My Earring Fell in the Brie...and other End of Year Musings

Sometimes blogging inspiration arrives in the most random weird-ass ways.  I've probably written that before, but I'm proven this time and time again.

I stopped by the grocery store on Thursday to pick up a few things in anticipation of being icebound for a couple of days.  Didn't we just have the Pineapple Express - heavy rains and some flooding earlier this month?  We're now back to super duper cold and snow.  Which I actually do prefer over rain and flooding and Lord knows my (sometimes-flooded) garage does too.  And while the ice and snow is beautiful alas it's a bitch to drive in here in our hilly and ill-prepared area of the Seattle suburbs.  I attempted a drive into work that morning after the snow arrived.  Normally if my steep driveway and the road on my main street are fairly clear that's a good sign the work commute is going to be alright.

Not so much on Thursday.  By the time I got within a mile of work the 4-lane arterials were icy and my car fishtailed on a few turns.  I'm no SUV driver and not one to be a super hero out there on the roads either.  So my co-worker and I agreed to leave the office early that afternoon before it got dark and froze up yet again to finish our workday at home.

I stopped by the gourmet cheese section at the Red Apple Market on the route home and looked through all the selections.  I laugh and remember when I tried going vegan - or maybe part-time vegan - maybe a year and a half ago or so?  I have a few vegan cookbooks in my kitchen and they might look impressive on display but are seldom used now.  However, many of the main courses are great side dishes.  I decided that while a vegan diet is super healthy, my love of cheese and of seafood trumps any efforts to fully convert.  Hence, my snooping around in the Brie.

And then *ping* - one of my earrings fell out of my earlobe and right down deep into the bottom of the display!  I'm glad I was alert and noticed otherwise I would have been totally bummed.  So I tore apart the display (err, sorry) and carefully pulled out my earring...phew!  Gotta be careful with this style I haven't worn in awhile - earrings on French wires, as opposed to the posts I usually choose.  At least they weren't super expensive.

So, there is soooo much to reflect back upon in 2010.  My '10 calendar has already hit the recycle bin and a fresh new '11 one (full of beautiful tropical beach scenes) is up here in the home office ready to rock. 

A few 2010 standouts:

- I gave up Diet Coke cold turkey on 1/02/2010 and have NEVER regretted it nor ever looked back one second.  YES!  Gone is that 25+ year 6-or-more-can-a-day habit!
- WORK.  Getting freaking back to work.  I started off the year unemployed and didn't get back to work until my birthday, May 19th.  What a fucking roller coaster of great connections, support, let downs, glorious interviews, a few months pro bono/part-time to help a colleague launch a consulting business and working that phone and email.  Draining my unemployment benefits fund dry meanwhile, and, frankly, sweating it on a few occasions.  Let's hear it for 2011 to be a year of steady employment, prosperity and continuing to grow professionally while rebuilding those savings!
- Falling sheetrock and down allergies!  Huh?  Check out one of my archived February posts.  I had a very brief relationship that inspired probably one of my funniest posts yet to date here in fivenineteen.  Hell, at the time it wasn't funny but putting the fingers to the keyboard helped me get through the aftermath.
- River rafting day trip in July:  I joined my friend J on a guided trip down the Wenatchee River and it was extremely memorable and hilarious.  Again, check the blog arichives.  I am SO ready to do another rafting trip next summer!
- New hockey team!  I made a shift after 7 years to a newly-formed team this fall season and couldn't be happier.  I love my former team however my playing ability just wasn't keeping up as they moved up the league ranks.  Just shows how the Universe takes care of what we need.  I was wondering one day how to hook up with a new team and then one day later got an email asking for volunteers to form a new team. And, voila.
- 3 5Ks!  THIS is a tradition I plan to carry over into 2011 and beyond and have to thank P for lighting this pilot light within me in 2009.  I ran 2 5Ks and walked one as a volunteer.  And I can't WAIT to get back into training for another one this next year.  One of these days I will run one in under 30 minutes - mark my words.
- Getting through the big home repairs.  Let's see...this year I had to replace my garage door opener, my cell phone, my fridge and a few expensive parts in my furnace.  All while being out of work for nearly a year save for a couple months at a lower-paying but very worthwhile engagement.  GUH.  The wallet took it hard in the short and curlies this year, but I MADE IT THROUGH.  And I will never EVER take for granted seeing the furnace at 68 degrees.  Or that motor kicking on so very gently.  Bliss.
- Doing something new:  a new side business!  What happens when you love accessories AND want to accelerate how quickly you rebuild savings?  Why, you start a jewelry business, of course!  And as many of you know, that's Silpada Designs for me - a jewelry brand I have known and have adored for many years.  I am proud to now represent the line and am enjoying learning the ropes as a rep, meet the rest of my team and get my initial round of parties booked!  
- A Full Year of fivenineteen!  What sprung out of unemployment and restlessness back in September 2009 has now turned into a regular ritual for me.  Who knows where this could lead?  If it goes somewhere, great.  If it stays like this, great too.  It's ME and an outlet I cherish.  And I adore all of you who tune in regularly or might find me here on a random search.  Whatever fivenineteen evolves into next, it's a great journey - thank you for being here with me on the ride.

My best to each of you for an adventurous, wonderous, restful and peaceful New Year.


Food Overload? Food Hangover?

Family + Food = Fabulous Christmas Holidays.  And some hard workin' pants zippers over here.  Oh boy.

Yep, I'm stuffed.  Between Christmas Eve dinner and last night's Christmas dinner this girl is happy.  Too bad I didn't snap a couple pictures with my phone to get the real shots; this picture from the nice people at epicurious.com will do just fine.

How does baked halibut with spinach and artichoke sauce sound?  With wild rice on the side? And a salad starter with fresh pear and dried cranberries?  This is one of my Mom's signature holiday dinners and it's to die for.  And even better given my Dad caught the halibut on a fishing trip in Alaska over the summer.  We polished off dinner with homemade biscotti and fudge for dessert.  YUM.

Why is it that after a huge, satisfying dinner I'm hungry the next day?  Since this "next day" was Christmas Day this was a good thing.  Off to my Aunt and Uncle's house for their fabulous annual dinner tradition:  prime rib with Yorkshire pudding (which is kind of like popovers).  And Mom's famous seafood lasagne with shrimp and artichokes.  We had spinach salad with sliced red onions and some heavenly vinaigrette for a starter (I NEED this recipe something fierce), a side dish with crisp, fresh green beans and then peppermint ice cream pie with drizzled chocolate sauce for dessert.  Homemade ice cream, everyone. Isn't this sounding incredible?  My mouth is watering just remembering it all.

I feel very fortunate having incredible cooking talent in the immediate family here.  I like to think I'm a pretty good cook but given I don't entertain on the scale a lot of my family does I guess some of my talent lies a little dormant.  Although I do have a butt-kicking corn chowder recipe with potatoes, fennel and bacon and a paella recipe I'm dang proud of. 

Tonight I'm thinking it's gonna be linguine with shrimp and pesto...and maybe a nice glass of pinot grigio.  With just me at home in my PJ's watching the Canucks game (ahhh, Boxing Day!) and later the latest Real Housewives of Atlanta episode.  Yep, I'm hooked. 


The Inky Blackness of the Solstice

OK, I'm trying to get in the mood to write this post but we've got amazing, bright sunshine pouring in through the windows right now.  But not complaining one iota....especially since it starts getting dark so early this time of year.

Dark dark dark.  Get up when it's dark, go to work in the dark and drive home in the dark.  When it's grey, dreary and dark it's like living in a black and white TV set!  And my eyes feel dragged down and tired.  Hard to explain. 

But the deep rhythms of changing seasons are fascinating to me.  No matter how rushed and busy we have become over generations, no matter how much new technology gets infused into our lives...the seasons chug along the same way they have for probably millions of years.

I rush around to various parties and search for just the right Christmas gifts.  Yet deep within me there is a sense of Still. Of Iciness. And of Calm.  This is the bottom of the big roller coaster of our seasons.  Summer tips over to Fall and whooshes down to Winter.  Then, we climb out and back up again to Spring.  I know people who literally whoop with joy when the Winter Solstice passes, for that means the days will slowly start getting longer again. Me?  I just take it all in stride and enjoy the uniqueness of each time of year. Yeah, so it gets dark at 4:30pm - who cares?  In a few months it'll still be light out at 10:00pm.

