Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirty-nine

Day 139 - Supporting Supportive Friends
I had a new experience today - a dear friend became a client.
Randy is up for an important job interview next week, so he asked me to sit with him and take him through my Interviewing Skills Coaching program.  We didn’t do the whole thing - the first third wasn’t relevant to his needs, and it made more sense to cover the topics that would help him prepare.  He insisted on paying me, even though I told him I’d do this for free for such a close friend.  So I explained to him what the normal fee would have been, and left it up to him how much he'd like to pay knowing that I wouldn’t charge him at all.  He paid me 75%, which I felt was very generous.
I thought later how wonderful it is to have the support of my friends, and how wonderful it is that I can reciprocate with something of value.  I really hope he gets this job - he deserves it - and it would make me feel like I can help my friends as much as they help me.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirty-eight

Day 138 - Hallowe’en Pumpkins
Blaine threw another party today, and I try not to miss any of his parties to which I am invited.  Blaine is the ultimate host - the food is always good, the guests are always fun, and there are always activities of some kind.  Since he is one of the most fun people in the world, it’s impossible not to have a great time.  Dan has told me how he can’t imagine life without Blaine, and I certainly understand why.
Today was a pre-Hallowe’en pumpkin carving party.  I hadn’t planned to have a Jack O’Lantern this year (in fact, I don’t remember the last time I had one), but when the invitation came, I thought I’d better start planning.
Naturally, I planned what I’d do as I drove to the store, which was the stop I made on the way to the party.  I had two ideas: Cinderella’s Coach or a house (as I have made in the past).  I found a sufficiently round pumpkin, so I went with the coach.  I am SO glad Blaine is an artist, because I had to ask him for supplies I hadn’t thought about.  Of course he had them.
I was pleased with the way the coach turned out, even if it didn’t look as professional as all the pumpkins that had been carved using stencils - for something done on the fly, I was happy with it.
The food was great, the guests - and hosts - were fun, and I had a blast.  I’m grateful for any holiday where friends gather and celebrate the season, the fun, and each other.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirty-seven

Day 137 - Authenticity
I met two people today who turned out to be total opposites.
I met “Nathan” in the morning; he is a handsome man in his 40’s, in decent shape, personable and engaging, and in a long term relationship.  He is easy to talk to, and willing to share information about himself without shame or pretense.  He mentioned to me, in the context of our conversation, that his partner and he were living separate lives, but still shared meals, household duties, travel, and other domestic activities.  They just didn’t share a bedroom anymore.
In the evening, I met “Rob” at a party.  He was a relatively handsome man in his 40’s (I think).  He clearly didn’t take very good care of himself.  He appeared shy, and although he had a quick and pleasant smile, conversation seemed difficult for him.  He seemed uneasy the whole time, and I felt as if I were some kind of archeologist or anthropologist trying to figure out his story with only fragments of information that had to be carefully uncovered and extracted.  
I had assumed the man who accompanied Rob was his partner; when I asked, they both laughed, and explained only that Rob was the other man’s client.  No further elucidation was offered as to why they came together or the humor in my mistake.  
The other man seemed bored throughout the evening, making no obvious attempt at engaging with anyone in the room; he apparently sent out a distress signal after about an hour (in the form of a text message) to a friend to come rescue him from the soirĂ©e.  
Rob barely said three words except in response to questions; it was shortly before I left that I discovered that he was married to a woman.  (OK, so now I understand why they laughed when I asked if they were a couple.)
I do not believe Rob is straight - he was pinging my gaydar all evening.  There he was, in a room full of gay men, accompanied by a gay man... and I am reminded of myself twenty years ago, trying desperately to appear straight.  Trying to BE straight.  In retrospect, it made perfect sense that he would be uncomfortable and shy in this environment - people might be making assumptions about him that might be true but which seemed to make him squirm.  He stayed quiet and motionless, as if to blend into the furniture and go unnoticed.
I later thought about the contrast between Nathan and Rob.  I thought about my own assumptions, and tried to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  I replayed their respective behavior in my head and realized that as Nathan genuinely presented his reality, he was fun and easy to talk to.  The conversation was enjoyable, and there were no apparent agendas.  The power of authenticity made an enormous difference in the experiences.
It was an interesting lesson to watch, and I'm grateful to have had such an experience to reinforce in me the value of authenticity.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirty-six

