Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Another "I Wish I Was My Cat" Pic

Seriously? C'mon, I thought cats were supposed to be haughty and clever...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Road Trip - LA & Vegas

This year, a tech conference in Vegas coincided with dropping off my oldest son at college in the LA area, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and drive to both.  Talk about road trip! I had a couple of things to look forward to, which made the long hours in the car worth it.  First: another opportunity for long chats with my son without the possibility of him escaping :) I know I joke about slowing down just long enough to kick him to the curb, but I will miss him and I know every semester brings him closer to a time when he probably won't be returning.  The emotions I felt driving away ran the gamut from happy to proud to sad to.... not quite sure yet. 

Second: My pal A had arranged for me to get a massage from a friend that is a massage therapist the night I got into LA.  Oh. My. God.  What a gift after a long drive! Total bliss and made the drive into Vegas the next day so much easier!

Third: Wingwomen!! Besides my techie-tech friends and acquaintances, two of my wingwomen were flying into Vegas to hang with me during the evening events.  Because there was a high (OK, *virtual* 100% probability) that I would be running into an ex and his girlfriend, I was immensely grateful for this show of support.  In the end, yes I did survive the run-in and was actually better off for it.

I think the main personal take-away from last week is not to shy away from uncomfortable situations and just believe that I'm strong enough to handle with dignity and grace, even if others aren't.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Looking Back Just Long Enough...

...To See How Far I've Come.

I posted on my FaceBook page earlier this week a snippet of converstation I had with my ex that has stuck in my head for years.  It was an ugly, vile attack on my worth a person.  One that I didn't realize until recently had dug it's claws deep into my subconcious. He knew my weakness, what I was most sensitive about. It's time I broke it down...

"You will fail. You are a loser." - I had just told my spouse that I had signed a lease and was moving out of the house, taking the kids.  I had never lived on my own before. I went from living with parents, to a dorm room, to a marriage at 19.  The idea of trying to make it on my own was an extremely scary one. Sure I had a good job, a nice salary, supportative friends.  But there were a lot of "grown-up" things I never had to concern myself with: legal documents, utilities, leases, etc.  Even finally opening my own bank account had my palms sweating when I was sitting in front of the lady at the local bank. 

"You are Fat. Ugly. Stupid. Old"  Wow. He knew exactly where insert that dagger.  He knew I struggled with my weight, that I was extremely sensitive about the topic.  And Ugly? I always saw myself as the "funny friend", the ugly duckling that never got to turn into the Swan. At best, I consider myself average. What new guy is going to want a fat, ugly, stupid, old woman?? Which leads to the:

"Unloveable. Nobody will want you."  There it was.  If I left I would be unloved and alone.  Would the risk of that actually being the truth outweigh my complete unhappiness and cause me to stay in a broken, miserable marriage? It's something that kept me up many nights. 

"You will come crawling back." ::light-bulb moment::

No. I would not crawl back. Maybe in the deep recess of my mind and in my heart those cruel words might cling, to undermine me at different moments... but no, there was no way I'd ever give up the many hundreds of moments I've had of happiness since then.  Maybe those moments aren't all compressed in one straight line, but they've been there.  And I need to celebrate those more than I listen to ancient history.

I have come a long way.  There's been joy and sadness in that journey... but it continues.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

High School Reunion

Went to Vegas for my high school reunion and it was quite the adventure. (Disclaimer: I graduated from high school in Alaska, but *who* wants to go up there for a reunion when Sin City beckons and is more central/less expensive).

Was able to spend some precious time with my big brother, whom I haven't seen in person in over TWELVE years... and realized that sometimes people don't change as much as you expect them to! He's still a ball to be around and was great enough to pick up tickets for us to a Rush concert (awesome experience!) on Friday evening and then a Cirque de Soliel show Sunday evening.  Helped that despite being a novice gambler, Lady Luck was with him all weekend!

Being able to hang out with some good friends from way back when was a blast.  Even if ALL of them chickened out when it came time for tattoo.  All of them except for... yes, me.  Now, my mother had warned me about talking my brother into getting one, but since I already have a few, I wasn't under the same edict.  For a long time I've been contemplating new "ink" and with the help of an old friend (thanks Amy!) came up with a design that married the "techie-geek" side of me with my love of Vino.  I started with the symbol for chemical molecule Resveratrol that is found in red wine.  Part of the myth of the "French Paradox" is that the French live longer even though they indulge in good food and good wine.  Resveratrol is the compentent in red wine that *some* say contribute to that.  The artist weaved a grape vine behind the original art, and there you have it - right on my left shoulder.  I'm so happy with it!

