Almost there...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Blondie

During Dickens Fair, I wear my hair in the severe, center-parted style of a Victorian woman.

My hair is not its natural color because I started going gray when I was 12.

The net result is that to maintain that hair style, I have to dye my hair more frequently during the run. Since it's brown dye, it grows gradually darker over time. After Dickens, I take the opportunity to lighten my hair each year.

I've tried myriad options over time. I've used Color Oops, which was pretty cool. I've used highlighting kits. I've used Color Zap. This year, I went straight for the basic bleach. Starting in the front, working my way to the back (where I'm more comfortable and naturally darker haired). About five minutes after I finished getting the bleach on, I noticed the front was looking pretty light. So I hopped in the shower.

This morning I got up and did the usual. I've never been blonde before!


Now don't panic! Tomorrow I'll dye it a nice brown. It will all be back to normal. Today I'm just sort of reveling in not recognizing myself in the mirrors as I putter around the house.

Friday, December 25, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Movie

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around.


It just makes the world seem like slightly better place when you watch this movie. And it makes you want to do silly romantic things. This is good.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Team Building

My new manager arranged for us, the three IT trainers, to work with a presentation coach as a team to hone our skills and enable us to work as peer coaches with each other. We met three times as a group, doing non-work presentations, familiar work-related presentations, and team teaching exercises. After weeks (months even) of feeling barely competent at work, it's fascinating to be told repeatedly that I'm doing everything right. The suggestions were all polish on a ripe, juicy, sweet apple. Tweak this tiny thing here. Try this gesture. The improvement comments were so small compared to "See this? She's got it. This is great. You've got it." and "Excellent. This is just what we were talking about. You've got this stuff nailed." Voice volume and expressiveness was right. Gestures were meaningful. No excess business to clutter the impression. Good concise examples and stories to draw people in. Good eye contact. Good focus. Good good good.

It wasn't til I was sitting at home tonight that I actually came back down to earth with a thump, wondering if Nancy had let Deb know how badly my confidence had been shattered and asked her to boost it up a bit. I doubt it, but with all that heaping praise, I actually had to wonder for a moment.

No, I think I'm actually pretty good at what I do, and it means I end up in some pretty high-stakes situations. Every now and then, I'm on a totally different wavelength than those around me and it gets me into icky situations where there's not a good, clean path to success. But even the one project that crashed and burned so badly is back on track and I'm handling the School of Medicine side with skill and grace.

So our team building was successful, in an odd way. I still don't feel like I know what I'm doing wrong, but I feel better about what I'm doing right.

Dickens Week Three

Despite some fuss and upset this weekend, I had a lovely couple of days at fair. I danced with more than a few folks who pleaded total incapacity to dance, and who all walked away smiling. Friends we met in Disneyland came up and we got to spend an hour having tea before repeatedly getting them onto our floor. Randy took to waltz like a drummer - someone who instantly comprehends rhythm. I led Faye in the Duke of Kent's Waltz, only to end up next to Erik as he was being flirted with by an older woman who praised his good looks, his dancing, and then suggested that he find a nice Stanford girl. He said that he sort of had, and oh here she is now... just as the dance progressed so that I was standing at his side.

Another fun moment was in arranging the 2:30 show with the Swords of Gridlock and talking with one of their team who is English. He said, "Your accent is so spot-on it's getting me to up my speech to meet yours!" After years of effort to learn all the little variations and intonations, nothing is more gratifying.

One more weekend to go. It's going to be wall-to-wall humanity next weekend. I'll likely be hiding in Fezziwig's Warehouse. Even in the most crowded conditions, I can still enjoy a dance, but walking in the streets can be overwhelming. The only thing I plan to venture out for is to acquire a Christmas present at the chocolate booth.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And then there was a sudden nap...

The other thing Mondays are good for is catching up on sleep. Apparently, I needed lots today. I made it out of bed at 11:30, and returned for 2 hours this evening. I just couldn't think straight this afternoon and everything seemed hard. When finding glue in the closet seemed too daunting to contemplate, I went back to bed. A few extra hours of sleep and I'm a bit more motivated now (though now with a minor headache...), but I'm too late to go to ceili, so I may make some more zucchini bread and watch a movie.

Pixel is curled up next to me and Leeloo is asleep in the tissue box. This is good.

The weirdest thing today is that the persimmons are gone. Poof. I went out this morning to pick the rest, and the rest of my branch is totally empty, as if someone did it while I was out. I'm rather confused about that. A few are bird-eaten and dangling, but most look cleanly picked away. I don't know how... but that's the end of the persimmons for the season I suppose. I was hoping to get more out to all those who expressed interest last week, but, um... well, they're gone now.

