Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Here We Go Again!!!

I planned an insane school year for myself this year. Insane as in, let's get double the number of classes done in half the time. I did, however, schedule one month of sanity in for myself: July. July would be the month where I dropped crazy lbs in time for the reunion, and spent evenings in the hammock getting golden tan. It was the month that would help me feel prepared to finish the rest of a very insane year. As it turns out, today I made a decision. I did very well in my Artificial Intelligence class, but my Algorithms class left me feeling less than prepared to pursue the additional courses to which it was prerequisite. I am now taking a class in July: an eight week course in four weeks, and holidays? who needs holidays?

Moxie for Motherhood

I remember the exact moment it happened. I was sitting on the ground with my back leaned up against the door of the DMV. It was 7:30 AM, and today I would get my driver's license. I was alone. I think I asked to be dropped off so that I could be the first person in line, and while I waited, I thought...

I thought about life, about being happy, and then suddenly, I felt it. I wanted to be a mom. I didn't know if I ever wanted to get married, but I knew that my heart latched on to motherhood that very moment, and it never went away. I was excited to be a mom, even if I never knew when that day would come. I thought about how motherhood was this laboratory with so many magical opportunities to serve, teach, and love. I was sixteen years old, and I knew I wanted to be a mom. 

Fortunately I overcame my fears about marriage with countless prayers, but motherhood is still the star I reach for. Not mournfully, not agonizingly, as some may feel when their desires go unfulfilled for longer than expected, but faithfully, hopefully, earnestly, joyfully, and quietly; while criticisms may swirl like dust-devils in the hot, dry sand, and fade again into nothingness, I reach, I dream, and I love those who are not yet mine.

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Charity Never Faileth"

Women are amazing, beautiful, dynamic beings. They do the most spectacular things and so often without any recognition, thanks or praise. They are the collective hand that gently turns the world, one human being at a time. 

I am a member of the oldest and largest women's organization on the planet. It is an international organization that honors the roles of both men and women. Yesterday we received a new president of our local organization, a very heavy responsibility as she is responsible for over 100 women and their families. This is a woman who has the most delightful personality, who is funny, but kind, bold, and yet could never offend anyone. I am delighted to be under her leadership. The previous president was a saint who served faithfully for almost five years.

After a long day of meetings, C and I drove several miles away to visit a couple who has played a significant role in our lives. We enjoyed a meal fresh from their garden of leafy greens, carrots, peas and tiny new potatoes, turnips and cloved beets. After the delightful meal with their family, we enjoyed a slice of pineapple cake and the family left. The four of us filled the hours with a repartee of eternal things while heaven reached down and touched the earth for a moment.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Welcome to our Neighborhood

I love the opening scenes of summer: bright collections of yard sale signs gathered on street corners, with arrows leading the way to enterprising citizens and tiny bartering markets...
 The pitterpat of towel-wrapped children wandering home after a neighborhood duel with the sprinklers; old jalopies out for a parade or just for a sunny day,
the whine of occasional chop saws and grinders as neighborhood remodeling projects inch a day closer to completion, the gentle sighs of doves who-who-who have found a summer home nearby, leafy tunnels, lining neighborhood streets and canyons,
the hum of yard equipment as neighbors turn long blades of grass into well trimmed carpets of green. the scattering of chubby quail as they flit to their fortress deep within the big blue spruce.

Yesterday I fought the battle of wills with the weeds that had infiltrated my flower beds. It was a lengthy ordeal, and ten hours of yard work later, I had made significant progress. My white peach tree failed to come out of dormancy, so I stopped by the nursery to replace it. I came away with some fennel, dill, and eggplant for the garden, as well as an Italian Prune and a Lombardy white peach. The nursery coffers were looking rather sparse and picked over yesterday, so I was grateful I picked up most of my plants early in the year.
There was, however, a lovely stalk of corn with one greenhouse all to himself.
On the way home, I stopped by an unusual little joint that served these delightful "sliders" filled with generous portions of salmon, turkey, or even filet mignon.

The tables were made up of pop bottle cap collections under plexiglass. It was interesting to see which ones I remembered from my youth, and which have simply ceased existence to my knowledge.
 One of the side effects of having no children is that city festivals and events slip your attention. While I was up at 6:00 AM to weed while C caught a few more winks, families were gathering blankets and chairs to save a spot for the fireworks this evening. C headed off to school while I plodded away in the yard under the supervision of Kawi,
 who had a bit of trauma over a daddy-long-leg that tried to say hello, and who screamed bloody murder when I picked him up with my evil orange garden gloves, certain those gloves would eat him alive. Once C arrived home I put my sunburned self down for a nap while Kawi gnawed on a piece of dried mango...

and C mowed the lawn. I then introduced C to those delightful salmon sliders. When we arrived home we saw a neighbor buzz by on his way to return a borrowed riding mower,

followed by the clip-clop of our neighbor across the street giving the little ones rides around the block in his horse and buggy rig.

