Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Metropolitan Tri-State Lens

I wonder if other areas of the country would treat this incident the same.

As I waited in the Newark-Penn train station today for my Acela express train to D.C. (the only way to go...at least on an expense account) I noticed all the DELAYS popping up on the board.  When I asked some folks what was up on such a beautiful sunny day, I learned a "trespasser had been struck".  And so it goes in the NY-NJ-CT Tri-state area....it's not about a victim, it's about a trespasser.  It's not about the tragedy, it's about the commuter delays.

And although my train left on time, we were restricted to a much slower speed than the famed Acela express...and there were about 5 announcements apologizing for the delay due to "police activity", but no mention of the incident and its sorry outcome.

On an unrelated note, I was in my car on the way to the train when the "national emergency broadcast signal" was tested.  Anyone else hear it and think it was a bust?  First they announced it was coming and they'd be "off air" during the signal for about 3 minutes, then a sound and garbled message came on, then silence for about 2 minutes.  Good thing "this is just a test, this is only a test"

Monday, November 7, 2011

The (Unbearable) Insanity of Life

It has been some time (again) since I attended to my blogging.  So here's a little randomness that is the insanity of my life.

Work Travel.  All. The. Time.  I'm actually holding up quite well, as is my loving and patient husband, but my gosh it has sped life up so much!  Gone last two weeks.  This week away only one overnight.  Next week gone 4 days again....isn't it Thanksgiving immediately after that?  They started playing Christmas music in the stores...I'm still disbelieving it isn't August.

Hair Art?  I actually paid $260 to my hair salon on Friday.  And I didn't buy a single product.  That was JUST for service.  Hubby wonders if I might try his barber at $12/visit.  Meanwhile I think of how many times I pass something up in the same price range (small piece of artwork perhaps?) and yet I shell this out every 6 weeks or so for my hair!

Fall Back.  My gosh I needed that hour this weekend.  Hubby didn't think me saying at 7:30PM on Saturday - oh good, it is daylight savings time again...it is really only 6:30PM so I can get another hour of work in and still get to bed at reasonable time was the best use of the hour...but I did.

Storm Debris.  Like everyone else in the area, we removed our broken tree limbs and stacked them by the street imagining the town will eventually come to claim the mulch materials.  Hubby was given a gold star for his efforts, and maybe a purple heart comes next since he sliced his finger on his new saw pretty good as well.  I keep telling him Artists shouldn't do labor that messes with their valuable hands....but he's multi-talented that way.
Kitty Yoga.  Our strange little Penny-kitty has taken on a new habit.  She sits in a yoga-like position so she can play with her back feet and tail...no lie, sometimes she is in this position for a good 20 minutes.  It's enough to crack us up every time.

Sleepus Interuptus.  I spent one of those anxiety anticipatory nights last night having a 7:30 AM presentation meeting I was totally prepared to deliver, but convinced client would be unhappy. Beside being convinced of utter failure to deliver on the project requirements, what was my number one anxiety?  Sleeping through the meeting!!  Hence awaking every 20 minutes to check the clock.  Anyway, end result - I was up and ready on time, delivered the presentation and....surprisingly...client ecstatically happy.  Meanwhile, I am pleased, but also totally confused on my own judgment that led me to believe my work sucked.

Conflicted Grocery Shopping.  On Friday I was starving when I went to the grocery store.  Everyone knows this is a big mistake.  Never go hungry to a food shopping errand.  The list be damned.  I had in my mind this desire to stock up on healthy foods and began with bananas, fresh local apples, almonds, and pre-cut veggie packs. But then I saw the sale on ice cream - two gallons for $5 and snapped up the deal.  And then I hit frozen foods.  I got back on track and purchased a bunch of smart ones for lunches and quick dinners, but also picked up a frozen pizza that was calling my name.  I went down the bread aisle and got some whole wheat, high fiber bread...and then picked up the Helluva Good Onion Dip and chips on the impulse buy.  Conflicted much?

The Happiness Project.  On advantage of travel is airplane reading time.  I've blown through several books of late, the latest of which is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I'm now reading it a second time and developing an idea for my own project framework.  It has to be achievable in measures...so we'll see.  Regardless, I highly recommend the read...there are some honest and eye-opening moments.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why I love him.

Because Elvis Costello singing "Red Two" with Elmo and Cookie Monster makes him smile...and hum...and spontaneously giggle...and suddenly sing-song "Red Two...." when I think he is sleeping.



I gotta admit - it's way cute.  Cowabunga!



And he's pretty cute too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ever Get Excited by a Pile of Dirt?

I do!

Nine years ago (December 2002), Hubby and I purchased the Yellow Cottage.  The previous owners, dear friends of ours, insisted on giving us a run-down of every wart and potential disaster on the property.  Full disclosure was NOT a problem here.  One of the major projects they swore should be the next on our list was a complete re-do of the driveway.  Knowing they were right we eliminated any care and feeding of the current cracked, pitted, and shredded driveway.   But then...we never did the big project.

Until now!
Big pile o' dirt!



Grading to avoid any stormwater draining into house.

Leveling and tearing out of old railroad tie retaining wall (to be replace by natural rock wall)

Shovel, shovel.  And finally that old rusty b-ball hoop coming down!

Looking better already.  Luckily they haven't destroyed my overhanging trees...yet.


And what is the best part about this project?  Well...I suppose...that I'm out of town while it is underway.  I'll be joining the pain of parking a block away soon however since it will be 2-3 weeks before it is complete.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Colorado Springs

Information is a powerful thing.  Especially when you've been searching for information for a long, long, time.  My mom was looking for one of her college friends for many years...and finally, one day, her name and contact info popped up in the alumni information.  We made contact, for the first time in over 35 years, and contact led to travel, and a wonderful weekend in Colorado Springs.

We were greeted with warmth and generosity and it was as familiar as our last memories with Linda so long ago.  We immediately jumped into chatting and catching up and I watched with pleasure as Linda immediately fell into calling mom M.L. like she did long ago and they laughed and laughed. 

