Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Things Remembered

Amazing the things you find when packing for a move....

The college diploma representing four years of my blood, sweat and tears (not to mention my parents money) has been on the top shelf of a storage unit in the garage for 5 years now. I never hung anything when I moved in since I wasn't planning on being here long.

My, how time flies.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rescue Mission 2009 (aka Memorial Day Weekend)

For most people, the thought of a business meeting in San Diego for a week is probably pure heaven. Sun, beaches, the Gas Lamp with a little work thrown in. For my college buddy Michelle, it's more like a fast descent into workaholic hell. Her company does a huge annual convention every year, which may be fun for the people attending, but not fun when you're the one running it. After spending 4 years working in non-profit planning events, I can relate. Pure adrenaline gets you through the event, but the come-down is a bitch.

Since the meeting was ending right before the Memorial Day weekend, Michelle added a little side trip to LA to her itinerary so I could assist with some R&R time and ease her re-entry to earth. So I took a couple days off work and drove down to San Diego to pick her up. And so it was that Rescue Mission 2009 commenced.

When I met Michelle at the hotel, she was still packing and barely coherent (brain mush is a normal side effect after surviving a 100 hour work week, for those of you not familiar with event planning). Figuring out a lunch plan was, therefore, up to me. Since neither of us was starving, we headed north to San Clemente and stopped at the Fisherman's Restaurant.

It's built on a fishing dock right on the beach...the perfect place to start relaxing. And in Michelle's case, enjoy some Dungeness Crab.

Then we got back on the road for the rest of the drive to LA. After hitting a bit of traffic (thank goodness for HOV lanes or we'd still be sitting in it), we arrived in El Monte and decided it was going to be a low key night. Neither of us had been to a movie in ages, so we headed into Monrovia to catch Star Trek. But first, a dinner stop at my favorite local spot...Jake's Roadhouse.

Best BBQ in the San Gabriel Valley. And who doesn't love beer in a frosty mug!

Star Trek, by the way, was AWESOME! Although it was more than a little strange to think about Uhura and Spock making out...those of you old enough to remember the TV series will get what I mean! If you're not old enough to get the idea, just imagine your parents having sex. Same ick factor....

Friday we got up early and headed to the beach, figuring it would be much less crowded before the "official" start of the holiday weekend. Great call! It was practically empty, we got rockstar parking right next to the beach, and the weather was perfect.

The only snag of the day was our discovery of the limitations of spray on sunscreen. First, it sucks in windy conditions. I missed a few spots in spite of trying to spray upwind so the sunscreen landed on me and not the towel, my shoes, and everything else. Apparently I didn't do so well, as I found out later when I started to burn in random spots! Second, you use the stuff ten times faster than the lotion! The marketing genius who thought this up probably got a huge raise. Needless to say, I will not be wasting my money on the spray stuff any more.

And though I wouldn't call it a snag, I did actually "work" at the beach, which only entailed participating in a one hour conference call. If I could do all my calls from the beach, I'd stay on the phone all day! My boss thought it was hilarious.

By the time my call was over, we were starving, so we packed the beach gear in the car and walked over the the Santa Monica pier for some lunch and margaritas.

Then it was time to head home after a long day in the sun. Unfortunately we hit the road at the same time as all the other Friday rush hour traffic...and had no HOV lane most of the way. Two hours later, we got home to shower and nap, then decided to order pizza and stay in for the night. That also gave us time for our favorite friendship tradition...drinking wine and playing cards.

Then it was time for bed...we needed beauty sleep before our spa appointments the next morning!

Saturday was Girls Day at the Spa. I had several gift certificates from Burke-Williams ( saved up, so we met Nadine at their location in Sherman Oaks and spent the morning getting massages, facials, and pedicures. While we were in the hot tub waiting for our appointments, I remember thinking I could live like this every day. Anyone wanna finance that for me?

The massage was heavenly, and my facial was great. Except for my least favorite part...the extractions! Extraction has to be one of the biggest euphemisms in the English language, at least as it relates to facials. Extracting something is just taking it out of it's location. Sounds innocent enough, right? But extracting stuff from the pores in your face involves a lot of squeezing... and PAIN! And like experiencing an earthquake, time slows and what is probably only minutes feels like an excruciatingly long time. My facialist squeezed stuff out of my face I had no idea was there. You could have eaten off my face when she was finished.

