Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Last night I attended the 2012 Citizen Summit. See, we're trying to make Columbus a better place by its Bicentennial in the year 2012. It was an interesting summit, or at least the idea of the summit was intriguing. As the participants arrived, we were each given a name tag with a table number on it. The city was expecting at least 1500 people, but there were clearly a lot of no-shows. My 10-top table had only 4 people at it by the end of the night, and at the beginning of the night there were only 5 people. Upon arriving I quickly realized that most of the people there looked like me and the vast majority of the people there were professionals. From the early demographic questions, I could tell the Gen X and young Boomers were well represented. There were a few a Gen Y hipsters strewn about the floor, but the senior population was largely absent, although I did see one nice couple shuffle out early in the program.

Actually, there was a lot of shuffling out early. The program was long and it was cold in the exhibit hall. The program began with an overview of the 2012 commission and the work they're doing to gather responses from Columbus citizens. Since to attend, we all had to sign up on the web site, I expect most of the audience was fairly familiar with the efforts and this part could have been skipped. The Mayor then took the stage to highlight that it wasn't Christmas and the work we would like to see done for our city wasn't going to come free, but overall he was upbeat and positive. Then James Surowiecki came to the stage. He was hired as the special speaker because he has researched something he calls the Wisdom of Crowds. His stories were interesting and his points were well taken - you need a diverse group to come up with the right answers. He argues that a crowd can rise above the intelligence of even it's smartest member. It's a powerful message and for me was interesting to hear (since I tend to distrust crowds and think of them more as mobs), but he simply spoke too long in an already jammed pack evening.
As we were all jazzed up that together we could come up with the correct answer for Columbus, the polling started. At each chair there was a little remote control looking gadget. When a question flashed on the screen, each audience member would key in their answer within 10 seconds. At the end of time, the results were displayed. It will be interesting to see what all the answers were, it all happened very quickly so it is a little bit of a blur. What I saw come out of the night was that we're desperate for some usable type of mass transit to connect our neighborhoods. We are also a population who value our Midwestern sensibilities, but are looking to rise to the next level with a more active urban center. We're here because of families and jobs and because we're comfortable. And as a city, we might have some self-esteem issues.

Other than the night being too long, my main critique of an otherwise intriguing evening is that the polling and types of questions asked were underwhelming. Anyone who has lived in this community and has plugged into any type of media knows the issues we're dealing with. I was hoping we could get to the next step. It was a chance for true grassroots crowd thinking at work, but I think instead of new answers we ended up with some of the same questions we have had all along.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dinners at Home

In an ongoing effort to save money and eat healthy, we have been trying to cook at home as much as possible. This is challenging because we both work full time and we have never quite gotten together the menu planning and grocery shopping part of things. Rather than determine the menu for the week and then shop en masse on Sunday as is recommended by women's magazines everywhere, we come up with dinner plans via e-mail the day of and then shop on the way home from work. Because there is not a convenient store for me to stop at, the shopping usually falls to Chris. Since Chris gets home later than I do, we don't typically eat until about 8 p.m. each night. We're working on this, but haven't made a huge amount of progress.

One thing that does seem to work for us could also be known as the best bargain at the grocery store: the rotisserie chicken. At about $6 this already cooked dish is a lifesaver. Last week we had parts of it for dinner on Thursday night (along with broccoli and mashed potatoes I quickly whipped up). I made a dish of chicken salad for my lunch on Friday. Friday night we had chicken and bean quesadillas and Saturday for lunch for we had chicken noodle soup. So one chicken, four meals. Sadly, one can't live on chicken alone. Or probably could, but who would want to?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Story of Starbucks Saving One Life at a Time

Take a moment to notice the list growing to the left. On it I will list the books I read this year. The latest book on the list is the story of how a self described son of privilege lost it all through a corporate layoff and an affair. He ended up working at Starbucks, seeing the error of his ways and being happy for the first time in his life. I actually liked this book. It's a quick and entertaining read. The main character has some interesting stories to share and the reader feels as though the author really means what he is writing. The book has already been picked up by a movie studio and I'm sure Tom Hanks will nail the role. However, there are some thinks my friend B. and I, in our typical Gen X cynicism, found to be just a little off:
  • This guy was a high level marketing exec, I think he took the Starbucks job not just because he needed money, but because he knew he could write a book and then use his connections to get it published. Seems very suspicious to me that he had sold the rights to the book before it was even published.
  • How much money is Starbucks getting for this? It's a very pro-Starbucks book. By the end I was thinking maybe I'll head over to Starbucks, get a latte and see if they're hiring.
  • If this life rebirth was such a miracle for this guy, why didn't he just stay working at Starbucks rather than write a book to launch him back to his former life?