We declined the kind invite to watch the fireworks with these self-same neighbors and opted to watch the spectacular show from the comfort of our own porch, listening to the comments of neighbors who were doing the same. We then cuddled up in the comfy chair for a movie and some popcorn, while I made an occasional sprint to the dryer to remove C's dress shirts. As is our usual custom, C did not last through the movie, and so I saw him to bed and then finished buttoning up the house in preparation for the Sabbath day.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Shhhh... A Little Secret...Psst. Follow me!

A private invitation is extended here to the fine readers of this blog. I invite you to one of my hidden blogs, and aside from the link included here, you will not otherwise find it. You are invited to take a sneak-peek at several never before seen books that have been sitting quietly in my personal archives.

These are not the complete works, nor does this reflect the complete collection of books I have been working on. I do need your help. I have only ever written for my own interests and I would like to know which (if any) of these book snippets would interest you enough to make you want to read more. Included are a few children's books, some works of fiction, and some non-fiction. The earlier untitled posts are in reverse order, so you will want to read #454 Ch1, P1 before #454 Ch1, P2. More may follow...

Honest opinions are highly valued. Think American Idol - it doesn't help anyone to have a bad vocalist hear, "No, really, you're a good singer!" so that they keep inflicting their voice on innocent bystanders. If a book is not interesting or engaging, it will be helpful to let it die. If the concept is interesting, but the approach is not, please indicate this as well. These are only small portions of each book, and they are un-edited. Oh, and if you happen to know a friend who could also give valuable feedback, please invite them also. Welcome to a peek through the keyhole of my world!


Once upon a time, my mother had a little flock of children who she gathered together at night. There we sat under the evening lighting, practicing spelling words until they ran like trains through our brains. Ah, the bliss of filling one's mind with spell-checkability. My sister and I were both hailed by our teachers as the only students who could write perfect papers with perfect grammar and spelling. This continued for many years. Anytime someone needed to know how something was spelled, I rattled it off unconsciously. Grammar was second nature, even if diagramming sentences was not my favorite thing to do in sixth grade.

[Needle ripped across a vinyl record] Then one day I started filling my brain with data systems and virtual storage and accessibility vs. mobility and programming language. I could now speak in zeros and ones, but all of that knowledge needed a place to live. Without any discussion, my brain made an executive decision: N.O...L.O.N.G.E.R...N.E.E.D...S.P.E.L.L.I.N.G...F.U.N.C.T.I.O.N.A.L.I.T.Y...

Alas, I have been cast into the ranks of normal human beings who likewise require spell check, and can no longer send off e-mails without checking the spelling. It is a strange feeling. As I recently watched the National Spelling Bee, I noticed the immense pressure under which those kids exist. All of those languages filling their heads, and was it possible that some of those parents seemed more competitive than nurturing? I couldn't be sure, but I wondered if someday, they too would find themselves with a brain that casually tossed their spelling capabilities out the window somewhere along the road between Arizona and Nevada.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Got Susu?

Yesterday someone wandered into C's work wearing a grey T-shirt with pink letters across the front. He wondered with an employee, "So what do you think, "Got Susu" means? Maybe it's some University or something." As the woman was leaving, C finally asked, "So, what does Susu mean?" She replied, but he couldn't quite hear what she said. "I'm sorry, I didn't hear what you said, what was that?"

"Got Breasts. In my language..." While he proceeded to turn twelve shades of red and his employees attempted to supress their surprise, she continued, "It's the name of my team. We play for breast cancer awareness."

Technologists Anonymous

I might have mentioned that I am a bit of a technology junkie. I always hesitate to talk about this because in certain of life's stages (as in theater, not growth spurt), one finds oneself in a bit of a quandary. Will my enthusiastic spouting about all of my cool gadgets and how awesome they make life be perceived as "Look at me?" or bragging? Not that I really care about what I come off, considering that my best known traits at work are getting the job done and saying what needs to be said even when nobody wants to hear it.

The truth is, I have almost as many unpublished posts as I have published posts because I start down the path to share these wonders with you, and then pause. Those long dry spells of non-posts doesn't mean that I am not writing. Nay, it means I am writing on one of my unlisted blogs or that I determined that diplomacy should override my need to be frank and spout forth my love of technology. That being said, today I thought that maybe this means you are missing out on some really neato stuff, so I have decided to start doing occasional technical reviews it chewable proportions:

Cool thing - Vlingo
It's this little personal assistant program. It's available for your Android, iPhone, Nokia, or Blackberry smart phones. It works like this:

I ask it to e-mail someone, tell it the subject line and body of the text, and it types it all out for me, and I push "send" when I am done. If I need to add more text, I hit record, and it continues to dictate. For example, "E-mail John Brown. Subject, Food for Party. Message: Hey, John, just following up on the food assignments for the party. How is that going? Thanks, A." Voila.