Linda is THE best hostess.  She greeted us with a printed itinerary but also promises to change anything that was planned.  It totally eliminated that "well, what would you like to do now?" and "I don't know" ugly cycle.Our first day - Friday - was all about home and comfort and incredible food prepared by our hostess.  Jet lag caught up with us and we went to bed early, looking forward to the next day's itinerary.

And then.....

...we awoke to the first snow of the season in Colorado Springs!

We stayed in for a while, watching the snow fly and started a little craft project Linda had cooked up.


But by afternoon, we were at Garden of the Gods and enjoying glorious blue skies. A visit to the trading post, drooling over gorgeous turquoise jewelry was almost as much fun as taking in the incredibly beautiful scenery with Pike's Peak in the background.

Then we got our cowboy on at the Flying W Ranch with some real cowboy waiters, cooks, and entertainment.  Linda (right), mom (center), and Linda's husband Stan....wanted for what?

Mom and me!


We didn't know until we arrived it was dinner AND a show.  Our waiters became the entertainment and man could those guys sing and play.

Stan was on the formal itinerary as well...showing us how beautiful woodworking is done.


But we were just as happy to sit, talk, sip, and watch the wildlife outside.

Thanks Stan and Linda for a glorious weekend of laughter, love, and fun.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bedroom inspirations

I've been trying for some time to get inspired about our master bedroom.  Yesterday, while shopping with T I was trying to figure out what to do with the room again.... We now have a painting we love over the bed, a coverlet I picked up at a tag sale in a gorgeous teal blue that picks up some of the tones of the painting.  And that's it.  That's all I've got.  We stood in Penney's and then in Target, and I was paralyzed.  What to do?  What decision to make?  Eventually we reasoned our way into two choices to take home.

And I was happy.

And then I put them on the bed.

And I was UNhappy.

As Hubby said, "Neither of them Wow me."  
And that was it exactly.  

So today, I do what I never do.  I went shopping for a 2nd consecutive day on my heavily protected homebound weekends. 

And as I walked toward the door with my awkwardly repacked bedding to return, I saw the hydrangeas.  And I thought how happy they make me and how beautiful they are and how they actually have many of the same tones we love in the painting....

 

So I returned the bedding and stopped in to Pier One, TJ Maxx, Christmas Tree Store, and finally Bed Bath and Beyond.  I did my usually indecisive shopping dance.  Circulating through the bedding department in some crazy patterned zig-zag.  Picking things up and putting them down repeatedly.  I stumbled upon a similar quilted matelasse coverlet to the one I had bought at the tag sale and it had shams available to purchase...so I picked those up and decided I would get those at least. Making this decision was a big deal....because I truly do find this stuff paralyzing.

Then I wandered into the duvet section and started tossing different items down on the floor with my teal coverlet.  Some interesting things started happening but I still wasn't sure.  

So, as is my habit, I put them all back.

Then I walked to the front of the store.  And suddenly I stopped.  Hell.  I have to try something.

So I headed back with an empty cart and I filled it to the brim with duvet cover, sheet set, some accent pillows (from different bedding set...not all matchy matchy).  On the way back I stopped in the decorative pillow aisle...seeing nothing...but as I turned to leave I caught the sight of something amazing.

Pillows with hydrangea patterns in exactly the blue/green/purple hues I love.

Paydirt!

When I rang out I winced at the total, but if my search is over, it may all be worth it.

I came home and stripped the bed...put on the new sheets (I know, I didn't wash them but who has the patience for that now really??) added shams, stuffed my old comforter in the duvet coverlet and made up the bed.  I pulled out pillow after pillow from the bags (I think I bought like 7!) and stacked and layered.  I took two more of the hydrangea patterned pillow( these with more bright tones) and threw them on the window seat and stepped back.  

Holy crap. This might just work.










After some pillow editing with hubby's help, I'll be reducing our total outlay to a semi-reasonable amount.

Now on to picking out window treatments, flooring, paint, lamps, and new furniture....this could take a while.

50/50 was almost a disaster

Spoiler alert.  If you plan to see 50-50, don't read this until you do.


So Saturday was distraction duty day for my dear friend T.  I sent her an email with three options earlier in the week.


1.       Ambitious, exciting, cultural – very distracting
2.       Fun, girlie, entertaining – distracting, but lower key
3.       Soft, easy, couch-potato-esque – distracting, but VERY chill


We decided, the middle one was juuuuust right.  So I took her off for lunch, a movie, and some shopping.  We hit the movie theater first to figure out showings and times.  Neither of us were up on current movie titles so we actually had to go old school and check out the binder with movie synopses to make a choice.  We narrowed it to three and then T abdicated.  I did a little eeny-meeny-minie-mo-ing at the ticket machine, and we were on for 50/50.  


Then we hit my favorite mall restaurant - Stir Crazy - cause it has fresh yummy Thai fusion food and is right next to the movie theatre.  And it is the perfect accompaniment to drama discussions.  And drama was the discussion of the day, hers, and to mix it up, we added some about others too.  Quite literally there was discussion of attempted suicides, murders, and other very serious mayhem.


Sometimes I'm really happy I lead a fairly boring life.


We hit the candy counter after all that yummy fresh Thai food so T could get something sticky for the movie.  Normally I'm on board with that, but I was pretty full of Thai, so I opted for a small (which equates to half six-pack size) soda.  Praying I wouldn't have to leave the movie 3 times to pee, we snuggled in for 25 minutes of previews....which all looked good, but also suspiciously looked like real Christmas tear jerkers.  


Hmmmmm.  Usually the previews are thematically linked to the movie you are seeing to catch the right demographic and movie tastes....


As the movie progressed, I thought - it's Seth Rogan, it can't be anything but cute funny right?  Ummmm.  Diagnosis.  Broken hearts.  Dysfunctional mother relationships.  Alzheimer father.  Shit. Shit. Shit.  Have I actually brought my highly stressed out friend to view a family horror show with possible death of the main cute character at the ripe old age of 28?  Shit. Shit. Shit.  Are we both gonna walk out of here even more distraught and depressed?  