Day 136 - Healing
Nature is amazing; it takes care of us in so many ways (and the least we can do is return the favor... but I am not going to speak politically today).  I am amazed at how the healing process goes on without our attention to it - it keeps going, cell by cell, restoring what was damaged.  Persistent.  Constant.
I am lucky that my thumb has done so well.  I am fortunate that my immune system is intact; that my ability to heal is not compromised, that my shoulder where the tetanus shot was administered last week has finally stopped hurting.  The cap of skin that I almost totally removed from the end of my thumb was no longer necessary, and my body let it go.  Now I don’t have to wear a bandage anymore.  It’s a fascinating process.
I am also healing emotionally from wounds sustained in 2010.  I have found myself ready to move on - slowly, carefully, but steadily.  I have made some good connections lately that are helping with that a lot.
Nature is taking care of me.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirty-five

Day 135 -  New Responsibilities
Today was my first day as moderator of a job seekers networking group.  The Breakfast Club is different from other groups because the participants make a commitment to the actions they’ll take toward their job search at each meeting.  I want to establish a safe environment - one where participants are making the commitment to themselves, not to the others in the room, and are safe to choose a lot of activity or a little - and to be accountable to themselves for the speed of their progress.  
I had several people there to support the participants, which supported me as well.  Cleon, someone I consider a mentor as well as friend and colleague, sent me a message later saying, “You done good.”  I remember my dad saying that to me from time to time.  It was particularly gratifying to read that.
I also “interviewed” a job seeker for membership in another group I participate with - the Beers Network (executive job seekers).  I was honored to be asked to involve myself in the process, and look forward to more of these opportunities.
And I met with another group moderator for an introductory chat.  I feel very fortunate to have all this activity in my life, and for the responsibilities that are now on my shoulders; they continue to give me purpose to my days, even if they do not bring a direct income.  I feel as if this is an educational experience that will likely serve me well into the future.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirty-four

Day 134 - Trustworthy Mechanics
I swear I have the word “Sucker” tattooed on my forehead in some kind of special invisible ink that only automotive sales and service people can see.  I don’t know, but somehow they can always tell I’m clueless long before I introduce myself.
I know I’ve been taken advantage of many times by them, but I live in a place where cars are a necessity.  The public transportation in my area is limited to the point where I could not accomplish what I need to do if I were without my car.  Plus I need a convertible to keep my sanity (see Day Six of this blog).
So I am grateful to find an auto service that is trustworthy.  In Tigard, there is Henderson Auto.  It’s the only place in Portland I take my car for repairs.  They are honest, fair, and the prices are reasonable.  I may be able to find a cheaper place, but I doubt I could find anyone I would trust more.  That peace of mind is worth the extra dollars.  I’m sure they know this.  (Now, how do I afford the new battery, brakes and transmission flush they are suggesting...?)
So thank you Brian, and everyone at Henderson Auto, for your integrity.  I will keep coming back as long as I’m living in this part of the world.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirty-three

Day 133 - Laundry
Sunday is my laundry day.  Until I went to college, my mom did my laundry most of the time.  She taught my brothers and me how to do it properly, and we occasionally did our own, but most of the time we simply took the laundry to the service porch or put it in the washer when Mom told us she was doing a load of whites, light colors, or dark.  
When I went to college, I did my own laundry, of course.  I remember inadvertently leaving something red in with the white wash, and a striped cotton dress shirt I had sucked the bleeding dye up like a sponge.  It turned it an odd shade of pink, naturally, and I never wore it again - not because it was pink, but rather it seemed the pink-ness was accidental.  Which it was.  
I remember I had a brand new iron that was terribly heavy and old fashioned, but it was similar to the iron I had grown up with.  It felt familiar.  Unfortunately, I left it in the laundry room at the dorms one day, and when I retrieved it hours later, I found someone had dropped it, and it was broken (though still usable).  
At that time, laundry was just a chore you had to do.  Now, I love it.
There is something about fresh clothes, sheets, towels, that make me feel as if I’ve accomplished something.  There is a luxury about the warmth of fabrics fresh from the dryer.  There is a satisfaction that comes with the knowledge that I actually have clothes to wash - something so many people don’t have - and I feel very fortunate.
I look forward to laundry day, and to the moment when it is all clean and put away.  My wardrobe is never as full as when I have finished the laundry.  I always feel pretty lucky.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirty-two

