Oh, the Power of Connections!

By now a lot of you who tune in here regularly (thank you!!) know I typically have a new post on Sundays.  This is one of the most relaxing things I do all week - I look forward to the combo of mental downtime AND challenge when I blog.  Sometimes I have ZERO idea what I'm going to blog about when I sit down and fire up the keyboard.

This past week was totally different.  I knew exactly what I was going to write about today, and it was crystal clear to me as of last Monday night.

When I was a lot younger, I remember hearing people around me or on TV, wherever, say things like "it's all who ya know."  And for some reason that would never sit well with me.  I'd bristle inside and try to not roll my eyes.  I don't know why I felt that way; actually this is my first attempt trying to put those feelings from so many years ago into words. 

But as I've gotten older, I'm reminded endlessly how true this is, and I don't wrinkle up inside or get fussy about it.  Because I know it, breathe it, love it and live it. The connections I (and all of us) have have shaped my life in too many ways to list.  Friendships. Jobs. Dating. Hockey.  Lots of the big buckets in my life.  Well, the dating bucket is a little empty right now, but she's there and ready.  Hmmm, that's probably fodder for another post.

Monday started out great.  It was the beginning of my second full week in this new job.  I'm feeling so energized, motivated and happy with this group.  I wonder how much of it is honeymoon and how much is because this really IS a great place for me to be right now.  

On my commute home, I noticed my gas gauge was really low, so I stopped by a Chevron station I fill up at all the time.  After filling up my car, I started up the engine, but I couldn't get my car out of Park, even after releasing the emergency brake.  I didn't freak out too much, because this actually happened a couple of times a few months ago.  The solution was to shut off the engine, wiggle the steering wheel a little bit and then start up the car again.  Everything then worked just fine.

Not so much on this past Monday night.  I re-started the car multiple times and no matter what I could not get my car into gear!  I was starting to get a little self-conscious.  Here I was in peak-time commuting, when gas stations are pretty busy and I couldn't get going and on my way.  15, 20, 25 minutes went by and I'm still parked in front of the damn gas pump!  

I went inside to let the cashier know.  He was a really nice man, and even offered to sit in my car and try it himself.  No-go for him either.  He put an orange cone behind my car and said, "it's a linkage problem."  And he walked away.  I also called my brother who sold me this car a few years ago.  He was sure there was a manual override button somewhere to get the car out of Park.  Even after sending him a picture of my gear console via my phone, we couldn't find it.  

I knew it was time to call AAA and get towed to the shop.  Le Sigh.  But I tell you, that $50 annual membership fee pays for itself many times over.  As I was on the phone with the dispatcher my mind starting racing.  I knew I needed to 1) get home after getting my car to the shop and 2) get to work tomorrow morning.  By now it was around 7pm and I knew the dealership would be closed (meaning they wouldn't be able to rent me a car that night). 

I called my neighbor A.  By some awesome luck of coincidence she was home and said she'd be able to get me home that night and would take me into work the next day, even though it was a ways from her work commute.  Wonderful!  I knew I could always get a cab home and figure out the bus to get into work, but I'm glad I didn't need to.  My work laptop wasn't set up yet for me to work remotely.

All I could do now was wait.  Wait for the tow truck and then wait for my neighbor to come get me. Then I remembered, oh yeah:  I have a weekly chat with L, my sponsor in my Silpada jewelry business on Monday nights.  My head was spinning with so much - when was I going to get home?  How much was this repair going to cost me?  And on and on.  I called L to tell her I was really preoccupied with this car situation and I was not going to be in any shape to talk bling. 

Here's where it gets interesting!  She said, "oh, no worries, and I'll call M."  Oh my God, I'd totally forgotten her husband is a manager at a car rental company!  Within a few minutes she called me back.  M was able to get me a rental contract on the spot - at this late hour.  All I would have to do was get to the Goose (a bar in Bellevue) and he would be waiting with the car and paperwork.  WOW!  I was blown away.  If it hadn't been Monday night, the night I typically chat with L, it never would have dawned on me to call her to have M help me out!

All of this happened while I was waiting for the tow truck driver.  I called my neighbor A back and told her once I got to the dealership to drop it off for repair, she would need to take me to the Goose to pick up my rental. 

The tow truck driver was really nice.  And before he hooked up my car to tow it, he tried nudging it very gently with his truck.  That worked!  I could now get the car out of Park and into gear!  We tried it two more times, but it failed on the 3rd try.  Yep, the car needed to go in the shop alright.

So I rode shotgun in the tow truck - it was just about a 10 minute drive to the dealership.  On the way there I called my brother back to tell him what happened and to thank him for his help troubleshooting over the phone.  We ended the call with "love you" as we always do.  After I hung up, the tow truck driver told me, "you know, we don't tell our loved ones we love them enough. I'm glad you told your brother that when you were wrapping up your call. And take that as a compliment.”

