Thursday, April 30, 2009

One quick swoop

I stepped out for a bit. At the last minute, I joined my family for a trip to China. Since my brother's never been, my parents decided to take him on a basic group tour. We haven't had a family trip since who knows when.

At the time I bought the plant ticket, I decided that I might as well since no job offer was near. Suddenly, the day before the trip, I got an offer. I tried to negotiate a little, first on vacation, next on stock options, then on job title, but the HR person wouldn't budge. What I don't understand is that if none of these things are negotiable, then why even ask me what benefits I got at my previous jobs? It would seem she already had her mind made up.

I felt a little at a disadvantage knowing that I was leaving the next day. Normally, I would have liked to mull over the details for a day or two and get advice from friends. Compared to my last jobs, I'm taking a 9% pay cut, one week less vacation, a job title two steps below my previous job, and the rest is about par. On the other hand, my commute is now 12 minutes instead of one hour each way. If one were to count that commute time as part of work hours, I'm making up maybe $10,000 of my salary by being able to sleep in and get home a little earlier (assuming the hours in the office are comparable). I really do want to like this job, it's just a little frustrating to know I could be compensated better. I suppose if I don't like the job, I'll just switch in two years when the economy is better.

It is a relief to know I'll be working again. As much as I enjoy the free time, my mind craves a bit more challenge. I'm the type of person that needs some structure. Every one's dream is to be their own boss, but I'd have a hard time doing that at home. There are way too many distractions.

The trip was pretty good. The biggest concern both me and Tim had was how Mom and I would get along. The thought of being nagged 24/7 for 10 days wasn't appealing. For the most part, she behaved. The one time we had a fight was early in the trip. She came over to our hotel room while my brother was in the shower. We chatted and I mentioned that I hoped to find a little something for Tim. My mother immediately questioned why I would do that. She reasoned that guys don't care and don't need anything. I shouldn't be spending money when I don't have a job. Besides, she felt I already had too much stuff and didn't possibly have any space in the house for more junk.

This really made me mad considering we had just spent the day looking at inexpensive pearls to buy for my sister-in-law. My mom had been asking what my brother had been asked to buy for her. It felt really unfair that we should spend all this time thinking about the shopping list for everyone else and not Tim. After a few minutes of bickering, I got up and told her that I felt she was being totally unreasonable. I never said that I needed to buy something expensive for Tim, it could be something as cheap as $1. Also, I told her this is why I never tell her anything. When I can't even share a simple comment or thought without getting nagged or criticized, there's no reason to say anything. She retorted that she feels it's her right to express her opinion when I'm wrong. Great.

So, I stored out of the room. Unfortunately, I left knowing that I couldn't take the room key with me. It was in the slot that provides power to the room. I wasn't going to leave my brother to shower in the dark. I spent the next 10 minutes wandering the hotel hallways, hoping my mom would go back to her own room. Sure enough, just as I returned to the 8th floor, I heard a door shut. As I walked past my parents' room, I could hear her tell my dad that we had just fought and why. He immediately scolded her for doing so and ask her why she would do such a thing. Her explanation made it sound like she had done nothing wrong and she nervously laughed off the situation. My mom just doesn't get it.

The next day my dad encourage me to find something nice to give Tim. He's great. I don't know how he has the patience for my mom sometimes.

Finally, a couple quick notes about China:

1) Automobiles (especially buses) don't have to stop when making right hand turns; don't assume anything in the crosswalk no matter what the light says.

2) The Chinese have a sitcom which my dad described as their version of the Cosby show. It seemed strange to me to have a show with a family that included three children when Chinese couples can generally one have one. How do people related to the show?

3) The Chinese are learning to use trash cans. There are commercials and billboards trying to demonstrate the idea. As you may know, spitting and other mucus disposal actions are very common. One guy came over to the trash can behind us, pinched one nostril, and proceeded to blow out some mucus. It was not very appetizing. My brother was very disgusted by it all. I said, "at least he put it in the trash and not on the sidewalk." He agreed.