Cons: At freeway speeds sometimes the black noise from the vehicle vibrations interfere with the accuracy of the voice recognition. Of course, if I drove a Mercedes Benz, this would not be a problem.

Pros: It doesn't just e-mail, it also allows you to verbally text, ask for directions, call someone, or do Internet searches verbally. To get directions, say, "Find grocery store nearby." It uses your location and shows you the closest grocery store. To do an Internet search, say "Search phone number Illinois Tax Commission" and it finds it. Accuracy is reasonably good. It also does Twitter and Facebook updates! The best part is, it's free!

Movie Review: Toy Story 3
On Monday we did see Toy Story 3. The Pixar crew studied every great escape story available to create the most gripping and intense story line ever. I was SO impressed. This was not a cheap trilogy. They included a very sentimental ending which also provided a bit of personal satisfaction with where it could end, but also left a possible opening for another movie. I HOPE they don't try to do a Saturday morning TV show out of it. I'd much rather see another movie. Who could get tired of Toy Story?

They brought in some outstanding humor and adventure that wasn't inappropriate for children, although C felt that at times it could be scary for children. I explained that our perception and children's perceptions of certain situations can be very different based upon emotional maturity. The subtleties that we pick up on, they miss because their emotional maturity doesn't allow for them to pick up on certain cues. He agreed. Pixar just does a great job of providing a sweet movie for kids while still being entertaining for adults without being adult, and that's what I love. I hate kids movies that have sexual innuendos and garbage like that in them, or Disney's very scary villains. Pixar maintains an innocent element that isn't present in other Disney movies. Sorry, Disney. I hope you don't ruin Pixar someday like you ruined Disney.

Things that made me smile today:
forming a writer's initiative club to help me meet goals for writing a book by the end of the year | the Japanese tourist who attached his camera to his belt loop with a very long lanyard so that it hung just inches from the ground beside his leg | watching a group of tourists learn how to use the new visitor kiosk near my work | getting a really sexy text message from C | setting a dinner appointment in mid-July with one of our software developers and his wife | speaking with a friend about the possibility of a new job | driving down the freeway to pick C up while Kawi chattered and bee-bopped in my ear. It ALMOST made up for the fact that he chewed up my iPhone adapter when I wasn't looking (see photo above)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Finding Happy

Sometimes we wander through jungles, scale mighty chasms, cross time-worn bridges, and leap across roaring ravines...Sometimes we cross blistering deserts, and brave spit-crackling cold... Sometimes we face our fears while waiting out the slightest whisper of light through blackest night, or fight our way through the flames that singe our skin... Sometimes we find ourselves surrounded by swarms of pesky annoyances that threaten to consume our minute portion of peace, and yet somehow through it all, we at last find him there, waiting to take us into the welcoming arms of Happy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Ol' Duffer

As I child I felt sorry for everyone who didn't have my dad. It was a tragedy, really, that some people had SKINNY dads, because SKINNY dads never seemed to be either fun or funny. Those kids didn't have a nice fluffy tummy on which to run and jump, and those dads definitely weren't amazing chefs like my dad. He learned a thing or two from his dad, and I learned a thing or two from him. He was magical in the kitchen, and I learned to listen to my taste buds from a very young age. Repetitive conversations with my dad:

Me: Oh! I want some of that!
Dad: Nope. It's just for adults. You better not have any of that.
Dad: It's poisonous. It's nasty! You won't like it.
Me: No it's not. I want some!

Foods in question that I was begging for: spinach soufflé, liverwurst, smoked oysters, artichokes... yep. I can thank dad for a diverse palate at a young age.

When we went on family outings I had my suspicions about having an amazing dad confirmed by my cousins who told me how lucky I was. I undoubtedly replied, "I know." I thought their dads were rather stuffy and boring, or maybe a tiny bit scary. Who cared if they brought four wheelers or campers on outings, or owned big food corporations or had nice cars. Their children knew what really mattered, and it was always my dad who wanted to spend time with you, and loved you, and laughed your tears away.

Yesterday I spoke in church. I shared how my dad saved my life as a kid, and then loved this rebellious teenager so much that one day she figured that if her earthly dad loved her this much, then her Heavenly Father must be a pretty amazing guy, too.

A few things I have learned from the Ol' Duffer:

Plumbing and sweating copper pipe | tile setting | window framing | wire splicing |gas ciphering | electrical wiring | cooking | fishing | camping | painting | sales | customer service | courage | building strategic business relationships | how to get a bargain that would knock your socks off | soldering | using grinders | chop saws | tile saws | drills | and a hundred other tools | how to put up sheet rock | how to build a wood inlay floor | how to run a straight bead of caulk | how to walk quietly like an "Indian" | cool technology like laser disk movies and Beta max tapes | how to find and cut a proper Christmas Tree | how to love sushi at age 12 | how to make a torch with WD-40 | how to love hard work and take pride in it | even if it's installing a toilet | how to blow glass | how to recognize the hand of God in your life | how to honor your parents... and the list goes on and on...

