Saturday, March 15, 2014

52 Weeks of Gratitude, Weeks 10 and 11

For starters, I'm behind yet again. It's a good thing I'm not getting paid to write about gratitude, because I can't keep a deadline to save my soul.

For Weeks 10 and 11:  I'm going to combine weeks 10 and 11 into one, and just say that I'm grateful for technology. It's not easy for me to pull away from it. I'm working on that, because I really want to be in the present moment.  Speaking of, my good pal shared this compelling article with me about a man who announces he's getting a divorce, but it's not what you think. Give it a read; you may like it.

Striking the balance between too much technology and using it for documenting the important stuff is tough. Technology gives us the ability to snap pictures of our loved ones, capture videos of moments to share with grandparents, and hang onto moments that matter to us.  Without my gadget, I wouldn't have direct access to all kinds of music that matters to me. There's the dish-washing music (Stevie Wonder, Spanish guitar, Patty Griffin), the wake-up music (James Brown, Pharrel, the Black Keys), the writing music (shuffle all, with a lot of irritated skipping when I get to selections from Sting's dreadful "Songs from the Labryinth" where he whispers creepily for most of the album, and that bad recording of Handel's" Messiah" that I keep forgetting to delete), the running music (Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, lots of dirty rap), the dinner party music (Elliot Smith, Chet Baker, Ray LaMontagne) and the driving music (Willie, Wilco, The Decemberists). How could I possibly make it through life without all of that music?

This morning, I'm particularly grateful for the "notes" part of my phone. So often, I'm in the middle of a conversation or an eavesdropping session and I stop and jot down a note so I don't forget what happened. Usually, it's about something that at the moment, I'm sure I HAVE to write about, but I hardly ever get to it. A lot of the time, I'll go back to it weeks later and have absolutely no clue what it was about. That's funny to me, but it's also a mystery that drives me somewhat nuts.

Here are 20 examples of those notes:

1. This is like drunk dialing! I feel like I need to swallow! I swallowed and wiggled a little. It's okay? This is note I wrote to the dental assistant while doped up in the dentist's chair. There is more, and it's embarrassing. If you know my mom, ask her what I'm like when I'm doped up at the dentist. It's like a drunk confessional.
2. "Rachel, fingers were invented before forks. And you are NOT a vegetarian. You, the kid who ate RIBS her entire life!" This was a pushy mom talking to her college-aged daughter at the table next to us at dinner - I wrote down most of what they were saying in the hopes of turning this into a short story.
3. Nipples in Paris.  I have no idea what this means. I've been to Paris twice, and don't recall any nipple stories except when Tim and I went to Moulin Rouge and bought such cheap seats we were behind a large column, so the nipples on stage were greatly obstructed. Sorry, Tim! Anyway, to try to figure out this mysterious little phrase, I Googled "nipples in Paris" and hoped nobody near me was watching. Evidently Rihanna flashed her nipples on March 4. But I wrote this on January 5. Maybe I should consider a part-time job as a celebrity psychic?
4. 506 as of 2:39 - This was how many emails I had left while working on my bi-weekly email purge. I'm not very good at it, obviously.
5. "Meteoroids puncturing your spacesuit." This was a guy being interviewed on KXAN about travelling to Mars. I liked it so much, and laughed so hard at how hilariously geeky it was that I tweeted it directly to KXAN's Sally Hernandez, because she had a giggle fit live on TV when they aired the clip. Because we're ALL concerned about meteoroids puncturing our spacesuits, right?
6. Fee waived by MSR Isela. - I paid a bill late, I'm sure, and buddied up to the phone rep and asked her to waive the fee. Isela, whoever you are, thank you!
7. Patchouli and Carmex - How an elevator smelled on January 15, 2014.
8. Venture capital backers will provide insight for private companies - Notes from an intimidating training I attended for work on January 16, 2014. I learned a lot that day. I'll write about it eventually.
9. New neighbor- Rick. 6 month old baby Natalia - I'm always jotting down names of people I meet because I want to be that person who remembers names. I don't, but my phone does a nice job of it.
10. "She's a super savage, dope-smoking bitch." - Guy outside of Starbucks on January 17. He was saying this to a friend, but also kind of singing/dancing it angrily. When people are angry and sing, it reminds me of Footloose. I love a movie scene where someone is so angry that they have to go dance in a barn. Hard. This guy was angry signing/talking. It was awesome.
11. The little girl's name is ALOE! - I wrote this note to my daughter, Emily Rose, when I overheard a mom talking to her little kid. What a name! I'm only guessing we were in South Austin?
12. "You Belong to Me" in Portuguese? - I keep forgetting to buy Shazam, so we'll be at dinner and I'll have to stop and jot it down so I can research it later. I cannot find this version and it was really nice. Please let me know if you know how to find it!
13. "The Kids in the Middle, Happy." - Potential book title. I change my mind daily on book titles. I'm constantly writing down ideas for short story titles and book titles and doing nothing with it.
14. "New Sweet Boyfriend of the Mother who Dated Pricks" -  Do you stick around to watch the credits? When I lived in LA for a short time, my sister taught me that in LA, you stay for the credits. If you walk out while the credits are rolling, it's totally rude, because in LA, people you're sitting in the theater with probably made that movie or at the very least worked the craft services cart. Now, when we can, we stay for the credits. This awesome line is from the cast credits from the movie, "Her." I would LOVE to be an actor and have that on my resume!
15. "I love Phil Donahue, and I love his wife." - My friend Candace making me cry laughing at dinner. How long has it been since you thought about Phil Donahue?  And then, as it always happens, we couldn't remember the name of his wife. For a moment there, we were trying to pair him up with Connie Chung. He's actually married to Marlo Thomas, in case you're wondering. Candace says hilarious things like this so often I can't even keep up with her.
16.  How it Feels When You Don't Know the Band Because You Are too Old - Thoughts about that. Because I'm there, and it's weird.
17.  Short story with all dialogue and no descriptions. Just dialogue. - I'd like to write one of those. I'm not very good at dialogue so I'd have to sit in restaurants and steal some.
18.  Ballet Austin's "Videodance" OMG, they teach music video dance classes! For $30, you can sign up and learn the entire "Beat It" dance!  I need the courage to do this. Join me?
19. Hannah - Hannah? And her sisters? I have no idea. I really hate it when I do this.
20. "Tachyons" - A word that was used in our Friday Lunch and Learn at work. I love learning words I know nothing about. Another one that popped into my life that I've missed all these years is "germy." I'm not sure how I lived all of these years without knowing "germy," but it's one of the best words ever.

