#59 Now-Hiring: Happiness

WorkLifeBalanceI always dreamed of making a six-figure salary.  I thought that was the measure of “making it” in this world.  For all of you that know me, you know I’m pretty hard-headed when I have a dream.  This goal kept me aiming straight for the top of my career ladder for 15 intensely focused years.  When that glorious offer letter arrived 11 years into my career, I can’t even describe the satisfaction I felt having finally cashed-in on my hard work. Then came the boats, the condo, the racecar, the vacations.  My husband and I felt we were finally at a place in life to settle down and have kids, and three kids later we were complete.  You could put a frame around our family portrait and be-dazzle it, “The American Dream”.

I don’t even remember when the dream started fading.  Things changed so slowly that I didn’t even realize the cost of my six-figure salary.  The vacations were the first to go…I know that much.  Somehow I started missing parent/teacher conferences, dentist appointments, choir performances, and cheer practices.  The condo and racecar sat unused, because there was simply no time left in the day.  A perfectionist by nature, I began to experience anxiety when I couldn’t accomplish the growing mound of tasks at work.  I made it high enough up the food-chain to witness the bottleneck of corporations.  Working around the clock, fighting for every decision I made, with minimal progress – I was angry every day.

My church was hosting a business leadership development conference, and I saw it as the perfect opportunity to inspire changes at work.  It really couldn’t have come at a better time.  I approached my boss and proposed the conference as a team building opportunity for my team.  He denied the request, since he didn’t see a reasonable business case for leadership development.  My team begged for more career-growth opportunities, so I paid out of pocket for the members of my team that really wanted to go.

Jan Fox is a 4-time Emmy winner, author, and speaker.  She happened to be the guest speaker at the business leadership development conference.  Jan shared stories of adversity in her life and how she overcame obstacles by making small changes until she got the results that she wanted.  I walked away from that conference empowered to change the problems in my career with small course-corrections.  The next day at work was beautiful.  My staff noticed a change in me, and it lifted their spirits during this uncertain time of government furloughs, layoffs, minimum staffing, and contract changes.  I inspired my team to work longer, harder, and even through the weekends.  Then, I got an email from my boss that changed everything.  To sum it up: the long hours contributed by my team were appreciated, but it was not enough.

I shut the door to my office and sat at my desk for a really long time.  My head was reeling with thoughts.  How do I respond to my boss?  Can I honestly ask my team to work more?  Do I have any more to give?  Will I be able to change things for the better at work?  Is my salary worth more to my family than my presence?  Were my small changes moving me in the right direction and giving me the results that I wanted?

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some scribbles on my dry-erase board.  The scribbles made me happy and sad, all at once.  You see, my husband brought my kids to have dinner with me at work one night and they left little love scribbles all over my office.  They were trying to spend a little bit of time with me, since I was rarely home for dinner anymore.  I spent most of dinner hacking away at my laptop, mindlessly shoveling food down my throat, and I barely remember them drawing for me that night.  Even when I was home, I was tethered to that dang laptop.  The notes my family left for me that night were so sweet.  A sticky note from my daughter proudly boasted, “You are the greatest mom in the whole universe!”  Really?  I wonder why she thinks that.  I wonder what else she thinks about and what she’s up to these days.

I thought happiness came with a six-figure salary, but I wasn’t happy at all.  The experiences I really wanted in life were passing me by, and no amount of money could get them back for me.  I have nothing against a good paycheck, but the quest for the top-rung on the career ladder was blinding me from what’s really important. I wrote and submitted my resignation letter that day.  August 14, 2013 is my last day at work, and I’m not looking back.  If it weren’t for the inspiring life lesson from Jan Fox, I’m not sure I would’ve ever had the courage to make the small changes I needed to live my life to the fullest.

Are you waiting for some inspiration to make a career decision that has been tugging at your heart? If so, here’s some more inspiration:

Author Richard Horne lists “leave a job you hate” as #59 on the “101 Things To Do Before You Die” list.  He even provides step-by-step instructions for those who are uncertain about making the leap.