Day 132 - U of O Football
Some people may find it hard to believe I might be grateful for football on any level.  I don’t care for the game all that much, and the way we worship athletes as a general society borders on the absurd.  However, I was grateful for it today.
Why?  Because it provided a reason for Blaine to throw a party.  Blaine’s parties are always fun!  There was food, great company, and a hot tub for the three of us who were there only for the food and company.  
My favorite moment was actually as I was arriving in Camas (Washington) where Blaine and Dan live - Blaine sent me a text message asking me to stop by the store on my way there and pick up some chili.  The fact he was comfortable enough to simply make the request made me feel so good.  Blaine is one of my favorite people on the planet.
I may be grateful for the University of Oregon Football program for one or two days a year, but at least it’s something.  Thank you, Blaine, for making this a wonderful day.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirty-one

Day 131 - Consistency
I had a “normal” day - nothing new happened, and I saw some of the same people I usually see on a Friday.  After all, this is the day I go to the Job Finders Support Group, and I always feel better after I go there.
I was thinking about Cleon, the group’s moderator, and how consistently supportive he is.  There are a few members of the group who are there almost every week, supporting the other participants in positive, encouraging ways.  We are all in similar situations, and the feelings of camaraderie are helpful.
Regular attendance also gives me an anchor to my calendar, along with the other networking groups I attend.  They give me a sense of schedule I would otherwise lack, and a purpose for each day they take place.  It gets me “out of the house.”
Consistency is helping me get through a rough time, and I’m glad for it.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirty

Day 130 - Mixing With Happy People
I had a chance to sit down over coffee with Ananda, a friend from one of my job seekers networking groups.  He is one of the most positive people I know, and I noticed in the hour we spent together how his attitude seems to sink into me like a good lotion.  I felt better for having spent the time with him talking about his new job and how well things have been going for him.
I realized, of course, the power in spending time with happy people.  It makes me feel better and changes my own outlook on life.  I think about my friends who consistently invite me to gatherings, or send me thoughtful notes.  
I’m grateful for the happy people in my world - you make everything better.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Twenty-nine

Day 129 - Visualizing the Fantasy
It is worth noting that fantasy helps us.  I will set aside for the moment my previous blog entry about going to the movies - that is a different kind of momentary fantasy that brings certain benefits.  This one is about the fantasies you would like to come true.
I had a phone interview for a temporary training job in Southern California.  It raised in my mind the fantasy of returning to the warm sunshine and (usually) quiet beaches of Long Beach, and spending time with some dear friends there.  I thought of the 74-degree Christmas I enjoyed a few years ago, and driving with the top down with a Christmas tree sitting on the passenger seat.  I thought about what I would do if I got this job - how it would feel, what my commute would be like (especially with the construction on the 405-22 interchange).  I wondered, naturally, if it would lead to adequate income.
Another fantasy I had was about someone I’m growing fond of, and what life would be like if we could actually date.  What would that feel like?  What kind of compromises would I be willing to make (what would I be unwilling to make)?  “Being Alive” was brought up - a song from Sondheim’s “Company” I used to sing for auditions in college - and how I think I am ready again for someone to “sit in my chair, and ruin my sleep, and make me aware of being alive.”
It dawned on me that fantasy is another way of visualizing what I want.  That is how we create our reality, right?  It is what athletes do - creating in their mind what it feels like to win, or leap, or throw - visualizing their goal.  I had some time to experience (albeit in my mind) what it will be like when these fantasies come true.  I am grateful to have such an imagination.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Twenty-eight

Day 128 - Movies
I am in a funk today.  OK, it started awhile ago.  I’m not sure why, really; I had a good week last week with Lizzie, and although I hurt myself yesterday, I ended up spending the evening with good friends - dinner, then drinks - and I had a blast.  Someone I want to get to know better joined us, and I was delighted to have a chance to talk to him a bit.  I even got to meet someone I have chatted with briefly online.  It was a pleasant night.
Still, the loneliness I felt a few days ago lingers; I’d like to share a bit of time with someone I’m really fond of, but who lives at quite a distance.  I would be interested in putting myself out there with a view toward dating someone local - someone I find quite attractive - but given my current circumstances, feel totally hobbled.  No one wants to date a U-6.
As I was reading the paper last Sunday, I read a review of the movie “Weekend.”  It’s a British film about a young gay couple who spend a weekend together.  The review was very positive, and I decided to go.  I sent a message to a whole bunch of people and a few said they’d join me.
I was afraid that this movie, showing two handsome young men falling in love might make my funk worse.  After all, I’m not young anymore, and I was afraid this movie might rub salt in all the wrong wounds.  Still, I wanted to see it.  
We went to the 7:00 showing, and I really enjoyed it.  The movie did not have the formulaic happy ending, though it did show both young men make significant personal growth as they said goodbye to each other and the end.  It was a lovely moment that reminded me a bit of saying goodbye to Nacho in San Francisco last month.
I felt as if the writer/director understood me.  Again, that feeling of “community” and being understood made a difference.
I am grateful to have had a couple hours to simply escape into a world I know well and makes me feel good.  I need to take better advantage of these opportunities.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Twenty-seven

