2018-07-14 MFA Day 0 – Sunset at the Lodge

I arrived last night at 5PM sharp and almost EVERYTHING in my life decided to converge at that moment. I ended up missing the window for the MFA check-in which was supposed to be 3-5PM and let that go because getting to my room became an incredible priority for multiple reasons.

First, I had a conference call from 5-5:30 and that was my bad, for telling my boss 5-6 would be my only window of opportunity to meet. I misjudged the time and had zero minutes and zero seconds to get checked into the hotel and get my stuff into the room and hooked up to wifi for the call. At the EXACT same time, (and mind you I had been running around all afternoon AND driving to get to Nebraska City), my body decided to open the floodgates on the whole monthly cycle thing. *Spoiler alert* – GROSS! I literally had blood dripping down my leg as I hit my room, if that had happened 5 minutes earlier in the lobby, It would have been a complete disaster.

I spent the first 10 minutes of my conference call in the bathroom trying to take care of that mess. It WAS a mess. Why oh why does this ALWAYS seem to happen? (That’s rhetorical of course). All I can say is thank the Universe for audio only conferencing and mute buttons.

Then I had another call at 5:30 which went straight up to the moment I was supposed to be downstairs for the first meeting, a somewhat mandatory intro/orientation for the entire group out here this session – faculty, students, administrators. So I had to get there and switch gears in my brain with a quickness. That’s no easy task. I was frazzled, but hopefully It wasn’t obvious.

Straight away after that, was dinner (with the entire group), which was the first of many dining room events that cause me a fair bit of anxiety. I followed Margaret in and sat at the end of the table next to her and tried to make myself seem as invisible as possible. I just wasn’t any mood to be social, but I had to eat. Whatever. After that, I was able to go back to my room and slow down.

I made a few trips back and forth to my car to get the rest of my things and then also walked around the grounds a bit as the sun was setting. It was a fabulous sunset and I didn’t want to miss it so I stayed outside. Incidentally, my room this time is on the third floor and faces the woods behind the lodge and it’s just gorgeous. I’ll never tire of watching the sunset. I probably take to many pictures, and looking at them today it’s hard to say which one is best.

In any case, time alone, and having a few moments to decompress and process the events of the afternoon, I successfully navigated my way back to my happy place. I even ended up writing two poems and finished preparing for the first workshop which is this morning. I’ve got to get ready for that soon. The schedule today is fairly packed and I have an interest in just about every session, so it’s going to be busy busy.

Cheers to the Start of Something Great!

~Miss SugarCookie

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2018-06-28 Back to Good

Back to reality means back to the basics. Achieving balance and focus is key. My day yearerday was inspiring, and as the day unfolded, I was reminded time and again of the truths around me. What’s important and what is good.

It started with some nice reflecting on current events and how I really have learned some lessons and how that has helped me make better choices. I had lunch with my mom and as always, it gave me a perspective on some of my potential futures. Learning lessons from our own life experiences is good, but if we can learn from others, that’s priceless. My conversation with her lead me to a few conclusions and if I can course correct to avoid her same pitfalls and mistakes, so much the better.

I also had several conversations with my boss and with each one I felt better about not making it to Cali. In another week or two my missing it and any negative thoughts about it in people’s minds will dissolve and whatever priority thing is now the target will be in the spotlight. That’s the nature of things. Good or bad, the significance of it softens the more that time passes.

I worked through the afternoon because hey, the reality is that I still have to pay my bills. But I took a break in the middle to turn my attention briefly to something I’ve been missing.. poetry. I realize now that at the end of the semester I was so overwhelmed with stuff that as soon as all the requirements were met, the cadence I had had with writing, reading, and editing came to a complete halt. It was a break I desperately needed, so I could focus on other things, but that break has gone on too long.

It’s time to dive back in and I started by editing one of my last submissions of the semester based on my mentors comments. I decided to post that one to my main poetry blog. It’s actually such a satisfying thing to do. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it or likes it. It’s like putting a peice of myself out into the space of the universe and letting it float free.

