An Interesting Slice of Limbo

Life served a big slice of Limbo Pie recently. No (paying) job. Pro bono work to help a friend’s new consulting business. Claiming weekly unemployment benefits. Trying this Blog. Lots of these things I have not ever dealt with or even TRIED until these past couple months.

I don’t know how I was in such a state of cluelessness or denial that I’d find a new (paying) job so quickly. But I did vow to myself, way back in late July, that I’d be ‘working by September.’ A bit optimistic perhaps, especially in these economic times!

Buuuut, I did in fact land a new job in September – literally right after Labor Day. And right now it’s a Labor of Love. Perhaps I should have been more specific with my wish! I'm actually very flattered to have been asked to help out this former colleague and friend of mine with his new business. We're even going to be speaking on a panel at a local college to a class on resume writing and interviewing techniques. I'm really looking forward to the experience - and I was honored to be asked to join him.

And my calendar page is about ready to flip...it’s almost October and officially autumn now. Ripe blackberries. Tall sunflowers. Gorgeous dahlias in bloom. Long shadows at high noon. The sunshine now fools me when I open the windows in the morning – a rush of crispy, cold air blows inside instead of warmth. It’s time to swap out the summer annuals on the deck for some cabbage, kale and winter pansies. Time to air out the cozy sweaters, scarves and gloves from the storage trunks and get them ready.

I’ve always enjoyed the rhythm of four truly distinct seasons here in the Pacific Northwest. And there’s something very sensual about changing seasons. Summer to Fall is like that brief moment on a roller coaster where you hang motionless, at the top (or in the seasons’ case at the Equinox) a split second before whooshing into something completely different. I can't control the whoosh of the change of the seasons but I hold on tight to every last bit of summer!

Today autumn strutted her stuff all loud and boisterous with colder temperatures, the universal hum and click of furnaces roaring back to life, angry black skies and loads of rain.

My Uncle recently visited here from out of town. Over lunch he talked about a favorite outdoor concert venue he and my Aunt enjoy – kind of like the Hollywood Bowl where everyone brings their own lawn chairs, food, even candelabras if so inclined – to just hang out and enjoy whatever music is happening that night. As he so aptly put it, “Sometimes it’s Pink Floyd and sometimes it’s Bach.” Ahhh…kinda sounds like the choices in my iPod too! And maybe life as well...sometimes things are all over the place and scattered wide.

For now, I'm enjoying doing my usual activities at times I never could when I was working 40+ hours a week. I went to the gym at 11:00am on a Thursday and didn't have to battle it out for a treadmill or for space in the stretching area. I had a hair coloring appointment in the early afternoon on a Tuesday [my colorist jokes she'll know when I'm officially back at work when I book a more typical Saturday appointment with her!] I'm typically getting up at 9:00am rather than 6:30am. And I forget which day of the week it is when I do, plus wake up to a much quieter Inbox and phone.

I also think about past life choices I made that went nowhere…kind of like those sneaky cul de sacs I wrote about earlier when I was walking around my new neighborhood. I didn’t know these choices were Dead Ends until I started down their paths. Nope, there was no warning signage. I didn’t know the “permanent” job with a nice bonus and stock options would dry up sooner than some of my prior “short term” contract jobs. I didn’t know (or, more admittedly, temporarily forgot after many years) that going on certain medication makes me gain weight overnight. I still battle that weight nearly two years later after quitting those meds. I didn't know the great guy I started dating would seem so right at yet at the same time be so distant and hard a relationship to cultivate due to so many things. I looked deep into his eyes and thought, felt, there was something there. But business travel and other non-travel baggage meant building something together was nearly impossible.

And then I stop and wonder why I think all of these things have to be boxed up and labeled as Dead Ends. They themselves may not have panned out, but they eventually led to where I am right now. And why do I have to label my life as "in limbo" just because I'm not working a traditional job? Why not just let this phase be known as my current life without having to qualify it as having underlying tones of dormancy or uncertainty?
Yes, THIS is where I'm supposed to be...right now...in late September 2009.


