Week 23. Reflections.

  Today, February 1st, is my birthday. Yay me. I've reached an age, that for some reason, feel's "weird". None of the years before has ever bothered me, and none of the numbers ahead seems scary, but oddly, this one freaks me out a little bit..I've been playing with this feeling, kinda like a child plays with a loose tooth, but I can really articulate what's going on...Yet.

I can tell you that I've been a touch nostalgic lately - as some of you "regulars" know, (I'm nutty - I always seem to do that on my birthday). I even went back to my original blog to read about when the idea of this blog was starting to come together. I found it really interesting...here's what I wrote: "I'm starting to feel old and I'm starting to feel like there are some things I'm learning - and not to go all Oprah on you, but life is too short for a lot of the crap that goes down".  Hmmm. For all the ups and downs a year brings, I'm pretty jazzed that I've made this thing keep going.  (Well, except for the whole adjective thing...365 different words? That just might kill me...ha!)

So - as I reflect on my year and all the things I still want to do and change in myself, I really wanted to take a moment to tell each and every one of you that I have blogged about (and still will do so in this year), that I appreciate YOU. You are putting something really good in the world. Whoever said "be the change you want to see in the world" was right. By paying attention to the great stuff y'all are doing, its made a positive impact on me. I thank you for that - that is the best collection of birthday gifts I could ever receive. 

It also cannot be overlooked that those of you who contributed to my birthday blog deserve to be thanked - again (and again and again and again). I've read it so many times already this week. It never fails to make me smile and reflect on you cool, amazing, thoughtful people. I truly ADORE each and every one of you...

So - Happy Birthday to me. I do believe that birthdays are really special - its the one holiday that "belongs to you" - when you can allow yourself to open up to those who want to celebrate you. Do yourself a favor, allow others to celebrate you - its just as important as celebrating others.

And I'll keep ya posted on this whole being freaked out about reaching my "scary age".... ;D

Day 136. The Pageant One.

Its the weekend people - and I'm being nostalgic cause its my birthday weekend and I'm also a bit goofy, (but is this really anything new?) ANYWAY - today is short and sweet. I was thinking about how much music means in my life and tried to figure out if I could pick ONE all time favorite song. I spent a lot of time going through my music and the short answer is NO. Music means a great deal to me and it is tied to memories, life events, emotions and sometimes its just truly exceptional music. But there was one set of songs that I focused on for a bit during my trip down memory lane - R.E.M.

I'll never forget a very special friend who gave me his copy of "Life's Rich Pageant" during our 7th grade trip to D.C. I listened to that tape (!) over and over again on my Sony Walkman. I loved it - still do. And somewhere during that trip, I decided that Michael Stipe is a genius. 

I think this guy is a true artist and someone who, in addition, because of who he is - and being true to that - led me to think a lot about life, art, love even at a young age. 

R.E.M. has gone through many trappings of pop culture from being the unknown sub-culture band to "selling out" to "breaking up" to now being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But, all I know is that they have written some of the all time greats on the soundtrack of my life. I know it was a group effort but its always the front man who get's the attention right? So, thanks Michael for some truly fantastic music. Go listen now to some oldies but goodies "Fall on Me", "You Are the Everything" "I Believe" "Half a World Away" and of course, as a shout out to my birthday friend, E, "Losing My Religion". 

Besides - who can write a love song (that I love) that has the word eviscerate in it? ;)


Day 135. The AT&T One.

So - perhaps its a sign from the universe that I will not reach my scary age (this upcoming birthday is my scary age, I have no problem with the numbers before it nor after it...for some reason, this one, don't like it so much...but I digress) but it may shock you who I am about to write about, because as it was all going down, it shocked the heck out of me.

Last night I had to call AT&T customer service about a question with my bill. I had braced myself for the inevitable - the transfer to India, the scripted false niceties, the excruciating pain of not having my issue fixed blah blah blah. You can imagine my shock when I got Damien (yeah yeah, ironic, I know) on the phone. He was either extremely good with his English or a native speaker and even as he started his greeting script, there was something earnest about him. This young guy helped me through my issues and was really really sweet the whole time...at one point, when I started rushing through my questions (The problem of having worked with telcos...I know a bit too much) he was really cool even as he fumbled a bit and said, "Sorry I'm still new at this but we'll figure this out". 

When I finished my call, instead of that usual feeling of "i have just survived a major battle of wills and intellect" I moved right on to my next thing, felt like my issue had been resolved and...wait for it...I was actually pleased! There's a lot of negativity out there right now - and its usually abundant in the call center industry regardless of the economic climate, but Damien, you rock. You put the Service back in your job title...and I appreciate you!


Day 134. The Newest One.