After work I took my kids to the pool and we only stayed a little while but it was fun. One of those lessons I was referring to earlier has to do with life and relationships and the passing of time. In a few short years, my kids will be grown and gone and I need to enjoy every moment I can with them. It’s more important than any work I will ever do.

After the pool we had a nice dinner together and despite their constant teenage bickering with each other, everyone was in good spirits. At dinner I decided to pop the cork of a half full bottle of white wine I had in the refrigerator.

I drank a glass at dinner, and another as I tackled another work task, and another as I sat on my back patio talking with Jim. That conversation was moved inside as the bugs started to bite and then up to the bedroom as I got sleepy. Before too much longer we were saying our “goodnights” and I was turning out the light.

There’s just something about falling asleep completely content and satisfied with life. It was a good day and i’m extremely happy to wake refreshed and do it all again.

Day After Day,

~Miss SugarCookie

2018-06-27 Back to Reality

I’m Finally catching up to real time after my glorious vacation and getting back to reality. In truth as things were coming to an end, reality began creeping in on me and it was sort of a struggle to really enjoy the final day of my trip. The stress of what was just around the corner weighed heavy on me which had everything to do with what was supposed to be another work trip to California quite literally starting the morning after I arrived home from Florida.

The facts were as follows… plane arrived home from Miami at 11pm and flight out to San Jose departs at 6:30am. When I booked my flight out, I was totally in the zone, feeling great about everything and had no doubt I could make it work. That, folks, was a serious delusion. A trick if the mind.

Sitting in the condo on Saturday I started to have serious anxiety. What was I fucking thinking. I was going to be beat down from travel, not sleep because I was flying out and have only a few hours to unpack and pack and take care of anything needed at the house or with my kids. At that point I felt like a very neglectful parent.

Circumstances beyond my control were also in play, which is their dad taking a new job which requires travel every week. So they’ve been mostly solo for the better part of a week and a half. They are teenagers and very self sufficient but that doesn’t change the fact that I was missing them. I probably needed to see them more than they needed me, but it is what it is.

Anyway sitting on the couch with Jim I began to unravel and we talked through it. The only answer was to cancel the California trip. I felt very much like that this was me being caught between a Rock and a hard place, but cancelling was the right answer.

The rock was the reality that if I tried to make it, I would be a useless lump to the team, tired and worried about what I’d left undone at home. I would be meeting the people paying us for our contract Work for the first time and I was afraid my first impression would be dismal. And.. if I pushed the trip out a few days, like my boss first suggested, I would miss the rest of the team sort of defeating one of the main purposes for going out there. It was also going to cost a lot more to change flights, get a room, and Uber to make it work. It would have been a waste of money and I was worried about that too.

The hard place was that this whole thing, if I cancelled, would reflect poorly on me in the eyes of the people I’m working for. Either I look like I’m poor at planning or that I just can’t hang under pressure. Neither one of these things is true of course. I’ve come through with flying colors in really high pressure Work situations before. Many times. And I’m an excellent planner, most of the time.

This one, not so much. Like I said, a trick of the mind. I’m a hard worker, and very dedicated and dependable and will sometimes (too often) take on too much or rather allow too much to be piled on. That’s what led to my crisis at the last job. I was a star and keeping that status meant taking more and more on all the time. So much so that I nearly drowned.

During my time off after quitting that job, I did a lot of reflecting on the situation. I had to come to terms with the fact that the company I was working for, specifically the president, was never to be satisfied. They would always push for more as long as I would allow it. Zeroing in on that is key. I was allowing it. I was willing and didn’t push back. I was the one with my hand on the faucet and refusing to turn right. I didn’t want to loose my status or reputation, and that, my friends, is the real hard place.

