Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where Would I Be Without Yahoo!?

Tomorrow is my last day at work, which means I've been spending lots of time reflecting on the past 6 1/2 years. When I came on as a freelance copywriter at Yahoo! in April 2004, my intention was to stay through my 3-month contract and then bounce on to something else. But 3 months turned into 6 and then 7 and when my boss offered me a full-time position, I couldn't resist. I had drunk the purple Kool-Aid and wanted to be a part of one of the Web's most beloved teams of underdogs.

Flash forward to the beginning of this year when my department got ravaged again by another layoff, and I was beginning to feel like it might be time for me to move on and drink Kool-Aid elsewhere. Changes and uncertainty and decisions I didn't always agree with had colored my opinion. But it wasn't lost on me that without this job, I would not be where I am in my life right now.

You see, working here enabled me to pay for trips to 10 European countries, it allowed me to realize my long-held dream of living abroad for a bit, it taught me more than I ever wanted to know about search engine marketing, it helped me buy a house last year, it connected me with dozens of really cool people, and most importantly, it's the reason I met Mr. Wonderful.

Yup, Yahoo! gets credit for my marriage.

It was the fall of 2007 and I'd been out to dinner with a friend and had a smidge too much wine. When I came home, I wandered onto Yahoo! Personals...just to see what the inventory was looking like. I had no intention of signing up. In fact, I'd sworn off online dating after my previous relationship. But when I saw a hot coworker on there, I decided to create an account and send him a message. (Remember, I was in a wine haze. I'm fully aware of the don't sh*t where you eat rule). I innocently asked him if he worked in the Yahoo! Burbank building and didn't say much beyond that, because I didn't want him to think I was a stalker.

He never wrote back.

And yes, it was embarrassing to wonder if he recognized me when I saw him in the hall now and then.

But the next day, I got a message from another hot little number from Hollywood. And now, 4 years later, we're happily locked in wed.

I got choked up this morning when I was driving to the office. As much as I'm ready for the change, it's sad to say goodbye.

So one last thank you to Yahoo! for helping make my life what it is. Dear company, you will be missed.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Compassion Ain't My Fashion...Or Is It?

Back in college when I worked as a coffeehouse manager, I believe I was known in some circles as a hard ass. If you had a headache during your shift, it was only going to annoy me. If a late night made you even more tired for the morning rush, I would tell you to pull it together. And if the blender spewed smoothie all over your shirt, I would likely laugh.

That last scenario was one that first made me aware of my cold, cold heart. We had a line out the door and my sweet, sensitive coworker was visibly frantic over the sight of all the people. In his frenzied state, he went to make a smoothie, forgot to put the lid on the blender, and was quickly doused in a wave of pink goo. As I laughed, he ran back into the kitchen and burst into tears. And all I could think was, you've got to be kidding me. 

I tried to be nice, but all I wanted to do was smack him in the arm and yell, "Get Over It! It's just strawberry yogurt! No one is going to die you big baby!"

Given that irritation has been my reaction to a lot of people's misfortune over the years, I was surprised when Mr. Wonderful used "compassionate" to describe me. We were flying home from visiting his family in St. Louis, and I duped him into telling me what he thought my top 3 strengths were so I could complete an exercise I was reading about in O Magazine.

He said that I'm compassionate because I worry about other people's well-being and cry all the time when I'm watching sad TV shows and movies. I had never thought about that being a sign of sympathy, but I guess he's right.

A few days later, I was engrossed in Oprah's new LifeClass webcast, and someone (maybe Iyanla Vanzant?) said something that struck a chord in me as the key to being a compassionate person. She was talking about one of the troubled viewers and she said, "Everyone just wants to know that they matter."

It was like someone had given me a magic pill that suddenly caused all human interaction to make sense.

The whiny barista with menstrual cramps just wanted to know someone heard she was in pain. The relative who called then sent two emails because I didn't respond fast enough just wanted to know I hadn't forgotten about them. The guy with strawberry smoothie all over his shirt probably just wanted to be told he didn't look like a fool in front of all those people. They all just wanted to know they mattered.

We all just want to know we matter to someone, don't we?

I feel like I've learned a new mantra to apply when someone is bugging me. It makes me want to put a hand on their shoulder, tell them I see them and that it's going to be okay.

So maybe Mr. W wasn't so wrong in his assessment. Maybe there's hope for my fractured sympathy bone after all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Checking My Pulse

That beautiful covered pathway above is one of the streets that Mr. W and I walked along in Positano during our Italian honeymoon in May. Because neither of us had ever been there, everything we saw was a surprise. A delight. 

This is one of the things I love most about traveling. 

You can wander around, not really knowing where you're going, and experience something novel at every turn. Much different from trekking through familiar territory. 

Today I read a journal entry I wrote in July where I lamented the fact that I was feeling stagnant at work. I wrote about how I thought I should be appreciating the comfort of my cushy, stable job. And then I wrote about how I thought the problem was that discomfort made me feel more alive. 

Thus, the love of traveling to unfamiliar places. 

