Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Fifty

Day 50 - Summer Breezes
What a beautiful day.  The upside was the sun and warmth - Portland is spectacular in the sunshine.  I’d say it’s the reason summer is my favorite season.  Growing up here, you appreciate the warm, sunny weather because it doesn’t last very long.  
The down side was that I spent this gorgeous day moving the contents a flower shop.  What a crazy ride THAT was, following the enormous florist “cooler” (a triple-wide refrigerator with glass doors) that was not strapped down in the bed of a tiny 1976 Toyota pickup being driven by a would-be mover who, I swear, doesn’t have a screw loose, but rather has several bolts missing or sheared off.  Josef and I both suffered near heart attacks when the guy made a sudden turn - we thought that cooler would tip over and fall on another car, or worse, on a cyclist or pedestrian.
By the end of the afternoon we got most of his things where they needed to go.  (Thanks, Mom, for the wonderful "picnic" lunch!)  It was hard work, but we kept cool with the wonderful breezes that were blowing through.  It was the perfect day for this kind of work.
Then I read a comment from a friend on Facebook that he has a cold, and adapted Seals & Crofts’ lyrics to sing “Summer cold, makes me feel fine.....”  Poor guy.  Love the song, though - it’s one of my favorites from my younger years, and now that’s blowing through my mind along with the summer breezes and jasmine.
I think today was my favorite kind of day (weather-wise, anyway).  I hope I can spend another like it, only sitting on the beach next time.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Forty-nine

Day 49 - “Only keep the friends who help you move.”
My friend Josef is moving his florist business to a new location this weekend.  I am reminded of a Volkswagen television advertisement several years ago; the scene is a small group of young men frantically tying a mattress to the top of a VW that is double-parked and blocking traffic.  Horns are sounding as they hurriedly throw the rope over the mattress, and then pass it through the open car windows, again and again, tying it securely, only to discover as they rush to leave that they have tied the car doors closed in the process.  The picture cuts to the slogan, “Only keep the friends who help you move.”
I hate moving.  Seriously.  I have moved nearly 30 times in as many years.  I can think of few things more anxiety-provoking or unpleasant.  But I turn down a request for help in a move only if I am honestly unavailable.  I want my friends to keep our relationship, so I will help them in any way I can.  (Besides, I can call on them when it’s my turn, and if history is any indication, the time should be coming up very soon).
I am reminded of the men who moved my piano the last time.  One of them was the friend of the professional mover I had hired.  I think he injured his back helping to move this immensely heavy piano.  THAT is friendship.
Do we earn our friendships?  Yes, I think we do to the extent that actions speak louder than words, and for our relationships to thrive, we have to make an effort.  We can’t take anyone for granted.  As my dentist friend Bart told me years ago, “Friends are like teeth: if you don’t take care of them, they’ll go away.”
Thank you, Josef, for giving me the opportunity to lend a hand.  (I just hope I don’t injure my back with that refrigerator tomorrow.)

A Year of Gratitude - Day Forty-eight

Day 48 - The Unexpected
Friday was shot from a cannon.
My day started quickly with a phone interview for a Leadership Trainer position at TravelClick, a global company offering products and services to the hospitality industry.  The surprise was to realize the person conducting this (second) interview was the Sr. VP of HR, whom I had previously identified as the only woman on the company’s executive team, and a key player in the organization.  I came into the interview knowing I have three strong advantages: 1. I have extensive hospitality sales experience; 2. I have been a TravelClick customer and am familiar with their offerings; 3. I am a professional trainer.  But what surprised me the most was what came up during the interview.
It turns out this SVP also worked at Disney World’s EPCOT around the same time I did, and while we didn’t cross paths there, we have a friend in common.  That part of our conversation took about a third of our time together on the phone.  She was pressed for time, or we’d have continued much longer.  (I am supposed to hear back shortly from someone about Step 3 of the process, and she said she wants to continue the discussion.)
My noon networking meeting was as pleasant as ever, and then I had coffee with one of the funniest, humblest, most delightful people I’ve ever met.  If you’ve never had the chance to meet and converse with Kurt Aarrestad, you have been deprived of a wonderful experience.  He’s currently looking for a job, and if I could hire him myself, I would do so just to have someone “in the office” to brighten my day.  ...To brighten everyone’s day  What a great guy.
During our conversation, we talked about the dark times we both have gone through, and how we’ve arrived at our present frame of mind.  Kurt totally understood what I was talking about (and I think vice versa), and then he made a profound comment: when we speak poorly of ourselves, we insult those who care about us by telling them they are wrong (about us).  
I suddenly thought of my best friend, Stephanie, who has handled my darkest days with gracious patience and unconditional validation.  As I left the coffee shop where Kurt and I met, I sent Stephanie a text message simply saying “I love you.”  I hope she knows how much she means to me.  