I kept tearing up throughout the movie and watching my friend out of the corner of my eye.  Wipe the eyes, drink soda, wipe the nose, drink soda, wipe the eyes again, drink soda.  


Then the Doctor announces.  The chemo, which has killed one of your cancer buddies and is killing another, has done nothing to help you.  So we have to go take this ENORMOUS tumor from your spine now and you might not survive the surgery.  Alzheimer dad stares off into space.  Cheating girlfriend is gone.  Crazy therapist he yelled at is out of picture.  Nutty mom is smothering him.  Shit. Shit. Shit.


It gets even more dramatic and I don't know if I'm more worried about the main character or my friend slowly munching her candy next to me.  


Finally...agonizingly....it resolves.  He lives.  He thrives.  He finds love with crazy therapist.


As the lights come up.  I turn to my friend and before I can speak she says, "Thank God he lived.  If he had died I might have totally lost it."  And we look at each other and start laughing hysterically as I proclaim, "My God...I was thinking the exact same thought.  We sit through most of the credits laughing. 


And as we continued on with our day I thought: That was good.  That one moment of connection and laughing was the perfect thing we BOTH needed.  


Oh.  That and the shoes.  Cuz nothing says girl day of fun like new shoes. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Need to Believe

I've been profiled.  Many times.  As is the wont of many corporate organizations as they team-build, develop talent, and sometimes just want to peek into the brains of their middle managers, I've been through several of those psychological evaluation exercises.  One thing that has consistently emerged is my "need to believe".  Our MERGER has, at times, shaken that belief to its core.  But eventually I came out of the dark places and have been trying to emerge back into that sweet space of believing again. 

I seem to have one foot still stuck back in the dark places though.  Not by my own choice, but by the fact that gripped around my ankle are all the negative whispering (sometimes screaming) voices of my pre-MERGER colleagues.  Between this horrible economy creating a dearth of opportunities and the MERGER identifying and acting upon redundancies, we are slicing and dicing ourselves to a shadow of our former glory. 

I'm actually not averse to this.  Or more accurately, I understand the need for this.  But as always, the human side is heartbreaking, and the desire of our organization to treat these earth shattering changes (in a 100 year old company where nothing ever used to change!) as business as usual is undermining my shaky faith. 

A meeting was recently held here.  A meeting that used to be the LEADERS of the organization coming together to share info.  With the new regime, I quickly recognized this was going to be a meeting of the desperate, uninformed, and marginalized.  When all eyes turned to me with questions about how was the new organization thinking, I found myself on the hot seat.  Struggling to keep my new upbeat believing attitude in the face of such evident disdain for the current administration and such obvious dissatisfaction with the direction (or lack of) for our business. 

Is it no wonder I'm welcoming travel more than I thought I would?  Getting out of the FORMER headquarters and going to the CURRENT headquarters is like a breath of fresh air.  Going to meetings with divisions that are operating in the black and away from my former business line which is stuck in the red.  Meeting with people with hopeful attitudes, happy to work for a good solid company with a future and skipping meetings with people who are filled with the need to continually rail against the "machine". 

Where is the truth?  Is it in the promise of the future, or the lost of the past?  Is it in the hard nosed business culture or the warm and fuzzy family environment?  I'm still hoping for a spot in the middle - a balance between business, growth and prosperity, and an enjoyable, inspiring place to work.  But how to make it happen? 

Damned if I know. 

So right now, my focus is on my little corner of the world and releasing my foot from the death grip and out of the dark hole.  Then I'm trying to keep my team buoyant and upbeat and delivering success.  Once our boat is done rocking, hopefully we can reach to the drowning in the pool and hope they don't swamp our little life raft and pull us all under again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Serenity Now!

Over the last 9 days a friend of mine has been pushed to the brink of a nervous breakdown. With legal implications still pending, I'll keep the details to a minimum, but suffice it to say that family can be your best ally or your worst enemy, and if the latter, they know how to deploy emotional terrorism better than any other human being on earth.  When I speak to her I never know if I'm going to get the calm, competent, intelligent woman I have known for 20 years, or a sobbing hysterical self-doubting unrecognizable person.  Yesterday, I sat with her and calmly talked for nearly an hour about updates to her situation.  Not 30 minutes after I left, she called me at home fraught with tension and gasping for breath between crying jags and just needing me to talk her down. 

Serenity Now!  My brain shouted thinking of the mad mad Costanza family.  In reality, I had to tell her she was not insane, unreasonable, or wrong.  I had to tell her to breathe....just breathe.  I suggested a cold cloth, a quiet dark room, and chocolate...dark rich chocolate, to get the right endorphins flowing.  And I volunteered to lead her to a day of distraction this weekend.

Later that night, unable to sleep, I found my mind beginning to construct a Serenity Now Mantra that might help her in moments when I can't jump on the phone and talk her down.

SERENITY NOW MANTRA

I am a good person.
To be a good person I do not need to subsume my own wants and needs.
To be a good person I do not need to accept toxic behavior and forgive all deeds.
To be a good person I do need to be kind, be honest and be real.

I am a strong person.
To be a strong person I do not need to do it all myself.
To be a strong person I do not need to know all the answers.
To be a strong person I do need to accept help and be true to my core.

I am a person of truth.
To be a person of truth I do not need to explain all of my actions.
To be a person of truth I do not need to give advance notice of my intentions.
To be a person of truth I do need to keep my motivations true to my values and when I speak, speak honestly.

I am worthy of being loved.
To be loved I do not need to change.
To be loved I do not need to beg.
To be loved, I simply need to be my true self and to offer love in return.

So, my lovely friend....I hope you find your serenity....if not now....soon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's really only Monday?

