Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Memories . . .

I've blogged in the past about how powerful memories are. That point is driven home regularly during the Advent and Christmas seasons. (soapbox warning . . . I refuse to call it the "Holiday" season here. I'll be PC at work, but this is my blog, dadgummit, and I'll call it what I want!!!!).

Ahem, where was I?

This time of year is filled with triggers that bring back vivid memories from Christmas' past. Stringing lights on the tree; singing those great Christmas carols; hanging stockings with care; etc etc. Many of my memories are musical in nature. One was triggered last night.

Blockus and I were up late wrapping Christmas presents. Did you see what I just wrote?!? On December 17th, we were WRAPPING PRESENTS!!!!! This did NOT evoke a vivid memory as we have never wrapped anything this early. I'm so proud. (it was either that or clean the house and that clearly wasn't going to happen). Anywhere, we were still going strong at 11:00 when A Christmas Carol ended on TNT. As I was reaching for the remote, I saw the promo for what was on next - Christmas in Washington. Now, the annual spectacle that I remember was just that - a spectacle. President and Mrs. Reagan sitting on the front row listening to a mix of singing stars broadcast during prime time on one of the big three networks. Over the past few years I've caught glimpses of the show on a seemingly random array of networks (CMT, Lifetime, the Food Network maybe?). And the "talent" seemed to have fallen off a bit. Lot's of pop; not much culture. Maybe I'm just getting old(er).

Last night didn't start off much better. I don't know who the first singer was (bless her heart), but we promptly hit "mute" while she gyrated around the stage in a gold lame mini-dress. "Merry Christmas!" I was going to give them one more song; if things didn't improve we were moving on.

Good news! Next up - Kristin Chenowith. Loved her in West Wing; can sing along to most of the soundtrack from the original "Wicked". (yes, I love Broadway; you gonna make something of it?).

Well, it wasn't her best performance, but it was enough to keep us watching. Next Darius Rucker (ne "Hootie") singing an absolutely lovely song that neither of us had ever heard before. I was starting to really enjoy myself! And I suddenly realized that, despite everything, I was still watching Christmas in Washington. Not "Holiday" in Washington or "Winter Solstice" in Washington. These people were right up there on stage singing about the Baby Jesus and everything! Out loud! On TV! Well I'll be!

The next act (that I remember, at least; remember that by now it's 11:30 and we're wrapped out) sealed the deal. I remember Blockus calling me to the kitchen to see some acapella group on YouTube singing the Twelve Days of Christmas. Just some guys from Indiana University singing at their annual Christmas / Holiday concert. They were amazing! Talented, funny and yes, talented. Well, that video went viral and now they are living the dream of every college-age music group. Major contract with a major recording label; performing on national TV (albeit TNT) in front of the First Lady. (FYI, this was recorded while the President was dodging shoes in Iraq earlier in the week). "Straight No Chaser" is the name of the group and they are darned talented. Enjoy.

Anyway, the whole show ended on a high note. Lot's of beautiful carols sung beautifully; unashamed celebration of the birth of the Christ Child. It was an awful lot like the olden days.

Merry Christmas,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On Being Celebrated . . .

This past week marked my final week of travel for the year. Yippeeeeee!!! As previously noted, I journeyed to Seattle and Sacramento. Amazingly enough, I found Seattle to be gray, cloudy, rainy, and cold. Imagine that!

Sacramento, however was enjoying a nice warm-up after a frosty beginning to the week and it was wonderfully sunny. My raincoat stayed in the hotel the whole time.

The best part of Sacramento, though, was dinner on Thursday night. I was priviledged to be invited to dinner at the home of my western doppelganger. How cool is that!?! I've never actually met any of my blogger buddies yet.

(Humorous aside - - - one of my colleagues asked me if I wanted to have dinner with him that same evening. I had to figure out how to decline without making it sound wierd. "No thanks, I'm meeting some guy I met on the internet." Hmm, no that won't do. "No can do, some total stranger who either has a lovely family much like mine OR a raging imagination is picking me up and driving me off into the darkness." Nope, that won't work either. "Sorry, I'm having dinner with some friends." That worked!)

Anywhich, Tim picked me up at my hotel (no short haul from either his office or home) and took me home to meet Tonya, PFF, AJ, and Happy Boy. We had a great time getting to know one another, eating some amazing homemade soup and cornbread, listening to Tim play "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano, reading books to the kids while cozied up on the sofa, and in general laughing and enjoying one anothers company. (at least, I was; hopefully they were too).

So, many thanks to Tim and Tonya for opening their home to a cyber-friend but otherwise total stranger. It was a priviledge to be welcomed by your family. Besides (inside joke), after umpty-leven weeks of travel, I was REALLY tired of hotel and restaurant food!!!

(Oh, and Tim really does have a lovely family much like mine, and he did return me safely to my hotel. No worries at all!)

Happy weekend,

Friday, December 5, 2008

Observations on San Juan . . .

Encouraged by Tim's comment from my last post, I'll provide a few observations based on my trip to San Juan. (Thanks, Tim!)