Weekend ended all too soon, but my fellow alumni have all pledged not to wait 5 or 10 years before the next gathering and I'm totally on board with that!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Concert in the Park - SF

My friend A and I headed over to Stern Grove Park this weekend in San Francisco for a Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings concert. Weather was wonderful - we had expected low 70's with mixed clouds, but the sun shone bright all day and it was warm enough to have us search for shade under the trees on the hills. The tunes were awesome and I'm so glad A and has turned me on to Sharon Jones... what a whirlwind! What a voice! We had packed a great picnic lunch and paired with a bottle of wine it was such a pleasant afternoon. 

My Texas Twin was sorely missed: we plan on kidnapping her next time! :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Glee Live!

Needed a vacation from my vacation, so took my visiting sister to see Glee Live! concert in San Jose, CA last night.  I'm not a huge Glee fan per se, but had a fun time and the singing/dancing was very good! (And I got to try out my new Panasonic Lumix camera features - luuuuuv it!!!) Still having a wonderful birth month celebration :)

Fat Bottomed Girls

River Deep, Mountain High

Monday, May 16, 2011

So, This is 40?

I've passed another milestone, one that to be honest, I was really dreading.  Often times we're categorized not by *who* we are, but *what* we are.  I didn't want being a divorced 40-year old woman with three teenagers to be the sum of my existence. Without the power to turn back the clock, however, it's not like I could change the "40-year old" part and I'm kind of partial to my kids... So what to do?

Celebrate.  All month. With friends who love me just the way I am.

Me & Penny @ The Melting Pot
The Tuesday before my birthday, my friend Penny and I went and saw Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave) in concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco.  Once again, she was a great sport, because she didn't even know who he was when she agreed to go.  (Too much time with "Hair Bands" in the early 90's woman!!) On Friday, I had a wonderful birthday dinner hosted by Penny and her family at the Melting Pot in San Mateo.  Penny has been my "big sister" for so many years and has been my rock I could lean on during the rough times.  I'm grateful every day that I have someone that I can talk about anything and everything with. 

Alicia & Nikki @ Michel Schlumberger
The following Wednesday, I drove up to San Francisco for a couple of days of R&R with my out-of-town girlfriends. We had shopping, noshing, wine-tasting and lots of catching-up to do.  This was the first time all three of us had been together at once and it felt very natural, the way our personalities complement each other.  We had fabulous time in the city, and our wine-tasting experience at D'Argenzio in Santa Rosa and Michel Schlumberger in Healdburg were just amazing.

Sunday I met up with my wingwomen and their husbands for breakfast at Wine & Roses restaurant in Lodi. Both these guys work in the tech industry so I have the best of both worlds: I can girl-out with their wives, then geek-out with them.  How lucky am I?
So that really is the sum of how I'm feeling right now: Lucky. Good friends, good times... a path ahead of me that's mine for the taking and mine for the making.

How does 40 feel then?

Not too shabby - :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Feeling a little crabby today...

Monday, April 18, 2011

More Than 1/2 Full

 I had quite the busy weekend the past week: a Rotary Club Poker Tournament (yes, I play and I'm quite good at it!) Friday night, a visit to Napa with my wingwoman Saturday, and I took the Princess to dim sum in San Francisco on Sunday. 

While I didn't finish in the money in the tournament, I had a good time and was in the top 25 (out of 150!). It's funny - I learn a lot about people playing poker and even more about myself.  One of the guys at the original table was an insufferable little brat. He had his iPhone out with headset in.  Yakkity yak constantly.  Didn't follow established poker etiquette.  I realized early on that he did that to upset people, to throw their game off.  When I started ignoring his antics, my game got better. A lesson to remember in other areas of my life, for sure!  It also helped that I knocked him out two, when he had an Ace-King and I had an Ace-Seven... flopped showed two aces and I was all in and he decided to call my bluff.  He was already counting his winnings when the River card flopped and it was: a seven.  Full house!  Sometimes it's fun to make the boys cry..  :)

Dean & DeLuca's - St. Helena, Napa
  Saturday, Penny and I took a road-trip to Napa to a release party for one of our wineries.  It's not something I've ever done before, but because I'm now a wine club member there, I thought - why not? We had a fun time and visited another winery down the road as well as Dean & DeLuca's (see pic, yummmm!) and Oxbow Market in Napa itself.  Lots of delicious eats without having to suffer through a long wait for a restaurant table!