THIS Solstice will be a doozy, for there is a full Moon AND a total lunar eclipse!  How fascinating!  I admit, I'm a geek about stuff like this...I'm really excited to witness as much of it as I can, and pray the clear weather holds so we can watch!  I actually have a super late hockey game Monday night (an 11pm face-off, yikes), so by the time we are done the eclipse should be in progress.  And because it's the Solstice the moon will be super high in the sky.  I can't wait to see this!  And I hope I can stay awake.  I've already warned my co-workers I have a late game and will likely be in a fog the next day.

But it's the holidays and where I work now the last couple of weeks of December are both quiet and herky jerky.  Lots of people take the entire two weeks off, while others take just one. Either way, not much gets done.  As a consultant, I'm going to be on duty the entire time save for the Christmas and New Years holidays, but you know what?  I'm OK with that.  I had a ton of downtime earlier this year when I was out of work.  I'm looking forward to a couple of weeks of catching up and getting things organized for next year.

And...time to reflect and make goals for 2011.  This year has been a roller coaster, kind of like those seasonal rhythms I mentioned earlier.  But I hope my own personal roller coaster calms down and stabilizes. 

2010, love you but you were a big bitch too.  I'll have more on that in next week's post.


Wonders of Winter

Wow.  OK, it's not technically winter yet - we're about a week away from the Solstice but work with me here.
Remember how a couple weeks back we had record cold and my furnace crapped out?  Fast forward to yesterday and we're now 30 degrees warmer and getting slammed with heavy rain.  And all that wonderful new snow in the moutains - heaven for our skiers?  Melllltingggg...which makes the flooding potential that much worse.  This phenomenon is called the Pineapple Express - warm air from the tropics swoops in.  Most of us here call it a major pain in the ass.  I need to run a couple errands and joke I'll probably need a rubber raft.

But hey, the holiday season's in full swing!!  My tree's up (oh the joy of a faux tree, takes 3 seconds to set up), all decorated and I'm going to spend this afternoon wrapping a few gifts.  I've got quite a bit more shopping to do but everyone on my list is local or will be here in town for Christmas, so no mad rush to get things shipped.

Had a lot of fun shaking up the routine last week with 3 nights out in a row!  A co-worker suggested we get our nails done the night before our company Christmas party and she had a coupon for her favorite nail salon.  I'd never been but noticed my chipped nails (hey, it was from hockey - ya gotta take a few for the team sometime) and thought sure, why not? 

Full mani and pedi with an arm and leg massage for $28!  WOW.  I think the prices at the spa I go to for nails or waxing or brow tinting start at that and go even higher.  I was impressed with this nail salon.  No waiting when we walked right in!

Our company holiday party was at Wild Ginger at the Bravern.  I've blogged about the Bravern before - a wonderful jewel of shops, offices and condos in downtown Bellevue.  Long gone is the Dairy Queen and the dance studio where I took ballet as a kid on that prime piece of real estate.  Major upgrade!  Wild Ginger is wonderful Thai food, injected with pacific northwest influences.  Thai fusion I suppose.  Whatever it is, it's great.  Our consulting firm had a fabulous private area with a buffet, full bar and lots of room for mingling and conversation.  Floor to ceiling windows with amazing views of downtown Bellevue.  It was very intimate and lively at the same time.  Just a great way to reconnect with the people at this consulting firm and celebrate all the help they've put into getting my current work assignment all set up.  Can you believe it's been 7 months now? I've been in touch with them for over 3 years; tenacity pays off! 

As I've probably mentioned before, great people, food, drink and conversation is pure bliss for me.  Doesn't matter if I know everyone in the room or none.  I just enjoy the small talk, laughs and networking. 

Some how I made it through the next day (Friday) on pure adrenaline. And 3 cups of coffee.  I didn't get to sleep until probably 2am - I was so invigorated after the party I didn't realize it was around 11pm when I'd left! 

After work it was girls night out with 3 of my co-workers.  We met at Parlor Billiards at Lincoln Square for drinks and munchies and then headed to the skybridge overlooking Bellevue Way for the snowflake lane celebration!  During the holidays they do a nightly show with a drum corps all dressed up like toy soldiers parading through the streets and drumming along to Christmas music.  And the light show on the buildings around Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square are amazing!  And of course...(fake) snow!  Funny how we had our own REAL snow back in mid November.  It was a beautiful night - not raining at all.  Yummy dinner at Palomino with a nice glass of Pinot Gris and believe me this girl was beyond satisfied.  And stuffed.

Yeah, it's the parties that get me in the holiday spirit.  Oh and the music, big time.  I just put a bunch of Christmas music in the CD player.  When I sing along I almost feel like I'm transported back in time.  I feel 25...or, maybe 9.  I remember singing and later learning to play a lot of Christmas songs on the piano.  I close my eyes and can picture all those piano music books piled up at home.  The Nutcracker music.  Piano duets I played with my Mom. And the choral arrangements in high school and college.  The 15 years playing in our handbell choir at church.  Yep, music resonates at the core of my being.  And I feel very fortunate and blessed to have had incredible teaching and inspiration through my family, my teachers and conductors.

So, the year is winding down and it's time to focus on the plans and joys for next year while drinking in and enjoying every second of the holidays. I'll have a lot more to write about this later for sure.

Whatever it is you celebrate, enjoy the magic and wonder of the Season!


Wearing My Inventory!

...and rockin' it proudly too!  You know, it never occurred to me that a major perk of being a Silpada Designs independent rep was that I get to wear my inventory!  Well duh already! 

And I'm learning how to change my typical responses to questions or compliments about what I'm wearing.  Trust me, I eat up compliments with a spoon - a warm, genuine smile and 'thank you' is all you need!  Work it!  I'm not shy if you haven't picked up on that.  Now, I'm starting to say things like, "Thank you! It's Silpada...have you heard of it?"  And see where the conversation takes us. 

I love talking about what I love - don't we all?  And I'm having a blast sharing my passion for this jewelry - I bought my first piece about 3 years ago at a neighbor's party.  A bracelet with beautiful, flat square, warm-toned stones framed in sterling silver with a toggle closure.  I've worn that bracelet at least twice a week since and always get compliments.  It looks great with casual workwear, a t-shirt and shorts or a dress!  I probably paid around $170 for it and it was worth every penny.

The hot UPS man delivered my Silpada start up kit on the Monday of Thanksgiving week - two large boxes full of binders, training CDs and DVDs, order forms, catalogues, and...of course...my first jewelry!  And a few of you who tune in here regularly might recall that was when I was still waiting for my furnace to be fixed so it was damn cold in here! [My furnace died on 11/19 and did not get fixed until 11/23.  Trust me, that's a longggg time to go without heat - not to mention the snow and record cold temperatures].  It was funny trying to try on necklaces, rings and earrings - brrrr that silver was cold against my skin!

So check out the picture here - and pardon the weird hand positioning.  This is an attempt to hide my desperate need of a manicure as I snapped this with my phone, ha ha.  The ring is sterling silver with beautiful scrollwork and the stone is a chalcedony.  A WHAT?  That's 'kal SED nee.'  Yep, it fooled me too.  It's a semi-precious stone in the quartz family.  And it's stunning.  And as I like to describe this jewelry... 'heft but not heavy.'  Meaning, it feels solid, not chintzy, but isn't uncomfortable and heavy.  THAT'S the perfect balance.  If jewelry is too heavy it's going to weigh down my hands as I work. Heavy earrings pull my earlobes down too far.  No thanks.  And gross.

And that incredible bangle?  Gorgeous, hand-hammered sterling silver.  It's absolutely fantastic and I could probably wear it daily.  It's fun pairing it up with other bracelets too.

What am I learning?  Never ever EVER go anywhere without a catalogue or at minimum a few business cards (I got business cards and a rubber stamp as part of my start up kit!).  Case in point:  I walked over to a cafeteria in a building across the street from mine at work yesterday (nice change of pace and it wasn't raining.  Plus I needed an ATM as I was out of cash).  I got a nice cup of corn chowder to go and the cashier simply gushed over that bangle - "OMG!  I LOVE silver jewelry!!"  I said oh thanks, it's Silpada, have you heard of it?  Probably not the best time to start up a conversation during the lunch rush. I was totally surprised and caught off guard.  And a little tongue tied.