That's it for this week. I'm grateful for mah gadget. Good times.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Weeks 5-9

I am starting to resent the woman who started the 365 grateful project, which is really terrible of me, because she's amazing. I just resent her discipline, because she committed to daily documentation of her gratitude, and I can hardly knock out one post a week for this abridged project! At this point I'm already five weeks behind, but I do have things to be grateful for, so bear with me while I catch up. As planned, a little about what I'm grateful for, followed by an accompanying photo. Weeks 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

Week Five:  I am immensely grateful that my family recovered from The Plague of 2014.

It began at the end of January. I was the first one to get sick, and I tried to ignore it, but it knocked me off my feet for four straight days, and still, a month later, I am not 100%. During that time, I was a terrible, whiny patient, and Mr. Arndt did a fabulous job of taking care of me. He also got sick, and so did Emily Rose. We were a mess. If it weren't for forced bed rest, a patient and understanding boss, and terrific doctors (Dr. Eric Lambeth at Red River Family Practice and Dr. Wes Glazener, Best Pediatrician in Austin), we might have lost our minds. The only good thing that came out of this forced hiatus was it gave me the opportunity to start Downton Abbey. When the Spanish flu hit Crawley family in season 2, I was right there with them, rolling around in bed, moaning, and feeling very sorry for myself.

The photo below about sums up that experience. Pardon the hideous photo of me in the smack dab middle of being terribly sick, but this shows what kind of man I married. Sick himself, he drove to Walgreens to find just the right variety of Robitussin that doesn't make me hallucinate. The Facetime session that ensued was hilarious, because it was half of Tim's chin, and half it was a dizzying view of all of my cough syrup options. I spent the entire session complaining that they didn't have the one without "D," because I am paranoid about taking OTC drugs. It was even better because this Facetime session came with a canned Stevie Ray Vaughn that was playing at Walgreens. I would have laughed, but I couldn't because when I did, I'd cough so hard I would see stars. I'm just grateful we survived it, and thankful for everyone who put up with me during that dreadful few weeks.