I just couldn't add any more fluff

How long does it take to say what you need to say? How long do you go on before you make your point? Do you even have a point to make when you open your mouth or start up at the keyboard?

Honestly, I’d be all over the place answering these questions, because I think it truly depends on the situation. If I’m meeting with the Executive Sponsor of a project I’m running to provide status updates, you can bet for darn sure I know the points I want to make and how to keep it brief. But if I’m off the clock and just hanging out with friends I may just start talking about things on my mind or maybe a vent or two. Something might be bothering me but it may take some talking it through before I figure out what it is. A point? Admittedly I might not even have one…I might just need to get something off my chest or just share how wonderful a day it's been! Oh, and look at those pretty flowers! And when I start writing, I may type a few sentences or paragraphs but just leave it as a draft for another time. Not sure where the ramblings are going just yet, if anywhere! They might get polished up and meet the public eye here one day or just sleep silent and dormant forever on the hard drive.

Some say in our ever faster-moving world that the handwritten word is a lost art. How often do you receive a genuine, handwritten letter in your snail mail? Email is much more prevalent for most of my written correspondence; I buy stamps maybe a couple times a year. Texting is convenient but it pretty much slaughters our language. Twitter? 140 characters only for your tweet, please, spaces included. Despite the convenience of spell-check, it isn’t foolproof. Anyone ever read things like, “have you lost you mind?” Or, “…I just can’t seem to loose these last 5 lbs.”? I’ve seen “lose” written as “loose” so many times the word almost looks misspelled to me when I type it correctly – and that’s a little frightening. Are we in that much of a hurry these days that we can’t take a couple extra milliseconds to double check our words before we hit Send, Update or Post? Yeah, typos are a pet peeve, but I've certainly cranked out a few.

I do admire brevity – those with the gift of clearly articulating their point with few words, while still being descriptive and not so dry and abrupt. And while my writing style here is still gelling, I do appreciate - at least in theory - the very basic method a journalist uses: put the hot content in first, and then more details in descending order of importance throughout. I had a job a few years ago where I had to write weekly project status reports. I wrote them with an assumption that people would maybe read the first few bullet points and not even get to the stuff at the end. [Sometimes as a joke I would add a random line item deeper into the report such as, "The chicken's in the oven." Or, "Clowns only eat soup on Sundays," just to see if anyone would notice! And someone did...once.]

A friend was recently tasked to assemble a document for her department at work. While the specifics weren't known to me, she kept me posted, jokingly, on how with the help of her manager and peers it quickly swelled to a jaw-dropping 80 pages. Eighty pages? Are we writing a phone book here? Are there any pictures or diagrams in it? Is anyone really going to sit down and read through 80 pages front to back? The way she described the collaborative process was (mutually) laughable. It was as if the document was now somehow perceived to be "better" just because it was longer in length.

I have to wonder...do more words make something more important?

More than likely that monster of a document will sit looking important in a binder on someone's shelf or just take up shared network space. Perhaps I am wrong and there is a clear plan on how to prune it down and keep it useful and current. It just astonished me how important its size became!

I've devoured long books in mere days because they were so intriguing I forgot to eat and sleep. But I admit I lean toward shorter reads: I enjoy magazine articles and skimming news headlines. I tend to use PowerPoint and write a few short bullet points instead of writing a Word document if I need to pitch an idea quickly to work leadership. When speaking with people over the phone or in person for my job search I continue to practice explaining about my experience and what I'm looking for succinctly. Then, if the listener wants to hear more I will add details. Have you ever asked someone what they do for a living and received a 10-minute monologue in return? Talk about eyes glazing over! Sure, if I'm passionate about something I can talk about it ad infinitum, especially if the person I'm speaking with is too - we're off and running with an engaging conversation! But if the listener isn't I try to keep it brief and avoid the blank stare. And then I'll ask THEM a question.