Step 1: LEAVE! I can certainly check that off the list, now.  People used to joke that I would own the company someday, so it was quite a fun surprise to shock everyone with my news.  I can’t help but smile when I think about it.

Step 2: Realization.  I’m definitely going to take some time off to recover from all the sleepless nights, catch up with my precious family, and absorb my new reality.

Step 3: Revenge.  I was humbled to receive a job offer for a position that would’ve allowed me to return the pressure that my previous employer placed on me.  Instead, I think I will start my own company and make my own family-friendly schedule.  Happiness, after all, is the best revenge and can’t be bought with six-figures.

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#0 – The Nothing

My daughter is a hellion!  And that only begins to describe her.  Lately, I’ve had her watch movies that might pull at her heartstrings, inspire her to achieve great things, and otherwise calm her down a bit.  Movies are great for that, but they can also do just the opposite, so choose carefully.  My first choice – “The Neverending Story”.  Surprisingly, this movie isn’t on Richard Horne’s “All-time Greatest Films”.  That’s a shame, because it’s truly a classic.

“The Neverending Story” is about a young boy, Bastian, who is confronted by bullies on his way to school.  He narrowly escapes them by hiding in a bookstore.  While in the bookstore he stumbles on a book, “The Neverending Story”.  Against the store owners wishes, the boy “borrows” the book and sneaks into his school’s attic to read.

The book takes Bastian on a journey into a fantasy world, Fantasia, that is being overcome by The Nothing.  The Empress of Fantasia has succumb to The Nothing and summons the help of another young boy, Atreyu, to defeat the powerful darkness.  Along his journey, he witnesses several creatures overcome by The Nothing.  Atreyu’s horse sinks into a swamp, a knight gets zapped by guardian statues, and Atreyu himself is hunted by a wolf-beast.  Long story short (this is “The Neverending Story”, after all), Fantasia begins to crumble and the Empress tells the boy reading the book that he has the power to save the world – he must keep wishing and dreaming (i.e. LIVING) or everything will be defeated by The Nothing.  This is his story!

I watched this movie as a young girl, and I decided right then and there that I would never be overcome by The Nothing.  It’s my hope that my daughter will make the same commitment after seeing this inspiring movie.  Yes, it’s a fantasy, but the moral definitely applies to the real world.  I’ve never understood why people give up their dreams in the face of obstacles when they can ultimately write their own story.  Really – whatever you want.  So what’s your story?  Have you been defeated by The Nothing?

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#31 On Cloud 9

The Inspiration for this Adventure - Richard Horne’s “101 Things To Do Before You Die”

There are several really expensive adventures in Richard Horne’s book.  I like to aim for those goals first, because I’m afraid I will be too wise to haphazardly blow cash on such foolish endeavors in my old age.  This was another reason to knock out #101 – Continue Your Gene Pool.  Which, by the way, is going swimmingly. :)

I’ll admit to being a little thrifty, though.  I always look for military discounts.  As was the case with having a child – our medical care was paid for by the commitment to serve our country.  Other than that, one of the best military discounts ever was for a zero gravity flight with Zero-G Experience.

Have you ever seen a child so excited that they’re grinning from ear to ear, bouncing from wall to wall, and squealing inaudible gibberish while trying not to pee themselves?  That was me on the drive to this adventure.  I was over-the-moon excited, and I haven’t been like that since I was probably 3.

I confess, I did suddenly wake up at 5:37am to a harsh dose of reality.  My eyes literally opened from a deep-sleep as I thought, “I won’t really be floating from micro-gravity.  I will be “floating” because I’m falling through the sky at 34,000 ft., and I just hope the plane will catch me at 24,000 ft.”  The fear was short-lived, though.  I drifted back asleep for another 50 minutes and totally forgot about my wake-up call until the bus ride to the plane.  By then, my adrenaline was too powerful for reality to conquer.

For those of you considering this adventure or just wanting to live vicariously, here is an outline of the day:

0630 - Wake up.  Jog in place to work off some of my nervous energy.  Skip to the shower…take a long one!  Spend extra time on my hair and make-up – lots of people will be taking pictures today.

0730 – Snuggle with my husband and baby before running out the door.  Lots of kisses!

