Friday, December 30, 2011

Pink Collar Ghetto - And Perhaps My Final Dissertation Topic?

"Let's face it, Ladies.  We are in a pink collar ghetto."  Lily Tomlin as Violet Newstead, 9 to 5. 
I was 5 years old when the movie 9 to 5 came out, but I remember watching it with my mom over and over again.  To this day, if it's on TV, I will stop to watch it.  As a girl of the 80's, I grew up with parents who told me I could do anything, even be President.  My mom always worked at home, and my dad didn't get the chance to finish college.  This movie sang to me the message that women have to stick together and confront the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigots of the world.  
At the sunset of 2011, the message is still important.  Why?  Because women, as a whole, make only 80% of what men make.  80%.  In 2011.  Are you listening?  And this is supposed to be such an improvement from 1970, when the gap was less than 60%.  Yesterday I did some research on the pink collar ghetto, coined in 1983 by a woman consultant desperately trying to help women crawl out of it.  Yes, the wage gap is mainly attributable to the over-representation of men in higher-paying occupations, such as engineering, sciences and math, and executive leadership, and the over-representation of women in lower-paying occupations, such as education, nursing, and service industries.  How can we let this happen?  Even when women go to college (now at a much higher rate than men), they still make far less than their male counterparts.  This is a travesty and one I must figure out.

So as my dissertation focus has shaped itself, and changed itself, and driven me - and my advisor - crazy, now I think I've reached it.  I have access to more than a dozen women at work who are breaking down barriers in male-dominated industries and making as much money as the good ol' boys.  I have to tap into them and see what makes the difference and how we can help other women become equal in the workplace, and society as a whole.  

Perhaps a more fundamental mystery is this:  Why are some of the most critical occupations to our society the lowest paying ones?  I refuse to believe that educating our children and healing our infirm and weak take any less skill, education, mental horsepower, and critical thinking than building a power plant, or optimizing a search engine algorithm.  We pay CEO's, athletes, movie stars more money than they could ever spend in several generations.  Now, lest you think I'm a socialist, let me clear that up - I'm not.  I believe people have the right to earn as much money as they possibly can.  But let's be realistic here.  We have created a society in which women are stuck in a pink-collar ghetto with very little hope of rising above.  This creates a cycle of poverty for their children, and thus dominates our social landscape with all sorts of problems - crime, drugs, illness that cost society billions of dollars and insurmountable pain.  Wouldn't it make sense to equalize pay for critical jobs in our country and help women become partners in solving the world's ills?  

Think about it. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dodged a Bullet

I got a B in Quantitative Research Analysis, a class I was sure I was going to fail and have to repeat, amid the river of tears I would cry if that had happened.  I got a A+ in my favorite professor's class (she also happens to be my advisor, and I am one lucky PhD student for that), and an A- in a class that I couldn't care less about if I had tried.  But this semester taught me something - I can do anything, but I can't do everything.  Three PhD classes, plus a full-time workload that increasingly challenges me, and a life with a man who makes me have fun no matter what (liver and sleep be damned some nights!), is just too much.  I am slowing down my program and graduating a semester or two past what my overly-ambitious goal was.  I'm okay with it.  It's a journey, not a race.  And as I have mentioned, my PhD program does not define me, it only makes a part of who I am. 

I am starting my end-of-year reflecting.  It was a great year.  I had some really great highs - earning my SPHR, making really awesome new friends, kicking @ss at work, and trying to balance my crazy-busy world, and I had some lows - not spending enough time with my favorite person in the world (see:  PhD and work/travel) and nearly alienating him, and sweating 3 classes this semester. 

But as the year comes to an end, I think I'm in a damn good place.  I am rich with friends I never expected to have, I have a wonderful mentor who makes me believe in myself, and best of all, I am married to my best friend, who always makes me believe in myself. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What Matters

My PhD program does not define me - will not define me.  The memories I make with friends, however, do define me.  Last night was a celebration of new friends and good times.  I love hosting dinner parties.  I learn so much about the people I live and work with, and also learn new things about myself.

Nourishing those who make a difference in my life is one of my favorite things to do.  Last night brought a succulently-rich red-wine braised beef roast, buttery mashed potatoes, homemade bread, and an amazingly decadent Chocolate Guinness stout cake trifle with chocolate ganache and Bailey's Irish Whipped Cream (last minute almost fail - the cake stuck to the pan - but it performed well in a trifle and was the star of the night!).  The company was great, the food delicious, and the memories, priceless. 

I look at my circle of friends and can't help but feel delight, especially during the holiday season when you are supposed to feel blessed.  I have a diverse friend base, and they teach me something new every day.  My friends come from all walks of life, and I am tickled pink that they choose to celebrate a Saturday night at our place.  One friend, from Ghana, brought back beautiful African masks for us, another made soap, and others brought delicious candy confections that I don't have the patience to create.  Together, we laughed, we lived, we loved.  I'm not sure it ever gets better than that.  I am truly rich from the friends who are willing to spend time with us.  Life is grand, and that, my friends, is all that matters. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Behavior Science

It probably doesn't help me to understand why I don't have the motivation to complete my final paper for quantitative statistics and research analysis.  I understand behavior science.  The rules are irrefutable.  They are everywhere.  I am not reinforced for doing this homework, and the only reason I'm doing it is negative reinforcement - to avoid a flaming "F" and hope for a passing "B." 

Humans cannot function without positive reinforcement.  They break down, they lose motivation, they don't give their best.  I see this every single day at work and at school.  Yet people dismiss the science because it seems so hard.  Let me tell you, folks, it's not.  It's remarkably easy.  Treat people the way they (not YOU) want to be treated, recognize them, and praise them sincerely for a job well done.  Yet we get it wrong so many times, and high performers lose motivation to perform.  Aubrey Daniels has it right.  Maybe I can go work for him! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Have to

The "have to's" in my life are breaking me down.  I want to cry and throw things and then curl up in bed with a good 80's movie that makes me cry for good reasons.  I don't know how I'm going to find the time, the strength, the motivation, the will to keep moving.  My job, while fulfilling because of several people I work with, depresses me because of one aspect.  That I can't discuss.  That's holding me back.  That needs to die a slow painful demise of karmic destiny.  My PhD program is un-fulfilling because of professors who think distance students are "less than" - even though we are trying to make the world a better place by doing, instead of sitting around talking about doing.  It's a dichotomy that is tearing me apart.  And I am the only person in my immediate world that is working on a PhD, even though two friends via distance have become close, it's not the same. 

I struggle to get dinner on the table while listening to class, trying to complete a paper, picking up clutter before the housekeeper arrives (the one thing saving me from completely going off the deep end), folding laundry, and otherwise being superwoman in a world where the people around me don't comprehend my stress level, despite my tired face, my puffy cheeks, the sunken eyes, the inability to enjoy what I normally do.  I don't know where to turn.  I don't know how to stop the tears that want to flow because of sheer frustration and isolation. 

I want to cook.  I don't have the time.  I thankfully have leftovers that I store for him, while I subsist on pumpkin seeds and wine.  I know this is but a short time in my life to reach a goal I have set for myself, a goal that 95% of the population will never set, let alone reach, but right now, it feels pretty lonely in that 5%, of which I know only 2 who are sharing it with me, and from a distance. 

I want to share this, because this is to chronicle my PhD journey.  It's not all excitement and love and roses and fabulousness.  It's freakin' hard work and tears and frustration and pain.  But it's my goal and if I don't reach it, I will never forgive myself. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Digging In

Taking three PhD classes while working a full-time job during an intense expansion is, at best, challenging.  I am in three classes this semester that are doing nothing for me.  The instructors aren't providing feedback, the work is tedious and dull, and as a result, I am not driven to get the work done - work that will only fetch me a couple of B's, one A is an almost given.  As long as I get the B's, though, I will be okay.  I hate that this is my attitude, but I can't do everything.  I am taking three classes again in the spring semester, and three in the summer, so that I can graduate in May 2013.  It's an extremely lofty goal, but if I dig in, I know it can happen. 