The day finished with a pleasant dinner with Hal at Starky’s, one of the several restaurants in town I enjoy most.  Except for a little bit of digestive issues afterward (we’re thinking the salads?), it was a nice evening.
Again, as I was getting ready for bed, I was struck with how quickly the day had passed, and how unexpectedly happy I was.  They say “Expect the Unexpected.”  I think I like this.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Forty-seven

Day 47 - Busy-ness
It was a busy day.
I’m grateful for modern technology that gives me the ability to be as mobile as I was today (Thursday).  I barely stopped to eat (and if you know me well, you know the significance of that statement).  I didn’t even have time to work out at the gym (and if you know me well, you ... well, you get it).
The highlights were a morning PABA BizBuilders networking meeting and a pleasant conversation with Mark, my insurance agent; an enlightening conversation with Emily (thank you for your help!), then a fantastic lunch with Joe - an attorney friend I met at a mixer - who may have a very interesting referral for me.  And while the professional potential is exciting, the conversation was delightful - what a great guy.  Later, I met with a coaching client, also named Joe, who is the most humble, unassuming electronic engineer I’ve ever met.  The guy is brilliant.
I also had a nice dinner - Happy Hour, actually - with John, a successful interior designer, at one of my favorite Portland bars, the Red Cap Garage, whose fish tacos (from the Fish Grotto next door) are only $5 - well worth finding street parking!  The conversation was easy and fun, and the weather was perfect to sit outside and enjoy the breeze, the passersby, and the company.  It was a pleasant evening.
I barely had time to stop today.  I so enjoy being busy in productive ways.  Life is good.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Forty-six

Day 46 - Benefits of the Doubt
Have you ever considered how this idiom came about?  
I looked into it, and I’ve found origins in both the medical and legal fields - in terms of the legal, the Oxford English Dictionary, it says, "...To give (an accused person) the benefit of the doubt: to give a verdict of Not Guilty where the evidence is conflicting; to assume his innocence rather than guilt; hence in wider use, to incline to the more favourable or kindly decision, estimate, or the like.  From the medical side, in 1860, English surgeon Thomas Inman suggested to his colleagues they not prescribe a medicine as a cure if they weren’t sure it would work. They were to give the patient “the benefit of our doubts.” 
In both situations, the defendant or patient benefits from the doubts of those who are judging.
I had a professional acquaintance cancel our meeting for the second or third time today (Wednesday, July 27, the 46th day of my blog).  Normally this wouldn’t even enter into my conscience except that I also had a personal acquaintance cancel our dinner appointment recently, also for the third time.  These were two examples in a short period of how unreliable people can be; I can’t count on them to keep an appointment regardless of how many times they’ve canceled.  I wasn’t happy.
OK, I have to give a little slack - I have had to reschedule, too, though I know my reasons were sound.  They didn’t offer any explanation, just a cancelation.
Do they need to?
I began to analyze my own thinking, and ultimately realized again that giving the benefit of the doubt is like forgiveness: it most benefits the one giving it, and not necessarily the recipient.  If I can give the benefit of the doubt, it helps me to reduce the angst.  It doesn’t matter what the reason may be.  When these events were canceled, it allowed me some extra time to do something else - to find enjoyment regardless - and opened new opportunities.  I’m learning how to just “be.”  
And without this experience, I wouldn’t get to practice how to just “be.”
Life is a constant paradox, isn’t it...?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Forty-five

Day 45 - Hope
I had a so-so day today - one rejection notice about a job, and two phone interviews, one of which I thought went pretty well.  But it was an otherwise “less than” of a day.  The one thing that made it good was the weather.
What I come away with from this day is the continued hope for a better future.  Frankly, I don’t see anything coming down the pike to suggest things will get better anytime soon - no evidence of improvement even remotely possible.  But I hold onto the hope that something is coming, “around the corner, or whistling down the river.  Come on, deliver to me!”
I am hanging on by the skin of my teeth to the dreams that keep me going.  I may not have much, but I still have hope.  It’s enough for now.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Forty-four

Day 44 - Legacies
We talk all the time of the legacies of important people - presidents and other high-ranking politicians, business leaders and millionaires - people with money, power, prestige.  We pay homage to them with buildings, businesses, libraries, parks and gardens, and debate the value of how they affected our cities, states, countries and continents.
Less often do we stop and think about the legacies of those who have touched us personally.
Less often do we consider how much more profoundly the “little people” affect us; a president or politician may affect the economy, but he/she has little impact on my heart (other than to make me angry, but I’m not going there).  For most of us, it’s the individuals in our lives who do more to shape our world view than the big names and celebrities.