0740 – Drive to the airport hotel to meet the flight team and receive the pre-flight safety briefing.

0755 – Update Facebook :)

0800 – Get denied by security.  Apparently, my military ID is questionable.  Go back to my car to get my fake driver’s license that says I’m only 21.  Success!

0810 – Waltz in to find that everyone else has someone with them, and I’m the only one by myself…awkward :(

0812 – Meet my flight coach.  Helloooo Jeremy!  Request to take a couple items on-board to experiment with in micro-gravity.  Awkwardly and loudly explain that one of those items vibrates, but is not a vibrator. :/

0820 – Struggle to don my extra large flight suit with 50 million straps, zippers, and pockets.  What am I supposed to do with these??

0821 – Another flight coach, Chris, comes to the rescue and helps me navigate my flight suit.  Helloooo Chris!

0830 – Meet fellow teammate who paid for three of her friends to come here on a private jet and do this experience with her.  God bless her!

0839 – By now, I’m coming down from my adrenaline rush.  After all of the awkward moments this morning, I’d really just like to knock out #7 with Chris and Jeremy and call it a day!

0840 – Safety briefing video starts.

0900 – Meet the rest of my team – Team Gold! Several people volunteer to pair up with me so I don’t feel as bad about doing this experience by myself. ;)

- Bus to the plane, take group photo, board plane, and watch “flight attendant” do a really funny version of the safety briefing.  Update Facebook!

- Take-off.

We spent a good portion of the flight buckled in our seats, which are all located toward the back of the plane.  I was uber paranoid about feeling queasy, so I kept straining to see out the two tiny windows at the exits in the middle of the plane.  Luckily I was in the front row, since this is the only row that has much of a view at all.  It really was a hopeless endeavor, and I felt much better once I stopped worrying about it and started listening to the mega-wealthy lady tell stories about her life adventures (heli-skiing, hiking The Wave, etc.).  They finally gave us the signal, and we stored our shoes and walked to our designated team sections of the plane.  Team Gold was up front, right behind the cockpit.

Several minutes passed as we discussed how to position ourselves during the low vertex of the parabola (lying down, staring at one spot) and how to maximize our time at the high point of the parabola.  Some key instructions: don’t swim – there is no opposing force to propel you through space, don’t use a lot of force to push-off - it doesn’t take much to propel your lighter body weight, don’t flail your arms and legs – you will hurt someone, and put your feet down immediately during the call for “feet down” or you will land on your face – hard.

The first experience is Martian gravity, so you can get used to the absurd feeling of floating.  I did a ton of one finger push-ups.  I suggest the military start doing their Physical Training test in micro-gravity – it’s way easier!

We did another cycle of slightly lower gravity before doing another 12 parabolas or so of lunar gravity.  I walked on my hands, walked on the ceiling, did effortless flips, flew through the air like Batman, caught Skittles in mid-air, and shot from wall to wall.  Honestly, my favorite part of the experience was just letting my body float where it may.

After landing, Zero-G Experience had arranged an awesome re-gravitation ceremony that included lunch and presentation of certificates.  If you have around 5 Gs of just stupid money, this is an absolute must-do experience!

See for yourself:

I have to say, since having a child my priorities have completely changed – just as I was warned about.  After someone dies people comfort themselves by saying, “That is how they wanted to go.”  Not the case for me!  The reason I’m mentioning this is because you always have to consider the risk when participating in adrenaline adventures.  Not that this zero gravity flight was that risky – the pilots are the best in the business.  It’s just that there is NOTHING in this world that I would rather do than be here for my children.  I’ve decided to stick to more low-key adventures until my kids are grown and begging me to tag-along on their life experiences.

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#2 Something’s Fishy About This

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I’ve discussed my irrational fear of sharks before, so swimming up to a shark in the open ocean is pretty odd behavior for me.  Until today.  I don’t know what possessed me, and I only have 3 credit hours of psychology studies, so I can’t begin to understand why I would be so inclined to swim within reach of one of my greatest fears.  All I know is that my husband and I were diving in the beautiful serene waters near Jupiter, FL when we noticed a stunning 6-foot long shark resting in a reef cove beside us.  Clearly the only direction this shark can swim is out of the cove – toward me.  So what do I do?  Swim closer to gawk at all its glory.