So why am I wasting my time on Pinterest, Facebook, Amazon, and Yahoo mail!?  Because obviously I am getting more out of that than going through the motions of turning in assignments and papers to elitist university professors who think distance students are not as great as those who have no jobs, live with their parents, and ask endlessly stupid questions in class.  Oh well.  I am glad I am employed in a job that challenges me, and surrounded by people who support me in my endeavors.  I can handle a couple of professors who don't think I'm the bees knees, right?

Right!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Slow Carb Lifestyle

Inspired by Timothy Ferriss's Four Hour Body, recommended by a friend, I am trying to live a lower-carb lifestyle and marrying it with my organic, know-where-your-food-comes-from philosophy.  The diet itself isn't that difficult - meat and vegetables, no dairy, no sugar, and no white food (that's my only problem - potatoes, pasta, bread, rice - no!).  Six days a week you eat protein, lots of it, with fresh vegetables.  One day a week you get to binge, which to me is so counter to what I've ever read.  I was down 12 pounds the first week, then gained 2 back, but maintained the second week.  Now on week 3.  But I have to admit, the first week, I used starvation, caloric restriction, which is what the sciences all tell you.  But I think they are wrong, and I am going to test Mr. Ferriss's exhaustive personal experiment.  The challenge is protein in the morning.  I like my espresso, double shot made at home with a teaspoon of whole cream (the only dairy I eat, and such a limited amount).  I tried to choke down sausage, pre-cooked by me a few days before, but couldn't.  This morning I thought meatballs and tomato sauce would be perfect, my favorite meal in the world is spaghetti and meatballs, but I can leave out the spaghetti.  I made enough for myself for the next three days. 

So I'm having a dinner party tonight for four special friends and my husband was a challenge to do carb-free, since yesterday was my binge day (and I will admit, I had to purge when I got home - carbs really don't make me feel good - maybe I will learn someday).  Japanese cuisine - with more meat.  Edamame, pickled cucumbers, and little sausage bites (not real tasty to me anymore, since they are so processed) for appetizers, a mushroom-chicken broth soup, fried rice (that I won't eat), and steak, chicken, shrimp, zucchini, onions, and mushrooms sizzled on a skillet on the table, Benihana style, with a soy-ginger sauce.  I'm excited to serve my friends delicious food as we celebrate all that is wonderful in our life.

Stay tuned, if anyone's reading this!, to see how I continue my low-carb lifestyle, even as I hit Vegas in two days!  Bon Appetit!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Four-Hour Workweek

Inspired by Timothy Ferriss's "Four Hour Body," I also bought his "Four Hour Workweek" and read it this weekend.  I have trouble with his concepts.  Perhaps it's because I'm in a service-related field (HR) and don't actually create anything, or sell anything, but I don't see how this model can work for me without compromising my principles to make money.  I keep brainstorming what I really could do to make more money (and I believe I make a very handsome sum right now), but it would be franchising some restaurant I don't believe in, selling stuff I don't think people need, or being an annoying motivational speaker.  How do I reconcile this?  Of course, I could argue that the company I work for now doesn't really serve my beliefs either, but I guess I like to make money, so where does that leave me?

The problem is this.  Yes, I love to travel.  But I also love convenience.  Do I want to sit on a plane for more hours than I work in a day to try to figure out a culture that doesn't have the conveniences I'm used to?  I don't know the answer to that, by the way, I just know it's something I think about.  Vacation time is precious, and I'm not sure I want to spend it navigating the streets of a third-world country, even if it means some seriously cheap beach time.  I love the U.S., despite all our faults.  I'm patriotic, and I think we have a lot of amazing things to see and do within our borders, that don't take me 3 weeks to acclimate, just a quick plane ride, or a tank or two of gas. 

I'm always on the hunt for more money easier.  That won't change, but as far as making enough to finance a permanent retirement, I am not sure that is what I want.  After all, I do go to a job where most of the people there are my friends and family, where I am reinforced for helping people and making them laugh, and where I never have to worry if my paycheck will be in the bank or not.  My husband and I take several really nice, albeit short, trips every year, but we see more of the country that way.  I would argue that I already live a pretty great lifestyle.  I'm not sure there's much to change. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Something New Every Day

When something happens to shake your perception of your sheltered life, you start to take inventory of how you are living.  I did, anyway.  Before it was too late. 

2011 has been a year of sheer production for me, work is intense, school is intense, my passion for cooking and eating sustainable food is intense.  But I have learned something.  Stop taking yourself so seriously.  Simple as that.  Love deeply, laugh heartily, and try things you never thought you would.  That's my new outlook on life.  I won't be an HR Director by the time I'm 40.  I could be, I could have been one now, but I made choices that I don't regret, in the pursuit of the quality of life.  I won't have a 4.0 when I get my PhD.  But it doesn't matter.  I have a life that is full of friends, and fun, and things I never thought I'd get to do.  And I'm only 36.  What more is in store for me, I'm ready to find out!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Friends

"Maybe mistakes are what make our fate... without them what would shape our lives? Maybe if we had never veered off course we wouldn't fall in love, have babies, or be who we are. After all, things change, so do cities, people come into your life and they go. But it's comforting to know that the ones you love are always in your heart... and if you're very lucky, a plane ride away."  Carrie Bradshaw

I love this Sex & the City quote.  My best friend lives 3 1/2 hours from me, and it's hard to go through life's up and downs without being in the same city.  We met in 2002, at the hospital where I worked.  She was a clinical pharmacy instructor needing access, I was an HR rep who could grant her the access.  She had a Sex & the City party, and I was the only one who showed up.  We learned that we were the only ones we could rely on, so we started having dinner together regularly.  She helped me through a divorce, a new love, and a new marriage.  I helped her through single-hood, and unfortunately, had moved away when she had the first of two broken hearts.  It's a helpless feeling being so far away from someone you love so dearly.  She's one of the strongest people I know, and certainly the most kind, generous, and deserving of love and happiness.  While I complain about things that really didn't matter, she listens and reassurs me that everything would be okay.  We've been friends for nearly a decade, we haven't had a single fight, not even an argument.  I have many friends, scattered all over the country, but this is one of the best friendships I've ever cultivated.  I wish I could see her more, but she's always in my heart.  
 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Right Where I Belong

I love this picture of us at the back deck of the houseboat.  I was fishing and enjoying the calm stillness, and leaning on my favorite person in the world. 

This weekend was hectic, chaotic, nearly-panic-inducing because of the sheer volume of people that surrounded us in Laramie, Wyoming as we hosted the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  I have never seen so much madness in this small, Wyoming town, and it was irritating!  Why are all these people in my way?  I have become Wyoming-ized, similar to institutionalized, because I love our quiet way of life.  I never thought I'd say this.  I have wanted to live in the city since I was 13 and watched "The Secret of My Success."  But you grow, you learn.  I would have never described myself as outdoorsy, but after a week on a houseboat, and my husband talking about buying a camper, I can't help but realize that I am right where I belong. 

How many people get to see deer in their backyard - even at the expense of their tomato plants?  How many people get to see nature un-violated by human hands?  I live here.  I live this every day.  I don't have 4-star restaurants or hip, happenin' club scenes, or high-powered dinners, like I thought I would have, but it turns out, I have it even better.  I have friends who love me, I have a beautiful home, a secure job, and a passion to live every day.  And best yet, a marriage that I always wanted.  It's not easy, but it sure is worth it.  That's how I can tell you, eating my own words, that I am right where I belong. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Queen of the World

This is my obligatory Titanic "Queen of the world" pose on the houseboat on Lake Powell.  Ten days of vacation - including weekends, did my soul good!  I didn't have a hope of connecting to a cell or data connection if I wanted to for seven of those days, which at first induced severe panic, knowing that there really is no one at work who can do what I do, and understanding that I'm already behind on PhD work - all 3 classes of them - this semester.  But it turns out, a bloody mary at 7 a.m. will melt the panic away.  And I'm sure that tomorrow morning without a bloody mary or Bailey's in my coffee will jolt me back to reality faster than a lightening bolt to the lake. 

