you alive with their words and manipulate the hell out of other characters. The male bad guys tend to be gruff and bark and yell but ultimately aren't as effective.

Telling someone you like them is a big deal. 'I like you' often is the equivalent of saying 'I love you'. In direct contrast, Korean songs are the sappiest, most verbally affectionate songs I've ever heard.

Touching someone, even on the shoulder or hand, is crossing a boundary.

Historical dramas tend to have more of an emphasis on bromances. There isn't as much opportunity for the different genders to relate so the strong relationships are often between men.

Homosexuality comes up more as a topic in recent dramas, including gay characters. The portrayal is usually positive, but the language used is pretty brutal. For example, the word for gay translates as "not a man."

In three separate shows sons have referred to their Moms as girlfriends, lovers or pretended to date them. It is a teasing, affectionate, flirty relationship (they aren't actually lovers). In all three instances the Moms were widows. Since most of these shows are watched by women it makes me wonder if this is the sort of love and affection Moms wish they got from their adult sons.

Eating and food is a big deal. You show your love to someone by cooking for them and feeding them. In one scene a Mom is dying and desperately needs to go to the hospital. But she's just discovered her long lost son and insists on making him a meal for the first time instead. Affection and respect is shown by putting food in someone's rice bowl. Intimacy is putting food in their mouth.

I'm understanding more the emphasis on blood and bloodline that you've talked about. Well, I don't understand it, but I can see it's an important concept. When a child fails, the whole family fails because all of the blood is inter-connected and therefore failure was there in the parents and grandparents. Conversely, if a parent is a criminal or murderer the child's life is ruined because being a murderer is in their blood. Rich and successful people are inherently more brilliant, they are a better class of people because of their genetics. Granted, these sentiments are usually held by the villains but they are widespread and prevalent.

Anyway, I'm having fun. Here's a youtube video from one of my favorite dramas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCI4L1ZScZ0. I think one of the main reasons I like it is that the two main characters are so supportive of each other, they don't do the push/pull of a relationship that so many of the dramas do. For example, there is one episode where she gets engaged to someone else. I thought, okay, they're going to have an episode or two where he gets upset and misunderstands. Instead, the next time he sees her he says, you did it to save my life, didn't you? I like it when plot lines surprise me.
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Pretty interesting, huh?

February 15, 2013

Second career

A friend of ours is considering buying a house. She sent over the listing and photos. As much as I love our house (and despite all my complaints, it really is perfect for us right now), I got really excited looking at the listing. It's in another city, has nothing to do with my life, but I just love looking at houses.

If I ever retire as a designer, I think I'd make a great realtor. I'd get to spend all day helping people find their dream house. Heck, I'd get PAID to be the nosy neighbor going to all the open houses.

Of course, the other things on my life list include traveling around the world, running an orphanage in a foreign country, editing and publishing a book my Grandpa wrote (great plot and characters, non-empathetic writing style), getting back into an art studio or being a full-time foster mom. None of them are particularly compatible with the others, huh?

All that is to say, if I could, I'd spend today scrolling MLS listings...


February 8, 2013

Ideas shmideas

For my job, we often do creative brainstorms. I find that I usually assume that the big idea will come from someone else. I often dismiss my ideas as not being BIG enough.

We've been tasked with updating the office decor. We found out a week ago that our general manager, Boss Lady, wants everything done for a potential internal event in March. One of my coworkers is affectionately known as Eeyore (truly), the other is called T1gger. Gentle Man doesn't have a nickname, nor do I, since we're somewhere in the middle of their two extremes.

In the absence of a Studio Lead/Creative Director, we've been meeting weekly via phone with Enthusiastic Creative Exec out of our Bost0n office. He suggested we take the decor cue from our location overlooking a regional airport. So we went away and started mulling around the idea of an Aviat1on theme for the office.

When we had our brainstorm conversation on Monday, T1gger had some very specific ideas. I'd been up in the middle of the night thanks to Brex on Friday and had written down concepts for an hour and a half. I let T1gger take the lead but nothing was sparking. Then I mentioned my ideas as well as wanting to show three mood boards to our internal people. I've learned the hard way that it never pays to shortcut the 'client' process just because we're doing something internal.

Eeyore and Gentle Man both started saying things like, "Well, we don't want to rush this just because she has a deadline." And, "We need to make sure that it's innovative and not just decor based."

Right. If I let them go on and on around those themes, as they are prone to do, we'd have squat for actionable items. So I jumped in, "I completely agree. Give me some tangible ideas for what innovation looks like."

Eeyore started generating (great) ideas instead of just shooting everything down. I'd found a couple key photos that I shared and we all loved the ideas and started building off of them.

After that call I got really excited and dived into creating mockups and gathering assets. Eeyore kept telling me that it was too soon for mockups, but I kept going.

Yesterday we did a conference call with Enthusiastic Creative Exec. Eeyore went through the three mood boards and ECE was really excited about one of them and pulled elements from the other two. I ended up showing him the mockups as well as some of the jpgs I'd found. He loved where we were going and added in some other ideas that were great additions.

The thing is, as I did the mockups, I felt like all I was doing was the decor based solution that Eeyore wanted to avoid. It's another level where I'm a very pragmatic designer. I felt like our main mission by March is to get rid of white walls and gray cubicle surfaces. I don't think my solutions were/are ground shattering, but they'll change the feel of the office. I also found a site that sells furniture made from airplane parts. NOT cheap, but changing the desk in the reception area and the table in our main conference room would be worthwhile hero pieces. What was affirming was how much ECE liked my mockups.

I guess I shouldn't dismiss myself so readily.