I may have mentioned this a while back, but I suffer from insomnia at times.  Usually meaning a hard time falling asleep and waking up at 3:30-4:00 AM with no chance of dozing off again.  Happened Sunday morning, but I used it to my advantage to get some work done and plan an impromptu visit to San Francisco to sit in this: (I'm such a geek!!)

It's good to be the Queen...
The Iron Throne - a replica from the HBO series that is based on my FAVORITE fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin.  I took the Princess (my daughter) to dim sum at Yank Sing, and afterwards visited this at Yerba Buena Gardens.  I promised her we'd get some shopping in and we hit Westfield in SOMA and what was great is that there's a BART station *right* there so we were able to hop on and ride the train back to Pleasanton.  So nice not to have to drive all the way there and back!  I would love to live in a city that had a reasonable, clean, safe public transportation system!  Someday...

Monday, March 28, 2011

What Am I Complaining For?

I spent last week at a luxury resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

I'm not saying that to brag - I'm mainly saying it to remind myself that I have a pretty good life.  I have to do that because sometimes I get so caught up in one aspect that is dragging me down that I forget overall how blessed I am. 

My friend (my buddy, my wingwoman, my sister-from-another-mister) re-tweeted something today that really hit me: God's 3 answers to your prayers: 1. Yes 2. Not yet 3. I have something better in mind. 

Can I accept that? Hmmm. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wish I Were My Cat: Daylight Savings Time??

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

2011 Wine Road Barrel Tasting

I had a wonderful time this weekend in Sonoma at the Wine Road's annual barrel tasting event.  I *finally* was able to drag one of my wingwomen with me, so I didn't have to go solo: yipee!!

Even though it was wet, the day was mild and the sprinkles ended up scaring away the crowds that had clogged Sonoma the previous day.  Penny and I went to over a dozen wineries (there were more than 140 participating!!) and realized that next year, we were going to make a weekend of it!

We were able to taste of variety of fabulous wines, right out of the barrel, that will be ready to be bottled in about 12-18 months.  Most of these were 2009 vintages and it looks to be a really good year for the reds! All of the wineries we visited (with the exception of one big mass-producer ::coughKJcough::) were extremely friendly and welcomed us warmly.  Many, after learning who we work for, shared great stories about their interaction with our company - something we had not expected, but really appreciated.

I ended up with about half a dozen bottles from various wineries - the ready to drink *now* kind! This is truly a fabulous event, and for the price ($20 in advance/$30 day of) you cannot beat the value + education you will get!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Work: Wicked Witch of the West vs. Mary Poppins

In real life (IRL) I have a pretty amazing job: I am the top-ranked data security person at a very large company that makes some very good wine.  Over the years I've supported servers, email systems, survived six seasons of harvest, and have done everything from climbing up a 1/2 million gallon tank to riding a bike through a mammoth warehouse.  I love this place.

Data Security is a different beast than my previous roles here.  On one hand, no one wants our systems hacked, data lost, or intellectual property compromised.  On the other hand, everyone wants to be able to do everything without being slowed down. I've taken pride in the fact that all the feedback I've received from many different parts of the company have been complimentary and approving of how I've managed to balance this.  However, the other day my boss gave the opinion that I was "too harsh (mean)" in an email that I sent out to the IT staff. I was taken aback, because I never have viewed myself as mean.  Yes, I'm tough, but fair.  I communicate clearly but try to keep a light touch.  The old days of edicts from Data Security being delivered with the goal of shaking people in their boots is not what I am about.

On the flip side, I'm no Mary Poppins.  Never have claimed to be, never will be. If you want sugar and spice with your protection and policies, I'm the wrong gal. The margin for error in my position is infinitesimally small.  A wrong decision, a missed setting, letting someone "get away" with something could cost my company millions of dollars in the end. What at times chaffs my ass, is that manager I inherited this role from was a traditional throw-back datasec "cop".  No one questioned the tone of his emails, or called him a "bitch" behind his back because he didn't roll over and show his belly when he encountered opposition.  I try not to see everything through the lens of a female in a heavily male dominated IT world, but times like this I wonder if it's my actions that are being judged or my gender.

It's not anything new - this feeling of there being two standards, one for men and one for women.  So I was heartened to stumble across a post from the blog This Recording entitled "In Which We Teach You How to Be a Girl in a Boys Club". I laughed, nodded in great agreement with many sections, wrinkled my nose at others, and then sent it out to other women I know who are in similar positions such as mine.  It was a great reminder not to ignore critisims from people I should be listening to (yes, the PHB is one of them) but to always be strong and true to the *person* I am. I'm not a witch, I'm not a saintly nanny - but I am a force to be reckoned with. :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wine in the City!