You don't get a chance to interact with a lot of people when you are stuck inside due to a major snow and ice storm...but I did see something that reminded me of someone in particular for whom I have a great deal of respect.  I will preface this by saying there is someone in particular I have in mind but I will not speak of this person specifically, rather, just generally.

So let's discuss our topic here - the weekend weatherperson. First of all, we know what a hard time weatherpeople get...if you ever turn out to be right about the weather, let's be honest, its probably due to luck just as much as anything else no matter how diligent you are in your study of the weather, satellites, radar etc. and you are kinda always open to be the butt of a joke. Your only big stories are always out of your control, and, as I know, when you do get to take over the airways, people call and complain about not seeing their regularly scheduled programming.

Now - one step further - the weekend person who does the weather has an even rougher time of it...you're not the "big name" in weather on your station, you may or may not get as many viewers and, should you get "Lucky" enough to have a big weather occurrence (here we've had tornados, blizzards, floods) that is a big story, the people who are the weather people during the week swoop in and start leading the coverage and steal your thunder (pardon the pun). It is also very rare that you have a true opportunity for advancement - most stations keep their lead weather person for years and to really get ahead you are going to have to change stations which means relocating and all that fun...

I think being a weatherperson is like any other job - yes its important to pay your dues but very few of us get to be recorded and broadcasted to keep record of when we are right and wrong. I  commend those who are our weekend weatherpeople - you get VERY little recognition and you are still doing a good job!


Day 133. The Anna One.

This post has been a long time coming. I've had this person on my radar for a while to write about but, I have been (and still am) grappling with the best way to represent her...

Its funny how the universe works. A very looooong time ago, I went to high school with a person named Brian. Years later, he married a woman named Anna - not that I knew this at the time. Shortly after that marriage, Anna was diagnosed with breast cancer which led her to fight like hell, beat that disease and become an uber advocate who in addition to many things, built the local chapter of the Young Survivors Coalition (YSC). Through my connections with Komen, and friends like Heather, I ran into Brian and Anna at a YSC event, and then at subsequent "breast cancer things" through the years. It would have been easy for me to define my relationship with Anna in this very narrow context, but, in a cosmic blessing of the universe, I have found so much more in this amazing person.

Anna and I seem to have become a sort of long lost sisters...at least I think of it this way. I stalk her through Facebook and her blog and recently had the great fun of hanging out at a hockey game with her and Brian. As you can probably guess by this day's title, I don't know that there is one word to encapsulate all that this woman is...

Anna is funny. Anna is SMART. She is a complex, thoughtful, open, honest, beautiful woman. She's forgiving in all the things that don't really matter and unforgiving in the things that do. She is one of those people who compels you to want to be like them. She is 100% pure and completely connected to things that matter to her - agendas, politics and other "crap" don't get in the way of what she wants to do, whether its raising money for YSC, fighting for the rights of pitbulls or cheering like heck for her favorite hockey team. She is completely and totally pure in who she is. She'll tell ya she's not perfect, but she's perfect in her imperfections...

I have been having an internal battle because I do NOT want this to be a post that even begins to give you the mental shortcut of classifying Anna as a "survivor" only - but, she is someone who renews my determination about fighting this disease in any way I can because someone as unbelievably cool as she needs to be around as long as possible. 

This post is not very good because, again, I'm not doing justice to just how rockin' this woman is. My words are failing me...but suffice it to say that I am forever thankful for whatever cosmic forces brought this woman into my little circle of life. 


Day 132. The Bunny One.

I have been searching and searching for who does this, but I can't find out...so, if you read this, and if you know, PLEASE let me know in the comments and be sure to pass this post along. Today, I would love to recognize the person(s) who do "The Daily Bunny". This site was passed on to me by my dear friend Sydnee who I've mentioned here before. And its as simple as can be...

Every day, a rather cute photo of a bunny get's posted for no reason other than to share. The site is pretty lean - just photos of bunnies day after day. But it sure does its job - no matter what kind of day I am having, you can't help but feel better when you see one of these pics and without thinking, go, "Awwwwwww". I mean seriously, look at THIS.  You can't help it!

Its super cool that this person, or persons, puts out a site with no recognition what so ever and brings happiness to folks - I know quite a few people that enjoy this site daily and I am sure there are a lot more.


Week 22. Reflections.

OK are you sick of the barrage of posts today yet? ;) ANYWAY...what some of you already know is that a couple of very special people who were featured on this blog were EXTREMELY creative and put together a birthday surprise for me...they created a special blog on which my friends could log into and post special birthday messages to me. 

I'm not going to link to that blog here or anything because lord knows that I hate drawing attention to myself in that way, but I do want to pause and recognize Andrea and Kim who "led the charge" on this project and all of you special people who took the time to write something to me. I want you all to know that no matter how long or short, or in what type of media your feedback was presented, it meant the world to me. Just the fact that each of you took the time to share something was amazing and the way you communicated with me helped me to get to know you just a little bit more. 