And with those burning questions, I invite you to read the book or wait until later this year when the movie comes out and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out this hotbed of Starbucks gossip.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Still, nothing

So I did try it today, I tried communicating with compassion in the method of NVC. I used observations instead of judgements, I thought of mine and others feelings and then I tried to unearth our needs, I finally made requests with good energy. I have some work to do, because this wasn't so much working for me. Maybe I was tired? Who knows, I have a lot of respect for the person who introduced me to NVC, so I'm sure there is something there. I just haven't found it yet.

Chris is currently beginning to sand the floors of our bedroom. If ever I would need to have a grasp of this NVC stuff, it's during the renovation process...that just seems to drag on and on.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Communicating Through Needs and Feeling

Tonight I attended a seminar on nonviolent communication (NVC). NVC is also known as compassionate communication. I had high hopes for this couple of hours because I know I can be rather direct and probably not always the best at communicating in times of stress, anger or even with less than eight hours of sleep. I also like to take opportunities to better myself and learn new things, so this seminar seemed like a great chance to flex my mental and emotional range.

I was introduced to this seminar by my contact at Goodwill. She is a big proponent of NVC and says it has changed her life. She and another woman from the local NVC chapter facilitated the class. After sitting in a circle, breathing deeply and connecting from the heart with a treasured memory, we were taught the four steps and cornerstones of NVC: observing, feeling, needing and requesting.

I'm not sure if I am just jaded, but to me NVC sounds like a bunch of hooey. I don't feel that I would be comfortable going through my day saying things such as...I sense you are feeling angry with me, is that because you don't like my tone? I like the idea of NVC which is speaking from the heart and finding compassion in yourself to share with others, but I would have a difficult time with the recommended language. I don't want to wander through life using neutral words and "I feel" statements. That wouldn't be communicating from my heart.

I might be willing to attend another seminar, because more than anything, I don't get it. I don't get the point or how this type of communication is used when two people have contrasting needs. I should probably also explore within myself why I am so resistant to the idea of communicating in a different manner, with a different purpose and using new words.

Anyone have any experience with NVC?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Standby for the After

Well, in true renovation fashion, I have no stunning picture to share of our bedroom redo. Why is it on Trading Spaces they have a gorgeous new room in one weekend and I have an upstairs in shambles on day 4? Chris and I have moved into the spare bedroom. This would be fine, because I actually love that room. It is decorated and peaceful and I have space to practice yoga. Or rather, I should say, it was decorated and peaceful and I used to have space to practice. Now is is full to the brim of clothes and superfluous furniture. It took me a good 15 minutes to uncover the bed for sleeping purposes. The hallway is in even worse condition. In order to get to the bathroom, one much shimmy past a mattress and box springs. And by shimmy, I mean barely squeeze through.

Chris and my environmental guilt won out: we will be refinishing the existing hardwood in the bedroom. They're pretty much covered in paint and have a few stains, but otherwise are in good shape. We're hoping to uncover some treasure this weekend. My boss has been telling me horror stories of the last (and only) time he refinished floors, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well.

Oh, the joys of home ownership!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Time for a Renovation

You would think considering the DIY Diary posts from Memorial Day weekend, I wouldn't see a three-day weekend looming on the calendar and think about working on our home. And yet, here I am covered in primer once again.

Our kitchen renovation, so eloquently documented on this blog more than six months ago never really took off. Yes, we painted the walls red and the cabinets green and although we really like the color choices, we just haven't moved much beyond that point. The back splash has all been ripped out, but not all the cabinet doors have been hung. We seem to not get too far in our renovation efforts. We still need to decide on counters and new back splash and have these items installed. Chris would like to try doing the back splash on our (his) own, but I insisted for the sake of marital harmony that we pay to have some do it. Flooring also needs to be picked out, bought and installed.

So with the laundry list of kitchen projects, you would think we would be down there working, but no this weekend we are working on our bedroom. Since I've moved in here, I just couldn't shake the feeling of sleeping in a dorm room. The walls were an uninspiring off-white color, the trim a boring cream color. The carpet was gross and navy blue. We had no decorations on the wall. The furniture was a hodge podge of pieces collected from Chris' childhood and my after college apartments. We had a mattress and box spring, but no bed to sleep on.