Michelle had her own bit of facial drama and got talked into a micro-peel. You leave with a set of instructions about staying out of the sun (hello..headed to the pool later!), and how your skin may change colors, SCAB, or ooze...all of which is apparently normal. So she spent the rest of the day worried about side effects from the facial, and I don't think she's ever doing another peel.

After we finished at the spa, we went to Cheesecake Factory for lunch, then out to Nadine's house to sit by the pool for the rest of the afternoon. Finish that off with some steaks on the grill and a hockey game in HD, and you have the perfect day. Big props to Nadine for being the hostess with the mostest!! I do have a great life...and amazing friends!

Needles to say, hard putting Michelle on the plane Sunday morning after such a fun weekend. But I send her back to NYC relaxed and ready to take on the post-meeting workload. Mission accomplished!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cheap Fun

In a tight economy, expenses become an issue for everyone, even billion dollar companies. Yet no one wants work environment and morale to suffer just because managers can no longer buy catered lunches for their offices several times a month. Once again, the folks at my office in Pasadena are undeterred by expense barriers, yet still manage to have a great time. Tonight was a perfect example, when the branch held its monthly "Movie Night."

Granted, much of the credit for expense control for this event goes to Dan Warnick, who owns a home theatre system and generously hauls it from home for everyone to enjoy. And he even has a popcorn machine! Add some candy (purchased in bulk) and nachos, and it's almost like being in a real theatre, but for a lot less cash.

What a great way to bring everyone together!

The movie tonight was "Slumdog Millionaire," which won a bunch of Oscars this year. I hadn't seen it yet, so I stayed to watch.

I'm glad I did - for the movie and the company. Both were unbeatable. And how often can I see a movie for free?

Great job, Pasadena!

Monday, May 18, 2009

On Survival

When you've worked for the same company for almost 15 years, you start to feel like you've seen everything. Every business goes in cycles, and I've seen ups and downs during my tenure. You start to feel a little bulletproof in terms of the shock factor of business decisions. Why should you be surprised when you've survived it before? But the past week at work was like nothing I've ever seen in my tenure. It took me this long to process my feelings and write about it.

In the space of 3 days, my company laid off 280 people across the company. Many were my friends. Of the group hit in California, I personally trained 80% of them when they were starting out as entry level employees. Didn't see this one coming.

While I am experienced enough in life, and with my employer, to understand the business reasoning behind it, it still feels crappy. These people are being sent out into the wilderness, in any economy with little to offer them. Many are working parents with families to support. They all have bills to pay, which their severance will cover, but only for so long.

When I was younger, my first reaction would have been to organize a protest, cry foul to anyone who would listen, and rail against the injustice of it all. Experience tells me now that course of action would be fruitless. I work for a huge corporation, and people are taken care of provided it suits the needs of the business. Did my company do everything possible to save these people? I can honestly say I don't know. Is the company ultimately responsible to take care of them? Absolutely not. But the company I started with 15 years ago would have done more to find a way. Of that I am certain.

So the anger I would have felt years ago is replaced with only a profound feeling of loss. Beyond the loss of my co-workers, I've lost some of my corporate loyalty. It's the only way I can express my survivors remorse, my sense of guilt for continuing on a normal course while their lives are turned upside down. Am I here because I deserve it more than they do? No. I'm here because I wasn't in the blast area when the bomb went off. I was just lucky.

The question now? How long will my luck hold out?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nuts for Mutts!

I've written before about my friend Nadine and her efforts on behalf of animals (she's the one who rescued a dog from a crew of gang bangers in East LA). One of the animal rescue organizations she works with is called New Leash on Life And every year, New Leash holds a charity dog show called Nuts for Mutts!

This year, Nadine entered her puppy Sasha in 3 of the events. She's hoping to eventually train Sasha as a therapy dog, so getting her a little practice being exposed to different people and situations is always a good thing. Plus there are prizes to win, and Sasha LOVES attention. She competed in Friendliest Dog, Fastest Eater, and Cutest Puppy.

Here are Sasha and Nadine's husband John competing in Friendliest Dog.

The "roll over and rub my belly" hello was a big hit with all the judges, and Sasha moved on to the final round in Friendliest Dog, as well as the finals in her other 2 categories!! Unfortunately she didn't win any prizes in the final, but she got to make her daddy cater to her every whim all day, including carrying her around when she got tired. Such a princess!!!

