Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy Birthday to me!

The first thought that crossed my mind this morning was, "WOO HOO it's my birthday." Followed closely by, "oh crap I'm 46."

I don't feel 46. I don't feel old at all in fact (though there are days). And I truly believe it is just a number. I hope I can carry that feeling with me as I age.

I returned from Tuscon without incident. Found the house was still intact and two demons that were very glad to see me. Lucy hopped right up on my lap, while I got the cold shoulder from Linus for an hour or so.  Eventually he caved and shared my lap too.

Christmas was good. We spent it with friends - who are really more like family. The MomUnit and I cooked a turkey with all the trimmings.  We realized we hadn't cooked that meal together for years. It's funny how roles switch though. I used to be the one directed by the MomUnit...now I directed her....somewhat.


The MomUnit and I both came down with colds, her's was worse than mine. I felt like crap for about a day, but survived all the same.

Now it's the 29th and I'm preparing for a birthday celebration tonight. Can't wait to see all my friends!

I'll leave you with this photo. As I flew down to Tucson, I was greeted by Mount Rainier. Such a beautiful sight.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Christmas to all...and to all a goodnight

This morning I woke up with the song, "all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth" in my noggin. No idea how it got there since I don't think I've heard Christmas music in the last day or so - see I'm quarantined in the MomUnit's house this week. Came down with a nasty cold...yay.

Anyhow, I started thinking how simple Christmas was as a kid.  With childlike wonder, all you did want for Christmas was your two front teeth. And heck, you might even be happy with box it came in.  Your Christmas list was simple, child like, and sure you weren't going to get coal in your stocking.

Then as you hit your teens your Christmas list changed a little to the latest trend. And yet at the same time you were stuck between being an adult and still wanting to hold on to that childlike Christmas feeling. That maybe, just maybe, there is a Santa Clause. You list was full of teenage things, lip gloss, most popular albums, maybe makeup, etc.

Then in your twenties, the frenzy of Christmas kinda begins. You're old enough now to buy gifts for everyone, and you're worried about finances and how you're ever going to manage.  Christmas becomes a beast that you aren't ready to wrestle.  Yet, you manage somehow. You become a bit more jaded about Christmas and start to wonder what it's all about.

In your thirties you're a bit more relaxed.  You still have that frenzied feeling, but you're more financially stable and thus aren't as worried about managing. You might even have Christmas dinner at your place. Gasp! You're fully aware at this point that Christmas is about capitalism and the shopping and that makes you just a bit more bah humbug-ish.

Then, miraculously, in your forties, you find what Christmas is all about. It's about family and friends. It's about giving back to the world. It's about spending time with people you love. It's about drinking and eating with such merriment that you can't imagine you ever had a bad feeling about this holiday. And ultimately you realize all you want is for your friends and family to be happy and healthy this holiday season.

So from my house to yours, in my forties, I wish you all a very merry Christmas. May this be a season full of happiness, laughter and much love.


XOXO
Jenn


PS
I didn't get coal this year. I had reason to be concerned too.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Guilt, Fear, and Making Bad Decisions

I think it's safe to say that we've all felt guilt, fear and we've all made bad decisions in our life.  I've come to a recent conclusion related to all three of these that I'd like to share with you. They're related, by a shoe string, but related all the same.

First things first...STOP FEELING GUILTY.

Unless you've done something horrible, stop beating yourself up over things.

I had a conversation yesterday with a friend about feeling guilty about not doing things around her house. Finally, after not sleeping because of the guilt and the strain it puts on her marriage, she and her husband decided to stop it all. They gave themselves permission to NOT feel guilty over not getting everything on their list done.

And who likes house projects anyhow?

What I realized while listening to her was how quickly I feel guilt over things that are really not that big of deal, and certainly aren't worth the effort to feel guilty over.

I'm talking, of course, about making bad food decisions. Or not getting to the gym like I promised myself. Or having that cookie at 2pm instead of an apple.  Or not getting a phone call to an old friend made. The truth is, I shouldn't beat myself up over these things. It takes away some of my soul I think. I spend more time spinning over these small things, that I can't move forward.

Thankfully, I can, and do, stop myself and just let it go (who of you just started singing the Frozen song?)

The problem with "letting it go" is sometimes that's followed by fear. What if "letting it go" means I'm going to die at an earlier age because I ate that cookie AND didn't get to the gym. 

And thus starts the gerbil wheel of worry. That's an entirely different blog though.

The other element here is the worry and guilt over making bad decisions. I have known people who have paralyzed themselves into making NO decision because of fear of making a bad decision.

Here's the thing, it's been my experience that the two things I need to make a decision over are never really bad options. I usually have to choose between relatively similar or good options, so why would I concern myself that I'd make a bad decision?

Granted, you should do your research. You should make sure you know all the pros/cons of each side, but if you're already at the "decision" point, then something got you there to make that choice, and that something most likely isn't bad.

I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of telling ourselves one choice is good and the other is bad. I've tortured myself during planning for vacations over which local would be the "right choice". When, at the end of the day, choosing between Rome or Istanbul- I mean really how could either of those locations be bad?

So here's my plan/goal, and maybe advice to you. Stop sweating the small stuff.

I'm happy I'm getting to the gym as much as I have been. Is it perfect? Nope. Not even close. Will it be? Maybe. I have to remind myself that adding exercise to my daily life isn't going to happen over night. Losing weight isn't always going to happen instantly. Slow and steady...stay the course. That's what I remind myself often. (My goal really should be to remind myself of that BEFORE I work myself up into a guilt ridden lather).

I need to remember that guilt has no home in my heart.  Fear should only be an emotion I feel when a bee buzzes by. And bad decisions, I've made a few...but I survived them and probably turned out better because of them.

So give yourself a break. Stop the cycle. Start giving yourself permission to exist ...

