Summer in Seattle

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Seattle is the abusive boyfriend I just can’t quit. Most of the time he’s a complete dick. He’s moody, reclusive, a complete downer. My inner “solar powered unicorn” dies a bit every day I wake up and look outside. “Um, rain and clouds again, Dick?”
Then, just when I’m starting to get the courage to really leave him for good, he pulls out his best charm. The mountains are visible. The sun peaks in the window at 6AM gently nudging me awake. He tells me I’m lovely and he woos me again. Everything is shiny and bubbly. He brings me flowers. He kisses me on the cheek with warmth.

I remember a real estate lady telling my friend V when she was looking at moving up from California, “It’s not lovely a lot of the time but when it is? It’s amazing.” I used to tell my friend she was “sun entitled” because she would actually STAY INSIDE on a sunny day. “Oh, no, here we don’t do that. People call in sick. There are accidents on the freeway because of the sun. We slow down over bridges to look at the mountains.”

It’s true. Looking at the mountain on my way to work, I soften a bit, second guess my ability to leave. I nearly forget, in just a day or two, how miserable my boyfriend makes me on a daily basis.

Seattle? I quit you. I love you. I want to have your babies. I want to leave you.

How I got here in the first place

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Kids, I’m going to tell you a story*. This is a story about how I ended up sitting in an office outside of Nuremberg in a tiny town called Erlangen, Germany, which happens to be less than an hour’s drive from where I was made. It’s a true story.

I get this question a lot lately, “What do you DO now, exactly,” and I can not answer in full. I work on demos for automotive software companies. I create websites, mostly front-end now, for larger companies that know more than I do. I help organize strategies for content management, marketing communications, branding and messaging. I travel to a lot of amazing places and I meet a lot of amazing people. My job does not suck. I can tell you that.

This particular story happens in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I was working with two automotive software companies. For one, I was finishing a demo on a mobile device, let’s call it the iPad, for their sales and marketing team to show Ford, Audi, VW and Toyota. And the other, let’s call it Big Awesome German Company, I was helping out with branding and messaging and content strategy. That is to say, I was at CES for work and I got to party with some really awesome companies.

Like Microsoft, for example.

I ended up, not so much on accident, at the Microsoft party at CES. I asked a co-worker there to watch my drink: A gray goose and diet. She promised to do so as I went to the toilets. However, since I ended up meeting four people on my return, when I arrived back to the bar I looked at her quizzically. “Um, where’s my drink?” She glanced over her shoulder, “I gave it to This Guy since you took so long to get back.” “Uh,” I stammered, “Who is This Guy? HE owes me a drink.”

The Precipice

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Life is a mindset. Life can get in the way of living if you let it. Practicality. Reality. Analysis. Risk.

I do not sit idle well. Beyond what I assume would qualify me for major intervention in a public school system possibly including tranquilizers, I pursue ideals the way children pursue sugar highs. I crave them. At times it can be annoying, I’m sure. “Oh! LOOK! I have the opportunity to [go] [see] [do] this [thing] [place] [job]!” Sometimes I annoy my self with my own enthusiasm. The bubble, it rises quickly and pops easily.

There are risks in life beyond measure. Deciding to return to graduate school, to take that perfect seeming job, to raise children with your spouse; these are beyond resources the mind can grasp. Sleepiness, fear, failure. Real consequences to ideals that each begin as an enthusiastic mind-set.

But the precipise does not come once a lifetime. As you stagger through the rocky terrain of aging, stumbling, climbing, learning, the road twists back upon itself and forces decisions at each turn. Do you jump or do you side step?

I? I jump. And I don’t look back.

10/10/2011

On living other’s dogma Stories

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The alarm went off at 7AM for the first day of fifth grade. My dad was in his suit walking out the door as he heard me grumble and get up. “Life sucks and then you die,” he greeted me.

This is the first of a thousand similar morning greetings he would say as he suited up and walked out the door to work.

Me 10 years old

I always thought this was just my Dad’s “thang.” Like he loved the Aggie’s football or playing war games on the computer. I thought it was sort of just something he muttered like when he sneezed “Jesus Christ on a commode.” It was one of his quirks, those parts of Dad that made him… well, Dad.

