Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Ninety-six

Day 196 - Christmas
Christmas is my favorite holiday.  Everyone seems to be in a better mood (apart from those who stampede toward the “best deals” - such behavior baffles me).  Streets are lined with lights in the trees; all the cliches you hear on the radio seem to be true.  Sometimes, anyway.
Today was a nice, quiet, relaxed Christmas.  Mom and I opened gifts with a cup of egg nog in hand.  We had friends over for a prime rib dinner - my dad’s favorite holiday meal.  Great conversation.  What more can you ask for?  
I am grateful to be able to spend this holiday with people I care about and who keep my Christmas joyful.  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Ninety-five

Day 195 - Christmas Eve
I woke today with an almost overwhelming feeling of sadness.  I have no idea where it came from or why; I can only guess that my subconscious is processing something.  I read of my friends’ good news, and have an unexplained feeling of melancholy - what’s up with that?  I have to think about celebrating with them, and not be jealous of them.  
After a short cardio workout at the gym on the stationary bike, I headed over to Aquila to pick up the frit plate I made, excited to see how it turned out.  I was delighted!  I took about an hour to sit at the torch, too, and had a great conversation with Scott (C.).  
Then I headed to Mom’s for a bite to eat - simple and easy; later on, we both headed to Rufus and Shelley’s for their annual “Not Your Normal Rockwell Party” holiday martini soiree.  We didn’t know our hosts, but were invited by Scott (W.); I trusted him in inviting us only to something we both would enjoy, and enjoy it we did!  

What a great group of people. Most of the men present (excluding the two Scotts) were, or had been, drag queens - though not in drag tonight - and Shelley evidently was a past Emperor of the Court.  Mom was thoroughly engaged; as we were driving home, I commented that if I had told her ten years ago we would attend this party, she would have laughed out loud.  She replied, “I would have hit you!”  Hahaha!  What a great evening - and we got to keep our martini glasses too!  In fact, Shelley gave us both the matching glass to the one we had chosen.  Wonderful!
I’m grateful for wonderful friends and holidays - they can turn this frown upside down.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Ninety-four

Day 194 - Collaboration
I was back at the glass studio today, ready to work on my frit project.  It came together just as I had hoped.  (Now, let’s see if it turns out.)  I also had time to talk to Leah, one of the instructors, as she worked on a fusing project, and we discussed another idea I’m contemplating.  She helped me consider various construction considerations, and in the process, gave me some wonderful ideas on how to bring my project together.  
The collaboration with an experienced mentor is a fabulous process.  I completely understand why someone first expressed this moment as a “lightbulb going on over [my] head.”  It was as if the whole room brightened for a moment, and I’m excited to work on the design.  I will do so over the weekend.
I often wonder how anyone progresses - or even survives - without collaborating with others, learning from them and growing in skill and understanding.  I am blessed to be surrounded by such talented people who are willing to help.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Ninety-three

Day 193 - Options
When I was in Victoria a few weeks ago, Nacho and I went into a gallery displaying beautiful works of glass art.  I saw a frit bowl, and immediately thought, “I can make that.”  I went to the glass studio today excited to work on this new project, but unfortunately chose a time when those to whom I turn for guidance were unavailable.  No worries, I can work at the torch instead.
So I made a couple more drops for my chandelier, and after only two, decided I think I’ve made enough of these; it is time to do something new.  So instead, I experimented with some twisties.  I’m not sure how they’ll turn out, but it was fun to work on them.  
The thought came to me how nice it is to have options.  It makes being adaptable so easy.  As my life takes turns I don’t expect, it will be important for me to look for my many options, and choose those that make me feel good.  I expect there to be times when the options are not obvious, or my plans are somehow thwarted; nevertheless, choices are there, and I will turn my attention to the positives.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Ninety-two

Day 192 - Macaroni & Cheese
As for most Americans, Macaroni & Cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods.  I’m among the luckiest who has a mom who makes it from scratch every time.  I think she made a “Four Cheese” sauce long before it was popular, and I have yet to try a version I like better.
Growing up, Mom would fix Macaroni & Cheese whenever one of us had dental or orthodontic work done, and couldn’t chew comfortably, which added a different level of “comfort” to the food.  Of course, she would make it at other times, too, and it was always a treat.  I was glad she taught me how to make it for myself.
Mom and I had been talking about inviting “The Boys” - a circle of friends I had met in Palm Springs over a year ago - to dinner so she could meet my friends.  I tried to schedule something a couple times earlier this year, but that ship never seemed ready to leave the harbor.  This time it came together easily, and though not all of the Boys could be there, many of them not only came over, but brought wonderful side dishes to share.  Blaine brought dessert: the most adorable “polar bear” cupcakes I’ve ever seen.  It was a lovely evening.
I have talked about the importance of my friends and my mom in my life, and tonight was a wonderful reminder of how big a part they play in my happiness.  Thank you all for sharing this evening with Mom and me.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Ninety-one