Day 127 - Zoom Care
I cut my thumb today chopping onions to go into my lunch.  I was being careless, and whoop!  The knife went right into the end of the thumb.  It didn’t sever anything, just a deep cut in the end.  It’s the first time I ever got woozie from an injury.  The first thing I thought when I cut into my thumb was that I would probably miss my yoga class that night.  I had been looking forward to it for weeks.
I skipped my networking meeting to go to urgent care.  A friend and fellow networker suggested Zoom Care at Bridgeport Village here in Tigard.  As I was on my way, I thought to call to see if they take walk-ins.  Good thing I called - they don’t.  They had two other locations - one in the Pearl (NW Portland) and one out in Tanasbourne on SW 185th.  The immediate reservation filled before the reservation agent could fill in my information, so I had to make a reservation for an hour and a quarter later.  
However, when I got there, confirmed my information and gave them my ID, Alicja Gonzales, the PA, suggested I come on back so she could look at it while they waited for the scheduled patient to arrive.  She said I’d have to wait if I needed stitches, but if not, she could treat me quickly.  
I didn’t need stitches.  However, she strongly recommended a tetanus shot, even though she didn’t think the risks were high.  
So why am I grateful for Zoom Care?  First, because, although I had to make a reservation instead of just walking in, they still saw me quickly, and secondly, a visit is only $99.  The tetanus shot was another $74.  And while that certainly was not in my budget (especially after spending $258 on antibiotics last week), it was a lot better than if I had gone into a hospital emergency room.  Can you imagine what THAT would have cost?
I’m grateful that there are businesses like Zoom Care that can offer quality health care services at a reasonable price.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Twenty-six

Day 126 - Loneliness
I received a call from a friend today who told me his relationship of a decade and half is over.  It didn’t come as a total surprise - he had spoken of the difficulties some time ago.  But it is never easy.  He is handling it with incredible grace and maturity.  I know he will be all right.  In time.
I corresponded throughout the day with a friend who lives in Canada.  He, too, came out of a long-term relationship recently, and is now living on his own.  I can empathize with him as he invites several friends to go for drinks, and only one person can make it.  He got through (Canadian) Thanksgiving dinner that included his ex.  He is now thinking about what Christmas and New Year’s Eve will entail.
I am feeling like I want a boyfriend again.  It has been about a year and a half since my last relationship ended, and it was ugly enough that I have been afraid to get involved again.  I see photos of couples and wish I were one of them.  I have gone on a few dates over the past year - some of them quite good - but they haven’t led to anything deep or lasting.  I see people I am very attracted to, but my employment status, lack of finances, age, and living arrangements all seem to keep me out of the right loops.  And I know it is mostly in my head.
I know I shouldn’t concentrate on “lack” - abundance is all around me, and I need to remember that, and focus my attention on what feels good.  Isn’t that what this blog is about?  All the things I can be grateful for?  So why is it that today, amid all the wonderful things that remind me of how lucky I am, I feel lonely and a little hopeless?
Then I remember something I learned years ago: loneliness is a reminder that I am still capable of love.  This “funk” I am in now is temporary.  It is OK.  I need to allow myself to feel what I’m feeling, and then move on.  Then, I will think about what I want my life to look like; the life that will make me feel good, whole, happy.  I understand that I must create the vision if I am to create the reality.  
The loneliness is a reminder that I am capable of love.  For that I am grateful.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Twenty-five

