Monday, December 21, 2015

Personalized Home Sweet Home Gift Hack

I wanted to share this great DIY craft that I made for my Mom this year.  Don't worry, we celebrated Christmas early, so she has already received her present, no surprises will be spoiled here.  The great thing about this gift is that it takes a little bit of work, but can be done in a pinch and requires very little creative ability. 

First, find a picture frame with a matte that you want to use.  Note the size of the picture that will fit inside this frame.  Most of the rest of the steps will be done with a computer. 

Then, we need a picture of the front of the house.  It would be preferable to have a high-quality picture from a decent camera taken when you are there.  In a pinch, however, you can use StreetView on Google Maps to get it.  There are many ways to do it, but I would recommend putting your browser into Full Screen view and using the Print Screen button on your keyboard to capture the image.  Capture more than you will need, because we'll crop the image later. 

Next, clean up the picture using PhotoShop or a similar program.  I removed the mailbox, the electric box and the shadow from the neighbor's house with PhotoShop Elements.  

Copy the cleaned-up picture into PowerPoint.  Right click on the image and choose Format Picture.  In the Picture Color section, adjust the Color Saturation and Color Tone as you see fit.  I ended up leaving the Color Tone alone but bumping up the Color Saturation to 240%.  Check out the difference!  

Under Artistic Effects (still in the Format Picture settings), select the Paint Brush setting, and adjust the Brush Size to your liking.  I used a Brush Size 6. 

Use the Insert function to create a rectangle on the same slide.  Right click on the rectangle and click Format Shape.  In the Size section, change the height and width to 8" and 10", respectively (or use the dimensions of the picture frame you got, if different).  Make the Line Color black or something else pretty visible, and change the Fill to No fill.  Use this frame to center the image to show the best parts of the house.  Once satisfied, you can crop the image to the same size as the rectangle, and then delete the rectangle. 

Zoom out in the slide view, and then grab the corner of the graphic to stretch it proportionately to a much larger size; this will improve the quality of the print later on. 

Because my family has moved quite a bit, I thought it would be fun to show the coordinates of all our recent homes.  I've changed them for this blog, but you get the idea.  If you don't want to show multiple coordinates, you can just show the current one.  What you probably need to know is how to get these coordinates.  I found this handy website that converts the address to latitude and longitude in decimals:,  and then a tab on that same website converts those to degrees, minutes and seconds with directions:  

Note, sometimes it can be hard to remember all the old addresses.  In two cases in my experience, I couldn't remember the address but I remembered the street name and city, so I looked for it on Google Maps, and then used StreetView to go up and down the street until I found the house that looked like mine.  Google Maps will then give you the address of the house you are virtually looking at, and you can go from there. 

Create a text box centered over the image in your PowerPoint file, and put these coordinates in there.  Adjust the fonts to your liking, but I would recommend sticking to a simpler font for a bolder statement. 

You can use different tag lines for this gift.  If you had multiple coordinates, you can use the same tag line I did, "Wherever we live, it’s HOME SWEET HOME with you!"  Here are some other ideas for multiple coordinates:

Wherever you go, there you are!
Oh, the places we will go! 
Home is Where You Are

If you went with just one set of coordinates, consider one of these tag lines or similar:

Home Sweet Home
Home is Where the Heart Is

Make sure to center your text and adjust the spacing to fit in the image without blocking the main features of the house.  We're going for a big, bold effect, so make the font bigger than you think it should be, details will be lost in the overall picture. 

Once satisfied with the finished graphic, copy both the image and the text box(es) and paste them into Microsoft Paint, PhotoShop or similar.  Save the graphic as a jpg.  

Finally, use your favorite photo printing service, like SnapFish, or go to the Walgreens or Walmart websites or similar, and upload your picture for print.  Select the size print to fit in your frame, and have it printed.  I haven't used photo printing a lot, but I know Walgreens is usually pretty fast, so in a pinch, that's where I would look to print.  You can usually pick up your order in a few hours.  Once you have the print, just slide that puppy into the frame and put a bow on it or wrap it completely.  Bam!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thankful for Perspective

I like to believe that there is no such thing as a bad day - that good and bad things happen every day, and that's just life, and deeming a day "good" or "bad" is all a matter of perspective and what you're focusing on.  It's easy to have a "good day" when things are all going well; you finish a project and get recognized for your hard work, then an old friend emails you saying they are coming into town and you arrange a meeting to catch up, you get a free meal at Chipotle on your way home, your favorite show is on, etc.  But when things get bumpy, when setback after setback and irritating things start creeping into your day, it can be hard not to think it's a "bad day".  As much as I want to deny their existence, I think bad days can happen.  But that doesn't mean you have to be angry or crabby or depressed, it just means you have to work a little harder to be grateful for the things that are going well and what you have in your life to be thankful for.  It may sound bleak, but the reality is that things could always be much worse.  Small things are nothing when big bad things happen. 