I'm looking forward to winter closure. I can't wait to have two weeks off work.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Better!

After a three weeks of feeling nearly useless at work, I crossed 13 items off my to-do list this week. There is nothing even at risk of being overdue next week. This is awesome.

The Cute Boy has an interview next Thursday for a job in his preferred profession at a college 12 miles from home. I really hope that goes well. Just to get the call for an interview was a miracle in the current budget situation.

Two weeks of Dickens went well. Two weekends to go.

I picked four more bags of persimmons this morning and I have lots of people willing to help eat them. This is good. I hate to see fruit go to waste.

Went to the monthly EE dinner on Wednesday night and Ari made a lovely slaw, an amazing butternut squash lasagna, and perfect (not too sweet!) buttermilk cake. The lambchopper cheese was also a treat. Hanging out with the girls in a safe, warm space was priceless.

I ate yummy turkey soup for lunch all week. It stayed yummy.

I got to watch a Dr. Who special and John Cleese's The Human Face while baking last night. I love the internet. I love Netflix on demand. I love this wacky modern age.

The Happy Homemaker?

This week found me cooking turkey soup from homemade broth on Monday, and last night I made zucchini bread for friends while boiling chicken for my cat. This morning I went out and picked another four bags of persimmons. It's been an oddly domestic week. On the plus side, against all odds, the zucchini bread turned out well. I ran out of flour and made an emergency run to the store at one minute to ten. They locked the door behind me as I left. I also ran out of vegetable oil, but substituted with extra virgin olive oil, and the bread seems none the worse for it, so that's good. In all the other fuss, I completely forgot to add the pineapple, but the extra zucchini I had shredded seemed to make up for that missing moisture. Friends and neighbors will receive a loaf in the next few days in their adorable little holiday loaf pans.

But seriously, the persimmon tree is out of control. I've picked nine bags to date, and the one branch that hangs over my fence is still dripping with persimmons. We won't even talk about the waste that is happening on the rest of the tree. I'm hoping to finish picking tonight or tomorrow morning, but I was too late for work to keep going.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Monday Freedom

The best thing I do during Dickens season is to take off each Monday. It's 3 days off work, but it's the most valuable time I have all year.

Today, I woke up and snuggled my cats and my sweetie. Then I got up and made more boiled chicken for Leeloo for breakfast. Then I drove to Piedmont for our annual day of relaxation with Elizabeth. After an hour in the tub, we were warm through and through for the first time in days. We followed that with lunch at Fenton's. Elizabeth had to get back to San Ramon to take Logan to the orthodontist. I called Grandma to check in on the way home. Back to San Jose, I checked in with Toyota. They had time to get me in for a quick service. While there I caught up on email. Then I popped into Petsmart and got some Sensitive Stomach dry food for Leeloo and Greenies for Pixel. Then I popped into Trader Joe's for some more chicken for Leeloo. Home again, I made turkey soup from leftovers while chatting with my mom. It is the most amazing turkey soup ever. Yum. Yum. Yum.

I'm doing laundry now while the dishwasher runs and the cats sit curled up next to me. I got so much done, and I feel refreshed and ready to face the week. (And I've still got over 300 hours of vacation on the books.)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Death at a Funeral

Random web surfing led me to the trailer for Death at a Funeral. No, no silly, not that Death at a Funeral. This Death at a Funeral. The black version. With the same exact midget.

Wait... what?!?!?!

(No, really, watch the two trailers in sequence. It's fascinating.)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Trader Joe's!

And! And! The shiny new Trader Joe's in Palo Alto, just off campus from Stanford, on Embarcadero Road, with actual parking opens TOMORROW! And it's even biking distance from my office!!!

It's been a year behind schedule, but now it's here. There's finally a TJ's I can get to on my lunch hour. Yay!

Little Things

Another little joy this week was discovering that the Target in Sunnyvale Towne Center has reopened. It is no longer a mere mortal Target, but one that includes real fresh produce! So, for my grocery needs that can't be met at Trader Joe's, I no longer need to suffer at a Safeway. Indeed, the cranberry juice I'd bought on sale at Safeway a few days ago for $3.99 (a dollar off the price without my Safeway Club card!) could be had for a regular price of $2.54 at Target. The Tillamook cheddar slices I'd paid $4.99 for at Safeway (again, on sale with my Club Card!) were just $3.54 at Target. So, it's cheaper, it's cleaner, and it's got all of the Target goodness to go with my grocery shopping. Oh, and they also built a new parking structure to replace the awful one that used to be there. This girl's got a new place to shop!