Wow.  I was surprised but very touched.

When we arrived at the dealership I started filling out the envelope form for the after hours key drop off, and I called A to let her know I was ready for her to come get me.  The tow truck driver handed me his paperwork to sign and I thanked him for his help.  

I was still mentally reeling from everything that happened...I was feeling disoriented, overwhelmed - so many emotions all mixed up. 

What happened next totally blew me away.  The tow truck driver looked at me and said, "Ma'am, I know you aren't very happy right now, but I want you to know how happy I am to help out someone like you tonight." He went on to explain what he meant.  He meant someone not in any danger, uninjured and ALIVE.  We've had a couple of very bad accidents with fatalities these past couple of weeks.  A logging truck and semi got tangled up on one of our major freeways, slamming right into backed up commuter traffic.  About 16 cars were involved, and a 9 year old girl died a few days later.  And just a week ago, a man in his mid 40s, married with two young children was driving home from making a routine Sunday afternoon run to Costco. He was killed instantly when his car collided with a shit-faced drunk man in a road rage road race.  The driver who killed him walked away without a scratch.  And supposedly got out of the car and started beating his chest like an animal after the crash!  What the fuck?

P, the tow truck driver, explained that HE was part of the cleanup crew for both of those tragedies.  And as he told me more, his voice started to wobble and he choked up.  Suddenly, all of my inward mental bitching and moaning about my situation melted away.  I knew I had nothing to complain about that Monday night.  Sure my car had to go in the shop, but I wasn't stranded in the middle of nowhere, I wasn't in any danger, I wasn't hurt...and I had great help getting through this 27-ring circus.

I'll never forget P and his emotional reflecting on what he had to witness these past couple of weeks.  We don't normally think about the emotional stress our rescue workers and ambulance drivers deal with as part of their jobs.  I should have hugged him.

After dropping off my car and riding with my neighbor A to the Goose to pick up my rental, I was exhausted.  But home, safe...and the proud renter of a Dodge Charger, ha!  Muscle cars are so not my style; I giggled as M pulled it up for me before signing the rental contract.  Vroom vroom!

Know what?  The next day I had my car back - and the repair was only $135!  Unbelievable!  You normally can't walk into a dealership repair shop for that amount.  What happened?  The brake switch had failed (not the brakes themselves).  I learned that this is the switch that senses your foot is on the brake, and it then lets you take your car out of Park.  Aha! I'm such a GIRL with car repairs.  I know you're supposed to get oil changes, check the tires and have them rotated occasionally.  Beyond that I have no clue.  

So I am relieved not only that my car got fixed but also how inexpensive the repair was!  My car is 12 years old and she's a rockstar for sure, but I know at some point she's gonna have to go out to pasture.

Meanwhile, I count my blessings...and connnections!


Not Sweating in the Sweater

I'll let you in on a little secret.  I've started this funny tradition of sorts the past 3 years.  Mid July just isn't mid July without the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale!  Yes, angels sing as I open my mailbox and find the catalogue waiting, packed with new goodies on sale for the fall/winter season!

THIS is my favorite time of year to shop.  Lots of you may know I love to invest in fall/winter clothing, shoes, boots, scarves, etc.  Around here the summer season is so short it's just not worth it to go all out with expensive shorts, tops, sundresses, etc.  OK, I DO plunk down some cashola on sandals and flip flops...oh and nice sunglasses too. A girl's gotta accessorize.  But for summer clothing, put me in J. Crew clearance and I'm happy.

So what's my tradition?  No, it's not taking the day off from work and waiting for the store to open that fabulous Friday morning at 7am.  Not this night owl! I pour over the catalogue and mark my favorites. Then I stay up late the night before, and when the clock strikes midnight, I go online and place my order!  Then I fall blissfully into bed...and get back to work the next day.

About a week later, the hot UPS man shows up with my order!  How awesome is this?  No crowds or long lines in the stores.  If you know your sizes in your favorite designers, shopping online is a great alternative.

I'm really happy with my choices this year:  black high heeled Via Spiga ankle boots (I pretty much live in black shoes and boots 3 seasons of the year) and black patent leather high heeled loafers (by Me Too, a brand I had not heard before of but these fit very nicely, whew).  High heeled loafers are very on trend this season. And I smile and remember when they also were about 15ish years ago...I had surgery on my right foot back in 1995 and I remember treating myself to a pair as a reward to myself for getting through the surgery, crutches and physical therapy.  Excruciating.  But I will never take walking without pain for granted ever again.  Thank you, Dr. S!!