Friday, December 05, 2014

I'm killing every second 'til it sees my soul

I've got brethren here...turns out there are a number of people here who suffer from the Stuck Song Syndrome like me.  Now I know I belong here.


And by "here" I mean the new job. I kinda feel like it's a new boyfriend that I can't stop talking about, but I can't stop talking about it. I keep trying to find something wrong with it, and I come up empty every time.


Even our holiday party didn't allow for anything negative.


First off, everyone gets along in this company. Sure there are some quirky folks that I've been warned about. But by and large, everyone gets along. It's kinda unnerving. Either that or I've not looked under the hood well enough to see the truth. Yet, I'm choosing to believe that it is as great as it feels.


Right, so holiday party.


I've not been to a company holiday party since I left the other company that shall not be mentioned.  Yesterday, the entire company showed up (even the developer from Boston) to partake in the holiday cheer. The party was at this miniature golf place called Flatstick (which actually made me think of hockey and not golf). And in typical Seattle way, it's an indoor course. They have a hundred some odd beers on tap, and a golf course that was wicked tough. Our team cheated a bit and didn't count the water traps as a stroke...and we STILL lost.


There was the most amazing food catered by a local company that does mostly organic. And there was an ugly sweater contest. Even their ugly sweaters were fun. The winner of the contest, I wish I had a picture of it, wore a hamburger shirt. At first glance it looks like holly, then you look closer and you're like, "Is that a beef patty?"





This job is doing my soul good. I miss the $$ of contracting, I can't lie about that. But to love what I'm doing is totally worth it.



Monday, December 01, 2014

Book Club: I'll Drink to That


It's been a couple of months since I did a book report on a book club book (Gee, I wonder how many more times I could use the word "book" in that sentence). 

This month's pick was I'll Drink to That by Betty Halbreich.  It's the biography of Betty Halbreich. Who? You may ask yourself, cuz I sure did. She was, or is still, a legendary personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman in NY. 

Are you still with me?

The book is essentially the story of her life. It's no rags to riches story. It's a riches to riches story.  It's about fashion, it's about helping others find themselves through clothing. 

None of which appeals to me. 

But what I've liked about book club so far is I've read some books I normally would never EVER pick up. Most I liked, some I have not. This one would fall into the "have not" column. 

For starters, I couldn't careless about fashion. I know a few name brands that everyone knows, but by and large know nothing about it, and really don't want (or need) to know more. 

The other disappointing thing about this book was she's not an overly interesting broad. Her life struggles of living on Park Ave are struggles I have a hard time understanding. She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and she never really had it removed. 

I didn't finish the book. Mrs.Braspir and Seattle SIL both did and they said the last chapter really redeems the book. I wouldn't know, I didn't get past chapter 3 (oh and they're fairly long chapters). 

So if you're looking for something interesting to read, I wouldn't recommend this book.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Open Letter to BigBro...a year ago today

A year ago today...we said goodbye to you. Some days I'm ok with you leaving us. Most days I'm so angry with you! How dare you leave us?

I miss you more today than I ever thought I would. I miss your smile, the sparkle in your eye and your enormous bear hugs.

Janet and the girls are doing as well as could be expected. They're "getting by". It's hard for them. You were such a rock for them and not having you has them adjusting to not having you. They're leaning on each other. I know for myself I like living in the world of denial where your warm, charming self greats me on a regular basis. Alas, you won't hug me again.

You'd probably roll your eyes over how much fuss was made over you at the 3Day this year. William (your brother from another mother) walked all 7 and in each one wore the "Team Ric" shirt. He posted a photo from every city and every time I got chocked up and thanked my lucky stars that the world has someone like William in it.

The 3 day was hard this year. You touched so many lives there. You loss was felt and a huge hole was made in the heart of the 3Day family.

The MomUnit is doing OK too.  She waited well into the evening on Mother's Day for your call. Then remembering you wouldn't be calling, and never would again, broke her heart. I think she hopes you and the DadUnit are laughing it up.

As for me, my heart still aches over losing you.  There have been so many times I've wanted to call to share some exciting news, or just get brotherly advice, but I knew the call would go unanswered.

I try not to think of all the things you're missing. It makes the grieving harder. There were so many things that still need you to be a part of. And suddenly those things seem to dull.

I'll continue to be gentle with my heart where you're concerned. I was not prepared for the heart break to last this long. Is anyone ever prepared?

So I'll get past this "anniversary". Tomorrow I'll wake to a new day and will think about you throughout the day. I'll smile at the memories we made and frown over no new one's being made with you.

It goes without saying brother, you're missed. The lack of your presence in our lives is, not only unwanted, but leaves us with an enormous hole that cannot be filled.

I love and miss you,
Your little sister

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saying Goodbye

A year ago today...

It was the day after Thanksgiving. That day we knew that friends and family from all walks of our lives would be coming by to say their goodbyes to BigBro.

As we sat in the waiting room, each time the elevator dinged and new people came out, we'd all take a deep breath and begin again with the answer of "how are you doing?".

Many friends and family stayed with us during the day.  Some could only come to support us and couldn't take themselves back to say goodbye. Which was ok to me. Everyone deals with this differently.

At about 6pm the elevator dinged again. Out came all of Seattle SILs best girlfriends, with them was a full fledged Thanksgiving dinner. They had heard about our horrible turkey day dinner and took it upon themselves to bring us a turkey dinner.

I sat and just gaped at how amazing these women were.  They took our worst Thanksgiving ever and made it one of the best, most thankful Thanksgiving. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Post Turkey Day

And here I sit the Friday after Thanksgiving. I managed to get quite a bit done today...