Day 191 - Slow Days
Today started early; I facilitated my every-other-Tuesday job seekers group, and had a much longer commute than usual since I’m staying in NW Portland.  I managed to get there on time, though no one else did.  We had fewer participants today - expected since it is a holiday week.  It was the last Breakfast Club meeting of 2011.
The rest of the day was wide open - I didn’t have anything else on the calendar, and I was free to do what I wanted.  I didn’t have any networking meetings - at a coffee shop or otherwise - so I took advantage of the time to really relax.  It is amazing sometimes to note how much stress can build during a time of no work (I will approach work-related stress very differently from now on).
It was a pleasant day.  I didn’t get everything done that perhaps I might have, given my slow pace, but at least it felt good.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Ninety

Day 190 - Cat Sitting
Today was my first day of cat sitting.  My friend Denny is visiting family back east for two weeks, and he asked if I might be interested in staying in his cute studio apartment in NW Portland, looking after his cats (and enjoying their company, too).  Of course I said “yes” - I rarely decline requests for help, and I agreed that this might be a nice break in my routine.  I stopped by last week for the keys and a brief tour, so when I arrived today, I was all set.
As I walked in, I was immediately welcomed by the warmth of the heater and the sweet hint of incense - rather like what one experiences when stepping into a spa or an herbalist/naturopath shop.  Peace enveloped me.  Denny left me a note to make sure I had all the information I could need while he is away.  Maddy sat up to greet me, and Tyler ran under the bed - exactly as when I met them briefly last week.
I had a quiet, comfortable evening.  Everything felt right, and I was glad to be helping Denny, totally aware that he was helping me, too.

[In the photo: Maddy on the bed, Tyler on the floor; and out of respect to Denny, I am responsible for the pillow being out of place - the bed was perfectly made when I arrived.]

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eighty-nine

Day 189 - Sunday with Mom
We began our day with breakfast at Tom’s Pancake House in Beaverton - a fixture since  before we moved to Cedar Hills in 1967.  I am certain the last time we ate there together was over 35 years ago.  The food was good, as was the service, and we didn’t have to wait long for a table.  
After breakfast, we went to the mall to do the last of my Christmas shopping.  I found what I needed fairly quickly, and felt relieved that I had finished rather painlessly.  I have also been looking for an affordable cotton (machine washable) sweater for myself (I need more warm clothes if I am going to spend winters in the Pacific Northwest), and found a few at H&M on a prior visit, so Mom bought me an early present.  The bag went under the tree as soon as we got home.
I find it interesting to notice how we slow down at work during the holidays, but life gets more hectic on the home front - rushing to find the right token of our esteem and then to send them to those who live far away in time for the holiday.  Even when we can slow down and relax a bit, we still keep up the pace, pushing on, staying busy, though with a broader smile and a lighter heart.
I had a good day with Mom.  Would that these could last forever.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eighty-eight

Day 188 -  Twisties
I played with glass again at the torch today.  I practiced making “twisties” - laying lines of two colors onto a clear rod and twisting the hot glass in front of the flame to make a spiral effect.  I’m not very good at it yet in terms of controlling the twist and keeping the spiral regular, but I like what I made - blue and white “icicles” - and I’ll make more.  
I hadn’t thought to make these until recently, when I was struggling with another project and inadvertently twisted the glass.  Sure, I’ve seen others making twisties, and I have thought about learning how; but this specific effort was born out of error.  So many of my glass projects have started out like this.
I suppose we learn from our mistakes; and when it comes to art, my mistakes are sometimes better than the deliberate effort.  I am learning to accept each piece as it comes, without judgment or expectation of perfection.  The unplanned aspects give it a uniqueness - it is different from every other - and offers its individual beauty.  
Rather like people.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eighty-seven

Day 187 - Doors
I was driving home this afternoon from running an errand, and as I passed the building where I go to a weekly job seekers networking meeting, the thought crossed my mind, “Why can’t I get a job?”  It is a recurring question - repeating itself for nearly three years now - for which I cannot yet find an answer.  I am baffled.  I often wonder if there is some critical feedback I haven’t been given, as if people are trying to save my feelings by not telling me something I ought to know.  I just don’t get it.
Shortly after I returned home, I received a phone call from my friend in Bellevue, WA who interviewed me a couple weeks ago for his Director of Catering opening.  He called me to ask whether the other hotel had offered me anything (“No, they chose someone else”), and to say I’m still their leading candidate, but that they are interviewing for more than one position and it has been hectic - they haven’t been able to move on it as quickly as they’d like.
I was delighted to hear this.  Setting aside the imperfection of the opportunity, it felt good to think that I may be employed again; that I might have my own home again after three years of living in someone else’s.  I try not to think about the goals I’d be giving up - or at least postponing - and keep my focus on what feels good.  The fact is I need a job.  I want to continue consulting, but either I’m doing it all wrong, or it just isn’t the right time, because I’m not making any progress there.  I need to move in the direction of the door that is opening to me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eighty-six

