To Remember

Taken at my 18th birthday party - this post goes out to the awesome guy to my right, Tyson.

This has been quite the week. Sometimes I hope for a momentous week and sometimes I prefer the weeks stay unremarkable... this week falls within the latter.

On Thursday morning I spent a couple of hours in our bi-weekly Sr. Team meeting at work. It was fairly tame considering the amount of work we've all be doing lately, but a lot of work issues were on my mind. I sped back to my office after the meeting to quickly get started on another project while I had a few minutes at my desk only to see that I had a handful of texts from a couple of friends down in Texas. The last time this happened was in 2002 and it was a handful of messages on my answering machine to announce the death of a close friend (things have changed in the past 10 years). These texts were very similar - Tyson, a close friend of mine from my Jr. High/High School days, passed away the day before.

Whatever work project that I was about to start was quickly forgotten. My heart instantly turned inside out. This isn't news you expect... ever... let alone when you and your friends are barely into their 30s. I had not seen Tyson for quite some time and only kept up with him on Facebook. I mean, at least we posted on each other's walls for birthdays and marraige congrats and when he announced his twins made it safely into the world. I am afraid, as wonderful as Facebook is, that it has lead to a complacent upkeep of old friends.

Tyson had been a close friend. What started out as the most redonk crush ever (like, could not stop thinking about him and wrote his name on every notebook I had) early in Jr. High, turned into a great friendship before 9th grade was over. He came to my birthday parties, my regular parties (parties were popular back in the 90s), he did a mock strip tease at one of the parties when we were 15 on a dare and then brought it back as the main attraction for my 16th birthday complete with costume (don't worry, we were young, my mom, the party supervisor, was modest, she never let it get further than it needed to). We competed together in lip sync competitions in 9th grade and he, along with his best friend, made my biology class both highly entertaining and extremely stressful (just ask me how i feel about having my tennis shoes tied to my desk over and over again and having to look at rubber bands from braces wrapped around your desk neighbor's tongue while they taunt you when you should be learning about frog dissection... okay, I'll tell you, I hated it although my mom said it was flirting... I didn't buy it).

However, when college came, we went our seperate ways. He attended Texas A&M and I went down to UT.

And that was that.

And now he's gone. My heart hurts for his close friends, for his wife, for their tiny new babies. My heart cries for his family, his mom and his brother.

My heart knows how to react, buy my brain isn't sure how to process this. He's the 3rd guy who I was close to in one way or another that I've lost since graduation. First was Chris, then Ben, now Tyson. Does this happen to everyone? Do we all lose good friends this quickly? It seriously has me considering what it would take to pack up and move south to find a house right next to my best friend. Life is so precious. I know this. Sometimes I forget it but I hate how I'm reminded of it.

In conclusion, I didn't decide to post this to make people sad. I did it as a reminder that one moment can change a life.

Please live yours beautifully.


Who do you work like?

I recently saw a status update on Facebook that went something like this:

Act like a lady, think like a man, work like your boss.

While acting like a lady is something I am constantly trying to do (just ask anyone about my high level of modesty and if you aren't my significant other, sibling or close friend, you won't hear off color comments coming out of my mouth). I think you could go as far as to just act appropriately. Chew your food with your mouth closed, put the smart phone down in meetings, and other similar things that keep those around y0u from wishing you had called in sick that day.

Thinking like a man probably won't get me anywhere. I think like me. Thinking like I do has propelled me pretty far down a path I rather like, so there is no way I'm even going to consider changing the way I think. How does a man think anyway? Who wrote that? It's silly.

Now, working like your boss, that's the golden ticket. It's a pretty fair assumption that your boss likes the way they work. They like their output, they like their style of work and they like what they accomplish. While they don't expect everyone to be like they are (at least, we hope they acknowledge that fact that everyone works differently from one another), they might wish that those around them at least kept up with their speed.