Amazing, powerful, mysterious – holy, even!  What a magnificent moment when God designed this creature.  Now, I’m equally perplexed that I can’t wait to swim with them again.

It might help to clearly paint just how bizarre it was for me to swim with this shark if I tell you that, moments before entering the water, I noticed one of the divers hobbling around the boat.  He turned just enough for me to catch a glimpse of a gruesome wound, shaped perfectly like an outline of a shark’s jaw. Sure enough – bull shark bite, 8 weeks ago.  17 doctors, numerous pints of blood, and a rebellious determination to get back in the water.

I get it.  Do you?

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Read more about the shark attack: http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/region_n_palm_beach_county/jupiter/jupiter-dive-instructor-speaks-out-about-shark-attack

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#62 The skies just got a whole lot friendlier :)

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There are some things you just don’t talk about. Unlike me.  I will talk about anything!

This Thing To Do couldn’t have come at a better time (so to speak).  After having a baby, I was feeling super blessed, but seriously out of touch with the adult world.  However, an opportunity to pretend my husband and I were the center of each other’s universes again presented itself during an evening flight on a fairly empty charter jet.  17,000 feet above the Gulf of Mexico we were sworn in to The Mile High Club.  We will never look at flying as such a hassle again.  Instead, we’ll glance to the back of the plane, wink at each other, and remember a moment that made life a little more exciting!

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#101 Only love can be divided endlessly and still not diminish.

FINDING OUT:

If the first few days of my pregnancy are any indication of this little guy’s personality, we are in for a rollercoaster ride! I randomly decided to stop and get a pregnancy test on the way to work on December 17, 2009. It was completely random – I still to this day have no idea what caused me to pick up a pregnancy test. Work was insane busy so I wasn’t able to take the test until lunch, but imagine my surprise when a beautiful, but thin, plus sign appeared. I called and told my husband that I was late (I really wasn’t, I have just always wanted to say that). His response – “For what?” I dramatically paused, so he would know to keep guessing. “Ohhhh. Oh! OH!” he repeated as his mind wrapped around several new revelations.

My husband rushed to meet me at the clinic for a blood test to confirm our little blessing. We walked in as proud as could be and walked out in complete shock after they told us the blood test was NEGATIVE. The doctor was certain – there was no way we could be pregnant when the blood test comes back negative. Try again next month,” he dismissed. How could we get a negative and a positive in the same day? Could we possibly be in the 2% of the 98% accurate home pregnancy test? We called the home pregnancy test company and found out that a thin line means “inconclusive”. So…pregnancy tests can be positive, negative, OR inconclusive.

On my way back to work the next morning, I had a sneaking suspicion that I needed to test again for a conclusive answer. The over-the-counter test showed a perfectly pink line this time, but I’ll be damned if the urine test at the clinic didn’t say “Repeat test in 48 hours.” What does that mean?? What is wrong with positive or negative, black or white, yes or no? By this time the doctors at the clinic were thinking I was a nutzo for desperately wanting to think I was pregnant, but I had just decided that this was one of those weird pregnancy stories you hear and think it’s not possible. It is!

THE ANNOUNCEMENT:

Years ago I had a shirt made that said, “Baby Nav on Board” (my husband is a Navigator). I wanted to ensure that, when the time came, I could announce the baby in a big way. Things never really go quite the way I plan, however. I was so excited to pack that shirt for our annual Christmas celebration with the family. I had this detailed plan that I would walk dramatically towards the family as we joined hands to bless the Christmas meal. I imagined the first person to see the shirt would whisper to the next person, and the whispers would continue until the chatter escalated into joyous tears and shouts of congratulations. The blessing would then turn into a prayer of thanks for the bundle we were anticipating.