This gift is the perfect thing for me - I can take it anywhere, ha ha ha - and I will always have a pick me up, a bit of love, and a bit of my friends nearby.

Andrea Z., Kim, Jess, Soren, Tom, Shelly, Cliff, Stephanie, Mel, Lukie, Christine, Amy, Andrea L., Jim, Shelley, Luna (Matt), Winnie, Krissy, Sydnee (and Eeyore), Mark, Anne, Amanda, and Devyl THANK YOU...THANK YOU...THANK YOU. You each are amazing and special and just further proof that its a great use of time to let someone know how great we think they are.


Day 131. The Acting One.

I know I said no more famous people, BUT...I saw Revolutionary Road this week. Kate Winslet is the lead female actor in this movie and she is A-MA-ZING. I have always marveled at artists, and obviously actors are part of that group. I find it so compelling that people can be open to all kinds of influences, channel them, and use them to communicate a message to us.  Even in my little non-artist mind, it is obvious that Ms. Winslet is one of the best actors, and artists, we have seen...

The people I saw this movie with sat for a good long while and talked about how amazing this story was and we credited much of that directly to Kate. Her ability to truly become and internalize another person is stunning...even more than that though, from what I know, Kate is truly an amazing person outside of her professional life. There is, of course, the much over-tread story of how her body is more like that of a "normal" woman and how she stands up for being whatever size she wants to be. Even though that has been beaten in to the ground, it bears as much attention as it gets because she rocks for not conforming to a stereotype or submitting to the pressure of the industry. Kate also strikes me as a VERY intelligent woman, an incredible mother, and a strong strong friend.

This movie is lolling about in my brain and will probably be percolating for a while - and it was again, Kate's tremendous ability to dissolve into the story so that I am focusing on that, and not just her. For who she is professionally and the little bit I know of her personally, I think Kate Winslet deserves all the recognition she can get.

And give the woman an Oscar already.... ;)

We Pause for this Important Announcement

Thanks to my friend Andrea, we now have an actual URL that makes this blog look like it knows what its doing!

If you've been coming here directly, the links you have will still work, HOWEVER, we are now also available at: http://www.alisons365project.com

Looking forward to seeing you here, there and everywhere!

Day 130. The Confident One.

Friday I went to dinner with 7 other people - three of whom were children. We were all excited to be together but you can imagine the many potential disasters that can exist in this combination: more than one child, Friday night, restaurant, multiple checks, special orders. Well we were fortunate enough to have one of the most lovely servers I've encountered in a long while.

This server was amazing. She had just the right tempo in checking in on us, waiting to take our order and tending to the adults and children in the right tone and approach without seeming condescending. When mistakes were made, she immediately took on ownership (which we all know immediately takes you to resolution) and sought to make things right. She really handled the whole dinner perfectly. As we were wrapping up the evening, we started to remark on her skill in handling us and one of my friends commented on how it was this young woman's confidence that truly was making her successful...I thought about that for a while. Isn't that the truth?

No matter what we seek to do - confidence can cover a multitude of sins. Because even an error becomes part of the journey since you know that you can ultimately succeed in what what needs to be done. This lovely server made what could have been an unruly group with a lot of craziness into an enjoyable evening that, as far as our dinner went, could have easily been just two of us because it was so smooth.

Day 129. The Knitting One.

So bear with me, because I am in catch up mode here for a bit...

Many of you know that I knit. I have been astounded to find out how many knitters are also on social networks...on first blush, I never really saw the obvious connection (although since I fit into both groups that should have been a clue huh? ;) )

ANYWAY - one knitter that I have come to really enjoy is "Wendy Knits". I found her first on various social networks because there was a pattern that many of my fellow knitters were making called "Nanner Socks" that I wanted to make. A lot of searching helped me find Wendy's BLOG and make a plea to get a copy of the now no longer available pattern.  And, of course, Wendy was kind enough to send me the pattern. (see my finished product here). In finding this blog, it opened me up to a whole other cool person to meet. Wendy blogs every day, sharing her life, her knitting and more. She's also quite famous in the knitting community, in fact one of her patterns was recently published in my personal favorite, Knit1 Magazine.  

But what always strikes me about Wendy is that she is so very connected to her communities and seems truly interested in building new relationships and in sharing. There are some other "knitting gurus" that I have found that, understandably, are managing so many different avenues of their life and businesses that they are unable to be as open in Q&A or sharing patterns, tips, connections. Wendy doesn't seem to have even the slightest hint of this happening to her...I am always in awe of how much she shares about herself and her projects and that she so generously gives of her creativity to us in the form of knitting tips, cool new places to find buttons, yarn etc and in the form of patterns! The woman is published, she has her own books and could easily just focus more on marketing and we'd all buy away because her work is so great, but she continues to share with us because she has never forgotten about the relationships and that these, more than any knitting project, are the most important.

