Monthly Archives: February 2014

Feb
27
  • Networking Frenzy

    Now that my energy levels have returned to normal post-sickness (no mid-day nap needed), I am ramping up the job hunt like nobody’s business. Seriously. Four info interview requests (mostly to strangers) every week. Plus tech meetups. Followups. Webinars. Occasional ranch work tracking shit down (it’s starting to annoy me)… It’s pretty non stop, but I find it quite energizing. With all this outreach, does this mean I really am an extrovert? I dunno. I do have a way of turning goals into games…

    It’s pretty funny, because on my coaching call last week, I was telling A how I sometimes feel really discouraged and dejected when strangers don’t respond to my requests for info interviews. I would spend all this time scouring LinkedIn for interesting people/companies, then I would research them, and try my best to draft a compelling email. I mean, at its essence, each request is basically a message of: I think you’re really cool. You’re working on amazing things. Do you want to be my friend and meet for coffee? Right? That’s pretty much the gist. So when no one replies, it’s like not being picked to join someone’s team in PE class. You know? I was also telling A that, even though I was reading all this job hunting advice about trying to contact hiring managers directly, I felt a little embarrassed aiming for the higher ups– people with real decision-making power. They might be really busy people, and who am I? Some nobody asking them to spend 30 minutes or an hour of their time? If, for example, I picture John’s face in place of these people, there’s no fucking way! His office is so chaotic and stressful. He doesn’t make time for strangers, right? So I was mostly reaching out to mid-level, non-supervisory people. I mean, they have all been super helpful still in providing information about culture and interview processes and things like that but… they are also less likely to be in a position where they can say, “Hey, this person is cool. We should work together.” Or, “I know someone she could work well with at XYZ company.” After hearing this, my coach reiterated that I indeed have a confidence issue. So, I was advised to write down every single accomplishment that came to mind from high school til now. She insisted that once I looked over my lengthy list, I would realize that I can talk to these people intelligently, and that I do have valuable knowledge and insights to offer.

    So like a total nerd, I started the assignment. And though it’s a work in progress, I came up with only ten accomplishments for each phase: high school, college, grad school. Don’t you love how I break down my life into academic periods rather than say, 20s and 30s or even geographic locations? Needless to say, the list wasn’t helping. Hmph!

    Then last Thursday, I boarded the plane to PHX. And holy shit, the craziest thing happened. I sat next to this guy in the front row. He helped me cram my uke and bag into the overhead bin. He just said a few things to me, but his tone was really friendly. He asked about the uke, and I answered briefly. Then, I posed this scenario to myself as I sat there next to him. I could A) respond as minimally as possible, which is my typical MO, and withdraw to myself, i.e. put on my headphones or B) I could share a bit more than usual and see where the conversation might go. So for the last year, I’ve been essentially studying all these things related to communications: social psychology, social intelligence, leadership, relationships, body language, positive thinking, going beyond the comfort zone for personal growth, blah, blah, right? A ton of “hippy dippy” stuff as John calls it. In that moment, I recalled a few of the info interviews where people admitted that they had actually scored their current jobs serendipitously. So I picked option B. Long story short, we had a lot to talk about from ukulele to music to serving on nonprofit boards to leadership development to communications to startups… Funny thing, he regularly travels to MD, FL, and lives in CA. I grew up in MD, went to grad school in FL, and now live in CA. Kinda weird, right? We chatted the whole time, and he was really engaging. I got his contact info, and then later, when we connected on LinkedIn, I saw that he had over 500 connections. Who does that?!?! We’re going to have lunch next week, and already I’ve joked that I may never need to interview for a job again, if he hooks me up with his LinkedIn connections…

    In other exciting news, I had my first interview in over six years yesterday– a government agency social media job. Of course, I studied up beforehand, and then I set several  intentions to stay calm, to speak more slowly, and to frickin’ calm the fuck down. To my surprise, I actually rocked the interview. Shiit! I mean, in retrospect, there were still some areas where I could have responded better, BUT there were 5 panelists, 8 questions, and only 30 minutes for everything, so given the situation, I was super pleased!! Yay. And today, I found out that they were pretty pleased also: I got called back for round 2 next week! Yeehaw!! The agency definitely seems like a cool place to work: their tech work is pretty adventurous and cutting edge, and there’s a sizable team of social media/digital communications players, which demonstrates some decent buy-in. That said, the position offers NO benefits, and it’s only budgeted for one year with the possibility for renewal…  eh, we’ll see what happens.