I once thought I was having a bad day because my manager was getting on my case about a report and I didn't feel like I had been given enough time to really work it.  It was frustrating, to be sure, because my manager should certainly know that I had had other priorities that demanded my attention, so I couldn't fathom why she was making a big deal about it.  Then my colleague got news that her father had suddenly passed away.  Those are two very different scenarios.  I instantly felt more guilty than I've ever felt, for whining about such a little ordeal.  I had lost my perspective. 

I think it's safe to say that most bad days are not that traumatic; that is, most bad days do not involve the sudden, unexpected death of a close loved one.  For those days, I really have no solution, because everybody deals with death differently and there is no amount of positive spin that can make it "a good day," in my opinion.  But on bad days that are not as tragic, which should be most bad days, at the very least, you can say, "I'm alive and well, my family is alive and well, my friends are alive and well, and we're working through this thing called life." 

In the summer before I started 8th grade, I made a promise to myself to never forget that I am loved.  I've kept that promise ever since.  It was a petty junior high romance gone bad at band camp that had developed into the bad day that led me to that moment, crying in the girl's bathroom at the band camp dance, when two girls whom I barely knew comforted me and made me feel better.  I think that was a legitimate turning point in my attitude towards life, and I will never forget that feeling of being cared about when I thought (dramatically, as junior highers do) that all was lost.  Looking back on it now, it was a silly situation to cry over, but that promise was more profound and mature than I realized then.  Since then, when I felt lonely, I reminded myself that my family loved me.  When my heart was broken, I surrounded myself with friends who cared.  I have never let myself think for a millisecond that I am not loved, because I know I am. 

In the last year or so, I can't even remember particularly when it was, I had somehow managed to injure myself so severely that I could barely walk, I couldn't bend at the waist at all, and all forms of movement caused searing pain.  It was horrible.  I remember thinking that this is only partially what it would feel like to be paralyzed.  I made light of it by telling people how I had to put my pants on lying in bed, throwing my pants up in the air until I could catch them on my feet, and then work them down my leg.  But it was just awful.  I sat on ice and heat whenever I could to heal, but everything hurt all the time and life was very difficult.  Getting into my car was the most excruciating thing I had to do each day.  It was only slightly easier for me to get into the passenger side of a car, so I made Jaiman drive me everywhere we went together during that time.  I ended up healing just fine, and since then, I have a new and profound appreciation for my fitness and my ability to move and dance freely.  I am not the most fit, to be sure, and not the best dancer, but I can usually move as needed and desired, and when I am sore it's because I've been moving, and I am grateful for that. 

I got an early start on the Thankful blog I was planning to do tomorrow, because today was one of those days that I needed it.  I had taken a vacation day, and as is all too often the case with me, my to do list outweighed both the time I had and the energy and motivation I had.  Still, I wanted to get things done.  I got up to 25,000 words on my nanowrimo novel, although today was the deadline to get to 50,000 words.  Ah well, 25,000 words is still an accomplishment, it's 25,000 more words than I would have written on my novel if I hadn't tried. 

I took a break from writing to check my work email, just to see if there were any catastrophes I could potentially resolve - this was around 1 pm.  The first thing that caught my eye was a MANDATORY meeting - yes in all caps - from my new VP, regarding the transition I've been stressed about the last couple weeks.  And it was at 10 am.  I looked for a reschedule notification, and there was none.  Didn't he see that I was on vacation?  I looked for a recap of what was said, and there was none.  I checked the attendance list, hoping to at least see my production steering counterpart on there, because I knew he was also on vacation, so at least I wouldn't have been the only one that missed the meeting.  But he was not on there.  I guess it's not a catastrophe, but not being in the room when my senior leaders are discussing my product line and my project just seems very bad. 

Throughout the day, my phone has been running terribly slow.  Tmobile had pushed a new update and it caused the whole system to run like garbage.  This may be the most frustrating thing at all, because there is literally nothing I can think to do except go to Tmobile and demand they fix it, which they won't.  I tried to send a message to my sister in response to a question she asked, and it took over an hour to send.  Then it took me another 15 minutes to type out an apology that my phone wasn't working and I couldn't communicate right now as a result.  It nearly crashed as I tried to end the message with a period, so I hit send really quickly before it crashed. 

I had asked Jaiman to see if he could get the plastic to feed into my new 3D printer, and he figured it out - the directions were wrong.  Leave it to a man to do the opposite of the incorrect directions and solve the problem.  I am grateful for that.  But then, after spending quite some time taping up the table of the printer, a belt snapped and my attempts at repairing it lead to complete disaster, cutting right through the nicely laid tape. 