My life was touched by a photographer in Toronto I have never met in person.  I first saw photos of him and by him in various places online, and eventually was able to write to him via email.  I didn’t really think he’d respond; I mean, why would someone of this much talent and obvious influence - of this calibre - be interested in corresponding with a stranger some 2,500 miles away?  But he wrote back, and thus began a friendship I have cherished.
From my limited view, this is how I see him: he is a pragmatic man; a strong character who seems to be more interested in honesty and transparency than games and showmanship.  He tells it like it is.  He has a force about him, but he is not insensitive - in fact, he seems quite considerate and thoughtful.  Caring.  He is quick to validate and encourage.  His thoughtfulness is clear in every note he sends, and every photo he takes.  His work and his correspondence are imbued with his clear integrity and enormous heart.  I have admired him physically and intellectually.  He is nothing short of amazing.
He told me today that he is dying.  I knew he had been battling cancer for some time - since before we had first emailed each other.  He had had some major surgeries more recently that were devastating, but he rallied and fought back with an enormous sense of hope for the future.  He even photographed himself to document - and cope with - this ruthless disease, and pursued his future with a patient passion that is difficult to fully comprehend.  Then two weeks ago, his doctors informed him the cancer had finally made it into his brain.  There is nothing they can do for him now.  He doesn’t have long to live, and he has made peace with it.
I wasn’t home when I received the news, and didn’t want to cry on the gym floor.  I had meetings to attend today, and have maintained my composure throughout.  Now, as I wrap up my day, I am intensely sad, knowing that my friendship with him will likely be left in the virtual realm; I will not be able to translate it into an “in person” connection.  I will miss his emails, too.
What makes it bearable is that his legacy will live on beyond his body.  His creativity may be stopped, but his talent will live on forever in the works he has produced.  Contact with him may end, but his influence will not.  His gifts of honesty, strength, beauty, and perseverance will endure in the hearts of everyone he touched.
I am grateful to call this man my friend.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A year of Gratitude - Day Forty-three

Day 43 - Knowing
Early in this effort of a daily blog (which is much harder than it seems), I mentioned the concept of clarity.  This is related.
Today, I’m grateful to know what I want in life.  There are many things, but I’m only going to mention a couple to illustrate what I mean.  I’m grateful that I’m able to identify in very clear terms what I want.  Some people find themselves at a crossroads not able to decide what they want - what do they want to be when they grow up; what kind of life do they want to lead, what kind of car, house, spouse....  I know what I want, and I’m going for it.
A dear friend told me a couple days ago that he got engaged; his partner proposed in a very traditional manner: on bended knee with a diamond ring.  I was thrilled for him, and deep down, a little jealous, too.  I was telling another friend yesterday about the news, and I told him this is how I want to get engaged - a man on bended knee offering me a diamond ring.  Later on, I thought about how much I sounded like a total girl.  Then I thought, why not?  I’ve been the one to propose twice before (both times with disastrous results).  It’s my turn to be wooed, to have my love earned.  It won’t be one-sided (in either direction).  Yes, I know what I want.
I also know what I want to be when I grow up.  In fact, I’m grown up, and I’m being what I want to be... now I just have to figure out how to make a living at it.
I’m so glad the ambivalence is gone on the important things.  OK, Universe, bring it!

A year of Gratitude - Day Forty-two

Day 42 - Alternatives
The word came to my mind because of the “event” of the evening at the Eagle Portland - one might call the leather scene an “alternative” (lifestyle, fetish, or whatever may apply), and there were a few men there who were demonstrating a few alternatives of their own.  I had a good time.  
However, I’m grateful for the fact that we always have alternatives.  We all know the old, tired cliche of when the door closes, the window opens; when the choice we want to make becomes unavailable, we then have another set of options from which to choose.  Rarely are we truly forced into something (though the alternative may be far worse than what is presented, making us feel as if we have no choice).  Knowing that I can choose what is best under the circumstances helps me feel empowered.
I also know that I don’t have to choose right now.  I can choose what to wear or whom to go out with, or not.  Not deciding is a choice, too.  I have many alternatives, and only I can determine whether the choice I make is good.  Others may have an opinion, but as my mother says, “What others think of you is none of your business.”
I also think of the song from “Sunday In the Park with George” where Dot sings, “Stop worrying if your vision is new.  Let others make that decision; they usually do.  You keep moving on!”  We keep moving on, keep making decisions, keep choosing.  It’s all good.
I’m glad I have alternatives, and I will continue trying to choose wisely.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A year of Gratitude - Day Forty-one

Day 41 - Believers
So often as I continue my quest for full-time income, I have moments of frustration and doubt.  I begin to question what I’m doing or if I’m doing it well enough.  Then something comes along to remind me of why I love doing what I do.  The universe sends me a brief message to say I’m still on the right road.  Just keep going.  So I do.
I’m grateful to all the messengers in my world who simply believe in me - my friends, my fellow job seekers, even strangers and passersby - they often don’t know how much they help me.  But I do.  
Thank you.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Forty

Day 40 - Doris Day Parking
I love Doris Day movies, if only for the fact that she NEVER had to drive around the block to find a parking spot.  She ALWAYS found one right in front of her destination.  (And when she drove a convertible, she never had a single hair blown out of place.)
I rejoice when I find that spot right in front of where I’m going.  It’s convenient, it saves me time and effort (and heaven knows how often I’m in a hurry because I left home too late having tried to do too much before I left), and it provides an easy get-away when I’m leaving.  I feel like I won something when I get a spot close to my destination.
I suppose I could leave it at that for this blog - I’m grateful for good parking karma.  But it actually goes a little further.  The occasional win helps me feel good in general.  In life, we have those little moments when something works out just right - it doesn’t have to be anything important - and we perk up because of our momentary good fortune.  
And our hair is OK, too.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirty-nine