Now, back to the long vs. short document question. I first started thinking about this back in college, when the amount of reading and writing expected of us was far beyond anything I had tackled in high school. Come to think of it, that was probably the idea, actually! I didn't mind the extensive reading, but when it came time to writing papers my style was brief - briefer than a lot of my peers as I discovered. And, I felt a little small and inadequate sometimes. In one of my classes I remember reading the assigned chapters and writing up a 5-page paper, typed, double-spaced and one-sided as required. But when it came time to turn in our work, I glanced at the guy next to me and saw what looked like 15 or 20 pages. Perhaps my insecurities welled up a little too much, but I instantly thought his paper must be better written than mine. Or that maybe I'd missed an important point in our reading and therefore didn't cover it.

And then I realized...yes, I HAD read all we were supposed to read, and that I'd said all I needed to say and said it pretty darn well. I just couldn't add any more fluff to it. College was a couple decades ago, so I don't remember what that paper was about or the grade I received.

But I do remember that being the beginning of discovering what my writing style is, developing it and learning from others. And, the reminder to be comfortable in one's own skin, which, gladly, gets much easier over the years. I like that.


The Money Diet

The recession is officially over. Unemployment is a lagging indicator of tough economic times. Things are getting better out there, but recovery will be slow.


These are just a few things I hear in the daily buzz of news and casual chit chat. Things I think about as I file my weekly unemployment claim, speak with recruiters, search the job boards, network and update my spreadsheet log accordingly. Are things really getting better? When you’re unemployed those statements are a little hard to digest.

I attended a professional networking event a few days ago and shook hands and rubbed shoulders with hundreds and hundreds of others out of work just like me. Yep, we’re (Still? Still!) in a recession and yet just a few blocks away from our gathering a new, uber-luxurious shopping complex just opened its doors, giving our longstanding (fabulous) mall a run for its money (no pun intended). OH, the irony.

I bet most of us have felt the effects of our weak economy in one way or another (and if you’ve been unscathed, well, more power to you I suppose). I’ve definitely felt it and witnessed it around me. I’ve had friends out of work for months after layoffs before finding other jobs. Friends who are employed but business is so slow they feel unemployed. I checked a 401(k) balance a few months ago and wished I hadn’t. My property tax postcard arrived in the mail and my home value was several percentage points lower than last time. My hair colorist spotted a regular client buying boxed hair color in a drugstore and when their eyes met the client was horribly embarrassed. And, sadly, a friend’s condo went into foreclosure earlier this year.

Even job pay rates are less now. Employers know they can get good talent for less than they used to given the high number of job seekers out there. I spoke with a recruiter about my recent job history and told her the rate I was paid for a contract gig a few years ago. We shared a mutual chuckle: “…yep, that rate is SOOOO 2006.”

So while I’ve been out of work it’s been a good time to sit down and re-evaluate my spending. Hence, THE MONEY DIET. Frugality is the new Black! [Where did I ever hear/read that - I love it.]

Let’s face it: I love to shop and as I’ve mentioned before a lot of my “fun” spending goes towards accessories (shoes, handbags, sunglasses, etc). And I’ve always justified purchases by making sure they fill two big requirements: 1) Practical and 2) Paid For.

Practical simply means that it’s got to work with multiple outfits (with very rare exceptions, such as cocktail/evening wear). Most of my shoes and handbags are either black or dark brown and go with nearly all of my clothing. I invest in great boots because I can wear them three seasons of the year here (and, on the flip side, I skimp on shorts and t-shirts). Awhile back I upgraded my college-staple outerwear with two amazing 100% camel hair coats (a classic pea coat and a full length topper) that combined cost far more than my rent at the time (faint!). But over 15 years later, they still hang proud in my coat closet and have held up amazingly well! I also stock up on cashmere sweaters when they go on sale off-season. Lightweight knits work across the seasons here too. I dropped 4 figures on a gorgeous watch when I celebrated a major birthday. But I wear it every single day....and the same with a ring I splurged on 10 years ago in St. Thomas. If you're going to drop serious cash on something, wear it and use it! I've never understood things like, "Oh my God, I just spent $1500 on a new purse and I'm too scared to carry it!" Yes, I have read things like that. My advice? Return it!

Paid For means just that: pay cash, or if paying by credit card pay it off before the interest charge kicks in. As a result, I’ve got one hard-working debit card!