I feel very much like this current situation was made to test me. Did I learn my lesson? I’m still in the drivers seat of my life. Could I make the right choice for my health and happiness? The answer is a resounding “yes”.

I cancelled my flight and was straight with my boss about it and let him handle the comms. to the team and to the People funding our contract who will have to wait for some future date to meet me. I spoke to our HR person to get advice about the flight cancellation and she was helpful. They were both very understanding and helpful. Will it tarnish my reputation? Perhaps. But I need to be ok with that.

It’s taken me a few days to come back to reality, to get my house in order and re-establish a cadence with my day, and re-connect with my kids. It’s super clear, in hindsight, that any other choice would have been a disaster. My challenge now is sticking to my guns and not allowing this kind of situation to creep up again. I need to recognize it off in the distance and manage appropriately. Seems easy enough from where I am now, and my mantra of “balance” is the key.

Hey, that reminds me of a poem I wrote once that was a parody of a Meghan Trainor song. The poem was called “All About that Balance”…

https://shyspark.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/song-parody-all-about-that-balance/

I wrote that in 2014. You think I would have learned long before now to follow my own advice. Such is life. 😜

Now Returning to My Regularly Scheduled Programming,
~Miss SugarCookie

2018-06-17 Nashville Day 3 – Hey, I’m on a Boat!

I’ve kind of always wanted to be on a boat while someone was blasting that “on a boat” song. And now I have. 😜

That was actually the third best part of my day yesterday. I realize why it’s a thing. There was a lot of prep and errands leading up to this excursion so we weren’t out on the water until like noon. The company rented a pontoon boat which had partial shade thank the Universe, or me and my pasty white skin would not have made it through.

Pontoon boats don’t go fast, so we basically got out of the dock are in the open water and cruised along the reservoir for about an hour. After a while I was kind of thinking about how everything looks the same no matter which way we went and hoping I was with People who wouldn’t get lost. The lake was Huge.

Eventually they decided on a spot to stop and drop the anchor. Now I’ve never done anything like this before so I was basically following everyone’s lead. They all got in the water. Yikes. It was definitely not the time to bring up the fact that I have a mild fear of drowning because I’ve had not one, but two near terrible experiences where drowning was a threat.

As I stood there at the back of the boat and watched them thinking about what was going to happen next, one dude said, “are you getting in”. I responded without hesitation… “not without one of those” and pointed at the float devices which had all been spoken for at that point. He promptly swam back and let me have his. At that point I was sure I was the center of attention (which is also not awesome). He asked if I knew how to swim.

I said “I know how to not die”. It’s true. I could swim to the shore if I had to, but free float in the water is not my style. The water was fine, I floated around a while and chatted with different people about nothing of consequence and pretty soon people were getting back in the boat to have food and drink. Great idea!!

We hung out for quite a while. It was actually really relaxing just sitting on the boat with the breeze, pondering life. I was drinking a little but not enough to even get a buzz. It was a good afternoon. Before we pulled up the anchor everyone got back in one more time. I grabbed the float thing again and this time just laid on it and let the waves in the water float me away.

I almost ran into another person and then struck up a conversation with him. I’m so much better and more comfortable with one on one conversations. It was another one of the founders of the company, whom I had not worked with or talked to in the past. Another great guy. These people are all pretty great. We chatted for a bit and then were hailed back to the boat because it was time to head back. Three of us had flights to catch, myself included.

The boat excursion would be my last taste of Nashville and it was great to end the trip on a high note. I mean, I may not have made it sound that great, but anytime I get a chance to test my fears, overcome a challenge, be outside on this beautiful planet pondering my existence is a pretty amazing time.

The trip home was just as revealing. It was the second best part of my day. With each step and flight and car ride closer to my home, I felt more happiness and relief. Yes, the trip was intended to be a fun retreat, which it was, but it was still work and as such I set expectations for myself which took some effort to meet.

