Saturday, May 31, 2008

Some thoughts on teamwork

My latest obsession: teamwork. 

Last week we had a meeting about BeadStyle — specifically, about what we think could make it better. Our publisher, editorial team, and art directors ate pizza (lunch and snacks are all-important agenda items) and talked about our workflow, creativity, and the competition. We also gave our opinions on what keeps us from thinking outside the box. (Someone said they hated that phrase. I agree.) There were some difficult moments. It's rare that someone wants your unvarnished opinion in the workplace.

Teamwork is a dicey proposition. I think it’s either there or it isn’t, and no amount of honesty or good will can create it. And, no one likes to have difficult conversations about performance or attitude.

Teamwork: also essential in sports. Is it a surprise that I am not an athlete?

I’ve been playing a lot of tennis lately and I’ve never felt more stressed about it. But it’s not the sport that’s making me crazy. It’s the politics of captaining a team. Encouraging people not just to be on a team, but to be a team. This is going to take work, but I’m determined to (gently) make it happen. That feels right — even if we break up at the end of the summer.

I’ve heard that the universe recognizes what you need and drops it in your lap. Maybe so.

Yesterday I was at the club and happened to run into Colleen and Kevin. Colleen is captaining a couple of teams and invited me to watch her mixed doubles team play last night. Then she gave me beer and sub sandwiches and we all hung out after the matches were over. That’s how her team is: the people who aren’t playing show up to support the people who are. And even though they’ve known each other for a jillion years, they’re welcoming to a new person. Lots of booze and hugs and parties.

And tennis. This morning, I played mixed doubles with Doug, Beth, and Chris. We played outside, lunging and swinging and missing, while the wind blew the ball all over. It was good times. Afterward, I said to Chris’ friend George, “Chris hasn’t played with me enough to be annoyed by my habits.” And George said, “Chris doesn’t get annoyed.” That’s true! It’s hard to find that combination of competitive drive and sportsmanship. And the ability to deal with mistakes and missed points.

This weekend I was reminded how rewarding tennis can be — even if it is a team sport.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Slowing down

On Thursday, I got a speeding ticket on my way to the dentist: $130 and six points. I'm going to court in June, hoping they'll reduce the points.

It's hard to see the bright side to all of this. (Regretfully, I've rejected Addie's attempt: "At least you own a car that can go fast enough that you can get a ticket.")

My week was frustrating; I've been overwrought. And on my way back to being just wrought, I'm realizing that I need to slow down. So I'll be doing some stuff I enjoy this weekend: coffee with a friend, a graduation party, tennis practice. Even though I need to do some work as well, my goal is to just get it done. Without fretting over the injustice of having to do work over a long weekend.

I've been reading Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. In the "Complaining and Resentment" section, he says that complaining makes a person or a situation into an enemy. The challenge is trying to recognize that it's not personal. I'm not sure that I embrace all that the book offers, but reading about those ideas right now feels like more than a coincidence.

Enough with the deep thoughts. I hope you have a great holiday weekend. And drive safely.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tacos and a toilet tank lid

I just got home from dinner with Joe, Sarah, and Chad. Joe and Sarah live across the alley and Chad is their friend from Oregon.

A little something about them: Joe and Chad de-iced the walkway by my garage this winter, just because they are nice guys who do stuff like that. And Sarah knows how to put everyone at ease, offering you a sweatshirt when it gets chilly out, and would you like any more ice cream?

So when they invited me over for tacos tonight, I knew there'd be good food and good company. Chad made the tacos, deep-frying the tortillas and serving them with guacamole, sour cream, and queso. Fried tortillas and condiments galore: could this night get any better?

After tacos, we hung out and played cards. Conversation turned to what we had done that day — me: played tennis; them: installed a new toilet.

A few months ago, I accidentally broke the lid on my toilet tank. Even though I tried to fix it, two-part epoxy and white glaze just couldn't hide the damage.

Joe said I could take the lid to their old toilet.

When I went home, I took the lid, and voila! it fit. This was so easy and miraculous, I ran back to their yard and told them to come over. They were almost as pleased as I was.

Maybe a toilet tank lid doesn't seem like a big deal to you. But that's probably because yours isn't broken. Plus, how often do your neighbors invite you over for dinner and then send you home with a useful party favor?