Day 39 - Mirrors
I am grateful for mirrors.  Not the kind you look at to check if your hair looks OK or your to right your tie.  I’m talking about the many mirrors that are held up to you figuratively - little things you notice that tell you about yourself.
I had some time with a number of friends - it could have been family, co-workers, anyone familiar to me - and an occasional thought would come to mind about something someone did or said that I didn’t like.  I try not to judge anyone, but I’m human.  Sometimes I judge even people I love dearly.  And then I realize I’m really just projecting my own stuff onto them.
Sure, sometimes they are doing or saying something that’s truly annoying.  More often, though, I’m interpreting something in a way that really tells me more about myself - how I feel about my own behavior - and I can learn from it if I’m open to it.
I had a few times today where I recognized bits of myself in others.  I hope with all my heart that I can work on these issues toward real improvement - not so I can say I’m better than other people, but rather so I can accept others with all their issues because I’ve learned to accept, and conquer, my own.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirty-eight

Day 38 - Connections
I met someone recently who is embarking on a journey I started nearly 18 years ago - ending a marriage and living a genuine, honest life.  It’s a tough road that is incomprehensible to anyone not in our situation.  And while he is really struggling with all the emotions, distractions, and disappointments, along with the logistics, I know things will get better for him.
So what does this have to do with “Connections”?  Well... first off, we met on a gay networking site called “Connexions.”  Secondly, I feel as if we’ve made a connection - it’s not a dating or romantic connection, but something even deeper.  I understand so much of what he’s going through, and I know there is light for him further down this dark path.  I can connect with him in his pain - I have felt it - and while our stories aren’t exactly alike, the similarities are numerous and strong.  
I am glad to have had this beautiful human being come into my life to remind me of all the “stuff” I’ve been through, of the progress I’ve made with the help of countless others, and of the light I currently enjoy which contrasts starkly with the darkness from which I have emerged, as from a deep cavern on a bright August afternoon.  
I am also grateful for the chance to “pay it forward” - all the support and encouragement I’ve received over the past 18 years is now being channeled toward this bright, sensitive, caring man who needs someone to carry the torch for him for awhile.  My arms are strong - I’ve been working out for awhile now.


Monday, July 18, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirty-seven

Day 37 - Continuity
There is one thing I’m learning to rely on: that regardless of what happens today, tomorrow is still coming with new opportunities.
I received word that, once again, I was the “bridesmaid” and not the “bride” for a job I really wanted.  The feedback was very positive and the feeling I had that the interview went well was confirmed.  But I still came in second place.  And yet I’m not as upset as I might have been a year ago.  Instead, I look at all the evidence of progress I’ve made, and I know deep down progress is still being made.  I’m still moving forward.
New opportunities come - if not every day, certainly every week - and I can count on it to continue.  I know with persistent, consistent effort, results must come.
Proof came this morning in the form of a wonderfully long conversation with my daughter Elizabeth.  We talked about a lot of things - important topics about life and philosophies - and when she started saying to me words I have used myself, I felt as if I had just had the results of nearly 21 years of efforts confirmed.  Do I take credit for her insight or intelligence?  No.  She has developed that with her own hard work and lots of experience.  But I hope that my consistent efforts have helped provide some sort of influence (only she could say how much).
I spoke a few days ago about “affirmations” - this was one of them.  All I can say is that I’m grateful for the continuity of life, as long as it does continue, and the knowledge that tomorrow will come with a refreshed chance for success.

(PS. I had to include this photo of "The Bridesmaid" only because I thought it was hilarious.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirty-six

Day 36 - Ice Cream
I had a lovely day today despite the torrential rain.  Hal and I went to see the Concours d’Elegance in Forest Grove.  I pre-purchased tickets to save a few bucks, so I wasn’t going to miss it because of rain - that’s why I have a hat, jacket and umbrella.  And although I didn’t feel like I got my money’s worth - many cars weren’t actually there because of the rain, and others were covered up to protect them - I still had a great time, in part because I love classic cars, and mostly because I was on a date.
I have spoken here of the simple pleasures that make life more enjoyable, and today had some good examples: an incredible 1939 Bugatti, a gorgeous 1955 Chevrolet Nomad, a beautiful 1962 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, finding my hiking boots two minutes before I had to leave the apartment and go trudge through the mud at Pacific University....  Little things that bring a smile are helpful to brighten spirits on a rainy day - things like a touch of the hand, or a playful wink from someone special.  Or the news that today is National Ice Cream Day.
I had French Vanilla ice cream topped with Chambord for dessert.  (I could live on that if it didn’t mean I’d be big as a house....)  I don’t think I could go without ice cream in my freezer, though sometimes it takes a reminder like the National Ice Cream Day to get out the scoop.
Thanks to Blaine Johnson for that smile.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirty-five