1. Cleaned the scrapbook room.
2.  Scrapbooked a page - getting myself 100% caught up for 2014.
3. Read
4. Went to the gym and had the Tabata cardio kick my ass again. Followed by weights.
5. Ate a turkey Sammy for breakfast.
6. Watched some TV.
7. Kicked the cats. (Ok I didn't really, but I wanted to)
8. Did some grocery shopping so I can have tacos for dinner.
9. Thought about my brother.
10. Cried

A year ago today...we sat and gave thanks for having family. We ate a horrific meal and spent the day missing BigBro and contemplating what life would be like without him.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving everyone

I hope you all had a great Turkey day. I spent it with the fam and tried my best to not miss the big guy.

One year ago today our family sat around, numb, in a cold hospital waiting room. We'd all taken turns going down and chatting with BigBro.  I had ordered a Thanksgiving meal from Fred Meyer's only to find out that it wasn't cooked. So Bobarissa and I bought other makings. And well, it fell very short of anything resembling a turkey dinner. But you do what you can in those situations.

For me that day, I walked down and said my goodbyes to BigBro. We knew by then that we'd certainly be losing him and Seattle SIL had decided on Saturday for when we'd take him off life support.

My conversation with him was short. I told him that he'd be missed and that he was the best brother a girl could have. I cried. I held his hand and I waited for any recognition. Almost begging him to squeeze my hand. Nothing. Just the lonely beeping of the monitors.

I had made a couple of phone calls the day before to let a couple of friends know what was going on and if they wanted to come say goodbye they should.  All of them felt like I had given them a gift to say goodbye. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

That night while driving home all I could think about was the loss the world was soon going to have. So unfair.

And here we are a year later...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Reinventing Traditions

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about traditions. And, like with everything, time has changed some of our traditions, and I'm not all on board with it just yet.

Today I received an email from a magazine I used to subscribe to called Experience Life. One of their main articles was about reinventing traditions.  It's a great, and timely, read.

This week is all about "a year ago today" for me. So you may see in my blogs a little less "happy" Jenn.

To start things off, a year ago today, I got that call that no one ever wants to get.  There was a complication with the surgery BigBro was having.

I can remember it today as it if just happened. Funny how the memory works isn't it. The more traumatic the experience, the more it seems to be burned in your brain.

Anyhow...

I was sitting on the couch finishing my cup of coffee, answering emails. My cell phone rang. I didn't recognize the number so ignored it. I do that you see.

Then it rang again. And something in my said, "answer it."

The voice on the other end was a kind, gentlemanly, doctor voice telling me that during the surgery to put tubes in BigBro's lungs, he went into cardiac arrest. They lost him for 3 minutes, but brought him back. And he finished with, you should come right away.

I hung up and for a moment just sat there. Wondering if I had heard it correctly. "Lost him" - how's that possible? It's BigBro and he's not going anywhere. He's fighting this and he's going to win.

And then it hit me like a sledgehammer to the gut...I HAD to get to the hospital ASAP.

I called Blueberry and filled her in. There was much discussion about coming to get me and taking me to the hospital. I declined and said I'd meet her there.

I often think about that 30 minute drive to the hospital. The ENTIRE way I kept telling myself,

"Keep it together."

"You have to get there in one piece."

"Don't think! Drive!"

This mantra I repeated all the way to North Seattle.

Screeching into a parking lot, I "jogged" up to where they were. Noting ever so briefly that there was a Starbucks in the lobby.

It really is funny how your mind works when you're in a situation you really don't want to be in. It's like it takes over.

I got upstairs, the MomUnit and Seattle SIL were in the room with the doctor. Two chairs sat outside. The MomUnit came out and I folded myself into a chair and cried. Sobbed really.

As I sat and cried, I suddenly stopped. Looked up at the MomUnit and announced, "I've gotta cancel Thanksgiving."

I was all business. Suddenly, and without much warning, I had something I had to do.

Talk about denial.

The MomUnit, bless her, was all, "We can take care of that...just breath."

The next several days seemed to drag by, though now it seems like they flew by so quickly. God I miss that guy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What has been the hardest part about blogging daily?

I somehow got on the topic of blogging daily for the month of November and someone posed this question to me.

It's not really hard one to answer, but first I think I have to answer WHY I want to blog every day for November?

For me it's a test. My annual goal is to blog 3-4 times a week. Some weeks I'm spot on, most week's I'm not. Deciding to blog every day in November gives me a chance to stretch the writing muscle.

The hardest part for me is coming up with enough topics.  I have a list of blog topics that I want to write about "some day" and yet when November comes around none of them seem overly interesting. Or, more likely, I don't have the time to put into doing them justice.

My plan this year was to write several topics ahead of time, and post them during November. That lasted for all of a month. So as November approached I started writing and holding on to topics. The first couple of weeks ate those topics up.

And so here I sit, a week away for completing and I struggle with what to write. So lucky you get lists, like what I did yesterday.

The next couple of days are going to be challenging.  It's been a year since with lost BigBro (I know! I can't believe it either.) and something tells me I'm going to have a hard time this week. I was na├»ve in thinking I'd feel better at this point, more accepting maybe, and yet I sometimes think I feel worse. I still think, "OH I gotta tell BigBro XYZ..." then remember that I can't physically tell him.  I tell him, but I get no response - which if you knew my BigBro you'd know never EVER happened in real life.

And with that...I'm going to post this and check today off the list.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday's Doings

Today I...


1. Got up.


2. Listened to hypnosis


3. Dressed and made coffee


4.  Did my grocery shopping


5. Ate Pho


6. Made Mexicali leftover soup


7. Did Laundry


8. Paid myself for 52 weeks of savings


9. Read


10. Watched some TV


The End.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Trans Siberian Orchestra

OH my goodness, what a fantastic concert.  You have to like rock music to really appreciate them, but wow...so good.

This show was called Christmas in the Attic. They had a story teller in between songs tell a story about a little girl who goes into her attic on Christmas eve and she finds this old chest. In the chest are several items, and a bunch of old letters. She starts reading the letters. Then each song had something to do with the story of the letter.

It was really well put together.

Of course they did their famous Beethoven's Fifth and the other song who's name is escaping me.  Ohhh Carol of the Bells.