Years and years later, at thirty-five, I sit talking across an impossible valley. As it turns out, my dad is not the only one to say this as he went to work each morning. In fact, it’s something many dads said as they embarked on their early morning trek. It was not just dads in suits, or dads at mills, or dads with fancy cars or frequent flyer miles. It’s an attitude of a generation. The norm for our children’s grandparents is a rut-filled expectation of misery and eventually death. Our children’s parents, now in their mid-thirties or early forties, are just now rebelling against mid-life. We are just coming in to our own careers and now, as we walk out the door in the early morning dawn, we are asking why. WHY do we have to live our father’s mantra “life sucks and then you die.”

My Mind Enema

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“Um, do you have sage?” I ask at Whole Foods. It seems logical that if one would need something to cleanse spirits, Whole Foods would have it.

You know: Hippies and all that.

“You mean for burning?” I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about. I think you burn it. I’m not sure what I’m looking for but I’ve been told by at least four people to try a sage cleanse for our house so this year will be infinitely better than the last. Sage cleansing. I couldn’t even bother to look it up before I go marching in to Whole Foods to buy it.

Sage

“Here you go,” says the thin, purposefully unkempt girl working at the Yuppy-Hippie-Overpriced-Grocery-Store. She leaves and I’m faced with a decision; two small sage sticks or one large stick?  “We need all the cleansing possible,” I mutter and grab the biggest sage stick I can find.

On Making Pro You Decisions

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There’s a theory of mine. Ok, it’s not just *my* theory, I’ve actually read a book, watched a documentary and heard a famous comedian talk about it. It’s called the “Pro You Decision” theory.

See, I’m a big believer of making your own fate. I think there’s a lot of self fulfilling prophecy out there. If someone is always feeling like a loser who can’t lose weight, I’m fairly sure they’re going to be a loser who can’t lose weight. If you take that same person and shift their mind in to a positive “I can totally lose weight! I’m able to make those decisions to move in that direction!” I think eventually it will happen. It’s been my own experience in many areas of my life at least.

To get out of a spiral of despair, I try to make a Pro Me decision. It’s a small decision, can be seemingly inconsequential, but necessary. This morning I chose to get up early, take a brisk walk, and start work early with a todo list in hand. It has shaped my entire day. One Pro You decision leads to another Pro You decision. It’s not cosmic magic. It’s the simple fact that by placing your mind in a positive position, you’re more able to see the positive choices presented to you in a day. By working out in the morning I’m more willing to select healthier foods during the day. By selecting healthier foods I’ll have more energy. The afternoon will be more productive because I have more energy and my productivity will boost my self confidence at work and help me feel satisfied when I return home. One small decision this morning will set the stage for an entire day of awesome.

What is your Pro You Decision?

On Publishing your life on the Internet

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“How can you share everything from your life to The Internet?”

This is a question I’ve been getting asked since 2003. I give the exact same answer I gave before blog ads existed, conferences were popular or marketing pitches went out en mass: “I don’t.”

There is a vast difference between sharing all your personal information and sharing fun, personal stories. Believe it or not, most bloggers still filter their content.  As personal as the stories I have shared throughout my time online, there are many details of my life nobody knows except those involved.

It’s a false sense of closeness you’ll get from reading someone’s blog. You might feel that you understand them entirely, could be best friends, have the EXACT SAME thoughts. The wonderful truth is that you might have or be all those things, but you can only find that out by experiencing a true friendship. In the past few weeks I’ve reached out to many of the wonderful women I’ve met online. They have shared snippets of their lives and I know them well enough to understand the bigger picture that lies underneath. The amazing fact is that if you ask, offline, off record, in earnest, you can share things so much more intimate than what The Internet can ever know. “I had no idea,” a friend might breathe over IM. “I didn’t realize,” you might whisper when you read an email in return.

Many of us blog because we love to write and express ourselves best in this medium. Many of us find it therapeutic to work out the inner ideals we’re unsure of here on this screen where others can help guide or encourage the enlightenment. This form of communication, while cathartic, is still limiting.