I had to take a 2 hour trek to Wal-Mart, a place I abhor and avoid like I do any other disease, and realized how little food is in our food today (and the politics of Wal-Mart and the dismissal of the class-action law suit about sexual harassment make me adverse to patronize any sort of place bad for women).  I tried to do my best to get produce and meat, but I had an uneasy week, even cooking the food, because I knew it was so bad for us.  My digestive tract was not happy with me, let's leave it at that.  My dear husband, who is used to my cooking with organic and hormone/antibiotic-free food, agreed that he wasn't feeling as great either.  But we survived, several fifths of SKYY, a few cases of beer, and some bloody marys along the way.  I didn't preach my food politics, but be certain that I knelt before the Whole Foods deity at Park City on our way home.  Found tomatoes and cucumbers and basil grown in my own back yard, well, maybe 120 miles from me in Wyoming, a much harsher climate than my locale.  I think this week is our last farmer's market in town, not that I really have time to can more tomatoes, but I will make the time.  It's worth it.  I've spent a lot on food this summer, but it will last me most of winter.  That's a long time to avoid our local grocery store, full of food that isn't really food. 

I am so far behind in my PhD classes, I am hoping only for B's this semester.  Three classes is too many, especially when two of the professors are wholly unresponsive to me.  But, I'll get through it.  Just like I do everything else.  I am my own queen of the world! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

90 Weeks and Counting

So one of my cohorts figured it was 90 weeks till we get "hooded" - which to me sounds barbaric - but really it means that in 90 weeks, I get to make people call me "Dr."  I finish my PhD and cross another goal off my long bucket list! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What Have We Become?



Last night's party was epic.  Not necessarily in the best way, though.  The cops were called, the fire trucks, the ambulance, fightin' words, thrown rocks, all piercing what should have been a night of celebrating summer and friendship and all that is great about our lives.  Ignorant neighbors and emotions that could no longer be contained lead to a bitter feud that grew uglier as the night wore on.  I am frightened of ignorant people, you simply do not know how they will react to a situation.  I am not foolish enough to believe that a shooting or stabbing can't happen in my world.

As I stood back in the shadows, away from the dangerous drama that was unfolding around the fire pit, I was confronted by a friend and challenged on my food passions.  I was taken aback as he tried to present his side of the story, telling me I was wrong and extremist.  I listened, as I do anyone whom I respect, because I want to be informed and educated.  But as the night wore on, and all day today on the drive back home, this conversation continues to bother me, even though we left it as "are we cool?"  I think the issue, though, is that I was willing to listen and accept that bashing the enemy is probably not the best approach, but he was not willing to listen to me and accept the research I've done in the past five years, research performed by competent, ethical researchers who report the results fairly and aren't paid for the answers.  We have a severe problem with our food supply, one that is documented and all but linked as causal, not merely correlational.  And the government sponsors lobbyists and big business to research and report that the chemicals, the antibiotics, the hormones, are not harmful.  I simply can't accept this, given the research I've read over and over again.  If I'm passionate, it's because I think people deserve to hear the message, just as the researchers and authors who have brought it to me have done.

My personal experience has been that I am healthier because my family always cooked, always had a garden, and taught me about nutrition.  I am never sick.  Ever.  As I learn more about sustainable food and ethical treatment of not only animals, but the people working to raise and process them, I have a responsibility to myself and those I love to feed them right.  My lesson learned is to be careful of my audience, and perhaps stop preaching to those who don't want to be converted.  My lesson is to put my money and time and energy into helping those who share my beliefs. 

But it doesn't stop here.  As I read CNN online, I shake my head at the violence, senseless acts of irreparable damage done by people, whose emotions have overcome logical thought.  It's a scary world, and I want to do what I can to make it a better place.  This might mean stepping off my soapbox more often, and learning to live my passions through sheer solitary bliss. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Success

Today, for some reason, I feel like I've "arrived."  I'm here.  I did the decadent luxury of all luxuries, dreamed of by little girls and housewives everywhere - I hired help.  Yes, that's right, I hired someone to clean my house.  I can't even explain the delight I faced when entering into my home, that was meticulous before we moved in four years ago, and hasn't been ever since.  I am not a house-cleaner.  I hear it skips every two generations, since my grandma and my mom are both the most immaculate people I've ever known.  The house is brighter, the windows are clean; she left the blinds wide open so the sunlight is pouring through the usually-dark living room, making me realize the many things that made me fall in love with this house four years ago.

Along with the feeling that my house is clean (before my mother-in-law comes to visit next week!), I have this immense sense of relief.  Staunch feminist that I am, I gave up years ago nagging husbands to help with housework.  The ones I've chosen are not wired for it, and I've chosen to stop fighting.  My husband now, however, has many great qualities that warrant me not nagging to help with housework.

Now the other side of the feminist perspective that I will address is this - how could I hire someone to seemingly repress them into the things that I don't want to do?  Is this another form of slavery?  I argue that it's not.  And here's why.  I hired a woman who runs a business and helps other women with gainful, dignified employment.  We all have talents, and cleaning houses should not be dismissed as anything less than vitally important.  And helping women succeed in business makes me feel good.  I think it's good for everyone involved.  I can continue to work at a job that I make more complex, and chip away at my PhD degree with the comfort that my house is clean, and I'm supporting independent women.  I couldn't be more at peace tonight as I bake a decadent chocolate cake for a dinner party tomorrow with fabulous friends.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Castle on a Cloud

After a beautiful night of dinner and wine with a spectacular girlfriend, I find myself thinking how wonderful my life is turning out to be.  I found Les Miserables on public TV and was brought back to memories from high school.  This is the 25th Silver anniversary show in London, which means I was 10 when it first appeared on Broadway.  I'm not old.  I love my birthday.  I embrace 36, which is just around the corner.  I owe all my Broadway love to my music teacher from elementary school through high school.  Mrs. Limoges. We lived in a small town, a quite humble, blue collar town, where there were no fast food restaurants (which really explains how I am healthy today - not growing up around the terrible food!), no theatres, and no culture.  She brought culture to her students.  She's glamorous and classy, and I was so happy to run into her a couple years ago, living just a couple towns from me now.  Swing choir was the coolest group for which to be selected in our high school because of her leadership, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of it every year since it started in the fifth grade.  She exposed us to Broadway, a whole world outside of our small Wyoming town.  She showed us what it meant to be sophisticated and classy and discerning, and years later I realize how profound her impact was on us.  I love Broadway.  She was the reason I dragged my husband to Manhattan for vacation, to see the Phantom of the Opera on a real NYC Broadway stage, the reason I corral my girlfriends into my Yukon for a day trip to Salt Lake City to see reproductions of musicals.  And tonight, as I watched Les Miserables, I remembered my piano, forlornly sitting to the side of my large living room, untouched, save a monthly watering of a withering plant on it, in several months.  Tonight I broke out the Les Miz and Phantom sheet music and played away, rusty at first, but then it all came back to me.  I remembered my best friend, who died over a decade ago, who loved the music as much as I did.  I forgot about my boss e-mailing me about something she wanted me to screw up on, which is really her sole purpose in life, and I let it all go.  Music can do that to you.  And I thank Mrs. Limoges, who gave me the power to live through music, to be cultured and find new things to inspire me, to forget about the miniscule people in my life who only feel threatened by me for naught.  I'm really a good person who wants others to succeed, too! And as I played again, my fingers produced all the happiness I felt for what my life has become.  My husband called to wish me good-night, and that was the best part of the whole night.  We haven't been together in over a week, and I find myself so excited to see him tomorrow. 

I am living a dream.  One that I merely dared to dream most of my life.  I complain, I have challenges, sure, we all do.  But I know, just about every day of my life, that I am one of the lucky ones.  And I don't for one moment take it for granted.  I am living on my own castle on a cloud. 


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why I'm Still Here ...

I took this job 5 1/2 years ago to escape a job where I didn't feel like I could grow, thinking it would be but a stepping stone on my way to Microsoft (which I turned down to move to the high desert in rural southwestern Wyoming), or Google, or any one of Fortune 100's best places to work.  I told my mother-in-law a few years ago that if were here in 5 years, something had gone terribly wrong.  And I had a couple opportunities to move up, to move to the East coast and be an "executive."  The truth, as I see it now, I'm not leaving anytime soon.  And everything is going terrifically right. 

