Trade Offs

I owe you some updates but I’m going to push those off for a few more days…right now I want to talk about trade offs.

Sometimes I find myself wondering what my life would be like if I had made one (or two) decisions differently in my past. About the time I start second guessing, God provides me a really clear understanding that my life is His plan and has His timing. Sometimes these trade offs are obvious and instant and sometimes they are not.

I don’t often get homesick – I don’t really have a home, per say – but sometimes I am pretty bummed about having to miss things going on wherever I’m living because of work.

This week God has blessed me to show me both with one simple meeting.

I’m leaving on Wednesday for San Diego to see my best friend (she’s from SD, came to KC for grad school, graduated in May, and moved back to start working). On Sunday I fly from San Diego to Indianapolis for a week long conference for work. Last Thursday, during my last minute trip to Houston for the day, we set up time to have another meeting in Houston on Tuesday. This means flying to Houston tomorrow morning, staying with another good friend of mine, and then flying directly to San Diego a few hours earlier on Wednesday. Not a bad plan. Lots of packing but lots of fun as well.

Came into work this morning and found that my meeting had been pushed to Thursday instead of Tuesday. This means another refund to my credit card and more canceled plans with friends in Houston.

In reflecting on this change of events, I started listed off reasons I’m thankful to be staying in KC:

  • 1 more nights rest in my own bed
  • 2 more crossfit workouts at my home box
  • not having to haul steel toed boots and hardhat for 2 weeks
  • 30 hours less clothing to pack
  • not having to file another expense report this month
  • picking up my own farmers market box
  • finishing my golf class I’m taking with a friend
  • listening to the presentation at lunch at work I’m interested in
  • enjoying 70 degree weather in KC in July
  • picking up all my home-finishing fedex packages
  • getting my eyebrows waxed before I leave
  • not having to cancel my massage appointment
  • not having to rush through neighborhood night tonight

I’m still bummed about not getting to go to dinner with a friend and stay with another (and I have to call into a meeting while on vacation in California) but I am happy to be hanging around KC for another day which is something I didn’t think my heart would ever want.

I guess this place is growing on me…

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14.2

I was sitting on an airplane that was taking off at 7:10pm Thursday night trying to stream the CrossFit Open announcement. I kept squinting at the blurry objects moving on my screen and for the first time in my life I wanted my flight to take off ten minutes late.

I made it to hear the workout announced before I was ripped from connectivity for two hours. I spent two hours thinking I was never going to be able to do a chest to bar pull-up and that overhead squats make me nervous with my shoulder. About the time we were landing back in Kansas City, I realized that if I didn’t think I could do it, then I was already telling God and the rest of the world that it wasn’t possible. By the time I was walking off the plane, I resolved to have the best 10 reps of 65# overhead squats I had ever done and to spend the rest of the time at least jumping at the pull up bar.

14.2: 3 minutes to complete two rounds of 10 reps overhead squats (65# women), and chest to bar pull-ups. If you finish that, you get another 3 minutes to do two rounds of 12 reps each. Each round goes up by 2 until you can’t finish.

This is a workout I will try again several times in my crossfit journey I’m sure. My 10 reps looked pretty amazing but I hope to be able to do chest to bar pull-ups within the next year or two. It would probably help to be able to do a regular pull-up before reaching for the chest to bar status. 🙂

I’m excited for 14.3!!

Getaway

I travel a lot for work. like I average 4 flights a week. and I vacation, I just went to Haiti. but sitting in the Kansas City airport this morning I was thinking about how I rarely just go somewhere for a weekend. I don’t just getaway.

When I worked for Kiewit I had turnarounds which meant that every 21 days (or so) I was on a paid flight from the construction site I was on back “home.” Seeing as how my “home” was packed in a storage unit, I flew to see friends and explore cities I’ve always wanted to visit. Those were getaways. but not really. Those trips were a dangerous combination of sleeping and drinking too much that were designed to give me back a small piece of sanity so I could work the next 350 hours until the next trip.

I quit Kiewit in March of 2012. Looking back, it was absolutely the correct decision for me and my life. God knew I wouldn’t leave that job (or any for that matter) unless I really hated it. Like loathed the person I was at the office and saw a dead end road in front of me for my career. I’m not one of those people that just flits from job to job or activity to activity.

There were many sacrifices made to work for the engineering company I work for now including salary and living location. One of those sacrifices is a “typical” 40 hour 8 to 5 work week. Don’t get me wrong. I love having to work significantly less hours and I have actual engineering and construction responsibilities which is amazing but vacation time is limited. God is truly amazing! He has also provided an amazing community in KC that I’m a little afraid to face the possibility of leaving. However, I also gave up the habit of getaways.