So what did I do?  I walked back to my building, got a business card, walked back across the street to that cafeteria, stood in the (long) line again, and when it was my turn I said, "Hey it's me again, I'm {fivenineteen} - here's my card.  It has a link to my website and our catalogue.  I do individual orders and home shopping parties.  Please contact me anytime if you have questions or would like more info!"  She smiled and thanked me.  Who knows what if anything will come of it.  BUT.  I'm glad I spotted an opportunity.  Because you never, never know.  I keep a couple catalogues in my laptop briefcase too.  I've already had a few questions from co-workers - the two women I share an office with, to chit chat at the ladies room sink!  Love it.

Know who else admired the jewelry?  The furnace repair guy.  He spotted my pieces all displayed proudly on my dining room table and said oh gosh, my wife makes jewelry!  We'll see where this leads to.  And even my 7 year old nephew over Thanksgiving weekend hugged me as he was leaving and said "Auntie, I like your jewelry."  His Mom (my sister-in-law) bought me a beautiful Silpada stretch bracelet set with copper and silver beads for my birthday a couple years ago, so I guess he's had good training! 

So between the furnace repair guy, my nephew and the cafeteria cashier, I got a good healthy dose of boomboomboom real life learning - you never know who will ask...and ya gotta be prepared to respond!

I'm also getting used to hearing NO.  I do home shopping parties - well, I will be, but I have to start asking people I know if they'd be interested in hosting a show of their own.  The idea is to get parties booked and from there follow up with guests to see if they'd be interested in having their own show to keep your sales going.  And whomever hosts the show gets a portion of her party's total retail sales as credit toward her own free jewelry.  How cool is this? 

One of the speakers at the Founders Tour downtown a couple weeks ago said something that really resonated with me.  "If you're not hearing 'no,' you're not asking enough."  Meaning, get used to hearing no!  All you need to do is ASK...you don't own the response!  And find out if a no means 'not now' or 'never.'  No is no problem!

So, I keep my trusty spreadsheet updated - who I've called or emailed and the responses.  I'm really excited to get this business off the ground and am learning it takes at least 10 no's before you find a yes. 

Enthusiastically sowing the seeds here.  I can't wait!  


Cold...Where it's Supposed to Be Cold

Alrighty.  Knock on wood the semi-major home repair episode is done for awhile here in the house.  When I posted last week I was still in limbo waiting for Furnace Repair, Part Deux.

And boy it got damn cold in here.  See the proof for yourself!  Between last Friday through the Tuesday before Thanksgiving the temperature inside dropped from 60 degrees down to 44.  [That's 15c to 6c - I need love and understanding from my peeps worldwide too!].  All the while waiting for a 2nd furnace part replacement - 2nd in just two weeks.  This time the fan motor had failed and of course the one I needed was not in stock.

To add to this load of goodness, we had a once-every-25-years cold snap here in the Seattle area.  Honestly, the combo of record cold weather and a broken furnace was starting to sounds like a bad dream or stereotype or something. But it was my reality.  Record cold?  We hit an official low of 14F (-10c).  For us that's downright dangerous - we aren't equipped to deal with cold like this around here at ALL.

And then it started snowing.  Beautiful, fluffy white snow.  I had to pinch myself to remember this was pre-Thanksgiving, not January or February - our more typical months for snow if we get any!  I'd been looking forward to getting out of the (cold) townhouse here and get into work, but the steep hills and my car (and my driving ability in snow) weren't a good mix.  Thankfully, I can work from home.

Funny things happen when your house gets damn cold.  It's rather surreal, for the power is on - I could still take hot showers, do laundry, watch TV, cook - I just didn't have any heat!  Far different from our big snowstorm/blackout of 2006 where there was no power period.  After a couple of days a strange, hibernation instinct welled up deep within me.  And I burrowed.  I burrowed deep in my bed with my wonderful polar fleece electric blanket, polar fleece PJ's, thick socks and a knit hat.  Probably looked like a homeless woman in my own house!  I knew the furnace fix was coming soon, and between the treacherous roads and getting a few things packed up to stay elsewhere was just too much hassle.  So I rode it out.  And I ate a lot of hot soup too. 

When the repairman showed up last Tuesday (the same one who came out a few days prior when the 2nd part failed) I'd forgotten I was wearing my colbat blue Snuggie - a Christmas gift from one of my brothers last year.  Ah, the polarizing Snuggie.  Don't knock 'em, people.  They WORK.  I opened my garage and the repairman laughed when he saw me - oh my God, you're wearing a Snuggie!  Yes, I was.  Get over it and fix my furnace.  Hilarious!

So, it's been an expensive end of the year, but I'm glad the fridge and furnace crap outs didn't happen when I had guests. The fridge died a day after my friend M stayed with me on a visit from Hawaii and the furnace Part Deux was just a couple days after my Silpada Jewelry launch party.  Phew!  I'd thought about doing a follow up open house that Saturday but I'm glad I didn't. Things happen (or don't happen) exactly as they're supposed to. No fridge = not enough cold.  No furnace = too much cold.  How much time we spend getting things just right for our own comfort!


Fighting off Hibernation: More Energy with LESS sleep?

How is it possible to feel so alive and full of ZING when you've only had about 8 hours sleep in two nights?

Prior to those two nights I'd been fighting off an annoyingly persistent urge to hibernate....doze, sleep, stay in.  Is this some leftover primal rhythm deep in my being that kicks into gear when winter approaches?  Is it just the grey, soggy weather we are known for here in the Seattle area?  Is it a low-grade flu, some version that's been running rampant around our office building?  There have been a few days recently where I've woken up and just known I'd need to work from home.  I'd shoot off a quick email to the crew that I'd be online at home, go back to bed and sleep hard until 10:30 or 11:00am - no joke.  Thankfully I didn't miss any conference calls!

Ugh.  I hate feeling like I'm operating on 70% of my normal energy level, but don't feel sick.  What's going on??

Nothing like changing up your routine to re-ignite your personal pilot light!  As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I'm now a Silpada Designs representative!  This is top notch sterling silver jewelry, and I am so excited and proud to now represent this brand after being a loyal, loving customer for about 3 years.  Woo hoo!

Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh, the co-founders of Silpada, were here in town on a whirlwind Founders Tour, traveling all over the US and Canada, and I got to see them and hear them and many others speak at this event at the Red Lion Hotel in Seattle!  What divine timing to be a newly-minted rep AND have the Founders Tour event that same day!  I was truly the newbie that evening.

It was a beautiful night downtown - and not raining, bonus.  The first glimmers of holiday decor are sprouting up in the city.  High energy vibe everywhere.  I love it...and also remember how much I miss working downtown.  I felt so happy and loved at the Tour - being in a room of 200 people where I may know just one or two is no big deal to me.  I love going out and meeting people - I shed the childhood shyness ages ago.  These ladies were decked out in incredible jewelry and I had fun sporting my own personal stack of amazing bracelets!  Great conversation starters!  I heard the story of how Bonnie and Teresa met through their kids' school, became best of friends and launched this business sheerly through their love of jewelry.  I heard stories from other representatives about how they launched their own Silpada businesses and how transforming, life changing it is.

After the Tour a few of us from my core team walked down to Sip for a glass of wine and munchies.  Felt so fun being out downtown on a weeknight - this used to be so common for me when I was younger.  I didn't get home until 11:30pm and was so pumped up from the evening out I could hardly sleep.

But the energy only crescendoed (is that a word?) up further, as my own Launch Party was the next evening!  I had a few great friends over for a girls night in.  My sponsor, L, brought her amazing jewelry collection over to my house and showed me how she sets everything up for her own shows.  My dining room table turned into a jewelry showcase!  Add some drinks, munchies and great friends and you've got a fun, relaxing evening.  It was wonderful introducing friends of mine who had not yet met eachother before.  Childhood friend.  A friend I met through hockey.  And another I met through an online purse discussion group - one of a group I get together with a few times a year for lunch and shopping!  After the party, L stayed with me late into the evening to show me the ins and outs of how to process orders, manage customer lists, keep track of leads, run reports.  All the "backend" stuff behind the scenes is as top notch as this incredible jewelry!  My expectations were blown out of the water.  Here I was thinking I'd have to manage my business by designing my own spreadsheets and whatnot.  Nope:  all I have to do is log into Silpada's site with my rep number and BOOM.  Easy!  And the amount of training they have online or via conference calls - did I mention that?  Everything is at my fingertips - and free!