It was truly a great concert. Seattle SIL and Blueberry enjoyed it too. Blueberry had some reservations about it, but admitted that she thought it was great.

Here are some photos of the show.








 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Just barely...

I was headed to bed and then remembered I hadn't blogged yet today. Phew. I almost blew it. I'm so close to finishing the 30 days of blogging that it'd be sad.


You do realize once the 30 days is done you probably won't hear from for a bit, right?


ahem...


How about a list?


1. Work is great. I'm getting slammed in the best sort of way. When today started I had 16 projects. All in different phases of effort. Two closed down today and two more new ones showed up. It's like a revolving door.  The boss spent about 15 minutes this afternoon expressing that he felt I was doing a great job and should continue what I'm doing. So that's good.


2. The cold is trying so very hard to bring me down. I think I'm winning the battle though. I felt better today and the stuffy head part of a cold hasn't even begun. Oh crap, I probably shouldn't have said that...I might have just jinxed myself.


3. This weekend Seattle SIL, Blueberry and I are going to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra.  If you've never seen or heard them, what the hell is wrong with you? Go here immediately. Or even here. The last one there is the one that got me completely hooked on them.


And I think 3 is a good number to leave you with tonight.


JW - over and out

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I'm a WEEEner

Its been a tough day. Not tough in that anything difficult happened, just that it was a long day.

So, I may have mentioned (I'm kidding. I know I've mentioned) that I love my new job. Well, today I loved it just a little bit more.

The company has a month all company meeting. It's a quick little meeting for an update from the executives and a few other house keeping things.

The also do this thing called Thanks Unlimited. Basically during the month if you've felt someone has gone above and beyond and want to thank them, you send an email to that person and copy the alias for Thanks Unlimited. Then at the meeting, 5 are pulled at random and read. Those 5 win a gift card or gift certificate to something.

Well, guess who got thanked and won a gift card?

That's right...

This girl!

And apparently a new employee has never won within the first 2 weeks of employment.  Hah.

I was thrilled to have won, but also felt a bit awkward in that I don't like being the center of attention...Still, I'll take my $5 gold star and go buy some coffee with it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blerg

Minimums blog requirement day.


I've got this cold that had been lingering and finally hit. Which means I've got nothing in my noggin to write about.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cardinal rule #1 - broken


I did it. I made my first mistake at the new job. I knew it was just a matter of time. While I’m a perfectionist at heart, I do realize that mistakes are part of the game. I try to avoid them at all costs, but ESPECIALLY in a new job, you know they’re going to happen.

Mistakes are different than failure to me. Failure is a whole other topic I may broach soon. 

I made the number one cardinal mistake for project managers.  I didn’t check the outgoing deliverable against the scope doc! And guess what, the client found some discrepancies. 

Turns out that the dev made some very useful design decisions, but didn’t tell me. And because I didn’t check the scope doc against the deliverable, the client found the discrepancies. That’s the LAST thing you want to happen. This company, in particular, really prides itself on quality and no mistakes. 

I see this as a learning opportunity. I think within your first month you get a few free passes. This should certainly be the exception and not the rule. 

Another fun fact about this company…

Monthly they do this company meeting called Thanks Unlimited. Essentially throughout the month peers send “thank you” notes to managers for a job well done, or something they’ve gone above and beyond with. Then those names are all pulled out and the thank you read. Prizes are to be had…

I bring this up because your’s truly got nominated by a couple folks with respect to my introducing them to Quick Parts in Outlook.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hey! I’m talking to you!


Do you ever have conversations, out loud, with yourself? I do all the time. In fact, I sometimes giggle at the fact I’m talking (or in some cases, arguing) with myself. Out. Loud. 

I worry that I’ve had conversations out loud in public, but really can’t prove that I have. 

The other day on the way to work, I had, what I consider, an amusing argument with myself. It went something like this. 

Me1: OOOO Under Pressure. I love this song.

Me2: Who sings it?

Me1: David Bowie.

Me2: Are you sure it’s not Queen?
Me1: Nope. David Bowie.

Me2: Are you sure? Cuz I swear it’s Queen.

We listen … 

Me2: You know it does sound like David Bowie. I swear Queen sang this.

Me1: Wow, you might be right. It is Queen. But it sure sounds like David Bowie.

Me2: When we get to the stop sign, we’re gonna check the interweb.

Stop light turns green.

Me1: dammit, now we have to wait. But I swear it’s David Bowie.

Me2: Wait, didn’t you just say it was Queen.

Me1: Dammit!

So when I got to work, I googled it. Turns out they both did a version of this song. I was pretty thankful I wasn’t losing my mind. Then I checked my iTunes and I have BOTH versions. No wonder I was confused. 

Do you ever have funny conversations, out loud, with yourself?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Traditions

This morning as I was sitting, cuddled in an afghan, I started thinking about Thanksgiving. That led me to thinking about Christmas. And that led me to thinking about traditions.

Traditions. We all have them. Some of us love them. Some of us think they're not necessary. I think that might be a generational thing though.  I happen to think traditions are a celebration of our family and the lives of the ones who came before us.

The idea of passing something down to a generation makes me smile. It's as if you're bestowing some treasure on a young one. It makes me smile when I think about the traditions that were passed down to me. And more importantly how I react to them not happening when I think they should (ie. someone changing the plans and thus the tradition doesn't happen).

Then life happens. And some of your family traditions change because the person who the tradition was about or with is no longer with us. This saddens me greatly.

Case in point, the tradition of the DadUnit and I shopping for the MomUnit's Christmas gift on Christmas Eve. It all started one year when the DadUnit delayed buying her gift and called me with a "fun day".  Traditionally, we'd go to lunch then shop for the MomUnit and then the DadUnit would buy me a special gift. Over the years this day became very important to me. The DadUnit and I rarely spent any alone time together and this was a chance for us to recharge our relationship and spend some quality father/daughter time.  I miss him every Christmas.