(To be fair, I will share what I have learned from Mom in August... Stay tuned)

And if you care to share, what have you learned from your pop?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I Can't Stop Running and You're My Motivation!

When we were still newly-weds, C would run around the college campus near our apartment, but often did so without his ring on. One day while running a co-ed ran up to him and said, "I can't stop running and you're my motivation!" and proceeded to run along side of him. He didn't want to hurt her feelings, so the next corner they approached, he asked which direction she was going. In a dodge-and-avoid nicely move, he swung the opposite direction at the last minute and shouted over his shoulder, "Have a nice day!"

Sometimes we need a little motivation to keep us going. I have a picture of the Monday showtimes of Toy Story 3 next to my homework on my computer. It's my motivation, my reward for all of this hard work. Maybe you will get a real post on Monday... telling you how much fun it was to watch. Sidenote: We just sold our little blue car. It got munched recently on a rainy day. We have had that car since before we got married. It's still in the driveway, but officially sold... Moment of silence.........................And back to programming! 7 Programs Left...

Friday, June 18, 2010

13 Reasons...

I am almost done. I mean, there are 13 reasons why I am not done with my final computer science class this term. Those 13 reasons are programs. The funny part is that I have written almost all of these programs at least once before. I have this funny phenomenon that happens to me.

It isn't just with programming, though. It's with all of the things I do in life that are wonderfully hard. I start out onto these mind-bending paths confidently, courageously, and then I hesitate. Still I wonder what someone thinks when I tell them that I can read all of those languages, or that I have done so many things in my life. I often think they must wonder if I am a compulsive liar, because I would be inclined to think this of someone listening to me. And every so often, when I start reading a new document in another language, or try to do something hard, I think, "Maybe I can't. Maybe I just made it up in my mind and I can't really do this after all. Maybe I just imagined I could do this."

That is my funny phenomenon. My mother says I am fearless, and some others may have said the same, and yet I hesitate, I doubt, I almost bail, and I see fear towering before me like an enormous mountain with sheer cliffs and unreachable peaks. For that moment I am defeated, but in the very instant that defeat overtakes me I climb to my feet. I look fear in the eyes and I charge forward as if the hand of God has taken hold of my own. I press forward, pretending that the fear isn't there and the chance of failure is an impossibility when these two stand at sentinels to my journey's portal. Then somewhere on the other side, I actually achieve what I set out to do and I quietly give thanks where thanks is due, knowing full well that my own measly effort only got me a tiny portion of the way.

It happened half way through cutting the absolute black granite for my countertops. I looked at $1000 worth of stone slabs and doubted. It happened when I bought a book on how to build a tiny square stained glass window with a trace-and-cut pattern and figured I could use the same principles to build a 4' semi-circle window strictly from imagination. It has happened when someone has hands me a document in another language to translate. I think, what am I doing? Am I a tiny bit crazy? Am I delusional? Who am I to think I can do this? And who am I to think I can get a Master's Degree in Computer Science?

And nobody ever sees the ice cold fear that grips my heart in those moments because somehow I dare just a little more than I ever thought I could and somehow, by the Grace of God, that tiny little spark of belief pushes me one step further than I thought I could go. The fearless are those who have encountered and confronted fear so many times on life's journeys that they know he has no power over the determined and steadfast soul.

13 programs. I can do this. 13 programs before Sunday, and two days lost to illness, and one lesson on Johnathan and David on Sunday and one talk in Church on Father's Day, and one Father's Day meal for the family, and I think I can... I HOPE I can do it all, and if he wills it, then I will.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Babysitter for Hire

Last night, after I spent the day studying, we watched an outstanding performance of "To Kill a Mockingbird" at a local theater. The children were INCREDIBLE, and Atticus was very convincing. Beautifully done and the company was equally lovely. On the way out of the theater, C captured this babysitting advertisement for me and asked, "So, would you call?"

I laughed and said, "I wish I'd taken a photo of Bob Ewell to go with this on my blog!" Bob Ewell is the abusive, black toothed, backwoods, drunken character who plots against Tom Robinson in the play. We had a good laugh.

So, would YOU call? :D

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Study Update

All but two questions completed in my Artificial Intelligence class. I have REALLY loved that class, very analytical. Finished 1 1/2 assignments for my #3 priority class just to appease the teacher who was sending up the red flag about how far behind I am. It's a databases class that I can finish in a week. The Algorithms class is the one I need to finish before Sunday, so that is my main focus. Already scheduled my Algorithms and AI finals for next week. BIG SIGH! Don't worry, C, I just needed a quick break to get my momentum back up to study, but as you will see, this is a VERY short entry. Have a great day! I think I can, I think I can...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It Starts in Your Toes...