    I also scored several bites with my info interview requests to strangers last week!! I know, I’m on a roll!! I think I am fine-tuning my ask to something pretty polished, because my yes rates are high! So I have an info interview tomorrow on Sustainability work at Intuit, a meeting next week with Salesforce Foundation, and a yet unscheduled meeting with a tech consulting firm. The universe is answering me, right?? Pretty exciting!

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Feb
23
  • Curious Questions

    I was out of town for a few days last week. My girlfriend G and I met up in Phoenix to hang out and soak in some rays. Truthfully, the weather here has been pretty warm already, but poor G. It’s frickin’ 40 degrees and rainy in Seattle. Yeah, PHX was soooo nice: I mean, who can resist radiant sunshine and 80-degree weather? Ahhh, I am re-experiencing the awesome heat right now as I visualize the vast, desert landscape full of cacti. Goddamn, that was an great trip!

    Admittedly, the vibe started off a tad neurotic because two days prior, I received an email from my contact at one of the foundations where I applied for a position. He mentioned bumping into the hiring manager briefly at the office, and then he wrote, “It’s probably best to touch base by phone.” So just to give some context: In the last several months, as I’ve been predominantly unemployed, I’ve struggled a bit with some confidence issues. I’m one of those people. Even though I participate in a lot of activities and interests outside of work, my work is ultimately what defines me. And maybe this is because I don’t have kids? I don’t know. Needless to say, I’ve had many bouts in the last several months where I’ve just been overcome by self doubt. So because his message didn’t specifically say, “The hiring manager thought you were awesome in your phone interview,” my mind immediately went down this path of catastrophic thinking. Yes, that’s what my coach calls it. And seriously, it’s bad. Like I started saying things to myself like, “I’ll never work again; no one will ever hire me; I don’t have anything to offer to world; I’m an unskilled person; I’ll never achieve professional success”, blah, blah, blah. Like I said, dra-ma queen. So after I received the email, I immediately started harassing John and G about all the hidden messages to this email. I was trying my best to apply all the tactics my coach had advised to combat catastrophic thinking (pick up the uke; ask if those statement are really supported by past experiences; breathe deeply; tell yourself a positive story to explain the email…), but shit, none of it was working! I was convinced that he was going to deliver bad news and wanted to let me down easy over the phone. Then, I had the call. And he was the coolest mentor ever! He asked me how my phone interview went. I rattled on about how I hit the big highlights, but shoulda/woulda/coulda mentioned some other things. Then he just gave me some advice on how the hiring process typically works for his department. He didn’t know for the department to which I was applying, but at least he shared from his perspective. Also, prior to this call, I had felt that our relationship was really formal. He had only really seen my work when I presented at board meetings and such. Otherwise, we had very limited interactions, but something about the call just made our relationship gel a bit more. I felt really comfortable and honest, and in the end, I was just so grateful for his insight. He said he really wanted the organization to hire good people. And that one statement just did wonders for me. I know, this whole time, John, my coach, and my friends have been reiterating this, but I always dismissed their words because I felt it was biased. They already loved me. How could they say anything NOT supportive? Somehow hearing it from someone a circle  or two out made it more real. I know, sorry to John and my friends. :) I don’t know how to explain it, but it was just that tiny little boost that I needed to feel better again.

    Since then, I still haven’t received news on the job status, but I’ve given myself some distance with it. I still feel like it’s an incredible fit, but I also feel that if somehow the hiring manager doesn’t see it that way, I’ll be ok. There will be other opportunities. Do you see how massive a transformation this is from my previous position? Yes, I have been all over the damn place, right?

    As for the trip itself, it was great. G is doing really well. Time spent with her is always entertaining, especially because she’s super inquisitive. It’s just her style… I think it’s part of her analytical/scientific brain. Anyway, it’s always fun fielding her questions, like “What’s your favorite family vacation?” or “What are the most important things you learned from your parents?” or “If you were to meet John today, do you think you would get together?” Haha, yeah, questions that actually require some thought. I did find it rather interesting that my responses re: family tended to be pretty Debbie Downer. I mean, I’ve come such a long, long way but still. In comparison to G and her overflowing optimism, I basically just remember traumatic, bad experiences. The good ones mostly get stashed away, never to re-surface again. Even in the way I handle memories… I rarely like pictures with me in them. Scenery or objects are ok, but pictures with me or of people actually make me sad. Anyway, I learned some more things about myself from her interrogations.

    We did a lot in our three days: pool time, shopping, a play, the Music Instruments Museum, and the Desert Botanical Garden. Both of the latter were really top-notch attractions. I would even take Bubbey next time! G says she wants to move to AZ. Uh, given the politics, I don’t think that’s a good idea for her, but yeah, maybe an annual vacation destination is more reasonable. Check out our select pics below– again, just a few with people. That said, I sure had a blast jamming on all those instruments in the museum experience gallery. I want a xylophone!!! Full album is on Flickr.