So, I moved on to another project - putting up the Christmas tree.  This is one of those annual projects that I always kind of dread, but I'm glad when it's done because I so love Christmas and nothing is better this time of year than a lit up and decorated Christmas tree.  It's nice to have help fluffing the branches, but I knew Jaiman likes it even less than I do, so I went ahead and worked all three pieces while he was at work.  Feeling accomplished, a got the base set up and the bottom section in, and plugged that puppy in.  Of course, more than half the lights didn't light up.  I was prepared, though, with my handy little Christmas light repair tool I had bought a couple years ago.  It had solved my problems before, and it could surely save me this time.  But, I tried and tried and could not find the busted bulb.  I scooched around the tree several times, with no luck.  I gave myself until 5 pm, at which point I decided that I needed to go to It's Sugar to try to get the special Japanese Kit Kats I wanted to bring in to work for food day, get cash for my Gypsy Jitterbugs dues, and then head to practice.  So at 5, I called it quits, having had no success at all on the lighting, and now having three large sections of Christmas tree hogging the floor of my front room. 

As I was about to leave, I noticed that my debit card was not in my phone case.  The case had loosened up in recent weeks, so the cards were slipping out from time to time.  This set me on a mad hunt around my house to find my debit card.  Why did it have to be THAT card?  I could live without one of my credit cards, but it's hard to pay dues when I have no money and no means of getting it.  Finally, I found it and left, slightly later than I wanted to be leaving. 

There was a line 5 deep at the drive through ATM, so I drove around and parked.  Both walk-up ATMs had lines of two each, but I figured it would still go faster than waiting in the car.  I got in line, got my money and headed to the store.  I got the Kit Kats, but they were a little pricier than I expected.  Ah well, now is not the time to be cheap, right?  I got to dance practice right on time.  Dance went well, and I headed home. 

I should add that I had also seen the wreckage of a terrible accident on my way home - it appears a van had T-boned an ambulance, and both were smoking and severely damaged.  The van was on its side and just completely crushed.  Glass was everywhere.  People were on the side of the street, one was crying with her head in her hands.  It was really ugly.  I made it home safely, and for that, I am thankful.  I am so weary of the dangers of driving, that I should be thankful every time I get anywhere without crashing and especially without dying. 

But, I wasn't feeling very grateful.  I was feeling sorry for myself, now with a 3D printer I'm fed up with, a Christmas tree I'm fed up with, a phone that doesn't operate, laundry to do and an unknown situation to walk into at work tomorrow.  Not to mention that I had wanted to walk Carly, which I hadn't, and clean the kitchen, which was still a mess, and a few other things that deep down I probably knew wouldn't get done when I put them on my list to begin with. 

So, I needed some perspective.  My house is messy, but I have a house.  My 3D printer is not up and running yet, but I am an early adopter and this is to be expected, some day I'll chalk it up to experience and have great war stories to tell about the early days of 3D printing.  My work is frustrating and tense, but I have a great job, I like my colleagues and my managers.  I have a boyfriend who can help me troubleshoot things, a family that loves me, great friends who care, a cool car, some fantastic Christmas decorations, and I can dance.  These things are what matter.  I won't look back on today and think, "Stupid Christmas lights!"  I'll think back on today and remember the words I wrote, the efforts I made, the dance I did, and the people and things in my life that make it interesting.  These things are only difficult now because they are things that I have and care about. 

It's a little like how the people you care about most have the biggest capacity to hurt you or let you down.  My "bad day" wasn't really bad, if I didn't have a phone, a Christmas tree, a 3D printer, and a half-written novel, I'm not sure what I would have done with myself today.  I'd be bored, and certainly that would be worse than getting frustrated at these fun things.  And if I didn't have a job, I'd be in a lot worse situation.  So I am thankful for perspective. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Advent Calendar for Writers