Day 35 - Dance Like No One Is Watching
I haven’t been two-stepping in years!  I don’t count the one time I went in Pennsylvania where the only person in the place who could actually dance was a guy I didn’t know and danced with only once.  “Country-Western” doesn’t seem to belong in the tiny artsy/tourist town of New Hope, even when it’s played in a gay club connected to a gay motel.  Nope.  That didn’t count.
I think the last time I was seriously C/W dancing was back in the early 2000’s at Oil Can Harry’s in North Hollywood.  I love that place - lots of cowboys (most of them of the “urban” variety, but some real ones, too) - and great DJ’s who keep us all moving.  The classes at the Rawhide (RIP) were just as good, but the dance floor at Oil Can’s was the largest, and the best.  It’s one of the places in Southern California I miss.
I’ll never forget when I first heard about two-stepping back in 1993; it was during a pivotal time for me as my marriage was coming to and end, and I was having a serious heart-to-heart with my friend Steve Grey.  When it came up, he said two-stepping was almost better than sex.  “Almost!”  So I went to a little bar called the Trapp in Salt Lake City’s warehouse district shortly thereafter.  The dance floor was tiny - probably no bigger than an average residential living room - but it was packed with a whirling buzz of cowboys dancing in a tornado of joyful testosterone.
For those who haven’t tried it, the Two-step is a partner dance with a simple basic step - slow, slow, quick-quick - and a lot of fancier moves that, as long as you keep that basic rhythm going underneath, are easier than they appear... when you can practice them a lot and often, and have lots of room.  Many C/W bars and dance halls offered classes to help you learn some of the more advanced moves, and you could always find a partner if you showed up by yourself.
I was glad I had ballroom dance experience in college - it made learning the dance that much easier.  In the “straight” ballroom world, the man always leads, so I was a strong lead already.  Since I’m tall, I rarely have a chance to follow, and in the years I would go dancing regularly, I would watch for the taller men who were strong leads - dancers I knew who could lead me without allowing (requiring?) me to back-lead (the problem that comes up when you know more about your partner’s role in the dance than he does).  I remember a regular at the C/W clubs - a practicing Catholic priest - who would take me out onto the dance floor that had me spinning like a top.  ...No pun or irony intended.
When I’m two-stepping, I can’t stop smiling.  It’s among the most sublime experiences, especially when I’m following.  To let go and read the other person’s body language, relinquishing control, communicating without words, is an amazing experience I never tire of.  And when the lead is someone I find attractive... well, it makes for a great time.
Hal took me two-stepping last night, and I had a blast.  He's my height and was happy to lead.  I had other men ask me to dance, and most of them led as well (I'm surprised by how many tall men there are in Portland).  And I led a couple times myself.  (My only surprise of the evening was to see how the gay men and lesbians picked opposite sides of the room to sit and chat, and barely spoke to one another - is that a Portland thing, too?)  I had a fantastic time, and was delighted to learn there will be more of these events through August.  (I was disappointed when my left knee had had enough before the rest of me wanted to stop - I will have to wear a brace or Ace bandage next time to see if the support will help.)  I can’t wait to go to the next Hoedown in three weeks.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirty-four

Day 34 - Affirmations
In his “Miracle Minute” weekly message, my new friend Dick Warn offered an affirmation in his piece about “Autosuggestion.”  He quotes Émile Coué de Châtaigneraie, who centered his “Coué Method” around a mantra-like conscious autosuggestion, "Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better" (French: Tous les jours à tous points de vue je vais de mieux en mieux).  [Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Émile_Coué]
I’ve been trying this over the past week or so.  I don’t know yet if it’s making a difference, but I certainly can’t say it isn’t.
I’ve also noticed other kinds of affirmations in my life recently - the little things that tell me I’m moving in the right direction.  For example, I met someone through professional networking who I thought was particularly compelling, wondering if perhaps we might be playing on the same team.  Then I ran into him at a gay event in North Portland, confirming what I had sort of hoped.  We’ve spoken a few times since then, and he has said things that tell me we’re on the same page.  We also have a date this weekend.
There have been other affirmations, like when someone suggested I should go into business for myself because of a presentation I gave recently, or when someone suggested I should be a life coach, not knowing I’ve been doing career coaching.
Esther Hicks in “The Law of Attraction” and Rhonda Byrne in “The Secret” talk about focusing on the positive to attract the positive; to meditate and keep our thoughts on the things that make us feel good, so that other things that feel good will be drawn to us.  Others have published works (some which have influenced one or both of these women) about the affirmations that are used for a positive mental attitude to achieve success.  It makes a difference how we speak to ourselves.
I’m grateful today for affirmations, both consciously stated and coincidentally observed.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirty-three