One year, the DadUnit wanted to go shopping on the 23rd. I threw the biggest hissy fit because it wasn't the tradition. He got mighty angry at me calling me spoiled and a bunch of other comments.  I held strong though. I can be stubborn if I want (stop rolling your eyes).  Then when we did go on the 24th, the store he wanted to buy the MomUnit's gift from was closed. DOH! But to the DadUnit's credit he never said, "SEEEE! Had we gone when I wanted to go..."

There's also those traditions I created in my life. Granted they aren't going to be passed down, per se, but they're my traditions all the same.

My favorite Jenn Tradition is putting up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.

See having my birthday right after Christmas means the tree comes down on the 26th. So really the tree is only up for a month. I'm certainly not one of those houses that keep the tree up through January.

This year I have a new tree. Mrs. Braspir and I headed to Costco yesterday so I could see the trees and if I wanted to spend the $$ to buy one. She had one last year and I just loved it. And she was already going to Costco so I just joined the fun.  That and there was no WAY the tree box would fit in Sparky.

I found one. And it's a beauty. I cannot wait to put it up. (and I'm sure the demons are saying, "We cannot wait to bring it down.") You'll have to wait for pictures.

I digress.

Almost all the traditions appear to be around holidays, at the moment I can't even think of any that aren't. I love traditions...all kinds.

What about you? What are your favorite family traditions?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Goals and Such


Y’all probably know I’m a goal oriented person. I tend to make goals in the beginning of the year, and I tend to check in on them quarterly.  99% of the time my goals aren't what I’d call “lofty” or “awe inspiring”. They are, simply, goals.  My goals in particular. 

I've shared my goals here on a regular basis, and I've shared my updates on said goals on a regular basis. I've not done that in quite a while, and I’m not going to do it now. Hah. 

As I start this new job, goals and expectations are critical to determine so that I can be successful at this job and ultimately become a full time employee.  The first day the boss told me he’d be sending his initial thoughts on expectations and goals, but he’d like me to come up with some as well. 

Easy. 

And done. 

But here’s the hard part. How do you quantify goals? 

When I’m setting my professional goals I always remember to use the SMART method – Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.  My own personal goals I’m more carefree with how much of the SMART method I use. But when it comes to my job, it’s vitally important that I include all those elements in my goals.

In addition to that, I have a template. I know. You’re shocked and stunned that I have a template.  Now I don’t generally share this template with the boss. This is MY template. This is for me to track my goals and objectives.




I think what’s critical here is to really think about what you want to accomplish. Don’t just jot things down. Take the time to really think about these.



The first section is all about overall goals/objectives. I've broken them down into sub-categories of Top Priorities, Value, Goals, Overcoming Challenges, Habit Improvements. Then I've put trigger questions to help me think through these.

The second section is all about career development. How do I, as a professional, want to improve? These are broken down into Personal Growth, Immediate areas of improvement, and open issues to resolve. Admittedly the open issues section I hardly use. I kinda feel it’s covered in the immediate areas of improvement.

And the last section, to me, is really important. Innovation. What new ideas can I bring to the table? Over the years I've contemplated moving the “Value” line down to this, but haven’t done that yet. The very subtle difference to me is the Value is where I can add value to the team and to my boss. How do I make his life easier?

Whereas the Innovation is really about improving on the team or company.

You’ll notice there’s no time information on this template. That’s by design. When I’m filling this out, I rarely get to the deep level that would be appropriate for a time. Instead, I generally take these goals and build a PM’s favorite tool – a work break down structure. That’s right, roll your eyes.

At the end of the day, you can’t possibly expect to achieve goals without a plan. You've gotta figure out what are the steps you need to take to achieve these goals. Enter the work break down structure. (even I think I’m a nerd at this point).

Goal setting, to me, plays a pivotal role in guaranteeing I’m living the best life I can. I full recognize not everyone likes setting goals. And that’s ok. Whatever helps you be a better person will work for you. How I set goals won’t fit everyone. Still, I wanted to get this out there to the universe because if it helps one person, my work here is done.

So how about it? Do you set goals, personal and professional?


Friday, November 14, 2014

What is the hardest word for you to say?


This question was posed to the lunch table today. This was, naturally, after we discussed some TV show I’d never heard of and it sounded like they were all speaking in tongue.

One of the guys here, appears to be worldly and deep, but not in an arrogant, “look at me” kind of way. He just seems connected to his life and in the present. Anyhow, he posed this question to the table.

There was silence – which I’ve gotta say doesn’t happen much at the lunch table.

Then one guy pipes up, and another, and another. Everyone seeming open to share what the hardest “word” is for them to say. “Word” became phrase really, but you get the drift. The answers were sweet, heart felt, and silly. One guy saying, or trying to, “familiar” was the hardest word for him to say.  That broke the ice a bit and the silliness ensued. Literally speaking, mine is “ambiguous.” I can’t say that word right for my soul.

It got me to thinking though, what is the hardest word or words for me to say.

Rather instantly I knew, there are two word (phrases) that are tough for me to say.

“I’m sorry.”

And

“I was wrong.”

I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve known people who would never EVER say “I’m sorry.” Sadly it cost them a lot of relationships. And I’ve known a lot of folks who cannot admit when their wrong.I’ve tried in recent years to be very cognizant of the “I was wrong” phrase.  Depending on what the situation is, admitting you were wrong can really change things. Admitting it can really open up the communication channels. So why is it so hard to say?

I think we all want to be right. But I wonder if it doesn’t stem from my childhood somehow. The biological father had a need to always be right. And the DadUnit, at times, had a need to be right. The difference to me was the biological father just HAD to be right, whereas the DadUnit was just stubborn. Subtle difference, but different all the same.