Day 186 - Hoping Vicariously
There have been times in my life where my sense of hope has become very weak; I haven’t felt truly hopeless very often, but sometimes I have been overwhelmed by despair in spite of any remaining hope.  I suppose one can argue that building emotional strength comes from exhausting practice, just as you strengthen muscles at the gym; however, feeling sore a day or two after the workout indicates progress.  I’m not sure I can say the same thing about lacking hope.
And there’s the issue - “lacking.”  I am attempting to shift my focus from a view of “lack” to that of abundance.  It doesn’t feel good to stew over the fact that I still don’t have a job, or that I feel as if I’m living life on others’ terms.  It does feel good to see people having fun, learning techniques, and getting interviews.  When I feel envy coloring my view, I try to change the thought toward one of celebrating.  I try to keep the hope for my own future bright by being happy for the other person.
I had a chance to sit with a coaching client today as she prepares for an important interview tomorrow.  Here is a woman who, by her own admission, isn’t the “pretty” type; she wonders about her competitiveness with other candidates in terms of her looks.  She has every reason to be concerned - we live in a society that values looks over many other qualities, and that’s not something we are going to change overnight.  However, with her talent, enthusiasm, and intelligence, she is a strong candidate (having made it to the interview process over at least two other people I know who have stellar resumes).  I challenged her perspective that she is less “gorgeous” just because she doesn’t look like a Barbie doll.  She is gorgeous in her own way, and THAT is what she needs to project.
She is ready for this interview process, which sounds grueling (two panel interviews and a one-on-one with the department head).  She knows her stuff; she knows herself, and all her accompanying skills and talents.  My sense of hope was renewed as I talked with her about her preparations for the interview.  I was strengthened by her strength.
This is why I love what I do.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eighty-five

Day 185 - Carnival Mirrors
Today was not one of my best days.  I was still disappointed, and a bit disillusioned, by the job rejection that came yesterday; I was feeling frustrated and hopeless, and wondered if the meetings I was scheduled to attend would lead anywhere.  I wondered (again) whether I was even employable.  If I hadn’t committed myself (and in the case of the luncheon, prepaid) to attend these meetings, I would likely have just driven back to Portland and crawled into bed.
But I had committed, so I went.  The first meeting was a SHRM Seattle special interest group for those of us in “career transition.”  There were four of us looking for work (a college senior graduating in June, a recent grad, a woman reentering the workforce after staying home for awhile - reason undisclosed, and me); there were three employed people - two were co-moderating the group and the other was the SHRM Seattle VP of Special Interest Groups who was there to observe the meeting.  
It was a pleasant conversation, but unless one of the employed people could actually help, it was certainly not a “quick fix” for me.  No worries - long term relationships with colleagues are always good to have, and they seemed like nice women.
After spending $12 to park in the building garage for less than 90 minutes (and spending the next few minutes trying to digest the sticker shock), I returned to Amy’s to gather my things and pack the car before going to the GSBA luncheon.  As I said, I wasn’t feeling motivated, and if I hadn’t paid almost $40 to attend this luncheon, I’d have skipped it.
Just as I was finishing loading the car, I stepped in dog feces.  Great.  How anyone can own a dog - taking it for walks, buying it expensive toys and spending outrageous amounts of money for vet bills - and not pick up after it is beyond my comprehension; though I imagine they probably treat their kids even worse.  I began to wonder if this were an indication of how the rest of my day would go.
I scraped the sole of my shoe on the curb as best I could, and then retrieved a paper napkin from the glove compartment to remove the smelly mess.  And a mess it was.  There must have been a huge pile hidden among the unraked leaves on the parking strip.  (...Is taking care of your yard a lost art these days?  Did they stop manufacturing leaf rakes?)  I tried to keep my hands clean as I wiped the stuff from my shoes, only to realize I had stepped with my other shoe in what I had just removed.  I tried to clean the other shoe, and got something on my hand.  I pulled my one remaining Wet Wipe from the console box to clean my hands, noticing I had smeared this shit on the shoe leather.  Really?!  I used the Wet Wipe to clean my shoe again.  
I now had no time to spare if I wanted to arrive at the luncheon on time.  I gave up, frustrated and angry, leaving the soiled napkin and Wet Wipe on the ground (and feeling awful about littering).  I imagined my networking experience ruined by the stench of dog droppings wafting up from under the banquet table.  Just as I was getting on the road, my daughter called.  Her cheery voice contrasted sharply with my black mood; I felt terrible knowing I couldn’t hide it from her.
“Hi Dad!  How are you?”
“I’m OK.  I just stepped in dog poop, and I am on my way to a networking lunch.”
“Oh... you don’t sound happy.”
I don’t get to talk to my kids often enough, and I have been in a sour mood the last two times Lizzie has called.  It made me feel even worse (which, until the phone rang, seemed impossible) that she had to put up with my negativity.  I had to put on a good face in ten minutes, and I was failing miserably before I started.  I asked if I could call her back later, to which she quickly agreed.
I parked the car in the Renaissance Seattle’s self-parking, thanking my lucky stars that I thought to put my extra pair of shoes within easy reach as I changed footwear.  These Donald Pliners were more casual than what I had messed up, but at least they were a good match to the clothes I was wearing.  And they didn’t reek.  I then went directly to the restroom to wash my hands.  (I also thanked those same stars when I found out our parking was discounted to $5.)
Neither of the GSBA members I already knew were at the function, so I was on my own.  As I scanned the room, I saw a man who looked - and sounded - a lot like a hotel General Manager I met back in 2004 at an IGLTA symposium in Chicago.  Sure enough, it was Harold Cohen.  We caught up a bit, and sat next to each other for the luncheon.  During our conversation, he told me about some of the employment activity he knew of, and promised to forward my contact information to the key players.
I met a few people at the luncheon who I hoped might somehow pick up on my need for some networking assistance.  (“If there is anyone you think I should meet to expand my network, I would be grateful for an introduction” - subtle, no?)  The GSBA seemed like a good group - well organized with a lot of activity, drive and commitment - better and probably more effective than what one finds in Portland and Los Angeles.
After lunch, I hit the road for Portland.  I was weary, and wanted to be back in familiar surroundings.  The drive was fast and easy - I made it to the Interstate Bridge in only 2.5 hours, where I had the first rain of my trip; it seemed appropriate that Oregon welcomed me home with its best-known resource.  As I approached a particularly thick band of clouds, it looked to me like a big fluffy blanket under which I would be warm and safe.  Odd, I know, but I’ll take whatever comfort I can get.
The day came full-circle when I called Lizzie back and we laughed about the events of the day.  Fortunately, my bad attitude was forgiven, and we had a great conversation.  It was like a carnival mirror - the image you see may not be pretty, but if you can laugh at yourself, the experience can still be fun.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eighty-four

