Sunday, November 28, 2004 In every life, a little rain... Rain comes at the end of cycle, but it is only after it falls that it can start anew.
It rains a lot in Kauai; in some parts, 250 days a year. One moment it can be bright and sunny, and the next you get caught in the middle of a torrential downpour. It's what makes the island so lush and full of life.
And every time I come to Kauai, the families have more and more kids. The ground isn't the only thing that fertile here.
But for all these reminders of the beginnings of life, there is also the reminder of its end.
When I first scheduled this trip, it was to be a vacation; yet as the months approached, it became clearer and clearer that it was going to be a time to say goodbye. The patriarch of the family had made it to his 90th birthday alert and strong, but the next two years saw his body slowly losing its strength. Its only been in the last two months that the end started to rear its ugly head.
We knew it... and he knew it... but he's stubborn... and even if his body was weak, his spirit was still strong. He was not going yet. He was waiting for his youngest son Scott to arrive.
He was so frail when I first saw him on Thanksgiving day. He almost disappeared in the bed set up in the front room next to the sofa, where his wife of 42 years stayed by his side.
Scott tried to put on a happy face as he leaned down to his sleeping father to say "I love you."
His father opened his eyes; not in a blank, incoherent glare as he had been doing moments before. This time he looked up at his son, the son he had been waiting so long to see, and smiled. Sound was not coming from his lips, but what he said could be heard love and clear.
"I love you, my boy."
The next two days was filled with running errands, catching up with all the new additions and talking about Life. Everyone was preparing, yet hoping for the best.
My senses told me that his room was still quiet; that his time had still not arrived.
Until last night. I had prayed for angels to come by his side; and now three or four of them had gathered by his bedside. A large group of family and friends were gathering on the other side to welcome his arrival.
I was just finishing cooking eggs and Portuguese sausage when the phone rang.
"We're losing Tata..."
We arrived just moments too late. The labored breathing, and the man, was gone.
Falling to his knees besides his father, all Scott could say was "I love you so much, Daddy... so much." It was all he had to say.
I touched Tata's forehead. He was still warm. As I straightened out his hair, I smile. "Have a safe journey... know that you are very much loved."
Outside the sound of his great-grandson could be heard playing.
He leaves behind a legacy of seven kids, six step-kids, 26 grandkids and more great-grandkids than I can count. By the scores, they came to be by his side; and the ringing phone became a constant sound over the whispers of huddled voices.
And the kids played on.
Have a safe and happy journey, Tata. Your legacy goes on.
Friday, November 26, 2004 A Different Life... We often become so used to our own little lives, that we forget that there's a whole world out there...
The Iraqi War not withstanding, most people are not aware of the world's varied cultures. Heck, I've met a number of people who don't even know how different cultures can be from state to state.
Even though I've been to Kauai a number of times, every time I step off that plane, I'm reminded of how different it is from Los Angeles. First thing that hits me is the humidity (LA is actually part of a desert); but right after that, the sounds of local culture comes wafting over.
Wat Brah, you steel workin' at da mall, yah?
Oh yah, but I move ovah ta Starbucks... mo' beddah den da las' place
Then the next thing to hit me is... um, did he say "Starbucks"? Oh, right, Steve Case came in and upgraded the mall to look like everything else in America.
That's okay, the pace is still slow.
Oh, wait, so is the traffic.
Okay, didn't someone tell them there's still only one main road around here? Let me guess, all these people moved here to get away from the traffic, right?
So it's not such a different life after all.. at least not as much as before. It's still beautiful though, and it's very important for me to be here...
So I guess I'll go over to Jamba Juice now and hang loose.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004 No sacrifice... Chaos may cause you to make some compromises, but never let one of those compromises be sacrificing principle.
Today was the mad rush to get stuff done before the holiday. Of course a lot of this could have been done days ago, and as usual people had to wait for the stragglers who were now panicked at the lost time.
We chose to sacrifice some quality, but nothing earth shattering. What was not good though was that some procedures were trampled in the rush, and it was coming back to haunt us already. Procedures can seem boorish and boring, but many of them are there to lay a foundation. Mess that up and no matter what goes on top, it's destined to fall eventually.