I’m loathed to blame my current behavior on anything that happened in my childhood, because I think as an adult we can grow past that, but this one I think might be a childhood quirk.

I also wonder if it’s not because I essentially grew up as an only child. I didn’t have siblings around during my teenage, informative years, and I wonder if that soloness played a role in my wanting to be right all the time. I mean, I was right all the time. Who was there to contradict me? Or challenge me?The “I’m sorry” phrase I think stems from the same root. I’m wrong and I’m sorry are very similar in nature. I’m constantly looking inward and trying (albeit not always successful) to improve my behavior. This one is one I have to work on every time it comes up.

So, what’s the hardest word/phrase for you to say?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Top 10 Guilty Pleasures


In an attempt to hit a blog everyday this month, I've had to dig deep into my blog topic library to find something interesting to write about. As I was going through, many got deleted with a sigh and a "What the hell?" But this one struck me as something kinda interesting. 

Come on … admit it. You have guilty pleasures. We all do. And really I think many of what used to be "guilty pleasures" aren't as taboo these days.  And the definition of “guilty pleasure” I think has changed over the years.  Some things were way more taboo 20 years ago, then they are today. For example, watching TV. I don’t see that as a guilty pleasure, I see that as part of my everyday life – and I’m ok with that. I suppose some folks who are more with it than I may consider TV a guilty pleasure, but it’s not on my list. 

The definition of guilty pleasure really depends on who you talk to. Some, like me, think they are things that aren’t really “taboo” but are things I love to take part in, but am embarrassed to say I do them at all. Others will think a “guilty pleasure” is something out of the norm, almost immoral that people take part in. P*rn for example is one of those guilty pleasures. 

Years ago when I worked at The Cat Shack (not its real name) one of our Christmas party themes was "Guilty Pleasures". It was a gift exchange and the gift had to be your guilty pleasure. You can imagine what types of things showed up.  My guilty pleasure at the time will be on the list below, but I'm happy to report I no longer partake in this guilty pleasure. 

So for your convenience here is my list of 10 Guilty Pleasures. Not in any order of importance.

  1. Donnettes – I just love those little chocolate Hostess Donnettes. I have been known to buy an entire box of them and finish them in a day or two. They’re just so darn good.

  2. The Making of Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders TV show – I admit, when I first saw this on TV I watched it because I was sure it was going to be an absolute train wreck. Turns out that this organization really does have high standards for their cheerleaders, and the show is pretty darn interesting.  The entire process of what these girls go through is fascinating. I do, often, roll my eyes when they say things like, “Its my only dream and I would just die if I don’t make it.” Really? You’re ONLY dream.

  3. Enquirer or other rag magazines – You know the type. “Alien found in the Bronx”. “Child grew to 4 years old in mom’s womb” – these type of magazines I used to LOVE to get and read. In fact, Blueberry and I would often grab a handful of them and read them out loud on road trips. I’ve given up this particular guilty pleasure as I can find that stuff on the Internet.

  4. Smut novels – Oh yes…the “Romance” novel. I got hooked on one particular writer in college and when a new book comes out I am Johnny on the spot to buy it and read it immediately. I’ve since branched out some, but admit I particularly like the historical romance novels. And as I’ve gotten older I tend to just flip past the actual sex scenes cuz they just are so ridiculous.

  5. Fried foods – see this is one that I think isn’t as much of a guilty pleasure as it used to be. But man, put something fried in front of me and you’d better step away.

  6. Being lazy – sometimes on the weekends I don’t move my butt off the couch and I don’t change out of my jammies. And sometimes during the week I get home and do the same thing. THIS has changed a lot in the past couple of months as sitting and being lazy adds to the girth.  Now the idea of being lazy does feel like a guilty pleasure and not the standard.

  7. Listening to a guy with an accent talk – so this really depends on the accent. Latin accents, British accents, Scottish accents, Irish accents – all fair game. US Southern accents on men are somewhat attractive to me and I’ve been known to swoon at times over them.

  8. Bubble gum pop songs – I can’t help myself. They are usually really catchy and have really good hooks. Those type of songs totally get stuck in my head. I’d add to this particular guilty pleasure that I listen to Barry Manillo on occasion and I listen to Kenny Rogers on occasion.

  9. Pizza – This is a new guilty pleasure. In my previous life of eating whatever I want, I never felt guilty eating pizza. I’ve not had pizza in 8 weeks and I’ve gotta say, I’m starting to crave it. I will soon break down and treat myself to a slice or two of pizza.  This will now be on my guilty pleasure list.

  10. Salted Caramel Latte – OMG…they’re really only available this time of year. And OMG they are so sickly sweet and so full of calories (even if you try it with NF milk it’s still not great) but once or twice during the holiday season I look forward to my Salted Caramel Latte in a Starbucks Red cup.

So there ya go. My list of guilt pleasures. What are some of your guilty pleasures?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wanting to be heard....


One of the many advantages of being the new kid on the block is you get to ask dumb questions and figure out the lay of the land with an excuse like, “Hey! I’m new.” In my past jobs I’ve found that the first month is really critical in setting up working relationships.  It’s not like you only get one chance, but it is your opportunity to figure out how best to work with your new team and even more important as a PM, how best to communicate with them. 
 
Many years ago I was told by a seasoned PM that the key to being a good PM is to learn everyone’s language.  I really didn’t understand what that meant until I worked on a team that had several different roles. I mistakenly assumed that everyone spoke PM and would clearly understand what the objectives etc for the project was. I would be wrong. The project was falling into the depths of hell, and this seasoned PM I turned to for advice. 
 
She told me when reviewing how I had asked for things, or worked with the team that my main problem was communication. When I bristled at that, thinking I was a fine communicator, she calmly said, “No you need to approach each personality type differently.” 
 