Day 184 - Keeping the Faith
Sometimes it is difficult to keep the faith.
I received a phone call from the hotel I really wanted to work for, but it wasn’t the call I hoped it would be.  It was a rejection.  The HR Director called, and she said all the “right” things.  Unfortunately, it was simply a vocal version of the standard (and rather patronizing) email brush-off.  I was definitely disappointed.
I am convinced it means only that this wasn’t the right opportunity for me.  There is a reason I had the premonition about it - I must have felt it subconsciously, and the reality wasn’t a manifestation of my fears, but rather the realization of factors that my mind could recognize but only process as a gut feeling.  It wasn’t meant to be.
My mom forwarded to me an anonymous quote years ago that said, “Everything works out right in the end.  If it isn’t right, it’s not the end.”  While my hopes for the future may have been postponed a bit longer, I remind myself that everything is temporary, even the low points.  Keeping faith in myself may not be easy sometimes, but it is what I need to do.  Giving up isn’t an option.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eighty-three

Day 183 - Reality Checks
I woke up today with some doubts about where my life is going that affected my mood.  There were clear reasons for the doubts to surface, but without the context that would come in time, I figured they were wasted worrying about things over which I have little or no control, even though it didn’t feel good to face them.  I have to let go and allow things work out the way they will.
As the day progressed, my doubts were calmed.  Not that the potential for disappointment went away, but I was able to cope with the misgivings.  It was a leisurely day, nice weather, good company....  The only sad part was having to leave Victoria.
The ferry ride was easy - seas were smooth as glass - and though the passengers closest to me were also the loudest, I had the good sense to bring my ear phones with me, and I listened to music while I read.  I didn’t get the meal I wanted - they sold out quickly - but I had something good that would tide me over until dinner.  My ride couldn’t be at the pier in time for my arrival, but I didn’t have to wait long.  
At the end of the day, I thought about the benefits of having had the doubts surface.  They provided me with a reality check - a way to stay grounded.  Maybe the things I have been going for (the job, the relationship, whatever it might be) won’t work out the way I think I want them to; that leaves me open to allow something else that could be better.  Maybe they will work out exactly as I hope.  We shall see.  It is all good, so there is no reason to worry.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eighty-two