4) Being a flight attendant on a flight to/from China must be one of the worst jobs ever. A large Chinese tour group boarded my plane. When they boarded the plane, they talked loudly and bustled about trying to switch seats with each other. The attendants had a tough time getting them to sit down and buckle in so that we could depart. During the flight they constantly ignored the seat belt sign and announcements, having cell phones on, gathering in the aisles to chat, and using the restroom. During meal services, they never listened to what was being served. For example, the breakfast choices were eggs or noodles. The woman in front of me kept asking for rice. And this group was flying to five different cities during their tour of the U.S.?

5) When it comes to lines, one must be pushy or you'll never get anywhere.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The search may be over

It's amazing to think that I've not been working for nearly six months. Granted the first two I was still getting paid, but it was still time I didn't know what to do with myself.

During the past month, I've had interview with two companies. The first company is a well-respected company in the area. They've been around for more than 25 years and accomplished huge things for their industry. As great as it is to have this company on one's resume, working there can be less than satisfactory depending on which department. In a former life, I probably would have been quite happy there. In my current type of work, however, the culture and expectations are molded to certain types of people. Former specialty consultants, ivy leaguers, and what I would describe as somewhat sorority personalities can do well here. Unfortunately, that's not me.

Several people I've know over the years have gone there thinking this was a dream job and company only to realize within six months that they were unhappy. The hiring process is very rigorous. You must pass two phone interviews, one of which includes a mock scenario. Then, you are asked to take a personality test which they use to assess your fit with the group and customize interview questions to test you ability to respond to negative situations. Hiring is done by consensus so all members of the management team must agree. If another manager wants to hire you, you must also interview with them. I suppose if one manager had a grudge with another person, they could mess with your candidacy.

Being a darling of the industry is also what has caused a major change. A big, foreign company has just offered to buyout the remaining share for the company. Basically they know this U.S. company and its products are worth major moolah and don't want to split profits anymore. They swear there will be no major changes to the company as they want preserve the positive culture and retain employees.

I have my doubts. Wanting to keep employees likely has to do more with the research and development arms of the company as opposed to G&A. Even the interviewing managers, although positive, reveal some concern in their pauses.The last thing I need to start a job where I'll get laid off at the end of the summer.

The second job has been going well. I interviewed with the hiring manager and then visited the company to interview with a handful of others. A week passed and I met again with the hiring manager at a local cafe. It was just a light conversation checking whether I had any additional questions, and obviously it was a chance for me to reinforce my interest in the position.

I'm still not completely sure why, but she then suggested I meet with her boss, the VP, so that I could ask her any additional questions about the department and company. I just went in and had a 45 minute chat with the VP. She asked me twice about why I wanted to join the company. The rest of the time was really me asking questions about her vision for the department and company going forward. I feel like she has a solid vision for the group and how it will help transform the company. It should be a good growth opportunity if I am willing to assert myself.

Tick tock, now I wait for HR to call me and tell me what the next steps are. I get a good sense there planning to offer me a job (unless I did something horribly wrong while talking with the VP). The only question is whether the package will be decent. Admittedly, I've gotten kind of comfortable lounging around in my pjs until 11am and playing with the cats for a hour each day. Then again, it would be nice to have a juicy paycheck every month!

Friday, April 17, 2009

On the clock

During my follow up check after the D&C, we were given instructions about how to proceed. We were told I had to wait one menstrual cycle before we could try getting pregnant. That meant waiting until April.

Back in college, I was dating this Catholic guy. We argued and discuss our future. One topic that lacked agreement was sex and contraception. I didn't mind waiting (and am soooooo glad he was not my first guy), but I was concerned about not being able to use contraception. I could not fathom having an accidental third or fourth child someday. Even though he knew that even his parents kept condoms in their dresser drawer, he wanted to obey the rules.