I don't want the same mad rush to affect me tomorrow, so I've got all my lists together and am nearly ready to go.
Tomorrow morning I will be Kauai-bound for a whole week. I'm excited! I won't be blogging as much this next week, but I do plan to take pictures for my photo-blog. So stay tuned!
Tuesday, November 23, 2004 A time of giving... Give good advice freely and often. Sometimes they just need to hear it one more time.
Although I was doing a lot of overtime tonight, I took quite a while to talk to her. Tension's been building from all the demotivating events of the past week, and it's weighing heavily on her mind and her shoulders.
I tried to give her the best advice I could think of.
Here's some of it...
When others take away opportunities, make your own... They may give you tasks to do, but they may not show you in the best light. It's up to you to pick the best route, and to take it!
Either change their minds, or change your direction. Their perceptions can shape your reality. If they don't believe in you, they won't help. Getting them to believe in you after a fall is a lot tougher though; sometimes insurmountable... so be prepared to find someone else to believe in you.
Pushing you down is not raising the bar. It's important to know the difference... even if the height is about the same.
Your beliefs create your reality. Sounds metaphysical, don't it? But here's the rub... if you don't believe in what you're doing, you will not put in your best effort; be it consciously or subconsciously. In either case, your poor showing will only make matters worse... and if you don't believe in yourself, it'll show.
I don't know if she heard me... but I heard me... and I just needed to hear it again.
Monday, November 22, 2004 The last cookies crumbles... They may say "it ain't over til it's over" but it's really over once something else begins to replace it...
The winds have changed again at the old place. I'd like to think that this latest re-org has some rhyme or reason, but from where I'm sitting, it doesn't make much sense. Of course, it didn't make much sense when I was smack dab in the middle of it either.
Basically it comes down to yet-another-empire comes crumbling down. I didn't get the full story from my old gang, but I gather that BigBoss (B2) has lost most of her standing. Following the usual protocol, the other Empire Builders (EB) have swooped down to grab all they can.
All that I had ever built over there, is gone now.
I guess you can say, "there goes my empire" too. The major projects and the support were gone a long time before I left, but now without me there, the remaining team members will be sent into a "resource pool." That's much like being put onto the dreaded "special projects" which is the end of your career unless you get out. The EB's never really knew what they had, so they don't deserve the talent that these people have to offer. Although this won't be the end of their careers, I'm fairly certain it's the end of the team as we knew it.
I can't say I didn't warn them. Meeting after meeting, I told them of this possibility; and I told them to start looking out for themselves. They stayed. They stayed for me, and I loved them for that... but they stayed even after they knew I was going. Maybe they didn't think there was any place for them to go. They'd be wrong (I know plenty of EB's who'd want them).
It's just that they run the risk of being victims. I've said for years that the EB's "just don't get it" ... they never will. B2 especially didn't get it. That's why I finally left.
I sent out a few "lifeboat" messages yesterday. I know I don't owe these people anything but my undying love and admiration, but caring comes with this package. It's what I do.
Now I just hope they get in the lifeboats. The storm's a-coming.
Saturday, November 20, 2004 With relish... Catching up with old friends is like a satisfying meal, the bitter, the sweet; with relish in every moment...
This past week has been filled with the past. Five friends, some whom I've not spoken to in nearly a year, have all surfaced to "catch up." Recanting my latest changes have been very rewarding. It just makes me feel so lucky to be able to report good news.
Happily to report, all of them are also doing very well. "One" is producing a new play in New York; "Two" has a new job; "Three" left a bad job; "Four" is partnering in a restaurant franchise and "Five" is now a MULTI-Millionaire (having gone from less-than-zero ten years ago, after her husband died, to now owning eight apartment buildings, homes and tons of acreage in Idaho). I'm so proud of all of them. Truly inspirational.
Thanksgiving is coming. Sounds like there's a lot of reasons to celebrate this year.
Thursday, November 18, 2004 A League Not Your Own There are going to be times that no matter how hard you try, no amount of effort is
going to yield success. It's time to consider doing something else.