Right now, I’m changing that. I’m sitting on a flight to Seattle to see my best friend. I’ve known her for 20 years. 20 years!! I’ve celebrated birthdays, thanksgivings, heartbreaks, graduations and triumphs with her. I can’t imagine my life without her. You do a lot of growing in 20 years. Some of those years we were closer than others. Some of those years we grew apart, only to find that our lives intersected again. God puts people in your life for a reason. Hers is to be a sister I don’t biologically have.

I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her Dad on this Earth but I did have the honor of spending lots of time with her Mom. Janet was the definition of strength. The definition of hard working. Loving. She helped make me the person I am today. She succumbed to cancer almost three years ago but after a long fight to in which she got see her daughters get married and teach of us countless lessons. I think of her almost daily. She makes me smile every time anything LSU comes up and every trip I make to Baton Rouge for work (which has been almost 30 times in the last 18 months).

I often think of her in November because some of my favorite thanksgiving memories involve her house. She was 100 miles from college when my parents where 800 miles. Limited time off from class meant the drive to Austin was much more appealing (the football game was all there every other year). She would also have a place at her table for me. I want to be able to give back to people that way too. To always have a place at my table for whomever needs to be feed – spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

One of Janet’s greatest accomplishments is her two daughters. Although very different, they are strong, intelligent women. Some of that is thru experiences and some of that is natural. I can only imagine what their father was like. It is incredible to watch them raise their young families. I am blessed with my viewpoint into their existences. This weekend I get a front row seat. No instagram or facebook in the way. I get to be the person on the other side of the camera lens. and I couldn’t be more excited!

Caitlin’s daughter is just shy of 9 months and I haven’t seen her in over 6 months. She’s a chatter box and eating real food now. She’s in 12 month clothes. God has been changing my heart this year in how I view having kids and this little bundle of joy is part of His plan. Growing up I always said I wanted to have kids but that was more the socially acceptable answer. You don’t tell people you don’t want kids when you’re 15 – people will think you’re weird. But until this little one came along and I went to Haiti, I had no desire. Now I am excited by kids. Excited about the possibility that I could have some (adopted or birthed). It’s such a learning experience for me to watch Caitlin with her daughter and something I get to do for the next three days.

I have no doubt Caitlin’s parents are so proud of her. I am proud of her and I have nothing to do with the person she is. I just get to be the tag along. and for that I am thankful to God.

This weekend is going to be full of camo, baby, college football, sewing, good food, pike’s place market, coffee, and warm blankets. This getaway can’t be more perfect. This is going to be the start of a new habit of getting out of KC once every couple months without my work computer (this is the first trip I’ve left my work computer at home since May) to just enjoy life and be thankful.

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A few of my favorite things – bacon, blueberries, hazelnut latte, colored skinny cords, tall fall boots, scarves – on my way to see a few of my favorite people 🙂

Commuter

Today was supposed to be a quick jont over to St. Louis for a meeting. A single meeting.

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Hazelnut Latte (and Jesus) helped me thru the day!!

It turned into 5.5 hours in airports, 4 hours on airplanes, 3 hours in meetings, and 1 hour at the most delicious California-burger-making restaurant in Illinois! I seriously wish I could have taken a picture of the burger but I was at work with two of my vendors and my project manager so no dice.

This vendor is my problem child. Not the problem child that is so smart you have to out think him, the problem child that you can’t get to stop starting off into space long enough for them to remember their own name. I travel across the country to see them almost weekly. I’ve been at this since February and quite frankly I’m sick of it.

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Steel that has taken 9 months to fabricate…

I get frustrated talking to them on the phone recently. I think they are part of my unwillingness to go into the office unless I absolutely have too (event tho I’m still answering my phone and emails from my couch). About three days ago I decided I would finally invite God into the situation (it sounds so dumb, but that’s not my initial reaction with work situations. It is when I want something or if nature is being beautiful but not when I’m working construction. I’m building something. I’m creating. And therefore taking the spot from The Creator).

I’ve been praying for God to hold my tongue and tone. I’ve been praying for this one day meeting to go well for days. Literally days. God is so good. The meeting was fairly typical as far as missed deliverables, schedule that is bogus, change orders I don’t want to pay, and rude comments about women and youth but the difference was my attitude. I was laughing. And that brought more confusion and progress than anything else I’ve done in 8 months.