Day 33 - Mellowing With Age
I have found, as the years have passed, that I am slowly mellowing a little.  I figured it was just because I have learned - albeit imperfectly - how to let go of things I cannot control, especially as my children were growing up.  I had few opportunities to control or even influence their upbringing, and I had to accept things as they were despite the frustrations, injustices and all my efforts to right the mistakes on my own part.  “It is what it is.”
I’m not suggesting that I live in a Zen state, or that I never lose my temper.  Just ride along with me in heavy traffic - you’ll see.  But it seems my cumulative experience surrounding coping with what I cannot control has helped me lessen the need to control it.
I had an experience yesterday where my own reaction surprised me a little.
I had received word that I had been chosen for a six-week contract as a task force director of sales for a local limited-service hotel.  I was delighted - I could now expect an income that would help me move forward in my life.  It didn’t matter that it was only six weeks - I could start making plans.  As I was on my way to my home office to fill out and return the paperwork, I got the news that the client had made a last minute decision to go with an internal candidate instead.  Because this was all going through a consultancy, I wasn’t part of the negotiations and was not privy to details.  All I knew was that the opportunity had evaporated as quickly as it had materialized.
But I wasn’t upset.  It isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  I found that regardless of my disappointment that I wouldn’t be getting this income, I could still view this as an opportunity to continue focusing on what I really want - to continue doing HR work, especially consulting and coaching.  I didn’t panic.  I didn’t become despondent.  I somehow maintained the attitude that the revenue will come.
Thank goodness I have a safety net that means I won’t go hungry or live out of my car.  (Can you imagine me living out of my Miata?)  I also know that I want to eventually make my living exclusively from consulting, and I know I’m on that road.  These things do a lot to keep me focused.  So does the fact that my social life has been slightly more active lately (and I don’t mean business networking - I don’t know how much more of that I can do) which makes me feel better about myself.  I feel like I’m not sweating some of the small stuff anymore, and the only reasons I can think of are practice and maturity.
I found an article that talks about it.  In NewScientist Magazine (June 2006), Roxanne Khamsi wrote a piece on what brain scans were showing about older people’s behaviors.  (Rather than quote her, the URL is: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9344-people-do-mellow-with-age-brain-scans-suggest.html.)  I wonder if that may be part of my surprising sense of calm at the moment.

It’s an interesting idea, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.  My take-away from this is knowing that I am able to take a positive view even when things don’t go the way I wanted.  I’m glad I can say I’m mellowing with age.  Maybe I’ll really get the hang of it over the next thirty years....    



Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirty-two

Day 32 - Hobbies
I’m glad I have a hobby.  In my case, it’s glass art.  I haven’t been creating much lately - with my focus on my career and the temporary/transient nature of my life at the moment., I haven’t felt much like coming up with new projects to work on.  Besides, glass is expensive, and I can’t really afford it.
So instead, I’m working for the glass school in exchange for torch and kiln time.  This gives me the opportunity to keep doing things I enjoy while helping the school.  I want Aquila Glass School to thrive - the people there are wonderful; the environment is very comfortable.  And when Leah tells me the work I’m doing helps her so much, I feel really good about doing this.  
As it stands today, this hobby keeps me busy, engaged, and involved in something I really enjoy.  You can’t beat that.


A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirty-one

Day 31 - The Power of Follow Up
I had a very good interview today (Tuesday, July 12).
I spoke with the HR representative from a lumber company call me last week immediately after I left the testing center having passed my SPHR exam, and had what was possibly the best phone interview of my career.  Yes, I qualified for the job, and yes, I think the chemistry-via-telephone with her was immediate, but I think what carried it to the next level was the fact that I was still on a high from passing that exam.  I was ecstatic, and I’m sure that came through.  (It also helped that she understood just how difficult this exam is.)
Eventually, I got the rejection email from the company, so I send her off a quick email thanking her again for her time and consideration, and asked her to let me know if any other positions opened up in the company for which she thought I might be a good fit.  She immediately responded, saying I should not have received that email, that it was sent out by mistake, and that they had not, in fact, made a decision.  I was still in the running.
Then she called me yesterday and asked if I could come in on today for an interview.  “In fact, if you could, we’d like to have you come out to our mill in Gaston, just past Forest Grove, and do a panel interview; if there’s time, we’ll also take you on a tour of the mill.”  I was surprised, to say the least.  As it happened, I was free all day on Tuesday, so it worked out well.
Gaston is nearly and hour from Tigard - quite the schlepp for an interview - but I made the drive gladly.  The interview went very well, and the tour was fascinating.  I’ve never seen how these huge logs are milled into usable lumber; now I have seen how they are turned into 2x4’s in a matter of minutes with the help of advanced computers.  Amazing!
I expect to hear by Friday (I am free to call her on Monday if I haven’t heard before then) whether or not I will move forward on this position, and at least partly because I had the sense to follow up with a thank you. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirty

Day 30 - Repeated Joys
OK.  I have been doing this for a month now, and I can’t come up with a new idea.  My goal was to post something different - 365 separate ideas - for which I am grateful up until my 50th birthday.  I can’t tonight.
BUT... I am grateful for the fact that some of these things that happen repeatedly - sun and warm temperatures, driving with the top down, friends who sustain me - and for the improvement that comes with the recurrance.  All the little joys that come in the form of a perfect rose, or the hillside covered in wild roses in violent bloom, or the view of the Willamette on a sunny day as I cross the Sellwood Bridge, or the text message from my daughter saying “I love you,” make me feel better for experiencing them.  
I hope they keep happening.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Twenty-nine