Now, I'm not talking major discomfort here. I don't need to be dropped in a jungle somewhere and contract a case of malaria to feel a sense of adventure. I just need some space for not knowing. A glimmer of possibility that my routine could get changed up or that I might stumble upon something totally unexpected and wonderful. Like a new office and time to work on my own writing projects...

When I wrote that entry in the summer, I was feeling really stuck. I didn't think it was "right" to walk away from a top company. I didn't want to abandon my coworkers or my boss when they've taken such good care of me these last 6.5 years. But I did want to feel alive. 

Funny how the Universe hears us when we put these things out to it. 

6 more days in the office. And then the adventure begins.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Knowing When to Hang on and When to Let Go (of Guilt and Friendships)

When I started this blog, it was supposed to be all about life with the delightful man who married me. I'm finding, though, that because of my natural instinct to write my way through conundrums, I can't help but want to use it as my own personal sounding board—just like I did with my old blog.

If you have a problem with that, you'll just have to blame Oprah.

See, last week she started this Lifeclass series on her network and website. And being an O devotee, I've been watching. Riveted.

Today at lunch, I watched a webcast all about the lies and secrets we keep. It was co-hosted by Life Coach Martha Beck, who I adore, and darn it if she didn't have me wanting to barf out my secrets as a way of moving through them.

So, here I am. Proclaiming my guilt to the Internet over a friend who I partly want to let go of, partly want to rescue, partly want to punch.

This old dear friend has made a lot of self-destructive choices and although we don't have a lot more than a surface relationship these days, I've been trying to reach out and be helpful to her for a couple of years. I've tried being sympathetic. I've tried tough love. I've tried to build her self esteem in case she was feeling so bad about herself, she didn't know she could pick up her life out of the gutter. I've tried to learn who she is now, in case the key is seeing things from a different vantage point.

But I've hit a point where I feel done. And I'm feeling guilty about it.

There's my secret. I don't want to pretend to have a real relationship anymore when really, it's just fake Facebook messages and pretend email exchanges. It is not a friendship of substance, and despite various attempts, has not been for a long time.

So I've chosen to just put it away in a drawer in my head. Because I feel guilty about abandoning this person. Even though I don't feel like she has really been there for me. Even though I don't feel like I would even know who I was supporting because she's spun so tightly in a web of lies. I feel like it's my duty to hang in the shadows just in case I can somehow help. Just in case she morphs back into the person I used to know and calls out for me.

Oprah and her spiritual pals have me trying to unravel what this means. Am I lying to myself about being done with the friendship? Am I lying to myself when I think there's even the faintest glimmer of it ever being the friendship it once was? Is it wrong to either tell myself this is NOT my responsibility—or that it IS my problem to help my friend?

I'm trying to find some truth here and I guess I felt like I should summon the great Interwebs to weigh in and help me find the clarity through the muck.

Anyone else been in a situation like this and have some wisdom to share?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Match for the Mad Scientist

Last week, a cold front moved through Southern California and I decided to break out a sweater I hadn't worn in probably 8 months. It was rumpled in my closet and rather than iron it, I asked Mr. Wonderful if I could use his steamer.

As I went to plug it in, he said, "I'll do it." So I held the sweater while he ran the trusty steam gun over it.

"When did you wear this last?" he asked.

"Winter. Why?"

"It smells... Like old lady washcloth face."

Now for those of you who missed this post on my old blog, Old Lady Washcloth Face is the name my sweet, sweet husband has given to the scent that apparently disrupts my normal rosy facial smell if my washcloth has been used too many times.

I like to tell him he's very high functioning for being Autistic.

Anyway, I thought after divulging Mr. W's mad scientist behavior it was only fair that Old Lady Washcloth Face come clean about her other dirty little secret. A voluntary quid pro quo of sorts.

You see, O.L.W.F. is a craft hoarder:

 I like to keep lots of wrapping paper supplies and boxes handy
because you never know when you might need something.
Yes, I'm the girl who folds up and reuses every scrap of tissue.

 This is just a pile of some stuff that's featured in my Etsy store.
Some of it was made from boxes and other containers I hoarded...

Look at all that felt and paint and craftery. Oh and a little bag of cat treats.
Isn't that a fitting find for O.L.W.F.?

Paper is probably my biggest downfall. If I think I might use it again
as a gift tag or something, it goes into the Craft Cabinet of Mystery.

When I think about the Mad Scientist and Old Lady Washcloth Face growing old together, I imagine piles of cardstock gathering dust in corners next to strangely grafted fruit trees and bottles of moldy starter dough. I'll have strands of glue gun string permanently tangled in my hair and he'll have spreadsheets charting the growth of all his shot glass roots and bulbs.

Clearly, we're a match made in heaven.

Monday, October 10, 2011

He Blinded Me with Science

When I was in high school, I had a string of eccentric science teachers.

