Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Mustard

So I'm on day three?  Four?  Of an unholy exhaustion backed by stunning headaches.  The world is challenging, and by that I mean just walking from one room to the next, nevermind navigating the challenges of human agendas, re-evaluations, meetings, and word choices.

I drag myself to the store anyway because I need something. I'm not sure what exactly, but it's important so I wander the aisles, sure I'll remember if I see it.  So I get some cheese (because, you know, my life is cheese) and some plastic bags (becasue, you know, uhm) and somehow I'm standing there in front of a display of mustards and this one looks pretty good, and I can't remember if we have mustard or not, and it's all sort of hard you know, and there we are, I'm stuck.

Stuck trying to decide if I should buy this mustard. Long moments go by, and yes, I realize I'm stuck, and that it's not a good use of my time and I'm not really having that much fun, but if I walk away without a decision, I'll have really wasted my time, and besides, hell - do we need mustard?

Desperate, I channel the lizard. Says he: "so, is it worth three dollars and sixty nine cents to stop wondering about whether to buy the mustard?" I consider that and then I nod.  "Okay," he says. "Then buy the damned mustard."  A decision! I take the bottle and slog to the checkout, happy to spend three dollars and sixty nine cents to get free.

And - bonus! - we now have mustard.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It goes like this

Yesterday we cleaned the old place. I found old dreams floating in the air by the windows and caught up high against the wall in the corners.  I took a beat up sponge and wet it down with some simple green and I wiped them up.  I rinsed the sponge under some very hot water, and rung it out. The scalding felt good on my hands. Cleansing. I did it again and again, until the place was cleaner than I found it, all those dreams ago.

Friday, March 26, 2010


As my friend Ivy reminds me, every place you live has something to complain about and something to delight in. And here? It feels peaceful, quiet, sufficient. Perhaps that's just the contrast, but who can say, late, late on moving day, with tired and aching head?  The cats like it, and they are, after all, my little rulers, my little tyrants. When the cats are happy, so goes the neighborhood. The air is fresh, all my stuff is correctly held to floor with gravity, and for the moment I'm content.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

I have grown attached to this place. I ache at this leaving. I love waking to see the trees out the great expanse of my windows.  I even like being woken up in the middle of the night by the full moon in my face.

Yes, there's the road noise, which I thought would bother me more, but I learned to tune that out while still being in love with the green outside.

But it's not mine. I leave because it's not mine. Even if I owned the house, it wouldn't really truly be mine, it would just be - less someone else's. Maybe I wouldn't have to move if it were mine, but I would also have to take on all the responsibilities of ownership, costly responsibilities that I know too well, that I can't now afford. If I owned it. Which I don't.

It's so easy for me to think of the place I live as somehow defining me.  But we own so little, really.  Not even our bodies, which maybe we have on indeterminate lease, but surely don't own.  And if we don't own those, we sure don't own our houses, no matter what the laws like to say.

And so I pack the last of the boxes in full view of the cats who watch  curiously, ignorant of how this will soon ruin their world, their ownership. I can remember them howling in the car during the last move and for hours during the move before that, furious feline outrage at this intolerable upset.

I understand. I want to howl, too.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cherry Blossom Fall, Part II

I had a friend take me out for ice cream. What else do you do when your ride's been pinched? Good stuff, this gelato place. Especially the salted caramel.

So coming back, there it was, parked along the street. Under some cherry blossoms. My bike. Minor damage to the ignition panel.  Gas level about the same.  Seems to run fine.

My best guess is that they started it up, drove it a block, realized it only looked like a powerful bike,  and then thoughtfully parked it near by.

Not an entirely bad day after all: ice cream, my bike back, and Cherry Blossoms, still falling.

Cherry Blossom Fall

It's the time of year to write about the blossoms, how full and lush, and lovely their fall. How they remind us of the changing of the seasons, of the delicate beauty that is spring.

This morning someone stole my bike. Just - took it.

Last time I moved residences, the car was hit and run the week before. This time it's the bike.

Just - gone.

Yes, it's damned unfair. Yes, I called the cops. No, they haven't found it yet.

And it's the weather for riding, too. Beautiful, lovely.