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Feb
16
  • Mental Shifts

    I am feeling so much better these days. Goodness, what a difference a week makes!! Remy is back to walking again (she had gone lame the week prior but she’s doing good now with adjusted meds), and I made several deliberate changes this past week to get my groove back.

    For one thing, I started exercising this week after a 1 1/2-month hiatus. I had read about this phone app (of course) called the 7 Minute Workout, and so I started with that. It sorta aligns with my “impatiently efficient” pace to life. Yes, it is JUST 7 minutes but holy crap, I am super sore, and right now 7 minutes is just about my tolerance for exercising discomfort. Haha. It’s a nice way to kick off my mornings, and I’m convinced it’s helped bring back my energy. We’ll see. I’m hoping for visible results soon. Like yesterday. Or tomorrow. John was making fun of me a few days ago asking “You are wanting to see results after just 35 cumulative minutes of exercise???” I know, I really need to work on my patience!!

    My work with my personal coach is going really well. I have been consciously diverting myself as soon as I notice my mind going south… my uke offers an instant shot of joy. Or I’ll take the dogs for a walk in the park. The weather has been warm and sunny again so that helps.

    Along similar lines, I had an epiphany last week regrading Remy. Her health has been really up and down this last year, and it’s taken a real toll. Whenever she was having problems, I would overwhelm myself with sad/depressing thoughts about putting her down… and I would have trouble sleeping. I realized that all those times, she never actually died, and yet I was already crossing that bridge before I really needed to!!! So for her, I’m shifting my focus from the doom of death to just appreciating the present moment. What a blessing it is that I have the time off now to spend with her, to care for her, and I want to celebrate each additional day she gives me. I’ll deal with her passing when it comes. So just these few mental shifts have made a huge difference. I’m still so amazed: mind over body is real!!

    Last Friday, we saw Jake Shimabukuro in Santa Cruz. He was so amazing. I mean, so vibrant and energetic and happy and of course, ridiculously skilled. We scored 3rd row center seats, so he was just 20′ away. Eeekk! What a magical experience. He was so humble and down-to-earth too: I felt like he could be my real-life buddy!

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Feb
10
  • My Mood According to Remy

    John was telling me the other day that my mood is totally dependent on Remy’s situation. When she struggles, I don’t sleep well and the worry makes me tired. When Remy has a good day, I suddenly feel happier and more energetic. I guess it’s a fairly accurate observation. This morning, I had my phone interview for one of the foundations, and afterwards, I was kinda bummed. I just felt like I’d  left out one of my talking points, and then I didn’t sound particularly articulate. Ugh. I was starting to feel like I had messed up my ONE chance at success (I told you I can be a drama queen). Argh! Despair. But then I thought back to what my coach and I had discussed last week: don’t let the mind spiral downwards. Change the subject.

    So I decided to take the pups outside.  And Remy gave me a pleasant surprise. For the last week, her back end has been caving in so severely that she can only manage to pee and eat. All other times, she has to lie down. It’s been a long while since we’ve made it to the park even. But today, she wanted to try. In the front yard, she started moseying towards the park. When we got there, she needed to rest a bit, but then she made it back!! I had a scarf to give her a boost every now and then, but wow, she looks good today! And immediately, I DID feel better. I just have to tell myself that if I don’t make it to the next round for the job, there is still something else out there for me. Someone will see what I have to offer…

    I’m feeling tired again. I’ve been feeling a bit too lazy to make myself lunch or to go out and get something. I slept on my neck wrong two nights ago, so my head-neck motion is really stilted.

    On a happier note, I found some new songs to play on the uke. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Scar Tissue involves too much finger picking, and I found some tabs for Just like Heaven and Linger that just require strumming. They actually sound like the song when I play!! Tonight, I’m going to downtown MV for a uke jam at one of the coffee houses. I’ve only been one other time, and it was really folksy and cheesy, but who cares. It’s something fun that’ll get me out of the house.

    What else is on tap this week? My Coursera class; a storytelling networking event in SF tomorrow night; my coaching call; yoga on Wednesday night; lunch with a friend on Thursday; then Jake S. concert on Friday!! Yay.

    Btw, I decided to take a break from riding for a bit. I’ve just been feeling so tired still. And the dreary weather just isn’t helping. So now I will have more time on Sunday for other things.