I wanted to make a great first impression. I hope I did. And now that I’m home I’m hoping to have a little time to reflect on all of it. I’ve got some decisions I need to make rather quickly and I don’t want thinking about Work interfere with my vacation too much.

And last, but certainly nor least, the very best part of my day… being picked up at the airport by my love who brought me flowers from his garden. As he handed them to me he said “I know the rules, these are from the yard”. 😊 Now HE’S a keeper!!!

He exceeds every expectation. Nobody has ever parked the car and met me inside before. He’s certainly never late and he’s extremely thoughtful. He took my bags and opened my car door and then drive me to my house. He was perceptive enough to recognize how tired I was and to just see me in safely and then leave me to recover from my travels.

It’s a good thing too because I was deliriously tired. Yeah, dizzy tired AND got called on to do a work thing from the west coast (which I knew was coming so that wasn’t a surprise). I got that done and fell to sleep right away after. That’s why I’m doing my final recap of my third and final day in Nashville from this treadmill in Nebtaska.

Four plane rides down. Eight to go.

Next stop… destination unknown!!

~Miss SugarCookie

2018-06-16 Nashville Day 2 – Two Truths and a Lie

Just one of the team building, learn about each other, fun things we did on my work retreat yesterday. I’m basically a day behind reporting from Nashvegas, so I don’t think I can consider this “live”. Most of the day yesterday was very work centric. Up early (hangover and all), checking in on my normal daily tasks, and putting the game-face on to head downtown early-ish for a full day of presentations and activities.

Home base was a conference room on the 20th floor of the “WeWork” building downtown. The first event of the day was the photographer. Headshots in a courtyard between buildings across the street. Picture this.. it’s 9AM and already like 85 degrees and humid as all get out. Everyone was in their suits and it was sweaty (except for me, I don’t sweat). I kid.. it really wasn’t that bad. They had breakfast brought in and then we had introductions, which made me extremely nervous for some reason. That’s where the “two truths and a lie” came in. As soon as they said we were to include that at the end of our intro, my heart started to pound. What on earth could I make up about my self or my life. Anyone who has ever played poker or “mafia” with me knows I have no poker face.

They went clockwise around the table and I was dead last, which is the worst because I had to deal with the thoughts in my brain the whole time other people were talking and could not really enjoy the game. I did a quick intro of who I was and how I was introduced to the company and then when it came to my two truths and a lie I basically said..

“Well, I am 44 years old. I once lived in London for a year and I’m currently getting a Masters of Fine Arts in Writing.”

One of the dudes was like, “there is no way you are 44”. Hahaha! (Exactly the reaction a 44 year old wants to get).

I looked over at my boss who knows I am in school and he said, “I can’t say anything because I know too much.” Then someone said “Is it London”, and I smiled. “Yup, London is a Lie”. No need to draw things out longer than they need to be.

I could say more about being 44. I could write a whole post about being the oldest person at this retreat, or having the oldest children of the group, or having just live through a whole lot more life drama. I can’t say I feel the same as I did when I was 34, because I definitely don’t. Staying fit is tougher. My body and my brain get tired in ways I don’t think you can describe to a young person. That’s not me trying to be old and wise or something. It’s just me pointing out how I feel now versus how I felt back then.

These people are not that much younger than me, but they seem to be. They seem to have a lot of ambition and drive and whatever that quality is that makes people a success. Call it Grit or stamina or internal motivation. It’s evident in just about every one of the people on this team. I know I’m different and I’m not sure I ever had that quality they seem to possess, but I think my need to do good work and impress people and get a little positive feedback probably makes it appear as though I do.

I never really intended to get on this tangent topic but sometimes one thing leads to the next and “there you are”. Perhaps I’ll go a little deeper on the dynamics I have found myself in with a very Silicone Valley role. A world that I feel in some ways that I was built for, and other ways, I’ve been fighting my whole life to maintain balance around. An analytical brain with a soul that just wants to write poetry. What is a girl supposed to do with that? (Make money and write poetry – that’s what!).