Keep in mind, this was Wednesday night.  And I have a standing 8am meeting Thursday mornings.  And I'm not a morning person at ALL.  Yet somehow I bounced out of bed the morning after my own party and came in eyes open and ready for a great day.

How could this be?  Why was I so full of energy?  Simple - I shook up my routine.  And I surrounded myself with incredible women - new faces at the Founders Tour with a common bond between us to grow our Silpada business. New friendships.  Big hugs. Support and caring from friends at my launch party, and the virtual support and well wishes from so many other incredible friends.  Wow!

I'm on my way with something new!  And I feel great!  Let's not joke around here - I'm a little nervous, but in a good way.  L has been absolutely wonderful helping me get started with her coaching and support.  Did I mention she's about ready to give birth to her 3rd child in a few weeks?  Heck, if she can run her own business, support her Silpada team while being a super busy Mom on top of it all I can do this too!

And then Friday morning rolled around.

I woke up ready to bounce out of bed and get to work.  But why was it so COLD?  My furnace normally kicks on around 6:30am to start warming up my townhouse before I get out of bed.  I put on my robe and headed downstairs to look at the thermostat.  60 degrees?  Fuck.  It's supposed to be 68 in the morning and then shut off while I'm away at work.  I tried to turn the fan switch on - a click but nothing.  Oh boy.

Remember the refrigerator drama back in September?  Ladies and gentlemen, we now have Furnace Drama.  I had a part replaced two weeks ago, and now the furnace craps out yet again.  What's the deal?  Well, thankfully the repair company came out that same afternoon to check it out.  [One of those "we'll be there between noon and 5:00 - and they actually showed up at 1!].  Now it's the fan motor that's died.  And of course it's a special order and won't be here till Monday.  And of course it's 3 times as costly as the first repair job.  UGH.

So...I wait.  And chill out - literally. And I try to dig deep and remember I'll get through this too.  I have hot water and electricity.  I have polar fleece and an electric blanket.  Yeah, it's freaking cold in here but I'm OK.  This didn't happen during my party Wednesday.  This is nowhere near as bad as the weeklong blackout we had during the big snowstorm of 2006.  And once again I remind myself that everything happens when it's supposed to.

But those hibernating instincts are back full force.  Guess I'll snuggle up with a jewelry catalogue...and smile.


Mass Customization

How wonderfully ironic that this is my 90th post - and I've got the 1990s on my mind!

Ahh, the 90s.  The first full decade for me as an adult.  In 1990 I was a year out of college and by the turn of the century I was a year into a company and job experience that would be probably the most transforming of my career to date.

Back in the 90s my life was far less complex and busy.  I wasn't tied to a cell phone or a laptop, and email was juuuuuust starting to creep into the mainstream world in the latter half of that decade.  I used to read hardcover books with vigor and held a newspaper in my hands on Sunday mornings, lingering over coffee.  I remember building up my non-academic book collection...perhaps I was slowly shedding the college textbooks from the late 80s that were starting to date themselves (and remind me of reading overload in those years) and replace them with other reading material - reading for pleasure, not grades.  I remember going to a used book sale with my post-college roommate and stocking up on books for summer reading, because the TV shows in the summer were all reruns.  She and I would sit in the living room and just read read read. Back then the most complex technologies I touched were things like the fax machine at work, the VCR at home (taping a couple of soap operas and watching them while unwinding at home after work was de riguere) and the phone answering machine.  Come to think of it, I didn't get a CD player until probably 1998ish - a little late to the game.

Nowadays a fax machine does nothing but frustrate the shit out of me whenever I have to use one (rare, thankfully), my VCR lies dormant and needs to get offloaded somewhere and my phone answering machine is built into my cordless phone handset.  Yes, I do still have a landline.  And nowadays, if I had to make a choice, I'd rather lose my wallet than my (cell) phone.  I have had my wallet stolen once, however, and it was a royal pain in the ass - but back in those days - yes, the mid 1990s - I didn't have a cell phone.

Wasn't the fax machine supposed to shorten our workday waybackwhen?  I remember hearing or reading that somewhere and I can't think about that theory without laughing.  Didn't it and other technology just make our lives busier?  How much time do I spend online nowadays whether at work or here at home?  And if internet connectivity is down we might as well fold up the tent and go home.  Seriously...it's like not having water or electricity.  When did we get so dependent on being so uber connected all the time?

So today is one of those downtime Saturdays.  I'm making a mental list of what I need to get done this weekend while remembering the past, busy workweek - topped off with hockey practice last night.  I get out of bed today and sore hamstrings remind me of all those drills we did and the short scrimmage we crammed in at the end.  God it felt good to skate last night.  It can be hard sometimes to get a 2nd or 3rd wind and get my butt out the door when all I want to do is plop on the couch and unwind.  But I never, EVER regret the late night games and kooky lifestyle of hockey that is now tightly woven into my being.  There's something special about arriving at a rink, gearbag and sticks in hand...especially this particular rink where our team will now be practicing on Friday nights.  This is the rink where it all started for me 7 years ago when I signed up for a weekly adult beginner hockey camp. I won't ever forget the nervous flutter in my stomach when I arrived for our first lesson with a bag of brand spanking new gear I barely knew how to put on.  Now, suiting up is kinetic memory. Even the funky smell of the rink is oddly comforting...like slipping on an old, broken-in shoe.  But maybe that's just me being weird.

And today I ventured into my self-proclaimed Room of Crap.  In this spare bedroom (which will someday be a true guestroom) stands my good ol' IKEA bookcase full of those books I mentioned earlier.  IKEA screams 1990s to me - my first attempt at "real" furniture.  Have I read all of these books?   Nope.  Right now a trunk for storing summer clothes, a few extra wine glasses and the bottom half of my faux Christmas tree lie in front of the bookcase on the carpet. I told you this was a room of Crap.

For some reason I reached for the book Clicking, by Faith Popcorn, and pulled it off the shelf.  Blew the dust off and turned to the copyright page.  1996.  Faith Popcorn is known as the Nostradamus of marketing - a futurist, finger on the pulse of what's happening next.  And "clicking," in her lexicon, means finding one's niche in work, lifestyle or relationships. [In her earlier book, The Popcorn Report, she boldly describes upcoming concepts now ubiquitous to us, like email and e-commerce, calling them "screenmail" and "infobuying" though neither had yet been invented.] Remember, in the early 1990s no one used the word "internet." We were still a few years before anyone was even talking about "the Information Super-Highway."  Sounds all a bit quaint now, doesn't it? No one uses that term anymore.

"Clicking" to me means the click of a mouse.  How many 'clicks' do you do in a typical workday?  In a day at home doing email, paying your bills online or maybe some early holiday shopping? What power we hold under our fingertips.

I remember another one of Faith Popcorn's terms - "mass customization."  She could not be more spot-on with predicting this trend either about 15 years ago.  What did I do when I bought a new laptop online from Dell?  I chose the setup that *I* wanted.  When I purchased my new cell phone a couple months ago what was the first thing I did?  I configured it to how *I* wanted it to look - my home screen display and layout, my phone contacts, my favorite websites and the applications I want to use.  Thousands of people have my same make and model of phone, but none of us will have it set up exactly the same way.  Same with my laptop.  Even in a prior work assignment, the configuration/customization of the technology we implemented for our clients was probably one of the most time-consuming and essential project workstreams.  How about your Facebook or Twitter pages?  Guaranteed they don't look anything like any of your friends' pages.  Your iPod or Zune playlists?  Yours and only yours.

This might be whatever ho-hum stuff to some, but stop and think back to what you were doing 15 or so years ago.  How did you find information?  How did you shop?  Hell, how did you meet people?  How did you communicate?

I wonder what the upcoming decade holds in store for us.  Whatever it is, I can't wait.