But when the dollars aren’t rolling in like they used to, it’s time to get real and cut way back on spending. And when push comes to shove, even if something is purchased with cash instead of on credit, it’s still money gone from the checking account. I don’t NEED another pair of black boots as much as I salivate over what I see in stores and in catalogues. I don’t NEED to spend $30 on department store mascara when a $10 one from the drugstore will likely be just as great. I don’t NEED to spend excessive amounts on shampoos or conditioners either (yes, this is another admitted weakness I am battling). Hell, once the makeup’s on your face and the conditioner is rinsed out of your hair, no one – I guarantee – is going to come up and say, “Oh my God…you must be wearing Chanel mascara, and that Kerastase conditioner makes your hair so shiny!” Nope! They’ll simply notice (hopefully), nice looking makeup and hair.

So, yes, I’m on a Money Diet. I’m re-evaluating everything and figuring out ways to cut back while not depriving myself of things I enjoy. Food? The term “Brand Down” popped up on a blog post a few days ago, which I’d never heard of. This means to check out the generic or store brand versions of food to save a little. Going out to eat? This is an absolute joy to me and I couldn’t possibly imagine cutting it 100% out of my life. I now have fun finding places with great happy hour and keep it to just one drink. That’s probably a good thing anyway. And happy hour food is a wonderful light dinner! I canceled my membership in a monthly Wine Club and will save myself hundreds of dollars a year as a result. When cleaning out closets (another productive activity while out of work) I found a few nicer things to put on consignment. Presto - a few hundred bucks in commissions a few weeks later!

I plowed through a large stack of snail mail last week and discovered a thick, elegant and glossy invitation from that new luxurious shopping complex I mentioned earlier: “We are pleased to announce the opening of our new boutique at _____." Well, boutique, I am pleased to announce I may grace you with my presence but I will be looking and drooling, not purchasing.

I'm on a Money Diet, after all.


And then Dr. Ruth walked into the bar

I consider myself an amateur-ish world traveler. Although I haven’t been out of the country for nearly 10 years since my last trip to the Caribbean, I’ve logged a few interesting places in my lifetime. The beaches of Trinidad, the bustling markets of Budapest, delightful sidewalk cafes in Ljubljana (Slovenia), a week in a Tokyo suburb with time for bike commuting, the sensuality and awe of Venice and the bright sun and abacus-wielding merchants in Uzbekistan to name a few.

What was late to cross off the list? New York City. How in the hell did I not visit NYC until 2004? Not even once on a flight stopover! The closest I came was the spring of 2000 when a friend and I caught a redeye to Newark on the way to Ft. Lauderdale for a cruise. I still remember being all bleary-eyed from that cross country flight (I have yet to discover how to sleep soundly on planes) but I vividly remember walking through the terminal and witnessing the glow of the early morning sky, the River and the silhouettes of the Twin Towers. [After watching the horror of 9/11/2001 live on TV as so many of us did, I closed my eyes and remembered that serene sunrise].

The company I used to work for had a long-standing relationship with our client and we were constantly looking for ways to rejuvenate and revitalize our service offerings and how we were going about our day-to-day business with them. Among other things, we decided to really step it up and conduct one of our usual business reviews by hosting it at our US corporation headquarters in Midtown Manhattan (a building on East 53rd ST to be exact).

So, in the Spring of 2004 we jetted off to NYC for a short stint, about 10 of us total. We lucked out with gorgeous sunny weather – perfect for walking and exploring. I was absolutely giddy and oozing excitement. Man-hat-tan....what some call the Center of the Universe! People come from all over the world to find or re-invent themselves, to find success, love...everything one could possibly want and more can be found here!

I knew theoretically that space was a premium, but got a huge taste of it when first stepping into my hotel room. My God, when I opened my suitcase on the floor (I had no other choice except for the bed), I couldn’t walk around my bedroom/living area!

We were pumped full of adrenaline when we arrived, so we put on our walking shoes and headed up to Central Park. If you haven’t yet walked through Central Park, add this to your Bucket List, for there is nothing else quite like it. We took pictures, admired the scenery, and gawked at the to-die-for apartments overlooking the Park (how many millions and millions for a view like that, we wondered?).