  1. The people of San Juan are a wonderful, kind, loving people. Everyone there went way out of their way to make me feel welcome. I once heard a leader I greatly respect state "go where you're celebrated, not where you're tolerated." I was definitely "celebrated" in San Juan and as a result I will go out of my way to go back and support our team there.
  2. Example 1: our General Manager arranged for a private tour of the Capital Building in Old San Juan. It is one of three state capitals in the country that is made of marble. Not only that, but all of the exterior marble came from the great state of Georgia (my own county, in fact!). I learned a lot about the history of Puerto Rico that I was woefully ignorant of prior to this trip.
  3. Example 2: I also got to tour El Morro, the larger of the two fortresses guarding Old San Juan. Started in the mid-1500's by the Spanish, it protected the city through the Spanish-American War when, in 1898, the American Navy defeated the Spanish and took possession of the island. It reminded me of the fort in St. Augustine, but is much larger.
  4. There is great food to be had in San Juan. However, don't confuse "Puerto Rican" food with "Mexican" food. First, they bear no resemblance to one another, and second, you'll really make the Puerto Ricans mad! PR food is more like Spanish food; lot's of pork and beef; spicy rice; etc. We had lunch one day at Reice's, an upscale "traditional Puerto Rican" restaurant where I had Mofongo. Take a plantain, mash it and mix with spices, and press the mixture around the sides of a tall wooden bowl. Fill the interior with churasco (skirt steak). Yum! (side note: anything you can do with a potato, you can do with a plantain)
  5. Even though PR is a part of the USA, it really was like being in a foreign country. I speak no Spanish, so I was at the mercy of everyone else being willing to accomodate me and my language. Everyone was very gracious (see #1 above), but usually the conversations bounced between the two languages.
  6. The last evening I was there I walked out along the beachfront walk of my hotel. It was December 3rd, and I was lying in a beach lounge chair, watching the stars, listening to the waves break against the rocks about 30 feet away. It's days like that that remind me how much I love my job!!! Hopefully a return trip in February will include Blockus as a travel-mate. She loves PR and definitely deserves a break!

Today I'm back home in the cold but beautiful mountains. Monday, I leave for Seattle and Sacramento. (Hey Tim, did you catch that?!? I'll be there Wed evening thru Friday morning). Then, it's home sweet home for the rest of the year. (I think).

Have a great weekend.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Good Heavens! ! !

Have I really not posted anything for 5 weeks?!? Never mind "NaBloPoMo", how about "NoPoAtAllInNoMo".

Here's a quick summary of what we've missed.
1) Belle had a birthday (she's 9 now, and really turning into quite the young lady). I heard the party was nice, but I wasn't invited because I'm a boy. You see, she had a fancy tea party, and only girls go to fancy tea parties. So, The Boy and I stayed home and watched football on TV with my Dad.

2) One of my good friends lost his job. I know he's not the only one in the country in that boat, but that's hitting pretty close to home! Prayers for him and his wife are desired and appreciated.

3) I found out that my small team of people is "going away" in 2009. (see item #2 and start to panic). Oh, I found out about this the day before Thanksgiving ; what a way to set the mood!

4) Turns out item #3 is going to turn out all right. I talked to a VP today who really wants me on his new team that he's building from scratch. Turns out that my "old team going away" is really more of a "old team moving to a new home with a new boss" more than anything. Nothing is final yet, including the all important comp plan, but I'm feeling MUCH better.

5) Despite #3 above, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving. After spending Thursday with Blockus' family, we headed to my folks (about an hour away) Friday morning to celebrate with my family. Two parents, three brothers, three sisters-in-law (don't you hate it when people say "sister-in-laws"? I know I do), nine nieces and nephews, an aunt and an uncle, and a partridge in a pear tree. It was great fun. We had a professional photographer friend come do a family portrait of the whole clan.

6) One of my nephews got engaged the weekend before Thanksgiving. He's the first of that next generation to do so; all of my nieces were thrilled that someone else was taking the plunge first.

7) And, after a week at home with no business travel, I'm back on the road again. I know you'll feel sorry for me when I disclose my current location . . . San Juan PR. When I left home yesterday morning it was 33 degrees and snowy; it's in the 70's here. Sweet!!! I have to admit, though, I really do feel like I'm in a foreign country. Everyone here in the office is trying to remember that I'm here and thus have all conversations in English. But when they get excited about something (um, that happens a lot here) they lapse back into Spanish and I just smile and nod as I listen. My GM here keeps trying to translate for me by whispering in my ear, but it's exhausting trying to keep up. Oh, cool aside . . . I was the "featured guest speaker" at a training session held over lunch at our office here today. Before I was introduced the local manager kicked off the meeting (in Spanish). I was messing with my laptop while he spoke, but suddenly I realized that his tone of voice had changed and everyone had gotten very still. I looked up and realized that he was praying! And it wasn't just a "Lord bless this food" prayer, it was a long one that appeared to cover a lot of ground. How cool is that? Clearly, this is a close-knit team whose members have been here for an average of 7 years. In ten years with this company, that was a first for me. Just thought I'd share.

How's that for a "stream of conciousness" post? I'll try to come back again before 2009.