Cherry blossoms fall. No bike. Damn.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday Morning, Well Fed

I'm still digesting, because it was a big, big meal. Metaphorically, of course. Got back last night from this thing called "BootCamp", which is, at essence, a training to make teams more productive. Not just more productive, but a lot more productive. You know, great. Make great products. Do great things.

Are you making a face, thinking that I can't tell? Ha. Or is your faith in me so great that you're giving me the benefit of the doubt? Ha. I was making that same face in my head for about the first half of BootCamp. Then I started getting a sense for what they meant by "great". When I saw it happen in front of me, with me, I lost nearly all of my cynicism. (You have to keep some. Spices up the food.)

BootCamp brings to mind, for me, really hard work. You know, metaphorical push-ups. Some really intense group-work, at least. But no, the first thing we were encouraged to do was get clear on what we wanted. What we wanted? What does that have to do with team building? With productivity? Isn't this about what the organization needs out of the team?

Not, apparently, if you want great work. First the members have to get clarity on what they want and see how they can get it. Then they have to know that their teammates know what they want and will help them get it. That, it turns out, is hard (and slightly terrifying) work, not well-supported by our corporate culture.

It's also annoying. Once you commit to being present, to engaging fully, you care. And down the road of caring is conflict with other annoying humans who don't see things the way you do. Conflict, it turns out, is a good thing, if you handle it right.

What does management typically say? Get back to your (mind-numbing and uninspiring) work. Do what you want on your own time. And if you want fabulous work out of your team? Pay them more. Incentivize. But that just doesn't work.

And what if you want the team to be not just better, but really fabulous? In his post about his own experiences at BootCamp, Adam Feuer (my reason for being there), says: "And while we're at it, let's not just get a merely 'better' team. Let's go for great – a team that is 10x better than the average team. What does a team like that look like?"

I got to see something like that, in my three-day training. How did we get there? The recipe (which changes with each BootCamp) is something like this: Get each person to agree to be present. Ask them what they want and get them on the road to getting it. Have them use some interpersonal protocols to make communication cleaner and action more effective. Then ask the team to do something better and faster than they've ever done before.

I would not have guessed that this would work. But I saw it work. A bit past my ego and fears, I saw something odd and delicious: a team that came up with something brilliant, fast, on-time, that matched the needs of management.

And I got to feel it.

I'm still digesting. But one of the tastiest bits was to discover how limited is my understanding of how long it takes to get quality work out of a suitably motivated team. And if that's wrong in a team, maybe it's wrong for me personally, too.


Must digest more.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Good work, if you can get it

The other night I dreamt that I had my bike stolen, my important paper files were somewhere not in evidence, and I held in my hand an acceptance letter for a novel I didn't remember writing.

I was at a reading for this very novel, with lots of people sitting around with chocolate and fruit, smiling encouragingly at me. I was glancing at the opening paragraph, trying to remind myself of the story.

Something similar has happened to me before, in small ways, coming across a story I've written, not quite remembering having written it until I get into it. Or I'll remember some scene or nifty dialog, try to remember where I read it, and then realize that I wrote it.

But a whole book? Kind of cool. I thought so in the dream, too. I was looking forward to the reading, to find out what I'd written that was so good someone had bought it. Apparently it had something to do with glass, since there was a picture of drinking glasses on the front cover. (I was just packing in the kitchen the other day.)

A nice dream, even with the stolen bike and missing files. Reading a freshly sold novel aloud is a wonderful feeling, even if you can't quite remember writing it. Good work if you can get it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cold. On Bike.

I was riding the motor bike today, and it was cold, oh very very cold. "Short spring this year" someone said, and I laughed. There was sun, but it was cold. Then it snowed. And hailed.

Every time I get on the bike I am reminded how easy it is to kill myself by being stupid. Just one extra rev, a poorly thought out turn, my balance wrong, a driver turning left without looking, and I am rag-doll splatter.

But I get on anyway, helmet, jacket and gloves, and do that thing that I do. Why? Because, well. I don't quite know. It feels right. Maybe because it reminds me how easy it is to die. On the bike, or not.

Life. Death. Snow and hail.

And sun. Don't forget the sun.