Day 29 - Moral Support
I can’t believe I’ve been doing this blog for four weeks now.  How the time flies....
I am grateful today for moral support.  I have received regular, consistent support from my mom, from Stephanie, and from my daughter Elizabeth, as well as less frequent but no less important contact from Ricky, Troy, Judy, Gilbert, “my boys” here in Portland, and several others.  I’m lucky to have their validation and understanding, and always appreciate the positive comments they and others make to help me to keep pressing on.
Today I was given the opportunity to offer it to someone else.  My friend Marcus is going through a really rough time.  He is in the middle of a divorce, and his wife is doing some things that remind me of what my ex-wife did toward me and involving the children.  I can totally understand and empathize with him.  We talked for an hour today, and later he suggested perhaps he had overstepped the bounds of our friendship.  In fact, I was honored that he asked for my input.  I’m not telling him what to do - he has to decide that for himself - but I can tell him what has happened in my life that parallels his experiences, and can offer the insight that comes over time.  I feel good when he says I have helped.
Earlier this week, I also worked with my friend Joe on talking him off the ledge (so to speak) and was able to connect him with my friend Henry.  I am grateful to Henry for supporting me, as well as my friendship with Joe, and helping him take care of logistical needs as I am too far away to be able to be there for him. 
Moral support has helped me survive the most challenging periods of my life - I wouldn’t be here without the countless friends and family who have sustained me over the years - and I’m grateful to pay it forward whenever I can.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Twenty-eight

Day 28 - Leadership and Frendship
I had an early day today, which was made challenging in the beginning by getting home very late last night.  I think I got 4 1/2 hours of sleep.
I had the honor of presenting at the Portland Leadership Forum; I was asked to sit on the board which plans monthly symposia on leadership topics by bringing in guest speakers, and the idea was offered to me to co-facilitate an open forum with Dick Warn, an accomplished speaker and sales trainer.  And we had a blast.  It was scheduled for a three hour period, and while it wasn't a large audience, everyone participated.  I was initially afraid we weren't going to fill the time up, but it went over by 30 minutes.

Afterward,Cleon Cox, the energy behind this an many other organizations (a major Toastmaster), came up to me afterward and stressed that I ought to be starting my own business.  I like that idea.  I told him I had actually come to that conclusion myself.  (He understands I need to pay the bills, too, but he really thinks I can make it here.  I’m certainly willing to try it.)
I feel like I’m coming into my own.  I have long since identified this is what I want to when I grow up.  And I’m grateful for people like Cleon who help inspire me to do something about it.  This is leadership.  I’m in the right place at the right time.  This feels good.
I also want to do a “shout out” to Chuck, and thank him for the great barbecue he and the West Side Biz Builders held at his house.  I’m so happy to know these genuinely good people.  They keep me smiling.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Twenty-seven

Day 27 - Kindred Spirits
In my profession, I talk a lot about alignment - values, priorities, vision - and I often mention that it’s the same process in both one’s professional and personal life.  It’s wonderful to be able to live it instead of just talk about it.
I had a couple of networking-coffee meetings with very inspiring people.  They have great energy and vision, and I’m delighted to spend time with them.  One is also in HR, and who knows?  We may end up working together.  Our expertise is complementary, not competitive, and I really like her style.  I’m certainly open to the possibilities.  
Then I got to see a friend I’ve known for a period of years, but who lives in Utah and I don’t get to actually visit with him - we’ve been trying to arrange our travel schedules to cross paths, and it just hasn’t worked.  
Until this weekend.
Our stories have a number of similarities, and our kids are close to the same ages (mine are a few years ahead of his).  But we have so many common interests, values, viewpoints, that it was like meeting a part of myself.  It is so gratifying to meet someone with whom the communication is easy, and we had a lovely time.  I stayed and visited with him well into the night, coming home later than I had intended, and not the least bit sorry.  Kindred spirits don’t come into my life every day, so I am thankful when that lucky day arrives and I get to spend some time with him.  It was the best way to end a good day.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Twenty-six

Day 26 - Endurance
I feel like I’m running a marathon.  I just don’t know when I’m going to hit the wall, or get my second wind.  
Sometimes I feel like I’m not going to make it.  Then I have a day like today when it feels like maybe it’s getting a little easier.
I had two networking coffee meetings - when I get together with someone I’ve met in my networking efforts over a cup of coffee (today both were at the same Starbucks).  Both conversations made me feel like I’m in the right place at the right time.
Now, when do I feel that “runner’s high”...?