At the end of last week I sent out a call via twitter: "Where at My Wingwomen this Weekend??!" It was a plea for my girlfriends to join me in doing something impulsive, because I didn't have the rugrats.  I had my eye on two events - the first was Affairs of the Vine Grand Pinot Noir Tasting in San Francisco and the second was a group of wineries having an open house in Sonoma.

Even though I couldn't find anyone to go with me, I'm very proud to say that I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended the Grand Tasting solo.  I have never been to this event (or any like it!) before, so to say I was nervous/shy is no understatement!  Held at the Hilton in San Francisco, it's limited to 300 members of the public and the organizers split 64 of the top Pinot Noir wines into two groups to be blind-tasted throughout the day.  In addition, there were two educational sessions I attended: "A Question of Style" and "Winemaking 101".  In my job, I worked Crush (grape harvest) for six seasons, so I have a good fundamental background in some of the production of wine, but it was so interesting to hear directly from winemakers from wineries both small and large.

I chatted with the ladies sitting next to me in the first session, and the butterflies started to dissipate.  I introduced myself to someone who shares a common acquaintance with me, and just that small step allowed me to meet a very nice couple who just moved to Napa and are starting to live out their goal of being involved in the wine business. 

There was a sparkling wine reception (with some yummy appetizers!) followed by an opportunity to browse each of the participating wineries offerings individually and then the winners of the tasting were announced.  At the end of the day, I was definitely experiencing "palette fatigue" (even though I was using a "spit cup") but I had a great time.  If you are in Northern California area and interested in wine events, give me a holler and I will check the event calendar.  Often I have contacts in the business that can provide discounts and I'm always up for a tasting!  This upcoming weekend, my buddy and I are attending the 33rd Annual Barrel Tasting along the Wine Road in Sonoma County.  For more info check out their site: More than 100 wineries are participating!  Check back here for a recap next week!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Did I Mention? The Dreaded Valentine's Day...

Came and went in an unexpected manner. Left me exasperated, embarrassed, confused, and surprisingly, curiously... happy.

Planning vs. Serendipity

If you ask my friends, they will readily admit that one of my faults is that I am an "overthinker".  Given a theoretical situation, I will spend hours figuring out the outcome, what it means to me, and what the odds are that it will occur.  I also happen to be a card-carrying pessimist, so you can imagine that my expected outcome will rarely be positive and my belief is that odds are never in my favor. 

I wasn't always this way, for better or for worse.  Not long ago, I took individuals at face value and believed in the best of people. Fast forward through a scarring divorce plus a few personal/professional betrayals and I came out the other side determined to be 1) prepared and 2) protected.  What I *really* wanted, deep down, was never to be hurt again.  It's quite the internal conflict: wanting to go after something (a relationship, a job position, etc) but being so damn SCARED about potential pain that I'd end up sabotaging myself at the very beginning, because at least then I could control the depth/length of the pain.

A close friend recently pointed out that I was really being quite arrogant - believing that I could foresee the future and all it's outcomes. Quite the power I have, eh? Initially I tried to defend (to her and myself) what I was doing, after all - what's wrong with planning and being prepared?  It wasn't until just recently that I realized I was preventing myself from experiencing something I used to believe in deeply: serendipity. Serendipity is described in the dictionary as: good luck in discovering unexpected things.  To me it has always meant finding something valuable or delightful when you are not looking for it.  Kind of the the same, but different.

If I'm too busy worrying about the future, I'm missing opportunities in the *now*. I need to let the story play itself out without reading the last page first.  Another friend opened up to me that they sensed a change in me when it appeared that I had an "oh, what the hell - might as well take the chance" moment.  And they were right.  When I gave up trying to micro-manage my life and just let it be... I found serendipity.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Little Birdy Leaves the Nest

At the end of this week, I'll get in a car with someone that has been with me for nearly every day of the last 19 years.  Somehow I'll try not to get emotional or too sentimental as we drive down Hwy 5 to Long Beach.  I'll try not to think about how I left home at 19 and never came back (except brief vacations).  I'll try not to second guess if I did a good enough job as a mother... especially these last four years.

I was barely out of my teens when I had my son. The two of us grew up together - me as a "mom" and he as an independent young man.  I don't think I had the same level of natural mothering instincts as some of my friends, but my son drove me to give my best. 

I think right before I say "Good-bye, I love you.", I'll also tell him "Thank You".

Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas Time in the City...

This is the second year that I've been child free for Christmas.  The kids spend it with their father and I'm left to my own devices.  Last year I visited my parents and friends in Minnesota, but decided this time to stay a little closer to home and a little warmer.

I'm very lucky to be near to San Francisco and I resolved to do a stay-cation there, as most of the time I'm in the city it's for classes or conferences and I never have the luxury of just **exploring**. I checked with my favorite boutique hotel, the King George right around the corner from Union Square, and was astounded that room rates for Christmas week were as low as $59/night! What a deal! It's not the fanciest place in town, but it's cozy, clean and central to what I wanted to do: shop, spa, and sight-see.

Ahead of time I had planned a few things including going to the San Francisco Ballet's The Nutcracker.  I have to confess, I've never been to a ballet before and I figure I couldn't keep waiting for someone else to take me: I'll take myself! Wednesday evening I got all gussied up, caught a cab over to the Opera House and enjoyed a wonderful performance.  While I don't know if future ballet visits would be my cup of tea, I'm so glad I finally got to see the Nutcracker performed by a group like this with so much history behind it. Bad News/Good News on the way back from the show.  I could NOT catch a cab for the life of me, so started walking back on foot.  I ended up hiking across San Francisco with a very nice gentleman and his precocious 5-year old son.  Not only did I feel safer, but the conversation was pleasant and just being able to see the city (and Christmas) through the eyes of a young child again was refreshing!

Speaking of refreshing - the next day, Thursday was Spa Day at Elizabeth Arden's Red Door Spa! My very good friend Penny and I have been planning this for the last month or so, every since she received a well-deserved performance award at work.  We discovered that one of the choices was Spafinders certificates. Red Door takes those and was also highly recommended by two other friends.  For me, Costco had $100 Spafinder certificates for only $79.99 so I ended up with a nice savings too.  Our day started with massages, then facials (ooohhh how come no one told me about this before??) before a break for a nice lunch.  Afterwards we had manicures and pedicures and Penny's package included hair.  I took the picture to the right from the Gumps store across the street as she was finishing up.  We both agreed that we shouldn't wait years before we do this again!

We completed our day with some more shopping (something I had pretty much been doing non-stop since arriving in the City!) and then a nice dinner at Max's on the Square.  I finally found a place that made Bramble cocktails and it was just as delicious as the description I had been sent months ago!

The next day was Christmas Eve and I visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for their "How Wine Became Modern" exhibit.  If you know even a little bit about me, you know that in addition to being an IT geek, I've worked for the last decade at a winery.  Learning more about the product is always a goal for me.  While smaller than I was hoping, I enjoyed the exhibit and the museum as a whole.  They had some unique displays including a sensory one where you could smell concentrated amounts of what usually wine writers put in reviews that leave you scratching your head.  "Bell Pepper?  What does that smell like?"  Now I know!  The gift shop has some lovely tie-ins to the exhibit including books, stemware, and interesting items.  Well worth a visit.  (plus if you hang on to your admission ticket, some wineries up in Sonoma/Napa area have discounts when you present it.)

The biggest challenge of my entire visit to San Francisco was finding a place for dinner Christmas Eve.  I was meeting a friend and the first few places we had initially chosen were either closed or sold out.  After a trek across town to a closed restaurant, a short hike with Yelp! on my iPhone, I found us a spot at Jardiniere in the Civic Center.  While waiting for my friend to arrive, I was happy just to enjoy a beautifully made lemon drop (or two!) at the bar.  I had the Maine Diver Scallops and my friend had the Hoffman Ranch Hen, both of which I thought were simply delicious! It was also nice to enjoy wines that *aren't* produced by my company, and my friend is a wine aficionado and picked an excellent one to complement our dinners.

Union Square was beautiful Christmas Eve, but I was amazed at how many people were still out and about.  Christmas in the City is definetly an adventure!
Christmas Day I traveled up to the wine country - Sonoma County and was treated to a relaxing day of movies, conversation and a fantastic prime rib / crab dinner.  My experience cooking is that anything with less than four ingredients is good, the acting "chef" pulled out an excellent Prime Rib with Red Wine recipe.  All I can say is that the time and effort spent was well worth it.  The sauce was delicious!  (Plus I can say I chopped some carrots and shallots as part of the prep effort!).
All in all, a wonderful week - so glad I took the time for myself.  Can't wait till the next trip!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Resolution '11

Nothing earth-shattering... Simple goal. Be true to who I am as a person.