Monthly Archives: March 2014

  • Strength and Fragility

    Shiit, no sooner after I completed my last post did I face yet another unexpected turnaround. Remy had a second episode tonight at 9:30pm. I happened to be on the phone with Bubbey: she came into the office and abruptly left. The behavior was a bit odd, so I followed her down the hallway and into the bedroom. She settled awkwardly and uncomfortably into her usual spot on my plush, pink bathrobe, and then seconds later, she was on her side wailing again. I immediately got off the phone and started videoing the occurrence. After seeing this happen like ten times, I finally have the smarts to capture as much as I can on video for the vet.

    Remy’s never had this happen in such close intervals. Wth?? John called back, and I just started crying. Goddammit, why is this happening? I thought I was ok with the generic explanation that this is just what happens with old age, but that’s not enough! What has changed in her day-to-day? Why now, after a month and a half-long respite? Ugh!!!

    I can’t sleep now. Tonight, I lie awake wondering whether I still believe that quote, “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” Really?? Is it better? If this pain now is any indication of the pain that will ultimately come, I… I don’t know what I’ll do. I used to think that as people and animals age, it’ll be easier to let them go, because they’ll have lived a full life. But tonight, I’m wondering if it’ll actually be harder because after all the years, the bond is fucking strong. Even focusing on the good life and the treasured history, the loss will hurt a ton.

    No, I’m not going down that path of catastrophic thinking right now… I know Remy is still kicking, and I am grateful for yet another day. But I won’t deny the little bit of foreshadowing here. Hours ago, I felt strong and ready. Now, a bit less so. Yes, tomorrow is a new opportunity to tweak some things. I hope Remy will feel better.

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  • The Shifting Remy Paradigm

    I’m always fascinated by how quickly a paradigm can shift when you talk to people about dogs. Having lived with my beloved R & M for the last 16+ years, I often catch myself assuming that everyone is a dog owner. I suspect that people with kids adopt a similar approach: their children become such an integral, ubiquitous part of their lives that they forget not EVERYONE has that same life experience.

    Several months ago, I was walking the dogs at the neighborhood park. Mind you, Remy and Martin are about a different as two dogs can look. One is a shepherd/shiba mix with caramel/black coloring and a dense, fluffy coat and pointed ears. The other is a lab/pointer mix with short, dark chocolate brown fur and floppy ears. I remember these two adults approached and asked me if the dogs were related. Uh, no. They are no related AT ALL. Duh! Afterwards, on the walk home, I just chuckled to myself: boy, those people really know nothing about dogs! Haha. But it was a good reminder I think to just realize the flaw in my assumptions.

    Several weeks ago, I was walking with R & M at the park again. Remy was walking in her usual, somewhat belabored manner. To me, because she’s walking, I am amazed by how well she’s doing. But to strangers who look at the fluidity and speed of other dogs running around at the park, there is something wrong with Remy. They always have this serious look of concern on their faces. Sometimes, they will even feel compelled to ask, “What’s wrong with your dog? Is she ok?” I can sense that they are partly wondering, “Who is this chick, walking so far ahead to the park, playing on her phone, while her dog clearly looks uncomfortable and is struggling?” (I walk several yards behind Martin, because he’s eager to get there, and several yards ahead of Remy because I don’t want to rush her so she just moves at her own pace). I feel like inside they are judging me as a dog owner. Then I explain that Remy is 16-years old: she has arthritis but the vet tells me to keep exercising her so her muscles don’t atrophy. Immediately, their demeanor changes and their paradigm shifts. I propel from being a sub-par, negligent dog owner to a frickin’ hero. “Wow, you have taken such good care of her for her to live to such an age!” Isn’t that funny how people’s judgement can swing so quickly from one extreme to another with one explanatory statement? I think it’s so interesting, and it reminds me of Steven Covey’s book on the habits of effective people. If I’m recalling accurately, he tells about a time when he’s riding a public bus. There’s a father riding the bus with his two pre-schooler kids. The kids are bouncing off the walls, completely out of control, and the father just sits there in a stupor. People start giving him irritated looks like, “Wtf? Control your goddamn kids.” Then someone asks him if those are his kids. He replies that yes, they are. Their mother just died at the hospital. And immediately, the tone shifts from one of contempt to sympathy. I guess in both cases, I am reminded to give people the benefit of the doubt. Really, you don’t know the story until you ask.