I've used my bosses as models, if you will, of how I need to work. My job might be similar to theirs or vastly different depending on the day of the week, but I want the quality of my work to at least be something they don't have to dwell on. If they aren't dwelling on me at the end of the day, then I'm doing something right. If I work for someone who is the most detailed oriented person I know, then I need to be one step ahead of them and have every single thing figured out before they ever have to involve themselves. If they are the best editor/proof reader in the company, I guarantee you that I'll have 4 people check over my work before I ever submit it to them. If they are one to follow up with me on a project a day after it's assigned, I promise you that I'll have my details and plan laid out the night before.

It's how I work and it works very well for me. It isn't the degree pictured above that has me sitting where I am looking down the path I gaze at every day, it's how I work. I also look beyond my boss for examples to model my work style after. Who have I met within the industry that impress me? What can I take away from each of those encounters? What attributes make up the perfect employee? While I'll never be perfect, I will try my hardest to get there.

I think many times people fall back on their bosses as someone up on a pedestal. These bosses work long hours because they are paid more (ask me about how many LONG hours I worked before I was ever a boss). They have been around longer so they are there to check/correct what you do. It shouldn't be that way. Shouldn't you want your boss to see you as capable of doing it on your own or with your peers? Will you be given more assignments and ladder climbing projects if it means they are going to have to spend more time on your other projects?

Probably not.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I challenge all of you to work more like your boss. My goal this week will be pinpointing new ways to challenge myself to be 2 steps ahead of mine. What is your goal? If you're your own boss, who do you look to for work style inspiration?

Now for my disclaimer. As a boss and as someone who has a great boss, I know that that dynamic makes an excellent team. It isn't a hands off relationship. However, the relationship should be about moving forward and creating some amazing projects, not trying to figure out what went wrong.


Of a crafty nature

All throughout my college years, if I needed something for my apartment, I would run to Target and purchase it. Before you give me a stern, disapproving look, I will say that every piece of furniture/decor item purchased there is still holding up nicely. My tall, cheap, book shelves that I purchased at $33 a piece, still standing (maybe a bit lopsided but still standing). The mission style desk and hutch I used for ages was sold for a nice price at last year's garage sale. The TV cart was used not only for a TV, but also a printer, and later a craft room storage area, and eventually a plant stand also sold for a fair price at last year's garage sale. The candle sticks, the boxes, the baskets, the crap - all still good and most still in use.

However, as I've grown into my adult years and adult style, my eye has grown tired of what fills the shelves of Target (the only thing I still buy there is House and Dexter when new seasons come out on DVD as their new release season prices always beat Walmart and Best Buy). I've found myself wanting to find new uses for old things. There are flea markets, junk shops, barn sales and dumpsters just FULL of useful objects - why on earth are we letting these items go to waste in landfills and back rooms? Let's all breathe new life into these old treasures.

A year ago I found an old farm/utility/wooden basket thingy at a local junk shop. It caught my eye not for the structure so much but rather what was in it. It was full of old, wooden produce baskets that were perfect for displaying my handspun yarn at the local farmers market. $15 later, the small baskets and large wooden one were mine. I happened to stumble across another one out at the family farm as my sister and I were getting ready to put it on the market (that's another story all together). I rescued that one from going back to the land and brought it home with me.Now I had two of these wooden utility basket thingies (anyone know what they are actually called?). I never ended up using the small produce baskets and everything sat in my living room, looking sad and unused. I eventually sold the produce baskets at the Junque Rethunque flea market booth and priced the 2 wooden utility basket thingies to sell as well.

And then they haunted me. For 3 weeks I thought about using those baskets in a creative way to solve 2 problems. 1 - a lack of shelf and display space in my condo and 2 - a lack of pretty things in my bedroom. When the thought of those wooden utility basket thingies selling to someone else was too much to bare, I went up to the booth, rescued them and brought them home with me.

Then they sat in my living room, once again, sad and unloved for almost 2 months (I'm great with coming up with uses for things, but not great on actually putting things to use).