Day 125 - My iPhone
I know... I sound like the typical Apple junkie by saying I’m grateful for my iPhone.  But today I’m grateful for it.  Through “apps” like PingChat, I am able to keep in touch with friends in other countries when simple text messages would cost us a fortune.  It allows me to feel somewhat connected to those who are important to me.  And getting a text message from those I love makes me feel good.
It offers me the chance to play a game (Words With Friends - a version of Scrabble) with my daughter (when she remembers to look to see if it’s her turn).
It allows me to send and receive photos and videos to/from friends anywhere.
And it is a source of humor, as when I read the quote: “Apple junkies are annoying.  Sent from my iPad.”
With my iPhone, I don’t feel quite as lonely.  Sometimes.
So thank you, Steve Jobs, and Apple, for giving me something to be grateful for.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Twenty-four

Day 124 - Home
Elizabeth went home today.  She kept in touch along the way, calling whenever she stopped for gas.  It was good to hear her voice each time.  I can’t wait for her to come back.
I tease her too much about leaving before the last possible minute.  I don’t mean to make her feel guilty.  I just want so much to spend more time with her.  I could see her every day for fifty more years and never tire of it.  I am sure she will understand when her kids (should she have children) are away at college and visit only briefly.  And not nearly often enough.
She is an inspiration to me, and I’m sure to many others.  I am so grateful for her visit, and hope she knows how important she is to me.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Twenty-three

Day 123 - Friends and Family

It is a unique experience blending two worlds; tonight was as pleasant as I could have hoped for such an occasion.
I invited a newer circle of friends in Portland to dinner at Chez Joly to meet Elizabeth and Mom, and many of them were able to come.  The food was delicious, the conversation was fun and easy, and the company was fabulous.  The only thing that could have made it better would have been if it had included the four who couldn’t make it.
Mom and Lizzie talked all the way home about how great these friends are, and I couldn’t agree more.  All told, my friends and family bring a great deal of happiness to my life, and without them, I shudder to think of what my existence would entail. 
Thank you all for being with me tonight, even in spirit.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Twenty-two

Day 122 - Easy Gratitude
As I read through the entries for the first half of Elizabeth’s visits, I realize it’s becoming something of a brief travelogue; that’s not a bad thing, but it may not be as clear about the purpose of my blog - gratitude.
In my mind, even a travelogue that includes my daughter is an expression of gratitude - one that comes easily when I’m with her.  It astounds me sometimes that I could have been involved with the creation of such a wonderful human being.
She went with me to a coffee shop where I met with a client.  The meeting went well, though our schedule needed to change to meet his particular need, meaning we would come back to the same coffee shop tomorrow for a longer session.  Lizzie didn’t hesitate to say she’d come with me again.  She is engrossed in a book Mom gave her, and seemed perfectly content to sit with her book at a cup of Chai tea.  
I am grateful beyond measure for her.  It’s easy.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Twenty-one

Day 121 - Naked Wine
We took a drive today out to Hood River to Naked Winery.  For her birthday, Lizzie asked me to take her wine tasting, so on a wonderful recommendation, we tried this one.  We were not disappointed.
It was great - three generations tasting Fling (a Gewurztraminer), Tease (Riesling), and Cougar (sparkling white); then Penetration (Cabernet - illegal to sell in or ship to Utah or Michigan because of the label), Dominatrix (Pinot Noir), and the Orgasmic (reserve) Oh! Barbera.  Our favorite was the Gay Rose - what a surprise!  It really is fabulous.  We were also impressed with their three “outdoor” wines; the white was the one we liked, but were impressed with the idea of bottling wines in plastic bottles with screw tops - perfect for picnics or poolside.  The bartender was delightful - cheeky and irreverent, and a lot of fun.  
We stopped at Multnomah Falls, too, in spite of the on-again-off-again weather.  We had lunch there at the lodge and Lizzie picked up some souvenirs for the folks back home.
It was a delightful day.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Twenty

Day 120 - Poise
I had a networking lunch today, so Mom took Lizzie out; they had a good time, as did I.  The lunch was pleasant, the company fun, and you never know what new opportunities these lunch meetings will bring.
I took Lizzie with me to my networking mixer in the evening, and introduced her to many of the people I have come to know through the “Beers” executive group I meet with weekly.  She was very well received by everyone, and she seemed as comfortable with them as if she did this sort of thing every day.  She is poised, charming, attractive... I would love to take credit for it all, but I can’t.  I’m sure her mom has had a lot to do with it; though it is her brilliant character that shines through - something that has developed almost in spite of her parents.  I couldn’t have been more proud.
My heart is full tonight.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Nineteen