    This evening, Remy had another episode- the third one in a week. Before when this happened, I used to panic and then shake and cry. Now, I know that the moment only lasts a minute, and then it’s over. Later in the day, she’ll be back to her old, curious, snack-seeking self. Sure, I wish I had definitive answers as to why and what was causing all of this. I write notes in my calendar to try and observe patterns. For some reason, I feel less stressed by all the unknowns. Maybe I’m becoming comfortable with uncertainty. I mean, I still look things up, and tonight I searched for “syncope after meals.” Interestingly, with people, sometimes syncope occurs due to sudden drop in blood pressure or change in heart rate. It can be postprandial hypotension where syncope occurs after a meal when blood floods to the intestine for digestion, or it might be postural hypotension (which occurs with old people), where prolonged standing causes changes in blood pressure that the body has trouble managing. I really don’t know. Remy does stand when she eats from her bowl. I elevate her bowl because it’s supposedly better for her neck, plus I thought it was good to strengthen her hind legs, but I dunno. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to try two things: feed Remy smaller, more frequent meals  and maybe have her move around the house to get it so she isn’t just standing still (vs. walking). I suspect the blood pressure is different standing vs. walking?? We’ll see what happens.

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  • Pushing Through

    Wow, really? Two weeks since my last post? Hmm. Well, a few days after I last wrote, I spoke with my dad again. I know, sometimes I’m a glutton for punishment, right? No, actually he had called to update me on the broken water heater for his DC condo. He had been gathering quotes for a new unit, and two of three came back around $1200. Then, he called a third plumber (recommended by a real estate friend), and that guy quoted $600. Yup, mondo difference. What’s the lesson? Ugh, I dunno: I mean, is there really a “range” for home improvement and construction projects? Seriously, my friends in Seattle are gathering quotes for a kitchen remodel. The range on that shit is like $10k to infinity. I mean, I get that appliances and materials can vary greatly with quality, brands, consumer/professional grade, etc. But STILL. An unbounded upper end?? Totally crazy and yet completely true. So yeah, dad called to brag about his cheapie bargain.

    Afterwards, he kept asking how I was doing. “No really, how are you doing mentally and physically?” Ugh, why do you keep asking me? I’m fine: I’m doing my job hunting still! And every time I talk with you or mom, you stress me the fuck out! I’ve been reading all about the process: clarifying my values, my skills, my targets; I’m working with a coach; I’m networking, doing info interviews, putting myself out there: this is a full-court press… But you keep making me feel like I shouldn’t be so selective, that I should never have left my job in the first place, that I’m desperate for money, and I should therefore take ANYTHING! I have explained to you my situation: John and I are on the same page, and yet every time I speak to you, you just don’t get it.”

    And I feel so much worse after I talk to my parents. So then, dad explained that he and mom have different life experiences that cause them to have a different perspective. But they trust that I know my situation best, and I will make the best decision for me. In the future, if they say something that doesn’t jive with me, I should just ignore it. Riight. I suppose that’s been the advice everyone else has given me: can’t I just listen and then let it go? Apparently, I can’t. I feel judged and doubted, and it throws me into a tizzy. I don’t know why I can’t just let it roll off my back. Maybe I have my own doubts, so when they question everything, all that internal strife just stirs the muck again. I dunno. John said he was glad that I talked to my dad about it. He said I even spoke in a calm way (ha!!). Of course, I haven’t talked to them since. I’m not angry at them. I just have nothing more to say. Shrug.

    Meanwhile, I’m still working with A, my coach. Last week, I was supposed to write a Pain Letter, in the style of Liz Ryan, my latest idol. She’s this super sassy HR professional who started a company and column called The Human Workplace. I’m obsessed with her approach. That said, I just couldn’t get myself to draft the Pain Letter last week. I suppose partly, I was feeling like I needed some additional credentials under my belt before I pitched myself to my target (a tech consulting firm)… so this week, I’ve been taking a ton of webinars on philanthropy, grantseeking, grant writing, proposal budgeting, and the like. My goal is to draft the pain letter this week. We’ll see what happens. I’ve been feeling a little stuck these last few days.

    On a positive note, I sent out three more info interview requests. So far, I heard back from one: she’s a grant writer for, one of my fav long-time charities. We’re going to chat in April. I also circled back with my bud L (from the plane) and my contact at the Salesforce Foundation. I need to reach out to her contacts to learn more about the new marketing department at the Foundation. Interestingly, I got an email last week from C, the guy who works at the personality testing company in Mountain View. His timing was pretty crazy, because I had just jotted a note last week to check in with him!! We were last in touch before the new year! Now his company has two new job openings, and he thought of me!! I’m pretty excited. I’m going to apply– it’s a corpo branding job, but I’m keen on the opportunity. It could potentially be a dangerous concoction: unlimited access to personality/leadership assessments. Muhhaha!