Wendy even lives in DC so you know that I love her even more :)


Day 128. The Original Blog One.

So. Here we are, in the thick of it. Blogging for 365 days. I have friends who are trying to do a Project 365 lots of ways right now...one is podcasting almost every day, a few others are blogging as well with different focuses. But, lately, I've been thinking a lot about how psuedo-comfortable I've become here. A few years ago, if you had told me that I would be writing something that would just be "out there" I'd have thought you were ridiculous. I'd have thought what in the world would I have to say that isn't just ego feeding rubbish?

I had had a blog for a while but quite frankly, it was lame, because I didn't know what I was doing nor did I really feel "safe" writing freely on the web. Enough about me, why do I share this? Because one of my very special friends, Jeremy is arguably the impetus for me even writing here today. You see, I met Jeremy in New Media...we see each other in person only a few times a year, but he had reached out to me on Twitter and we clicked. It was one of those weird funky things where you can feel your personalities jive across the lines of communication.

In person, Jeremy is tremendous. I think he is one of those people who is good to the core. He is so nice and fun to be around and I am always really happy to see him and spend time with him. In some way, he may be a brother I never had. But the real gift that Jeremy gave me was his thoughts. I had found his blog and was reading up on it (its all about the ferrets people - seriously, its the funniest video out there. I watch it all the time) and then I found THIS post...this post said everything I was feeling. This post said everything that I wished I could write but was not talented enough to do so. In the reading of my friend's writing, I suddenly knew I could give a valiant shot to this blogging thing and that, no matter WHAT it ended up being, it'd be ok :). And so, in addition to being someone I really REALLY like, Jeremy you're the one that made all this possible! LOL


Day 127. The One Hundred One.

I will not write much more than to say, seriously, READ THIS. Tarak's words deserve, perhaps demand?, your time...

On this day of a new President's inauguration, take this to heart.


Week 21. Reflections.

I would just like to take a moment to acknowledge and thank each of you who is reading this and taking the time to comment, email or tweet me about your thoughts on a posting. 

It is always a pleasant shock when I realize people are, in fact, reading this. The fact that some of you have taken the time to comment or communicate with me is really a gift. I read a lot of blogs/ RSS feeds and though many of them touch a chord with me, even I am a rare "commentor" so I truly am touched when someone does this for me. Not everyone agrees with what I post, and, not everyone who writes is someone I even know - and that makes those postings truly special.

I know my blog is by no means "sweeping the nation" but for my little reading community and those who close the feedback loop on what I write, I really REALLY REALLY appreciate each of you. 

Day 126. The Baking One.

My friend Lisa is just a sweet sweet person. I was fortunate enough to meet Lisa through my friend Michele who I have already written about here.  Lisa is first and foremost physically cute and lovely...then you get to know her! She is tremendously smart, focused, hard working, generous of spirit, kind and really in touch with who she is. 

Lisa leads our weekly knitting group and is one of the strongest leaders I've seen in that she leads without you ever really "feeling" it. Its a rare and special thing. Lisa also, seriously, is the best baker that I have ever met. Period. If you are somewhere and there is a baked good made by Lisa, eat it. Immediately. And, if that baked good happens to be cinnamon rolls, I will race you to get it first. She makes everything from scratch to boot.

She's very sweet - even if you happen to cause a group of people to make plans based on your inability to properly read the times a store is open on the internet, and then your alternate plans get you stuck in traffic for almost an hour, Lisa will help make the best of it...not that I did that or anything...;)

There wasn't one thing that Lisa did that brought her to my mind to write about, its just everything about her. I don't know many people like Lisa throughout the whole of my life and that makes her even more special.

Day 125. The Bar One.

Title piqued your interest? :)  So earlier this week Stephen and I met some great new friends to go to an ice hockey game. We were meeting at a bar downtown in the Arena district, and as there are only a few good places there each is quite packed right before a hockey game. 

As we were wandering around looking for our friends - quite frozen and not a little bit flustered - in the midst of the craziness, a man stopped me and said "excuse me, I think you dropped this". I had dropped a piece of paper from my purse that was rather important - seeing that it had my directions for the evening of where we were parking, meeting, blah blah blah. I thanked the man profusely and he politely shrugged it off.

I was rather impressed that this man, in the midst of his fun night, and in the middle of a crazy, loud, packed bar would take the time to even notice that I dropped something and then politely let me know. It put a smile on my face and ended up being the beginning of what was a really fun night!


Day 124. The Apple One.