The Fall brought labor pains and work that involves toil. This is toil. And it is designed to bring me closer to God. He alone can redeem. He is slowly redeeming my relationship with this vendor. It’s probably not going to be great but I can be great at being a Christian sister to them (with God’s help).

My project manager and reporting supervisor were in St.Louis with me which meant our 2 hour delay inside the airport came with chips and spinach dip…

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…and whiskey-sprite 🙂

This massive storms in Kansas City this afternoon mean that I got to meet some interesting people on my southwest flights. On my last flight Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sat across the aisle and a row back.

It was interesting to be stuck on a plane with her for 5 hours. She spoke to almost no one, wasn’t friendly, and was generally put-out by having to be on the plane. It must be hard when you’re used to White House accomodations and spending my tax-dollars.

People’s reactions to delayed flights fascinate me. Some people have hope. Some people are angry. Some people give up. Some people sleep. Last night, I prayed. I prayed that God would bless me with a good attitude. All 137 passengers and 8 crew members were tired and didn’t want to be sitting on the runway for 3 hours but I wanted to be nice to everyone I was coming into contact with. No one asked me if I was a Christian or not. No one really asked me too much. But a more positive attitude made sitting on the tarmac a much less miserable experience.

I have to say, my good attitude quit on me when I walked into the door close to midnight to a hot house with no power and no desire to cook food by flashlight. Thankfully I could find my bed in the dark…

Houston. Icky.

I went to Houston for business last week. I hate Houston. If you don’t know me, I don’t hate very many things. Cole slaw. Coconut flavor. Cancer. and Houston. Houston’s only saving grace is that it’s in the great state of Texas.

I’ve compiled a list of observations from my last trip. 10 items for your enjoyment (note – several items are actually positive but those tend to be transferrable to other cities in Texas as well):

  1. Everyone snorts their snot back into their head which somehow miraculously makes my snot start moving against gravity, although I do not dignify this uncontrollable response with a sound rivaling a pig
  2. I would lose my religion if I had to drive in Houston everyday. When I lived in Houston I didn’t have religion so it wasn’t as big of a deal but this trip I ended up praying for God to lower my blood pressure and keep my mouth closed.
  3. The best people watching is at a local Mexican restaurant in Houston on a Thursday night. I’ve never been around so many cougars in all my life.
  4. There’s a sense of hurry up that I don’t like. Nothing can get done fast enough. No one can get to their destination fast enough (see #2). No one can get married fast enough (see #3). Life is quick and short. No need to encourage it.
  5. There’s a vastness and order of magnitude in being able to drive 65 miles and be in the same city. The projects I’m working on there are huge too. The port of Houston is ginormous. The fractionation facilities are the largest in the world and we’re still building. And God is so much bigger than this!
  6. I love working in Starbucks and watching every single person who walks in the door for three hours is wearing cowboy boots.
  7. There are more Texas flags flying than American ones. I’m Texan so this is acceptable to me. The pride people have for being from there is un paralleled elsewhere in the world. I like being a member of the USA but if anyone was going break away and start a country from scratch it would be Texas
  8. The sunsets, sunrises, clouds, and general sky is incredible. Every time I looked up I was immediately reminded of God’s creativity and appreciation for all things beautiful.
  9. Breakfast tacos are the greatest food invention. Period. I should open a food truck in KC and sell them. Life is good when your morning starts with breakfast and when that breakfast is a breakfast taco.
  10. The second greatest invention is flank steak and Houston has hundreds of places to get amazing flank steak. Seriously KC, you need to start taking lessons.

Baton Rouge

I get to go visit the subcontractor I’m managing for work once a month in Baton Rouge Louisiana to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing and to facilitate a meeting with upper managements (theirs and ours). Last week was such a trip.

If you’ve ever traveled with me then you know that it goes according to plan about 2% of the time. If I don’t get stopped for extra screening or a free bag content –rearrangement, then my flight is either delayed, cancelled, or re-routed. Add the overly large and/or smelling person that sits next to me and you should think twice before volunteering to travel with me.

My co-worker Greg has no such option of traveling without me for these monthly meetings. He’s a good sport about it but he also doesn’t stand next to me in the security lines. Our last trip to Baton Rouge was no exception.

I got through security in Kansas City with a pat down the sides of my ribs (by an overly friendly and eager female TSA agent. Sometimes I wish I could ask for a man to do it because they would be a little more careful about where they were placing their hands). Our flight was on time – we flew thru Dallas – so I figured my extra security was going to count for the required inconvenience and we were going to be good the rest of the trip…wrong!