She knew she was struggling the first time we spoke. She claimed that it was because
she wasn't given opportunities. Truth is, there is an opportunity - right here, right now. She's standing at the beginning of her last chance.
And already the signs don't look good.
It's a tough situation to be in. After all, when faced with difficulty it's perfectly
natural to want to quit. Yet quitting is the LAST thing you want to do. The proper
thing to do is to jump in and give it your all. The problem with that? You have to
be dead-on-center right. One iota off and you lose BIG TIME.
And that pressure only adds to the viral frustration.
She's just out of her element; and refusing to adapt isn't helping. She makes presumptions, so she's always in the wrong direction... and the further she travels, the farther away she becomes.
I don't know how to get her back on track.
I tell her and show her and tell her again.
If it's not going in, it's never going to come out.
Wherever she's going, it isn't forward.
And it isn't where we're going.
And I can't carry her.
So I hope she finds her way out of this before they do.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004 Flying time... When you're doing something within your bliss, time stands still... and is gone before you know it.
Noon time came and went. So did 5 O'Clock. All the graphic designers are in a class the rest of the week, leaving me to do all the designing for the next project, coming up next week. It took all day, but as you can tell by now, I really didn't mind.
I get my graphic snacks during the weekend, with my cartoons, but it's been quite a while since I've had the chance to do large scale projects. But it's just like drawing a bicycle :-)
Tomorrow will be filled with administrative forms, meetings and project plans... but tomorrow is another day. Today was designed just the way I like it.
Monday, November 15, 2004 Take it all in... When Life presents you with a magic moment, just don't let it in; take it in with all your being!
As I set off to catch lunch, I was greeted by warm air bursting with sunshine. The sights and sounds of the city engulfed me like a blanket, inviting me forward. It brought back memories of a January many years before... when shorts and sunshine solidified my decision to move to California.
I smiled as I strolled past the coffee houses and patios filled with diners enjoying Falafel and Frajitas and Fresh Sushi Rolls. Each door releasing its international aroma into the air.
Passing rows of little shops, I created a mental to do list for errands and other lunches; before settling down for a meal of broasted chicken, bursting with garlic and spice.
It felt like time was standing still, until I looked down at my watch and saw that the hour was nearly gone.
I dashed across the street, to the giant health store, and quickly filled my basket with oatmeal, some sort of green drink and the biggest pill box I had ever seen... and breath mints. After all, I don't think everyone at the office will enjoy my garlic as much as I did.
Sunday, November 14, 2004 It's not around the corner... Christmas is not right around the corner, it's down the block, around two corners and three bus stops over... yet our stores and TV sets are filled with decorations already. Whatever happened to waiting until after Thanksgiving to start the Christmas season?
I wouldn't mind; in fact, I'd be overjoyed, if all this attention was on spreading cheer and goodwill to mankind... but it's not. It's all about desperation and greed. It's the stores just trying to sell you stuff... just trying to stuff their own stockings some more.
For many people, the holidays is a very stressful time. The pressure to buy all the right people, the right gifts. Trying to balance the joys of food with the fear of gaining weight. Making those travel plans to be with loving family members and the crazy uncle no one talks to the rest of the year.
All this tinsel acts as a reminder that the end of the year is approaching, and people are seemingly busier now than ever before (I can tell by how many of my regular blog reads have come to a completely halt in writing... and when they do surface, their posts start off with "sorry for not writing so long..."). The last thing everyone needs is the pressure of holidays not as close as they make you think.
The next holiday (for those here in America) is Thanksgiving... a time to give thanks for all that we have. It's not a time to be thinking about all we have to give away.
Saturday, November 13, 2004 Walk your talk... Words without action is just noise.
As I was working on my latest article, This Ain't It, I was reflecting back on the last several years. I wrote a lot of articles similar to T.A.I. in the past (in fact, I think I really need to expand my topics, they're all starting to sound the same). Many times (unbeknownst to my readers) I felt like a hypocrite. I'd talk about taking action, following your dreams, then go to the same old job and get nowhere. I'd talk about being fearless, then catch myself making choices based on past pain. In a way, I was writing to myself... trying desperately to understand my own message.