Did you ever do an Advent Calendar when you were little?  Every day you got a little morsel of chocolate.  Now that we're adults, we can eat chocolate whenever we want, so I don't see the appeal in the traditional Advent Calendar.  But, in the spirit of improving my writing, I thought I'd put together a fun December schedule of writing activities to put the Christmas spirit to work in my writing.  I am also working on brevity, so my word count may be a bit limiting intentionally.  I will be sharing my responses on this blog, and I encourage any writers out there to use this as they see fit, and share your responses as you wish. 
1 - Coming out of the Thanksgiving season, write a blog post about what you're thankful for.  If you've already done that, write a blog about what you're looking forward to (in the next week or in the coming month, keep it short-term).  Word count: 300 - 700.
2 - Write a Christmas letter (whether you send it or not is up to you) about what you've been up to this past year.  Word count: 350 - 650.
3 - Compose five tweets about your favorite parts of Christmas, with links to a graphic, video or song.  What gets you into the Christmas spirit?  What do you look forward to (eating/drinking/singing/watching/doing)?  Word count limited to 140 characters in each post.  
4 - Write a short essay on the best Christmas gift (1) you've received, (2) you've given, and (3) you'd like to give.  Word count: 450 - 1500.
5 - Write a short story about the holidays in some fictional world - on Mars, set in the future, or set in your favorite fictional world, etc.  Word count: 500 - 750.
6 - Write a parody to a beloved Christmas song or poem.  Word count: varies
7 - Write a blog post about what you're looking forward to in the following year.  Word count: 300 - 700.  
8 - Create a To Do list of the best Christmas traditions to partake in or to start.  Word count: 150 - 450.  
9 - Write a review of a product you've purchased or received in the last year that you absolutely love.  Who else would want one?  What makes it unique and life-changing?  Word count: 300 - 650.  
10 - Write a blog post about your favorite quote from a Christmas movie.  Include a clip if you can find one!  Word count: 300 - 700. 
11 - Write a short narrative about the worst (and/or most comical) Christmas disaster you've experienced or heard about.  Word count: 300 - 750.  
12 - Interview a friend, colleague or distant family member about their Christmas traditions and write a blog post about it.  Word count: 350 - 900.  
13 - Write an essay about the true meaning of Christmas.  Word count: 450 - 1500.  
14 - Use your stories from #5 or #11 to write a Seussical short rhyming story.  Word count: 75 - 400. 
15 - Write a short narrative about your favorite Christmas from your childhood.  What made it feel magical?  Did you believe?  Word count: 500 - 900.  
16 - Write a report to Santa that an Elf on the Shelf would write if he was watching you.  Have you been naughty or nice?  Word count: 300 - 650. 
17 - Write an essay describing what would be a perfect Christmas holiday for you.  Who would be there?  Where would you celebrate?  What would you do?  Word count: 450 - 1100.
18 - Write a blog about Christmas shopping, what you love, what you hate, what you might do differently next year.  Word count: 400 - 700. 
19 - Use your response in #15 to write a dystopian version of the story.  Word count: 500 - 1200. 
20 - Compose five tweets about the ironies of Christmas.  
                              - OR -  
      Write an essay about the logistics of Santa Claus, how the elves know what to make, how Santa delivers presents to all the kids in just one night, how Rudolph's nose shines bright enough to lead the way through fog without blinding Santa, etc.  
21 - Write an original poem about family, winter, holidays, traditions, love or peace.  Word count: varies.  
22 - Write a letter to someone who is no longer walking this Earth.  What would you want to tell him/her?  How would Christmas be different if he/she was still here?  Word count: varies. 
23 - Write a blog post about your favorite Christmas song or story, and the emotions it makes you feel.  Word count: 450 - 900. 
24 - Write a warm holiday greeting for social media, that rhymes to send to your friends and family.  Take a nice picture or choose one from earlier in the year to share with it.  Word count: 25 - 100.  
25 - Write a heart-felt thank you for all the memories you've made and gifts you've received. Word count: 35 - 75.  
                                                       - OR - 
      Write a short narrative about the fun you had celebrating Christmas this year, and what made it so special.  Word count: 400 - 750. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Big Stone Gap" book review

Imagine knowing all your life that when you hit 35 years old, your life would change completely. Then, at the age of 35, like clockwork, your world gets turned upside down, the people around you aren't who you thought they were, you aren't who you thought you were, you upheave your entire life's work and prepare to skip town for good with no particular long-term plan. Only love, the greatest power on earth, can save you now, but you've spent your whole life running so hard from love that you can't even recognize it in your dreams. 

That's my synopsis. The one I read for the book "Big Stone Gap" was this: "A long-buried family secret disrupts the quiet life of a single, middle-aged woman in 1978 Virginia." I was expecting much darker secrets and more of an action-packed mystery to play out, with crime scenes and police investigations and suspects. Instead, the plot was rather simple, borderline quaint: small town girl seeks answers about family, learns about herself and sets things right. But it was so genuine and relatable, that there were many moments that made me laugh, cry, get mad at, and be embarrassed for the main character. I could just as easily put myself in the main character's shoes if I was born and raised in a small town in the deep south, and in the end, the book made me reflect on my own life, and appreciate my friends, family, and my love so much more. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween: In Memoriam

My life changed on Halloween last year.  I didn’t know it then; I thought it was a phase that I’d shrug off, a period of mourning that would heal with time.  It healed some, but seems it nevertheless changed me for good. 