Well, actually at 12:03AM it's actually Tuesday....but it's been a very long day.  It actually began about 28 hours ago, when I plugged in my computer to prep for today's meetings.  I was feeling pretty unprepared to facilitate a six hour meeting on brand positioning for one of our divisions. As a matter of fact, I was trying to remember what EXACTLY this division even did!  So at about 5PM I plugged in and began reviewing files, websites, reports, meeting notes, brochures, and competitor materials.  At about 3AM, after doing this an several other procrastinated(procrastinating) tasks and absorbing way too much Sister Wives (where did that little reality tv gem come from...???) radiating from the hotel television, I finally fell into bed.  Of course the alarm showed no mercy with a piercing yelp at 6AM and I was up and on to my first meeting of the day at 6:45 am.  It is now 12:12am and I'm in PJs, in bed, surfing for more Sister Wives and disbelieving that I have four more days to this week. 

So I ask again, it's really only Monday?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Life Chronicle

I've noticed many bloggers I used to follow are posting more sporadically and as I've repeatedly stated...me too.  I will, however, give myself credit for sticking with this for as long as I have - over 3 years - which beats my former diary record by a good 2 years, 50 weeks and 4 days. 

But this weekend was a wake-up call for why I should try more diligently to continue.  I spent about 24 hours in the highly enjoyable company of a dear friend from long ago.  A truly wonderful woman with whom I was fortunate to spend those painful junior high and high school development years.  And as we talked (and talked and talked and talked) every time we tried to talk about the "good old days" I found tremendous holes in our memories. Likened to swiss cheese is my sad little brain.  

We spent an hour or so spying on old high school "friends" on facebook.  Hating on those who have aged better and more beautifully than us....enjoying far too much when the result appeared to be the opposite.  Essentially we were reverting to our immature 15 year old selves...trying to shun the cliques who were actually shunning us.  Yes RASCK you know who you were.  We talked about the teenagers in our lives and the different experience they are having growing up and I found myself wishing I had been granted the opportunity at their age to blog, tweet, and facebook every possible (non)newsworthy moment and thought of my life.  This of course with the caveat that I would also need to have operated with an intelligent adult level of judgment on appropriate information sharing. 

While it may be impossible to recreate those teen years, the early 20's when I was beginning an adult life, and those 30's when I was growing into a fully-cooked human...I could, with some stick-to-it-ive-ness chronicle my 40's! 

After all, I'm nearly halfway to 50.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Two City Living

As is my pattern right now, I alternate between my home office (White Plains NY) and the corporate headquarters (Denver CO) a few other location trips in between.   I've been traveling nearly every other week for the past several months.  In the process I've started to learn a few things about two city living.

  1. Always travel with your GPS.  Even though it is one more clunky electronic device to get through security, it is a must when you are in a strange city.  Of course, my family would say it is a must for me even it my home city since I am...um...directionally challenged.  And I freely admit it is true.  My Tom-Tom is my friend.
  2. Get smart about packing.  This week I decided to go buy some low-budget but servicable work outfits here in Denver (Thank You Target) and also a portable wardrobe storage closet (Thank You IKEA) and leave them in the Denver office.  Using Hotel laundry and dry-cleaning services 24 hours before check-out means I can easily leave behind a week's worth of clean clothes and can travel with a little week-ender bag.
  3. Go electronic.  My laptop weighs a ton...but what really breaks my back is all the paperwork.  This week, I observed one of the executive assistants in our Denver office using an unusal pen.  Turns out it is a very special device indeed, which allows you to record everything you write and store it electronically. I immediately placed an order and envision I will be traveling with much less paper and file records in the future.  I'm sure I'll devote a future post to the "Live Scribe" system (http://www.livescribe.com/)
  4. Sleep when you can.  Although there is a two hour difference, I rarely suffer from jet lag and adjust pretty quickly.  However, I do find that I sleep less.  A lot less.  I go to bed late, I get up early, and I have wierd middle of the night wakefulness.  I've taken to ordering a pay per view movie - not to watch - but to put me to sleep....and I think I wake up when the movie stops. So, I'm trying to learn to really go down for sleep early to try and get the 6 hours a night I need to be upright (if not function at a high level).
  5. Re-entry can be bumpy.  I often fiind no matter how much I really really really can't wait to get home to my honey and my kitty and my own bed I often walk in the door in a crap-ass mood.  I think it may have something to do with that week-long wierd sleep thing, high-tension work, high altitude dehydration, and my natural beeyotch self.
So in a little more than 24 hours I'll be home (oops, that reminds me - gotta get my boarding pass!). 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hydrangea Heaven

After my last post...I needed a breath of air, so wandered out into my garden.  One thing you can say about the wet spring and hot summer we had is the hydrangeas loved it.  And I mean LOVED it.  After 7 years of waiting for the hydrangea bushes to produce...anything...this year they burst with abundance.

And I've determined to make that abundance count.  I asked around (cuz why research on the internet when you know gardeners with opinions you trust) and learned that the key to keeping dried hydrangeas is to wait until they begin to dry on the bushes.  And so I've waited impatiently for this perfect moment.  And despaired that hurricanes and drenching rains would ruin my chances....but mother nature smiled upon my garden aspirations and my home now looks like Hydrangea Heaven.




Eat your heart out Martha Stewart.

9.10

It is September 10th, 2011.

Today I have written a post about 9-11.  Actually I've written about 18 posts and deleted every one of them.

I attempted to be smart and sentimental and eloquent.  I attempted to put to words the myriad of feelings from sorrow, to anxiety, to exhaustion, to pride, to shame, to irritation, to fear....but all I can really say is I remember.   I know where I was.  I remember the shock.  I remember praying with a group at work, even though I don't really believe.  But after all, I didn't really believe this could happen either and I was so wrong.

But most of all I remember one name and one face.  And while I can claim only a passing acquaintance, it is the single most important element of remembering this day. One soul among 3,000.  One person whose substance I could touch, and whose loss I could feel.

So tomorrow, Rick O'Connor, I remember you.

A View from My Seat

Today I met VP in our Manhattan office for a meeting.  Normally we are in a conference room that faces a brick wall.  Today, the conference room was double-booked, so they moved us to a free office on the opposite side of the building, where the view was.....


...just a little better.  Yes, that is THE iconic Chrysler building.  VP and I decided we would like to park ourselves in this office most any day.  Between that and the gorgeous early September day, it was hard to keep my mind and eye on work today.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hooky Day....