While volunteering at the school hospital, the ex came across a box of workbooks kept in a storage room. No doubt the workbooks were intended for some health seminar specifically on natural contraception. The book talked about the rhythm method and provided instructions on how to practice it. Surprisingly, it all made good sense to me. Mainly because I had already suspected the nuances of my monthly cycle back in high school. I was lucky to have a very regular, 27.5 day cycle. I even had clear mucus that would appear about 10-14 into my cycle which I suspected indicated ovulation. Out of curiosity, I tried monitoring my temperature and changes in my body for a couple months. It's really cool that a woman's body makes a sudden increase (0.5 degree) when it's time to ovulate. The charting was easy and accurate as far as I could tell.

I knew the minute Tim and I were ready to start trying, I would use this method to predict ovulation. Fortunately, I'm still mostly regular though I sense there are months I don't ovulate at all given my "advanced age" (as people in the medical community say). I started recording my temperature as soon as the D&C was over. I was excited to see a decline in my temperature as my period approached.

The change from 97.6 to 98.0 came several days earlier than I expected. The doctor had told us that during my fertile phase, we should have sex every other day. Since sperm can survive up to 4 days, it's not critical to have sex every day. Apparently, there's reason to *not* have sex every day. For men, having sex too often depletes the sperm supply which could result in lower supply when actual ovulation occurs. The every other day system allows for a continuous and ample infusion of troops.

Honestly, we're not big on sex. Sadly, I think my libido died down several years ago. We're regular but not frequent. Some times I worry that it's not enough for Tim, but he seems okay with it as long as we cuddle and fondle a lot. Having sex every other day for a week is new to me. It's definitely weird to do it because you need to rather than being in the mood for it. We've had to be a bit more patient and creative, but the job's getting done. Besides I do like joking about his troops and whether they've been properly trained.

Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dramatic rescue

We has some *major* wind the other day. As beautiful as the clear sky looked, the velocity of the wind combined with the cold made it a very unfun day to be outside.

Late in the afternoon, I was standing in my kitchen drying the recently cleaned parts of my Cuisinart. A curly soap line has formed in the plunger element, and I needed to rinse and dry it.

Standing at my sink, I have a pass-through window so that I can see my dining table and look beyond that out to the patio. Behind my patio lies a fence and fast encroaching redwood trees. The trees were likely planted by the neighbor to create some privacy. I question whether they thought through the implications of growing redwoods in a yard the size of a two car garage. They're beautiful trees, but their size is going to be a problem one day.

As I was trying to thread a towel into the crevices of the acrylic plunger, I noticed something fall from the tree. It was followed by bits of tree branch. The wind bullied the trees and apparently one of the branches snapped. Just a minute later, a brown mass cradled by green needles fell and landed on the ledge of the fence.

When I moved closer to the window to look, I realized there was also a strange gray stick off to one side. Once my eyes focused more clearly, I realized that it was a squirrel. It's head was unusual, flatter and triangular like a snake. I realized that it was a juvenile. The poor thing was clinging to the fence for dear life. I imagine it was not moving because it was stunned by the fall.

Soon after, a larger squirrel, presumably the mom, came down the tree and cautiously hopped onto the fence. Just as she approached the branch clump, the juvenile tried to move. He looked frantic as he tried to find some leverage and ended up upside down with his right foot caught in the remains of the nest. Mom finally heard the rustling and tried to reach for her child. With her hind claw tightly gripping the top of the fence, she stretched down to reach the juvenile. She managed to get one paw on him, followed by her teeth. It reminded me a little of a momma cat picking up one of her litter.

The juvenile seemed a little calmer knowing Mom had arrived. His body seemed to relax a little to allow Mom to rescue him. She, however, did not have a secure grasp of her child. Her grasp on him was shaky and then the remains of the branch and nest began to slide off the edge of the fence ledge. Because she was standing on some of the branches, she was sliding with it. She seemed to tighten her grip as they fell down with the debris some five feet to the ground.

Fortunately, Mom landed safely and quick hopped from a planting pot and scaled the fence to return to the site where she had just stood. The juvenile did not move and I wondered if he was okay. She used her paws to adjust her hold on him. Under one arm, she tucked in his tail, and then his head under the other arm. She had balled him up as if he were a tube of dough shaped into a horseshoe and skipped down the fence ledge off to some unknown location.