Better Times Ahead

Things are looking up, if you look at it from a certain angle.

Sure, my cat had emergency surgery which was painful for her and expensive and time consuming for me, but a lot of good has come from that. Instead of rushing off to work and off to Dress Rehearsal for Dickens, I stayed home. This is what Pixel looks like after I stay home for four days straight:
Pixel has a happy.
He loved it. Meanwhile, Leeloo has been so much happier too, now rarely waking me up in the middle of the night to try to throw up. Also, she has been on a restricted diet of boiled chicken and baked white fish. I'm pretty sure she'd sign up for surgery again if it meant she got that every night.

Meanwhile, I'd sent a note to the Fezzis cast letting them know I wouldn't be able to be there. The director passed the hat and raised $160 for Leeloo's care. I am amazed at the generosity of my cast. This is a group of people that donates their time and puts money into costumes just so that they can spend the day volunteering to teach others about dancing and parlor games. After all of that, they still offer more to help out a sick kitty (with further donations coming in this past weekend as well!). Fezziwiggers are some of the best people in the world. They're my second family and I'm so very grateful to have them in my life.

The first weekend of Dickens was also a reminder of what wonderful folks Fezziwiggers are. There were so many things and so many reasons to love the people in my cast, but on Sunday, after three days of this, they went far above and beyond the call of duty. There's a slot from 2-3 where our band has a lunch break and Robert Young (Mr. Dickens) schedules two Guest Performers who each perform for 30 minutes. On Sunday, the 2pm group canceled, but we were assured we had Morris dancers for 2:30. At ten minutes til 2, when we'd already set a "fill a half-hour" plan in motion, we found out we had to fill the full hour. The Morris dancers were not coming. I breathed in, but couldn't quite breathe out. We told the group to stretch Stagecoach as much as possible. They did. Meanwhile, I ran out to see if there was any chance that Bruno might be free at 2:30 to run an emergency show. They were busy, but on the way, I told every Fezziwigger I met what was happening and to come help if they could. What happened next was extraordinary. They came. They all came. Those on break came back. Those about to go on break stayed. And we handed out lyrics and the audience sang along. The world's silliest Twelve Days of Christmas happened, with well more than ten lords leaping. T and Danielle made an adorable pair of turtle doves, and so did David and Gregory!

After Dickens on Sunday, Josh and Magenta invited all of the Fezziwiggers to spaghetti dinner at their house. Magenta, with infant son to care for, made us all dinner. It was fantastic. After three days of Dickens, having someone else fix you dinner is a life saver. Unwinding after fair with a bunch of folks was a joy.

Meanwhile, my grandma is doing well enough that the nursing home gave her a four-hour pass to come home for Thanksgiving. We had turkey and all the fixin's just like normal, and the only difference was that Grandma and Grandpa had switched places at the table to accommodate her wheelchair. Now, my grandpa is losing his hearing, and it's been about 15 years since he could hear anything I said, but he recently got new hearing aids, and he actually heard me (rather than having it relayed through someone else) for the first time in years.

Finally, my friend Alex succumbed to cancer this week. He's one of those guys that is an easy leader, at once compassionate and full of good humor. He'll be dearly missed. He slipped away more quickly than any of us were ready for, but in the end, that's probably for the best. But it has also been a fantastic experience of watching the internet at its best. Johanna was able to keep us all updated as things progressed. Better yet, the day after it happened there were two new live journal communities - one to post memories and pictures of Alex, and another to auction items to help Johanna defray the unexpectedly high cost of final expenses. Once again, I'm amazed by the love and generosity of those around me. These are not the people who stand back and say, "Someone should take care of that." They take action and do so much good.

If I wanted to, I could see the past three weeks as being truly terrible, but I don't want to. I refuse. I see too much of the good stuff. I see a dude in a wife-beater learning to waltz. I see a darling baby boy asleep in my arms, undisturbed by neither musicians nor dancers. I see single friends flirting with affection at fair. I see Don Brown's carrying on even without the Mullah. I see a room full of friends emptying several bottles of port and toasting the hair. I see that same group laughing in unison at the surprised kitten. I see two kitties curled up at the end of my bed nearly every morning, who reach out and try to convince me to stay.

It ain't perfect, but it's just not that bad.