What do you do on a day predicted to have potential for drenching downpours when you have a humongo pile of work on your desk with screaming deadlines?

Go to Yankee Stadium to get wet and watch them lose an extra inning squeaker?


Me too.

Note - day made possible by my (preMERGER) former CEO, who took Hubby and me to the game as a thank you for my hard work over past couple of years on his projects.   This obviously made the work deadline issue a little easier to manage. Great seats - 18 rows up just behind home plate...but NOT covered from rain.  We had an awesome time anyway.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Feeling powerless...

Despite the desire of IRENE to play havoc with our plans, we survived and actually thrived on our vacation.  The storm swung well west of us (sorry Vermont) and pounded the interior of New England much more so than the coastal region.  We certainly did experience the storm and in a very scientific way - feeling each "band" as it swung around the large circular range of activity.  In between each band (dark skies, gusting winds) there were short periods of soft breezes and sunshine.  It was a very manic-depressive type of event.



Power was lost early on...and I'm using Power in the broadest sense.  Our first power lost was feeling powerless when we arrived and found the property manager who was supposed to be the caretaker of the rental home, was in fact, stuck in North Carolina.  His wife kindly handed us the key and informed us she had no concept of how the property should be prepared for the storm, how the hurricane shutters worked, if the outdoor furniture would be dismantled and stored (or should be), and how to work the home generator system.

Hmmm.

After some discussions by phone and email with the property owner, she asked us to please "TEXT" the property manager.  Here is our text series:

Me:  "We are renting the Txxxx house.  We were told you would handle house prep for storm but you are not here!"
Me:  "Your wife said we are on our own.  Have you made plans for furniture, grill, shutters, etc.?"

Him: "Yes"

[see smoke coming from my ears]

Me: "Ok.  Can you share what they are?"

Him: "Why.  If something needs to get done it will."

[see major flames now spouting from my mouth and sparks flying from my eyes]

Me: "That answer is not satisfactory."

....this exchange continued until he finally assured me he had a crew on standby and all would be handled....

Then, no one showed up.  So we packed up the outdoor furniture, overturned the picnic table, figured out how to use (although we didn't deploy them) the hurricane shutters, and inspected the paperwork in the closet on the generator.  We got out our games and lanterns and determined to enjoy our stormy seclusion.



Needless to say, when we became ACTUALLY powerless about one hour into the storm, and the generator kicked on with an unhealthy weaze that slowly and surely became the sound of a battery of machine guns locked inside a metal tank (at about 3AM), I was less than pleased with the property manager. 

When the cops showed up with a noise complaint, we happily provided the property manager's name.  And with the cops came a greater responsiveness.  If we had known that, we would have reported ourselves much earlier.

Our powerless situation continued on our arrival home when we found a pool full of leaves and debris, and a circuit breaker that had blown leaving our kitchen (of all rooms) without power for a week.  That's one way to clean out the fridge!

But, all complaints aside, I would still consider the vacation a rousing success.  The weather was spectacular as soon as IRENE cleared the area, the power was eventually returned, the food was great, the company was even better, and I actually turned off the blackberry by mid-week.






Only 11 months and 3 weeks until we can go back.
Check out hubby's spectacular Cape images here

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Define Crazy

Crazy just may be heading off to a Cape Cod vacation during a Hurricane Watch/Warning along the New England Coastline. 

We weighed all the various advisories, watched all the models, called the property owner, property manager, and even local police.  We've monitored weather.com, NOAA, and every other possible source of weather news.  And we still just don't know.

We do know that last year we left the Cape early because of Hurricane Earl and it was not much of an event.  However, we also know that you can't assume that will be the case here.

I think I like Craig Allen (local 880 CBS weather guy) the best.  He indicates caution, talks about reality checks and the fact that while not "the storm of the century" that some would like to create panic around, there are real dangers here...especially for flooding.  He also talks about significant impacts, but doesn't try to make you feel like you'll be trapped in a Wizard of Oz moment.

So, we've secured our home, we took in all of the lawn furniture, strapped the outdoor storage boxes to the fence, pulled my car into the garage.  We lowered the water level in the pool just in case we were to get that 10-12 inches of rain.  Not much more we could do at home. 

We know the house we are renting has hurricane shutters and is on the bay side so it is more sheltered from big gusts in from ocean.  We have packed batteries, flashlights, candles, water, and non-perishable food stuffs to get us through a day or two. 

We are heading off at 5AM.

So, I don't really think we are crazy...sort of...at least not as crazy as those Hurricane Hunters who fly into the eye of the storm, right?  (Don't worry Mom - will check in frequently so you know we are ok).

Fingers crossed that the rest of the vacation is boring as hell.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

6 days and 14 hours, but who's counting

Once again we'll make our trek northward to Cape Cod for our vacation.  And other than the fact that I can't seem to locate my Teva sandals anywhere, I am ALREADY PACKED!  This has to be a record for me and I'm sure I'll still be running around like a crazy woman the evening before checking and re-checking everything.  But right now...in my mind...I'm halfway to the Cape.

This is our 10th anniversary of this trip.  We began in August of 2001.  We had no idea that one week after our return home, the world would change.  We had no idea that 10 years later, our little piece of the world would have this one week of recurring sanity to keep us going forward.

My VP often shakes his head about my return to this "local" vacation spot year after year.  But there is something so special about the Cape.  Hubby will say it is the light as he gets up at the crack of dawn or earlier each day to capture the special early morning rays with his camera.  Our travel companions will say it is the easy going beachside environment - not crazy like Jersey Shore, not fashion-conscious like the Hamptons.  I say it is the peace.  Even though we have a house full of people and personalities, we know the place like our own hometown and we have the routines in place that we all enjoy.