And just in case you're worried Miss Sasha was the only one having a good time, check out these canine companions. This little Ewok was my favorite entry in the "Best Dressed" category.

And since it was over 90 degrees today, everyone needed to find a way to stay cool. This Great Dane got to have a dip in the pool. He's lookin' pretty chilled out!

We humans did not have as much fun cooling off, but I managed to find a spot in the shade.

What a great day for dogs and their people! We're all Nuts for Mutts!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Leading by Example

Back in February when I attended Tip-A-King, there was one very noticeable absence - our team Captain Dustin Brown. Announcements were made at the event that he was at the hospital with his wife Nicole, who was getting ready to give birth to their second child. I remember thinking the timing seemed a little odd, because I thought Nicole was due in May, which I confirmed with several other people at the event.

Turns out little Mason Brown was born shortly after that, and just a little too early. He spent several weeks in the NICU before Dustin and Nicole got to bring him home. It's a terrible thing for any parent to go through, but even harder when your team is trying to make a play-off run for the first time in way too many years, and you're the guy charged with leading them. A lot of idiots on the hockey blogs criticized his absence for a couple of games before they knew the reason and questioned his leadership. I never doubted him for a minute.

Today proved what a great leader Dustin is. Tip-a-King announcements included instructions to save our ticket stubs, and that a make-up signing with him would be planned. I fully expected it would be after a game during the regular season, but the season came and went and no news. But our captain is a trooper, and he made good on his promise. I got to visit with him this weekend at the Sports Chalet in Marina Del Rey.

The poor guy literally got back less than a week ago from playing for the US World team in Switzerland, and here he is at a sporting goods store at 9:30 in the morning, smiling and being nice to everyone. Because that's the kind of guy Dustin is. And I'm glad he's our captain.

I ran into Shawna Rousseau, one of my hockey buddies from Facebook. She was looking sharp in her Brown West All-Star jersey, and I had a nice chat with she and her husband while they waited in line.

OK, I really miss my Kings now! Is it time for training camp yet?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Jewel @ The Roxy

Tammy scored big when she found a notice on-line about a free show Jewel was doing at the Roxy in Hollywood to celebrate the release of her new album, Lullaby. So after fun and sun at Disney and a quick run home for a shower, I joined Tammy, who already got a spot in line. What great friends do I have?!

I bought Jewel's first album, "Pieces of You," at the same time most of the world was discovering the little girl from Alaska with the guitar, the unique voice, and a talent for yodeling. I love the album, but she never became one of those "must-have" artists for me, and although I enjoyed the singles from other albums she recorded, I never bought another one. After seeing her live, I have some record collecting to do.

You see, Jewel is one of those artists where the recording process shortchanges you as a listener in way. It only gives you one interpretation of a song, a limited little window to view the sunlight. Her live performances are more akin to holding a crystal up the to the sunlight and watching millions of colored points of light dance through the facets and onto the ceiling. Her strength is in the subtle nuance in the bend of each note, the dynamic highs and lows, and the syncopated delivery of each poetic line.

The fact that she's an incredible storyteller is where it all starts. For over 2 hours, Jewel told the stories behind the songs, and recalled her journey to a life she never expected and clearly appreciates because of how hard it was to get there. She's an old soul who survived living in her car, broke, sometimes shoplifting so she could eat, all the while playing in coffee shops, clubs, and even on the street trying to realize her dream. Her stories are beautiful, heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure, and the fact that she's so open in sharing them makes her heroic.

Time to go record shopping.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Happiest Birthday on Earth

Today was my girlfriend Estacia Arriaga-Mehta's birthday. She is a huge Disney fan, and her lovely and very thoughtful husband Nick got her an annual pass for her birthday. Since we hardly got to talk at the wedding the day before (she was Molly's wedding coordinator and therefore busy almost the entire time), I drove down to Anaheim to spend the morning and early afternoon helping her celebrate at Disneyland.

When you're at Disney on your birthday, you can go to the guest services office and get a Happy Birthday button. Then every employee in the park sees you coming and wishes you a Happy Birthday. That much attention definitely makes you feel special, and who doesn't want to feel special on their birthday? Especially when you're spending it at the happiest place on Earth!