Wednesday of this week, Steve Jobs announced that he is taking a 6 month leave of absence from Apple to care for his own health. Apple suspended trading after it had plummeted in late trading. Bloggers and technophiles immediately began their barrage of "what is wrong?" "maybe NOW we'll get copy paste on our iPhones" and, worst of all "see, I told ya something was wrong with him".

Steve Jobs created Apple. Steve Jobs revived Apple after it appeared to be almost dead. He introduced the new generations of MacBooks, iPods, AppleTV's and iPhones that have given Apple its highest market share ever in these devices' respective market segments and has allowed Apple to have an unprecedented amount of cash reserves in the time of the ultimate credit crunch. And of course, all of these numerous, significant accomplishments were accompanied by a growing culture of Apple fans that have made Apple the "new cool".

The reaction that came today that was mostly of the types of responses I cited above hit me immediately - for that is the exact reason for this blog. Can't someone just be appreciated for what they've done? People - seriously - the man has generated, from mostly his soul and own creative drive, one of the most successful businesses any way you cut it. Apple could be a business case for pretty much every major business angle. But what's the ultimate success of a business? Knowing that it sustains without any one person - even if that person is Steve Jobs. I have a major in Leadership Studies and a business that can't exist or thrive without its leader is no success at all, even while that leader is there. 

I am stunned that so many couldn't immediately realize that "Uncle Steve's" decision was not only honorable and respectable, as it reflected the importance we all need to place on our health and our quality of life; but in some ways, this decision is the smartest thing he could have done for "his" company. 

In my opinion, Steve Jobs has always been a genius...even if his ways have been unorthodox, and his attitude sometimes less than conciliatory, you can't deny him his successes. Today - knowing that this man is making a decision that I don't doubt was hard for him personally and professionally, I have even more respect for him - as this tells me more about the type of person he is. He is putting what matters most first. 

I wish Steve Jobs the quickest and most pain free recovery he can experience. I hope time away rejuvenates him physically, emotionally and spiritually. I hope that regardless of if he ever returns to Apple in a professional capacity that he is well and can reflect and enjoy not only his successes but the well deserved appreciation of many. I hope that the millions of people who have benefited from him and marveled at what he created, let him know what he's done for them. You can count me among that crowd. Uncle Steve, you amaze me - thank you for never compromising - on anything. Get better soon. [and those of you whining about your stock price or dancing the superior dance can just stuff it]

DISLAIMER: I am a full on Apple geek - our household owns three Apple computers, a Time Machine, quite a few iPods and  2 iPhones. I make no apologies - they are simply the best there is.

Day 123. The Mail One.

This was a pleasant story that a good friend shared with me on Monday...my friend Amy is a really cool person. She bikes competitively, and works at the University studying flora and fauna...namely fish and water wildlife. She's also really cute and funny and is part of my knitting club. I say all this to say, she deserves nice things to happen to her.

Monday as she was rushing to work she grabbed her personal keys and her work keys...when she got to work, she only had her personal keys. This launched a very anxious day for her of thinking "oh I must have left my work keys here", only to be disappointed when they weren't. This was bad because they are non-duplicable University keys, access to labs, you get the drift.  Haven't we all had experiences like this? You keep calm by thinking you'll find your item at the next place until...well, until you don't find them.  The very last outlet Amy had was to hope that they were somewhere between her house and the nearby mailbox...she walked, looking in the grass and snow etc. not finding them even as she got to the mailbox.

Then she saw it - on the mailbox - the old fashioned blue ones that sit on a curb that aren't as common anymore - a sign: "The person who accidentally dropped University keys into the mailbox please contact...."  Its obvious why the mailman deserves a nod of appreciation. Pretty cool I think. 


Day 122. The Merging One.

So I ask, the universe provides :). After starting to worry about my exposure to new and good people, I ran into a bunch of great stuff to write up over the next couple days...LOVE IT. So here we go. 

One thing you may not know about me is that I absolutely hate to drive. For most of my adult life I prided myself on finding places to live that were very urban and where I could use public transportation or just walk. When we moved to Ohio, we were back to the world of everyone in their car to go everywhere, and I can't stand it. Just once I wish I could ride a train, or metro or walk somewhere without having to hop in my car. So, when I do have to go somewhere, I try - if at all possible - to go at less busy times to avoid the mass of cars on the road. 