This past month, being away from an oppressive environment, has shown me that it can be done... to take action that makes your life better. It was a very big move, a calculated risk, that paid off. It's far from perfect, but it's far from failure too.
It wasn't easy, even if it went very smoothly. I gained a more intimate appreciation for the other people who make the big moves in their lives. After all, I want to inspire people to do that. Some days I was sad, because I wasn't walking my own talk. This walk right now feels good.
I also thought about D. from the old job. It took over a year but she lost 150 pounds (on Atkins) then got rid of another 180 pounds (her abusive husband). She's now dating a nice guy and smiles a lot.
I remember people saying that she was never going to lose that much weight and she certainly was never going to get rid of her husband. It just wasn't "who she was." That shows you just how difficult it's been for her, since so few people believed in her. Above all else, she had to believe in herself.
Now they believe.
So now it's time for me to move into my goals more... more diverse articles, a broader reach offline, just more doing.
Friday, November 12, 2004 Shift it There comes a time when you can't keep doing what doesn't work. You just gotta start doing something else.
Well, it's the end of my fourth week in the new job (unbelievable how the time went). I tried to set up some tools that really would help, but unfortunately I just couldn't get them in time. So much effort and nothing but roadblocks. It was starting to become a 'thing' and 'things' just take and take and take, and give so little.
So today I made the declaration to stop looking and start working on other stuff. It's time to focus on the job I was hired to do. I'll miss what I was looking for, but I'll just have to find it another day.
Another shift taking place is that we're hiring another writer for our department. I ran the interview today, and it just brought back memories of my interviews. Oddly I thought more about the one that got me hired in the company five years ago, instead of the one just a month ago. Maybe because five years ago, I had so much more at stake. I saw the same thing on this guy's face. He was confident and all; and certainly qualified. I could just see him on the judgment seat. His future relied on the opinions of others, and that's always a rough place to be. We had some great conversations, so I'm sure he's going into the weekend with a smile.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004 Keep on track... People come together, traveling on a million trains of thought. If you don't stay on track, any one of those trains can derail the whole yard...
My manager is so funny. Two days ago she came by to tell me that I'm was to be in charge of the meeting this afternoon; so I got my material and thoughts all together... the meeting started on time (which around here means less than 20 minutes late)... and just as I started to speak, she goes,
"Before you start that I just wanted to bring up a couple of issues.
(Derailing so early?) I thought to myself. It's an easy thing to do, with so many footnotes to the stories that are our lives. We have issues. Serious, politically-charged, panic-stricken, misunderstood, disagreeable issues... but then again, I'm living in the Dilbert World of Corporate America.
Some things just had to play out.
Fortunately for me, we got the room with a wall they converted to a giant white board (the whole wall, it's tre cool and fun to write on... I wish they made the whole room that way... but I digress...) I had put up a matrix for issues, lessons learned and solutions (you know, CorpSpeak stuff) so I started to fill it in with notes from the discussion they were having. When they started to lose steam, I chimed in...
"So what I hear you saying is that we have this issue and that lesson... so what solution would you suggest?
It worked... for the moment. It went on for nearly two and a half hours (they actually scheduled a THREE hour meeting, so that's not as bad as it first sounds). Every time we "derailed" into some side topic, I picked up bits of notes and threw them up onto the board.
So it was quite a trip today. Some slow trains, some rollercoasters and a few side tracks, but we arrived ahead of schedule with our baggage in tow. For this conductor, it was worth the price of the ticket.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004 Moving back, moving ahead... Today my horoscope said:
It's time to move ahead, put the past behind you and prepare for some new energy in your own life. Someone you've just recently said your farewells to may not feel the same way. Ready to deal with the leftovers?
Which just sort of fit the way it went today.
This morning I got some messages perfectly clear.
I have to move back. Management forgot to tell the planners that the new cubicle was mine; so they've scheduled it to be broken down into two and given away. I move back to my old cube tomorrow.
I have to move sideways. Someone in the department is trying to take over what I do. His intentions might be good, but what's happening behind it isn't pretty. I have to tread carefully.
I have to move forward. My manager reassured me of my position, and my power. She committed to my decisions and my right to push back and set the run the show the way I was hired to do.