Anyway, late in the afternoon we broke from the conference room as they had a few private meetings they needed to have and a group of us walked two blocks to Broadway. Now the Nashvillian that I sat next to on the plane told me about “Honkey Tonk”, but you just don’t really know how much of a thing it is until you see it. Bars, 4 stories tall, live bands and music on every floor, one right next to the other. Drunk people everywhere. Bachelorette parties, country dancing, singing, laughing – and it was only like 3:30 in the afternoon.

We spent a little time in one place, called the “Honkey Tonk” and it was hopping. After that, we walked to the end of that Broadway strip (which was a river), and up to the 4th floor of that building to sit and look out over the river. We got stuck there for about 1.5 hours because it started pouring down rain.

It was that delay that ruined my master plan to get to dinner at the “Burger Up” which was near the Air Bnb we were staying at.

By the time we got back to “the office” people were talking about going somewhere more upscale and we ended up at a very nice Chinese restaurant (the nicest I’ve ever been to), where we ordered just a crap-ton of food to share family style. It was seriously a lot of food.

Here’s what I have to say about that… so much food, and one of the only times ever where every entree was so much better than the apps. The apps were seriously mediocre. It’s interesting cuz that typically my favorite part of any nice meal. I’m not a very good blogger cuz I can’t even say where we were. I don’t recall. If it comes up in the future.. I’ll have to write it down for posterity.

I did get a picture of the Peking duck we ordered. I’ve never had THAT before. By the time it arrived I was so full from all the other food I could barely have any of it. But I powered through. It was pretty tasty.

By the time we arrived back at “home”, I was seriously wiped out from the day. I changed into my pajamas and called my sweetie and then crashed hard. It was a pretty full day indeed. I knew the morning would be coming soon and another extremely overcrowded day involving a lot more social interaction, a boat, and two flights to get home-home.

Stay tuned for the conclusion to this action packed trip! The only thing missing will be more lies. 😜

The Nash-saga Contines,

~Miss SugarCookie

2018-06-15 Nashville Day 1 – Live from 12 South

I don’t know if ya’ll have heard the news – Nashville is the new Hotness and like all great fast growing metropolitan areas, each neighborhood has its own name/flavor/vibe to pull the cool people in. Our Air Bnb is apparently in the 12 South district – or so I’m told.

I arrived yesterday in the early afternoon and was picked up at the airport and promptly driven to one of the famous “Hot Chicken” places in town, “Princes Hot Chicken”. Really interesting because the guy I sat next to on the plane was pretty chatty and lives in Nashville and was telling me all about all the things I should do and see and eat while I am here. The Hot Chicken thing was on that list. I’m not much for spicy food so I’m really glad they had “mild” hot chicken option. Heh!

It was good, but messy to eat and a long wait in a very busy restaurant. There were five of us at lunch, and it was a decent first meet up. I had no idea that I would be overdressed, but “schmeh”. After that we headed to the house on Elliot street. There was a grocery store near by and folks decided we needed to get a few things for the house. The short story on that one, is that we overdid it (more on that later).

That evening dinner was at a place called Sambuca and it was really good food and good live music too. THat’s the other thing the guy on the plane told me about, that there would be bands and singers all over the place. So far from what I have seen, he wasn’t wrong.

At dinner was where I met my “boss” for the first time.. I mean, technically there are three founders to the company and they are all my bosses and one of them was the guy who picked me up from the airport. But at dinner, I met the guy who is basically the lead of the project and giving me my work. It’s very strange having worked with someone for like 6 months and meeting for the first time in person. He’s a great guy.