There are so many happy little moments I wish I could share with you! There are those great moments when I say to C, "Oh, I SO wish I could BLOG that!" Well, alas, here is one that I may share that gives you a glimpse into this happy little life of quirky, funny events. Every morning we pray before we leave for work. C walked into the bedroom where I was putting the last touches on my mascara. "Okay, I think I am ready to go." He said, which translated means, I am ready to pray.

I walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom where he wrapped his arms around me. Suddenly he started making the strangest undulations that ultimately ended in a kiss. I started laughing, and tried to imitate the move, also ending in a kiss. "No, no, it starts in your toes, like this..." He started moving his feet, and then his knees, as if he were hula-hooping. "And then it moves up into your hips, and then your waist, now your shoulders..." All the while, he was hula-hooping each part mentioned, ending with his head flopping around something ridiculously funny, and ended with a kiss. We were both laughing to tears.

Yesterday was a maddeningly busy 12 hour day for me. I had to finish a proposal for the new Technology Conference I am working on, and at 7:00 PM I finally sent it off. Throughout the day I got cute messages from C, looking for a new pair of glasses, looking for presents for his grandfather and father for Father's day, and wondering, should he buy this? And what about that?

Last night he purchased boxes and bubble wrap and prepared his gifts for mailing. It was the cutest ever. "And I did it all without a reminder!" He said when he was finished. Cutest guy ever, you see? Well, I am sure he will appreciate it if I stop here, but thanks for letting me share. Please feel free to share your own happy little moments below, you know, those things that make you think, this is what life is all about... I would love to read them!

C Has Informed Me...

...that I may have ventured past my normal incoherent poetic levels into the VERY realm, therefore, in an attempt to leave no lurker behind, a peace offering or interpretation is included below:

There really is a happy place where friend are friends even if they just met, and everyone is included and important. It's a beautiful place and everyone knows that she (or he) belongs.Sometimes even when life is difficult, there are beautiful things all around you, and hope is like the sun that keeps shining even when it rains. It's that hope that gives life to discouraged hearts and keeps us going. Sometimes our Father in Heaven wants to let us know how much he loves us and if we look hard enough, we just might hear the message he is attempting to send to us. (Seraphim - plural for angel or heavenly being)

All around us are these amazing people who choose to do more than look good or achieve great goals. There are those who really try to make the world a more beautiful place, unselfishly, with good and kind hearts. They are like instruments of God because they go about doing good.
Sometimes we think that life is challenging, but it is those challenges that make our lives even more beautiful if we allow them to and don't become angry, bitter people from the trials we face. Indeed, it is those who have truly traveled the bleak paths of life who are the most cheerful and kind! These are the ones who somehow forget themselves and reach out to others, lifting and loving with a capacity that is sometimes difficult to comprehend! These are the ones who open blind eyes to see beauty again and who make the world a better place one person at a time. Their lives are so full of light that it's impossible not to be touched by their magic and wonder, and no matter how short a time we spend with them, their influence never seems to fade in our lives. Tribulation does not seek out one specific type of person, it is a shared anomaly no matter how individual those trials are, and yet the influence of our creator never ceases, as he reaches out to us.

It sounds like a magical place, like Brigadoon or Shangri-La from the book Lost Horizon's by Hilton. It sounds mythical and unreal, and there is a tendency to believe that such a wonderful place doesn't really exist.
It really isn't far at all. We don't need to travel someplace else to find it, or go on a long journey to find this beautiful world. It's here, it's now. You only need look past the darkness and misery of this world and you will see them, all around you. They are like lights in the dark, quietly sharing their light with all who will receive it. They are people like so many of you and others that I can't possibly name them all, nor how each one of you has brought rays of light to my life through your beautiful, magical lives. You are like a treasure of beauty and wonder.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Our Magical World

There is a place where people smile and laugh together like friends of old despite their dewy acquaintance. Each citizen knows that she brings a beautiful gift to share with all, and that her gift is equal to all the rest. Here one will find peace and beauty, sun kissed sands and misty mountains, where it rains right through the sunshine so that every drop is a golden coin, softly breathing life into all that come in contact with its glittered touch. The birds are full of life and cheer and the recipients of their messages receive what they have to say like seraphim sent from heaven.

Surrounded by a society of graceful beings who are creators of beauty and grace, infusing life into everything they touch, as if they were instruments in the hand of God himself,
living life with vibrant energy and sweetness; that sweetness is sweetest when mixed with the bitter cocoa of adversity. Here watchful eyes reach out to lift drooping hearts, and minds are alive with wonder and awe, each day capturing a new sprite of magic, only to set it free again. Wispy winds toss about curls of gold and ebony and chestnut and rose, while the sun kisses blushing cheeks.