Life with a Major Injection of Silver

How many plates do I have spinning right now?  Work, hockey, fivenineteen...and oh yeah what about those other activities I'm trying to cram into my life like rediscovering knitting, learning Norwegian, getting ready for another 5K (ahem, need to sign up for one) and continuing my self-paced Arctic studies?  How's we doin' on all that?  And what about basic things like eating, sleeping, exercise, spending time with my family and friends?  Relaxing?  I LOVE having a lot of "plates" but sometimes I admit I get spun out, stressed and overwhelmed.  How the hell can I do it all?  DO I do it all?  And do it well?  Breathe, breathe...exellence, NOT perfection.  How am I so freaking busy even if I am single right now and don't have kids?  How busy are people with families?  Am I totally clueless on what BUSY really means?

Let's just say I'm feeling stressed out.  I'm so excited to be back at work again and to be a part of a huge technology launch, as opposed to other work assignments where the project is a transition or program shut down.  Always better being on the building up side of things, right?  I've been on lots of deployment and launch projects over the years but I gotta say this one is unlike any other.  Delays, delays, delays, rumorsrumorsrumors, and then WHAMMO:  we launch a few days prior to the last 'official' communicated launch date.  What the hell?  Lord knows the conversations and wrangling that went on at levels far beyond mine that resulted in this.  I learned of this rumored early launch in a driveby conversation in our hallway on Wednesday night, just before I was headed out to meet T for sushi.  Screechy record sound...we're going live TONIGHT or early the following morning?  I tossed and turned that night - hardly slept.  We're not ready.  It's impossible to be 100% ready for something as new as this but it still sucks trying to build the plane as you fly it.

But, no one does it alone.  We're all coming together, panicked but focused to cram in what we need to do and get the rest of the puzzle pieces all out on the table and put together.  And sometimes I take a mental break and I 'float' above the chaos and soak it all in.  It's so fascinating seeing how people operate under stress as opposed to our normal craziness.  We will look back on this someday and laugh.  But we're not quite there yet.  

Oh...what's another spinning plate?  Home projects and home maintenance.  This is where I feel vulnerable and, frankly, inept.  My furnace decided to freak out on Thursday night; I came home to a very stuffy house, and after opening some doors and windows to let in fresh air (even though it was a little chilly out), the furnace didn't kick on in the evening like it normally would.  Well, it did but was a couple degrees shy of where it's programmed to be and I couldn't override it beyond the current temperature.  Holy crap, is my furnace dying?

Thankfully I got a good referral to a repair company. I called them the next morning and I got an appointment the very same day (one of those "we'll be there between noon and 5pm.").  And thankfully I am able to work from home if I need to, but I felt like crap stepping out of the office after lunch with all our launch chaos flying around.  But I still got my work done, the repair guy was late but very nice and thorough.  $200 later, I now have a clean furnace and a new capacitor (I think that's what it's called).  It's a part in the furnace that was starting to fail.

What's the "silver injection" in the post title?  Silpada jewelry!  Yes, I'm going to become a consultant and have my official launch party later this month!  Heck, why not add another plate to the mix.  Let's cut to the chase:  I'm trying to rebuild the savings I dipped into while I was unemployed a good portion of last year and half of this one.  And it's not happening fast enough.  Last month was a great example - about $2500 in additional expenses all at once.  Cell phone died, fridge died and my hockey league fees were due.  Thank goodness I can pay cash for these things with no problem.  I need a phone, I need a fridge and I gotta skate.

My time is valuable.  I don't consider myself a 'sales-y' type person at all, but I have been a huge fan of Silpada for years and adore their jewelry.  Why not tap further into my accessories junkie-ness?? The jewelry is sterling silver and not cheap, but the styles are so unique and 'feel' great.  Good heft - not chintzy.  The pieces I've purchased (mostly bracelets) go with just about any of my clothing and I always get compliments on them.  If I can wear it with confidence I can talk about it and sell it!  Between throwing parties at my house, other friends who want to host, having catalogue parties, plus the support of the Silpada team I'm joining, I'm confident I can make this work and once again challenge myself to keep expanding my horizons and try new things. Although, I'm a little nervous.

Come to think of it, I felt these same butterflies in my stomach when I first took up hockey.  And look at this - 7 years later I'm still skating.



Before I moved into my townhouse here nearly eight years ago I got rid of a lot of stuff so I wouldn't have to move everything - furniture, clothes I was sick of, books and knick knacks.  I didn't *think* I had a lot of stuff but it's amazing how things accumulated after 5 years in my old apartment.  It was time for a pre-move purge!

And while I was sorting through my stuff I noticed I have a love of spirals in my home decor!  Wrought iron spirals under the old glasstop coffee table. Wrought iron candlesticks with spirals and a leaf pattern woven in. Spirals on the sides of the plant stand I decided to keep and have still today. And there are some under a glass top side table I held onto as well.  Guess I was in a wrought iron phase too! I replaced some of the old, scary dark brown wood doors in my townhouse and realized I needed new hardware too.  What did I choose for my new bi-fold coat closet door?  Yup, a thick, brushed nickel spiral.  Once again, I zoomed right in on the details...the accessories. 

This is why I sometimes struggle and procrastinate when making big purchases like new furniture.  I can walk into a furniture store and not "see" any furniture.  Rather, I immediately notice the beautiful ivy topiary on a side table, or a gorgeous throw on a leather ottoman.  And look at those candlesticks and that lamp!  I've likely written about this before - guess it's just an odd quirk.

I thumb through a Silpada jewelry catalogue and what jumps out?  A gorgeous, chunky bracelet of linked spirals. Someday this beauty will be mine.  And in the same flash of a thought I remember my lifelong love of astronomy.  Gazing at the stars and learning the constellations.  All the galaxy types, including...the spirals. The largest spirals of all. And I learned our Milky Way galaxy is a spiral.  Our own ginormous neighborhood in the grand universe! We LIVE in a spiral!  I can thank my 3rd grade teacher for igniting this passion within.  I remember the flutter in my stomach all those decades ago when she announced we'd be doing a study unit on astronomy.  I didn't know why I felt all giddy - I didn't know anything about astronomy except I knew I liked looking at the stars and wondering, dreaming.  She struck a chord alright.

Mental downtime was top priority last night.  Work is moving fast and furious.  I love the pace but also need time to recharge.  And we've had a really bad flu bug going around our building - for the last two weeks I've had low energy, feeling a little nauseous and maybe slightly feverish.  I even missed our team potluck earlier this week [I had a huge batch of orzo pasta salad with fresh basil and tomatoes ready to share]. I was so exhausted and the thought of being around tons of food at that time was not a good idea.  When I lose my appetite I know I'm not well.  But thanks to technology any of us can work from home if we need to. Anyway, finally, FINALLY I'm over that and back more on my normal stance.  What was last night's mental downtime?  Bravo TV to the rescue...Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (these ladies are fabulous!), and easy comfort food:  bowtie pasta with a light tomato sauce and a blob of pesto, and a nice glass of pinot grigio.  Lit the 3-wick candle on my hearth and plopped down on the couch.  Ahhh. 

Later, I pulled out my DVD set of the Cosmos TV series. This TV series was shown on PBS way back around 1979 or 1980, hosted by the late, great Carl Sagan.  I remember watching this series Sunday nights with my Dad - I was a young teen and devoured every second of it.  And it was special bonding time with my Dad too as he was really into it.  "Billions and billions..." Sagan's signature phrase that's even crept into some mainstream speak.

Carl Sagan is a freaking genius.  And that TV series was soooo far ahead of its time.  Some of the theories, special effects and set designs are a little dated, but most content still holds up today.  I think I choked up when I learned he'd passed away after a tough battle with cancer back in the mid 90s.  I know I had him named in one of those Facebook "pick 5" quizzes that was floating around awhile back...something like "if you could pick 5 dead people to invite over for dinner who would they be?"  Who was on my invite list?  A wonderfully eclectic bunch:  Carl Sagan, Margaret Sanger, Jack Kemp, Carolyn Besette Kennedy and Johannes Gutenberg.  Do you know who these people are/were?  A couple may not be so well known...Sanger was a birth control activist in the early 1900s (talk about an uphill battle, hmm), and Gutenberg is credited with inventing the first printing press.  A movable type machine.  Probably THE most profound invention of our modern era.  Can you imagine the dinner conversations between those 5?