I also purchased a wonderful, light knit wool wrap in a deep magenta with some charcoal grey on the trim.  Delicious!  And I found a fair isle sweater in grey and black (do we see a pattern here), cut in a loose, boxy style with a wide neckline.  Kind of an edgy take on a classic.  I like this.  Fair Isle is very pretty, but it is too preppy bordering on frumpy in a more traditional sweater style on me.

Another part of this ritual is the funny feeling of trying on new winter clothes when it's blasting hot weather.  Oooh the feel of comfy wool or cashmere...so contradictory slipping it on when it's 90 degrees out...I forget for a second what it feels like after all these months!

Well, except for this year.

Our weather this spring and summer has been terrible.  Much more cold and rainy than usual.  Even last Sunday I went for a walk with my neighbor, A and her dog.  It POURED rain.  Rain like cold February rain.  In freakin' mid July.  UGH!  There was some news story going around about how we've only had about 80 minutes of above 80 degree temperatures this year.  Meanwhile the rest of the country is gripped in a heat wave.

I zipped home from work last week knowing my Nordstrom delivery would be waiting on my front doorstep!  Bliss!  The boots and shoes both fit great, and the wrap is gorgeous!  Next I darted upstairs to try on the sweater...very soft and comfortable.

And that night I pretty much needed to keep it on.  Brrr. Nope, no sweating!

Do we have hope for a hot, late summer?  Hello, August?? 


Plastic Access

What a week of transitions, waiting...and a dose of New injected into my Prior Familiar.

Just what am I talking about?  Well, I started my new job on Wednesday as best I could - I'll get to that in a second - and also had a test in patience waiting for a new debit card from my bank.

And reflecting back on these two things, well, they both tie into a simple yet oh-so-critical object - a plastic card!  Hilarious?  Frustrating?  Yes and yes.

At work I need a cardkey to get where my new team is located.  Once inside the building our offices are in another small cluster which is secured off.  Makes total sense but is a little inconvenient.  Especially when you have to step out to use the restroom.   Ah, but this is all temporary stuff and not unusual.  It's nice to know this so it doesn't burn a bunch of mental cycles that I need for getting to know everyone on the team and actually learning what my new job is going to be.  Just a few more days now and I'll be all set. Until I'm able to get my new laptop all set up, it's old school time with a tablet of paper and a pen.  I'm actually just a 2 minute walk from the building where my last engagement just wrapped up and have already run into a few people from my former team! 

The home laptop here...well, that's an ugly story with thankfully a happy ending.  Last week I got a virus.  No idea how exactly.  I've learned many things about viruses and virus removal since this episode.  One is that viruses can lie dormant in your machine for some time and then suddenly spring to life.  There's no traceable way to determine just when you got infected.

I also learned that when you're prompted to run the chkdsk utility (on a PC), DON'T.  Running chkdsk is perfectly fine; prompts to run it are not.  They're ways to lure you into running the utility which then installs malicious code that you may have been exposed to.  This is me, a non-technical person, trying to explain this as plainly as I can.  I am sure there's much more behind the scenes so techies out there bear with me.

And when you get pop up error messages that your hard disk is failing, it's not.  I saw these messages and it's scary how freakin' legit they looked.  I admit I panicked a bit.  This laptop is 5 years old, which is ancient relatively speaking.  I figured, oh man, this is it...it's crapping out!  Am I going to lose any data?  EEEEK!  In reality, when your computer hard disk is failing, you won't get pop up warnings.  Your computer will freeze up or not boot up at all.

THEN this console dashboard-y thing pops up on my screen and proceeds to scan for errors and fix them.  I'd never seen anything like this before.  What the hell?  It then spit out a report that some errors were fixed but some were not able to be fixed.  For $85, why not upgrade to the premium version of this scanning tool?  It was called something like XP Fix.  Looking back it was eerie how authentic everything appeared.  But of course it wasn't.  This thing even had the secure icons that you see on shopping websites all the time.

In my heat of panic, I agreed to purchase the upgrade!  How could I be such a dumbass?  You know, the minute I clicked to purchase, my stomach went into a knot.  I knew I'd make a terrible mistake.

What else happened from the virus?  Well, I lost all of my icons, like things you see in your start menu and all.  Turns out they weren't deleted, just hidden.  Weird.  After the 2nd troubleshooting session my icons were visible again, but I still wasn't completely free from the virus(es).  My online search results would get hijacked and redirected toward strange spammy looking websites advertising cheap flights to Beijing or whatever.  Ummmm, yeah right.  This thing was so intense it even attacked my anti-virus software, but made it appear to be running normally.  Only after some deep troubleshooting were the techs and I able to see the real story and fix it.  Yikes.