One year ago I got the horrific news that a family member had been struck by a vehicle and killed instantly.  She had been walking down the road holding hands with her loving husband.  They had just moved to Florida together to start their dream retirement.  All I could think of was how full of life she had been, one of the most joyful people I knew, and how detrimental it would be to poor Jim, her husband who had to pick up the pieces of their life that she left too soon.  

I’d known people who had died before.  I’ve lost grandparents to those things that take you in old age.  I’ve known families who have lost babies within days or months of giving birth.  I’ve seen teenagers get in with the wrong crowds and lose their lives.  I’ve had classmates who died in war.  But no death has shaken me like Joyce’s.  Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of her being so full of life and love, and then such sudden death.  Perhaps it struck close to home - I go for walks, and I drive, and she had no influence on the outcome.  

I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something more to her death.  It’s a tragedy, but not just a tragedy.  It’s horrible irony, but not just a shame.  It’s as if her death was supposed to have meaning to me, a purpose, and so fate made it so.  

Ever since Halloween last year, I’ve had an uncanny notion of Joyce watching over me when I drive, shunning me when I steal a glance at my phone, and praising me when I avoid a pedestrian who didn’t hear or see me coming.  Joyce’s story has made my passion for autonomous vehicles not just selfishly indulgent, but imperative for mankind.  And she made it personal.  It’s no longer about the “cool” factor of the technology.  Joyce is to human drivers as Hiroshima’s Peace Park is to the atomic bomb – a vivid memorial that begs modern society to do away with such destructive forces.  

We don’t know what caused the driver to veer suddenly to the side of the road, but I think it’s fair to assume that the driver was distracted, whether it be by a cell phone or otherwise.  I’ve been in a collision because the driver behind me was fidgeting with his radio, something that we don’t villanize as we do texting or drunk driving.  

What I’ve come to learn in my research is that there are far too many variables when it comes to driving behavior.  No one product or activity can ever make a driver completely dangerous or completely safe.  I’ve texted while driving in order to stay awake.  I rationalized that an alert but distracted driver is safer than a driver whose eyes aren’t even open.  Drivers who have had a couple drinks are often safer drivers than those who have had no alcohol at all – slightly inebriated drivers are aware of the risk of getting caught and therefore behave better.  

Thus, I’m not going to crusade against any one behavior – texting, drinking, applying makeup, aggressive driving – because none of these are inherently more or less dangerous than any others.  Instead, I’m crusading against the one aspect that puts us in danger at all, and that’s putting human beings behind the wheel.  We are far too comfortable with driving, far too distracted by life, and far too bad at it (statistically, you are worse than you think).  We need smart vehicles to take over, so that we can spend our time doing being distracted.  

Take the human element out of driving, and you remove the human error that puts us in danger every time we get near a roadway.  Until then, the only thing I can think to do is be the best driver I can be, and I hope that Joyce approves from above. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Back to the Future: A Sneak Peek at 2045

There is a big difference between following current trajectories into the future to imagine a dismal fate, and believing that the small efforts today can turn those trends around.  Maybe its the hopeful optimist in me, or maybe its my faith in humanity's ability to prevent foreseeable disasters, but I believe 30 years from today will be an awesome time to live.  There are three areas that I'm most anxious to fast-forward to: technology, health and the economy.

Self-driving cars will be practically mandated; it won't contravene hard law to drive oneself, but it will be rendered completely impractical and economically challenging because insurance rates will skyrocket for non-autonomous vehicles.  A new industry will arise around furnishing and "pimping" your self-driving car, free from the restrictions of forward-facing seats and the tethers of strict safety features.  Cars will morph into lounges of productivity, comfort and service, while zooming along safer roads than ever seen in the history of the car. 

Programming will be taught in schools instead of cursive.  Some will excel at it and become programmers, but most people will know basic computer languages. 

3D printing as a technology will mature into a mass production tool for specific applications, such as wearable technologies, on-the-go sound equipment and hot-off-the-printer food delivery services.  Most middle-class people will have some sort of 3D scanner at home, with many also having a 3D printer for specific housekeeping requirements. 

Speaking of housekeeping, robots will be employed in most homes to do the mundane work - washing and putting away dishes and clothes, taking out the garbage and recycling, vacuuming and cleaning surfaces. 