     

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Feb
6
  • Feeling Better

    Well, since my last “woe is me” post, a lot has happened to help me climb out of my new year’s pit. First, we got some rain in the Bay Area, which is much needed. Second, Bubbey recovered from his sickness, and third, I had my Dumpling Happy Hour (CNY Do-Over) on Tuesday night. The group was much smaller than what was anticipated for the original bash, but the party was still a success! My bud even took this artsy pic of my dumplings, hand crafted with love!

    I had my first call with my career coach. She helped me realize that I was doing a lot of catastrophic thinking these days, particularly with regard to my job hunt. I was feeling all lame like no one saw anything I had to offer, and at the end of her questioning, I came to see that yes, I’ve only seriously started applying for jobs that I want (communications officer spots in the social good sector) since the start of January. And I WAS sick for 3+ weeks, so… All in all, I had only submitted FIVE applications. Yet all along, as I was conducting all these info interviews, somehow I had convinced myself that those people should have been so impressed by me that they should have wanted to work with me… I know, even though the info interview was always really couched as an opportunity for me to just learn more about their work and their jobs. Confidence issues. I had turned it into this entire thing about me not being compelling enough…

    So thankfully, my coach set me straight by pointing out the ridiculousness of my logic. In fact, I even felt a little embarrassed afterwards. Just goes to show you how even a generally level-headed, logical person can get herself twisted into these spiraling predicaments. John is especially thankful that I am working with A, because in many ways, she reiterates what he’s been telling me the whole time, but you know, sometimes you just have to hear it from the outside. He’s feeling redeemed. :)

    I had a really good info interview on Monday with a woman who had done over 70 info interviews over a period of five years. Yes, five years ago, she started a new job and within a few months of starting, she knew it was the wrong fit. So for the next five years, she did all this self work and exploration and finally, she landed somewhere good. Now she works for a social good/philanthropy consulting firm. I was encouraged to hear her story– to see her perseverance. Later that day, I also received an email from a guy who used to work at my former place. He was a super duper rockstar, and he emailed me that his new place of employment (up in Sonoma) was hiring a communications person, and he thought I’d be great for the job. His message just really made my day. I don’t have my horse just yet, so we don’t have plans to move up to Sonoma until then, but goddamn, I felt really touched that he liked this idea of us working together again. :)

    So my assignments for the week are to continue info interviews and job apps (maybe even consider writing “pain letters” instead of cover letters) and then to work on some coping strategies: daily meditation, a bit of cognitive behavioral therapy to combat negative thoughts, and more uke.

    Yesterday, I got some great news also. I got a call for a phone interview with one of the foundations next Monday!! Yeehaw!! So I have a few days to prep and obsess. I know, don’t put all my eggs in one basket, but hey, I’m thrilled to get a bite.

    In other news, Remy’s still not doing so great. This morning she had another episode. They are so strange: always in the morning, always right after she starts eating. She’ll suddenly stop eating, stumble down the hall into the bedroom, lie down, start panting, and then the wailing begins. Just 10 seconds and then it’s over. I don’t know what the hell is going on. I’ve described it to the vet a bunch of times, and it’s still just not clear whether it’s a seizure or what. Could be cancer, could be pain from arthritis, could be neurological degeneration. Today, her body was actually tense rather than limp like usual. Her front paw was totally extended and stressed, and in the process, she squeezed out a few dumplings. My poor baby. But then after she sleeps a bit, she’s back to walking around every now and then searching for snacks.

    I spoke with the vet two days ago, and this guy is just a total realist. He was like that two years ago when he first saw Remy for her doggie vertigo (which now they actually call a stroke). He just uses blunt language that you know, reminds me that the end is near. He told me she’s basically in palliative care now, so we can tweak the meds to try and make her more comfortable, but she’ll never be back to where she was… the body is degenerating. The thing is, I’ve known this for a long time, and yet, I don’t know: it’s like I fool myself into thinking otherwise. I just don’t know how I’m going to let her go. I know she’s lived a good, long life, but she’s still so soft and her eyes still watch me when I move about the room… Ugh. The doctor said when his dog got really old, the same thing happened: the back end just couldn’t move. The front end was still lucid, but she was a dog that loved to run and go outside. Then she started peeing and pooping on herself, and he could just see that she was no longer happy. I have to remember that, and everyday I have to ask myself if she’s still happy.