Day 182 - Beauty
Sometimes we find beauty in unexpected ways.
Today was a beautiful day, too; the weather forecast was for clouds and a slight chance of showers.  However, it ended up being partly sunny and dry, and we were glad of it, as we walked to catch a bus to Butchart Gardens.
Neither of us had been during the winter, so we didn’t really know what to expect.  We went in the afternoon with an idea of seeing the gardens during the day, and the lights after sunset.  Believe it or not, there were still a few flowers in bloom, despite freezing temperatures.  As the sun sank lower in the sky, the lights in the gardens became more visible, indicating the constant effort the groundskeepers clearly make to keep the gardens spectacular.
We came back in time to put up Christmas; Ignacio’s apartment building does not allow natural Christmas trees (fire hazard), so he uses an outdoor light “tree” instead - a lawn decoration that, at Ignacio’s hands, becomes a clever way to display Christmas tree ornaments, and one I haven’t seen anywhere before, even in a shop window or display table.  He takes a simple item and makes it beautiful in a simple way.  (I wish photos could do it justice.)
After trimming the tree, we had a little dinner, and then two of Ignacio’s friends came over for cocktails.  We had a pleasant time with them, talking, laughing, and sharing stories....  As the evening wrapped up, I realized Ignacio had introduced me to his “family” on this trip; his parents and siblings live in Venezuela, so in Victoria he has only his friends - his “chosen” family - and I was honored to have been introduced.  I had a lovely time.
I am surrounded by beauty, and happy to have noticed it.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eighty-one

Day 181 - Companionship
I am reminded from time to time that companionship is not about conversation, or activity, or agreeing on any particular subject or point of view.  It is about sharing one’s experience with another; enjoying each other’s company even when no word is spoken, perhaps doing different things, whether next to each other on the couch, or in different rooms within the same house, or across town from each other and knowing you are still connected.  The activity doesn’t matter.
Today was such a day.  A fun walk along the breakwater.  A quick trip to the market.  After-dinner cocktails with his dear friend.  No specific agenda, just a quiet day shared with someone special.  It felt neither rushed nor slow; just the perfect pace to enjoy every moment.  It was as close to “perfect” as it could get.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eighty

Day 180 - Small Tokens
I woke up ten minutes before my alarm went off.  I was out of bed before the second alarm sounded.  This is not like me.
I had plenty of time to have a cup of coffee and shower before departing for Victoria.  I was excited.  Amy generously drove me to Pier 69, where I checked in for my 8:00 AM ferry ride.  There wasn’t much of a line, and I hoped to get into the first boarding group.  Sure enough, I was number 13 - what a lucky thing to be that early.  The group of people already waiting wasn’t clue enough that I had misread my boarding number - I was turned away at the gate and it was then that I properly read the number: 113.  I was in group 3.  Oh well - the gate agent was good natured about it, and I was only momentarily embarrassed.  At least my boarding number for the return trip was 10 - I checked more than once.
The voyage to Victoria was easy - the water was smooth as glass, so my second dose of Dramamine may have been unnecessary.  The only wave action we saw was when crossing the wake of a cargo ship head of us on the starboard side.  I was off the boat quickly once we docked in Victoria, focusing on getting to the coffee shop where Ignacio suggested he meet at 12:30 - he had planned to work only a half day, so 12:30 would be as early as he would be back to the neighborhood.  It was now 10:45 and the coffee shop was four blocks away.
As I rounded the corner out of the Clipper terminal toward the street, there was Ignacio already waiting for me.  He had changed his plans and took the entire day off, but didn’t tell me, to maintain the element of surprise.  I was duly, and enthusiastically, surprised.  We walked together to his apartment content as we began the weekend.
Ignacio gave me a cowl scarf that he knitted; he was working on it when I visited last month, though didn’t complete until after I came back home.  The surprise gift was a winter cap he made for me - the first had he ever knitted.  Included in the bag was some high-end chocolate made there in Victoria, and a small bag of loose tea I had enjoyed on my previous visit that isn’t available in the States except by mail.
I gave him a rainbow irid glass bowl I had made for him, along with some glass beads I had made awhile ago that I thought he would enjoy.  My thought was to wear them one at a time, but he chose to wear them all.
It was a lovely day.  Small tokens are such wonderful things.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seventy-nine