Wearables will be as pervasive as cellphones are today, and will become more invasive as we get accustomed to the Internet of Things.  These technologies will drive the turnaround of the obesity epidemic, bringing diabetes, asthma, IBS, heart disease, allergies and even cancer to their knees.  Your device will inform you that you are low on a specific nutrient and will select recommendations from your list of favorite foods as well as new dishes to try at local restaurants to satisfy your dietary requirements.  Restaurants will have no choice but to offer tasty, healthful options to win and retain customers.  Your device will also walk you through your grocery store identifying products that you may enjoy based on your tastes and dietary needs, avoiding those that you have a habit of over-indulging on.  Health and weight loss will no longer be a pressing matter, as it will be so effortless to stay healthy that obesity will seem like a frivolous concept, and all the diseases that are correlated with poor dieting will seem foreign. 

The economy will accelerate like never before, primarily because we will have long since done away with partisan politics and replaced the political system with an issues-based and performance-driven model. Flourishing in this economy is as simple as getting paid fairly for what you excel at, enjoy doing or what you are learning.  The increased transparency of skills, qualifications and talent compared to relative salaries in every field will make it nearly impossible to be under- or over-paid.  There will be more part-time and flex-time jobs and the development of hybrid jobs - where you spend part of your time in one function, and the rest of your time on another function - to best make use of the skills and value each person brings to an organization.  With job satisfaction and productivity up, and economic uncertainty diminished, the finance will be a no-brainer.  The work week will be shorter, providing us more time to exercise and participate in activities that keep us healthy. 

These are the things that I see as inevitable, if not a slightly optimistic or accelerated view of 30 years from today.  The future is ours to invent, and if we don't invent it, someone else will.  Deciding what aspect of the future to be a part of making is an ongoing challenge for me, but its the right way to think for any company or individual wanting to be around and see these things come to fruition in 30 years. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Check your judgment at the door

My boyfriend and I love crazy adventures just as much as sitting at home binge watching TV or back-to-back football games. I only partially envy couples who have regular date nights, because I enjoy all my time with my love, even if it doesn't look and feel like a formal date. Nevertheless, I aspired to have a date night at Music in the Gardens this year, so we picked the event and did it. And it was nice, a change of pace for us, enjoying the almost-not-terribly-hot weather after sun down, and getting a taste of a wealthier, more mature lifestyle. Indeed, we were definitely the youngest people there by at least 10 years I'd say. Which brings me to a small rant I must get off my chest.

I thought arriving five minutes prior to the concert start would be sufficient, but actually we were probably in the last 1% to walk through the door. The garden was packed with no open tables in sight. A staff member encouraged us to ask to sit with someone who only was using two of the four seats at their table. So I found two nice looking ladies and politely asked if we could join them at the table. They welcomed us and we chatted a bit - they too were from a Chicago, and yes, I like the White Sox better than the Cubs. After finishing our meals and drinks, I offered to go get another round for Jaiman and myself. I opened my phone case (which doubles as my wallet - and I was not carrying a purse so this should be fairly obvious) to pull out my cash. And then I was smacked with ignorant, uncalled for judgement.

"Oh, I'm so glad you guys aren't texting to each other."

Now hold on there rich bitch. We may be the youngest ones here, but we have done NOTHING to merit being treated like children. I am NOT falling over drunk, that would be the wasted female embodiment of a mid-life crisis behind us. I am NOT inappropriately dressed, that would be the woman who seemed to have borrowed a dress from her granddaughter in junior high school, because I saw her butt cheeks. Twice. I am NOT dancing around like a crazy person, that would be the older lady in a hippie dress with the tiniest of straps holding back her nudity. And we are NOT disturbing those around us by talking loudly, that would be the plastered guy trying to get with the wasted mid life crisis behind us who fell out of her chair earlier. Oh, and just so we're clear, I'm NOT the one who felt an immediate need to take crappy digitally zoomed pictures and vertical videos of the band on my phone the minute I sat down - that was YOU old lady, along with a number of other men and women around us.

So before you go passing judgment on me because I don't have gray hair and I'm not with a guy in beach shorts and a completely unnecessary, ridiculously  wide-brimmed hat (did I mention the sun was down from the start?), look around and put my actions into context with yourself and the rest of your peers. Taking money out of my phone case does not imply I communicate solely via text. Clearly - I mean we just spent 20 minutes engaged in polite small talk.

As for me, I'm glad people got to enjoy live blues in their own unique ways; I fear for our society whenever I hear about music and arts programs being cut. I enjoyed the music, the ambiance, the food and drinks, the cacti, the quiet, the temporary separation from technology, as well as the people watching. Sure I make assumptions about the people I observe, everybody does, it's a shortcut our brains developed through evolution to allow us to make quick fight-or-flight decisions. But I keep them to myself or between me and my companion. And I'm not outright judging so much as creating a fictional persona in my head based on the few clues I've picked up - from what they're wearing, how they hold themselves, from their actions and their words. What you just did, old lady, is called discrimination.

