Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tips on How to Support A Friend Who Was Laid Off from Their Job

Recently I was sitting at a table for a dinner for my friend's birthday. There were eight of us celebrating and enjoying each other's company. Finally the bill came to the table. We all became silent and a little uncomfortable. It was then that I realized that four of the eight friends around that table had all been laid off from work. The current statistics are 'California jobless rates leaps to 9.3%'. With the unstable times catching up to us, I wanted to offer fifteen things that you can do to help a friend who has been laid off from their job.

When we are all working we all fantasize about all of the things that we could do if we didn't have a job. Like work out more, take that pottery class we have always wanted to take or travel the world. Well I know that at least my laundry would done and things would be very clean at home:) The reality can very different for people who all of a sudden have a lot of time on their hands. I have spoken to two friends over the last week and they have both said to me 'what do I do with all of this time?"

It is completely normal for a person to go through a grief cycle after they lose their job. The stages are: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Your friend that was laid off will also go through the 'should have, could have and would have' cycle. The faster you can help your friend start to think about their skills the better the outcome.

My tips to support a friend who has been laid off are:

1) Encourage your friend to figure out their expenses and file for unemployment. Unemployment can take up to 3 weeks to process so the sooner they file the better it can be.
2) Suggest that they start to ask their connections and jobs that they are interested in for informational interviews. These interviews can be done over the phone or over coffee. The next time someone has a job opening they will keep you in mind.
3) Offer free gym passes or deals. They can also go jogging or hiking. The exercise will keep their spirits up.
4) They can update their LinkedIn profile to show their network that they are looking for work. A lot of recruiters use LinkedIn as well so this can be a great tool in their search.
5) Continue to plan lunches with these friends. This can really lift their spirits by getting them out of the house and continuing to connect with their social circle.
6) Establishing a new routine is key. By continuing to have a schedule at home it can help keep your friend motivated and positive.
7) Put in searching for jobs every day. Build up your resume and references and start to apply. There is a lot of competition in the job market today so putting in the consistent time can keep them one step ahead of someone else.
8) Help them make a list of less expensive daily things that they can do. They can get out of the house for a coffee, see some sites or even make a weekly menu to make dinners.
9) For a very small monthly fee they can join Netflix. This can really keep your friends spirits up by watching movies at home and not spending unnecessary money by going out.
10) Let them vent and follow their lead. Try to take their calls even if you are at work. Remember it probably took a lot for them to reach out to you and you might want the same if you were in the same boat.
11) Point out your friends skills and talents. It is very easy for them to get down on themselves. Remind them that a bad experience should not define them.
12) Take them to a networking event. You never know who you will both meet.
13) Offer to help look over their resume. You can also connect them to people that you know. People are always looking for good people in the work force.
14) Encourage them to go back to school for a certificate to build up their skill set.
15) Create a support system. Connect your friends to other people that you know who have been laid off to network and vent to. They will know exactly what your friend is going through.

Do you have other pieces of advice to add for a friend that has been laid off from their job? If this has happened to you, how long did it take to get back on your feet? Do you agree with the grief cycle from the loss of a job? Thank you LipStick Diaries for your appreciation about this post.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Our Love Story: Opposite Family Reactions

On New Year's Day we had a perfect and clear view of the ferry building. We were in love and dating. My bliss turned to worry when I started to think about my Honey's family. My family had been so supportive of us and encouraged us to get together. Honey and I had known each other for a year and I hadn't met his family. Could they ever accept me as I was from a different culture and religion? And then I thought this was going to be very hard on his mother.
Can she ever except me and our relationship and how would we deal with our opposite parent reactions?

OK I needed to calm the female worry down. I had been happy and been in a new relationship for about five minutes and was now trying to sabotage it. I told myself that Honey and I had a lot going for us. We were both fighters in life, family and friends meant the world to us and we had both been through a lot in our lives. I felt that we could handle anything.

When parent's make the decision to move away from their motherland change is inevitable. I have also always told my father, that when they decided to move my family from Toronto to Newport Beach the expectations of how my life was going to turn out had also changed. It was unrealistic to think that I was going to still, one day, find and marry a Canadian man. The odds were that I was going to date boys from Orange County and probably learn to surf or cheerlead. Luckily my eyes were more open. From each move I learned the differences about the people around me.

I was no longer sheltered by one city.

My Honey seemed to be apart of two worlds. In one half of his life was his family, culture, tradition and commitments. The other half was his Western upbringing filled with friends, music and sports. Both parts made him into the person that he is today. It must be difficult when the time comes when you want to bring those two worlds together. You have changed, but has everyone else?