Chocolate covered bananas in the freezer on Day One through Day Seven.
Zweigel hots imported from my hometown and ready for spot grilling anytime.
The lobster pot dinner event.
Lunch and antique shopping on girl's day out.
Three books in one week.
Broken down beach chairs and old college comforters on the beach.
King Rummy card games after dark.
Nosh-fests on the deck watching the sunset.
Wading in water so cold your toes curl in protest.
Low-tide marathon walks.
Fresh donuts from Flemings.
Fried seafood at the local shacks.
Half-price end of season t-shirt sales.

When we began this journey 10 years ago, Miss Chloe was 6 months old.  Her brother only 7.  Now he is 17 and starting his senior year of high school, and she is 10, taking the world by storm.  We've lived through the years of crying baby, sand rashes, and fear of the water.  We've lived through the bored antisocial teen.  We've lived through personal strife and tragedy, fair weather and foul, an uprooting of the traditional rental location, and all sorts of other ups and downs.  In the end, no matter what, it remains the single week I look forward to the most every year.

As we speak, one more item is getting crossed off the list.  Hubby is talking with our cat-sitter for our time away who's getting educated on dry/wet cat food, water supply, tricky locks, cat toys, cable tv use, etc.

And me?  Well, I just ordered some new Teva's (to be sure if mine remain lost I'll have some for the trip), my bag is packed, my checklist is half done, and I 'm charging up the camera.  Because the anticipation is almost over and the reality is almost here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The First (and Only?) BBQ at Wenderina's in 2011

It has been a busy world.  But I'm sick of saying that.  Instead I'll focus on the fun and downtime I had over the past few days which could have been made better by only one thing...if Hubby had been similarly able to relax.

When my mom comes to visit I live my life by slightly different rules.  I feel that I need and want to make the most of my day and I actually grocery shop and have a list of possible meals to make.  I actually tell people at work that I will be leaving ON TIME and I do (almost).  We sit at an actual table and eat our meals.  That feels more appropriate now with my protective instinct for the new couch, but still...no tv, just food, a table, and conversation....who knew you could get that outside a restaurant?   And while many a regular weekend includes me putting the stinking blackberry in a drawer, I'm often still in some way or form plugged in to the work week.  But not this weekend.  Mama Lou was in the house and I was off the clock.

On Saturday, we had the annual Moms' birthday BBQ celebration for both our Moms since they have the same date of birth.  As I sat in a quiet moment and talked with the women of the gathering, I was interested to learn that my friend Kir who lost her job in January and last I had seen her (Feb) was in a panic about it, had a new story to tell.  "I'm not missing work.  Not. at. all.  And I'm not ashamed to admit it."  She is filling her days with all kinds of activities, hobbies, reading, relaxing, helping a couple of people with some freelancing, but essentially, just making her own rules and living her own life.  Of course a little money coming in would be nice.  But they're making ends meet.  And she's kind of astonished after working her tale off for more than 20 years how nice it is not to have a job.

Tonight in contrast, I sat with my two team colleagues where the statement was made by one, "I'm not having any fun any more at work.  None."  I'm not in that same place....I still have some fun...I'm driven by the adrenalin and now that we are clearing the MERGER and INTEGRATION, I'm finding the groove again.  But there are a lot of times where I'm pretty overwhelmed by the magnitude of my every day list and the feeling of not making a dent.  Not ever. 

As sick as I am of talking about being busy, I'm also sick about whining about finding balance.  Instead, maybe I'll just try to find moments of balance.  Like my poolside dance.  Like dinner with Mom at a table.  And maybe a 2nd BBQ in the backyard. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

"There is no terror in a bang....

....only in the anticipation of it."
- Alfred Hitchcock

Ain't that the truth.  Although I've been known to jump at a loud noise once or twice, the true anxiety in my life comes from anticipation.  Of a deadline, of a test result, of a looming event, of travel to unknown places, of whatever might come around the corner next to surprise me and throw my life into turmoil.

Last night I had completed a long list of chores and I was feeling the typical raised anxiety that only the combination of PMS hormones and a Sunday night fading into Monday craziness can bring my way, so I determined to battle it rather than submit.  I ate dinner with Hubby, catching up on our weekend of separate activities, and then while he napped a bit, I went outside to enjoy the gloaming.


Gloaming Photo courtesy of Google Images

I sat back in my lounge chair and put on my iPod and watched the bats and the dragonflies dance around the air as the sun set behind puffy blue-grey turning to amber-pink clouds.  It was an amazing sight.  And for a short time, I was Zen-like.  I was not thinking about anything, I was just watching and listening.

As the darkness fell, I kept the ear-buds in and the volume up and began the process of putting all the weekend stuff away - the pool floats, the cushions, the hammock...all back into their respective cages in case of rain during the hectic work week.  As I lifted the cushions my iPod turned to some new music I just downloaded - and despite myself I found my hips swaying and my head bobbing and I was soon twirling and dancing my way from one end of the patio to the other...echoing the bat and dragonfly dance and not even caring if the neighbors thought I was a total loon.  (Luckily my patio is pretty hidden from view...) 

At the end I felt like I'd had an aerobic workout and lots of fun and I finished with a big flourish and a dive into the deep end of the pool to cool off.  One of those perfect moments that proves you can sometimes fight off the anxiety of anticipation if you really try...especially if you are willing to just be in the moment.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Come Fly With Me....It's a Good Life

I would love to use this as an excuse for my lack of posting of late, but the truth is, I'm not sure what has been holding it up...a lack of general creativity perhaps?  But what I will say is my life is much different these days than it was only 6 months ago.

The MERGER is nearly a done deal.  And by that I don't mean the signed deal which was completed two years ago this month.  I mean the INTEGRATION, which from here on in will be a capital letter and dirty word from my perspective.  If MERGERs bring polar opposite feelings of anticipation and fear, INTEGRATION delivers on both with a healthy dose of frustration, powerlessness, confusion, and in the end, you are either in a better position than you started or a worse position....but you are never the same.

I am in a "better position" career wise, but I'm also working harder than I ever thought possible to get to the end of each day and each week.  I have a great team of people made up of individuals from both organizations, and I've managed to keep my VP/Boss while Boss Lady and I are now equalized.  My "better position" requires a lot of moving around.  Small moves like running in and out of Manhattan every couple weeks for meetings, and big moves like Europe every few months for conferences or events, and continuing moves like the one I take today which is the constant back and forth from NY to Denver. 