The guest services line was crazy since, on top of being Stacia's birthday, it was Mothers Day. So Eric, Nick and I killed a little time on some smaller rides while Stacia got her birthday button. But first, the boys had to steal my camera for a little self-portrait!

Our first ride was the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, of Alice in Wonderland fame. I have always loved rides that spin, probably because they remind me of many days spinning on piano stools instead of practicing my lessons. And that fun lightheaded feeling when you try to get off the ride is always cool. Although I would not recommend shooting video while you're riding (which I did this time and learned the hard way...).

Stacia finally joined us just in time for the Storybook Land boat ride. Nothing like being swallowed by a whale on your birthday!

Thank goodness Sheriff Eric was there to rescue us!

Then it was on to bigger rides, including the Matterhorn bobsleds...

... and my all-time favorite, Space Mountain!

Space Mountain was especially fun. They've renovated it since my last visit to Disney, so it was darker and faster than I remember, and completely fun! My knees were weak by the time it was over. And of course, they now have the hidden camera that takes your picture right before the end of the ride so you can buy a photo of yourself looking like a scared-to-death little baby. Did I buy it? You betcha! And I even got Stacia a copy as a birthday gift!

The gang spent the rest of the day at the park, while I left around 3:30 pm to head off to my next adventure. More about that tomorrow...I'm exhausted from all this excitement!

Happy Birthday Stacia!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

International Relations

Big congratulations to my roommate Molly Lee, who got married this weekend here in Los Angeles. She and her new husband Magnes are proof positive that love can build bridges, even between two very different cultures! Molly is Chinese (specifically from Burma) and Magnes is Swedish, so this wedding was like a meeting of the United Nations.

It was a perfect day for an outdoor wedding, aside from being a little hot right before the ceremony started. But there was a light breeze going and we managed to get seats on the shady side of the lawn, and having some nice scenery helped.

I always love an officiant with a good sense of humor, and this guy was amazing. The Swedish accent always helps. Plus he was cute and I was crushing on him....just a little. And complimenting the bride on how pretty she is...always a good move.

The bridal party was all Asian on Molly's side, and completely Swedish on Magnes' side. Regardless of nationality everyone cleaned up well and look fabulous. I especially LOVED the color of the bridesmaid dresses!

Here's a little close-up on Annie and Jasmine. Looking great, girls!

The reception featured the traditional 10-course Chinese wedding menu, served family style. Each course has a meaning, so here's a link to a little guide if you want to read up on it.

And was so happy I got to sit next to my good pal Allison Hershberg!

Another tradition at Chinese weddings is the Dragon Dance, which is performed for the happy couple as a sign of good luck.

And I can't attend a major event without taking a self portrait. This time, I invited my good friend Estacia to join me. We didn't plan on having our friend Harout crash the party, but at least he refrained from putting rabbit ears on us!

Congrats Molly and Magnes! You got a great start to a great life.

Friday, May 8, 2009

When the Stars Align

I've always believed that a certain element of fate, destiny, and dare I say serendipity, has contributed to the occurrence of quite a few major events in my life. It probably sounds flaky, but I really do believe the universe gives us a little nudge in the right direction when we need it. So it was entertaining to read my horoscope for today in light of the big decision I made this afternoon.

"You trust your instincts and hunches, but sometimes you hesitate, waiting for confirmation. This is not that time to do that -- go ahead and jump when your gut says the time is right."

So today I listened to my gut, jumped, and found my next residence! As of June 6, I will be the proud occupant of a 588 square foot studio apartment in downtown Los Angeles. As George Jefferson would say, "I'm moving on up!"

Here's a link to the website for my new digs.