I have discussed my travels and how they shape who I am, what I love, what I aspire to be.  Today, more than ever, I realized how right it is for me to live here right now.  My favorite co-worker in the world, who happens to be my boss's counterpart, and I trained together today.  It was a great day, mainly because I got to spend it with him.  I always learn something from him.  I admire him.  He's Hispanic, earned a Juris Doctorate at a time when Hispanics didn't get many opportunities to higher education.  He's inclusive, he believes in people, and he's one of the best leaders I have ever known.  But no one sings his praises - precisely because he is a great leader and doesn't shout from the mountain that he is great.  He is more progressive than the leaders I know.  He gives us the power to make decisions, he supports us, he gives us credit, and he reinforces us in the ways that we love.  I don't need high-fives, in fact, I find them insulting and pedantic.  He knows that being sarcastic at times is our best motivator.  He has an adult beverage with us, he's real with us, because he trusts us.  He's great, is what I'm trying to say, and if I could report to him, life would be peachy.  That's the background.  So we finished training at 2:30, "quittin'" time is around 4:00 for us.  I convinced him to take me back to the office so I could hang out with our co-workers, instead of knocking off early to go home.  How sick is that??  I was rewarded with hearty laughs, even at my own expense, and a happy hour that kept the laughter rolling.  You just don't have it better than that. 

The truth - I love the people I work with.  (Most of them.)  I would rather be at work with them, than at home without them.  My trusted HR cohort is leaving at the end of July, and I am sad.  Really sad.  I trained him, I helped develop him, and in turn, he's given me new perspective on my own views.  I will miss our talks during the day.  I'll miss our debates, which are really great banter.  And I'll miss the fact that we are partners-in-crime, co-conspirators in creating a better workplace, and that he can make me laugh almost as much as my husband does (I love to laugh - and it's one of the best attributes of my husband - he can always make me laugh, no matter how pissed off I am - making me laugh is far sexier than a 6-pack or a chiseled jawline, which do nothing for me).  Nothing gold can stay, that's become my comfort with his departure, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't suck to lose a good friend at work.  Our new guy is great, and is going to be a great confidant and co-conspirator, but it doesn't mean that this loss will be easy.  I love working with enlightened men.  I love that men support me and treat me as equals.  It's why I'm still here.  They make my work interesting and fun.  I laugh, because I am a staunch feminist, but there are a few managers at work who call me "cutie" or "sweetie" or a "super lady" - and coming from them, it's not derogatory, it's a high compliment, because they listen to me, they respect me, they are pulling for me, when they probably haven't pulled for women in the past.  So a sincere thank you - to all the men who have treated me like I belong and encouraged me to reach for my goals.  It's why I'm still here. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hot Tub Time Machine

I'll say it, "Hot Tub Time Machine" is one of the best movies of the millennium so far.  Of course, John Cusack is my favorite actor and really the only "celebrity" I really have a crush on.  Perhaps it's because he stays out of the tabloids, he seems more real.  His movies always make me laugh, and they are far more intellectual than he probably gets credit for. A smart and funny guy will always be more sexy and desirable to me than a perfectly sculpted arrogant one. 

So I went to bed early last night, as I am prone to do when I have the weekend alone.  I love laying in bed, watching TV, reading, and just enjoying the quiet.  I fought my inner introvert for years, I'm finally letting her rule the world for a while.  I had a fulfilling day of cleaning, laundry, studying, cooking, and the spa (balanced my Chakras, whatever that means).  This is me not being sarcastic - it was a really great day!  My dear husband called at 10:30 p.m. to say hi, and I love you, which is always a welcome disruption from sleep for me (likely the only person who can rouse my sleep at this point and not receive my wrath).  Even on a guy weekend, he deems me important enough for a quick call (this is why I can tell you that traditional "romance" is bunk, the smaller things are far more romantic and meaningful).  I found it difficult to fall asleep after that, and at midnight, after mulling ideas and thoughts and obsessions around for an hour and a half, I opened my Kindle to continue reading about women in the Congo, which then gave me some hellish dreams.  

Where is this leading?  Oh, yes, the 80's - yes, I have incredible leaps of connections, Hot Tub Time Machine takes three friends back to 1986, where Poison and Motley Crue truly rocked it, neon colors blazed the country-side, Red Dawn was an awesome movie, and that's me.  I grew up in the 80's and early 90's, a time of great independence for youth.  I am a true Generation X'er, I have no role models.  I never grew up as a latch-key kid, but there wasn't anyone I really looked up to for a model.  My parents are great, don't misunderstand, but the trajectory of my life is significantly difference than theirs, not better, just different.  I loved John Hughes' characters, I identified with them, and perhaps through these real characters, I realized it's okay to go my own way, to be my own person.  So back to role models.  The few women I look up to are highly intellectual women in their 50's and 60's, they don't have the lifestyles I crave, but they are wonderful women who give me inspiration.  But as far as making my way, I'm on my own.  Not sure why, but I am. 

This was an incredible twist of thoughts, but I wouldn't go back and change anything, because, as Katherine Hepburn once said, "If I had changed one thing, I would have changed everything."  I would never not want to be where I am today, with the wisdom and courage I've gained through some the bad parts. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Making a Difference

I read non-fiction.  Exclusively.  I am not a snob, well, maybe I am, but hear me out.  I have to learn, most of the minutes of my day.  I love TV, and I freely and unabashedly admit that.  Because I learn from TV.  I watch mostly reality and documentaries, Food Network, Cooking Channel, HGTV, Travel Channel, NatGeo, Discovery.  I don't know when my aversion to fiction happened, but it did.  If it's not real, I can't learn from it, and I can't make a difference.  

My Kindle is my new favorite resource.  I've had some pretty amazing travel time lately, and that's my opportunity to read voraciously.  I have been pouring over woman's rights.  It started, as most great things do, with Oprah.  I watched a moving, disturbing, emotional account of women in trouble, serious trouble, trouble that cannot be avoided because of location trouble, and read Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn's "Half the Sky."  I was enraged about how women are treated in this world.  Sold into brothels, drugged and enabled into addiction, brainwashed to believe they are nothing.  I don't stop there.  I read Somaly Mam's "The Road of Innocence Lost" about Cambodia and the sex-trafficking there.  I'm on to Lisa Shannon's "A Thousand Voices" now, about the Congo, the worst place on earth for women, and I wonder what I need to do.  I have sponsored women through Women for Women International, but I feel so small and powerless.  I also know that atrocities happen in my own community, but they don't wind up on Oprah.  What can I do?  I can't travel to the Congo, like Ms. Shannon, I am paralyzed by fear, and I'm not that courageous, I'm afraid to admit.  I am humbled by these women, yet I am not willing to endanger my life to make a statement.  So maybe that is the opposite of courageous.

I do want to do something locally (think globally - act locally?), and maybe I can affect change in my own community.  Women are grossly underrepresented in occupations that pay big money, this is true in my own space.  And when women don't have earning power, they don't have power in their own families.  It's true.  Women bear the brunt of housework, of childcare, and they work full-time, but often don't make what men make.  This is a travesty and keeps women enslaved.  How can I help them go to college, despite the odds of being under-educated and overworked??  This is something I have to do.  I just have to discover the "how." 

I am an advocate for women's rights, because I have to be, because women are humans, and still without rights, we all suffer indignities, men and women alike.  But the suffering of women is something I cannot ignore.  I don't even know where to start, but writing it all down gives me the strength to try to find out.  Do something, even if it's small.  As Margaret Mead wisely said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Dead Gay Best Friend

I'm stretching you here, don't be put off by the title, hear me out.  Go back to 1988, the movie Heathers came out, starring Christian Slater as the sexy, sultry, misguided, dark teen J.D. who came to Anytown, USA and wreaked havoc amongst the hierarchical social structure in the local high school.  He killed the social elite, the bullies of the school, and made it look like suicides.  In one scene, after JD lured and subsequently shot the two most popular jocks and scattered stereotypical gay paraphernalia (Joan Crawford pictures, sparkling water), one of the dads leaned over the casket and sobbed, "I love my dead gay son."  I love this line, it means that he accepted his son's homosexuality (or in this case, the implication only).  That instead of shirking from it, he embraced it in his son's memory. 