One day during the Christmas break, I decided enough was enough. My bedroom was ugly and I needed something to anchor all of the lovely, vintage touches I had throughout (and old wire book stand, a cute Samsonite train case to old bulky jewelry in, a small wooden stool my grandpa made, a small wire vanity seat, a large Samsonite suitcase that adds the perfect height to our clothes hamper, an antique dresser... you get the idea, I love old). All of my vintage touches sat strewn about with no real purpose. Those wooden utility basket thingies were going to be the anchor.

2 hours, lots of drilling and rearranging, and a bit of sweat later, I had finished the project. 2 wooden utility basket thingies, 4 shelf supports from Hobby Lobby (get them when they are on sale, I think I paid $30 for all four and they make the project) and viola! A lovely new room.

On a side note, I made this necklace hanger before I even moved into this condo but of course, it was never hung until I moved (the story of my life). I found an akwardly wide and short antique frame at the family farm painted silver. A few coats of cream spray paint, some quilt batting and a fat quarter of fabric produced the perfect necklace hanger. My sister gave me some old t-pins and I was set. It looked weird hanging alone, so I painted some other interesting frames the same color and showcased a few, small prints also saved from the family farm. It's a nice collection and doesn't look out of place now that my room makes more sense.


A Sunday

Today has been a rather quiet Sunday. The sun hasn't shown it's bright face for even a moment and the light coming in my windows has been soft and full of secrets. It wasn't a day for running errands, or organizing a closet, or even dusting the shelves.

It was a Sunday for many a moment exploring You Tube for music I've missed out on.

It was a Sunday for a bit of baking.

It was a Sunday for reading magazines and snoozing with the Schmoo Cat at the foot of the bed.

Today has been a rather quiet Sunday. Sometimes you need those quiet days. Plans go out the window and you find yourself doing nothing of note. It is those days that leave me the most relaxed when they are over. It is those days that are far more valuable than a day full of productive adventures.


A return to that strange place

One of my favorite posts from the past year is this one:

It's not my favorite because of the way its written or even where I was posting from (NYC, by the way, I'll post again from there in February, just to rub it in a little). It's my favorite because of the way it makes me feel. I honestly cannot believe it has been a year since I was there at APAP participating in the Emerging Leaders Program. What originally was apprehension about the group of people I was about to meet in the basement of the Sheraton quickly turned into bubbling excitement. The week was a rush, an exhausting rush, but I wouldn't trade that experience for the world.

APAP was the first conference that really made an impact on me. I've always taken something away from conferences and have learned a great deal, but I've never been changed. My time at APAP changed me. It didn't so much point me in a direction or show me the way in my professional pursuit, but it confirmed that I was right where I needed to be.

I'll be up there for a different conference in just a little over a month. I'll be attending the IAVM Performing Arts Managers Conference (I'll probably refer to it as IAVM PAMC in later posts). Based on what I left Phoenix with last July after the IAVM Venue Connect, I expect even more from this trip. I gained so much both professionally and personally at the last conference I went to, my mind is boggled as to what changes might come about at this one.

There is only one problem.

I'll have to wait until February 9th to get there. I'm not a patient person :)

And by the way, I've already got my ticket to see Book of Mormon the night I get there. It's already shaping up to be a spectacular event!


A time during which I maintained my blog

See that soup up there? I'll tell you how to make it later on :)

Well here I am, doing a peachy job of maintaining my blog in the new year. What is this... three blog posts since New Years? I seem to do a pretty good job updating my blog when I put my mind to it. That is usually around the start of the year and when something exciting is going on in my life (unless it was 2008 in which case I seemed to have caught blogging fever). That also seems to be the pattern I have in keeping up to date with my far away friends.

It's sad.

I should fix that.

And since talking about blogging isn't nearly as exciting to the reader (or the author) as writing about something deep and introspective, I'll depart from my opening words and embark on a more interesting topic.