My Biology teacher used to do this odd thing where he would stick his tongue out between certain words during his lectures. He got fired a few years after I had him because a student walked into his classroom during lunch and found him standing on a lab table, peeing into a sink. My Chemistry teacher was kind of a wacky super-nerd with these eyebrows that spiked out in all different directions like they'd been hit by an experiment gone wrong. And my AP Physiology teacher, bless his heart, was a gay biker with a handlebar mustache. I loved that man. I did think it was weird that he loved Miss Piggy and had a collection of her memorabilia at his desk, though.

Given my experience with mad scientist characters, you might think I would be alarmed to discover that I'm living with one...

Exhibit A: A little experiment in our kitchen windowsill. A hunk of ginger he's trying to sprout in a shot glass.

Exhibit B: The kitchen now houses a collection of jars that are growing different kids of yeast or pizza dough or something. I don't know exactly... And I don't ask.

Exhibit C: The mini lemon orchard Mr. Wonderful has cultivated by sprouting seeds from our honeymoon in Amalfi.

Exhibit D: The wine-making kit that arrived in the mail last week. I can picture him now, wearing a Pinot-stained lab coat, laughing maniacally as he does barrel tastings...

Okay, who am I kidding? I love that Mr. W is a crazy mad scientist. He gives me reasons to blog. I just hope I don't come home one day to find him standing on the kitchen counter, peeing into our sink.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Authenticity

Mr. Wonderful and I often joke with each other about how we better never expect one another to change because we've both been the same people we are right now for as long as we can remember. We're set in our ways. Defined in our personas. Consistent in our behavior. Thankfully, we both like each other's unwavering personalities.

Although I wouldn't call myself averse to change, I don't often seek it out. I like familiarity and comfort. I like knowing my way around—places and people. Some of my closest girlfriends have been in my life since kindergarten. I've lived in the vicinity of my childhood home almost my entire life. I still love Grease as much as I did when I was 4.

I do not understand people who can swing back and forth like unstable pendulums. I have a very hard time when I don't know whether someone is being authentic or a chameleon. It just doesn't compute with me. And frankly, I think people like that are doing themselves a great disservice. Because in one or another (or yet another) dimension of their lives, they are not being who they really are.

Several years ago, after our break up, one of my ex-boyfriends began actively attending church—something he never did when we were together. At one point, we were having a conversation and he told me he believed that if you didn't accept Jesus as your personal savior, you were going to hell.

My brain scrambled.

Not just because that notion seemed ludicrous and there was no way the God I believe in would ever punish a good person simply because they'd never had exposure to Christianity, but because my ex-boyfriend suddenly looked like a stranger to me. He was not the person I once knew.

And once you show me that you're a complete departure from the person I thought you were, it's really hard for me to want to maintain a relationship with you. I want the person I signed up for in the first place. Not the swinging pendulum.

This may make me seem short-sighted, close-minded and judgmental. But at least I know it about myself. At least I'm consistent. At least I'm authentic. And at least the people in my life know they can count on me to continue holding them to the same standards I have since I met them.

There are no chameleon scales underneath this skin.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Ides of March-On-Over-Here-and-Take-Off-Your-Shirt

When I was shopping for my wedding gown last summer, George Clooney was the last person I expected to see in the women's bathroom at the bridal salon. But there he was, staring at me as I took a seat on the toilet. The salon owner had his picture in a frame with a caption under it that said, "I'd marry you." Needless to say, I loved it.

As Carrie Bradshaw once declared on Sex and the City, "Clooney is like a Chanel suit. He'll never go out of style."

His name alone could pretty much become a new adjective. "Your designer glasses are so Clooney." "My Cabernet has sort of a Clooney mouthfeel." Clooney. Clooney. Say it out loud. It echoes in your underwear, doesn't it?

Where am I going with all this George jabber, you're wondering? Well, last week Mr. W sent me an IM asking if I wanted to go to a screening of The Ides of March Saturday night. I quickly replied that I'd love to. Then I reread his message more carefully... It was a screening wherein George Clooney and two other producers would host a Q&A session afterward.

I fell off my stand-up desk chair.

I might have put on a little more eye makeup last night before we left for the screening. Not that I thought George was going to zero in on my face out of the 300-person audience. It just felt like the right thing to do...

I'm happy to report that he was everything I hoped him to be. Laid-back and charming and hilarious. As Producer Grant Heslov was explaining a situation they had to handle delicately during the making of the movie, George gave his signature grin and added "like a proctologist." The audience completely erupted; the women's giggles clearly drowning out the men's. When the first audience question came in, George joked, "For those of you who couldn't hear her question, she said that I look a lot younger in person." Delighted laughter all the way around. And of course we all ate up his innuendos about working with actors' available time slots, and how slot size was important. Pervy humor. Right up my alley.

The gravely voice, the snappy wit, the foxy silver hair. The biceps under the tight t-shirt. It was all just as I had imagined. The man should pretty much just change his last name to Swooney.

Mr. Wonderful was a terrific sport through the whole thing. He said Clooney is known as being such a good guy in the industry, it's hard not to like him.

He didn't even get mad when I called him George after I kissed him goodnight.