So, stay with me here.  I am attempting to guide you into the deep recesses of my mind and how the dysfunctional synapses fire to make me - me.  My husband, lovingly, often accuses me of making unrealistic connections to things out of seemingly nothing.  I say nay-nay (credit:  John Pinette).  The connections are perfectly logical to me.  Here's how I had the Heathers thought today.  I'm in a training program in Boston, not that location matters, but it's lecture, it's boring, people are boring me with their "you'll never believe what happened to me" crappy stories (which by the way, yes, I will believe it, we're all in HR and you'll eventually come to the point where nothing surprises you, so shut up and listen to the expert for a few days and stop being so narcissistic, which many HR people are, but - anyway, I digress).  The facilitator talked about women's choices for profession when she was growing up, mainly teachers and nurses.  So we're a society that counted on having ample supply of nurses in women, and now we have women attorneys, doctors, engineers, etc., and a short supply of nurses, what do we do.  I immediately think of one of my friends who is a fabulous nurse, and he happens to be gay (as I write this, I chuckle, because the Seinfeld episode that coined the phrase "Not that there's anything wrong with that!" is on!).  And so I think that gay men would be a great target for nursing campaigns because many I am fortunate enough to know are nurturing and kind and compassionate, people I'd want taking care of me if I'm laying in a hospital bed.  Well, this leads me to think of the, "I love my dead gay son comment" and then brings me back to my best friend in high school.

Brian was great.  He was my confidant, we lived across the street from each other, and spent every waking moment together, even when I had boyfriends, he just *got* me.  He helped me clean and decorate my room, he shopped with me, he gossiped with me, he did speech and debate with me.  I loved him dearly, even though I was bossier to him than you could even imagine.  Our classmates called him a fag.  It was the early 90's, I didn't know what a fag was, no one did.  (Other than a cigarette, which was our gym teacher's response when he heard the word "fag.")  We didn't have Glee, we didn't have these great role models to show us that it's okay to be different, it's okay to have feelings toward the same sex, it's okay to have interracial relationships, it's okay to accept and love.  But, I didn't care anyway back then.  I was too busy having fun with him.  He didn't date much, which was fine, because he had more time to cater to my needs and listen to my teenage girl whiny-ness.  We kept in touch for a year or so after high school.  I got knocked up and married the wrong man, he left to reinvent himself, and get away from the ignorant boorish small town folk - I tried, didn't get too far, but I guess far enough.  Fast forward maybe 5, 6, years after our high school graduation, where we walked down the aisle together.  AOL was catching on, and even though I was pretty poor, with two small kids, I caught the online bug, and was able to connect with Brian over e-mail.  We chatted back and forth for a few months, he was pursuing a modeling career back east, so very Brian.  He sounded great.  He avoided my questions about his love life, but I was happy to have him back in my life.

Until the phone call that shattered my psyche.  My mom called with the news.  I had to have been 23, or 24 at the time, I'm horrible with dates and ages, but early 20's, with a family and no experience whatsoever with death.  Brian was dead.  No one knew what happened.  She gave my phone number to his parents, who called me, and it was surreal.  He was in a car accident, walked away, then next morning was found dead in a river.  No investigation was being done.  As the son of a burly, manly highway patrol, I suspected that his parents didn't really want to know if he was the target of a hate-crime, didn't want to acknowledge what I'd suspected, that Brian had come out.  The only way I knew would come soon enough.  Once I heard of his death, I cried, and cried, and cried.  I didn't drink at this time, I was probably a year away from learning the pleasures of alcohol.  I went to his funeral, by myself.  I didn't want my immature, unhelpful husband to even be a part of this grief, which should have been one of the thousand clues that he was never right for me.  (I might mention that my husband now wouldn't think twice, he'd be there, he'd do whatever it takes to comfort me, which is why I'm married to him, and not the first one).  I sat in the back of the church, and felt Brian's presence near me, I thought of things I hadn't thought of in years.  I recalled events that I thought I'd forgotten.  I went to the cemetery and cried some more.  I went to the reception, crying, hugging his parents, his sister whom I'd baby-sat on many occasions.  I don't remember a time I have cried harder than I did then, I don't think I've had a loss so impactful as his was in my life.  I didn't understand death.  Hell, I didn't understand life.  When I got home, I sent a very long, very sentimental note to his e-mail - remember, this was turn of the century, 1999-ish, before Yahoo and Google, before AOL had real policies governing e-mail.  I wanted to cleanse myself and say all the things that I should have said to him while he was alive.  To my surprise, the e-mail was intercepted by Brian's partner, a very gentle and kind soul whose first e-mail to me simply said, "Thank you."  We talked for a couple of years, and I learned how much fun was my friend was having, how successful he was becoming, and how happy he was.  But, as many long-distance relationships, this one, too, dropped off.  But it meant the world to me to get a perspective of his final years through the eyes of his lover, someone who undoubtedly loved him as much as I did. 

I returned to my dysfunctional young-mom raising two kids and a deadbeat husband life, and pushed the emotions far down.  They don't come up often, but when they do, I get melancholy.  I wonder what would have happened if we could still be best friends today.  I know that even in the perfect world, we probably wouldn't have stayed best friends, in my previous post, I referenced Robert Frost's Nothing Gold Can Stay,  and I think my relationship with Brian was just this, it was golden.  We could never go back to high school days.  But occasionally I'll find myself wondering how much fun we'd have in the city together, or how great it would be to talk to him about my crazy life dreams, as I did back then, when I was going to be like Michael J. Fox and take Manhattan and become a famous CEO.  But he isn't here, hasn't been here for some 12 years.  I know this is a long post, and I know no one reads it anyway, but it's here.  It makes me feel better to publicly say some of these nuggets, audience or not.

Brian was a great friend.  He was a great man.  Over a decade later, I still miss him.  The wounds are still pretty raw.  But he had a hand in making me who I am, quirky, bossy, intelligent, sassy, and all.  Thanks, Brian, wherever you are, I'll always consider you one of my best friends.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
~ Robert Frost

I know this poem from The Outsiders, one of my great 80's movies. It's always stuck with me.  I've had a lot of gold in my life, more so as the years pass, but Frost eloquently states that nothing gold can stay - things have to change, for reasons we may never know, but they have to change anyway. 

Last week I made a bold move, one that likely will lead nowhere, but I threw my horse into another race.  I am waiting to see where she will post, she may scratch, she may not even run, but she's in there.  I don't know what I want most days.  I want a change.  But it has to be the right one. 

This week brings Boston, a new city.  I arrived later, due to air delays, which I've avoided for months now, it was bound to catch up to me.  The city seemed different, beautiful, no doubt, as we passed the bay with big, beautiful boats, but as the sun started to dip below the clouds, I didn't feel safe going out.  My meal at the hotel restaurant was actually sublime.  From the New England Clam Chowder, to the Crabcakes, to the Petite Filet of Beef perfectly cooked and seasoned, treading in a delicious red wine demi-glace with perfectly crisped potatoes and sauteed spinach.  I should have done without dessert, desserts rarely make the meal better, but the savory dishes were by far the best I've had in a while.  Tomorrow I will negotiate this strange city, in the light of day as I grow more comfortable.  The training will be intense, but there will be time. 

I can't help but wonder how long I will stay gold in this place I'm in now.  I'm comforted by the fact that nothing gold can stay - because every time it's gone, something even more fabulous comes my way. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Originality?

Jackpot.  Footloose was on HBO as I was re-organizing my closet this morning.  Footloose is a classic, when it came out in 1984, I was 9 years old.  My aunt recorded it on her Betamax recorder, and every time we visited (quite often), my sister and I watched it, rapt every time, as if this time they just might give up and not have the dance.  But Kevin Bacon always pulled through, and SJP pre-Sex & the City, still fabulous in her teens.  And John Lithgow was the consummate minister, ever pious, but growing his heart three sizes by the end. 

I heard a disturbing rumor that Footloose was being remade.  Sadly, it's not a rumor.  The remake is in post-production.  I don't know about you, my fellow Gen X'er, but I am more than a little disenchanted with our successor generation.  It seems like all the big blockbusters are remakes of classics we watched growing up.  Sure, imitation is the finest form of flattery, but come on - can someone in their 20's not come up with something original?  Willy Wonka was remade, I refused to watch it, Gene Wilder IS Willy Wonka, you don't mess with that.  The Karate Kid without Mr. Miagyi?  Now I'm reading that other classics, like Red Dawn, Weird Science, Top Gun, are being considered for prime remakes.  These movies were relevant in our time, growing up in the 80's, and into the early 90's, we had different challenges, different successes, and you can't remake that.  I don't doubt that today's adolescents and young adults go through many hardships that I didn't have to, school violence, a young, scary life in a post-9/11 world, but they need to make their own relevant films to help us understand their times.