After dinner at an incredible steakhouse (the name of which escapes me now unfortunately), we asked our server for a tip on where to grab a drink nearby. Heck, we were still on Pacific coast time and not quite ready to turn in yet (not that any locals were either!).

His recommendation? P. J. Clarke’s: 915 Third Avenue at 55th Street. OK! This is a 125 year old pub/institution of sorts, where Frank Sinatra supposedly "owned" his own table, Buddy Holly proposed to his wife – oh, and Nat King Cole proclaimed it serves up the “Cadillac of cheeseburgers”. A heavy hitter hot spot for decades.

I am not shy, so walking into a bar, grabbing a drink and making random chit chat with people is kind of like breathing to me, but boy did I feel out of place once we walked in. P. J. Clarke’s was awash in a sea of dark clothing – midtown Manhattan uniform! Here I was still in my traveling clothes – khaki pants, walking shoes, lightweight striped sweater and a dark denim jean jacket. Yikes, I probably looked like I'd just gotten off work at the Gap or something, ha! M and I got our drinks, headed to the jukebox to pick out a few cool Sinatra tunes and then started mingling.

We were approached by two gentlemen in de rigueur dark suits. They immediately asked if we were “with those two guys,” meaning our two (male) co-workers who were now at some other part of the bar. M and I laughed and said yes we are and that they are co-workers. We continued to chat with them and then realized after awhile they were getting a little bit annoyed that we didn’t know who they were!

Turns out one was a local TV news anchor and another was some sort of local film critic. Too funny…how are a couple of girls from the other side of the country supposed to know this?

And then Dr. Ruth walked into the bar. I know it sounds like a punchline but it could not be truer than true! She immediately recognized the two guys M and I were speaking with and greeted them. Boy I wish I’d had a question ready to ask her! And for the record, she looks exactly the same in person as she does on TV.

Yes, my friends, this was my first night in NYC. Did we actually get any work done on this trip? We sure did, and our client was very impressed with our presentations. But it's the funny side stuff that is far more interesting: wandering the streets looking for something that is "just a few more blocks away," a screaming match with a local getting a cab during rush hour, a sudden downpour one night in Times Square (hence the blurry photo) or hanging on for dear life with a crazy cab driver from Bangladesh whom we told, "just take us to the Village."

We even got kicked out of a corner area of our hotel lounge one night because the server told us, "someone has a reservation here." Keep in mind it was 1:00am on a Wednesday. Who has midweek reservations at 1:00am in a hotel lounge? Sure enough, a P. Diddy lookalike showed up with two supermodel-ish women and took over our spot.
I guarantee that would never happen in my hometown.


Hockey and Handbags - Part 2 of 2

Can a click from a search engine change your life? Hell yes, it sure can!

OK, I have a little confession to make: You already know I love hockey, but I am also an accessories junkie. That’s where my eyes are immediately drawn, no matter what it is. If I’m in a furniture store or browsing a catalogue I check out the accent plants or bookshelf knick knacks and how they’re displayed rather than the bookshelf itself. I admire how a throw is artfully draped on a sofa and the pillows (but don’t necessarily “see” the sofa). I love looking at people’s shoes, briefcases, umbrellas, sunglasses – you name it. I notice what kind of pen somebody uses at work.

I tend to spend my money on accessories too. They’re a perfect, finishing touch to any outfit and to me that's a great investment. I might run out the door for a quick errand in cheap shorts and a t-shirt, but slip into wonderfully made, cushy leather flip flops and I immediately feel more pulled together. After I purchased my first iPod, I added a hard rubber protective case…and new earbuds with Swarovski crystals! I found a great black shirtdress for a bargain and added a wonderful, chunky cranberry red bangle bracelet. I also swapped out the cloth self-belt for a nice, wide black patent leather belt – the dress now looks “richer” as a result.

Shoes. An ex boyfriend told me awhile back, “…you have so many shoes, it’s ridiculous.” I never had the heart to tell him my collection is Amateur Hour compared to others I’ve seen. That's our little secret.