Coming from the old environment of fear and disempowerment, this is so refreshing and invigorating.
I'm not going for the leftovers. I'm going for the main course!
Saturday, November 06, 2004 What it all comes down to... Went with some friends to the Rose Bowl to see a football game between Washington State and UCLA. Washington State took an early lead and held on to it for dear life. UCLA came back until it all came down to a single play. It didn't work, and Washington State took the game.
Then we went off to dinner, and discussed the election. Bush took an early lead and held on to it for dear life. Kerry came back until it all came down to a single state. It didn't work, and Bush took the presidency.
Never underestimate the power of the little things.
Friday, November 05, 2004 Compromising positions Decisions must be made every moment. Sometimes they're not the best ones, but they're the best ones to make.
We really had no choice today. The project had to get done. Period. This was not to be discussed; it was just to be done.
All of a sudden, "good enough was good enough." In fact, "not so good enough" became good enough as the day wore on. Why? Because of that old fashioned triangle of quality, price and time. We ran out of all of them.
But hey, we're done. Now let's go on and make something better next time.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004 Only too well... Life has its ups and downs. You need to keep looking up, even when you're drifting down; if there's ever to be hope of getting back up again.
I noticed something was up when I first met her. She wasn't invited to the meetings, and all the new choice projects were being given to other people. Everytime she said "oh, I'd like to learn that" or "is there anything I can do to help?" her words seemed to fall on deaf ears.
In these last few weeks I've watched her struggle. I've seen the behind closed door meetings and I watched as she's been given the lowest of the "special projects."
Tonight she stayed late, trying so hard to be helpful to my latest project. Even after I whipped out a graphic for tomorrow's presentation, she struggled to make something similar in her version. She just wanted so much to be useful.
I don't know what lead up to this decline for her, but I knew only too well what she was going through. Two years ago, as I watched my team and my projects fade away like some forgotten dream to a screeching alarm, I felt the same things. Why me? Why after all the awards and accolades, after I proved myself to everyone, why was I losing? Why was I having to prove myself all over again; only this time to people who had no clue, so their decisions kept cutting through my aspirations?
I recanted all these stories to her as we walked together to the parking lot. Part of it was to make her feel better; to make her continue to believe in herself... and part of it was to remind me just how truly fortunate I am to be getting this second chance.
Sure I'm doing tons of overtime, but like this woman I also have to prove myself again. I'm very willing to do it, because I owe it to the people who are making this opportunity possible. Unlike this woman, I have the faith of management behind me... and that's making all the difference in the world.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004 Baby Steps... Baby steps are still moving forward...
Today's been one of those days that needed flexibility above all else. We were trying to be too aggressive... new equipment a new way of working, a new look to everything. When the computer started crashing, tough decisions had to be made. We could either spend the time to deal with the problems, or go back and do some stuff the old way. The old way worked; we just wanted to do it better.
Doing it better was making it worse.
So we're going with the old way on half of what we hoped for. It's better than nothing. To the outsiders it'll still look like progress. That's good enough for now.
And an addendum to this morning's comments about voting... it looks like it's coming down to one state, Ohio, to decide the fate for the entire country. In fact, a decision that will effect the world.
So you can look at it two ways... why vote, since the majority ends up relying on a small bunch of people anyway, or (the way I see it) if a small group of people can make such a big impact, my vote has a bigger say than I think.
It's a privilege... They say that voting is a right, it isn't... it's a privilege. Not everyone gets the freedom to be heard. If you can speak out, do it.
I'm not one to turn this into a political forum, so I will keep my personal voting choices quiet. What I won't stay quiet is:
If you can vote, go vote!
We here, in America, have a very special gift... freedom. Freedom to become who we want to be. We're free to make a choice.
Even if we think it doesn't matter, even if we think some scandal is going to ruin it. To do nothing is to become nothing. To do nothing is to let someone else make the choice for us.
Maybe your vote isn't so big by itself... but together, it can change the world. Don't miss your chance to be a part of something bigger than your daily life; something that does effect your daily life.
Maybe you won't get your candidate in office, but what you will get is the right to complain the next four years.