We landed in New Orleans (Greg likes to fly Southwest (I do too for that matter – at least they act like they like their jobs more often that not) so we flew to NOLA  instead of Baton Rouge). We got in our rental car from Avis – rockin’ the mini van – and started for Baton Rouge.

About 40 minutes into the hour drive, both our phones and emails start ringing. It’s people from the Kansas City office, it’s people from the subcontractor’s main office, it’s people from the subcontractor’s module yard, it’s people on their cell phones. When we finally started answering, we were informed that Interstate 10 going east into Baton Rouge (directly on our route) was closed due to an accident and our subcontractor was trying to reach us to give us alternate directions to their module yard.

We followed their directions and made it to the module fabrication yard with minimal extra effort. Again,  I figured this would be the end of our travel hiccups.

The construction manager gave us a small tour of the construction trailer (approximately 200 sq ft with 8 people’s desks in it – fairly standard issue) before we all drove over to the subcontractor’s main office via the back roads of Louisiana.

Wednesday afternoon was spent discussing the first change order amount and process as well as going over the schedule with the estimators, project controller and construction manager for the subcontractor. They were very productive meetings and I felt significantly better after the meetings.

At 4:45pm we decided to brave the traffic to make it to our hotel which was 0.75 miles from the subcontractor’s main office. Unfortunately, the accident on I10 required the assistance of a firefighting crew who had stretched a thick fire hose across the road so we had to drive around to the next exit, go under the overpass, and come back around to the hotel. It was going to be a 2.5 mile trip which ended up taking us 1.5 hours!

Greg and I have a restaurant we go to every time we’re in Baton Rouge for dinner. It’s called Parrain’s and it’s off of Perkin’s Road which is very close to the hotels we typically stay in. I order the same thing – ponchatrain fresh fish. It’s delicious! This trip was no exception. At 7:30pm  we decided to brave the 1.5 miles to our restaurant.

Getting there was no problem. The food was delicious and we must have provided an excellent source of entertainment since both of us were falling asleep sitting across the booth from each other. At 9pm we headed back towards “home.”

About half a mile before the hotel there was a road block. While we were at dinner, the Baton Rouge Police Department had moved the barricade from between our hotel and the interstate to between our restaurant and the hotel. Greg pulled the van up to one of the officers and I rolled down my window to talk to him.

He was a big, well-built motorcycle cop standing with his arms crossed. I told him were in town on business and were staying at the Drury Inn and asked if we could go thru the barricade. He told me “no, that they were evacuating the area and no one could drive over there.” I told him “with all due respect, what are we supposed to do? All of our stuff is in the hotel since we are traveling on business. When we left for dinner it was fine to be in the hotel.” He replied that “it was his problem but we were not driving down there and foot traffic was going to be highly discouraged.” His sucks-to-be-you attitude was rather irritating but Greg pulled the car away from him.

I told Greg to park in the medical center parking garage at the other corner of the intersection we were in and stated that they were going to have to legally define “high discouraged” for me because I wanted my belongings if we were going to have to stay at another hotel.

We started walking towards our hotel and were stopped four different times by different BRPD asking us what we were doing and where we were going and telling us we weren’t supposed to be in the area. No one volunteered to help us and no one really seemed that concerned about the evacuation – just that they were supposed to be making us do it.

There were no less than 15 police officers in the hotel lobby yaking on their phones in the lobby. They were definitely irritated at our presence but we went up in the elevator to get our stuff. I made it downstairs before Greg did so I asked if there was anyone from the hotel staff to give me a refund since we couldn’t stay there. An officer informed me that everyone had left because of the evacuation. I told him that I wasn’t leaving until I got a refund. Miraculously a hotel staff person appeared and gave both Greg and I our money back. We then hiked it back to the car.

There were 60-ish BRPD Officers that watched us or were standing close to us on this 1 mile round trip walking adventure. You would have thought that if it was important for us to be out of the area immediately that they would have volunteered to escort us in their squad car to the hotel, up to the room, and back to our car but they weren’t really concerned with much more than their conversations. I am glad I don’t live in Baton Rouge regularly.