One couple that I really admired, had taught me a lot about parent's acceptance of relationships and being from different backgrounds. 'Brandon and Janine' had met in law school. He was a Persian Jew from Los Angeles and she was a Spanish Catholic from New York. Both parent's objected to their union. They were so in love and happy that they decided to move to a neutral city to encourage their relationship and chose San Francisco. In San Francisco, they lived together and were engaged and married after 4 years.

Brandon and Janine are wonderful people. They brought out the best in each other. Both sets of parents felt otherwise. Their wedding was very strained. It wasn't until they had a baby that the strain lessened. This conflict brought Brandon and Janine closer to one another. They had to fight together not against one another. They wanted to be happy and still have wonderful relationships with their parent's.

Honey and I were about to battle years of tradition, culture and acceptance. I wondered would we get stronger from this or would it ultimately break us apart. Tell me about your experiences with meeting your partner's family for the first time?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Coverage of President Obama's Inauguration

I woke up Tuesday January 20th with a huge smile on face. I was excited to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as our 44th President, something that I never thought I would see. I felt so touched to be watching history. I wanted to see with my own eyes that this wasn't a dream and that America was showing the world that we are ready for change and acceptance. I wondered what would it be like to be in Washington for the Inauguration, to bear the bitter cold and to witness the change. This is my coverage of what the inauguration of Barack Obama was like in San Francisco...

The night before the Inauguration, honey and I had heard on the news that there would be viewing parties around the city to watch the ceremony. The news said that in addition to the Civic Center, there would be a large video screens at Yerba Buena Gardens. This seemed so fitting to us as the Yerba Buena Gardens also has the second largest memorial in the nation for Martin Luther King, Jr.

On a surprisingly brisk, clear sunny morning, we arrived at the Gardens at 7:15am in the morning. Honey and I started to walk around the grounds. There were two flat screens and speakers set up, a man selling President Obama t-shirts and excitement in the air. We walked over to look at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. There was a black and white photo of Dr.King giving his "I had a dream" speech. As I was staring at this photo in history, I had goosebumps hearing the details of President Obama's inauguration on the loud speakers in the background. Twelve famous quotations from Dr. King with translations lined the hallway of the memorial. In silence we read each quotation and felt the power of his words. Reading his quotations, I could feel Dr. King's voice, and insight. The memorial was a very beautiful, classic and tranquil place.

We then found our seats in front of the video screen. The crowd was filling up with people from all different backgrounds, races, experiences and hopes. It was hope that connected us all. Hope that change would be coming. I watched a small boy wave at the big screen every time Mr. Obama was shown. A woman in front of us turned and told me her frustration at the channel that the inauguration was set to. Honey said to me 'It doesn't matter what the channel is on. I can't believe that this is happening.'

I couldn't believe my own eyes either.

And then the ceremony began. The crowd cheered as Joe Biden, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter entered for the inauguration. Then the crowed cheered/hissed when they saw Vice President Cheney sitting a wheelchair due to a strained back. The crowd hissed again and a woman pretended to throw her shoe at the screen when President George Bush was shown.

Finally the time came for Barack Obama to be sworn in as our 44th President of the United States. He was asked to protect us and continue to protect the freedom that shapes America. I found myself holding my breath. There was a man taking pictures and approaching people for their names so he can print those photo's in the San Francisco Chronicle. We were strangers, all together and witnessing history in the making. Good luck Mr.President!

Where did you watch the Inauguration? What did it mean to you? Did you ever think you would see this day?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cable Car Confessions: The Writer and Her Brussel Sprouts

Ding ding all aboard the cable car. "Next stop Powell Street Chinatown. Tickets please show me your tickets please." At the end of a work day, I carried my laptop so I could continue to work at home. San Francisco started to rain and I had forgotten my umbrella at the office. Shielding my laptop from the rain with my hands, I got onto the cable car and quickly found a seat in the closed-door cabin of the cable car, just in case the rain started to came down harder.

As I was settling in, a woman walked into the cabin and sat down. She sat a little too close to me as if she was trying to get my attention. I looked over at her and smiled. She was a petite African-American woman in her fifties. Not trying to get into a conversation, I continued to think about work and watched the rain slide down the glass of the cable car. This woman felt differently. She leaned over and said, "Aren't you curious about what this is?" She was pointing to her plant that was now sitting very close to me and I had never seen a brussel sprouts plant. I thanked her for showing me the plant as it fell on me. And it continued to do so for the rest of our ride.