There it rises from the mountained veil, like Brigadoon's centennial sojourn, or Hilton's Shangri-La, a place of peace amidst the din, so near and yet so far.
Were we to open up our eyes, this place is vincinal. You need not traipse the mountain path, nor endure the prolonged epoch to gain access to this concurring Utopia. You need but look beyond the crepuscule and into the brilliant realm within to view the coffers of virtue and honor hidden betwixt the towering duo of calamity and grief.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Inspiration Award

My kind friend at B.B. Flockling has offered me a very generous inspiration award in her post, A Ghost and Six Inspirations. If you happen to be in search of the post to which she referred in her post, you may follow this link to The Parable of the Ice Cream Bar. Thank you, Rose, for your most generous, and blissfully kind award!

Weaknesses and Strengths

You might be familiar with Marcus Buckingham, author of several interesting business books including First Break All the Rules, and Now Discover Your Strengths. I am one of those fine creatures who has a tendency to bludgeon myself with my weaknesses in an attempt to improve, and yet here is a new concept for me: identify and focus on your strengths. So here is an example: I have an excellent ear. It is nigh unto painful for me to hear off-note or off-pitch music, and unfortunately, that makes me very selective. At the same time, I am a terrible singer. At least I know this, however, and don't torment others with the fantasy that I can sing, right? Not saying that anyone else in the world does this (wink, wink).

At any rate, here are some ideas of how to determine what your strengths are: You enjoy doing it, you feel confident and strong when you do it, you feel happy when you use this strength, you find success when you use this strength, you are drawn to this, it feels instinctual, natural and easy, or it fulfills some need in your life. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out that the opposite is true for weaknesses. The idea is to find those things we are good at and try to do those things most, if not all of the time, and avoid your weaknesses. I confess, I SORT of subscribe to this thinking. You see, I think that there is great strength in seeking to improve a weakness. If I only ever play the song on the piano I know best, and never play those really tough ones, well, how would I grow and improve? Still, it is an interesting concept, and a great improvement over my bludgeoning. It is also the foundation for why my manager has allowed me to explore around the organization for what I want to do most.

Today I was put in charge of a massively challenging new conference, working with the marketing department. It is heavy, but challenging and engaging, something that hasn't been there lately at work. When I say I was put in charge of this, you have to understand that my management style is not to dictate what happens, rather to bring people together to find community solutions as a group. It would be impossible for me to achieve this alone. Strengths in play? Organizing people together, networking, selectively choosing battles to fight, collaborating, strategic marketing, I feel rather at home with this type of venture. Finally, I think it should move fast enough for me, considering that the conference is in February...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Magnanimous Salutations of the Most Noble Kind

Last week we crossed paths with one of the finest men I have ever met. If you have ever read about the grand feasts and generous acts of service of great kings of old who honored their soldiers and guests, truly, this was a king matched in generosity and kindness. This magnificent man of faith opened his home to us, a group of strangers, and welcomed us with open arms. Our group was only thirty in number, and earlier that day, he had fed five hundred. The following day he would feed hundreds more.
His wife bustled about pleasantly, serving, and refusing any assistance, generously asking if we cared for more of the delectable Hmong cuisine. They fed us, body and soul.
His farm was filled with young fruit trees of every kind, and occupied by turkeys, sheep, and flocks of jungle fowl of every age, and an incubator ready to hatch a hundred more. The pleasant smiles in the golden sunlight made this place seem like a home we had always known, and these noble hosts infused in our souls the majesty and stateliness of humankind.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


We made a late run to the store tonight to stock up on shirts for C. I JUST missed the shot of this guy balancing on one foot on the edge of the ladder...

Just a quick update, since my studies are shouting at the door. Came home to a COMPLETELY missing driveway. All of it, even the new stuff that they poured yesterday.
At least it will match from the sidewalk to the street, thanks to some misplaced hammer drilling. I offered the fellows doing the last of the work two bottles of water each, and a couple of Cokes and Larabars after practicing my Spanish on them. They were most grateful. For the food and drinks, that is, and not so much for my broken Spanish.

I attended some meetings at work and shared my very strange dream about work with my manager, at the end of which I simply said to her (in the dream, that is), "I don't want to live here anymore." I guess that is because in my heart both she and I know that I have already decided that I want to do something different, perhaps working with the Marketing team. We shall see.

The marketing VP spoke to me today and again confirmed that he would love to have me on his team. I told him that I only wanted to move if I could report directly to him. He said he would see what he can do, and should know by the end of the week. In the meantime, I am still in limbo, in limbo. There are options and they are all up in the air. The instructional design team said they wanted me too. It's very strange visiting different groups and saying, "I want to do something different. If I choose you, how would you use me?"