So after 3 very long troubleshooting sessions with Dell over 3 days, I'm all cleaned up.  None of the error fixing stuff from the console pop up was legit.  And believe me, after the 1st session was done (I thought it would be the last but it wasn't), I called my bank and had them cancel my debit card.  Thankfully there were no unauthorized charges on it; still it was good peace of mind to cancel it.  I had to wait a week for the new one to arrive, so it was a little inconvenient doing errands old school with my checkbook, but it was worth the wait. 

Just yet another tiny rectangle of plastic.  How much we come to depend upon it.


Hittin' the Reset Button

So much has happened in the couple weeks since I last wrote.  I feel like I've busted through a wall (in a good way) or have gone through a massive kind of human car wash.  I feel great - refreshed, renewed and happy.  Even lighter too, but I'm not stepping on the scale just yet.

My last day of work was Thursday the 30th.  I knew this day was coming, and it was nice having nearly a full month's notice that I'd be wrapping up then for sure.  When you do consulting/contract work like I have for nearly five years, you learn quickly how fluid and unpredictable work assignments can be.  You don't always get as much notice as a month.  Hell, I've had two weeks, one week another time...and even another time got a phone call driving home one night that I didn't need to come back to work the next day.  Never knew why.  It was the end of the quarter and maybe they'd forgotten that they needed to trim their contingent workforce.  Who knows.  

Why do I do this type of work, you may wonder?  Well, I consider it a big advantage, as I get the opportunity to zoom in and out of very disparate work environments and see what's out there.  I do the work they need me to do and then I move on.  I don't have to insert myself in politics or bullshit that every work environment has.  I learn different ways of solving problems and can apply them in other work engagements.

The flip side is I'm pretty much networking and job hunting year 'round.  Time goes quickly and most of my engagements are a year or less in length.  This one happened to be just over a year.  Felt like the blink of an eye, really.  So while there's a part of me that gets a little drained having to keep an eye out for my next job pretty much constantly, the advantage is I've built up a much stronger network than I would have if I'd stayed in the same job for years and years.  I know how to rock an interview, network and land a job.  I always land on my feet.  Sure, I feel a little envious when I see people around my age who have been at their same jobs for 10-15 years or longer, but I've also heard them tell me things like, "Wow, I haven't been on an interview in years.  I wouldn't know how to do what you're doing, fivenineteen.  I don't know what I'd do if I ever got laid off."  Guess the grass is always greener.  I'm happy in my patch 'o green right now.

The job market has improved immensely out there, at least in my little world of perspective.  Once I updated my resume and started getting the word out, lots of calls and emails came pouring in.  That feels pretty damn good, no doubt there.

I'm starting a new position later this week!  It's at the same company I was at prior, but in a completely different business unit.  Everything about this has felt good and right from the minute I got called to interview.  Including the speed of business and sense of urgency in getting this all put together (paperwork, etc).  Remember how my start date for the position I just wrapped up got delayed some two or three weeks?  And when I did show up for Day One, my manager was out sick and didn't tell anyone (so I sat in the lobby for two hours with a peer of mine and a sales rep)?  Yeah, I don't like to remember that either because it sucked royally.  Glad that is all far, far in the rear view mirror.  And it makes for great storytelling too.

So I have had just about a week of downtime between gigs.  Just enough to really "reset," but not so long that my brain would start going to mush. 

I had an incredible 4th of July weekend with family. I've posted about Ocean Park and the Long Beach Peninsula out on the Washington coast before.  It's truly magical, beautiful and deeply steeped in family history. And it's fun seeing my nephews and niece discover it too and get to know their other cousins - on both sides of the family!  We had incredible warm and sunny weather - it's a crapshoot on the coast even in early summer like now.  Polar fleece?  Shorts?  Yes and yes.

Even the drive there and back is relaxing and cleansing.  Once you get off the main freeways and onto the two-lane highways the scenery is amazing.  I've driven that route hundreds of times and I never get tired of it.

Know that feeling when you're on a roll...things just happen in your favor?  Right down to a rockstar parking spot when you're running late for an appointment...and parallel park correctly on the first try?  That's how it's been lately, and frankly I deserve it.  It's been a real grinding haul these past 13-14 months.  

Just the other day I got an "escrow overage" check in the mail from my bank.  Wuhh?  $212 - works for me.  And within two days I received two very generous jewelry orders from my side business.  One was a guest who couldn't make my last hostess' party and the other was a friend who called me when I posted something on Facebook about the new jewelry that's coming out later this month for the new season! Earlier this week I looked at my post-coast trip feet.  Yuck...I need a pedicure!  My favorite spa had an opening just two hours later.  I splurged and got the pedi with the extra foot and leg massage time.  Ahhh.  I also met with a couple of recruiters I'd not met with before over lunch.  Like I've said, you always keep networking.  They know I've got something new lined up already, but time goes quickly.

Now...how can I bottle up this great Feeling of Reset?