We continued to chat, I kept thinking that the Farmer's Market lady’s words were extremely colorful. She would look outside to the street and would tell me that the ‘trees were painted in lights.’ Or pint out that the ‘rain was falling like dancers on a stage.’ She then jumped topics to tell me her opinions about children. She felt that children today have no idea where their food comes from. That they think vegetables are grown in supermarkets. She told me when she was a little girl, she remembered the first time she picked berries for her mother to make a family berry pie.

Now I was wondering what encouraged this lady to open up to me in such a way. She was bubbling over with her opinions. Our cable car driver walked through the car to get out of the rain. The lady asked him if he would like a brussel sprout. At first the cable car driver wasn't sure what she was saying, then showed him her prized plant. He smiled and told her maybe he would have one next time.

She change topics and started talking about her concerns that San Francisco was soon going to go into a drought. This felt like a strange statement to be made, as the rain was coming down harder and harder. She said me "that California would deserve the drought as we don't conserve water enough." Then she quickly changed topics again and talked about McDonald's hamburgers. She recently ate there (woman in her fifties) for the first time and it tasted horrible and nothing like meat.

My stop was next and I thanked her for our talk. She gave me her business card and I smiled when I read that she was a writer. I thought to myself, 'I am glad she's is a writer, as she had a lot to say.' She told me that I could buy her books and give them to children for presents. 

San Francisco and its characters. Sometimes you just have to open up to them to learn. When was the last time that you met a person that seemed like a character out of a novel? When was the last time you traveled on a cable car?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

South of Spain: Making the Best out of a Bad Situation

Part 2: Their condo in Elviria was beautiful - nestled in the hills. But, without a car, I was stranded... and I wanted to see Spain. I wanted to travel and see the sites, dance flamenco, see a bull ring and eat some amazing tapas. Debbie had other ideas. I, all of sudden, had turned from her playmate into her daughter's nanny. When I talked about wanting to travel the Spanish sites she told me we should stay home. I tried to do everything right to make Debbie happy, like wake up early every morning to make the beds, or take care of the baby, but nothing seemed to please her. I felt like I was walking on egg shells which is a horrible feeling to have... especially when you thought you were supposed to be on vacation.

Then, one night, after about 5 days of staying with her, she told me this wasn't working out and I needed to leave. I was shocked and really didn't see it coming. I was also in trouble because I hadn't set finances aside for traveling alone for 10 days (A mistake I would never make again). I convinced Debbie that I would leave in the morning as it was dark outside and we were on hill. I thought I could convince Bobby to change Debbie's mind. He could not. In the morning he drove me to the nearest hotel at the bottom of the hill and left me there.

I knew no one in Spain, hadn't made any other travel plans, didn't know where I was or had any travel books. Oh yes, and I was alone and scared. I had never traveled alone.

I decided to check myself into the hotel to catch my breath. I spent a day depressed, alone in my hotel room. I recharged my batteries and then talked to the front desk about excursions and travel tours arranged by the hotel. I called my father to let him know what was going on. "Do you want to come home?" my father asked. "No, I am going to try this on my own and I promise to stay in touch."

So off I went to discover Spain by myself. On bus tours, I saw a bull ring, Seville and Ronda. I took a day trip to Gibraltar, saw monkeys eating chocolate and touched the Rock of Gibraltar. I found an Internet cafe where the owner hated all Americans due to the recent bombings in Madrid. By the end of the week, he invited me over to his home for dinner. I tried new foods, drinks and flamenco danced. I met two boys from New York who took me to a locals only carnival. I was having the best time.

After a about week a fax came to my hotel room. I thought "Who was faxing me as only my father knew I was here?" It was from Bobby who had snuck away from Debbie and sent me a fax with directions and maps for when I was in London. I guess he must have felt guilty and was concerned that I would get lost in London. I knew I would be fine once I landed in London as my friend was picking me up there. Bobby's note only said, "Sorry things turned out this way, but I'm sure you understand why."

To this day I have my assumptions, but am not sure what happened. How can you ask someone to come and stay with you and then turn your back on them?

I was never in contact with them again. Looking back, I feel I made the most out of a tough situation. I had a wonderful time and went on adventures that I would not have done otherwise. If it wasn't for Debbie's encouragement to travel to her, I might have never picked up the love of travel and wanting to see the world. Have you ever traveled alone? Tell me about your experiences!

* (I took the first above picture of gorgeous old town Rhonda, Spain. Rhonda is known as the birthplace for bullfighting. I was lucky enough to see this monkey living on Gibraltar and snapped the second above picture. The monkey had just stolen some chocolate from a tourist and was eating away.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

South of Spain: Finding Out You're Traveling Alone

Part 1 of 2: There are several things people say that you must do by yourself before settling down in life. Two near the top of the list are living and traveling on your own. I had always wondered what it would be like to do the latter. How safe would it be? Who would I meet? Would my father even let me go? :) I used to read romance novels that talked about the independent woman needing no one except her journal on her travels. I used to read about the affairs she would have with a man that she met on her travels. My traveling alone story, however, is a little different then those...