INSTEAD, my overactive pregnancy bladder had me in the bathroom for the 50 millionth time that day. I squeezed, pleaded with my body, to pee faster when I heard the call for everyone to come together in prayer. My family is from Texas, Texans love food, and they certainly aren’t going to wait on the little sister just to say a quick prayer before digging in. As far as they’re concerned, God is the only One worth taking a moment for before getting to the really important things in life. My heart sank as I fumbled with the stupid toilet paper roll – my announcement was foiled.

I gathered up whatever excitement I could possibly still muster and quickly thought of a new approach. I darted into the kitchen and awkwardly asked my mother, at a decibel level one would use when talking to a foreigner that is slightly hard of hearing, where I should put my coat. This is where it becomes clear where I stand in the family: I am the dramatic little sister that can be ignored until nothing else is happening. I am always on, 24/7, the food is not (or a show…whatever’s applicable at the time). If anyone else in the family had just acted so strangely, heads would’ve turned. Rather, my mother and oldest brother continued to argue about getting the cornbread out of the oven. “Mom! Where should I put my coat?” I begged until finally my mother turned around, clearly annoyed, and shouted, “Just put it anywhere, Gina, I’ve got to get the cornbread!” (Enter: The baby’s first nickname, “Cornbread”).

My sister-in-law is a small town fashionista, and it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing, she will judge it from head to toe.  As I turned my head to the side in surrender of getting my mother’s attention, I saw the shock on my sister-in-law’s face as, of course, she was the first to inspect my outfit.  She mouthed, “Is it true?”  I nodded and she grabbed my mother’s head and directed it toward my shirt.  Brilliant!  Why didn’t I think of that approach?

The look on my mother’s face can only be described as that of a mom who has too many kids in one room at the same time.  Overwhelmed, and still a little concerned about the cornbread, she gave me a big hug and my visions of tears of joy and congratulations finally fell into place.

THE PREGNANCY:

I could happily be pregnant for the rest of my life.  I’m not saying I want a ton of kids, but I love pregnancy.  Almost every minute of my pregnancy was indescribable bliss.  The not so fun parts were the worry, nausea, peeing, and backache, but somehow I managed to enjoy those, too.

I was that uppity, newly pregnant woman that was wondering what all the complaining was about, when the “morning sickness” hit me like beached whales rotting on sun-baked sand sometime in the evening of December 27th.  I was starving, but couldn’t stomach much of anything.  There were times I prayed that God would just let me throw-up.  He never did, and I made it through weeks 6 – 10 on peanut butter and jelly, cereal, and oatmeal. I started only getting morning sickness in the evenings, until the morning sickness completely faded away.

I went to the doctor at 10 weeks, and they decided to do an ultrasound.  I was half expecting them to say I wasn’t really pregnant again, but there was my little “Cornbread” in all his glory – doing what appeared to be the chicken dance.  My husband and I laughed at the little alien being wiggling his arms and legs with all his might.  I was still in shock (I get it from my mother), but my husband kept repeating “Wow! Oh my God! How Cool!” with teary eyes.  I was on Cloud Nine!

He was such a little wiggler that I could feel him move as early as week 14.  My husband and mother could feel him moving by week 15.  My husband had to miss the 14 week ultrasound, and wouldn’t ya know the ultrasound tech was already able to see it was a boy (no doubt, actually).  So, my husband found out via text picture that I was carrying his first son.  At 20 weeks, we were able to count all 10 fingers and 10 toes.  I got his first hiccups (that I felt, anyway) on video at 26 weeks.  And I don’t know what it is about the hormones during the second trimester, but I was begging my husband for so much love that we were nervous we might get pregnant during our pregnancy. :)

THE DELIVERY:

My doctors insisted that I get induced, due to a genetic blood clotting disorder that is apparently in about 1 out of 3 people.  Despite my protests, I was scheduled get a balloon placed in my cervix (it’s as bad as it sounds) the night before my induction to get the ball rolling.  After an awesome dinner at a Mexican restaurant (this turned out to be a bad idea…but I’ll spare you the elaboration), I went to the hospital around 7pm on August 19th to have that awful contraption placed into my hooha.  My favorite part (NOTE: sarcasm) was the latex glove on the end of a tube that hung down to my knees and was supposed to catch drainage.  Someone actually stopped me in the hallway to tell me I had a latex glove hanging below my dress.  Childbirth is gory enough.  I’m not sure if this was legitimate practice or the doctors were just playing on my fear of giving birth.  They released me and told me to come back the next morning at 7am, but I was so afraid I would go into labor at home that we checked into the hotel across the street.  Sure enough, contractions started slow around 1am and were in full force at 3am.