The first few days back to the office after an extended vacation (17 days to be exact) are never very easy. Mentally you are ready to head back, but physically, your body is ready for a nap at 11:28AM and then another one after a big, lazy lunch and a movie around 3:21PM. Back in the office, though, you might find yourself in important meetings or water cooler discussions around those times and a nap just doesn't cut it (at least, not in this country). On top of some long, napless days, you go home to a house void of all Christmas cheer. The decorations have been taken down, your baked Christmas goodies are getting stale, and the money you spent on Christmas is being replaced with a strategic plan that involves eating at home, every night, and on a budget.

Things look bleak right about now...

... unless you've found a hidden burst of creativity that you didn't use up preparing for the holidays.

While lounging about this past weekend, I worked very hard to make available some easy to grab activities and tasty, new menus for dinners. If my evenings are filled with new kitchen adventures followed by a game of solitaire with an REAL LIVE deck of cards, perhaps I have something to look forward to (why solitaire? Well, it's mindless... sometimes you need mindless in a day, don't you judge me. And why with a real deck of cards? Because it hurts my eyes less than my phone or computer screen).

Humor me for a minute. I adore cooking. I'm pretty good at it but long days at work coupled with exhausting brain things filling my head all day can lead to cop out meals. These are meals I know how to make without a recipe and that I know will be liked by all parties involved in the noshing process. My go to meals rotate between alfredo sauce on any kind of pasta that suits my fancy that day (sometimes I kick it up a notch and do a cajun chicken alfredo, but it's still alfredo), various types of enchiladas (I can make any freezer mystery meat into a killer pan of those Tex-Mex favorites), curry split pea soup, curry chicken pot pie, mushroom/sausage/pumpkin soup and... well... sometimes spaghetti and sometimes chili (although I'm not a fan of either but they are easy so we eat them). There you have it. If I'm going to cook at home, it's usually one of those things.

This can easily lead to thoughts of budget suicide (i.e., running to Cable Car Pizza for $30 worth of gourmet pizza or heading to China Cafe because it's familiar and they know you are the lady who likes extra sauce with her egg foo young). Foods that used to be tasty and exciting seem, quite honestly, upsetting to the stomach. Changes were inevitable if I was going to be able to maintain some form of a happy home that smells delicious every night.

Thankfully, I'm the proud owner of about 147 food related or recipe filled magazines from the past few years. Between Martha Stewart Living, Every Day Food (also Martha Stewart), and Everyday with Rachel Ray, I surely had a few good recipes to try out. It only took 20 minutes, but I was able to find 2 weeks worth of items to make in just three magazines. I'm happy to report that every single one I've prepared so far have been killer good.

Okay, so I've only made 3 so far, but things are looking up!

Now, all of this to say, I'm thinking that a weekly post to share one or two of my favorite recipes tried over the past week is surely in the cards. To kick things off, I bring you last night's Chicken Tortilla Soup - pictured above. The base recipe is from Everyday Food (the Jan/Feb 2012 issue) but I took a lot of creative liberties when cooking this 'cause that's what I do best.

5 cups chicken broth (I bought a box which had 4 and made a 5th out of bouillon and the hot water I poached the chicken in, I'm sure this made it better)
10 chicken tenders
most of a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes (no salt added)
tablespoon of tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
chili powder (a lot... I didn't measure)
corn tortillas
olive oil
lime wedges
Mexican or Spanish rice of your choice (I make my own with white rice, a can of rotel, salt and cumin)
Shredded Mexican cheese (or cotija if you have cooler grocery stores than I do)