Day 119 - Catch-up Time
Sunday was a nice day.  It was the first day to really catch up with Lizzie.  Every time she visits, my world is better.  We went first to the Rose Gardens - such a beautiful place - which may become a tradition for us; I think we have visited it every time she has come to Portland.  After lunch, we went for a drive, and ended up at the mall (my suggestion, not hers - she wanted to go for a walk and it started to rain, so we went there instead).  I bought her a beautiful houndstooth jacket at H&M for a ridiculously low price, and it looks better on her than on the mannequin. 
She brightens my mom’s world too.  Everywhere she goes.  I am having a blast.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eighteen

Day 118 - An Honored Guest
I had all day to prepare for the arrival of my elder daughter, Elizabeth.  She is such a joy to spend time with.  I have written about her before - how proud I am of her, and how breathtakingly beautiful she is.  Even after a 12-hour drive, she is striking.  I am so lucky.
It interests me to think about how the whole day was brighter just by knowing she was on her way - receiving the text messages and phone calls during gas stops just made it better.  People I love can make such a difference in my outlook on life, and they don’t have to do anything but be in touch.
Is it really that simple?  I am certainly grateful for the effect she has on my world.  I’m looking forward to the week.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seventeen

Day 117 - A Blank Canvas
I met someone new today.  We were both told about the other by colleagues in common, and with no more instruction than to meet.   Half way through the discussion, we asked each other, “So why are we meeting?”
Neither of us was certain why, but I’m a believer in the idea that people come into one’s world for a reason, so we agreed to find out what that reason might be.  He’s a likable guy - personable, great energy, handsome....  
I enjoy exploring new friendships.  It’s a blank canvas; let’s see what goes on it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Sixteen

Day 116 - A New Challenge
I had a new opportunity fully manifest itself today when I took the reins of a job finders networking group today.  I met with the previous moderator to ask for information and advice on taking it over.  He is fully supportive, and I’m looking forward to making this work.
It’s scary, too.  I have to learn about the two online “groups” - one on Yahoo, the other on LinkedIn - how they function, and how to moderate them; I have to prepare myself to welcome people into the group, and to manage the databases as required (which fortunately won’t be that much).  And, of course, I’ll be in charge of facilitating the meetings.
Within an hour of the announcement of the next meeting, I received an email from the moderator of another group asking if I wanted to be a guest speaker at his meeting.  When my head stopped spinning, I wondered just how fast this train was going to go.  Am I prepared to ride this ride?  I don’t know what I’ve just gotten myself into, but I’m determined to do my best and see where it leads.
It’s fun, exciting, and frightening all at once, and I’m happy to have the new challenge.  This group will give new purpose to my Tuesdays.  And probably more.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fifteen

Day 115 - Visionaries
I have heard the word “Visionary” too many times.  It is often given to someone who has come up with an idea or two and who has a great deal of charisma that carries the fame for a very long time.  But one or two ideas, however good, are not the definition of “visionary” in my book.  It’s the definition of “a good idea.”
A Visionary is someone who can see beyond the here and now, who can visualize the potential of something - or someone - and blaze the trail that leads to that potential.  And then repeat it, over an over again.  A Visionary is someone with more than one good idea, and who either helps others achieve their potential, or who works with others to create it.
There are not as many Visionaries in the world as we would like to believe, and today we lost one of the best.  Steve Jobs died today.  We can talk about all the innovations he brought to life, but what has affected me the most is, irrespective of any foibles or character flaws, he saw the potential in others.
His Stanford Commencement Address in 2005 is one of the most inspired speeches I’ve ever heard.  No, I wasn’t there; I heard bits and pieces of it on the radio today, and eventually listened to the whole thing online; I was deeply affected by it.  I pulled up the transcript and have bookmarked it on my computer (a MacBook Pro).  I intend to read it often, and to allow it to influence my choices moving forward.
I want to share a few excerpts from it that mean a lot to me.
You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.”
“...I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
And most powerful of all:
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Steve Jobs was a true Visionary.  Though I never knew him, and I even began to purchase his products only recently, his impact on me has been profound.  It took his death and the resulting deluge of news sources quoting him again and again in tribute to his contributions to society for me to find out about this commencement speech.  I wonder if the world was robbed of a talented giant, or if, in fact, early death has offered him a kind of immortality bestowed only on those who leave us before we think they should.  
I don’t want to waste my time living someone else’s life, or trapped by other people’s thinking.  I know what I truly want to become.
Thank you, Steve.  Thank you.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Fourteen