I first met "Debbie" and "Bobby" while I was with my ex on a cruise to Hawaii. Debbie and Bobby lived in London had been together for many years, but never married. I found it fascinating that they went against societal norms by not marrying. When I met them, Debbie and I seemed to connect right away. She reminded me of my English family. She was cheeky, funny, sarcastic and full of life. After several days of our cruise friendship, she confessed to me that she had lost her mother at my age and I told her I had lost my mother as well. From there we felt like we were kindred spirits. After the cruise, I returned to Los Angeles and Debbie and I became pen pals. For years we exchanged letters and emails between Los Angeles and London. We sent each other birthday gifts and I was so excited when she told me she was pregnant. I also went once to London and spent New Year's with them.

When I broke up with my ex, I was pretty devastated. Debbie started encouraging me to come to Spain to stay with them. Bobby had a condo in the South of Spain. For a long time I thanked her, but I refused her offer. She would say "Come over and stay with us. We'll help you get over him," and other encourgements like "You won't need to pay for lodging," and "It will be really good for you to get away." A year after Debbie had her daughter, I decided that I would come and visit. This was a huge step for me. Traveling all the way to Spain by myself. "When would I get a chance like this again?" I asked myself.

I decided to travel first to London to catch up with a friend. I then flew to Luton airport in Marbella, Spain. (As I was on my way to Spain, this might be a good time to mention that I took French in school and didn't speak Spanish at all. I had to pick it up very quickly). I should have known that something was wrong when I landed in Spain and neither Debbie nor Bobby were at the airport to pick me up. Did I get that the day wrong?

A few kind locals directed me to the bus depot and helped me get my bearings. I got pretty lost with my limited Spanish trying to maneuver the bus system. I remember needing to take three buses and one of those buses also had caged chickens traveling in the seats with the passengers. Finally after days of traveling from Los Angeles to London and then to Spain, I got to a hotel near Elviria and I called Bobby's cell phone. " Oh Laura, sorry we couldn't pick you up. We're at the beach. Are you near?" I couldn't believe it. They didn't leave the beach to come and pick me up from the airport. "Did I miss something?" I asked myself.

Bobby came and met me at the hotel. He took me to see Debbie who was sitting on the beach near the hotel with their daughter. I had traveled half way around the world and they were sitting on the beach? When I saw her, it hit me. I knew things had changed. Debbie was no longer my bubbly friend, but seemed down/depressed and had gained a lot of weight. Not the five or ten pounds that we all gain, but a lot of weight. I hardly recognized her at first. She kept looking at me up and down and commenting about my weight. I should have known then that I was in trouble.

What would you have done if you were in my shoes? Stay tuned for final part of the story on Sunday 1/18/09...

* (I took the picture above in the early morning when I visited the markets in Mijas which is known as a white village. I loved how the light fell over the man sweeping the already clean street.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Our Love Story: Separated for the Holidays

My Honey flew to Las Vegas and to Peru for a fourteen day vacation duirng the holidays. Those were the hardest two weeks for me. I called him in Vegas to wish him a happy birthday. My friend 'Chloe' said to me,"Isn't it crazy that we're calling your boyfriend?" It had been so long since I had been in a relationship and I was kind of shocked at the thought that I had a boyfriend. "No not me," I thought. "I am Miss Independent who travels by herself, pays her own way and doesn't have to answer to anyone." (Can you tell that I had been hurt before?)

Everything had changed so quickly and I was happy and content about it. And then Honey left for Peru. We couldn't talk to each other and I looked forward to his emails.

At first, I was very excited to be in San Francisco by myself. After going to my usual coffee places, shopping streets and book stores, I realized that I had no plans for Christmas. Most of my friends leave the city or go on vacation during the holidays, so I spoke with my family and flew down to Los Angeles to be with them even though I had just lived with them for 5 months. I had actually missed the chaos of their house. Well almost :)

Every year my family goes to our annual Christmas eve/Hanukah party at my Aunt and Uncle's house in Encino. Being at the party really made me miss my Honey. Especially when some of the men were flirting with me and I said, "Oh sorry I have a boyfriend." They would then ask "Oh well then, where is he?" "He's in Peru traveling."

I wondered if this was like saying you had a 'boyfriend' in Canada that no one ever sees or meets.