One of the Cosmos episodes talks about galaxies, the Big Bang theory, black holes, cross-dimensional time travel (do worm holes exist within our own universe or perhaps as links to others?) and other profound thoughts.  Funny how thoughts at work are a good-tired for my brain after a full week, yet thoughts about our universe, galaxy collisions, black holes, and trying to understand Tesseracts are to me...relaxing.      

The majestically moving galaxies...we'll never notice any such movement in our mere blip of human lifetime, but computer animation shows the profound changes.  A billion years can be demonstrated in 30 seconds.

The spiral galaxies twist and turn ever inward.  But what happens to the stars and planets (and life??) in their centers?  Is there an End to the spirals, or do they continue inward forever?  I guess THAT is what fascinates me about spirals.  What mysteries and secrets do they hold deep inside?

As Sagan so simply states the profound, "...the laws of physics apply everywhere."  This means a spiral galaxy with billions of suns turning, twisting inward...is exactly the same motion as water swirling down a lowly shower drain.



"...I think it's just full."

Sometimes I get inspired early in the week and latch on, knowing *this* - whatever it is - is going to be my post here in fivenineteen.  Or I might get a couple flashes or two and jot them down for later.  And sometimes the well in the head is empty and dry...and I wonder - what in the world am I going to blog about THIS week?  Sure, I don't NEED to write in here weekly - it's just a rhythm I've developed over the past few months and I like it.  And I hope whoever is out there reading this either by accident or on purpose likes it too.  Got something you want me to blog about?  Please let me know.   

Well...today, totally out of the blue, my friend C uttered that quip in today's title and I knew instantly that was it.

Downtime on Saturday. Let's give the ol' brain here a rest.  Hoo doggy it was a busy work week.  Stressed and rushed for sure - lots of virtual lint flying around with our team as we blast full speed ahead to an upcoming technology launch.  It's 11:30pm on New Years Eve, people, are we READY???  Are we SURE??  Exhilarating but also mentally draining.  I feel like a happy yet deflated balloon when I get home from work sometimes.

I slept hard until 9:30am this morning.  I do love to sleep in but when it gets that late I feel I'm wasting the day.  But I knew my body and mind needed it.  AND I knew I had to get my ass out of bed and off to the salon for a hair color appointment.  The Starbucks drive-thru near my house was backed up with cars overflowing onto the main road (kinda sad isn't it?) so I stopped at a grocery store's Starbucks counter to grab my signature coffee drink - a double tall nonfat latte.  Ahhh.  You know, I am not a "gotta have my Starbucks fix" person, but I do enjoy making coffee at home on the weekends (although, not Starbucks - I prefer Forza actually).  And now that I've kicked Diet Coke cold turkey going on over 10 months now, thankyouverymuch, I've switched to unsweetened iced tea on weekday mornings for a caffeine boost while I'm getting ready for work.  Lipton has cold-brew tea bags I just love.  I just plop one into a large Pyrex measuring cup with water, put it in the fridge for a bit and voila.  I swear I used to have a decent glass pitcher but it might be buried in a cupboard somewhere.

So I felt tired and looked suburban today heading off to the salon.  I decided to wear some black corduroy leggings I found online on a total whim earlier this year and paired them with black, zippered midcalf boots. A 3 Dots long sleeved white tee, my khaki with black sequins J. Crew tank top over that and a jean jacket.  I also rocked my Prada Gauffre hobo I haven't carried in quite awhile.  Oh boy, that bag is wonderful.  Ruched, delicious chocolate brown leather.  I wear so much black but realized this brown is dark so it can go with black just fine kindasorta.  For what I paid for it 3 years ago I really should be taking it out more often, ha ha.

After getting my hair color touched up (overall darkening of my signature blonde plus filling in the ashy brown roots that are ever increasly shot through with greys, yuck), I headed down to Orting.  Orting, Washington.  This is a small town of about 8000 or so and growing rapidly.  And right in the shadow of our famous Mt. Rainier.  What a beautiful drive to a beautiful town where a 14,400 foot mountain dominates the skyline on a clear day.  Fabulous.

I stopped by (well 'stopped by' after an hour drive, ha) to see my friends C and S for a quick chat and to pick up a PartyLite candle order from a few weeks ago.  Gotta restock on those wonderful votives!  C and S are so welcoming, warm and friendly.  I worked with C for several years and through him know his wife and family.  We've kept in touch since leaving the company we worked for and have helped eachother through the bumps of job changes with referrals and moral support. 

Their 6 year old daughter came by the kitchen several times to share things with me - her dolls, her soccer trophies, her super sparkly Halloween witch costume and on and on. Aww...I remember the buzz at work from C when he and S were pregnant with her and the joy when she was born.  And how wonderful to meet this charming girl in person!  What a sweetheart.  She also whipped up a purple paper snowflake for me with fringe trim and a purple "D" sticker on it in the middle (my first name initial).  Love it! 

Meanwhile, the 3 of us continued talking.  Sometimes I go off on verbal tangents, not knowing exactly what I'm going to say or what my point is.  Might be considered a quirk or flaw, but those that 'get' me can follow and respond...I think - ?  How refreshing is it to open up with those you trust about your doubts and insecurities.  How wonderful to just bounce half-baked ideas outloud in a trusted audience without feeling the risk of being skewered.  THIS I love.

So I started rambling about mental capacity and if it slows down into your 40s.  Does it?  Isn't this supposed to be a prime decade?  Why do I sometimes feel clueless after several work conversations where everyone else seems to get what's being discussed and I'm thinking huh??  No, that doesn't happen all the time but sometimes I cringe or giggle on the inside and wonder.  Do I jump in and say hey what do you mean by 'x', get fired up to go figure it out myself or just file it away for later?  Yes, yes and yes.  Gotta make split second decisions depending.

Is this a downside of the journey into middle age?  I might be wayyy off base but the way C and S nodded their heads (and we're all about the same age) I felt validated and a little relieved. 

Along with my eyesight and hearing not as sharp as they used to be, some weight gain and my ass dropping a few inches I feel like I've been dealt a sneaky hand since turning 40. 

Mental capacity?  I work amongst geniuses and powerful thinkers.  Do I/can I keep up?  Do I give off the perception that I do and contribute value to the team?  I sure hope so.  On days I have insecurity leaks I don't feel like it, but when that happens I remember how much I HAVE learned over the years and relish the fact that everyone else is probably feeling the same way too.  I am by default a supreme self-critic, so I try to give myself a break even though the corporate work culture does not - and I don't expect it to either.

I kept rambling outloud to C and S...is my brain frying - can I follow and keep up?  Am I losing it?  Am I feeling changes in my mental agility?

And then C piped in..."I think it's just full."  Meaning, the brain has no more room in the inn right now.  I died laughing.

That would have been perfect for our famous work Quote Sheet he and I used to keep on our office walls - capturing funny things people say.  Things that maybe weren't meant to be funny but sure came out funny. 

I think it's time to start up a new one.


A Political Shitstorm...with Balloons

Do I exaggerate just a tad here?  Perhaps.  But I like the title so it stays.

I work in a technology field where we're diving head first and full-speed into something new.  This is exhilarating one minute and panicky the next - and everywhere in between on the spectrum. There are moments I feel like doing happy backflips out of my desk chair and times I feel like punting people to the Moon.  And it's all good; it's just the 'normal' most all of us are used to, as crazy as it sounds.  Maybe it's like living somewhere with rapidly-changing weather.  Storms are guaranteed, but so is sunshine.

My prior job a couple gigs back needs a nod and thanks.  It lasted just 11 months (by design) but it probably was one of the best, more recent ones which continued thickening up that professional skin of mine to weather my new flavor of storms. 

And it also helps I used to work on this current company's campus from 1999 to 2006, so I have a ton of backstory and understanding of the overall culture, which really hasn't changed much even though the technology products certainly have.  Yes, I worked at this company starting right on the brink of Y2K.  And all those unknowns which now seem laughable and quaint - munching on Olive Garden lasagne late into the evening with a chaser of sparkling cider...with everyone waiting for the big 999 to 000 calendar rollover.