Greg and I ended up driving to a Double Tree by Hilton Hotel. I walked in and asked if they had two non-smoking rooms for the night. The desk guy was super friendly and nice and asked me what size beds we wanted. I said king would be great but we would take anything non-smoking since we had been kicked out of our previous hotel. He said he figured they were going to get some guests coming in because of the evacuation and asked if we had flown through Baton Rouge that morning. We told him no that we had flown through New Orleans and drove. He told us we were lucky because the Baton Rouge airport had been shut down that morning. Someone didn’t make it on their flight so they ran onto the tarmac and lock himself if the cockpit of another airplane. The FBI had swarmed the place.

The rooms we got were king suites and one of the nicest rooms I’ve ever been in! It was so nice to be able to have a fantastic place to lay down at 11pm after such a long day! He definitely did a great job since Greg and I are going to start staying at the Double Tree for our future trips.

We spent Thursday morning answering questions and RFIs, meeting everyone on the site, taking the official yard tour, inspecting some damaged material and coming up with our game plan for the big meeting that afternoon at 1pm with upper managements.

Our overall project construction manager and our project manager showed up in time for lunch at ACME Oyster House. My seafood etoufee with fried tails were amazing!! It’s great for me to have the opportunity to talk with my upper management. It’s hard to get five solid minutes of their time in the office with all the work demands they have but they ultimately make the decisions about my pay raises and bonuses.

The main event was at 1pm and it went amazingly well. We have a couple things to do differently for the next one but those are mostly formatting and agenda changes, not content changes. After a driving tour of the module site, they were driving back to Houston.

Our subcontractor took Greg and I out to dinner Thursday night. It was very nice to have jack-and-diets and a five course meal on someone else’s tab. J It’s also fun to get to know these guys on a personal level, outside of the office. They fish, have season football tickets to almost every team in the SEC, have wives and kids, lake homes, and run marathons.

Thankfully, Friday went  more smoothly travel-wise. The drive to New Orleans was quick and easy, flight was only delayed 30 minutes, I was only patted down on the collar of my tank top, and we made our connection in Chicago – barely. Greg and I ended up running almost 2 miles thru Chicago OHare to change plane but we made it! This was especially important since my friend Courtney from Austin landed in Kansas City 5 hours before I was scheduled to.

Bliss

What is your definition of bliss?

Mines is lounging in a folding chair on a back porch, watching the sun set low and slow through the branches and leaves on the trees in front of me, daintily turning the green leaves to black shapes burning yellow and orange on their edges. I’m drinking a glass of cold, crisp wine in borrowed, but never to be returned, wine glasses, thick and heavy glass with smooth edges, the coming together of masculine and feminine in my hand. The food is cheap and easy but good and satisfying. Hummingbirds make  their appearance as entertainers – dancing, bowing, squeeking and departing. The company is welcomed, genuine, and interesting, traveling through the vast abiss that is the human condition and how to make positive impacts in the lives of others. Once the sun exits and the moon starts its watch, the converstaion ebbs and flows but doesn’t depart the porch. Suddenly it’s late and the depths of horizontal comfort beckon and I depart for my apartment.

It was an amazing night spent in curious innocence. It was an amazing night spent discussing religion and politics and all things forbidden.

Easter Egg Hunting

I was paged out a meeting I was running Tuesday morning and told/asked by my boss to fly to Decatur Alabama to find some missing pieces of equipment. Within three hours I had finished up my meeting, eaten lunch, dropped some costume stuff off back at work, and was sitting at a delta airlines gate in the Kansas City Airport!

After changing planes in Atlanta, I made it to Decatur around 8pm last night. I went to Simp McGhee’s Restaurant for dinner. The Shiner Bock beer and the fact that they had the Olympics on the TV were about the only positive things about it. I had gumbo and fish tacos but it wasn’t stellar.

Breakfast Wednesday morning was at Cracker Barrell which was fantastic! Eggs over medium and an order of biscuits.

I made it to our subcontractor’s module fabrication yard at 8am and met with the VP of Operations. They lost instruments and valves associated with a project in Kansas and I was there to find them. They fired their material shipping and receiving manager over the incident and the new one had already located pretty much everything.

I spent the whole day managing paperwork and standing over someone else filling out paperwork to ship instruments and valves back to Kansas. Thankfully everything fit on the uhaul truck and were delivered to the jobsite the next day in Bushton.

I went to dinner at The Brick which was a pretty cool bar scene. They had a bunch of beer on tap and I had a Sweetwater Red Ale and a burger. I went back to the hotel and worked for several more hours on answering email. I caught a 5am flight back to Kansas city (via Atlanta) and went into work on Thursday. It was a very long week but it was worth it when my boss thanked me for going. I’m working really hard for a bonus at the end of the year because my bank account is hurting…I guess we’ll see…