It was very romantic courting over email. I got very excited when I received his emails about his travels, the people that he was meeting, the places he was staying, the new food he was trying, how sick he got while hiking Machu Picchu, meeting the children in Cusco and telling me that he missed me.

Despite the distance, I felt so calm and safe every time I heard from him. Before New Years, I flew back to San Francisco and started planning for New Year's. I booked the Hyatt in San Francisco and requested a room overlooking the Ferry Building - one of my favorite places in the city. I ran around the city getting New Year's party hats, champagne and counted down the days to his return.

Finally the day came for Honey to return home. It was December 31st, 2006 and as I was running some last minute errands, my phone rang. "Miss me?" he asked sarcastically from the Houston airport. "I should be in San Francisco in a few hours," he exclaimed.

As I waited for my Honey, I sipped on a glass of champagne to try to calm my nerves. Finally, he came and picked me up from my apartment. We kissed and embraced and I was happy to be with him. We went to the Hyatt. All of my surprises worked perfectly as we ate at the revolving restaurant at the top of the hotel and talked about what we had both missed over the past weeks. Plus Honey had taken over 1000 pictures on his trip. After looking through all of them, I felt like I had been to Peru also.

After dinner, we went down to the main floor. Never mind me having a couple of knee surgeries. You couldn't hold me back. We danced the night away. On New Year's Day we had a perfect and clear view of the ferry building. We were finally really together. What do you think will happen next?

Monday, January 12, 2009

San Francisco Man Sued for Bad Review on Yelp.com

One of the first things I did after moving to San Francisco six years ago was go onto Yelp.com to check out the reviews of my surroundings. I looked up reviews on local restaurants, doctors, supermarkets, hair stylists, stores and tourist attractions. I can remember that I needed to see a dentist and was so new to the city that I had no one to ask. I looked at the reviews on Yelp and chose one that was in my area. I connected with what people were saying about the "gentle dentist." After I went to my dentist appointment, I wasn't disappointed and was so happy that I had found Yelp's user reviews.

After living in the city and meeting people that were also new to the city I would recommend Yelp as a great tool to get to know the city. I recommended Yelp for the open honest feedback from the users. You can make up your own mind from what people are saying. Whether the review was positive or negative no one on Yelp was censoring what they had to say.

I have also wondered about the Yelp negative reviews. Were the users experiences at the restaurant or pharmacy so horrible that they needed to write and tell everyone not to go there. Would the Yelp user be so honest if they had waited a couple of days before posting their review? Would waiting to review then be a form of censorship? Should we in our Internet community of honesty wonder to ourselves before posting a negative review, can I be sued for sharing my thoughts?

Last week while eating at The Crepe House restaurant on Polk Street, I read this article in the San Francisco Chronicle. The story was about a twenty-six year old San Francisco man being sued by a chiropractor because of the two negative reviews that he wrote and posted on Yelp. Christopher's six paragraph review of the chiropractor stated that he felt that he didn't like the billing process and that the doctor was being dishonest with the insurance companies. The doctor contacted Christopher and asked him to delete his review as it was effecting his business negatively. Christopher's second review said that he felt that the doctor was harassing him into removing his review and that he wouldn't be pressured to remove it.

The doctor is now suing Christopher for libel and invasion of privacy and if the case isn't settled then the trial is set to go before the San Francisco Superior Court in March. Christopher has turned to the social websites Facebook, MySpace to raise awareness and money for his defense. He also started the website standforspeech.com .

Yelp's spoke person said that the doctor had also received many positive reviews and suing over this negative reviews only brought attention to the negativity. Can you imagine going to see this chiropractor after hearing about this case? I would be concerned that if I didn't like his service and posted about it then I too could be sued for expressing my opinion.

I believe that it can be a very slippery slope when we start censoring ourselves. I am able to express how I feel and if readers like it or don't like it they make the choice to read on, visit again or comment on it. If more and more cases like this are pursued, could a time come when I sit down at the computer to write to you and I have to censor my thoughts and feelings? How is it different from what Christopher wrote to what a friend of mine wrote on Yelp that she didn't like the Chinese food place that she recently ordered from. She wrote on her review on Yelp that she would never order from there again and questioned the kitchen cleanliness and operation of the restaurant. Is she too in jeopardy of going to court?