My mother was able to capture the rest of the birth story, since I was a little preoccupied…

Got to hospital at 7:18am with contractions 4 minutes apart.  So many questions – it’s aggravating!  Can have water and ice only.  Baby’s heart is good.

7:27am dilated to 3cm.

11:05am pitocin started.

Lecture about 3 numbers: dilation to 10cm, effacement to 100%, and distance of baby’s head to Gina’s spine.

Rae, Jack, Kathy, Barbara and Deb are checking in.

Epidural requested at 2:20pm – “almost at 4cm”

Epidural given at 2:50pm

Gina was given 2 pain shots around 3:45pm. Her contractions got really hard, up to 85. She had three in a row, and the baby’s heart dropped dangerously low for nine minutes. I think the doctors, nurses, and I were the only ones who saw (because I was by the monitor) that it went to nothing at least three times. Dr. Tobin hurried to get a c-section consent form, and Matt signed it.  Baby’s heart rate came back up but each time Gina had a contraction it dropped again.

She was wheeled to OR for a c-section. At 6:35pm a nurse came and told me she heard Gina’s son screaming (Thank you God :) ). Now waiting and praying to see both healthy.

Mary is the name of the new nurse, and Lisa is the name of the tech. We’ve moved to room 4. Another nurse came at 7:40pm and said baby is pink and screaming.

Beautiful Boy! 7.77lbs, 19in, head 34 1/2, born at 6:24pm.

Footprints were taken at 7:20pm.

Told us Gina was ok at 7:40pm (Thank you, Jesus :) )!

Gina was back in room at 7:42pm. After holding the baby, Gina and Matt decided to name him “Waylon”. Grandma first held him at 8:00pm. Grandma gave cross-stitch with “Waylon Dean Lewis” at 8:10pm. Dad gave Waylon a onesie with “My dad is a Nav.” He gave Gina a ring with Waylon’s birthstone.

AFTER BIRTH (ewww…not like that):

I was so afraid that I would completely lose myself in my child if I ever gave birth. I am completely consumed by my newborn, and I can’t imagine it any other way.  Every day is a surprise gift that we open together as a family. Truly, one of the best Things To Do…ever!

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#92 Art Disturbs, Science Reassures ~Georges Braque

I’ll admit – I am not an art snob.  During my first trip to the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, I almost ran to the front desk to report an old television that was only playing static until a dear friend kindly informed me that the artist might have intentionally designed it that way.  Upon closer inspection, the TV was unplugged.  What in the world was this artist trying to convey?

I spend much of my time teaching my daughters to clearly state what they are trying to communicate.  If people have to invest time decrypting your words, time is wasted, progress is postponed, and opportunities are missed.  I’m lucky that my children don’t present me with major parental dilemmas.  The biggest dilemmas I’m faced with – original art!

As a mommy, I score original art almost daily.  Where do I put it all? The refrigerator can only handle so much.  Are my girls developmentally on target?  I understand the drawing of the two black pigeons, but why is the third one orange?  Have I raised mentally and emotionally stable children?  If so, why did she draw a hunter shooting a horse?  Am I limiting their potential by failing to see art through child-like eyes?  You can see I worry quite a bit over original art.

When trying to accomplish #92 (Own an Original Work of Art) to suit my taste, I had my work cut out for me.  I needed something that combined logic to comfort me and philosophy to challenge me.  My co-worker hit the nail on the head when he came across http://www.dna11.com/ while browsing the Internet at work (I’m sure he was researching for work purposes).  DNA11 manages to turn an individual’s genetic code into displayable art.  The company has been featured on Devine Design, CSI: NY, The Today Show, and numerous other media outlets.  What is more original than DNA?  What else is simple enough for elementary level curricula yet complex enough to perplex the world’s greatest scientists?  Only DNA!