Growing up Gen X meant that we had very few role models.  The teens on the screen were it.  We lived in a time of scandal (not that we don't now), but few people were idolized in the media during that time.  We admired Molly Ringwald, the entire Brat Pack, for saying publicly what we all felt.  Watching old movies (yep, I'm old enough to watch "old" movies from my childhood - and proud of it!), I see the gritty reality in them.  Watch Footloose, are their teeth abnormally white?  Anyone, other than Lori Singer (who probably was anorexic) unreasonably thin, and with large breasts (again, other than Lori Singer)?  Anyone drive a BMW, a Mercedes, an Escalade at age 16?  Anyone wearing $200 pairs of jeans?  No, because it's real.  It represented the times.  The imperfections of the actors and the filming itself made it relevant.  I admit, I have given up on watching many new movies because they seem so fake, so insincere, so unlike the experiences you have growing up.  I don't get Harry Potter, I refuse to even try understanding this Twilight thing.  This is not teenager-hood, it's not the raw emotion of the 80's films I grew up with. 

I know, we're all pretty biased on the stuff we experienced during those formative years, all I'm asking for the next generation is that you show some originality - and some reality.  Hmmm, as I write this, I wonder how many of my favorites from my day were remade ... perhaps I'd better some more research!  ...

Thanks, Wikipedia, for confirming that my favorite movies of the 80's, Top Gun, Footloose, Road House, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo's Fire, the Breakfast Club, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Valley Girl, and many others - all originals.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

After a breather from PhD work, except for one class that was not researched based, I'm refreshed and ready to get to work.  I was able to pick up a research class that I had dropped, thus leaving me not that far behind.  And I found a topic that will stick.  It's a topic that has grown near and dear to my heart over the last several months - promoting and supporting women in their quest to get an education and develop at work.  I can make a difference with this research, even though I'm starting small.  Women, sadly, have not made much ground in the past couple of decades.  We are still responsible for most of the housework and childcare, even though we also work full-time.  Add to these challenges other women who refuse to give their fellow peers a hand up, and you've got some serious ravines to hurdle to success.

So the past five weeks, I've applied for several stretch jobs at Fortune 100 companies in Northern California.  I got a rejection e-mail from just one.  No word from any of the others.  I think it's time to accept that, for now, I belong here.  I have work to do and it's important work.  I guess don't need to trot off to wine country (sad as that realization is) to have the good life. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Here we go again ...

Sunday night, packing my bag again.  Philadelphia this week.  Back in four days, not bad.  I don't know what to think most days.  I love to travel, I love the adventure, the break from routine, but it's sometimes unsettling to be away from home.  But maybe it's the unsettling feeling that turns me on. That keeps me from going crazy in routine-as-hell-Wyoming. 

I finished - okay, started AND finished - my final project today for the only class I kept for this PhD semester.  My husband golfed.  I was happy to have the time to focus - but of course, my wine collection called to me.  My kitchen called to me.  My husband, after being denied dessert last night (no ice cream for the blueberry compote), was so devastated, that I decided to make a killer batch of chocolate chip cookies, one of my best efforts, I might add.  Spaghetti & meatballs for a mid-day lunch/dinner for me, since no one in the world makes it as good as I do (probably because most chefs ruin it with cheese!).  Then a bacon-cheeseburger-macaroni-and-cheese for my husband after 18 holes of chilly spring southwest Wyo golf.  He said it was a definite hit, but my extreme hatred for cheese kept me from tasting it, I know flavor profiles, though, so I knew it was a hit - bacon, grass-fed beef, cheese he picked out - yeah, I rock.  

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Oh The Places You'll Go

One of the things I love about travel is that it changes me.  It makes me think of what I really love in life, and where I really want to go.  The answer, a resounding ~ my own backyard.  Business travel, even on a generous expense account, is anything but glamorous.  I'm learning about a new agoraphobic side of myself, one that eschews crowds, and is even sick of fine dining. 

The view from the Michigan Avenue Westin is of Lake Michigan, one of the best views in the city probably, in a beautifully appointed luxury hotel, but I'm alone.  Have been alone for a week, and five more days to go before my husband joins me here.  I miss him.  The small things, watching House Hunters together in the warm comfort of our living room while the winter wind wages war outside our windows, making healthy and delicious meals in my kitchen with my equipment, going to bed with my best friend.  But, it's important for me to travel and realize this.  It is too easy for me to grow complacent in my job, my life, and wish for bigger and better things.  But the truth is, I'm pretty happy in Wyoming.  Sure, my job could be a bit more exciting, the winter could be a bit shorter, but if I need to go someplace, I jump in my giant SUV and poof, there I am, no traffic, no lines, no hassle.  I lament the lack of restaurants where we live.  The truth - I love to cook, and I would rather eat my cooking than any fine dining, any day.  But if you don't travel, you don't know this.  If you don't face loneliness among crowds, you don't appreciate that you get to live and work and play and laugh with your best friend. 

Shocking news this week brings the loss of a co-worker, for greener pastures.  I have not once counseled him to stay if this is a better deal.  It will be a bummer of a spring/summer/fall for me as we find and train another person, but I am happy for him, it's where he wants to be.  Then it hit me, I trained him, I developed him, so seeing him succeed is pretty darn cool for me.  It will suck to not work with him, to not vent to him, brainstorm with him, but people come and go in your life for reasons.  A quote from the Outsiders, "Nothing gold can stay." 

So I spend a week in Chicago by myself, to be joined by my husband for a few days of play.  It's all good.  I never dreamed I would have this much opportunity to experience the world.  I don't intend to take it for granted. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Business Travel

The perfect storm of business travel hit me yesterday.  I like to travel for work.  I like to get away from the office and the scrutiny that it seems like I am constantly under these days.  So on Monday, I start my American-City Tour - Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, nearly three weeks - 18 days - away from Wyoming.  How exciting is that?  Of course, I can't really brag to many people, because who wouldn't want to spend three weeks on the road on the company dime?  And well, I guess some people just aren't happy for me.  I'm used to it. 

I will miss my husband, who patiently understands the wanderlust within, he has it too.  I will miss the people at work who I continuously bounce ideas off of.  I will miss cooking, and the comfort of my own living room, my own bed.  But it's an opportunity to explore my state of mind.  I love traveling alone.  The introvert in me that I shoved clear down to the depths of my soul comes out at last.  I love eating in a new restaurant alone.  I really don't care if people feel sorry for me or not, but I can concentrate on the food, the flavors, the atmosphere, and I don't have to make excruciating small talk when I want to eat and drink fine wine.  I love wandering the city, walking for miles and just getting lost in my own thoughts.  I love the quiet calm of a hotel room with no responsibility except relaxation.  Sure, I'll work in the evenings, but I can pamper myself, as well.

My husband is joining me over Easter in Chicago.  We're going to a Cubs game, we're going to eat great food, and we're going to explore the city together.  I can't think of a better way to spend a long weekend.  I know I will definitely come back with a renewed love affair towards the West, but Eastern/Southern cities are so damn fun to visit! 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Queen Bee Syndrome

Have you heard of it?  I researched it a bit last year when I first endeavored this PhD journey.  I keep abandoning women's studies, but why?  My blood boils - but that's the stuff of revolutions, right?  So, in case you don't know (which I didn't before last year), the Queen Bee Syndrome happens when women reach the "top" (be it middle-management or higher, just any position of power really), and they steadfastly refuse to help other women do the same.  The rationale?  I had to face hardship, so should you. Or ... I am so superior that only I belong in this man's world.  I refuse to let this movement gain more steam.  In the past couple of weeks, I've found myself in an almost-uncomfortable role of mentor or role model.  I say uncomfortable because I'm not used to being a role model.  My life choices have sometimes been less than stellar, yet still I persevere, I succeed.  Last week, I thought long and hard (I will resist the joke), and realized that men have helped elevate my career, not women. 