Where I'm based now is thick and bloated with memories.  It's the original group of buildings dating back to the early 1980s - a time when their location was considered The Sticks and these buildings were probably in the sticks of those sticks.  Heavy, solid hardwood office and conference room doors.  Worn, dated, threadbare carpet.  Walls banged up from countless furniture moves. Old school architecture.  How many now-billionaires used to walk these older buildings' halls or strolled the asphalt paths and sky bridges between them?

I walked a few of those hallowed outdoor paths with a peer of my manager yesterday afternoon during a break.  More of a not-quite-locking-horns discussion with intent to get things back on track.  Did we argue?  Yes, perhaps.  With a beautiful large fountain as background noise.  And I was so focused on our conversation I barely noticed if others were passing by and honestly didn't really care.

I have to stop myself here too.  Wasn't it me just a few months ago so hungry to get back to work?  And now that it's been about five months I'm back to venting about my job?  I have to laugh at myself.  I suppose we're only human.

Gotta love entanglement.  That's the gem of a term a sales VP I worked with would use to demonstrate how various engagements can 'entangle' one or many to where they are seemingly indispensable resources (which, in turn, means repeat business).  But that's a slippery, double-edged sword. 

My workload is now split three ways - each 'way' reports up to 3 different people in my immediate organization...my official manager, a peer of my manager, and their manager (my skip-level).  How do these tangled webs get woven so quickly?  And is this normal or is it just my possibly weird work style which brings this on?  I've been scratching my head about this for years for it seems to be a pattern.  Whether it's a strength or not I don't know.

As you might expect, this is a recipe prone for collisions.  Collisions I am used to navigating through with level-headed charm and hopefully a touch of grace and tact.  But be warned - the occasional F bomb creeps in.  Most people I work with know this.  More often than not, my style is 'court jester'.  Keep focused and work hard but take a moment for a laugh or a friendly rib-jabbing. 

It all boiled over recently about bunch of fucking balloons.  Part of our organization had an all-day event planned and somehow balloons seemed to creep themselves in as must-have decorations for the large campus conference room we had booked.  Nothing wrong with that, but in the end decor was not a priority.  This was an internal event - no outside press invited. 

I'd been head down getting an overdue report scrubbed and delivered on Thursday - a new report of which the overall strategy is still fuzzy to me but it was repeatedly explained to me it was urgent so I forged ahead.  The peer of my manager  stopped by and asked me to call a party shop to confirm if they took a certain credit card for the balloon order.  I'm sure the look on my face said it all.  Are you freaking kidding me?? I was head-down finishing another past-due deliverable, far more important than balloons, and now I'm being asked to drop everything and order balloons?  I'm glad a co-worker of mine was witness to this whole conversation (I share an office with two other women), for I pretty much recoiled and said um NO.  Find our team's administrative assistant for help with crap like that.  Come ON. I was tired of getting randomized about things that were far less urgent than past due reports.

I don't like playing the tattletale role but I had to share what was going on with my immediate manager.  So, we had an impromptu, private chitchat.  The look on his face was priceless.  He in turn went to speak with his manager about it and I can only imagine what happened from there.

I was tired.  I'm a terrible morning person and had an early meeting that morning and knew the morning of the all-day event would be an even earlier start. 

So that Friday morning I arrived at the large conference room - more for moral support than actual contributions.  I arrived a good hour before I usually come to work so I was still in a fog. The presentation team was putting the final touches on the PowerPoint deck and I could see it all on the large projection screen.  These are people I work with on a daily basis and I have huge respect for their knowledge.  And great personalities too.

Now. I simply cannot STAND making final teensy tweaks right before a presentation.  Everything should be scrubbed, proofread, previewed and rehearsed far prior, but obviously that's an ideal, not always reality.  But I won't kid you - that final tweaky behavior drives me absolutely batshit crazy.  I've seen it happen too many times - people freaking out over minutiae that in the end will be a split second blip viewing of a slide never to be seen again.  I've been on other project teams where laptops are mingling at the hotel restaurant tables with breakfast before we whiz off to a client presentation - in a town we're not familiar with and we're still figuring out where we're supposed to go and how bad the traffic will be.  Or where a fellow team member is sitting on the floor of a crowded airport terminal with his laptop, trying to finish up something over the phone while the rest of the plane is boarding.  I love an occasional adrenaline rush, but that is WAY too over the edge on a regular basis.

So when I saw the final tweaking going on yesterday morning and sensed the frustration in the room I said - in a rather loud voice - something like:

"Sometimes it's best to just STOP and LEAVE THINGS ALONE."  And then there was silence.  I hope it helped.  I know I felt better getting that off my chest.

The event went very well.  I was impressed with everyone's presentations and how we got started on time - and finished up early.  That is the perfect gift to your guests in my opinion...especially on a Friday afternoon.

Now, about that conversation in front of the campus fountain.  I'm still confused but I'm OK where things left off.  This won't be the end of head butting, but I guess in the bigger picture it's just a part of being, well, a part of this team.  I suppose I could have said earlier on I was getting frustrated and overwhelmed, but when we were past due on things that needed to happen quickly I chose to just suck it up and DO rather than bitch.  The bitching came later - and the random balloon request was the straw on the camel's back.  

It's confusing when someone tells me it's OK to say no to them occasionally...but then in the same breath tells me how upset they were when I said NO to balloon research.  Only certain no's are OK to push back on then?  HUH?  I chalk it up to people being tired and overworked.  And human.  So, I try to inject a little of my trademark grace and forgive.  But I'm not ready to forget.  We'll get to the bottom of all of this and come to a new agreement and understanding.

Oh, and yes there were balloons in the conference room.  And they looked great.


Dang, I Love Random Weekends

A few of you out there have actually read a few or *gasp* many or most of my posts since I launched fivenineteen in September 2009.

Somehow, my weekends end up just as quiet - or just as busy - as they are supposed to be.  It fascinates me how sometimes a jam-packed weekend is as relaxing as one with close to zero plans and a veg-fest on the couch or here with the laptop.

Those of you - all two or three of you - who read this Blog regularly - may remember over Labor Day weekend, for example, how I had zero plans.  This weekend was a whole different story.

And yes, it's a fivenineteen double-shot bonus weekend, for here's yet another post.

Majorly awesome school classmates reunion (girls night potluck)
I started posting awhile back about "the ones who really know you."  And we've expanded this 3 or 4 times a year potluck gathering outward - this past Friday we had 10.  10 of us who know eachother back to elementary school and junior high years, so ready to burst with conversation and laughter we never made it to the dining room table nor the wonderfully remodeled living room our hostess C has in her gorgeous home.  Nope - it was all about hanging out in the kitchen and the kitchen island with munchies and wine.  One of those amazing nights where "all of a sudden" it's midnight.

This, my friends, is food for my soul.  I come away from these gatherings so energized and refreshed!

Gym workout
I probably didn't get to sleep until 2am early Saturday following that potluck. I was so awake and happy it was hard to get to sleep.  I shamelessly love to sleep in on weekend mornings - but hopefully not past 9:30am or so otherwise I feel I'm wasting the day away.  I lounged around in the PJs and made some coffee - oh the delicious luxury of lingering.  I made a pot of Seattle's Best Coffee Henry's blend as it was on special at the grocery store.  Forza coffee is still my hands down favorite brand but I'm trying to be a tad bit frugal (despite the fridge and phone both putting my debit card into overdrive last month) by finding other brands which don't have that overly roasted bitterness Starbucks is known for.  And how awesome to pull those coffee beans from MY NEW FRIDGE/FREEZER.  Halle-freakin-lullejah! 

After a few cups of coffee and a light breakfast I hauled my ass down to the gym for 45 minutes on the treadmill (walk-run intervals) plus some free weights and side crunches with the fitness ball.  It's just a 5 minute drive from my house, and I have not been going as regularly as I was a few months ago.  Every time I get my bill I think, sheesh, just go!  The recent remodel/upgrade is amazing.  So I brought my iPod and just hit the treadmill for awhile, like I was doing when I was training for my first 5Ks last year.  It felt good to get back on the treadmill, watch some hockey on the CBC channel on the treadmill TV and rock out to my iPod. Too bad there weren't any hot guys - or any guys - playing squash on the courts in straight shot view from the treadmills.  I figured more people would be in the gym on a Saturday afternoon given the weather was yucky.