Yesterday, as re-entry to the real world continued, I had to be in to the office rather early so I was stuck in a particularly busy time of day for traffic. Everyone's trying to get where they need to go with the added fun of some slippery roads. As you can imagine, poeple are merging, turning, slowing down yadda yadda yadda. On a particularly annoying stretch where you have to merge all into one lane otherwise you are in a turn only lane, cars routinely try and take advantage of speeding ahead in the turn only lane to get ahead of everyone else in the "normal" lane. Its the standard "cutting in line" philosophy (and, yes, on occasion, I have done this). Anyway, a car was trying to merge over in front of me and I slowed to let him in. With lights and such it became somewhat of an awkward merge and it took a couple of attempts for him to actually get over. As he finally got in front of me, he raised his hand in the simple thank you wave. Well this just made my day. In the craziness of driving it truly made me smile that he even thought to give that little salute. These days, I'm shocked when people even use their turn signals - which is not only a symbol of courtesy but also of safety - so for someone to return to the etiquette of the "thank you" was a lovely pleasant surprise. It reminded me that I need to be sure to do this every time - no matter if the person was a jerk and wasn't letting me over or whatever. 

Courtesy and respect occurs at all levels of interaction - even in a merge on a Monday morning rush hour.


Day 121. The Objectivist One.

Ok. I'm gonna go there. And this is going to (hopefully) be the last "prominent figure" I blog about for a bit...I'm hoping to return back to regular people for a bit and not get too caught up with people who already get quite a bit of recognition. So here it goes...

We all have those formative, extremely profound experiences that help shape us right? Well one of mine is the reading of one book, "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. A dear friend in college gave me this book. Ms. Rand has since passed away, but her story is quite interesting: raised in Russia she came "west" after great amounts of study, worked in Hollywood, then theater and then progressed to writing as her last traditionally creative outlet before she became a leader of her own movement of "Objectivism". Ms. Rand was obviously shaped by seeing her home country (and others post WWII) become Communist and came to build her philosophies around the idea that the mind is the is the most significant tool for humanity and reason being its highest virtue. Atlas Shrugged was her opus and a highly disputed, still successful book. 

Some of my friends despise Ms. Rand - it is easy to categorize her way of thinking as selfish, too ego-feeding or, too focused on capitalism...too much head, not enough heart. I understand these judgements. But every year, since I received this book, I pull out my tattered copy (the cover is literally falling off and two weeks of beach reading didn't help that cause) and re-read all 1000+ pages. And here's why...this books speaks to some of my most core beliefs. Right or wrong, I believe in capitalism; I believe in the value of the individual, and of work and the value of ethics overriding social grandstanding, "favor granting" and the falsities of the social game. Don't get me wrong, I believe 100% in the value of creating and maintaining social bonds, but only those that are pure of intention and honest in all communications. I find most others rather pointless, often annoying and borderline insulting. I don't like "playing the game" - I'm not good at it.

My spirit is also almost inseparable from the idea of always trying to be at your highest level of performance and seeking out new and better ways - for living, for loving, for working, for being. These are all themes I pull out of this book.

Now the book also goes a bit overboard. There's a bit too much condemning of social activism for my taste and don't even get me started on the way that she relates the role of sexual relationships and what makes them good or not, (but I digress). But, I also do believe that when someone is truly trying to make a point that is so clear cut in their mind, at the risk of offending some they may take that point overboard - or to the extreme - to make the point crystal clear and beyond misinterpretation. That is what I like to think of some of these ideas that Ms. Rand explores in her work.

But why is this so important...well, to be honest, if you want a fairly deep look into me, this book is a rather good start. Further, some of the discussions I've had with people about this book have been the most passionate, compelling and rewarding of my entire life - and I always end up learning something. And, every time I read this book it re-centers me...that is not to say I am an Ayn Rand disciple by any means but its extremes force me to think about what I really think about the ways of the world, the implications of decisions large and small, the impact of each of us at the micro and macro level.

Particularly this year - with our country being soooo divided, and political stereotypes feeling almost crippling to me in their refusal to work together and in an open minded way (on BOTH sides, in my opinion) I almost want to send this book to every senator, every representative and say "THINK! Think about it...realize the impact of any extreme and find the solution that lies in the middle that would (most likely) truly be the best one". Since this book takes both a liberal and a conservative perspective to a ridiculous level, it would sure be a good place to start thinking about how we sometimes appear and how we are perceived.

But anyway - as you can see, this book takes me down a million rabbit holes, and it can always seem to bring insight to where ever my life is at any given moment. I love it. I love Ayn Rand for writing it. Reading this book is one of the most rewarding things I do...and whether you fall into the "love it" or "hate it" category (and sometimes I can fit both), I recommend "Atlas Shrugged". Its a pleasure to read even in its style and rhythm. So I thank Ayn Rand for putting this out there...I don't hear much of her and I for one, thinks she kicks some major butt. 


Week 20. Reflections.

Coming back to Ohio has been interesting....obviously one goes through that "re-entry" phase of coming back to reality, not to mention the cold, the work and the resuming of responsibility. ;).