Ahhhh
 
She went on to explain and I took notes. Each time, now that I’m in a new role I do three things with regards to my communication:
 
I adapt to the personality type language.  For example, the way I casually talk to people about the weekend, is fine. But if I want them to do something for me, I need to change how I approach it. If I want to get through to a developer, for example, I generally just tell them, as succinctly as possible, what is I want. It’s been my experience that developers just want to know their task in black and white. No fluffy stuff. 
 
And with a new team, or company, I adapt myself to speak their language. I’m on their turf now and for me to “fit in” I need to start talking like them.  And stop getting your feathers in a ruffle with the “BUT you need to stand out” idea. Trust me. If I am a successful communicator, I will stand out. 
 
The second thing I try to do, is a bit like “fake it until you make it”. I try to mimic the speech around here. Depending, again, on who I’m dealing with, I may try to change my speech patterns slightly to meet theirs. This is hard for me, but it does come in handy once in a while. I’ve especially found this useful when talking with executives, or when something is going south and you need to give bad news.  I read somewhere that the way people relate to their world is generally through visual, auditory or kinesthetic (sight), sound and sense. Their past, (education, where they grew up, experiences, etc) all comes into play with how we all communicate. So, if I can adjust ever so slightly, my message may be heard more. 
 
 Here are 3 common situations I’ve found for understanding how to communicate:
  1. Sight: Is there someone who just doesn’t SEE eye to eye with you, no matter how plain your message may be? We’ve all had this person right?
  2.  Sound: Is there someone who just can’t HEAR you, even when you think you’re coming in loud and clear? Again, we all know this type of person…they appear to be listening, and they go off and do something completely different.
  3.  Sense: Is there someone who just won’t FEEL anything except the bone they have to pick with you? Um, yah. And sadly, I’ve been this person.
Each of these situations is actually the same kind of problem wearing a different disguise.  I’ve found if I’m not getting my point across, it may be as simple as matching my speech to their way of speaking. The seeing one is an easy one for me since I’m a visual person. If they just aren’t getting it, sometimes drawing it out helps them “see it”. 

And the last thing I do that is essential in being a good communicator (remember, communication is speaking AND listening) is I ask questions…lots of questions. In many cases, especially when its about an issue, I ask pointed questions.  I never underestimate the power of asking pointed questions. It generally gets the conversation going in a direction neither of us can foresee. 

So today I reminded myself of these points. I’ve been here for a week now and while it’s a comfortable environment where everyone seems to get along, I think communication is still going to be key.  There are still team members with whom I’ll be “directing” and I will still need to make sure they hear my message.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

When in Peru...

Machu Picchu has been on my bucket list for, well, as long as I've had a bucket list.  The reality is I'll probably never get there.  Still, one can dream.

And since one can't go to Peru, Peru came to me.

Tonight was our monthly dinner club and we went to Wyraqocha Peruvian Restaurant.  This little restaurant is new and small.  They didn't open until 6pm and are only opened for dinner. I'm hoping they open for more than dinner, but understand the business model for a new restaurant.

Tonight was also Mr. Landlords birthday so it was extra special.


I had some weird drink that was WAY too sour but flavorful. It tasted a lot like a very sour margarita sans Tequila.  I didn't finish it because it was just too much for me.

For dinner I had some filet mignon treat. Little bite size pieces of filet mignon and red onions on top of French fires. So bizarre, but OMG soooo good. It was so good in fact, I neglected to take a picture.

After dinner, being Mr. Landlord's birthday we got these little shortbread cookies that had dulce de leche in the middle of them. Wow. I could eat a ton of those, and I'm not a sweets person.

They came in the cute little wood box that was opened like a gift. The candle you see there is a shot glass full of homemade corn nuts and a candle. Clever...

At the end of the day, the food was good, the service was good - well up until they broke the internet and then couldn't run credit cards and then didn't have the old fashion swipey thing and had to write down our cc numbers.  Technology!

I wouldn't necessarily go back to this place. It was good, and one visit was enough. Their  menu is small and not overly interesting to me. The food was good, I'll give them that.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Moooooo

Don't ask about the title. I was drawing a blank.

Am I the only one who’s finding it hard to believe it’s the 10th of November? I know I say it all the time, but my word time is flying. 

Today was a tough Monday.  I had some, we’ll call it, sleeping issues last night that kept me awake and sadly if I don’t get my 8 hours, I struggle a bit the following day. I had a weird acid reflux thing last night that had me in a coughing fit from hell. I will spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say, I slept sitting up for a good part of the night and a garbage pail nearby. Thankfully nothing ended up coming up, shall we say, but man it sucked for a good hour or so. 

During my coughing fit last night, my little boy demon, Linus, who was nowhere to be found prior to this, ended up sitting by my side. There was definitely some look of concern in his eye and I felt like he was checking to make sure I was ok. Now, if it were a dog, he would have been there to offer comfort and support. But I’m pretty sure Linus was there to make sure I didn’t keel over and thus not be able to feed him. All joking aside, it was rather sweet. Lucy? Oh she was sound asleep and didn’t even bat an eye. 

I noticed last night, I’m a bit behind the game this year. It’s the 10th of Nov and I’ve not ordered my Christmas cards.  Stop rolling your eyes. Usually by now, I’ve got them ordered, the letter written, the cards addressed and I’m ready to go.  This year, it’s sneaking up on me. Maybe if I get them ordered next weekend I can have them for Thanksgiving weekend and get those babies done.

Seattle SIL and I sat after Sunday dinner last night and talked about Turkey day. It’ll be a tough week for us as it’ll be one year since we lost BigBro. It feels like yesterday some days (and some days I still don’t believe it’s true). We’ll be celebrating Turkey day at her house, splitting the food work this year.  It’ll be nice to be around family and have that extra support. It’s still going to suck, I won’t lie.  I'm going to do everything in my power to make this a happy, memory filled day.  I'll try to keep in my mind, "WWBBD?" What would BigBro Do?