    What else. I went to a networking event on Tuesday, and the people I met convinced me to make a business card. This, after John and J had an entire conversation disparaging the antiquated use of biz cards. Oh well. If my target area is marketing and communications, that kind collateral matters, you know? So I just blew two days trying to create a card that would best “represent” me. Ugh. Yup, talk about OCDing on words. Even down to the job title and other slogans on the card… Seriously, how do I capitalize on all these messaging tools to convey my coolness, er desirability?? See why I’m stumped? Fuck man. I swear, everything in life goes back to trying to make a great impression and trying to be well liked. Pick me!! Be my friend!! It’s exhausting. I mean, on good days, I enjoy the challenge/gamification element of all this, but still. It’s a lot of frickin’ work. My brain is tired.

    And on my down time I’ve been giving some thought lately to just how pervasive pain and struggles are to people everywhere. This L’Wren Scott suicide. The Paltrow-Martin divorce. Sorry to use examples from the cultural elite… I guess I’m just using them for simplicity’s sake. But yeah, people always say “You are not alone…” as if that’s supposed to offer some kind of consolation. I actually hate it when I discover how widespread and indiscriminate misery can be. I want more people to be happy; fewer people to be miserable! For example, one of my favorite bloggers… God, I love the way she writes. And from her Instagram and photos, she seems to have such a glamorous and fabulous badass life (especially well-deserved after such a shitty past). Every time I read her posts, I think to myself: “Goddamn: this girl’s got a super smart, good kid; a wonderfully supportive and understanding hubby; a stable/posh life; superb fashion sense; plus her killer writing… Life is good!!” And then, she reveals that 2013 was an especially difficult year for her, because her depression resurfaced. Say, what?? Part of me can’t help but feel sad: why can’t life be just as it appears? Is that naive of me?

    Today I was thinking that I might write her. She lives in LA. Shit, thanks to all these info interviews, I apparently have zero qualms now about contacting strangers.

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  • Self Doubt and Shame

    It never ceases to amaze me how quickly things can change in less than 24 hours. I was feeling ok about the city job that didn’t pan out, and then last night, my parents called. And my dad wasn’t trying to make me feel bad, but he said something like, “It’s ok you didn’t get the job, but maybe next time you shouldn’t have so many conditions. Maybe next time you negotiate later.” When I told him about my info interviews and how I was meeting amazing people, he just asked, “Do they have job openings?”

    John did have a similar comment about my timing with the city: maybe get the formal offer first and then once they have convinced themselves they want you, you’ll have better leverage. Because, even if they like you, if you are not the path of least resistance and on top of that, maybe you are overqualified for the job (They wanted 3-4 yrs of experience; I have closer to 8 yrs.), they just will pick the lower hanging fruit. After that, I really felt like I fucked it up. I mean, I had been reading all these things about having a “human-voiced resume” and just communicating with people honestly and reasonably… The interview process really is about you interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. So I felt like voicing my concerns– asking about wiggle room on the rate and asking for a training/education budget and asking for time-off while my cousins would be in town from Taiwan– was fair. I wasn’t making demands, but I was asking for them to discuss it. But maybe they thought it was too much trouble. And so my parents’ comment just triggered an entire cascade of fears: that the longer I’m unemployed, the less marketable/worthy I will become…

    John’s been working really hard lately, so he tried to comfort me after the call, but then he fell asleep. I started really beating myself up about the opportunity that I fucked up. So what if it was doing social media/government content, maybe it really could have evolved into something amazing…  Who do I think I am that I deserve to be so selective? Who do I think I am, like people should fight to hire me? I was suddenly so overwhelmed by these negative thoughts, and John was totally conked out.

    I started grasping for all the coping techniques my coach told me about: I played the uke. I went for a walk. I kept telling myself that if I just wanted a job just to keep busy, what was the point of my entire process? The whole night, I just kept battling these negative thoughts back and forth. And then I reminded myself. I’ve been learning so much these past several months. I have pushed myself beyond my comfort zone so many times to learn and to grow. There are unconventional workplaces out there. Like… I just got an eblast from them this week about how to relight the flame at work, or if that doesn’t work, how to tell you need to leave. I was reminded of why I had left and what I’m now seeking. Sure, maybe no where is perfect but surely, there is something better. And so somehow, after a rather restless night, I have returned to recommitting to this process again. I have a fresh list of new people I want to contact, and I’m feeling more drawn now to the tech consulting path… I will still apply to a wide variety of opportunities, because to me, there is value in the exercise and you never really know what might crop up, but yeah, I won’t settle into stodgy, conservative ways of living and working just because I feel moments of shame and self doubt. When it comes down to survival, I will do what needs to be done, but for now, I still have choice and I choose to get back on the wagon and stay the course.