What would you do if you had your choice of any job, and why?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Senseless Discontentment

I believe that I am a positive person. I am positive even when things are looking bleak and grey, and I am positive when the sun is shining brightly, as long it isn't so bright that I get a migraine, in which case, it's a bit more difficult to be positive. I woke today at 4:30 AM. Somewhere between the time I woke up and 3:30, a little discontentment shuffled into my heart and there it sulked, in its mopey cloud until I was bound under its spell, pouring out my pixeled woes over the fact that I have no female techy friends who are able to empathize with my current plight.

No sooner had I sufficiently pittily-partied that idea up into a full-on festival, then Jealousy proudly strode in and purchased a ticket on the ferris wheel of my thoughts, spinning in my heart the very, very sad thought that I was NOT a size two at the reunion. And what DO size two people eat, anyway, so that they can be size two? Apparently nothing, because one of them told me that she ate one piece of fruit a day, and no bread, and no dairy, and where would I be without Dubliner cheese? Indeed, prior to that event, I felt quite good, minus some lovely feminine water storage due to uncontrollable events, and yet there I was, shlumping into a pit of despair over sizes. It was my fate that along with this thought came the severe lack of motivation to: a. eat anything healthy, or b. go exercise. Nothing that a diet rootbeer float can't fix, right?

In streamed a flood of thoughts about how discontent I am about this or that, and my job that is incredibly flexible and wonderful, and how I don't have enough to do right now, or is it too much? And what exactly was it again about that job? Did I know what I really wanted to be doing, when I had the world at my fingertips? At last the room was filled with party guests, each waving their woes as if they were the most severe, and so I snatched a vest out of the closet, stuffed Kawi inside so he wouldn't blow away in the wind, and walked up the street to my car (since the city decided to dig up our driveway while we were gone). So off we headed, my bird and I, attempting to leave the party behind. You see, however, I still hadn't noticed that little discontentment who somehow slipped in the back seat behind me. Soon I was bemoaning the fact that I was LONELY, and had not heard from my most beloved today, knowing full well he was buried under a mountain of work, and yet I was LONELY, me with my little bird who puts up with me but casually tosses me aside whenever OUR beloved is in sight. So he sang pleasantly to C and said, "Hey buddy!" and jabbered on while C was on the phone, but then, when he was gone, Kawi came up and gently, but deliberately nipped me on the finger to inform me (with a slight grumpy noise) that he did NOT like me holding the iPhone, because as we all know, the iPhone belongs to Kawi. I ignored him, and so he did it again. This time I moved the phone to the middle console, at which point Kawi screamed at me like a naughty child.

At last we arrived at the store, the place where I get social nourishment without any obligations. I silently tell them my woes, and they silently listen and smile. It's the conversation that never happens, and yet happens whenever I need it to. There is one particular store that is especially good at this. It is almost like going to a spa, or maybe a therapist on a bad day. I walk around the aisles, they smile and ask if they may help me, and did I find everything okay, and I let out some steam spending a few dollars on this or that. I haven't quite put my finger on why this particular store is so good at making me feel so good when I leave. I am not sure if it is the fact that they make you feel completely in control, or if it is just that they don't have Walmart-like frustratingly small aisles with everything so spread out that it takes an hour to find what you are trying to find? I never feel better after a visit to Walmart, especially when it is 3:00 AM and I have to go to one side of the store for the NyQuil and the complete opposite corner of the store for lotion Puffs. Really. Is this effective for someone who does not want to cough all over your employees and make them all deathly ill? I think not.

"Walmart Tangent"
It isn't that the people aren't nice. In fact, one of my favorite Best Buy guys started working there recently, and when I was trying to call around to get numbers to all of the Walmarts to see who still had $97.00 iPhones (just last week), he came running up to me with the number! Just like that! I was on the phone and he heard me ask for it, but the other Walmart store didn't give it to me, and so he did! How nice, don't you think? I like it when you go to a store enough that people know you by name. I bought um...3, maybe 4 laptops from him when he worked at Best Buy, not to mention several other items. James. Nice fella. Just married, going to school in emergency services, probably will be a fireman in Colorado where his wife's family lives. Not very often do you meet someone at Walmart who knows you by name. They do a lot of business, that's all I am saying, but sometimes it's nice when they know your name. One of my favorite lunch grills is like that. Marshall always calls me by name, so kind, and asks about school. He will always have my business, but once he is gone... who knows?

So back to my woes, I walk into this Kroger-based store and purchase a few items (did I mention Kawi is in my vest?) and Kawi squirmed up under my armpit so that I can't just shove his little head back in, and after emerging from my vest like a yellow-headed butterfly from a cocoon, he was angelic and charming, singing, whistling, talking, being a lover bird and not a hater bird. He loves the grocery store. Everyone smiles when they see him. They light up as if I just handed them a rose. It's so lovely. Oh, except the guy that Kawi wanted to go investigate. Kawi just loves guys, and he wanted to sit on that guy's shoulder something fierce. I finally stuffed Kawi screaming and fighting into my vest so that the poor trembling soul could pass by unmolested by my cheeky little companion.