Then I came to the sad realization that I have no role models.  Is this the Gen X prototype coming out?  Perhaps.  I wasn't ever a latch-key kid, being the product of parents who are still married to each other today and a mom who never had a career outside of her family.  But I've forged my own way.  I've defined my own success.  I've met a few - and I stress few - maybe 3 or 4 women in the last several years who have encouraged me to move ahead, but unfortunately, I don't have as much contact with these fabulous women as I'd like.  So I make my own way.  I thrive on the men in my life who cheer me on, starting from my grandpa, to my dad, to my husband, and the men I am fortunate enough to work with every day.  I've become a champion for women, even though I have limited power to help some of them.  I find it awkward to be a role model, because I myself don't have one.  But I am flattered nonetheless, and want to do everything I can to help my women friends be successful.  They don't threaten me, in fact, they lift me up, they make me a better person. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Promoting Women

Since I've changed my dissertation topic more than once (okay, more than half a dozen times), I go back to my original gender studies.  It hit me today in a meeting with six other men, three of them so gray-haired they are retiring in the next few months, that I'm not so sure it's men who are holding me back.  My half-hour commute home, punctuated only by me flipping through the Sirius channels, since my dear husband and commuter-partner stayed home sick, was filled with the shocking realization that women, not men, have held my career back.  How can this be?  I've been fortunate to have men, who believe in women, give me advantages in my career.  The women in power that I've worked for - they are the ones who've held me back.  This hit me like a hangover of a dozen Jaeger shots.  I'm getting it all wrong.  I shouldn't be educating MEN on feminism, I should be educating jealous, insecure females.  Really?  Again - how can this be?  We women have to stick together.  But unfortunately, I have battled the Queen Bee syndrome, battle it today.  The men I work with respect me and trust me and value me.  The women - threatened and jealous. 

This hit me while I'm helping my fellow female comrades build careers, only to run into women - not men - telling them no.  Ladies, come on!  We can do better than this! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Possibility

My life is full of possibility.  I'm an eternal optimist, my glass is usually overflowing (mostly with red wine).  This morning started out as, what I can only describe as - craptacular, and nothing my fault, but everything I got to clean up.  Exasperated, frustrated, downright pissed off, I stopped myself several times to smile, to laugh, to put things in perspective, to enjoy the people around me who picked me up and made me feel good.  I have a beautiful home that hasn't been devastated by natural disaster, I enjoy freedom because people much braver than I sacrifice, I have a full figure because I can afford good food.  My life does not suck by any stretch of the imagination. 

Dinner with wonderful people, my husband included, now at home enjoying HGTV, waiting for the Top Chef finale' - both of which my wonderful husband watches with me.  Oh, and I had three new pairs of shoes waiting for me from shoes.com AND a UPS slip announcing the arrival of wine.  Yeah, my life sooo does not suck.  I have nothing but possibility of even better times ahead.  I crave a change, and whatever winds bring that to me, I'm going to follow them with wild abandon.  There is nothing quite so stimulating as possibility. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Women

I had dinner and drinks with four amazing women tonight.  Women, when we are on each others' side, can rule the world.  We talked about everything, we laughed, we giggled, we had a great time.  I didn't want to leave, even though we all have an early morning.  Why can't all our relationships be like this - banding together to make a difference, instead of competing maliciously with one another.  Tomorrow I once again deal with women who compete against me.  Women have to help each other, not help the men's movement work against us.  While feminism has advanced, we're still not where we should be.

Being with my friends tonight made me happy.  I've become an introvert, almost agrophobic, because of people who try to keep me down - but that is so ridiculous.  I basked in the glow of friendship tonight - as corny as that sounds - and I felt at home, I felt like myself.  Tomorrow, my best friend in the whole wide world is coming for the weekend.  I can hardly wait.  The bonds that women have when they have each others' best interests at heart - are so strong.  When we realize we don't have to compete for the limelight, for men, for fame, for money, for whatever, we understand that helping each other means helping ourselves.  Go Girls!!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

California here I come

After a crappy day at work, one that I was able to leave behind and not bitch about to my husband, I still question the appropriateness of me being in HR.  I nearly vomited at what I had to do today.  You shouldn't feel that way if you're not saving lives and working with bodily fluids.  I don't belong here.  I made a poor decision to give up my PhD yet, and thankfully was saved from the brink by keeping one class.  But HR is not for me.  I don't know what is, that's the problem.  I wish I would have studied something "real" - like engineering, or nursing, or hell, I don't even know what a "real" profession is.  Mine feels so made up, made up by a litigious society that is eager to earn money the easy way.  I don't feel like I'm making a difference.  And I don't like it.  

Tonight, as most nights, I was so happy to come home, take off my shoes (4-inch black spike heels, now that the ice is temporarily gone - safety first, as we believe at work), and lose myself in my kitchen.  And lose myself I did.  The doorbell rang as I was tasting my dressing (bread dressing to go with roasted herb pork loin, mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn - a carboholic dinner that will surely make the scale rise by 2 pounds in the morning) and watching Sex & the City (not nearly as good on cable, but still better than vulgar cartoons).  It was a friend bringing us wine, I didn't hear the doorbell, I didn't hear my husband sidle up to me, until he was two inches from me.  I am so eager to lose the sliminess of my day in HR that I blocked out everything but my cooking and wine.  Tomorrow we leave for California, well, two days away, but a couple stops on the way.  I'm ready to get out again.  I itch for travel, new experiences, new restaurants (even though tomorrow we will likely stay at our favorite Little America, which really is like Four Seasons at half the price) and eat at Squatters, which is delicious, but I do crave new restaurants.  But alas, I reserved Bouchon in Vegas for Wednesday night.  I've been dying to dine at a Thomas Keller restaurant, and had to give up reservations in Napa (also for Bouchon) because of timing and travel.  I don't know what to do with myself.  School isn't the answer, work isn't the answer - why are all my questions in life solved with cooking and wine?  




Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I'm Still Standing ...

I'm not completely withdrawn from my PhD work.  At my advisor's offer, I stayed in her class.  Dropped the two research classes and stayed with the one that would most benefit my in my career.  I've been so busy bitching about my job that I didn't realize how truly good I have it.  My days are busy, fighting fires, preventing fires, having hilariously funny but somehow productive meetings with the awesome people I work with, and at the end of the day, I look up, it's 4:00, time to go home (yes, I get up at an ungawdly hour, but I'm home by 4:30, how great is that?).  So I'm staying in one innocuous class, with an amazingly supportive advisor, who encouraged me to take what I wanted, that I had 10 years from the start of my PhD to finish. 

I am usually so goal-driven - do this in 2 years, be here in 5 years, but this has taught me some humility, patience, and gratitude.  Taking one class at a time is a great compromise.  I'm not dropping out, the door is still wide open.  I make a great salary, I do love what I do - for the most part - and I can continue my PhD at a snail's pace, which is so unlike my goal-driven persona.  But it feels great, I have to tell you.  I can still pursue cooking and wine with all my heart, and keep one toe dipped into academia, while keeping my kick ass day job, and loving my life.  My life effing rocks, I don't say that to brag or be facetious, but rather in total gratitude that like Dorothy, everything I'm searching for is in my own backyard (well, except maybe an organic garden and a water feature). 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

So Long, Farewell, Aufedersein, Goodbye

I'm giving up the PhD ... and therefore, this blog.  I am relieved.  I should feel like a failure, but I don't.  I played a few hands, and I can't bluff anymore, I got nuthin' ... This isn't my dream.  It only ties me to Wyoming longer than I want to be tied here.  I may return again later, but for now, I'm relieved.  I can drink wine, make dinner, read for PLEASURE again, this is okay.  A PhD won't earn me any more money.  I could make a call tomorrow, move to No Cal and nearly double my salary.  I'm giving myself a year, maybe 18 months, to get my affairs in order, and then I'm going to start the search.  There's a 4-year itch for me with jobs, I stay 4-5 years, then have to move on.  I don't want to move to Philly.  I love the excitement of the east coast, for maybe 72 hours at a time.  I love the laid back, wine-country of the west coast for life. 