I decided to purchase the DNA splitscreen on gallery stretched canvas – my husband’s DNA displayed on one half and my DNA displayed on the other half.  Several artists had to work together to complete the piece – The Creator of our DNA, DNA owners who provide the DNA (that would be hubby and me), lab techs who process and photograph the DNA, and DNA11 designers who digitally enhance, print, and frame our DNA.  There is a bit of preparation that is involved; however, this process was just as much fun as the actual receipt of artwork.  We submitted our online order on April 2, 2010.  Within 10 days, we had an official DNA collection kit in the mail.  Per the instructions, my husband and I swabbed our cheek cells for 30 seconds and transferred the cells to the collection card.  His collection turned into a white dot – exactly like the example showed.  My dot stayed pink!  The instructions don’t say what to do if the dot stays pink, and the after-hours support person was just as bewildered.  We decided to mail the collection kits and wait for the verdict on my DNA.  Perhaps I have some alien DNA, or perhaps my very existence would be questioned.

On April 29, 2010, I received an email stating that our DNA collection kit had been received and our completed artwork would be received within 4-6 weeks.  There was no mention of the validity of my DNA.  So far, so good.

Finally, mid-June, we received the carefully packaged artwork on our doorstep.  I was relieved to see that my half showed proof that I have DNA!  My husband must have been equally excited, because he hung the artwork before I could say “Deoxiribonucleic acid”.  The coolest thing about this piece – no one will ever have a duplicate.  The biggest lesson from accomplishing #92 – art may appear to be nothing more than randomly placed dashes, but somewhere behind the work is a life and a story.  Thanks again for opening my eyes, Mr. Horne.

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Title: DNA Splitscreen/Gallery Stretch (I need to come up with something cooler…standby)

Category: Portrait

Who is it by? Several artists as mentioned above

How long did it take for me to decide to buy it? Seconds

Why did I buy it? Loved it!

Cost: $729.00 (plus $25.00 s+h)

Size: 48″ x 18″

Would I consider selling it?  I would consider selling most anything for the right price.  (Let’s hope I don’t have to sell the original DNA during Thing #21)

Posted in Accomplished Things | 3 Comments

Continue Your Gene Pool #101

Surprise! At least it was for us :)

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#88 Webcam Wedding

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There usually is a great deal of planning surrounding the accomplishment of Richard Horne’s 101 Things; however, getting married unusually just seemed to happen “naturally”.  My (now) husband and I were planning on getting married in a quiet beach ceremony in September 2004.  Hurricane Ivan, one of the strongest storms ever recorded, devastated our beach just days before our big day.  My parents jumped to the rescue and purchased tickets for us to “elope” to Las Vegas.  With only two days to plan, I was certain our wedding was going to be a disaster.  That is, until we found Always and Forever Wedding Chapel online.  After a few questions, our wedding was planned.

Do you want your wedding indoors or out? Indoors.

What is your favorite color? Pink.

Do you want pictures and/or video? Yes.

Would you like a limo? Cool!

How many guests? Umm…none.

Would you like friends and family to watch via webcam?  HUH?

How did we go from a semi-traditional beach wedding to a completely non-traditional webcam wedding?  At the time, very few people in my family had even heard of a webcam.  Nevertheless, it was the perfect way for my entire family to “attend” without having to coordinate a massive military-style maneuver.

Fast-forward two days later – my husband and I are getting ready in our fabulous hotel room.  His “getting ready” consists of watching a football game; my “getting ready” consists of a long shower, painting my fingernails and toenails, taking an hour to do my make-up, and prancing in front of the mirror in my bridal gown.  There’s no pressure today.  The limo arrives to take my husband to his tux-fitting.  This means that I have another hour to flat iron every strand of hair while belting, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at the top of my lungs.  He turns, right before he leaves, and gets down on one knee and takes my hand.  Awe!  What a special day.