The problem with discrimination is that it is blind. By putting someone in a category by age, race or gender, you are making assumptions about an individual that are not based on observations of that individual.  I believe in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, no matter what color, age, or gender they are.  People have to prove to me that they are awful, I don't expect it or anticipate it.  Guess what?  When you make an ignorant, judgmental, discriminatory comment like that, I have now bucketed you as an ignorant bigot.  You have proven to me that your opinions are of no value because they are not based on fact or observation, but on blind and naive stereotyping.  My respect for you instantly goes from neutral to absolute disrespect.  All you had to do was keep your mouth shut, and we'd be fine, but by uttering just a simple statement, you revealed your idiocy, your lack of respectability (as well as lack of respect and human decency), and your snobbery.  

My favorite part of all this was that the woman who made the comment was playing on her phone much more than my boyfriend and I combined, so not only did I consider her an ignorant ageist, she also proved to be a hypocrite.  Look, I don't expect people to tiptoe around opinions or analyze everything they say before saying it; I just think people should learn that the quick judgments our brains automatically calculate are different than the stereotyping, discriminatory judgments that are completely uncalled for.  And if you choose to believe something discriminatory, for goodness sake, do not verbalize it!  At best, you will lose your listeners' respect, but it could get you in a lot more trouble than that.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Kinda Really Sorta Perfect Day

I love traveling and vacation days as much as the next woman, hell, probably even more.  But there are days that you have to work.  And on days you have to work, I've proven that you can still sorta kinda have a really perfect have-to-work kinda day.  Here's how it went.  

I went to bed the night before early enough that I got a FULL 8 hours of sleep!  Usually if I get 7 hours, I'm thrilled!  

I drank a glass of water before leaving for work.  This starts what I call "The Water Cycle" which, very simply, is a means of getting enough water packed into as early in the day as possible.  Most of us never get enough water throughout the day, and it's a bad idea to drink a ton of water at the end of the day, at least for me, because that means getting up multiple times per night to use the restroom.  So my mantra pertaining to water consumption, while hiking and in general, is "drink early, drink often."  So I guzzle 12 ounces before I leave for work.  This means that before an hour of work is done, I will need to get up to use the restroom.  I bring my cup with me (the one I keep at work is 14 ounces), and refill it on the way to the restroom.  I drink at least a third on the way to the restroom.  On my way back to my desk, I drink another third or so.  In another, say, 40 minutes, I have to use the restroom again, and I bring my cup with me, and so on.  When I do this right, I can drink a gallon of water a day, most of which is before 6 pm, ensuring that I won't disrupt my precious sleep too much.  

I get ready for work, kiss my boyfriend, pet the dog, and I'm off.  I unplug my car and throw the charger in the hatch.  

I work through my German lesson on the way to work.  Each lesson is about 28 minutes, which is just about the average time of my commute.  I usually finish my lesson as I'm pulling into the garage.  Sometimes, on extraordinarily speedy days, I have to sit in my car for a minute to finish the lesson, but usually no more than a minute or two.  Today I was actually repeating a lesson I had done over the weekend, because I felt I needed the extra practice.  It paid off, I did really well this time around!  Excellent!  

I park my car, pull out the charger from the hatch and plug it in.  I grab my three bags: my purse, my gym bag and my food bag, including my breakfast shake, my lunch, a light dinner, a diet soda, four perfectly portioned healthy snacks, and three bags of candy for the suckers who come by my desk in need of chocolate.  

I go up the elevator alone, which is nice because it helps me gather my thoughts.  Sometimes I'm pressured to socialize before I'm ready and I'm still in German-lesson mode or worse, thinking about an audio book I've been listening to that causes me to be completely thrown off by small talk.  I mean, at least the German lessons are essentially small talk, I just have to remember to switch my brain to English.  

I catch the door just before it locks.  When its locked, one must use his or her badge to unlock the door, a small inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, but that somehow is disproportionately glorious when one catches the door before it locks.  

I decide, in the name of getting my 10,000 steps, not to put my food away on my way to my desk.  I greet my colleagues, the few that were around (most people in my row are on vacation or having babies).  I bring everything to my desk first, then sort through things and make a run to the kitchen to put my lunch and dinner away at that time.  

I boot up the computer, turn my two external monitors on, because who doesn't need three monitors.  I scan through my email, answer a few dire ones, and get to work on planning.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays are planning days in my department, meaning we have to do the majority of the tactical parts of our jobs on these two days.  On Mondays I do a lot of prep work, and usually get a head start on some basic planning, which means that because yesterday was a holiday, I'm instantly feeling behind.  