In other news, I went to the gym RIGHT after work. I expected it to be busy in there at 5pm an it wasn't. Yay.  I did just cardio because I neglected to eat something prior and was starving. I was starting to feel a bit light headed and opted to just go home.

Now you won't be surprised that when I'm hungry I make bad choices.  While, it wasn't a horrible choice, my dinner wasn't exactly what was "planned" and certainly not within my dinner calorie range. I'm still below my calories for the day, but frankly I won't be doing that again. I checked the calories online after and was like, "Holy SHIT!"


 

Sunday, November 09, 2014

November Sunday Dinner

Hello my little kittens. Here we are on day 9 of the blogging for every day in November. I warn you now...these blog posts may not be overly exciting or long...and yes that's different from normal.

This weekend flew by. And tomorrow I get to start a full week at the job.  I'm excited for the learning curve that's in front of me and the organization in this company.  I can tell I'm going to feel like this is home for me.

I might have mentioned that I worked out yesterday. For the first time EVER, I did squats.  Let me tell you...I am so sore today. There are muscles that are hurtin' that I didn't even know I had. That doesn't seem fair at all. And while I'm whining, I'd like to complain all my "so called" friends who never warned me about how much squats could hurt. Rude.

Today was Sunday dinner. I had a small group this month, by comparison to the 15 I had last month, there was only 7 of us.  Such a small group means I can do BBQ ribs.  And that's exactly what I did.  I made two racks and not a single piece of meat was left. Not even a teeny tiny piece.  It was clear we liked them.


Saturday, November 08, 2014

Checking In

This is the first time when changing my life choices that I've not weighed myself weekly, or daily. I used to weigh myself every morning because I just felt I needed to know. It's absolutely the wrong thing to do.  It can be motivating, but can be demoralizing too. The motivating part was, "Oh look! I lost 2 oz." As if that mattered in the grand scheme. 

But that's where I was emotionally.  I needed that number to feel confident that making these food and exercises choices were the right thing to do.  And it was the right thing to do, but I wasn't really looking at it as  "life changing" choices.  I saw it as temporary.

I didn't realize the real chatter in my head was telling me, "Thank god this is temporary. When I loose X number of pounds I can eat whatever I want."

You see what's wrong with that right?

This morning, I pulled my scale out from under my bed and weighed myself.  I've lost 11 lbs.  That's 11 lbs in 8 weeks.  Slower than I want, but slow and steady wins the race I think.  The thing is, this number really doesn't matter to me.

That's weird to me.

The PM in me needs to know what's what at this 2 month milestone. 

The new Jenn, however, knows that in these 2 months a lot has happened.  And sure I would have loved to see the 3 lbs a week they talk about at Positive Changes (the message in the hypnosis is 1 to 3 lbs a week. I suspect the 3 lbs are for young chickens, not almost 46 year old chickens.)

Don't get me wrong, 11 lbs feels great. What I know to be true is this:

11 lbs is 11 less than I was.

11 lbs is 11 lbs closer to being healthier

I've made some great choices with regards to food

I joined a new gym and love it (in fact am dressed right now to go at 10am)

I've only had fast food twice in 8 weeks. Once because there was no other option. And once because I was craving fries. I paid the price for that last one.

I'm very content with my progress emotionally and physically

I'm optimistic about my future.

So there you go.  I'm on the right track. I feel great and I'm ready to see, honestly see, this as an actual life change.  I've realized that I can still have those wonderful foods I love. I just can't have them two times a day. Or every day.

Friday, November 07, 2014

It's all in a days work


So I've completed a full week on the new job.  I'm so very excited to be here, I can barely contain myself.  One of the many things I've grown to love about this place so far is they have a unique and sometimes quirky culture.  From our lunches together as one big team/family, to the (sometimes) over-the-top informality, to the ability to hold each other to really high standards without getting nasty, I think these things about working here are pretty cool. 

On Thursday, this guy stopped by to see how things were going for me. He's only been here for a year and a half. He hit on something that has been in the back of my mind…when is the honeymoon period going to end? He said after a month he was sure it would end, and it didn't. Then two months, then three…and now a year and a half later he still loves this place.  It was exciting to hear that this could be a company that is what it appears. 

I'm trying very hard to be optimistic about that. 

Now, I've just got to hit the very high expectations that have been set in front of me. 

Product Specialists initial expectations:

  1. Supervise and distribute intake on all new work orders (easy enough, once you figure out what's what). This company is a company of processes, homemade tools, and really organized.  I love it.
  2. Project manage any size product job, from fast turn to massive profiling customization (again, easy enough)
  3. Consult with clients on course/curriculum builds (I'm going to start taking some Instructional Design courses to really understand this. And in time I'll become an expert with the product so this shouldn't be too hard. Aside from the crazy clients you may or may not get).
  4. Stay current with major trends in security, privacy, and compliance to ensure value add to customers as well as sales and marketing (Interestingly enough, this is very interesting and exciting to me. Who knew Privacy and Security could be interesting?)
  5. Master enough of hosting to handle any Level 1 hosting inquiries (Again, I'll need training on this and understanding of the systems. But in time, I feel confident this will not be an issue.)

 

Personal skills that the boss wants to see demonstrated - I love that he listed these out. In fact, in the email he said he reserves the right to add to these.

  1. Exceptionally clear and consistent communication of project requirements to all parties (sales, ops, customers); this will require that I understand our product and its production processes like the back of my hand, and it will take time. Though their product is pretty easy to understand at an elementary level. The deep stuff will definitely take time.
  2. Ability to make the "right" decisions quickly, where "right" balances customer satisfaction with profitability. At first, we'll  discuss how to make the right call, but he's really looking for someone who I can trust to make this call on their own, eventually.  This also shouldn't be a problem. Once I get the knowledge, and the confidence that I have the knowledge, making these decisions will come naturally to me. I hope.

 

So yah, I've got my work cut out for me, but it's not horrible. I'm game.