And yes, the glorious handbag. I love looking at and shopping for bags too and admittedly have accumulated a fair amount (hence that "hockey and handbags" gasp from the closet designer). A great bag makes an outfit and I love selecting what to carry based on my mood and what I'm doing. Am I feeling very "look at me, world" ? I'll choose something with a logo monogram or a bright color. Subdued? Or a job interview? The black, understated leather shoulder bag is a better choice. A night out with friends? Maybe a small clutch or pochette, rather than a tote bag more suited for work.

I will likely write more about bags and accessories shopping in general in future posts, but I will plant two big seeds or thoughts that drive most of my shopping habits. If I spend money on something it's got to be 1) Practical [which for me translates to 'versatile'] and 2) Paid For [meaning, pay cash or pay off the credit card balance quickly before interest kicks in.] At least those are the disciplines to strive for. More on that another time.

Good grief, what do handbags stir up so deeply in my DNA?

At its core, a bag is designed to carry our stuff….things we can’t just carry in our hands. Things we need or things we think we might need. And I don’t know about you but I have carried things around in my bags I’ve totally forgotten I was carrying!

Some people scoff at the idea of spending a lot of money on handbags...after all they just carry our stuff, right? Well then, what about cars, for example? Cars are designed to get us safely from point A to point B, end of story. So why do some of us crave extras such as higher horsepower, the latest GPS models, or deck out our cars with fancy tire rims, stereo systems or video viewing for our kids among other things? Nothing wrong with any of that. BUT...shouldn't basic things like changing the oil, doing the recommended engine maintenance, parts replacements and rotating the tires along with an occasional wash and wax be enough to keep us satisfied?

If you are in the market for a handbag, you can spend as much or as little as you'd like. You can go to any used or discount clothing store or check out the clearance pile at a department store and pick up one for a steal, or spend a 5-figure sum on an exotic skin, custom-ordered bag with the help of a luxury boutique that would rival the price of many cars. I suppose at the very minimum a grocery bag would do, but most of us wouldn't consciously make that choice. (OK, true side story: I used to carry my work pumps in a plastic grocery bag on my bus commute as I wore basic, black flats for walking downtown on steep streets when I was fresh out of college and had just started working). Yes, I was on a budget and besides, my shoes didn’t fit in my purse!

In the spring of 2006 on a slow day at work, I pulled up a search engine while enjoying a cup of chowder for lunch and just randomly typed in the designer of the bag I was carrying that day. WHAMMO! I couldn't believe the number of search results that popped up! Department store links, eBay links, pictures...and...a Blog and discussion forum. Holy smokes - a Blog entirely dedicated to handbags and discussions ad infinitum? Did I just hear angels singing?

That forum was the first of its kind I joined. Life changing? Honestly, that isn't too far fetched. Through this forum I've learned more than I ever thought there was to learn about bags, leather types, designers I'd never heard of but grew to love, care and maintenance, great pictures of people's collections and so much more. And best of all: in person meetups! I now get together a few times a year with several the forum participants who live in this part of the country for an afternoon of lunch and shopping. Check out one of our group photos up at the top!

The friendships I've developed through that forum - both virtual and in real life - far outshine any bag. But, admiring arm candy is a nice side benefit!


Hockey and Handbags - Part 1 of 2

Guess there's a lot of the letter "H" in my life (check the prior post's title too!). What is it about these two things that intrigue me so?

My townhouse could use some interior help. I love the floorplan and spaciousness, but it's showing its age. Let's face it - no one is touting the architecture and fixture styles of the late 1970s/early 1980s as retro chic these days and I don't see that happening any time soon. I've done a fair amount of updating in here - thankfully the brown ceiling fan with orange-tinted bulbs and the mustard yellow, vinyl-backed drapes are far, far, FAR in the rear view mirror - but the project list on the fridge remains long. Hmmm...that might be fodder for a future post.

I had a rep from a custom closet company come by and design some ideas to fix these tired, old closets. She took a look inside one of them (Danger spare bedroom! Messy!) and exclaimed, "hockey and handbags!" We laughed. Yes, the jerseys and hockey socks happily co-exist with the satchels, shoulder bags and clutches, all nicely wrapped in their dustbags. Now, if only there was a way to organize them! Small piles on the closet floor are almost criminal given my collection. Cringe!