Being back has also represented a new challenge in my little project going on here...all of a sudden, all I can think about is "this is hard!"  I feel like I've written about a lot of people already and to be back home its sort of a struggle to find "new" people to write about...its almost like noone around here seems new right now and when I come up with someone to write about it feels a little forced...so I'm also really rethinking a lot about what it means to put someone here...I'm struggling with putting someone who's already a "public" figure; struggling with the difference between putting up someone for just one act of goodness versus a trait or long time of being cool; struggling with finding new people...

Maybe I'm just tired, maybe I'm just still going through re-entry. I do think of this as good, its refocusing me on why I'm doing this and who I'm writing about...


Day 120. The Neighbor One.

We got home yesterday. My fingers are starting to thaw out - sorta - so I can type again. Anyway, being gone as long as we are each year at this time, sometimes causes me some anxiety about our home. You like to think that you live in a safe area, but you never know (gosh I sound like those ADP commercials!). What's nice about where we live now is that we've gotten to know a few good neighbors in the little community...the neighbor who lives across the street, Katie, in particular is quite fun.

We don't spend a lot of time with Katie, perhaps a cocktail or appetizers two or three times a year, but we always chat when we see each other and, if one or the other of us is going to be out of town, the one who is still here watches out for the house - any odd behavior, any packages, that kind of thing. Its no big deal, but it sure helps give you a peace of mind when you are out of town. Its also quite nice to think that the sense of community isn't dead. I grew up in the midwest when you still knew all your neighbors, then as a function of time and also of living in large cities for 10+ years, that stopped happening. I don't think I knew the name of a single neighbor until Stephen and I moved into this place.

So now that we are home, I am again thankful for our lovely neighbor Katie - who does so much for us but also for keeping the concept of a true "neighbor" alive.


Day 119. The Pool One.

Ah - its our very very last day of Keys life. This trip has been one of the best - in terms of how we have spent our time, how much we have been able to relax and the weather. Its been a long time since I've been this sad to go....

So today - our last day in the sun, Stephen and I headed over to the "traquility" area of the bay..its for people 21 and over only and it is very peaceful. Cabanas, waterfalls and lofty palms that rustle in the breeze make it perfect. Today, as most other days, a server from the nearby Tiki bar came around asking if anyone would like anything - food or drink. Now, let's cut right to the chase here - to have ANYTHING served to you waterside is pretty stinkin' cool. Its rediculously luxurious and so much fun. We usually don't do it (partially because we have so much to eat and drink already that we bring from our condo) but today - to celebrate, Stephen and I started in on some Rum Runners (for him) and Bellini's for me. Dan was our server.

I could go on and on about all the things that made Dan awesome - working in the hot sun, having to deal with running your butt off for a bunch of slugs laying around doing nothing but sunning themselves, blah blah blah. But - it boils down to this - for one afternoon, Dan served us amazing beverages that made us feel really special (and not a little bit "happy") and for that, he was the perfect end to a perfect trip. So CHEERS to you Dan. I hope you were able to relax tonight after helping us do that so completely today! Goodbye Keys!

Day 118. The Jamaican One.

In the Florida keys, one of the many cool things culturally is that you get to interact with people from so many parts of the world - without prejudice. Last night, at my new very favorite restaurant, "Alma", we had a lovely server, Delroy. The restaurant was meant to be a more "classy" place and at first, we were simply just delighted with Delroy's humor and attention to detail. He put us at ease right away with quite a challenging menu and really guided us through what turned out to be amazing dishes that we may otherwise not have ordered. As the night went on, we started talking more and more with our server.

Delroy shared with us how he participates in the work visa program and has worked all over the USA. [His funniest story is that he was a ski tech in PA near where Stephen grew up...yes, a Jamaican ski tech...Stephen just loved that one!].  Delroy has certainly let his life experience shape him into a truly engaging individual. He works in the US for 6-8 months at a time and then returns to Jamaica and to his family. He has two daughters back home and he always brings back to them stories of his travels and adventures. Delroy also took the time to share with us about his home country...he had stories about Jamaica that were interesting, informing and sometimes just downright hilarious (did you know the only place you can legally smoke Marijuana in Jamaica is at Bob Marley's grave? Who knew?)

I appreciated the time to interact with someone on more than just a superficial level who had so much to teach me about a whole other place in the world where I have yet to visit...and I found Delroy to be a man who truly owns his life and every choice and every bit of knowledge that has filled that time. To boot, he's quite smart and truly hilarious.

I do love Alma, I'll be back there every time I'm in the Keys - but I will never forget my first visit there, and the fact that probably the major reason I enjoyed it so very very much was a tremendous man named Delroy.


Day 117. The Real Championship One.

Tonight the Ohio State Buckeyes play in the Fiesta bowl. Many friends and fans are debating the outcome of the BCS (or BS C depending on who you listen to). In a parallel world, I was struggling to come up with something positive to write here today. Then, as so often is custom, my good friend Soren had offered up some recent blog posts that I had to catch up upon and I happened upon this one.