Should we censor the Internet like we censor movies? How do you feel about this case? Do you side with Christopher or with the chiropractor?
Digg this story.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dr. Laura's Advice: Part 2 Raising Childen with Consequences

Part 1 of Raising Children with Consequences was about the first time I heard about "Mark". Mark was presented at our social worker meeting as an at risk child. He was twelve years old, in middle school and was just suspended from school for picking fights. His parents were teenagers when they had him - they married shortly after but were divorced before Mark was two. His mother was out of the family picture after she left home when Mark was three years old. Mark was raised by his very young father and grandparents. During this time Mark's father entered into a gang and got into a lot of trouble when he was a teenager. He had been arrested three times when I first met him. Mark showed signs of dyslexia in class and had never had one on one attention at school for a teacher to realize that he had a learning disability. Mark's dyslexia made him feel slower and not as smart as the other students in his class. This angered him. After some testing and a one on one tutor Mark showed that he could learn. What consequences did I introduce to help Mark succeed in his life?

It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment that Mark made a turn around in his life, but he did. After months of Mark taking steps forward and taking some steps backwards, he showed signs of improvement at school and in his relationships. I first noticed the improvement when his grades started to improve. So did Mark's attendance to school. Instead of being absent from class 3 times a week he was not only in class most of the week, but participating. He felt comfortable with his female tutor and started to learn how to work with, not against, his dyslexia.

In our therapy sessions, he started to open up. In each session he was able to go deeper and deeper into his feelings. He had some blow ups, but he learned the consequences. If he took his anger out on me or left the therapy session we would skip the next session. He seemed to respond to this.

Because of all of his hard work he was starting to make school friends although he was still worried about bringing his new friends home to meet his father. I suggested that he and his new friends go out to movies or to ballgames. Only when he was ready should he introduce his friends to his father. He also started to have feelings for a girl in his class. This was a huge improvement as the only people that he had been interested in were his female tutor or therapists. He felt good that he wasn't setting himself to fail, but to succeed.

One of my proudest moments of my time with Mark was when he got an after school job. The positive reinforcement that he felt by making his own money, gaining responsibility and following through really helped his self esteem. He was able to work the job for several months before being let go due to tardiness which was a good consequence of his own actions.

As Mark made more and more improvement our time together started to end. The need for me to shadow him had changed. I stayed in touch with one of his therapists "Lacey" and years later she told me that Mark had graduated from high school which was a huge accomplishment. I felt a true sense of pride. Then she told me that Mark's father had returned to jail and Mark was now living with his grandparents

I believe that each person that we come in contact with helps shape us. Do you agree? Would you like me to write more about the cases I worked on as a social worker? What are your thoughts about Mark?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Third Blogger Award for Under the Sheets-Shhh

Under the Sheets-Shhh was given it's third Honest Scrap blogger award by the lovely Tova Darling on January 2nd. This was such a nice way to start off the New Year. Thank you my sweet.

So the rules to accepting my award are as follows: A) first list 10 honest things about yourself - and make it interesting, even if you have to dig deep! B) pass the award on to 7 bloggers that you feel embody the spirit of the Honest Scrap.

Ok so here it goes...complete and embarrassing honesty. Please continue to visit my blog after you learn that I:

1) Got my belly button pierced when I was twenty-one. My best friend and I went to a tattoo shop in Orange County. She got her tongue pierced. I am not sure what labor will feel like, but this hurt like hell. Especially when the tattoo guy nicked me higher, made a hole higher then my belly button and then said to me "Ha Ha sorry about that. I will only charge you for the one hole."
2) I use to play G.I. Joe with my brother and his friend in our backyard. I just made up a girl character. I am so not a tomboy.
3) I hate airplane landings. HATE them. I am that woman on the plane that has to hold onto the sides of her arm rest and closes her eyes to stay calm as the plane lands. Please be nice to me if you sit next me on the plane.
4) I am a super organized person. I have a very hard time understanding why people lose their keys. I always ask them to "look in the same place that you always leave your keys."
5) I am a tweezing addict. Seriously I have a problem with tweezing my eyebrows. I always have and I think I always will. Help Me!
6) I have always wished that I was taller then my average height. Being taller would have really helped in my ballet dancing. " I wish I was a little bit taller....I wish I was a baller..."
7) Honestly, it really annoys me when people don't hold the door or elevator for other people. If you are a man please let the lady go first.
8) I overheat really easily. Heat stroke it not fun. Maybe it's because I am Canadian and my skin is so pale that I freak out when I feel the warmth?!
9) I have zero tolerance for alcohol. I only have to drink two glasses of wine and my lips start tingling, I lose my balance and I start telling you I love you. Watch out if we go wine tasting!
10) If a homeless person asks me for money I always tell them, no sorry but good luck to you.