Lo and behold who should flag me down from the upper interior balcony but my past trainer, Bruce, who worked my butt off last year for a few months.  He's a great trainer and had the most creative, weird-ass but effective ways to change around the weight machines to isolate areas like triceps, hamstrings or pecs. And he introduced me to the medicine balls as well as planking.  I was so sore at work those next mornings I was probably walking around like I had ridden a horse all day.  Good stuff.  Hopefully I'll be able to carve out more time/dollars to have him train me a couple of nights a week like last year.  Middle age is a reality blast in both the face and body and I need to rebuild lost muscle tone in a huge way.  And -ahem- where are those Jillian Michaels DVDs?

Karaoke...and Country Music on a night out - combined
Collective gasp/faint anyone?  Here's the deal.  I love music - anything but country.  And karaoke?  Fugeddaboudit. Seriously.  I had a shitty experience at a work related function with alcohol-soaked karoake at a restaurant (as an observer, not participant) at an impressionble time just out of college and it really soured me.  I have a lot of great friends who enjoy doing karaoke but they know it's just not my deal.  And I love music but country is probably way down on my list of loves.

So how was this night different?  I changed my tune - no pun intended. This night was karaoke but backed by an aweome live band with a huge audience of 800 or so.  Not the pre-recorded karaoke with porn star rejects in the cheesy videos.  Yes, I have no opinions.

This was the final round of a country music karaoke competition at the Snoqualmie Casino, about 30 miles east or so of my suburb.  What a superb facility - and huge!  My friend T's boyfriend D was a finalist (wow!!) in this contest and it was absolutely amazing to be there.  It was my first time meeting him and he did a great cover of Guitars, Cadillacs (Dwight Yoakam as I learned).  It was fun being there even if I wasn't totally familiar with everyone's songs other than a John Mellencamp, Shania Twain or Carrie Underwood song that's more mainstream pop/rock.  And D took 7th out of 17 and got an awesome cash prize!  He has a CD and a music video out so he's no stranger to the industry.  It was wonderful to meet him in person and  cheer him on!

It felt great to brush off two things I don't normally care for - country music and karaoke - to support a friend and her boyfriend plus have a fun night out.  And a couple Tanqueray and tonics helped too.

Silpada jewelry
Can I do this - take this on as a side business?  How much freaking spare time do I have?  Am I crazy?

I love all the party-based home shopping lines - Tupperware, PartyLite, Pampered Chef, the list goes on.  I've probably hosted a few parties over the years and attended many more as a guest. And loved it.  The jewelry is fantastic.  Most of it is sterling silver based which is perfect for my skin tone. 

I met up with a consultant over coffee this afternoon and have a lot of reading to do.  We'll see how this pans out.

So when I mentioned I have a hockey game tonight to the Silpada friend I met with for coffee this afternoon she asked how old my hockey kids were.  How HILARIOUS to clarify that...it's actually ME that plays!  Not kids! Holy crap, how funny!  I haven't had to clarify this since I marched into a proshop 7 years ago with a list of equipment to buy - convincing the shop associate it was for ME, and not kids. Don't all middle-aged suburban blonde women around here play hockey?  

I love my new team.  We've got a ton of potential and played 1000% better than our inaugural game last week.  Nowhere to go but up! 

I had THE funniest Fail tonight in warm up. We were doing the typical "corners" drill, where you split into two groups in the corners and take turns skating out, catching passes and taking shots on our goalie to warm him up. Been doing this for years.

Well, I missed catching one of my passes but the puck was somehow at my feet and I thought I'd do a cool quick turnaround and continue toward the net. The turnaround was cool but as I started forward again I must have caught an edge because I went SPLAT belly flop on the ice and landed spread eagle . Dang, the poor girls took the brunt of the impact. Could be some bruises tomorrow.

And I broke a nail too later on.

That's a good game in my book...along with a few cool bruises.


It seemed so still...but was so restless, hectic and busy

I'm fascinated with corporate work cultures as a lot of you may know.  As a corporate worker myself, I dive in deep and do whatever I can to get acclimated, develop rapport and relationships and be productive/add value from day one wherever possible, but still in parallel try to hover above it all as an outside observer.  My work life has consisted of shorter-term consulting and contracting engagements since pulling the plug on a 7-year stint in 2006, so there's been a lot of opportunity to zoom in and out.

And, it's fueled my closet sociologist curiosity big time too.  Sigh...me and my virtual clipboard.

Over the last four years I've had the privilege of peeking under the hood into quite a few different companies...7 if you include both the companies themselves (plus their external clients if that was the focus.)  8 if you include the pro bono work I did earlier this year while I was job hunting - our team was working hard to get that fire lit - gathering kindling, gently shielding any possible sparks from rain or high winds to get a steady flame going.  Could it really turn into a paid work engagement?

In fact, the picture in today's post is a shot of one of the work spaces our team camped in earlier this year.  Our CEO had a really cool part-time office suite arrangement.  Rather than sign a full-time monthly lease he used a management company that sets up temporary, as-needed office space for small businesses worldwide, so we'd be stationed either at this location or more downtown depending. I see my purse on the chair at far left - we'd just come back from a quick lunch.  Yes, the never-fails-me Louis Vuitton Saleya with the Damier brown check exterior and amazing red lining.  One of my favorite interviewing and work travel handbags.  Perhaps I carried it that day to bring a bit more 'luck' to our mix. 

I did a lot of interviewing over the past year and while it's hard to describe - this is my first attempt 'saying' it in words - it utterly fascinates me how the same - THE SAME - place I stepped into as an interview candidate can flip from seeming so calm to an utter hair-on-fire 27-ring circus of madness after being there actually working and getting acclimated.

And I think back on the other places I've worked...some are super fast-paced while some - at least from my viewpoint - THINK they're fast-paced but really aren't.  Some places probably had happy dust flying around in the air ducts - people were so cheery and positive even when things were going to shit.  And other places with relative calm, steady-state operations, well, people found more time to bitch.  It's hard to express all of this in words, but the contrasts just fascinate me.  Maybe I'll keep working on this in future posts.

So, just how big is this new job "onion" anyway?  Right now the layers seem endless.

The same halls I walked as an interview candidate not knowing a soul save for the hiring manager I'd just shaken hands with are now full of people I engage with daily on TONS of open tasks, issues and challenges. And, hopefully time out for a good laugh to blow off steam.  Sense of urgency and sense of humor...those two rhythms burn deep in my being and I try to live them out to my best every day.

The same meetings I used to attend as a fly on the wall as a newbie are now chock full of things for me to do, develop, report on and present.  Long gone are those days of bliss when I was simply trying to follow discussions and understand the massive MASSIVE amounts of lingo and acronyms.  Oh, and learning the names and voices of those on the conference calls. The issues discussed used to mean nothing as I had zero context.  Now, casual comments or questions/concerns from the teams...now they are borderline keeping me up at night - or, more often than not - keeping me very busy during the day. 

I feel like I'm on a teeter totter that could start tipping either way...I remember the stress of not working for months and the unknowns waking up every day wondering if THIS would be the day that email or phone call would come through - The Next Gig.  And, fast forward nearly five months, I'm starting to feel the pressure.  We've got some major things launching in the near future.  Being comfortable being uncomfortable.

And so much has changed - my work tasks, my office location and a few faces have come and gone on the team too.  At this company, none of this is unusual in a relatively short timeframe.  In fact, if it wasn't happening I'd be concerned.  So when the stress starts to boil upward in me during the workday, I take a moment to close my eyes and remember, "you're getting PAID for this stress."  When I get frustrated with someone's behavior I take a moment to remember the same.

I rarely lay awake at night now mulling over open tasks or upcoming meetings.  That used to be a big part of my Sunday night routine in my mid/late 20s, especially when I was supervising teams.  Fast forward a few years and thanks to a little more wisdom plus taking up hockey, Sunday nights don't stress me out so much anymore.  Plus, being a little older and having been through - and survived - many varieties of stressful situations, I can take things in stride.  And as my Dad so wisely told me many years ago, "you'll feel better when you're there working the problem."  Meaning, don't worry about it off the clock.  He's right.

After all, we're doing great things on this team, but we're not curing cancer or ending world hunger.

Now it's time for another cup of coffee and time to plunge into the weekend.  Oh Monday, I see you in the distance - your time will come soon enough. 

For now, it's all about you, Saturday.