Day 179 - Hope in Spite of the Fears
I was up and ready early.  I had plenty of time to take care of emails and other online work after I shaved and showered before I needed to drive to the hotel.  Again, I was about to interview for a position that, by itself, does not interest me.  My focus would be on remaining open to the opportunities the universe was bringing to me in response to my needs.
I didn’t have to wait long for Sarah to arrive in the lobby to begin the first of two interviews, and as I took my seat across the table from her, I felt calm.  Sarah is a professional.  She maintains an easy economy of energy in both conversation and movement - highly polished and poised, though not generous.  She asked a lot of behavioral questions (“Tell me about a time when...”) relating to the position as well as general hospitality issues.  Having coached others on these types of questions helped me give answers I felt comfortable explaining, and I tried to take my own advice of spending only 30 to 60 seconds on any response.  Only once did I have to ask her to restate the questions to ensure I had answered it fully.
I felt good about the exchange; we weren’t going to be best friends by the end of the interview, but I had the sense she would not be difficult to work for.  We spoke for about 90 minutes, and then she took me to see Dave, the managing director (“General Manager” at other properties).  
Dave has a self-confidence that is at once compelling and disarming; I imagine he could also be quite intimidating under the right circumstances.  He greeted me warmly, and as we started in on the meat of the conversation, he asked about my resume - he didn’t see the flow of my employment history logically moving toward this position, which is obviously a step backward in my career.
As we discussed my resume, he asked me if I knew his dear, close personal friend who was GM at the Los Angeles Marriott Downtown - a man by the name of Reggie.  Uh-oh.  Dave’s best friend was the worst GM I have ever had the bad fortune to work for, or at least that was how I felt when I left (and I haven’t had a worse relationship with a GM since).  
Dave explained he had originally planned to share Thanksgiving with Reggie and their respective families.  Oh, dear.  I explained that Reggie and I had only worked together for a short time, and that I had grown up a lot since those days.  I told him the (true) story of the last time he and I disagreed on something, and that I felt we had a mutual respect by the end of the discussion.  I hoped that was enough to avoid any adverse decisions based on a conversation between the two of them, which I have no doubt would happen (though I do doubt I’ll ever know).
The conversation felt very easy; there were several moments when Dave would say something encouraging, like “Exactly” or “I agree,” and I felt as if we were making a connection.  By the end of the interview, when he was saying goodbye, he told me he “enjoyed it.”  I had no reason to think he didn’t mean it.  He told me I should hear within 48 hours.
I finished the day with mixed feelings: on one hand, I felt everything went very well and I had done a good job with the interview; on the other, I wondered if both Sarah’s efficient style and Dave’s close friendship with a man I once loathed would work against me for this position.  At the end of the day, I had to leave it for the universe to work out.  I had done my part.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seventy-eight

Day 178 - And the Driving is Easy
I am clearly focused on my interviews in Seattle: I forgot to make an important phone call this morning.  It is on my calendar; the alerts sounded as scheduled; and still I couldn’t remember to call.  I left a message - maybe she’ll call me back.
I left Tigard for Seattle in good time - only 30 minutes after my goal departure time.  It wasn’t important to leave by a specific hour, but I hoped to miss traffic both in Portland and in Seattle.  By leaving at 10:30, it was likely I’d have smooth sailing, barring any traffic incidents or significant road work.
The drive was uneventful and easy.  The weather was not unpleasant, and the number of other cars on the road moderate at best.
I didn’t have any great moments of clarity on during this drive, but something of a comfort, or feeling of confirmation; I had the sense that I was in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.  ...Whatever that might be.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seventy-seven

Day 177 - “HR Therapist”
The day started with moderating the Breakfast Club of Portland job seekers networking group, and I felt the meeting went well.  Everyone had a chance to commit to various activities  that will hopefully speed their job searches along, and we were only overtime by ten minutes.  The conversation was good (for the most part; there was one participant who seemed to still be angry about being unemployed), and the participants were motivated.  Each meeting adds one person to the number of attendees, and that makes me feel good about what I’m doing.
A little later, I met with a colleague who had asked me to sit down with her for my opinions on some things.  As soon as we got our coffee/tea at the cafe and chose a table, she told me that she needed a little “HR therapy.”  
This is one of my strengths.
She identified three traits about herself about which she wanted my input; she is feeling frustrated with her boss’ behavior - a VP of HR close to retirement - and wanted my advice on how to “manage up” carefully and effectively.  After a 90 minute discussion, she felt she had enough to move forward confidently.
She called me back a couple hours later to report that something I said in our meeting had had an immediate effect - she was able to do an online search for a template for an Executive Summary and that it would help her manage her boss as she prepares for an upcoming presentation to the company executives.  I was reminded of her opening statement about needing “therapy” and it dawned on me that that is what I do: I am an HR Therapist.  Isn’t it interesting how we find clarity as we help others find theirs?

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seventy-six

Day 176 - One More Step
I was in a networking meeting today when I received a call from a (206) area code - Seattle.  There was no way of knowing who was calling, though it appeared to be a main line - the last three digits were zeros - and I assumed it was one of the hotels I am pursuing for work.  Sure, enough, it was the waterfront resort where I met with the HR director last week, and as she began, I wondered if she was going to say “Thank you for your interest” or “We want you to come in for another interview.”
Thank goodness it was the latter.  I now have interviews scheduled with the Director of Sales and the Managing Director of the property (I’m not sure what that title means) on Thursday morning, which means I will have to leave for Seattle a day earlier than planned.  (I’m glad I’m driving and not trying to work with flight itineraries!)
Now the research begins on these two.
I now get to take one more step toward my future.  I’m not sure what it all means yet, where it is leading, or how I will feel about it when it finally settles down, but right now, it feels good to think there is hope.  ...I hope this works.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seventy-five

Day 175 - Smooth Sailing
Sometimes things work out well.  Sometimes the traffic is easy and you get all green lights at the intersections.  Today was such a day - literally.
I got my chores done (well... most of them, anyway) and went to the glass school to make a few more drops for the chandelier.  I worked for about two hours and made five; I think they all may turn out (we’ll see if any crack when they’re annealed).  
On my way home, the traffic on I-5 was horrendous on the northbound side, but I was headed south and never once had to slow down.  I can’t remember the last time that happened.  Then, once i exited the freeway, I hit almost every light green.  I had to stop by the store for one item, and actually chose the fastest checkout lane (usually whichever lane I choose becomes the slowest as soon as I step into it).  I couldn’t believe the ease at which I moved.
What a relief.  I thank the universe for giving me an easy day today.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seventy-four