I have been to Denver nearly ever other week since early May.  Every. Other. Week.  It's not a brutal trip - about 3.5 hour flight which is quite doable even in the cheap seats, but it's a bit boring and I'm not sure it helps me to make progress on the actual work on my desk that can help the company succeed.  I'm learning some agility.  I'm learning how to pack and not get anxious about forgetting things.  I've definitely learned to rent my own car while on the road rather than rely on others or just do car services.  And I've learned about the fast food to fine dining choices in the Highlands Ranch area of Denver.  Denver is Mecca for my company - being the U.S. headquarters. And it's an interesting turnaround for me as I always worked in headquarters and had people fly to me!

In today's day and age with internet, video conferencing, and cost constraints (not to mention carbon footprinting), it amazes me that there is this insistence that I be there in person for so many things.  But as long as they don't make me uproot my life and move there (and really, there hasn't even been a whisper of that so far), I'll keep flying the friendly skies back and forth. 

Over the next couple of weeks Hubby and I will be ships passing in the night...he is off now golfing and by the time he returns I'll be on my way to the airport.  Then I return late Thursday night (really Friday wee hours) and he leaves Friday AM for a weekend convention returning Sunday night.  I leave Monday AM for a quick overnight trip to Syracuse and return Tuesday night, and then we have my mom arriving for a long weekend/birthday celebration, and as she leaves on Monday, so do I, off again to Denver for 4 more days. 

This is my life.

And really, should I complain?  I have a loving and understanding husband.  We have two jobs that are stable and paying the mortgage and all the services (lawn, housecleaning, etc) that help us lead this busy life.  We have food in the fridge.  A new Ethan Allen couch.  A (knock wood) healthy family.  And our military family members are thus far in friendly posts. 

Tripping back and forth to Denver is the least I can do to earn this good life we have.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Harry Potter....Lives? You'll See.

Far be it from me to spoil the ending for those who have not yet seen the final movie or read the final chapter.  This is rather uncharacteristic of me as many people know it is hard for me to keep secrets.  I'm someone who processes info by sharing and bouncing thoughts off others...so keeping something solely to myself is tough.  Luckily, I only have to keep the Harry Potter secrets from those who have not read the books or seen the movie. 

I was recently on a long flight to Europe and noticed the man next to me was reading the first book in the series.  Now this, I thought, was one of two things...someone re-reading a favorite or just starting fresh. Eventually there was an opening for conversation and I asked.  His response, "This is all new to me....but my girlfriend insisted I must read the series."  I already knew the answer to my next question, but it still seemed to surprise him...."A new relationship, right?"...."How did you know", he asked.  Because, only a new boyfriend would pick up a book like Harry Potter - if he hasn't already gravitated to it by interest - only a new boyfriend freshly in  love and trying to please his new mate." 

I swear he blushed a little. Sweet.

I have one friend who persists in asking me, "So, tell me, really, does Harry Potter survive or not?" 
And I persist in answering, "You'll see...."

Which drives her batty.

Oh the small joys in life.

Having read all of the books, at least twice each, I've known the ending for some time.  But I've enjoyed rediscovering the stories over and over again by viewing the films or by re-reading the pages of the book that can't possibly fit into the films by picking up the books over and over. 

Last night, I got to enjoy the culmination of the series as it was brought to screen in Part 2 of The Deathly Hallows.  And it was, forgive me, magical.  The visuals were stunning and the acting was pretty darn good.  Of course it lacks the depth of the book, even split into two films it is impossible to infuse all the detail of every battle, every close call survival, and every crushing defeat and death. 

So yes, someone...or rather someones do die. But I'm not telling you who. 

You'll see.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good-bye Old Friend...Hello New

Today we said good-bye to an old friend.  A fluffy, comfy, but a little frayed around the edges friend.  This friend was a perfect fit to us for many years, but you know how friendships can change, become worn out...when you've spent too much time together, you just get a little tired of one another.  And yet...when a friend has been around so long, you are almost molded to one another...you may even find you look a little alike....and as you've aged, you both have your sags...your lumps and bumps in a variety of places...but you love one another all the same.

Good-bye old friend.  We knew you well.  We used you and abused you.  We shared many a good time, and a few bumps and bruises.  You kept our secrets, including helping us hide our money, our kitty's favorite toys, and even a crumb or two, or three....and for all those nights you cradled our asses, we thank you.


And so we welcome a new friend to the home.  A little brighter, a little hipper, a little fresher and ready to take on new challenges, but still humble enough to continue to cradle our asses and serve as a special retreat for those afternoon naps.


New memories await us my firm well framed friend.  And with your grown-up price tag, I expect you to stick around a very long time.

Oh, and I solemnly swear...no eating in your presence...at least until we get used to one another.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Amsterdam Cook-off

During my recent business trip to Amsterdam, we had an evening event dubbed, Culitainment.  This meant hopping on a bus and heading to De Kookfabriek.  Where we quite literally worked for our dinner.

video

This was only a small portion of our prep activity as recorded by a colleague with a time lapse app on his iPhone (I have got to get one of those eventually).  I know it is too fast to see, but I'm in the foreground in the left side (in and out of frame).  My job?  Placing beets in a criss-cross pattern on each plate.

We did not win the context (boo hiss, the fix was in) despite completing our prep and cooking first for EVERY course, giving up part of our dessert for a table that broke one of their dishes, and remaining friendly and working well as a team throughout the night.  BUT we did eat a fine meal, make new friends, drink nice wine, and have a pretty good time.

Who knew a bunch of executives, scientists and engineers could do this?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The New Era of Business Meetings

I have been in Amsterdam this week for international management meetings and it has been a wonderful experience.  I have met so many colleagues from the UK, France, the Netherlands, Chile, Brazil, Poland, Belgium...and on and on....  I must say that 99% of them are simply wonderful, inspiring, warm, intelligent, thought-provoking, and interesting people.  Of course it cannot be perfect.  There are always those that are not in perfect alignment with you...but that is to be expected.