You can peruse all the amenities at your leisure, but there are a number of bonuses for me that aren't listed.
  1. This place is a little more than a mile from Staples Center - PERFECT for hockey season! One of my first projects (after I get moved) is to get my track shoes out and see if it's as walkable as I'm thinking. If so, I can't even tell you how much I'll save on parking this season.
  2. There are TWO Starbucks within 3 blocks, because we know I can't function without caffeine. Now I just need to figure out which one has my reduced fat turkey bacon breakfast sandwich and proceed to train a new bunch of baristas.
  3. It's actually 2 miles closer to my office than my current drive, and OPPOSITE traffic!! Yay for a better commute to work! I think I can also take the Metro since they've run a new line into Pasadena just a few blocks from my office, so that's a another project to test out.
  4. I have covered parking! And an assigned space! This has been a HUGE issue since the owners of the house behind us rented their place to 4 college students that have 5-6 cars parked in our drive at any given time. Plus the garage has a security guard, so my EOS will be safe and secure when I have to leave her alone.
  5. I have my own bathroom again!! That pretty much says it all...
I was so excited about how much I liked the place that I completely forgot to take any photos (bad Meg!), so unfortunately that has to wait until I get moved. But I promise there will be many blogs worth of material on my moving adventure!

I guess it's time to start packing....


I've been thinking about my Dad a lot lately. It started when a close friend from college lost a family member recently. I sent her one of my homemade greeting cards, with a quote I found once that said, "When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure."

Then a co-worker friend of mine made this post on Facebook this morning.

My dad was in a German prison camp when the war ended, and today is the anniversary of the day he would have been released after 18 months of captivity. And so I got to remember just how brave and noble a man he was, and how proud I am to be his daughter.

It also made me realize the people we love most in life never really leave us. And if we're paying attention, they pop up just when we need them. I hope my friend remembers that.

Thanks Daddy...

Friday, May 1, 2009

Confessions of a Tech Addict

I am one of the least technologically savvy people on the planet. When VCR's came out, I could never figure out how to record anything from the TV. I'd beg a favor from the closest guy I could find - my brother, a boyfriend, or some male co-worker or friend - to help me. Guys always know how to work things where remote controls and little buttons are involved. It's the main reason women need them, besides taking out the trash.

So I found myself thinking about technology the other day, as I was purchasing my latest and greatest "I-can't-live-without-it" tech gadget (an iPhone). How exactly did I go from failing to program the VCR to actually seeking out stuff with buttons, keyboards and widgets and then figuring out how to use them?

Necessity is the mother of invention. When I started getting into hockey, I found sites with all kinds of hilarious videos (a feature about the aftermath of Sully getting his teeth knocked out, for instance) and they took forever to watch on my work laptop because of the buffering speed. All the justification I needed! Of course, I also wanted to get on other sites that were blocked for me at work, but more hockey was enough motivation. So with the help of Nadine's computer wiz hubby John, I purchased a Mac Book.

The people at Apple deserve a lot of credit for their design genius. You really do just plug it in and everything is pretty intuitive to use. After playing around with my new toy for an hour or so, I knew I hit the jackpot. Of course, my computer came loaded with iTunes, so...

That led to the iPod Touch. The justification was easy this time...I had a 3 week trip to Europe planned, which would involve a lot of time trapped in planes, bored and needing entertainment. Why not just carry my music collection with me? All the really cool people in airports have them, so why not me? Plus the iPod Touch came with games, an international clock so I could set the time in each city we visited....I could go on and on.

Now that I had the Internet, free from workplace restrictions, the social networking began. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and my very own blog! Communication with my friends, exploring new things that would make me a more versatile trainer....and MORE HOCKEY. Hockey videos, hockey blogs, hockey players and friends on Facebook! In short, my computer became the gateway to hockey heaven. When I discovered my work computer didn't do streaming radio, I started carrying both laptops on trips when the Kings were away so I could listen to broadcasts on the radio.

And because of the iPhone, I could check Stanley Cup playoff scores while sitting at the Dodgers game last night! Does life get any better?

Just to set the record straight, all this technology IS about more than hockey. It really started a couple of years ago hearing Mark Wagner, the head of Progressive's Claims University, talking about the future of training, introducing ideas that made me see myself becoming a dinosaur sooner than I was ready. I got scared of being obsolete, and decided it was time to ride the tech wave or get wiped out. So I jumped in with both feet, and I'm still glad I did. Even on days when hockey isn't involved.

As I was working on this blog, the house started shaking. Now in our neighborhood, this could be anything....a big truck going down the street fast enough will shake things around here. But the window was open, and I didn't hear a truck. So I sent a Tweet, updated by Facebook status, and hopped on the US Geological Survey website. Within a couple of minutes, I had confirmed I felt the remnants of 4.4 quake centered near Malibu. Eight of my friends felt it too!

So thanks to technology, at least I know I'm NOT crazy! Just addicted.