A Year of Gratitude - Day Twenty-five

Day 25 - Old and New
Well, not really “old....”  I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in over a year at the gym today, and we were able to go to lunch afterward and catch up.  It was wonderful to reconnect and bring each other up to speed on what we’ve been up to over the past year (18 months?).  It started the day very nicely.
In fact, lunch was at Panera in the Hollywood district - one of only three restaurants in the chain they call “Panera Cares - Your Non-Profit Community Cafe.”  
“This Panera Cares Cafe exists to make a difference by offering the Panera experience with dignity to all in our community... those who can afford it, and those who need a hand up, & everyone in between.”  You see, if you can afford to pay for your meal, you simply put the money in a box in front of the register (the cashier will make change but will hand everything back to you to pay what you can afford).  You can also pay more than your meal costs to help cover those who can’t.  And those who cannot afford the meal can pay what they can afford, or not pay at all.  For those who cannot afford to pay, they only ask that they volunteer in the cafe for one hour in exchange for a free meal.  “You’re on your honor.  We trust you’ll do the right thing.”
Sure, some will take unfair advantage of the company’s generosity, but that doesn’t change the value of what they are doing.  I think of my friend Joe who is going hungry for lack of employment.  I was amazed at this sense of generosity to the community and I will absolutely support this company.  I will pass their name on to others who need this “hand up.”  I love these people, and want to help them do more.  What a wonderful thing!
In the evening, I went to the Next Level mixer where I always meet someone interesting.  I got to talk to a number of people I know and like, then had a long conversation with an interior designer I met for the first time at the last Next Level.  Then I had the pleasure of meeting a property manager who may be able to help me find a home of my own (and with any luck, I’ll be needing his services sooner than later).  So far, this mixer has been the most pleasurable and successful as any I’ve attended, and I try not to miss it as it comes up twice a month.
The day ended by celebrating my friend Chip’s birthday after he finished work (he performs as a keyboardist for the touring company of “Mary Poppins”).  I have known Chip for 31 years - it’s hard to imagine that’s even possible, but it’s true - and he’s even more of a gem than he was back then (which anyone who knows him will agree is saying something).  We went to the Eagle for a Blue Moon (with an orange slice, naturally) and had a wonderful time.
In all, it was a great day - a mixture of old friends and new - and I’m grateful I was around to enjoy it.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day Twenty-four

Day 24 - New Friends & Colleagues
I have met some really cool people in the past couple months, and I really think the ability to network on this level is unique to Portland.  I’m lucky to be here.
And the weather has been spectacular!
I spent the evening with two HR professionals I met through networking.  Virginia and Jenny are two people I really admire, and I feel honored and humbled to be welcomed into friendship with them.  We met at Jenny’s house for a light dinner and we talked for nearly five hours about everything from our professional experiences to our personal stories.  It was a fantastic evening that I hope we can repeat.  I cannot adequately express the gratitude I feel to have them come into my life.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Twenty-three

Day 23 - Summer Sun & Raspberries 
Today was a gorgeous day.  I’m happy for those who were outside all day celebrating Independence Day - what a miracle to have such great weather on this holiday!  I was outside, too, doing things I needed to do (including fueling and washing my car).
I also had a quiet day - in fact, it has been a quiet weekend, which is exactly what I needed.  After the past few weeks and the drama contained in them, I just haven’t had the energy to argue with the voices in my head about relationships (or lack thereof), employment situations (or lack thereof), or any of the other topics on which I quietly and regularly judge myself.  No, I gave myself permission to rest today, and my mind was quiet, too.  ...For the most part.
One of the highlights of the day was among the most simple pleasures.  Dessert: French vanilla ice cream buried under fresh raspberries picked from my friend’s garden.  This is the flavor of summer.
Summer is my favorite season.  I can wear shorts and a T-shirt (or not), and be happy and comfortable driving with the top down.  My Miata offers the best in headroom on days like today, and I wouldn’t have any other car.  I washed it knowing that it will still be clean tomorrow.  
Summer means more time outside - longer days, smiling people, walks in nature....  I look forward to the “beaches” along the Columbia River reappearing as the water level recedes, allowing us to enjoy the summer sun a little more.  Maybe I’ll be able to take a road trip somewhere, and maybe see an old friend.  Or maybe I’ll find a new path to try when the mood strikes.
What a wonderful season summer is, and it brings me raspberries.  Life in this moment is good.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Twenty-two

Day 22 - Helping Others
I have a friend in San Francisco who is going through a really tough time, and he has brought me a little clarity about my own situation.
My friend is from Venezuela, and recently became a naturalized citizen.  We met five years ago at a street fair I attended in the South of Market area, and we have stayed in touch since.  He has worked hard to be a good citizen, earning his bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State in International Business.  Unfortunately, the economy tanked before he could get a job.  He has been unemployed for long enough he has literally no money left.  He goes hungry; he cleans buses to earn a Muni pass so he can get to his next interview.  He says he has no friends, and that his family is so homophobic that he hasn’t come out to any of them (though he thinks his sister knows; I think more than his sister knows, but I digress...).  He is afraid he will have to live with them if he can’t find a way to pay his rent.  His food stamps sometimes don’t buy enough food to last until the next check; who can blame him for not wanting to use food stamps in the first place, the way people can be so cruel....  He endures the most demeaning experiences just to survive.  
I have given him some coaching on interviewing and resume writing as he has asked for assistance.  I’m delighted to do what I can.
He talks about himself in the most defeatist terms, and as I try to help him see a better side of himself, two things occur to me: first, he is saying exactly the same things I have said about myself; I understand precisely what he is feeling.  Second, I wonder if I am helping him in part because these are things I don’t want to believe about myself, and if what he says about himself were true, would what I say about myself also be true?  The words of my BFF, Stephanie, come flying into my consciousness and I start to say to my friend the same thing Stephanie said to me.  I understand it from both sides.
I understand completely the frustration and anger he feels.  Although I have not yet gone hungry or cleaned buses to earn transportation, I KNOW the panic he deals with every day.  And there is nothing I can do but be as supportive as possible.
I have tried to introduce him to others I know in his vicinity who can help him expand his network.  But will he do his part?  We’ll see.  Still, in trying to help him, I feel better about my own situation, and for that I am grateful.