Hockey plopped into my life on a total random whim a few years ago at the relatively late age of 36. Isn't it funny how completely unrelated chains of events meld together, take on a life of their own and crescendo into something completely unexpected? That's exactly what happened here.

The summer of 2003 was a hot one! We had very little rain and the sun was relentless in the high 80s and 90s for over two months straight (that's unusual in this part of the country; we're known to be whiney at any temperature extremes). I'd just moved to this neighborhood a few months prior and decided to explore it on foot. The problem? My house is at the bottom of a steep, lung-crushing hill. I couldn't walk up that hill without stopping to catch my breath several times. Dangit, I said to myself...I'm too young to be this out of shape!

So, I vowed to battle that hill each and every day, hot weather and all, and to check out different streets up on top. I met tons of neighbors and dogs too. I admired yardwork (or, not). Followed the progress of a new subdivision under construction. Flirted with the firemen! I also discovered several sneaky cul de sacs, where it isn't clear it's a dead end until turning the corner and then - oh man, time to turn around! After driving my typical walking route I realized I was clocking a good 5 miles a day...and 7 or 8 miles on the weekends!

Over the course of all that walking, I dropped 35 lbs in about 5 months and got my lungs back in shape. Bonus! Now, I was wondering what I would do to maintain it. The weather was starting to turn, and walking when it was raining or getting dark earlier was just not in the cards for me. I broke down and joined the local gym! Say goodbye to free, outdoor exercise!

Meanwhile, the building I was working in was a continual revolving door of groups moving in and out over the years. I as a vendor to this company worked in this particular building and office just because we had the space allocated to us; I didn't work directly with anyone located physically near me. So, I'd always make a point to walk up and down the hall and introduce myself whenever a new group moved in...I am no shrinking violet!

People's reactions were all over the spectrum. Some were quite startled, miffed and taken aback that *gasp* someone would come up and say hello and welcome to the building, and others were just ehhh, indifferent about it - what I call a "straight line face."

But one day a rather jovial crew moved in - complete chatterboxes! And after I introduced myself? I ended up talking to a few of them for a hour! Turns out they had moved here from out of state due to a company acquisition and were all excited about learning their new whereabouts, things to do, the whole works. What did they all have in common? They loved hockey.

Posters went up on the walls, along with calendars, computer screen savers and wall paper. Baseball hats and player figurines. Wow! One of the women showed me a few pictures of a league she played in back in her hometown and talked about how much she missed it.

One day she approached me and told me about an adult beginner hockey clinic she wanted to join, but didn't want to do it alone. "It's a little expensive," she explained, "...but I have some extra gear you can borrow."

I smiled and said YES without hesitation. Never mind that the last time I was on ice skates was probably age 10, or that my last attempt at team sports was the 100m and 200m dashes in junior high track and field. I think the last time I ever did anything resembling hockey was some floor hockey in high school gym class. Believe me, taking up hockey was the absolute last thing on my mind.

6 years later, I've never looked back. And I can't imagine not having hockey in my life. I love the teamwork and competition. Pushing myself physically and mentally. The rush of cold air in the lungs when entering the rink. Locker room banter. I love my teammates like brothers (yes this is a co-ed league). I love that I play alright some days but some days I suck and it's OK either way. The late nights and weird hours...and the exercise and stress relief. And I've met some incredibly cool people too - many are friends off the ice as well.

So thanks goes to D and that life-altering question, "...do you want to do this hockey clinic with me?" YES. The girl's gotta skate! Who knew?


High Fives and Helping Hands

I spent the day Monday with my friend J at the Puyallup Fair, a huge annual September event in the area here. Playing the day away on a MONDAY? Yes! "We play, while corporate America toils away," we joked to one another. Whoomp whoomp! There's something a teensy bit mischievous and naughty to me about goofing around on a Monday. It's a day I've rarely have taken off from work in the past 15-20 years - most jobs have had staff meetings that morning, other weekly kickoff events or group huddles; it's just always been a busy day where ya gotta be in the office!