Monday, April 13, 2009


Happy Birthday to a few of my blogging buddies out there! I know you've just had or are about to celebrate another year.

Tim and I celebrated my birthday over the weekend. (Ignore the year, it's not worth mentioning any more.) We started out by having a mellow morning wandering the local Farmers' Market. The weather was perfect, sunny and cool. We picked up some sweet strawberries and some blood orange juice. We also bought a few sweet peppers and squash for a meal I was planning to make for some friends. I didn't realize they were going out of season so I was only able to pick enough for them, not any for us to enjoy.

As we were leaving the market, Tim noticed the flower stand and asked if I would like a bouquet for my birthday. I hesitated because I will be leaving town next week and didn't want to spend the money if I wasn't going to have time to enjoy them. We picked an inexpensive arrangement of tulip that are just about to bloom. It's really lovely to look at the mix of colors when I'm in the kitchen.

When we returned home, Tim cooked up some eggs with cheese, turkey, and greens. He decorated the plate with a few strawberries. What a lovely breakfast treat. Even better, Tim's mom and aunt were sweet enough to call and wish me a happy birthday.

I immediately started on my cooking once we cleaned up breakfast. Our friends just had twins and we were planning to visit in the afternoon. If there's one thing that I've learned from friends is that it's hard for people to eat during the early months of parenthood. The best thing friends can do for new parents is to bring them so tasty homemade food. I found a great mac and cheese recipe that's been quite tasty. I figured this would be a good comfy food for them, balanced with the fresh peppers and squash.

For fun, I curled my hair and buffed my nails to a perfect shine before we headed out. I dresses up in a cute BCBG black skirt that sits high on the waist to elongate my stubby legs and wore a burgandy top with a floral, satin trim. It's fun to dress up after months of jeans and knit tops. The only faux pas was that Tim chose to wear some black jeans and a reddish-orange suede shirt. We almost looked like twins. (Yipes, is this what happens when you live too long with one person?) I had showed my new outfit last week, but he forgot that my plan was to wear this for our night out.

Meeting the twins was great. Other than a couple of brief cries, they were very well-behaved. Eight pounds can really hurt the arms quickly. I found myself trying to rest or lean on furniture to lessen the load. The parents seemed amazing collected and content for all that's going on. Of course, they are incredibly organize with a clipboard to track all the bodily changes of the twins. We haven't seen them since January, so it was really great to catch up. Hopefully they'll be able to take small outings with the kids by summer.

For the past few weeks, Tim had been telling me that we'd be going to a restaurant based on a Top Chef episode. While I thought it would be good, I wasn't totally excited because I had been openingly wishing for two other restaurants for a couple months. I was a little disappointed that he had not chosen one of them. As we drove through the city streets, however, it soon became clear that we were not headed to the restaurant he had been claiming.

Once he punched in the address into the GPS, I was excited. We were headed to a Michelin-rated restaurant that many friends have loved. We each customized our four-course dinner. I loved every dish I tasted - complimentary carrot ginger soup, risotto with lobster and shrimp, seared scallops with a fresh pea puree, quail stuffed with quinoa and foie gras, a perfect strawberry-rhubarb tart, and a little petite four birthday plate. Needless to say I was stuffed. Thank goodness there was a tiny bit of give in my skirt's waistline.

We wrapped up the evening by watching a couple episodes of the first season of Top Chef. I'm pretty sure I know who wins, but it's still interesting to watch because the format and cast of characters is so different from season five. It's interesting how much more I analyzed dinner because of watching this show. Tim was all cuddly and loving. It was a fabulous was to celebrate.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Just sick

Since last week, there was some buzz about finding this missing girl in the Central Valley. We all know that as time passes, the chances of a happy ending fade fast. Unfortunately, last night, the search ended. Someone stuffed her into a suitcase and discarded her in a pond. I wonder if they counted on the fact that the dairy processor regularly drains the pond.

The thing about this one is that it must have happened just doors away from home. It's not like some open neighborhood where a random person drove through and snatched her. At least my perception is that a mobile home park is an enclosed area. People there are either tenants or visitors. The murdered has to be pretty stupid because it's going to be easier to identify suspects. All that matters is finding clear evidence to convict.