Day 114 - The Road Less Traveled
I had the opportunity to accompany my friend and colleague, Joel, to a meeting with a large manufacturer with a view toward offering consulting services to them.  We left in good time, missed a turn, and thanks to his familiarity with rural Longview, Washington, found our way again without too much trouble.  The meeting went well, and although we may not see immediate opportunity with them, the door remains open.  At least ajar.
What I enjoyed most was the chance to take a road I’d never been on before.  We took Interstate 5 into Washington - a road I know pretty well - making good time (we didn’t hit the traffic we expected approaching downtown Portland, so the faster commute and missed freeway exit afforded us the ability to stop at a store so Joel could pick up a bottle of Squirt).  On our way back after the meeting, we crossed the Columbia River via the Lewis and Clark Bridge, and took Highway 30 back to Portland.  I had never driven over this bridge or on this stretch of road, so seeing the small towns along the highway was a new experience.
We passed through Rainier - a tiny hamlet whose market appeared to be the largest business around - and Columbia City, which isn’t a city so much as a wider part of the highway with a few structures.  We passed through St. Helens - again, not much to it, though we saw an interested old building that was may have been used in a movie but was now boarded up.  I imagine the town would have been prettier had it not been raining.  We passed the spot where the former Trojan Nuclear Power Plant once stood.  I have vague memories of seeing it as a child on a field trip; if Joel hadn't commented on it, I wouldn’t have remembered it at all.  
We stopped for lunch at the Dairy Queen in Skappoose.  Yes, now I can say I’ve been to Skappoose.  I asked the round woman behind the counter a question about the menu, and she answered by turning her back to me to look at the menu posted above her as she spoke.  I didn’t hear a word she said.  She turned back toward me, and I asked her to repeat what she had just said.  So she turned away from me again toward the menu and repeated her unintelligible explanation.  I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and a side salad.
I know I tend to be pretty picky when it comes to good customer service, but there was something sweet and unassuming about this portly woman that kept me disarmed.  I couldn’t help but like her.  When I went back to order a "Blizzard," I asked her about the chocolate truffle variety vs. the double fudge cookie dough (it has been decades since I ordered a Dairy Queen Blizzard, and they’ve expanded the options).  She explained what each one had in it, but suggested the truffle-filled ice cream was more chocolatey.  I went with the truffles.  She even stopped by our table later on to see how I liked it.  
Joel and I had a great conversation on the way home, and I am going to enjoy working with him.  I was pleased to have seen a bit of rural Oregon with which I was not familiar, and to have had a chance to add another stretch of road to my experience.  While the Road Less Traveled may be more challenging and less popular, it seems to agree with me.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Thirteen

Day 113 - A Place To Rest
I didn’t do anything today.  My cold got worse.  A lot worse.  I even skipped an important networking meeting.  I swear my body was trying to cough up a lung.  Let’s just say the cough was productive.
It occurred to me, though, to be grateful for a place to rest.  I feel for the homeless who don’t have a shelter other than the unused door to a building, or under the proverbial bridge.  When they are sick, what do they do?  They can’t just take a nap in a comfortable bed.  They don’t always have the can of chicken soup, or the cold medicine, or the hot shower to make them feel better.  Although I may not be where I had hoped in my life, I have it so much easier than so many.  I really am very fortunate.
So here’s to a place to rest my weary (congested) head.  I am a lucky man.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Twelve

Day 112 - Unexpected Conversations
I had a relatively quiet Sunday; I got my chores done, and then had a meeting with a colleague to discuss an upcoming meeting.  I figured it would take an hour, maybe two.
I totally underestimated the time, and the conversation.
This was one of the deeper conversations I’ve had lately, and not only did we talk about a variety of topics from the future of our country and the questions we have about our government to our childhoods and early experiences, it was fully engaging for more than four hours.  This kind of connection is rare, and a welcome experience.  It’s always nice to know there is one more person who seems to immediately understand me, and few who have had as many similarities in life and philosophy.
The conversation had quite an impact on me, and I look forward to more.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eleven