The limo arrives at the hotel again with my husband dressed to the nines.  We laughed and flirted all the way to the chapel.  Upon arriving, I’m handed a gorgeous bouquet in my favorite color.  We waited outside a quiet room where another couple was preparing for their ceremony.  As soon as they left the room, we were escorted inside and met by the wedding officiant.  He spent a few moments getting to know our personalities and asking questions about our religious preferences for the ceremony.  I began to get nervous that I would mess up the ceremony, since we hadn’t done a rehearsal.  The officiant assured us that we would be instructed every step of the way.  A few minutes before show time, we heard another couple lined up outside the quiet room.  We realized this is why Always and Forever does weddings so well – they do them all day every day.

Our ceremony was perfect…for us.  The officiant was humorous (and quick), the chapel was adorable, and we hardly noticed the photographer snapping away.  And when it was over, we waved to the webcam and thanked our family for “attending”.  We celebrated the rest of the day the way marriage was intended to be – just us.

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#24 STS-130 Endeavour Shuttle Launch

It’s pretty hard to describe how amazing it is to see a space shuttle launch.  You really have to see for yourself.  There are only five launches remaining, so quickly write your Congressman or Senator to request a VIP invitation.  Here are some resources to get you started:

http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/letterscongress.htm

https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

I wrote our Congressman about five months in advance.  His assistant called me about a week after I mailed the letter to request the names of everyone in my party and the details on the launch we wanted to attend.  She said she would submit our information to NASA for “consideration”.  Almost exactly one month before launch day, our beautiful invitations arrived in the mail.  The invitations required an RSVP, which I immediately confirmed.  A week before launch, NASA emailed a detailed itinerary with instructions on where to meet the bus that would take us to the launch site.

We arrived at our friend’s house in Melbourne around 6pm and had the kids go to bed until 10pm.  We arrived at the rally location in Merritt Island around 11:30pm and waited in line in the freezing cold until about 12:15am.  They checked our IDs against the guest list and handed us our bus passes.  The busses shuttled us to Kennedy Space Center where we had to get off the bus, wait in another long line to go through metal detectors, and wait to re-board the bus while police dogs searched for bombs.  Finally, we arrived at the Causeway launch viewing site (about 6.5 miles from the launch pad).  We unpacked our sleeping bags and lawn chairs and tried to sleep until the launch at 04:39am.  I’m not sure exactly how cold it was – maybe 40 degrees – but I’m certain the night got colder as the wind blew over the river.  I don’t remember whether it was my shivering or the lady at the concession stand yelling, “We’re out of hot cocoa – sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits are $2″ that kept me awake.  Although, now that I think about it, it could have been the flatulent old man that parked his lawn chair above my blanket-covered head that kept me reconsidering the importance of “101 Things To Do Before You Die”.

At that point, I swore to myself that I would not attempt another shuttle launch.  That was also the same moment, 10 minutes before launch, that they announced that the shuttle launch was scrubbed due to clouds that could prevent an emergency landing.

We attempted another shuttle launch the next night (after deep soul-searching); however, my husband let us girls sleep on the warm bus until 10 minutes before launch.  I do love him so!  We were all in chipper spirits as we ran out to the launch site to hear the final countdown – 10 – 9 – 8 – I should call my mom – 6 – 5 – ring, ring – 3 – “Hello?” – 1 – LIFT OFF!

Husband: “Get off the phone!”

Me: “I don’t want my mom to miss this!”

Mom: “Is everything okay?  It’s 4am.”

Me: “Listen to the shuttle launch!”

The moment was so magical.  I felt like a kid again, when all things were possible and dreams really do come true.

Watch our launch video here:

About the STS-130 launch:

 There are several things that are special about this launch: first launch of 2010, last night launch, and last U.S. built modules delivered for the International Space Station (ISS).

The mission will last 13 days.

There are 6 crew members: George Zamka (Commander), Terry Virts, Jr. (Pilot), Nicholas Patrick (Mission Specialist), Robert Behnken (Mission Specialist), Stephen Robinson (Mission Specialist), and Kathryn Hire (Mission Specialist).

You can text “follow spaceflightnow” to 40404 to get twitter updates of the launch texted to your cell phone.  I was able to keep everyone around me updated on the status of the launch because of these convenient texts.  Be sure and turn the messages off by texting “leave spaceflightnow” when you want to sleep through the night again.

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