One of my coworkers had made and brought in chips and an amazing green chile dip we affectionately call "crack dip."  I decided to bypass a couple of my healthy snacks in favor of crack dip.  It was sooooo worth it.  Besides, I am not sure I would have eaten enough calories without it.  This, of all things, has been a surprising and disturbing revelation recently for me.  When I thought I was "being good" by eating healthy, low calorie and low carb foods, I actually wasn't eating enough at all.  So instead of losing weight, my body was in a starvation mode I suppose, and conserving all the fat it could.  Talk about the worst scenario!  Here I was depriving myself of delectable food in the name of losing weight, and my weight loss was stagnant or minimal at best.  So frustrating!  Anyways, I've learned my lesson, so now I'm working harder at balancing eating enough and not eating too much.  I can't say I've nailed it completely, but today I ended up just right, which is a good start.  

I plug away at my planning, answering urgent emails as I go.  I didn't get quite everything done, but I got more done than on a typical Monday, and it wouldn't be good if I was expected to complete all of Monday's and Tuesday's tasks in one day anyways.  Throughout the day, The Water Cycle is effective in not only getting me close to my goal of 96 ounces of water, but it also helps me boost my step count.  Because I had the chips and crack dip, I wasn't really hungry when it was time for lunch, so I ate a little late but made sure I ate so I wouldn't be thinking about snacking.  When I realized I was getting frustrated with my work, I cracked open my Diet Pepsi, because for whatever reason, that little bit of a caffeine hit seems to perk up my mood when I'm crabby.  There are lots of days I bypass the soda altogether, because it gets in the way of my water consumption, but I felt it was important today to keep me happy.  

I ended the day with fewer emails than I started with, which is a good thing.  I learned of a few more problems, but dealt with them as best I could for the time.  Still more planning to do tomorrow, so it will still be a crunch, but I felt good about what I accomplished.  

I wrapped up a little later than usual (less than 30 minutes late), grabbed my things and headed to the gym.  I was planning on primarily doing weights, but the ab machine was broken which was terribly disappointing because I freaking love that thing.  So I did four sets on three different machines for arms, and did some legs.  

I felt guilty getting all dressed in workout clothes without really breaking much of a sweat, and my nagging FitBit app indicated that I had yet to hit my goals for steps, miles, calories burned or active minutes.  I hadn't drank all my water for the day, either.  So I filled up my water bottle and got on a treadmill.  Normally my cardio machine of choice at the gym is the bike, but I was thinking that the treadmill would do double duty by giving me my steps, in addition to cardio.  

I only walked, as I was ill-prepared to run.  I didn't even have socks on, and I was wearing my dancing keds, because I had been planning on doing weights only.  Note to self: wear good (running) shoes to the gym always.  The girl next to me started running, after about five minutes of me trying to keep pace with her power walking (ugggh).  I am one of the rare creatures that enjoys a good run, although it's pretty much always outside, and most enjoyable when its not 100 degrees out.  But I've been trying to be good to my knees, and in addition to having bad footwear for running, I also was wearing a fairly loose sports bra.  What I mean is, I need to wear four super restrictive sports bras in order to feel appropriate to run among colleagues (the gym is, after all, in my office building).  So I didn't run.  I jammed to the tunes on my phone via headphones, and passively watched the headlines on the TVs above me.  But it turned out, the shoes were kinda awful for walking, too.  Ten minutes in I was regretting getting on, but you know, you have this sort of gym pressure, everyone knows how long I've been on the machine, and they'll all think I'm stupid if I get off after any less than 30 minutes.  So I put in my time, begrudgingly.  The FitBit app still didn't indicate I had hit any of my goals, but I was over it.  

I listened to my audio book as I headed south in my car.  It is so thoroughly entertaining, and there were some good insights today that I will want to go back to and reference later.  I debated getting a hard copy. and made a mental note to check for one at the library.  That reminded me that I did have another book to pick up at the library, so I decided to head there before going home.  It would give me more steps, anyways.  

Finally, after being home and doing a few small chores, I hit my 10,000 steps, and most of my goals were met, including the water consumption goal which I exceeded by logging a full gallon of water.  

I took a glorious hot shower and put on clean comfies for the night.  

I spent about 40 minutes reading my current book.  

Then, I was so thrilled with how my day has gone, I decided to write this blog.  

So even though I spent 10 hours at work, and even though there were issues and things that could get me down, my shoes weren't suited for the impromptu 30 minute walk on the treadmill, my arms are sore from lifting weights, and my house isn't entirely clean, I'd say it's all about perspective.  I had a kinda sorta really perfect day.  There's only one more goal on my FitBit I have yet to hit - I'm at 4.5 of 5 miles.  So with that, I will sign off so I can do laps around my house until I hit that stupid goal and tire myself out to get another 8 hours of sleep.