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Feb
2
  • Shitty New Year

    I’m not gonna beat around the bush. The last few days, I have been feeling really sorry for myself.  You see, last Friday was just a shit day. I had two info interviews that I was really stoked about, and they both got postponed last minute. Both people were really nice about it, and shit just came up so not a huge deal, but I dunno. I guess I was excited about potentially making some new friends. Then Bubbey was still sick on Friday. Thank goodness he actually took the day off to rest. In the afternoon, I had a lovely lunch with my career coach but afterwards, I felt a bit overwhelmed. Like, I’m 37, and I still don’t have my shit figured out. It’s a month into the new year, and I’ve made zero progress… Argh!!! I know, some of it is just negative thoughts, arguably without basis, but I’m just telling you where I’m headed with this. After my lunch, I got home, and I received a contract for the ranch. For months, this organization had said they wanted to book FOUR weeks of summer camps. Now suddenly the contract said TWO. I was really upset. I called to see what the hell had gone wrong. He explained that it had nothing to do with us, but they were noticing drops in their registrations for other spring activities, so they wanted to play it safe. Ugh, seriously?

    By evening on Friday, I had to cancel my annual Chinese New Year party. CNY was supposed to be my New Year do-over since I was so fucking sick all of January. But Bubbey just was not getting better, so my long anticipated dumpling party got canceled. I don’t blame Bubbey; of course, it sucks to be sick, and he wasn’t deliberately trying to thwart my party. But I dunno. I was just so frustrated after being sick for so long and not seeing people, not talking to people, and this was something I was really looking forward to. I had gone to the store and gotten all the cheesy, gold/red decorations, planned out the menu, prepped some dishes in advance… Wah, wah. I know, not the end of the world. I still made all the dumplings, and they turned out great (and consistent in appearance at least). I’ll still get to have my party– just a toned-down happy hour version of it sans karaoke and mahjong. For some reason, I just couldn’t let go of the disappointment.

    As I wallowed in my self-pity, I thought about that Charity:Water speech I’d watched earlier in the week. The one about the founder and his story of transformation. I thought about how fucking blessed my life is. I’m being a crybaby about being sick, about not having my silly party. And in other parts of the world, women are walking six hours a day to fetch dirty water. Children are dying from diarrhea. I’m so goddamned ridiculous in my privilege.  I started to think about bringing the positivity back. It’s often a challenge for me, but I’m determined.

    I also thought about the state drought, and how I need to use less water. I’m cutting my showers back. I’m trying to turn off while I lather up. In the kitchen, when I use water to rinse veggies and dishes, I’m collecting the gray water in jugs to water the plants in the yard. Yes, all just tweaks I’ve made recently, but I feel like these are good practices to adopt once the drought is over (if ever). They remind me of my grandmother who saves and reuses every single little thing, but you know what? There’s no reason to be irresponsible and oblivious just because I can afford to be wasteful, right? Maybe this is really just some fucked up attempt to control something small because everything else feels uncontrollable. I dunno. My mind works in weird ways.

    The good news is, we had our first long rain last night. I heard the drops pounding on the roof late in the evening and early in the morning. The bad news is, around 7a, Remy got up and stumbled down the hallway. I opened the side door to let her out. She looked a bit disoriented. When she came back inside, she stumbled to the living room and collapsed. Then, the heavy panting started, and the episode began again. I tried to hug her tightly, but her body went limp and she started wailing. I tried to massage her body, but she was totally out of it. John heard her wailing and came out to the living room. By then, the episode ended. Maybe fifteen seconds or so? I dunno. Afterwards, I realized that again, I hadn’t videoed a damn thing. She was so tired. Her paws were warm to the touch. Why does this keep happening? So I just searched YouTube, and this is kinda similar to what happens with Remy.

    I am trying to think of patterns. Two or three times now, this has happened in the very early morning, soon after she awoke and got up to move around. I’m wondering now if maybe it has something to do with the dog bed. The last two times, she was sleeping in the bed vs. on the floor. Maybe the bed is too confining? Maybe something about the cushioning puts pressure on her spine? I have no idea. How to solve this damn mystery without having her suffer through another visit to the vet where they never find anything anyway? Argh. I’m so frustrated with this. Jesus Christ. Seriously, how do parents of special needs children have the patience and fortitude to keep going? I’m so tired, and Remy is just my dog!! Luckily, she seemed fine the rest of the day. We didn’t make it to the park, but she definitely searched around for snacks and Super Bowl Sunday treats in the afternoon. It just is what it is. Remy does seem to be sleeping more soundly at night, which means I am sleeping a bit better. I still get up twice a night but I’m able to get back to sleep. For now, I’m trying to pop a lot of vitamins, fish oil, and zinc supplements so that I don’t get run down again and get sick. Who knows if those will even help.

    In other news, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. WTF. My coach is right: all people have their demons. Sadly, too many times love just isn’t enough to save people from themselves. What a damn shame. Life is too damn short. I need to quit stressing about everything. God, just chill the fuck out. Maybe I’ll get a massage tomorrow. I kinda think I need it. :)

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