Honestly, I almost forgot it was Monday. I have been out of work for a couple months as my most recent contract finished up. While I continue to job hunt I've taken up a few new random activities (which I will likely post about later) and have - finally - embraced the discipline of unplugging and relaxing. Yes, that's a discipline - at least for me. You see, I've worked in the corporate world fulltime nearly half the years I've been alive. It's just something ingrained that I do and am used to doing...and hopefully will get back into a new gig in the near future. As I've said to so many before, I simply am not a good slacker!

So what's with the hands picture? J never goes anywhere without her camera, and that day at the Fair was no different. She encouraged me to get a bunch of random pics for this Blog and elsewhere - why not? The big ol' grey hand is a massager chair sort of thing, and they had these scattered throughout the fairgrounds.

And while the pic was silly and random (yay!) there is seriousness in it too. I look at my tiny hand against the backdrop of the large one. Reminds me how there are so many other collective "hands" around for support through this temporary downtime...family, my friends both in real life and in virtual communities, former co-workers I've reconnected with and yes even God/The Universe too - the REAL big hands. Hands for a high five. A friendly wave. A handshake at an interview. A thumbs up. Hell, even a one-finger salute (yep, had a couple of those on the road this summer). What's best of all? A handshake from a work colleague that turns into a hug.

No matter what the future holds, I take comfort knowing the Hands are always there.


Born to Blog? Yes, yes and YES!

Ahhh, a delicious, fresh blank canvas! As I said in my inaugural post, I have absolutely no idea what direction we're going in here - random content warning! I have a very eclectic mix of interests and lots of rocks rolling around in my head, so perhaps in time I'll get things streamlined or sectioned off into topics in here. Or...maybe not! Could be a big surprise potpourri here of posts too. I asked a friend the other day how I should get started with this. Her reply? Just write!

Born to blog...yes, I really think I was. I love to write and get things off my chest, document what's around me, funny stories from my past (and present). Goals, challenges, heartache, success - it's all there. In the past 10 years I've periodically taken up journaling during changes in my life - a way to harness my thoughts, celebrate the wonder of what the future brings (whatever it is) and keep insecurities in check.

In the spirit of being random...I always keep my iPod on shuffle. A few weeks ago "Cool Change" popped up. Little River Band, anyone? "Time for a cooooool chaaaaaaange." Yes, I do have a very schizo iPod mix - this song reminds me of slow dancing at junior high dances. But those lyrics kinda clanged extra loud in my head that night.

I started writing way, way back in elementary school. Someone - can't remember who - gave me a diary as a birthday gift. I was probably 11 or 12 years old. Never had a diary before and wasn't really wishing for one either. Just wasn't on the radar.

But something about that gift spoke to me. White hardcover with a black cat on the front and the words "my diary" in red cursive letters. And a key! A little key and a lock to keep all those thoughts wonderfully private, all to myself. No proofreading! No worries about handwriting, punctuation, spelling, grammar - no teacher's red pen marking up my work. What did this gift mean to me? Freedom of expression!

I still have that diary. Yep, 30 years later that diary is in a big bag with a bunch of others in my linen closet. [If my house was burning down that bag would be one of the things I would grab - no joke.] Boy I wrote in that diary. Every. Single. Day. Without fail. And when that one filled up? I got another one the next year...and kept writing every day - usually the last thing I did before I went to sleep. I don't know what compelled me to write every day; sometimes I went on for pages and other times just a few anecdotal things.

This continued for years all the way up through my high school graduation, believe it or not! I could probably count on one hand the number of days I missed writing in all those years. I took my diary everywhere - I wrote by flashlight in a tent, in a treehouse, on the ferry boat, wobbling on a waterbed, on the plane - wherever and whenever. Unstoppable! And when I traveled overseas after high school graduation for 6 weeks one of my favorite gifts was - you guessed it - a travel journal. It's chock full.

So I am once again rekindling my passion for the written word - this time in a more public venue, ha! But I'm not going to promise daily posts...I don't want anyone reading here nodding off at their keyboards!!

Sometimes words are deep, and sometimes they are shallow.


I am here!

I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen in here. And I like that.