My nominees for the the Honest Scrap blogger award are: La Balette Rouge, Simplicity, Motherhood in NYC, Mary-Laure, Holly, Pacing the Panic Room and George.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cable Car Confessions: The Conductor's Daughter

Ding ding all aboard. "Next stop Powell Street Chinatown. Tickets please show me your tickets please." This cable car confession happened three days before Christmas. I was taking the cable car home after a very long day at work and sat quiet trying to unwind from my day. The weather had turned cold for San Francisco so I sat inside to stay as warm as possible. I stared out of the window and fell deep into my thoughts, thinking about what I needed to do to prepare for work and for the upcoming holidays. I stared out onto the streets, there were life sized ornaments in front of the office buildings and each building seemed to be wrapped in a holiday bow with white lights, red ribbons and Christmas trees.

My attention was brought back to what was happening inside of the cable car. I noticed that it wasn't a full car yet and seemed occupied by mostly locals traveling home. There were two cable car drivers on the car. One man who was driving the front of the cable car had white hair, was short and very tiny 'Slim'. There was a second cable car conductor and he was in charge of driving the back of the car and collecting tickets. 'Bob' was tall and weighed maybe 250 pounds. All the riders had to squeeze in to make room as Bob walked by us. He was very stern while collecting tickets, maybe even a little forgetful - I noticed that he asked for people to show their tickets again after they had just shown them to him.

I noticed a lady dressed in professional work clothes, got onto the cable car at the next stop. She was a petite Asian woman who looked to be in her twenties. (At this point, I was completely people watching and eavesdropping. Whatever you want to call it :) I wondered how Bob was going to treat this woman. To my surprise she was greeted by a huge and warm smile from Slim. Slim called to Bob and asked him if he knew who she was? Immediately Bob's demeanor changed when he saw the woman. He went to her and instead of asking her for her ticket he hugged her.

Slim said to Bob, "She is a conductor's daughter."
Slim then asked the woman, "How are you? How is your Dad doing? How old are you now sweetie? You can't be more then twenty?"
The woman replied, "I am well. My Dad is feeling better and believe it or not I am thirty-three now."
"Wow!" Bob the cable car driver said. "Are you still living off of the Powell Street line?"
The woman smiled, "Yes we are. Dad could never move us away from the cable car line even after he had to retire because of his illness. The cable car is apart of him."
Slim then said to Bob, "I remember when she was maybe ten and use to ride the cable cars with her father all day." Then he turned to the woman and asked." Your father was a conductor for how long?"
She replied "Almost twenty-five years. It's still hard for him not be able on the line!"

It was at that moment that I realized that they were treating this woman with as much respect and care that we would for a police officer or preacher's daughter. Even Bob melted and became warm and friendly to her. Once cable car conductors get through the initiation process of becoming drivers and earn their stripes they stay driving the cable car for years and years. The salary is really good, they get great pensions and become a part of a San Francisco family.

Maybe I went into the wrong profession and should have become a cable car driver! Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be recognized because of your relation to a family member and something that they did? My father is a marketing guy. What did your father do?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Where Should I Travel to Next Poll: The Greek Islands

One of my passions in life is to travel. I was bit by the travel bug six years ago when I ended up traveling in the south of Spain by myself (I wasn't supposed to travel alone and believe me that it was a tough and wonderful trip when my friends left me). In the last two years, I've also traveled to Hawaii, Seattle, and Brazil, all very beautiful places in their own special way.

For the past two months, I have asked you to vote on where you think I should travel to next in the world. The places that you got to chose from were Italy, The Greek Islands, Australia, Costa Rice and Zurich. Twenty-two of my fabulous readers for Under The Sheets-Shhh voted and chose...drum roll please... The Greek Islands. I would be very lucky to be able to go and visit any of these places on the list, but was thrilled to see that you chose the Greek Islands.

I fell in love with one of the islands, Santorini, several years ago through a pastry chef friend of mine. She had just returned to San Francisco from a trip to Santorini with her family. She fell in love with the island. She had fallen in love so much that she wanted to recreate some of the desserts that she had tried and bring them to the San Francisco restaurant that she was working at. I felt drawn to her holiday pictures and even put one of them up at on my cubicle at work. Each time I gazed at the picture of Santorini, I started day dreaming of what it would be like to visit there and to see Greece.

The Greek Islands are a collection of over 6,000 islands and islets that belong to Greece. Only 227 of the islands are inhabited, and only 78 of those have more than 100 inhabitants. Out of all of the islands I have wanted to visit the island of Santorini for its natural beauty, architecture and warm people. Santorini is home of a small, but flourishing wine industry due to the islands special grape varieties. Another very interesting fact is that this island is the site of the most active volcanic eruptions in the world. The volcano which last erupted in 1956, is currently "asleep" and could erupt again at any time.