Since being married, this setting has bothered me even more. It just didn't feel grown up or put together. So I ordered $1500 worth of bedroom furniture (matching, with a bed!) from This seemed like a great deal at the time considering it was all shipped to our house for only $2.95, but once it arrived I didn't want to put it into our blah room. So I decided we should paint and Chris thought well, if we're painting, we should tear out the carpet and put down hardwood.

Which is why here it is almost 10 p.m and we haven't even started painting. Instead we have been pulling out carpet staples, debating whether to put down new floors or refinish the existing wood and priming the walls. Other than that Chris likes to find the most difficult ways to complete projects, I'm not sure why we have primed the walls since they were already a light color. While we work well together most of the time, the methods we use vary. If I know the end task is a painted cute bedroom, I paint and then go shopping for fabulous accessories. Given the same outcome, Chris takes eight hours preparing to paint. I so lose interest after about 45 minutes of preparation time. That's why I am here blogging and Chris is priming the cracks in the ceiling. Good grief, maybe one day I'll have pictures of a completed project for you.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Mornings

On my list of weekday mornings, Fridays rank at the top. Not only do I get out of bed with the knowledge that for the next two days I get to sleep in, but I also get out of bed with residual effects of Thursday's yoga class. I usually feel light and happy after yoga and that feeling, along with a vague soreness reminding me I did something, sticks around for about 24 hours. In the summers, Fridays are casual days at the office and wearing a skirt with no hose makes me incredibly happy. All year round, though, I tend to reserve my cuter, more me, clothes for Fridays. Today I am sporting knee-high boots, a pink corduroy skirt and a black cardigan. I love it!

Even with all these happy Friday things, what I like most about Friday mornings is the StoryCorps snippets on NPR. If I get my butt into the car early enough on Fridays, I get to hear an interview between normal people, doing ordinary things, that somehow sound amazing and insightful. Today was the story of a woman who was married in 1933, at 96 she couldn't remember the exact date, but did remember taking care of her husband many years later through an illness. I've shown up to work with red eyes more times than I can count from these stories. These simple tales of love and survival are all archived at the Library of Congress. With books and the Internet we no longer need to depend on just an oral history of our society and culture, but sometimes when listening to these stories, I wonder if we should pay more attention to each other's stories.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Please consider the environment before printing this blog

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail...
Have you seen this message popping up on e-mails recently? I can't say I am surprised, most people I know print e-mails so they have a hard copy. Besides who can resist the trendiness of green? The computer was supposed to make us a paperless corporate world, but in most places it seems paper can still be found covering and piling up on desks. I see the reason for this message at the end of e-mails, but it still rubs me a tad the wrong way (even as I considered adding it my own signature). Having files, or not, is ones own decision (I choose not - if my computer ever crashes, I'm in trouble). And that security blanket the printout provides is also the decision of only the printer. I guess it seems a little presumptuous to me. Maybe I don't think your e-mail is important enough to print, so I wasn't going to anyway, even with your little message! And maybe I do need a record of the e-mail and now I have guilt, thanks for that. Either way it's just a tad annoying. Maybe the better message is: "If you need to print this e-mail, please be responsible for recycling it after use." Wordy, but a little less preachy, no?

The environment issue brings me to the topic of the conferences I attended over the weekend. Green meetings were a HOT topic. Inherently, meetings are not green. Getting to the meeting place uses fossil fuels, hotels are notorious for wasting large amounts of water and electricity, most meetings have too much food and too many printed handouts. However, the meeting planning industry is trying to combat these issues by not making handouts as available (go home and print them yourselves) and by not providing bottled water. I learned about other methods also, not using disposable plates or utensils or if you have to use them, using materials made of starches rather than plastics. Meetings are still dirty, but getting more green with each glass of water poured from a pitcher. Or at least that is the hope.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Seattle Scene

One of my favorite things to do while visiting the Pacific Northwest (I can say favorite, because it is now my second time here) is to make a picnic of local foods and try eating it by the water. Eating these regional treats overlooking a scenic bay seems like a good idea in theory, but it usually turns out to be too windy and cold (at least both times I have had that idea.) Inevitably, the picnic then gets relocated to a hotel room. Today’s picnic consists of a mini French loaf from Three Girls bakery, locally made organic Gouda, apples purchased from Pike Place Market and a molasses cookie from the same bakery as the bread. And let’s not forget the tall non-fat latte from the original Starbucks to wash the whole thing down with.