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  • Sticking with the Program

    I’ve been feeling pretty good these days– mostly. And yes, I still credit the 7-Minute Workout. Job-wise, I’ve had a couple of setbacks. One of the family foundations turned me down last week. I was pretty bummed about it, because the content felt totally up my alley, plus I had a contact there. But it was a no-go. I kinda had some doubts after the phone interview, to be honest. Then this morning, I received a rejection email for a city social media job. It was kinda an underdog, because I wasn’t really intending to return to government work, but then I met the people and really liked them. I actually thought the interviews went phenomenally, but I dunno: it didn’t pan out. The good news is that my competitive side isn’t so hardcore that I’m completely crushed. I mean, I’m definitely an “in it to win it” kind of person, and so a part of me wonders what I could have done differently to change the outcome. Maybe it really was something small– an error with my timing, wording, language, etc. With the foundation gig, I emailed the director asking for feedback. Nothing. I did the same with the city. Probably nothing. It’s really too bad– kinda again shows the lack of humanity in the whole recruitment process, if you ask me. Anyway, moving on.

    I am finding that dealing with rejection does build resiliency, so I guess that’s the silver lining in all of this. John likens job hunting to sales: so much of it is about the numbers. You really have to knock on a shitload of doors, have them slammed in your face, and then eventually, you score a win. My coach asks if I can trust the process and understand that this only means there is something bigger and better out there for me… I waver back and forth really, but even if I have my doubts, I have no choice but to carry on.

    So, I’m still doing info interviews like crazy. I’ve done about 25 of them now. Super helpful. I’m meeting tons of incredible women. I think I’ve fine-tuned my ask now to the point of being pretty damn compelling. People hardly say no to me now. Muhahah. Seriously, I sought out five strangers recently, and they all agreed to meet!! In fact, today, the lady invited me to her fancy campus to have lunch. She said she gets tons of requests, and she just recently did six info interviews. From my email request to my face-to-face meeting, she said her experience with me really stood out above and beyond the rest. From the way I crafted my letter to the research that I did ahead of time to the type of questions I asked… she’s a Ph.D. in writing and rhetoric too, so her compliments definitely made me feel better given the earlier crap news.

    What else. I finished my Coursera class on How to Change the World. The prof was so charismatic and inspiring, I think I developed a mild crush even. Haha. I’m still doing a lot of learning, reading, and research. I pretty much get inspired every damn day now that I’m living with intention and you know, doing all that hippy dippy “ask the universe” shit.

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  • Setting Intentions

    The last few weeks have really illustrated to me the power of setting intentions. As you know, in early February, I started working with a coach, specifically for my job hunt. Honestly, I was very skeptical and reluctant in the beginning, but holy shit, I can truthfully say, big things have happened since. First, I can’t even express how debilitating my catastrophic thinking had become. It was still in fits and spurts, but man, when it came on, it was paralyzing. I still believe so strongly that my year-end sickness/depression/funk were all attributed to my poor mental state. Learning to re-train my brain a bit in how it reacts and responds to negative thoughts has been a total game-changer. Second, there is really something powerful about accountability. I mean, I consider myself a fairly disciplined person. There are some exceptions, but generally, when I say I’m going to do something, I follow through. With coaching, we establish a list of intentions (action items) every week, and I have to say, even with my discipline, there have been weeks where I came close to NOT completing my action items. Were I on my own, those items would’ve just moved to the following week. But with my coach, a few days before my next call, I go through my list and really force myself to get it done– almost like a homework assignment or something. The pressure of calling her and saying that I didn’t finish my homework from the previous week is so great that I will work on those info interview requests late into the night. No matter what, I meet that deadline. Third, the power of intention. Really. Who the fuck knew? In the last several months, I’ve been going to networking events, trainings, and conferences pretty regularly. As someone who used to have extreme social anxiety, I felt like I had pretty much conquered that limitation years ago. So my mere attendance at these events was already many small victories in and of themselves. But my coach asked me, “Do you want to set an intention for this upcoming tech meetup? or this conference?” Say what? Wasn’t it enough that I was going? Nope. By her question, I realized that I had gotten complacent with these events. I thought just showing up was sufficient for getting what I needed out of these things, but that wasn’t true. There was so much more there. So for the first tech meetup, I set an intention to 1) ask questions publicly during the talk and 2) make a real acquaintance. I talked to a lady who did communications work for Sierra Club. Super cool chick– someone I hope to see again at the next meeting. Not immediately useful per se, but she was a learner with really good political savvy, which I found insightful. Second, I managed to ask TWO questions during the talk. It was weird, but by going in with the intention of asking questions, it really kinda forced me to listen better and to concentrate, and it was really kind of liberating to get over that intimidation and just get involved in the discussion. So different!