Most of the Santorini houses are built into the hills of the islands and overlook the water which gives the most amazing views and even more amazing sunsets. This island seems to have an diverse mixture of boutiques, wineries, and galleries. It also has a prehistoric museum, plenty of white sand beaches, amazing music and food. And the food... Ahhh close your eyes and imagine the food. The food is combination of all of the different cultures and people that have inhabited the island. Fish is served throughout, there was a cherry tomato conference on the island in 2002 and I've read that Santorini serves a heavenly ice cream with rose petals.

This island also seems to be a photographers dream. Each photograph paints the picture of this hidden gem of an island. The photos show the contrasts of color between the radiant blue of the ocean, the bright white walls of the buildings and reddish-pink petals of the flowers.

I can see myself exploring the island and needing only to carry my digital camera, straw hat, sun ta
n lotion, and some money for the entire day. I can also see Santorini as one of the most romantic honeymoon getaways. A couple must feel like they are lost on a paradise island, especially after the stress of a wedding.

So while I save my pennies to visit this island, I will settle for going to our local Myconos Greek Restaurant on Polk Street here in San Francisco. The restaurant walls are covered with pictures of different Greek Islands. The house specialty is dolmades (rice and herbed stuffed grapes leaves), Spanakopita (spinach and fresh herbs rolled in filo pastry oven baked, topped with feta cheese) and lovely wine.

I hope to one day be one of the lucky ones to see such beauty.
Thank you for voting. What I should I poll you on next? Have you ever been to the Greek Islands? If not, would you now like to visit Santorini?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Our Love Story: The Nutcracker

For the next two weeks, Honey and I spent a lot of time together. We did all of the things that new couples enjoy, like going to the movies, trying different restaurants and hearing live music. But we were not like other couples that had just started in their new relationship. Honey and I had already been friends for a year. We already knew a lot of each other's secrets, knew how to make each other laugh and even knew how to get under each others skin.

December was a very full month for us. Not only was it Christmas and New Years, but it's also his birthday. And prior to my return to San Francisco, he had already arranged a two week trip away during Christmas. The start of his trip was in Vegas to celebrate his birthday with 16 of his guy friends and then 12 days in Peru with his sister.

We had just spent a 5 months apart and it took us a year to be together and I wasn't looking forward to us being apart, even if it was only for two weeks.

Honey surprised me with my holiday present, which was opening night tickets to see the Nutcracker ballet in San Francisco. This was a huge sign of how much he cared for me because he was trying to make me happy. I love the ballet and danced for a long time, but was currently out of commission due to my knee and wasn't sure if I would be able to dance again. I got 'all dolled up' in a satin wine colored, floor length, dress and gold ballet shoes. I felt like a Princess when he saw me for the first time and seemed speechless standing at the bottom of the stairs.

The Nutcracker, which was at the San Francisco Opera House, was a spectacular night. The ballet was beautiful and it made me so happy to be there. I watched the performance with a smile on my face from ear to ear. I sat on the edge of my seat and wanted to get on stage and dance with the performers. Honey held my hand, made me feel so special and took care of me the whole night. I looked around at the audience to see the children that had been brought there to make their childhood memories of seeing the Nutcracker. The little girls had on their best dresses, ribbons in their hair and black patent shoes.

To remind me of this night Honey bought me a Nutcracker snow globe from The Opera House ballet store. I vividly remember this store because there was a little girl dancing because she was getting a nutcracker ornament. Her mother smiled at us and said that she had had a rough night and was glad to see her happy. During the ballet performance, she was sick and threw up. By the time we saw her at the ballet store, she was smiling.

Ah the magic of the Nutcracker...

Honey's flight to Vegas was the next day. He came to my apartment to say goodbye. I started to get emotional and my eyes filled with tears as we kissed goodbye. I could see in his eyes that he didn't want to leave me too. I wanted him to have a good time in Vegas (not too much fun) and he deserved an amazing time in Peru, but I was enjoying being with him so much.

As we were kissing goodbye, he told me that he was going to visit Lake Titicaca. My Grandfather, who had died six years earlier, had always wanted to see Lake Titicaca mostly because he laughed every time he said the name. My Grandfather never got his wish. Honey told me he would go to the Lake and say a prayer for me and for my Grandfather.

Honey couldn't call me from Peru and all we had was email to stay in contact. I wondered to myself, "How was I going to get through the next two weeks without him? How did I, Miss Independent, who can do everything by herself, become the kind of girl that couldn't be without her new boyfriend."

Maybe I had truly fallen in love. Have you ever been separated from your loved one for a period of time? Do you think that distance makes the heart grow fonder? I hope you and your family had a wonderful holidays!