While picking up the picnic makings this morning, I was mistaken as a local by a tourist from Chicago who wanted directions to the first Starbucks. I was able to give him directions, but had to admit I wasn’t actually local. However, I was feeling as though I was rocking the Seattle vibe, so I can see where his confusion came from. I had on my brand new Prana hoodie purchased from the flagship REI store and my special rain shoes (picture to be uploaded later) picked up at home for this trip. The Seattle style seems to be a fun mix of trendy, outdoorsy pieces thrown together to look effortless and new. In typical hipster styling, layering is key here as the weather seems to change suddenly between rain, clouds, sun and wind. The Green scene is also very much apparent here. The taxis are mostly Priuses and the coffee cups are all made of recyclable materials.

Yep, with reusable grocery bags in tow, a mountain bike to ride, my iPod to drown out the traffic, the trusty laptop to blog about it all and the coffee drink of choice, I could totally do the Seattle thing.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Another shift in thinking I am trying to make this year (and ongoing) is to reframe things in a more positive light. Recent examples include:
  • Rather than thinking I am sitting here bored out of my mind watching the touring production of Dancing with the Stars, I thought I am lucky to be here for free as all these other poor saps paid good money for this experience.
  • Instead of thinking, I need to get up at 5 frickin' a.m. to catch a plane to Seattle for a conference, I thought I get to take an expensable business trip to a cool city I have always wanted to visit.
  • While doubled over in pain from an apparent MSG attack, I thought at least the MSG came delivered in a tasty bowl of chowder from the famous Pike Place Market. I then cowered under the blankets of the Heavenly bed for the night hoping to be better by morning.

So, yeah, reframing is a work in progress, but I'm getting there.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Snowflakes and Resolutions

I had almost forgotten that snow falls are made up of individual tiny snow flakes. This morning on the way to work, I was aimlessly staring out the window waiting for a red light to change, when I noticed a perfect snowflake frozen in time on my window. I really had forgotten what one snowflake looks like. We usually see snow blanketing a valley, or piling up on the sidewalk, or covering the side of a mountain. Rarely, have I seen one individual flake. I was reminded of the craft we would make at school before winter break. Turns out that that paper folding and scissor creation really is what one individual flake looks like. It's been said no two snowflakes are identical, and it is probably true. Which means each snowflake is not only perfect, but also flawed and thus unquestionably beautiful.

So in the spirit of that one individual flake - perfect, flawed and beautiful - I make my 2008 resolutions.
  • Be kind (more of the time). I will practice biting my tongue before I make snarky comments. I will try to let more things roll off my back rather than reacting negatively.
  • Be more green. I will make simple changes that I should already be doing - using reusable grocery bags, unplugging appliances not in use, taking shorter showers. Okay, honestly, the shorter shower thing, not going to happen, but I'll make less car trips or something.
  • Dedicate myself to my own personal yoga practice. Not only will I feel better, but I'll teach better and make my students feel better through extension. So, really that's three right there.
  • Together Chris and I have resolved to spend 15 minutes each night (or day) picking up, cleaning or otherwise organizing our home. The clutter is starting to win this war, but we believe each 15 minutes is a battle we can win.
  • Lose ten pounds and actually keep off the ten pounds this year. Losing it and gaining it back, not much help really.
  • Compete in a 5k each quarter of the year. And actually run a complete course rather than walking a portion (or a majority) of it.

And so in the spirit of the snowflake, I will explore these resolutions knowing that beauty only exists through flaws and perfections.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Thirty Happens

Yes, in case you were wondering, it is cold to participate in a 5k on New Year's Day in January. In fact, it was about 30 degrees and, oh, the wind was blowing. We got to the race site, registered and promptly returned to the car rather than lining up. It was cooold. Chris said the temperature and my making him compete could be grounds for divorce. However, we both finished the race and had a good time doing it. Or rather, looking back, it was a good thing to do on New Year's Day. During the race, I was thinking Holy F*** each 1/2 mile. Due to the cold, my not training and my infection, I fought to finish and ended up adding three minutes to my last 5K time, but I still consider it a success.

After some good couch time at home, we headed to my parents for my birthday celebration of the traditional sour kraut. We played some games, had lots of laughs, unwrapped some great presents, ate cake and Torrone ice cream and then headed home in the snow.

All in all, a great 30th birthday. Check out these pictures for proof...

(Me looking bad ass in my Under Armour)

(Me after the race with my bagel and hot chocolate - now not quite so bad ass)

(And finally, me blowing out all 30 of my candles)