Day 111 - Birthday Parties
We often think of how wonderful it is when someone throws us a birthday party.  This time, it was wonderful to attend one.
I had a nice time at my friend’s soiree, talking to a whole bunch of people I didn’t know, and with some I do know and like a lot.  I also met a yoga instructor I had been told about by a few of my friends.  Denny is a recent transplant from Phoenix who, evidently, has a reputation that precedes him.  A good reputation, that is.
I was delighted to have a conversation with him about his teaching style; I have the impression his classes will be similar in approach to those of my first yoga instructor (and, so far, the best I’ve had), where it’s about real yoga practice as opposed to an exercise class.  I’ve attended a number of those, and it’s just not the same.  I am really looking forward to restarting my yoga practice.
It’s funny how life works; if you put it out there that you want or need something, sometimes it comes to you.  Maybe not instantly, but it is there when you need it if you’re paying attention.  Denny’s name had popped up several times within a very short period, and then there he is standing next to me at a party.  
I’m paying attention.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Ten

Day 110 - Vicarious Successes
I had an interesting moment today when a new networking contact gave me a Starbucks gift card as a thank you for introducing him to another networking acquaintance.  It turned out that the person to whom I introduced him happened to have an opening for a job for which he qualifies, and was able to schedule an interview.  I didn’t know about it at the time, but it ended up being a good connection.
It brought to mind the people I have coached for interviewing skills, and how the majority have been hired shortly afterward; one explained to me that knowing why these questions were coming, and what his behavioral patterns were, he was more confident and calm, and is convinced it helped him land the job.
I can’t say I’m becoming a popular coach - I haven’t had enough steady business to achieve any titles - but it makes me happy to know I have had a positive impact on others.  This is why I love what I do, and to celebrate their successes makes me feel good.  And after all, it’s best to feel good.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Nine

Day 109 - Modern Communication
By “Communication,” I’m talking technological advances in connecting with people, not the process by which we impart ideas.  I am grateful for modern mobile phones and the Internet that allow me to be in touch with friends around the world.
I have a new friend in Sweden.  Back when I was a kid, we would have “pen pals,” to whom we would write, maybe send a snap shot or two of ourselves and our family and home, and we’d hear back from them a few weeks later.  That might last a few months, and then we’d move on, forgetting to write, or not noticing when they didn’t write back.  Now we “chat” online or via our phones’ text messaging, and often watch our pals on the screen in a fashion first envisioned in science fiction films and TV programs - all of it instantaneous.  
Eli is a Lebanese man in his 20’s who moved to Sweden several years ago and is now a Swedish citizen.  He co-owns and runs a clothing boutique.  Business is tough in this global recession, and his worries about his store - and his livelihood - are real and urgent.  Yet he retains a cheerfulness that is infectious.  He is handsome, smart - he speaks four languages - and has a great deal of passion for life.  And whether or not his boutique thrives beyond this economic time, I have little doubt he will be successful.
I’m also glad to be in touch with Nacho, the Canadian I met in San Francisco and with whom I’ve been chatting online for years.  If it weren’t for modern communications technology, I wouldn’t be able to get to know these people, and so many others in various places, all who enrich my life and brighten my day.  In a troubled world like the one we currently live in, that’s something to be grateful for.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Eight

Day 108 - New Avenues
I tried something different today: I attended the first day of a two-day workshop presented by a company that I could potentially work for (if the stars align properly).  I’ve not done this before.  I won’t offer a review of the first day, but I will say I appreciate the opportunity to try something new, and I’m glad I did it.
I then went to dinner with a new friend, Dash, who was a lot of fun.  We had dinner and then played chess on the “life size” board in Director Park.  Dash had never played chess before, so I showed him the various moves and helped him avoid some mistakes.  I won completely by chance - I stumbled upon the checkmate by accident, but glad I did, because it was getting cold out and I didn’t have a jacket.  I’m no chess expert by any stretch, but it was fun.
At the end of the day, it was a day of new things, and I enjoyed the freshness of it.  While my “real life” hasn’t really changed, it looked a little different today.

A Year of Gratitude - Day One Hundred Seven

Day 107 - Time to Recuperate
I did very little today, except laundry and resting from the trip home.  The highlight was dinner with wonderful friends at Starky’s.  Naturally, I was the first to arrive.  I can’t help it - I am hardwired to be on time, and even when I try to be late, I generally beat the rest of the group.  (When I am late, I am TRULY late.)
The focus of my gratitude for Day 107 was being able to take it easy before having an otherwise busy week.  I needed the time to just be, and to try to deal with the frustrations and difficulties of getting back to real life.