Week 6:  I'm thankful for my job at InsideView. Because of where I work, I am challenged daily (in a good way). My job challenges me to work harder than I've ever worked, but working hard is different when you truly believe in what you are doing. Watching my company grow -- even when it's messy -- is one of the most exciting things about my job. When I feel frustrated, I have people who actually listen to me. When I have a suggestion that makes sense (some of them don't, for sure!), there are people who will help support those ideas and do something with them. That's extremely rewarding. When I want to grow and learn more, there are mentors. From the CEO down, I work for an organization that is filled with passion and commitment. I've made friendships there that will last a lifetime. That, and we have a guy who showed up wearing a chicken hat to work. If you ever run into this guy, ask him to do a whiteboard exercise for you. It will blow you away.

Week 7: I'm thankful for girl trips with my mom. My relationship with my mom will get an entire post devoted to her (around Mother's Day, if I plan that correctly!), but toward the end of my plague recovery, I took the train up to Dallas for a little writing time and a girl's getaway with my mom to see Sting and Paul Simon. We stayed at the coolest little boutique hotel in Dallas, the Belmont Hotel, a place so cool I almost don't want to tell you about it because I kind of hope it stays a best-kept little secret. After a glass of wine in their simple, lovely lobby bar, we had a delicious dinner at Smoke, ran into a girl from my hometown who's a writer and really fabulous. She was also there with a friend for the Sting and Paul Simon concert. We shared a cab over to the venue, and in a crazy turn of events, the usher upgraded our seats from the nosebleeds to seats that were simply perfect. I'm a happily married woman, and so is my mother, but getting that close to Sting was a thrill of a lifetime for both of us.

This pic is a bit blurry, but who cares. Paul Simon still has a great voice, but bless his heart, he looks like death warmed over. Sting, on the other hand, is doing just fine.

Week 8:  I'm Grateful for Handwritten Valentines. Mr. Arndt's birthday is on Valentine's, so we really get into Valentine's at our house. However, one of the things that I fret over is having enough time to make sure the kids have handwritten notes. They'll love the money and the candy and all of that, but I think it's especially important for kids to read -- in handwritten letters -- how much their parents care about them. I have boxes of saved handwritten letters saved. My mother in law, stepfather, mother and sister still send them, and those, among the love letters that Tim and I send each other, and the handwritten notes from my children, are my most prized possessions.

This is Emily Rose on Valentine's morning, reading the Valentine Tim and I gave her. The same day, I received a Valentine from my beautiful stepdaughter Stephanie that was so beautiful it validated every minute I've spent being her stepmother. I urge you to take the time to write one if you haven't in a while.

Week 9: I'm grateful that I get to watch my friends' kids grow up. I have friends of all ages, so many of my close friends are just now starting their families. When I married Tim, I married into an instafamily, so I've been around kids since I was in my mid-20s. Now that two of my stepchildren are at college and Emily Rose is no longer a baby, I am really enjoying watching my younger friends start their families. When they come to me for advice, I am tickled about that because I had absolutely no clue what I was doing when I started out as a parent, and often still don't, but in some ways, I feel like I can dish out a little advice here and there, and that makes me feel special. 

This is just one of many pictures of the little ones that I am watching grow up before my eyes. I love that my amazing girlfriends Amy, Amy and Joanne have started families. These two kids on the left belong to my friend Amy. We had a play date the other day, and the kids spotted the ice cream truck (one of the creepiest things ever). Amy's daughter (far left) ordered a "Two Ball Screwball," which we decided sounded more like a Mardi Gras drink than a kid's ice cream treat. Her brother (middle) loved his rainbow snow cone, but was also partially obsessed with the Two Ball Screwball. It got really funny when the kids ran off to play and my friend Amy accidentally dropped the leftover rainbow snow cone, then tried to lie to her son when he asked where it went. She's a terrible liar, but sometimes, you have to make up a little while lie to prevent a meltdown. We parents get it, no worries!

My kid (far right) loves being around these little ones because she gets to be the oldest with all of the answers. I can't look at this picture without smiling -- it's childhood innocence, pure and simple, and it makes me happy.

I'm glad I'm caught up. I have a LOT to be grateful for, and this project is great because when you are doing it, it's dedicated time to positive thought, and it's impossible not to smile when you are counting your blessings. Good times.