Considering the police issues search warrants only hours after announcing the discovery of her body means they're hopefully closing in on the bastard. I hope he is sweating bullets and panicking.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

If I had the skills then

Over the weekend, Tim and I attended our first wedding as a married couple. It was also interesting because they got engaged two months before us but had six months longer to plan the event. For me, this was a significant outing because it actually meant that I got to dress up.

The bride, Chi, and I met years ago through mutual friends. We were both single gals living in the same city. She initiated the friendship by encouraging me to call her to go hiking and golfing. "Saving Face" came out around the time we met, so Chi often joked that she was worried I thought she was hitting on me. Oh, we were silly gals.

I've now been unemployed for over four months. That combined with cohabitation of my little place has made for a living situation that is new and unexpected. For one thing, my closet has filled up with various items that we've had to "hide" from visiting guests and numerous intrusions but construction or cleaning people. The problem is that I've had little reasons to clean up the closet since I've been wearing jeans and long sleeve knit shirts virtually everyday. The skirts, slacks, blouses, and sweaters neatly organized and hanging in my closet haven't seen daylight since last fall. Other than climbing around to get to my ski clothes, I forget that I own all that stuff.

I considered buying a new dress for the occasion but didn't find anything affordable. Besides, I realized after trying on some cute and sexy BCBG dresses that, sadly, I'm getting to old for them. I dug out all my cute floral dresses knowing that we would have decent spring weather. The dress I wanted to wear turned out to be a bit tight around the shoulders. Tim convinced me that I should wear this black dress with red and fushia flowers. It's a nice dress, but I was disappointed that the neckline came up to my collarbone and failed to show off any part of my chest. I felt like an old lady.

As hot rollers reprogrammed my hair to curl, I proceeded to prepare my face. While I'm someone who doesn't typically wear a lot of makeup each day, I have developed a better sense of what looks good on me over the years. I must say that going through the wedding process and having several trial makeup sessions at the department stores was very educational. I know to add a darker shade color in the far corners of my eyes and highlight my brow bones with a light color. When I first bought the my bottle of Le Blanc de Chanel Sheer Base, I felt some major buyer's remorse. How would someone like me possibly finish a $45 bottle of white liquid before it goes bad? I was thrilled to have purchase my Rouge Double Intensite lip colour in Violet Sapphire. More recently, however, I have come to appreciate my Chanel items more. I've been late to makeup party, but I'm here now.

An hour and one half later, after the eye liner, the eyebrow brush, concealer, foundation, an angle brush with powder, three colors of eyeshadow, a tug-of-war with many individual false eyelashes, and a quick brush of deep red nail polish on my toenails, my awesome lip colour, two egg-sized mounds of mousse, and dozens of spritzes of hair spray I felt confident that I looked HOT. (Okay, not a supermodel or anything that fantastic but damned cute and potentially sexy.) Looking at myself in the mirror, I couldn't helped be impressed that I'd actually managed to figure out how to do this right.

Then my mind wondered how different my 20s could have been if I had made this kind of effort on a regular basis. Would I have been willing to sacrifice (invest) an hour of my life each day to look more attractive? It's difficult for me to imagine, but there are many women who go through this every day (and some are rich enough to pay someone to do it for them). It does look good, but I guess I never believed it was good use of my time (because I could be sleeping instead). I can't help be curious about the "what if." That confidence probably would have extended beyond my face and made me more comfortable wearing more flattering, fashionable clothing. What kind of men would I have attracted/dated? Would I have been married earlier? Would it have changed how my career experiences? Who might I be now? I browse places like Forever 21, Anthropologie, and H&M. Occaisionally, I find little gems that I love, but mostly I know they'd just look odd on me not only because of my body shape but because of my age. I feel like my interest peaked a decade late... oh well. ;)

I still don't wear makeup that often and have definitely been out of practice recently. I realize that even if I'm just running errands that it really is an ego boost to wear a little makeup and look good while one is out with people. A little bit of definition and color couldn't hurt.