Toward the end of dinner, I was feeling very tipsy and not sure why since I had only had one drink and one glass of wine. That’s when I realized the waiter had been pouring wine into peoples glasses all throughout our 2 hour dinner. Ummm, OK. After dinner we walked to a hotel next door that had a “rooftop” bar on the top level. There were more drinks and something I haven’t had in years – shots of tequila. Oh My! I sipped my one drink and did my shot like a champ and spend most of the time chatting with folks about all kinds of stuff, some of which I don’t recall at the moment for some reason. 😉

Needless to say, I didn’t have a great sleep and was a hurting unit when I woke up today. Nothing like starting off with a bang. I’m sure there will be a lot more food and drinks and conversation in the next couple of days. I need to try to stay up for the challenge. Let’s do this!!

Doing the Smashville,
~Miss SugarCookie

2018-06-14 Next Stop Nashville!

For a while now I’ve been mostly “everything is awesome… life is amazing… blah-blah-woof-woof”. It’s really nice to be a part of this repeating record, especially given what I’ve been through to get here. It doesn’t make for very exciting writing though. I mean, day after day of the same routine gets boring to write (and most certainly to read too), so today I’m happy to be reporting live from the airspace just above Iowa.

Yes, it’s leg #1 of my two-week, whirlwind travel burst across the US. In total, I’ll be on 12 flights in the next two weeks. Today is the start of it. As I said I’m up in the air now and will be landing in Chicago in about an hour. Then it’s up again and back down at my first destination which just happens to be Nashville!!

I’ve never been but I’ve had a couple people tell me it’s a great city. Though I will only be there for 2 and a half days, I’m going to get to experience a couple really great things. Dinner out at a great place with live music tonight, co-working downtown with my Work peeps tomorrow, and out on a boat on a lake on Saturday. Winning!!

I will be meeting my boss(es) in person for the first time today. That’s pretty nerve racking but I’m sure it will be fine. I just have to keep telling myself that like a tiny little pep-talk until the moment arrives. My anxiety about this sort of thing never gets better but history has repeated itself so many times. I feel it, but the moment arrives and the social autopilot takes over and, Walaa!, everything goes just fine.

The most insane part of it is that I worry what my hair looks like, and clothes and how they might judge me. I professed a while back that I was coasting into “don’t care” mode about what other people think, and in general, that’s still true. However, these people are signing my paychecks (virtually speaking), so there’s still a fairly significant desire to make a great first impression.

I brought one of my favorite business casual dresses to change into at the Chicago airport so I can arrive looking the part. One of the other consultants who lives in Nashville is picking me and another person up at the airport so I’ll have to have my A-game on from the start. Considering this trip is supposed to be a retreat, half of what we are doing is social and “fun”, so I have to be prepared for that too.

For that reason, I brought my “dress to impress” dress to wear to dinner tonight. I swear, if I’m wearing that dress, it doesn’t matter what kind of a hair day I’m having or what I say. All I have to do is show up and just Coast through whatever the event is. Yeah, the dress is THAT powerful. Its like Popeye’s spinach. Most assuredly that’s all in my head, but whatever.

Tomorrow we are going to the office downtown and I guess they are having a photographer come in to take headshots of everyone to put on the web sight. Whoa! That sounds serious. Again, whatever. It just means I had to also pack a suit. My professional wardrobe has dwindled quite a bit in the last 6 years, but I still have one nice (relatively new) outfit for job interviews and funerals. That sounds so bad, but it’s true. In my everyday life I will NEVER wear that stuff again. If I went for a job and going to an office wearing business attire was part of the deal, my response to that is “no thanks”. Actually, if I can swing it, I will never go into an office again.

This new remote worker lifestyle is IT for me (minus any regular travel). Now that I’m becoming a “Cloud Guru”, it’s almost a guarantee because that is the whole point of the cloud and cloud computing. You can be anywhere in the world and log on and do your thing, run your business, spin up new servers, or run serverless. Yeah, you heard it here first folks.. server-less computing is the new black!

Anyway.. I’m feeling the plane doing a slight decline and I’m guessing my time here is almost up. The next time I write will likely be from Nashville.

On the Move Again,

~Miss SugarCookie