Day 174 - Personalities
I had the honor of moderating the Portland Leadership Forum meeting today, and the subject was one that is “near and dear to my heart” - interviewing skills and how to engage HR once you’re employed.  It was a panel discussion including three HR professionals currently employed in different industries.  The discussion was very interesting and informative, and I was very glad to have been there.
What offered a different perspective during the meeting was one of the attendees - a woman of some age who repeatedly told us she used to own her own business in the 80’s (a florist business), and who spoke with such volume and force that at times I wondered what her motives were.  I had the impression she was probably difficult to work with, though I tried not to judge.  She definitely put people off, though.
I was reminded later to put this experience in its proper perspective: here was an example of contrast, and in observing the contrast, I am able to determine what I want in my own experience and to focus on that, rather than on the unwanted.  Every time something unpleasant happens, it can be another lesson that further clarifies what is pleasant.  Life’s dichotomies are instructive; I believe it is how and what we learn from them that determine our outcomes.
I am grateful to Yorron, Chuck, Abraham, and others who remind me to focus on what feels good, which will attract more of the same.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seventy-three

Day 173 - Sitting
I will be cat sitting over Christmas.
When my friend asked me if I’d spend the two weeks starting on December 19th, I didn’t hesitate to agree.  In my view, being requested to stay in someone’s home and take care of his family (albeit of the feline variety) is an honor and a compliment.  It didn’t occur to me immediately that I would be away from home on the holiday, and the more I thought about it, the more I wondered how it would work logistically.
Still, I’m excited about the prospect.  Privacy is something I gave up nearly three years ago when I got laid off and gave up my apartment.  The chances I have for it are fleeting, so I take them when I can.  And pets are like grandchildren (at least what I keep hearing about having grandchildren): they’re wonderful to play with, and then you get to give them back.
I picked up the spare keys to his place today, and he gave me the quick tour of his studio apartment and introduced me to the cats.  I’m looking forward to it.  (I just hope the neighbor’s unsecured Wi-Fi will offer a strong enough connection to allow me a regular Internet connection.)  Somebody help me remember to bring the coffee pot.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seventy-two

Day 172 - Acceptance
I was just reading my blog entry from Day 33, and was surprised by a comment I made about my career.  “I also know that I want to eventually make my living exclusively from consulting, and I know I’m on that road.” So much can change in 140 days.
I didn’t want to go back into hotel sales, or sales at all.  But I need a job.  Today, I had three interviews; two were at a hotel in Bellevue, and the other in Seattle.  The Director of Sales at the Bellevue property is a former co-worker I had fallen out of touch with, and the conversation with him was great - it was good to catch up.  I also interviewed with his boss, the General Manager; it was a very good conversation, in which he asked me to let him know of any offer I receive from another property before I accept it.  That made me feel good.
The other hotel is a luxury property on the waterfront - one at which I would be very interested in working (if I have to go back into hospitality), but I don’t know anyone there.  The interview was with the Director of HR, and I thought it went well.  She asked me when I would be back in town, presumably to schedule an interview with the DOS.  
I also received a call from a recruiter about another opening in Seattle.
I felt as if the day were successful; one of these interviews may lead to a job.  It isn’t what I wanted, and if I get one, I will not take my eyes off what I really want to do - training - but what I thought on Day 33 seems to have been a little over-confident.  I hope I can avoid saying I “know” anything moving forward.
Still, the prospect of a job does make me feel good.  I can accept that I don’t know everything, and that any opportunity that comes will lead to something good if I allow it.  I’m not quite ready to leave Portland, so it’s good that these things take time.  I don’t really want to go back into sales - especially catering sales - but I don’t know what connections a job like this could present to me, so I will accept what comes my way, and allow the good to come with it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seventy-one