This is good.  I put the 14 textbooks to the side of the living room, letting them die a quick, easy death. I cooked my heart out today, I drank far too much, and vowed that along with this decision, I would become the healthy, beautiful soul I know I am.

There are a few people I know will be slightly disappointed, but they will love me anyway.  Nothing lost. 

Is a PhD For Me?

So yesterday I had a down day for work, with only one person showing up for testing and interviewing.  I spent the afternoon by myself, the internet down, avoiding homework, and watching the Cooking Channel, waxing poetic about lovely voluptuous chefs, like Ina Garten and Paula Dean, and drinking too much wine, which contributed to a pre-happy hour happy. 

I listened to about half an hour of this week's quantitative research methods lecture (out of three hours, but having no internet makes it difficult to view things on the internet).  The instructor used a scare tactic by saying that a PhD is not for everyone, and no one would ever fault one for quitting a PhD program.  He went on to say that it's tough, no one is smart enough, just give up and live your life, basically.  But it got me to thinking, while I was listening to him drone on and on about the grim future that PhD life held for me, I looked at jobs and houses in Napa Valley, California.  I found jobs for both my husband and me, and several beautiful, but not jaw-droppingly expensive houses.  Can I really make it here for three more years?  The two and a half years to finish the PhD, and then a year to repay my obligation to my company.  Yikes.  Three more winters ... three more years of snow, wind, no fresh produce, no good restaurants.  If I quit the program now, I won't have to pay tuition for this semester, and I have only 11 months of obligation to my company to repay the Master's and the first few semesters of PhD work.  Am I strong enough to just say ENOUGH and walk away from this education??  Am I strong enough to help train other people around me to get promotions in Philly, while I stay under the same cast of characters who damage my psyche on a weekly basis?  Am I strong enough to bear the depression that living in a rural, isolated town brings to us?  I just don't know. 

It's a good dilemma to have, because it means that I have options.  Smart people do have options.  But they have to be smart about which ones they choose!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Best Things I've Ever Eating (Part 2)

As promised, I'm continuing my walk down culinary memory lane.

Craft- Atlanta - I love Tom Colicchio.  He's brilliant and un-pretentious and his restaurant reflects those sentiments.  This was a family-style restaurant that I shared with about a half dozen colleagues on a work trip.  We shared everything, and I tasted flavors that simply aren't ordinary.  The service was outstanding, the food - sublime.

Seasons 52 - Atlanta - I make it point not to eat at chain restaurants, but this was an exception.  Each restaurant in this company has their own seasonal menu, no one dish is more than 475 calories (which I don't care about anyway - obviously), it was a perfect meal.  I had a cedar-plank salmon that was so tender and flavorful.  The desserts came in small shot glasses, a couple of bites is all I need for dessert.

White Dog - Philadelphia - Organic, slow food at its best.  Salads so fresh, you'd swear they still had roots on them.  I had an olive-oil rosemary citrus-cream cake for dessert that was so savory and unique, it makes me believe in desserts again.

Firefly - Las Vegas - We had Valentine's day dinner there one year.  Every tapas dish we had was so delicious, from meatballs, frites, and sangria, this is the real deal.

Stein Erikson - Glitretind restaurant, Park City, UT - We had an hour session with a sommelier - I guessed nearly 4 out of the 6 wines (some were blends, 2 were surprises), but talking wine for an hour was bliss.  The dinner was divine.  I had a Maine Diver Sea Scallop with a brilliant Citrus Beurre Blanc sauce and wild mushrooms and couscous, then a Hawaiian white fish special, seared perfectly crisp on the outside, tender-flaky on the inside, lobster mashed potatoes (two of my favorite things in life combined!), and parsnip and carrot crisps.  One of my dining partners had a duck with a raspberry foam, which was sublime.  I rarely order dessert, but a pistachio mousse bombe with a dark cherry center and pistachio ice cream were too much to pass up, and that did not disappoint, subtley rich flavors, amazing textures, not too sweet, a perfect balance.  It was a great night with co-workers, full of deep belly laughs and friendship, amongst the white-draped Utah Wasatch mountains.  

Bistro 7, Philadelphia - Sure, several of my faves include Philly restaurants.  Our HQ is in Philly and I get the opportunity to travel there a few times a year, and have the fortune of good friends who choose amazing places for repast.  This was a BYOB, and we bought a modest bottle, despite my insistence of a really good bottle.  I had a French lentil soup, which was really more like just lentils, not as impressed, but then a salmon that was cooked to absolute perfection, meltingly tender without being mushy, in a saffron broth that soaked up the carrot, leak, and pea mixture underneath.  Then a chocolate pot de'creme with a chocolate macaroon.  I left the restaurant stuffed full of goodness. 

Zama, Philadelphia - Same trip, lunch on my own.  Sometimes I like it this way.  I had a spicy tuna roll that was beyond anything I've had before, then a beef short rib with fried potatoes, amazing. 

Okay, so this will be multi-part ... bon appetite, Top Chef is on!

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is one of my favorite made-up holidays ever.  Okay, so Bill Murray played a role in elevating this holiday into something meaningful, but it's a staunch reminder to keep working toward a dream, lest you wake up one day stuck in a monotonous treadmill of sheer drudgery.  I keep telling those around me that I will be severely disappointed in myself if I wake up when I'm 40 and I'm still in the same place.  Our parents did, people at our plants do it, but it's not for me.  There is so much out there for me to experience.  Doing the same thing for my entire career sounds about as exciting as having a daily enema.

Maybe I'm the problem with America.  Who knows.  Who even cares.  I have dreams for greater good, teaching at a university, going to culinary school, teaching culinary school (and teaching people to stop eating fast food and frozen meals masquerading as "diet" food), opening a restaurant, having a catering company, writing, traveling.  All so much more glamorous and meaningful than a life in HR.  I don't begrudge those who want to do that (well, I begrudge those who piss me off while doing that), but I'm meant for something different.  And once again, I'm not doing homework, but writing in this silly blog about all the great things I'm 'gonna' do, instead of actually DOING them.  But in good time.  I finished my paper early this morning with ease.  I think school is easy, it's just the motivation and reinforcement to get it done that trips me up.

On to watch Wyoming lose another basketball game ... Groundhog Day again ... but Top Chef is new tonight, I can't believe a TV show is a highlight of my day, then again, living in the bitter cold, barren, tundra of Wyoming, this happens.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Groundhog Day Eve

Hey, what do you know?  It's almost Groundhog day ... again.  And what do you know, I'm procrastinating on my Quantitative Research Methods homework ... again.  I'm not a procrastinator by nature.  I'm a work first, then play later sort of gal.  But after all this behavior science stuff at work, I can see how I'm clearly not motivated to do work or homework.  I'm motivated by a bottle of Syrah and a good idea for a fabulous dinner.  Tonight, pork with udon noodles, snow peas and onions, with a soy-ginger-garlic-rice vinegar-mirin sauce.  I nailed it.  I scaled back on the soy sauce (salty - but my palate leans - rests - on salty - screw the new FDA requirements - I don't eat processed or fast food, I'm eating soy sauce), and it was perfect.  I am excited to eat it for lunch tomorrow - as much as I despise leftovers, I think this one will translate just fine. 

Went to bed early last night, 8:00 p.m., to mitigate the 4:30 wake up that morning, and slept soundly until a wretched dream shocked me into reality around 2 a.m.  Why do I have wretched, twisted dreams?  I go to bed every night thinking of the beach, I have every room laid out in my beach house, including my playhouse, which is a kitchen below a loft office.  How can I have twisted dreams when I think consciously about such great ones??  I think I blame my job, it's turning me into a twisted soul.  I'm starting to intimidate people, which is good and bad.  But really, mostly bad, because I never set out to intimidate anyone.  Just the nature of the beast we call HR.  

The winter is brutally cold this year, minus many more degrees than I want to admit now, and it's painful.  I don't go outside, other than work, for six months of the year, is this living???  In two weeks we set off for California, every time we go, we are one step closer to finding a way to be there.  But Cali is expensive, we have expensive tastes, but our Green River salaries allow us to express those - a Cali lifestyle would involve a scaling back.  So, the winter tundra, once again, prevails, with the money, over warmth but poverty.  Well, no wonder I have twisted dreams.