    So then yesterday, I went to a women’s leadership conference. I hadn’t really set an intention for it other than to go, learn, and be inspired. But over lunch, my friend L asked what I was wanting to get out of the event. And it just reminded me that really, I should have set an intention beforehand. So after lunch, I thought yes, I really should make some contacts. When I got back, I happened to sit next to one of the morning session panelists– a former journalism professor and current communications head at LinkedIn. She was a sharp lady who had a lot of really good points in the discussion. Just as she got up to leave, we made eye contact and then, I talked with her (again, not my usual MO). We only exchanged a few lines, but I thanked her for the session and said I really admired her courage in transitioning from tenured journalism prof to comms work at a startup. It must have been scary but also exhilarating. And then I gushed a bit about LinkedIn and how much I use it… Late last night, I sent her a connection request and bam! Now we’re connected, and I even think I would feel comfortable and confident enough to contact her again to do lunch. See? Isn’t that just crazy? For me, this is so in line with what I’ve been reading about with networking and connections… And yet I see now how I really had been holding myself back for so long without even realizing. I mean, I talk so much about how much relationships matter to me, how much communications matter and yet, I had already erected so many walls thinking that these humans wouldn’t want to interact with me because of xyz. But isn’t communications all about transcending those barriers? In my interviews, I talk so much about using tech to give sterile agencies and organizations an authentic, human voice to connect people both online AND offline because at the end of it all, progress and collaboration need real human connection.

    I will always have a preference for written communication, and I will continue to feel reluctance and doubt and nervousness with strangers, but at least now I feel confident enough to move forward face-to-face anyway. And that’s been surprisingly liberating.

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  • Impeccable Timing

    I write a lot about relationships and connection. There are, of course, different tiers, and I believe strongly in the whole, “friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime” concept. I also believe in kindred spirits. And then there are just some connections that are, well, I don’t know how to categorize them: close in a bizarre universe-like kind of way. I know, John is already calling me “California hippy-dippy” again.

    You see, in college (pre-Bubbey era), I had the biggest crush on well, multiple guys really, but one in particular who lived in my dorm. We were friends, and I was kinda captivated by his good looks, superstar academics, and playful personality. Long story short, he wasn’t interested in taking things to the next level, so fine. The next summer, John entered the picture and frankly, that was that. But A and I have loosely kept in touch throughout the years, and truthfully, weird coincidences just keep happening with him. Like he worked summer research gigs 20 minutes from my hometown in Maryland. I then went to grad school in his hometown. Several years later, John and I moved to California, where A’s company was based (but he was living in the DC area).

    About five or six years ago, after we’d kinda been out of touch for maybe a year or more, I was walking in my neighborhood, adjacent to a shopping center and a large Franklin Templeton (financial/investment services) campus. I was walking the dogs, and I could have sworn I saw A. I was far enough away that I couldn’t run up with two hyper dogs, but damn, he just really looked like him– all decked out in a fancy suit, with the same quasi-hunched walk and pace that had become so familiar to me our freshman year. So that night, I emailed him and asked if by chance he was working around Franklin Templeton. Nope, that wasn’t him but he WAS in the Bay Area for work. I mean, he flies out here multiple times a year, but still. Pretty bizarre, right? Then something similar happened another time. Same deal: I thought of him, sent him an email, and voila, he was in the area.

    So this week, I was driving on I-280 past all that open space lands, and I thought of A again. He told me that every time work would send him out here, he would stay with his buddy in SF and make the drive down 280 to the office in Menlo Park. He didn’t mind the long commute, because it was so scenic. So I dropped him a line again, and whatdya know, he had just flown into SFO and was in town for two days. I’m serious. It’s not like he’s in town for weeks at a time where our location/timing would really have long overlap. It’s just a day or two, and EVERY time I email him, he’s in town. Totally random, but dayum, I gotta give myself kudos for impeccable timing, right? That or some strange version of a sixth sense.

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