Poach the chicken until done, shred when cool enough to touch with out cursing
Heat oven to 350, cut desired amount of tortillas into strips (I used 3 for 2 bowls of soup), toss with a bit of olive oil (enough to coat very lightly), season with salt and chili powder, then spread on baking sheet and cook until crisp - turning once.
Cook your rice however you want to cook it (boxed rices comes with their own instructions, I don't need to put them here)
Cook garlic in a large soup pot with some olive oil until fragrant (a few minutes)
Add diced tomatoes in juice, tomato paste and chili powder (however much you want) and cook until liquid is almost gone.
Add all chicken broth.
Bring to a boil, salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, DON'T FORGET ABOUT YOUR TORTILLA STRIPS (burning them is sad)

Place a scoop of rice in each bowl
top with some shredded chicken
top with a sprinkle of shredded cheese
slice avocado and set on top of the cheese
pour some of the soup into the bowl
top with cilantro and tortilla strips
then squeeze the heck out of a lime wedge over the top of the soup (you'll thank me later)

don't throw away the squeezed lime... put that bad boy down in some water, or tea, and pretend you're in Mexico. Better yet, make a margarita and dream of beach side restaurants in Cozumel. I did.

Serves 4 - don't be a pig, save the leftovers for lunch, unless you're starving. In that case, go ahead and be a pig.



This should be easy

Following up on my previous post -
how do you like my first 2 "me things" for 2012?

While browsing on Flickr, I ran across a lovely picture with some tips for the New Year. All were good tips, but this one stuck out to me:

Open your mind and just be still. Make time to let you mind relax and embrace uncertainty.

Being still is something I have been trying to do over the past few months. Turning the outside world off and sitting still is something that isn't hard for me to do. What I find impossible, though, is opening my mind and ridding it of stale thoughts. I tend to hold on to stressors way more than I should. When I stop everything to just be still and think, they creep up on me. The things that take up most of my thinking time are typically situations at work (never projects, projects don't consume my thoughts as much as you might think), monetary issues (who doesn't worry about this?), wanting a scenery change and situations at work (wait, did I list that twice?).

These things eat at me, poke at me and taunt me until I stop being still and get up to find something to occupy my mind with. I've tried many things to rid my head of these thoughts and have even gone as far as writing them down on paper and throwing them away. But still... they sit in the back of my head and mock me with their laughter.

What's the best way to rid my mind of these thoughts to allow more room for positive thinking when sitting still? I'm going to work on figuring this out... but not so hard that it adds to the stress!

Before I sat down to write this post, I sat in my bedroom (which is now a peaceful haven thanks to a redecorating urge I had a week ago) and thought about the past year. What a year it has been. I've read a few blog posts and Facebook posts since the new year that have mentioned many steps forward and many steps back. I can honestly say that I've taken many steps forward this year, but my steps back have been limited. Sure, there have been trials and obstacles all year but what year doesn't have those? As part of my task to clear out the stressors and fill my thoughts with positive vibes, I'm listing some of the highlights from this year:

Continued to have a loving, supportive and strong relationship with The Sweet Boy and celebrated our 7th anniversary in October. I cannot be thankful enough for the support he gives me in all aspects of what I do. Became more involved in a professional organization that is helping me define my career path in ways that I didn't know existed until a couple of years ago. Finally found a doctor who listened enough to diagnose PCOS as my issue with so many things (and since the diagnosis and following treatments, I haven't felt this good in over 15 years). Traveled to Mexico, Honduras and Belize with my sister - it was a trip we started talking about in 2003. Went to my first music festival in Chicago with my sister and boy have I been missing out! Participated in the Emerging Leaders Institute in NYC through the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Was published in an honest to goodness REAL publication. Joined my sister as a Junque Rethunque partner (a business she started with my mom years ago) and we had a successful first year as flea market booth renters. Next up? World domination, of course!

If I spend enough time thinking back on these highlights, there surely won't be room for the other things. My hope, for 2012, is to have an even better year than 2011. I'm off to a good start with a trip to Indianapolis at the beginning of February to work during the Super Bowl followed by a trip out to NYC for the IAVM PAMC conference. Now only time will tell how the year will shape after that.

So here's to a great year with many steps forward and much time spent opening my mind and just being still.