9/9/2011

Bird by Bird - A business plan Front-end-developer

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Bird by Bird - A business plan

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds,  immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.’ -Anne Lamott

I’m overwhelmed to a ridiculous state. Somewhere along the path of amazing, whilst traveling and producing and speaking, my cart became full of expectations, deadlines and impossibility.

“If you say no too often, Leslie, they won’t ask you back to babysit. Be careful when you turn down a job opportunity.” -Oma Flinger

I was 7 when I started my first business. A friend from down the street and I ran in to the woods beyond our houses and collected rocks, interesting twigs and other “potentially beautiful” items. We ran home, painted each carefully, and set out knocking on every door asking if they wanted to purchase our art for ten cents each. I made about a dollar that day peddling my work amongst the neighborhood.

At 10 I decided to run an in-home daycare for an hour a day at my parent’s house. My mother wasn’t a fan of having 12 children in our small home, so I set up the garage as a small “school” setting and offered to take children who lived near by at a small fee to teach them a play that we would perform at the end of the week. It was a cabbage patch kid reenactment set to the tunes of a record I owned. At the end of the week, parents came to watch the play and praised the sweaty mess of children I directed in the two car garage in Houston.

Having recently decided to take life by the unicorn horn (if you will) and start a new, more amazing, better freelance business than I’d ever had before, I opened up my contacts to accept new work. Happily, Joyfully, Thankfully work flew in the front door, even more than I knew I could take. My mother’s words bubbled to the surface and her years of an incredibly strong work ethic and high expectations of her own life replicated in my own. I took the work, even when the deadlines were smashed together, with travel booking both ends, and said yes to it all.

9/8/2011

At twitlight Balance Parenting

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I hear my family upstairs. There are squeals, laughter, delight. The radio is blaring through the built-in speakers of our bedroom window, opened even though this last August air is chilly. There is chasing above. I sit on the patio as Ben Folds plays via iPhone. I work a bit. I delight in my job. I ponder the day. I drink a good beer.

I once read, “To be in harmony with the universe is to be like floating: Doors open, opportunities arise and you take them without thought.” That is happening to me as of late. Doors seem to bust open. Life seems to beacon me. COME! COME LIVE!

“When hope is not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it sometimes floats forth and opens.” -Anne Lamott

I am exceedingly happy at my upcoming opportunities. I am living a day job of merriment. I am watching my children ride their bikes without training wheels and smiling at their accomplishments. I am aging in my own body and appreciating it more daily. I am realizing the future may not be as I always expected but that the universe offers more than I can ever hope or dream. Without being cosmically ridiculous, I can say without a doubt that those who dream big live big.

I want to dream big.

8/12/2011

On darkness.. and light Stories

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One of my favorite episodes of my favorite TV show ever is “Northern Lights” of Northern Exposure Episode 4:3. It’s an analogy of light within the depths of darkness.

Goethe’s final words: “More Light”. Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime,  that’s been our unifying cry. More light. Sunlight, torchlight, candlelight, neon, incandescent… Lights to banish the darkness from our caves, to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the nigthgames at Soldier’s Field. Little tiny flashlight for the books we read under the covers when we’re supposed to be asleep.
Light is more than watts and foot candles. Light is metaphor. Thy word is a lamp under my feet. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Lead kindly light, amid the encircling gloom. Lead Thou [You] me on. The night is dark and I am far from home. Lead Thou me on. Arise, shine for thy light has come. Light is knowledge. Light is life. Light is light.

We’re entering the darkest time here in the Pacific Northwest. The time where the sunlight dips to unseen beds at 4pm and doesn’t rise again until 8AM. The hibernation of man becomes a reality and people in coffee shops talk about the endless darkness.

We are a collective bear’s den: Nestling down for the winter months, comparing caves and scarves and nuts.

It is during the darkest hours of winter that we seek the Light. To me this is found in humanity. In the imperfect solace of friendships, of community, of tree lightings and holiday festivities. Later we will find this in the houses of those we know: lights of comfort, of discussion: of future plans. This is the time of reflection, of seeking, of finding. And hopefully, as the new year comes upon us, even in darkness, it is a time of light and hope; however that may look in a different new year light.