Day 171 - Anticipation
I had two reasons to be a little nervous today.  
First, I had a presentation to make to a job seekers networking group about questions and responses in an interview, and it was the first time I would attend this group’s meeting.  I wanted to do a good job, naturally, so like every musical or theatrical performance I’ve done in the past, the butterflies were present.  
The second reason was that I needed to get on the road to Seattle for three interviews tomorrow.  I would have only enough time to stop at home to eat a quick lunch, grab my bags, and be off to try to hit Seattle before rush hour.
The presentation went well; it ran overtime because of all the questions (poor planning on my part, actually), but no one seemed to mind, and I got a lot of very positive feedback.
The adrenaline was flowing about two blocks before I made it home for lunch, though, when I realized I left my briefcase in the meeting room - with my laptop inside.  (I took it “just in case” I needed my computer.  That’s a mistake I won’t make again.)  I couldn’t get the group moderator on the phone (turns out he was ignoring my many calls because he was on the other line - I can’t blame him, I suppose), but I was able to reach someone at the Baja Fresh whose meeting room the group uses, and he found and set aside the briefcase.  Wow... that was a stupid move on my part, but the crisis was averted.
I inhaled a quick lunch, changed into some jeans, and got on the road.  The drive up was an easy one, Until I reached Seattle's I-405 toward Bellevue, which is just as bad as the 405 in Los Angeles.  It took me far too long to get to Bellevue, and I was hungry and cranky when I got to the hotel.  It didn’t help that the room could not warm up (probably because a first floor room has very high ceilings, and the heaters cannot heat the whole space when it’s freezing outside - especially the two or three rooms next to the exterior doors where people come and go from the parking lot.  But the huge Cobb salad took care of my appetite, and crawling into bed helped me relax.
But I had three interviews to think about, and fortunately I slept well.  The anticipation kept my mind focused.  Here’s to opportunity!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seventy

Day 170 - Play
I had three meetings today to network with different people - one is another job seeker whom I met at a networking support group and who has attended the one I moderate; the second is a friend of three years whom I view as a mentor in many ways; the third is someone I met at a networking mixer, and it was our first real discussion.  All three meetings were positive, uplifting, and fun.
I also had about an hour to play with glass today.  I didn’t try to make anything specific.  I just wanted to play with the glass to pay attention to how it feels as it moves, how it works as I manipulate it in and out of the flame.  It was just for fun.
I have seen many educational programs over the years about how children (or young animals) learn through play - it is how they prepare themselves for the tasks of adulthood.  As adults, we often forget how useful play is - having fun not only lifts the spirits, but it still allows us to learn, too.
I was so grateful for a chance to play today.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-nine

Day 169 - Practicing Assertiveness
I was presented with the opportunity to practice being assertive today.  I have an acquaintance who seems to enjoy being in charge of things, especially when he has been previously tasked with managing them; he has a very hard time letting go when his duties have concluded and the responsibility has been passed to someone else.
I was told by a colleague that just such a situation had occurred with this person for the second time, so I had to address it more firmly.  I had spoken to this individual about the behavior when it happened a couple weeks ago, so I was a bit perplexed as to why it was happening again.
I was proud of myself for handling it the way I did.  I was direct and firm while maintaining my integrity, and allowing him to maintain his dignity in spite of being out of line.  His contrite response gave me the impression I had handled it well.
The reason I would be grateful for such a situation isn’t so that I can be in control or have power; I am glad it happened because historically I have not been very good at asserting myself.  I am sometimes too concerned about accommodating the feelings of the other person to be as firm as I need to be.  This time, I chose my words and suggestions carefully without cutting myself off at the knees, and was very happy with the way things turned out.
Maybe I am getting better at this after all.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-eight

Day 168 - Opportunities for Self Reflection
There are moments in my life when I suddenly put the puzzle pieces together, and understand why I do the things I do.  Sometimes.
Self reflection isn’t always easy.  I often find myself - like most people, I think - too far into the trees to see the forest.  I am not always able to understand in the moment the motivations behind my reactions, or to recognize the triggers for what they are before I react.  So when I realize I’m behaving in a way I would like to avoid, I have to mentally stop, take a big step back, and see what has led me to the spot where I stand.
Sometimes I witness the same (or similar) behavior in others and can more easily see the triggers and surmise the motivations.  It is so much easier when it’s someone else I’m observing.  
I am reminded of the story my mom tells about how my twin brother and I learned to walk as toddlers: Keith would pull himself up and fall down, over and over again, and I would watch him; when he got the hang of it, I stood up and walked.
I am grateful for those moments when someone else’s behavior instructs me on my own - I recognize it, and can practice in my head how I can behave in the future.  I strive for self-improvement, and since I’m far from exemplary, I am glad these moments come quietly.  Most of the time.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixty-seven

Day 167 - Trusted Friends
I had a relaxing opportunity to sit down with a couple of trusted friends today, just to talk over a cup of tea.  One is the “oldest” friend I have - a friendship of 33 years (though I suppose I should mention that he is two days younger than I) - and the other is his partner.  We haven’t had a chance to catch up in any depth for awhile, and it was nice to be able to talk about anything and everything without having to put up any facades or choose words.  It is something I have always appreciated about my friendship with him - we can (and do) talk about everything.
I have often heard about people who have very few close friends, and thought about my own relationships.  I am lucky to have a number of good friends, most of whom I trust to some degree, and some who invite me to join them for happy hour and social gatherings.  But when it comes to people I could call at any hour of the night with any emergency, I could count the number on one hand and have a finger or two left over.
I feel fortunate to have these friends.  Ultimately, quantity is easily outweighed by quality.  To have a friend I can trust on this level is a blessing.  It is a relationship I do not take for granted, and try to nurture as best I can.