These are the times that I love being a homeowner. My good fortune continues.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The smartini

Here's the recipe for the smartini, courtesy of Kevin Sloan at The Social. I think it might be slightly different from what we had at the first GenX SIG, so I'll have another one at our next Mensa happy hour, Thursday, June 5, to compare. Let me know if you put your own twist on the cocktail.

Smartini
2 oz. Zen green tea liqueur
1 oz. ginseng-infused tea
1 oz. Midori
2 oz. citron vodka
1 oz. bar sour

Shake with ice, strain, and serve.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Careful what you wish for

I just caught a glimpse of the vision board I made last June. I don't look at it every day — though I should probably get back to that practice, to remind myself of my goals. See how the words "Lucky break" mock me with their red font? It's weird that I used that exact phrase for my recent blog post. When I stuck those words on the board, I was thinking about new publishing opportunities and runaway sales for Cool Jewels. I was not thinking, "Maybe I will chip a tooth and then be grateful that it wasn't worse." I didn't mean a literal lucky break. I just noticed that "break" is also in larger type than "lucky." Oops.

Addie says that I should be specific in what I request of the universe. Clearly she is right. The universe may have a tendency to get confused. Also, because I make a living with my writing, I should have been more cognizant of the power of words.

On a happier note: "Perfect match" manifested itself nicely in tennis. I finished the winter league with an 8–0 record. (Thank you, Universe.)

How is your vision board shaping up? I hope your dreams are manifesting themselves without any strange semantic twists.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cool Jewels interview with Jean Yates

I just did an interview with Jean Yates, who is a dear friend and a BeadStyle contributor. Jean has a way of asking interesting questions — not just about jewelry, but about the creative process in general.

I love interviews. Especially this one, because it gave me a chance to think about my approach to life — something that merits consideration from time to time. How often do you get the question, what makes you feel fortunate?

Hope you are having a good day.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Lucky break

I think I'm a truly lucky person.

Eating spaghetti last night, I broke a tooth. A piece the size of two unpopped kernels of corn. (I offer this comparison because I made popcorn earlier.)

The good news:

1. No pain. Discomfort, sure. A jagged piece of tooth in my mouth and in my hand. But, no pain.

2. It was a back tooth. All my front teeth are fine. Yay!

3. I took an Ambien so as not to freak out about my missing tooth or overanalyze how I chipped it on spaghetti.

4. I have a great dentist and mostly adequate dental insurance.

Also, I think it wasn't a coincidence that I just happened upon a 37 Days post about not complaining. I don't know if I can go 37 days in a row not complaining, but I'm happy that I can manage this. My temporary crown is just fine, thank you very much, and I enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich, fries, and onion rings after my three lidocaine shots wore off.

I think I'm going to drink more milk. It's easier when I have chocolate chip cookies. So, I just baked some. Without nuts.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Smartinis and shopping

Last night Addie and I hosted a GenX happy hour at the Social. We thought said happy hour would be a good kickoff event to attract other local members of Mensa. Smart and fun don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Kevin, the owner of the Social, created a signature smartini for us (in the photo, there's one in front of Cathy). The cocktail has green tea, Cointreau, Zygo, and sour, plus a few other things I can't remember — a fresh, summery drink for an overcast May day. Kevin's going to email me the recipe, so non-local Mensans (and even non-Mensans, natch) can enjoy it, too.

Continuing with the tropical theme, we also enjoyed food from the Social's new spring menu: jerk chicken with green beans, cilantro rice, and fried plantains, tuna and beef carpaccio, and sea scallops with curry-mango sauce. I especially loved my mini creme brulee; the small-dessert idea is a great one for those of us who can't quite forego dessert.

Speaking of great ideas, Steve, a friend from preschool, has an interesting blog post about navigating the grocery store. He makes his shopping lists according to the store's layout. Brilliant! Of course, he's a guy who buys healthy food for his family, as you can tell from the items at the perimeter of the box. Fig Newmans, anyone? My drawing would have stuff mostly on the inside. (Alas, baking supplies, chips, and pasta are usually on the inner shelves.) I suspect that Steve is not prone to impulse buys, either.

I hope your day is filled with good ideas. Happy Friday!