So I am cheating on multiple fronts, Soren's already made a well deserved appearance here at 300sixtyfie and I am blatantly copying him.

So on this night of yet another football game, and one that is supposed to be the MOST important to me this year, I turn your attention to Coaches Kris Hogen and  Mark Williams and teams that truly deserves the recognition.



Day 116. The Bueller One.

Bueller? Bueller? OK, its a stretch here but I've come to realize I must be rather conservative and selective with my adjectives (249 more? yikes!). But, most people of my age will instantly think of the scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (and if you are NOT of my age or just haven't seen this movie, what is WRONG with you?) when the teacher called "Bueller...Bueller..." over and over during roll call. Most of us also know that this actor was Ben Stein - much more famous in political circles for his advising of policy makers and writing of speeches. Ben now shows up as a pundit on various shows...today, I saw his commentary on CBS Sunday Morning. Ben was talking about the year 2008 in review and obviously commented quite a bit on the financial circumstances in which the world finds itself.

But here's why I want to acknowledge Ben today. I have always appreciated his upbeat approach to the world. He is optimism underscored with logic. Even as he debates issues, he doesn't buy into the "scream louder" approach too many of our talking heads have adopted. He is engaging, witty, and has a dry humor that, if you've been reading this for a while you know that I love. But today, Ben's message struck a chord...to quote the summary of his segment, "...Ben Stein wants Americans to remember that money doesn't equal happiness." As he said today "YOU ARE NOT A BALANCE SHEET...YOU ARE A HUMAN BEING WITH A SOUL" the words echoed in my ears. You don't have to be paying too much attention to know that today's financial climate is causing a lot of anxiety and hardship. With a husband and a father in the financial world, I hear all too much about this.

But Ben grabbed those who took the time to listen to him today from that spiral. We are, at our core, amazing beings of spirit, and will, and thought, and love and passion. Ultimately, we are who we allow ourselves to be. I have always found Ben to be brilliant even on his worst days and today, he exceeded my expectations. Ben, thank you for being someone who represents the best of what a thinking person should be - and in this case the very best way to get through these times.

To see all of Ben's segment, please click HERE. (AND, I STRONGLY ADVISE YOU TO DO SO...perhaps even a bit more than I advise you to go watch Ferris! tee hee)

Day 115. The Sharing One.

Yes, i know, you are all sick of knowing I'm at the Keys...but it has offered the surprising challenge of finding people to write about. Today, someone fell easily into today's post. Here's the scoopage. Our family owns a condo that part of a resort down at Duck Key, Fl. What this means is that when we aren't using our condo, that is is available for rent as are all the other condo units. What's nice about this place is that its not a timeshare or anything like that - these units are OURS. We can decorate, furnish, equip our unit as we see fit. What's not nice is that having this truly be our home away from home has taught us a lot about the unkind side of people. We have had things stolen (who steals a FRYING PAN, seriously?) broken, damaged...we've seen the community areas disrespected with trash, noise...you get the drift. We've come to expect this as a necessary evil (and in fact usually time this annual trip to when all the holiday travelers have LEFT).

So today, I saw someone act out of character as far as most of these guests go...a family was getting ready to leave (yay!) and, since people stay in condos as well as hotel rooms, a lot of families end up with left over groceries etc. So this mom came over to the pool area and had brought all her left over "kid friendly" treats...she had popsicles, candy, sodas, juice, fruit...and she just kindly went around to the other families (it seemed some she had met through the course of her visit) and just offered to share the goodies with the families that were still staying. Kids were excited and parents were appreciative.

This may not seem like a big deal, but in contrast to the selfish behavior that *some* can display on vacation I thought it was so kind of this woman to think of reducing waste, helping others out and bringing happiness to some kids all in the midst of the craziness that is always packing up and departing. That's just being kind in your heart...and it was so nice to see!


Day 114. The Rose One.

Happy New Year everyone. 2009! Can you believe it? Seems like it was just 2000...anyway, in Big Ten country, New Year's day means one thing - the Rose Bowl. As is tradition, the Big Ten champ plays the Pac Ten champ in "the granddaddy of them all". I have never been, but there is nothing like sitting with all the good tailgate goodies and watching the game with friends family and some drinks!

We all know that bowl games (and college football) are becoming rather commercial lately but I still love the pomp and circumstance of the Rose Bowl. I'm not singling ONE person out today, I'm recognizing every single person that had the unenviable task of working probably the entire week of Christmas through to New Years (and new Years eve no doubt) to sustain the tradition...so to the food vendors, the people who painted the field, the ticket handlers, the ushers...you've made a special memory for a whole lotta people today and you probably are just tired and cranky by the time its all over. What you do matters...a lot (and hopefully we'll see a Penn State victory to boot! *fingers crossed*)