I checked out only thirty dollars later, a reasonable fee for therapy and milk, some bean sprouts, romaine, a roasted chicken, maifun, diet rootbeer, and a few other items, wouldn't you say?

Alas, I came home and ate both chicken wings off of that roasted chicken, which really, folks, I never eat the skin or fat, so a teaspoon of meat later I realize that they are going low sodium on me or something, because that teaspoon of meat didn't taste nearly as good as it should have. Woes! But a diet rootbeer float and some clickity-clackity later, here I sit, having shed my discontent shadow somewhere between that Kroger store and a few hundred characters later.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pirates and Power Rangers

For those who have not dabbled in the motorcycle culture, or even those who have, there is one common mistake made: confusing Pirates with Power Rangers. Allow me to essplain. No, there is no time. Allow me to sum up.

Pirates drive slow, kicked back, arms long and forward, clad in black leathers that generally are doused in a bit of fringe and insignias of orange and black and white, and while protection may not be the top priority for these garments, you will see that there is a reason for this based on their riding habits. Their head-ware may consist of goggles and a bandanna, and on rare occasion a half-helmet, but facial hair is often an important part of this fashion. Elite branding includes Harley-Davidson, and chains, goatees, fringe and females clad in leather leftovers are common affiliates. At a glance, these riders may appear daunting, however, despite the culture associated with Pirates, this class of rider is commonly concocted of wealthy lawyers and doctors seeking an outlet for a more adventurous life, yet another arena that demands respect when a group of such riders appear swarming through a small town. Social networking is a strength of this crowd, and often lends to their general effect on outsiders. Their en masse arrivals are often announced by a slow, growling rumble which gradually increases to a towering roar as they draw closer.
Power Rangers look, well, like Power Rangers! (see above) This attire will include a protective spine, elbow and knee structures built in. Often multi-farbige, colors may fall anywhere in the spectrum and may also include black, although generally devoid of chains and fringe, and more commonly including stripes and/or insignias of some sort. Helmets are the rule, no matter what type, although full-face modular helmets and Shoei (pronounced show-eee according to the NWerners) branding is desirable for supreme protection. Those who choose to ride in shorts and a T-shirt with no helmet are often termed 'Squids' because that's what you look like when you hit the road. Power Rangers not only believe in protecting themselves, but their fellow riders as well, and do not allow their beloved blondie to ride in skimpy shorts and tank tops without a helmet either. Proper gear allows these riders to wreck, and if the bike is still operable, drive or walk away without a scratch. Power Rangers also have a firm belief and understanding of centripetal force (think gyroscope), which allows them to lean left and right at incredible angles without losing their balance.

While these worlds may not cross paths too often, they really aren't too far apart with a love for the open road, and the two wheeled (sometimes three) inventions that are capable of jaw dropping speeds (and we didn't even touch dirt biking here!)

With this much needed knowledge, let me share with you a few sights from the Super Bike World Championships (Power Rangers), where, after our Memorial Day cemetery visits and proper respect for our deceased took place, we honored the skill of men and women Power Rangers from around the world. Surrounded with the smell of burning rubber, where brand-loving minions advertised their favorite bike manufacturers in every imaginable fashion, we observed crashes and jaw-dropping speeds of cyclists from Turkey to Czech Republic, and Japan to Ireland.

There were plenty of kids, but not just the little kind...
In memory of...Burning rubber (see video at the end)...
Race 1 winners, 1000 cc:
His lens is bigger than mine...
What you might need to race: they keep the tires warm and clean to help them stick better...
Miles of bikes...

Yours truly, grateful that the blue porta-potties had a nicer counterpart...Speeds up to 190 mph were thrilling and breathtaking to watch!
Going into the straight...
Below is crash corner, complete with medics on hand. Despite our grandstand reserved seating on the straight, where we sat for all of 20 minutes, we spent most of our time in general track side at the curves (mental note to self to save some dough next round)

Note, a bit of fringe!
Pretty... er, Ford GT
Opposing camps of motorcycle loyalty...
Sadly, BMW didn't create a bike parking arena for THEIR riders. Marketing folks, take note. Missed opportunity?
Ducati, on the other hand, had bikes from every corner of the country:
Lots of military nearby, enjoying the sights
C's binoculars came in handy...
Ducati's specialized proprietary engine (desmodromic valve system) - look ma, no springs!
Ducati are hand-made Italian motorcycles that cost a bundle.
The good old days... these are the bikes C loves most, especially this old Honda:

I'd hate to forget my sunglasses while driving around in this shiny Shelby!
Geico joined the fun with this old fella... Progressive's moto insurance price is MUCH better, though...
S-curve: to appreciate the drastic change in leans, see the video at the bottom.

Heading off track to avoid a malfunction crash...

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