This year's meeting (my first) was, according to all participants, significantly different from others.  It was modeled on the famous TED conference which presents a series of keynote level speakers in 18 minute profile formats to inspire thought and ideas in the meeting participants.  Again...it was not 100% successful, but it was well into the 90% range. 

What did I learn today?
  1. Our industry is becoming commodotized and we must find ways to battle that condition.
  2. Our core business - water consulting - continues to inspire me with the incredible things we accomplish for our clients and our communities.
  3. Our logo is not just our logo...it is a constant reminder that we must thoughtfully evolve or else we may regret the demise of what is instead of celebrating what we can be.
  4. "Digging deeper" is something we should always do when asked by a client or colleague to support them...have we gone the extra steps to ensure success for all?
  5. We must imagine the unimaginable - like arctic deserts from renowned artist Ap Verheggen.
  6. You must balance sacrifice with reward and make decisions for our business and ourselves with that in mind.
  7. We don't need to create a global business in a vacuum...our clients will take us there and will shape it if we allow them to.  We just have to be ready to move!
  8. How to balance (and how fragile balance can be) and how to apply concentration to a goal from renowned artist Madir Eugster.
  9. We must "pay the meter" as we grow our global business by giving back to society in sustainable ways.
  10. Open my eyes to how fast the world of technology is moving by Alexander Klopping - a 24 year old internet prodigy with unbelievable ideas and a grasp of the future possibilities of our world. You can find him on YouTube...but only in Dutch.  I assure you, in person, he translates well into English!
  11. The world can become smaller and the opportunities bigger if we use our own company programs to foster exchanges of staff between our offices and teams.
  12. When something is developed for one purpose, you must review it with an open mind...it may actually have an entirely different and better purpose - from musician Fay Lovsky who played the theremin.... really, go look that one up on Google.
  13. Organizations can take shape from our own viewpoint...and we need not heavily engineer it...if we will only let it evolve naturally.
  14. Entering new markets can be fraught with peril....or rich with reward...enter smartly.
  15. Teams are the key to quality, innovation, and efficiency - use them.
Can you ask much more of a the first day of a one day meeting?  You can...stay tuned for more.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Artistic Balance

This is the name of my husband's business and blog...but it is also a description of one of the highlights of my business meetings in Amsterdam. 

One of our corporate values is balance.  Balance of human and ecology, balance of work and life, balance of land and water, balance of business and sustainable green behaviors.... So to emphasize this value, our company brought in renowned artist Madir Eugster to demonstrate balance in a unique way.

While the video below shows him in a theater with plenty of space, just imagine him perfoming this exact same routine for us in a cramped ballroom in the Amsterdam Marriott.  Note: the video is 8 minutes long, but beautiful and well worth the time. 

Enjoy.  And I hope it makes you think about balance in your own life.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Exhilarating Exhaustion

When is the last time you can say you attended a 2 day meeting and came away with no voice and sore cheeks from laughing so hard, a feeling of euphoria and relief, and a real desire to get out there and KICK SOME SERIOUS ASS???  For me, it was approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes ago.

Wow....what a team.  We've actually managed to keep the cream of the crop (except Amybow....who I'd take back in a heartbeat, but she's a stubborn wench). In fact, we're now actively hiring up to three positions...so if you are a marketing/communications/PR professional in commuting distance to Highlands Ranch CO or White Plains NY and want to come and KICK SOME SERIOUS ASS with us.... I can come to you in the interview with a straight face and say, we have the soon to be realized potential to be one hell of an awesome team.  Yeah we do.

We packed about a week's worth of stuff into 2 days of team building meetings.  And let me just say...the facilitator and the "graphics reporter" totally earned their fees.  They were a stabilizing and creative force within the room, but even more so, they were a collaborative partner before and after the event.  They built an agenda with us, not for us - really listening to our concerns, our needs, our desire for both the warm and fuzzy stuff as well as some concrete business outcomes, and they provided the ever so elusive element of perspective.

And they also brought this cool thing into our world......


...graphic recording.  Read more about that here.  Really go there...watch their video...go ahead...I'll wait.


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For a creative team like ours, it was a fabulous way to watch the words coming from our mouths be instanty recorded as visual cues.  We have several large boards of this as outputs from the meeting...(which they will also provide digitally) which will help us remember our takeaways and commitments.  Love it...really innovative and old school at the same time.

BONUS! I feel like I not only got a great resource out of this, but a budding friendship. Our facilitator was so great that I've invited her to join me in a new women's network I've been asked to attend in Manhattan. It will be fertile ground for her consulting business, and I'll be able to walk into the room with a colleague I respect and enjoy but who is not another employee of my company.


My exhilaration is dropping fast, and the exhaustion is setting in...so I'm quitting for tonight....will likely put in a few hours this weekend before flying here...


A  M  S  T  E  R  D  A  M

... on Sunday for my next work adventure.

Stay tuned for fun stories and pictures from that trip!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Time to Build the Team

It's finally time.  After nearly two years of working in parallel, but not in tandem, our team of 19 professionals is coming together for a 2-day teambuilding meeting.  It starts at 8:30AM Thursday and it is looking promising.  I met with our meeting facilitator tonight to prep.

As an aside...this is  pretty good gig if you can keep your overhead low...meeting facilitation I mean.  We are paying a nice sum of money AND they are charging us direct expenses right down to an itemized shopping list from Staples for flip charts, markers, masking tape, and colored stickers. 

I was encouraged to learn every member of our team submitted the on-line survey and completed their advance team assignments of creating a custom presentation on services and challenges.  Everyone seems engaged and ready to go...and I think we've got a strong and positive team.  One of my fellow managers said, "I looked at the presentations and I felt like a proud mama they were so good!"  A good way to begin, I'd say.

We are down five people from where we started, and while we sure could use the manpower, we don't miss the negativity, performance issues, or just simple mis-fit of skills to organizational needs that each represented.

So here we go....the roller coaster ride begins.