Saying Thank You

The ground moved in Philadelphia today, not because I did something monumental, but because the actual ground moved, something I have not experienced previously. My boss is from San Diego and so I've quizzed him on the earthquake phenomena on more than one occasion. I have my comfort zone; it includes blizzards, tornado warnings, mosquitoes; it does not include poisonous snakes and insects, nor spontaneous fluctuations of the terra supposed firma.

That being said, it was small (5.9) and I quite enjoyed it. The floor started shaking, as though we were up in the Sears Tower on a windy day; except that we were on the 14th floor. It brought a little excitement to the afternoon, which previously had relied on our new CityView candy display for entertainment. Jende did accuse me of causing the earthquake, and I think I'll hesitate the next time I feel like calling out anything biblical.

Let's all take a moment and say thanks. And if we feel so inclined, I know a really good organization that helps people after real earthquakes (aforementioned boss is the USA Chairman).

Speaking of thanks, I've been scratching around for a good "thank you" quote, but I just keep coming up empty-handed. I've never been terribly good at sending thank you cards—okay, let's be honest; I am terrible with sending thank you cards, but it's something I'm working on. Mom did her best to teach me that it was the right thing to do, but unless she bolted me to the chair, I always refused write one.

Now, of course, a thank you card is an excuse for a craft project. I'm not too big into basic papercraft (read: I hate scrapbooking), but I just can't let these opportunities pass me by. I have a reputation to uphold, and it does not include pre-made thank you cards.

So, if you've got a good "thanks for the encouragement" quote, I'd be ever so grateful if you could pass it along.

New Projects: Writing, Teaching, and Disapproving Mothers

New projects, indeed! In case you didn't see it, I had a post up on The Accidental Creative blog this week:

Becoming an Accidental Creative

This is setting up a series of posts (series! as in more than one!), reflections on applying the principles laid out in Todd's book, but from the perspective of an "almost professional," rather than a full-time professional creative. In case you've managed to miss all my jabber about the book, here's a little background on the adventure.

I feel a bit like a kid sitting at the grown-ups' table—but I've always done well in that arena. I've met so many lovely people through this community. I'm particularly excited about the accountability group that a few of us have started. It's going to be so helpful to have a group of creative people I can turn to for motivation.

I had the opportunity to meet another exciting group of people this week. Skillshare Philadelphia launched on Tuesday! The premise behind Skillshare is fantastic; it is founded on the belief that we all have a talent we can easily share with other people, if we could only find a way to connect. The Skillshare site is a connections board; you design a 90 minute class and post it (usually for about $10-$20 per attendee).

The kickoff party was Tuesday, and then I went to a free "teaching a Skillshare class" on Thursday. The class began with an introductions round, and what struck me was how every single person in the room had both a day job and a side passion that was unrelated to the day job. I heard a lot of creative frustration in the room. I understand the feeling. I hope that teaching—and taking—some classes can help relieve that frustration for people. Frankly, I was as excited as a little puppy, all wriggling with excitement over the chance to both take and teach classes.

I'm taking an intro to Settlers of Catan class in a couple of weeks. Yeah, I know I don't need to pay $10 to learn to play a board game, but it comes with pizza, beer, and the chance to make a few new friends. I've told you I need to get out of the house more. I'm very excited!

I've been using that phrase too much lately, "I'm very excited," but it's true. I've got a lot of irons in the fire and it feels really good. Andrew has as well, between the rock climbing, biking, band, and his UAV project; so much so that we were getting to where we rarely saw each other. We made a conscious choice to spend a little time together at the Brandywine River Museum this afternoon, and it was lovely.

The museum is in Chadds Ford, PA, home to the Wyeth family. The majority of the museum's displays were works from the three generations of Wyeth painters, and many of the landscapes were of the Brandywine River valley, in Delaware and Chester counties (we live in Delaware county). There's something special about seeing the landscape I'm currently in as it was one, two, and even three hundred years ago.

I most enjoyed reading the back stories that went with the paintings. Because of the museum's close connection with the Wyeth family, the explanatory cards had much more detail about many of the paintings—stories about pigs eating paints, why varnish was applied in one part of the painting but not another, a melancholy story about the winter a friend died.

There were painting by other artists, and the one that captured my imagination most was a portrait of Martha Hartford Hare, a wealthy English woman, done in 1775 by Benjamin West. I didn't particularly like the painting, in fact I decidedly did not like it, due to the dour expression on the woman's face. Until I read the card—and then I loved it! It seems Martha, not pleased about her son's decision to marry an American woman and live with the new wife in the colonies, commissioned the painting of herself, decked out in a black mourning veil, clutching her son's letter, and looking most disapproving.

Hah! Imagine getting, not an angry letter from your mother, but an enormous portrait of her glaring you! Thanks, Mom. I'll be sure to rush right home. Thankfully I haven't made any commissionable offenses against my mom, although Tom did recommend this evening that I "move home now and avoid the rush." Should I start checking the mail for artwork, Tom?

Baseball and Old Bay

I love when our Minnesota friends come to town! Early in May we had the fun of being Stop #7 on Stepnick and Beyer's 2011 Field Trip of Dreams. They went to 10 ballparks in 9 days! I enjoy any excuse to go to Citizens Bank Park, the Philadelphia Phillies ballpark. Seeing as how the Metrodome is my ballpark baseline (the basest of baselines), Citizens Bank is always a thrill. The sight lines are excellent and the food fantastic. I would expect nothing less than awesome food from Philly.

The line for Chickie's & Pete's crab fries

One of the things I've grown to love out here is the liberal use of Old Bay seasoning. Chickie's & Pete's crab fries are hot french fries covered in Old Bay seasoning (crab seasoning) and accompanied by a light yellow cheese sauce. That's another interesting thing about the East Coast - cheddar is more likely to be white than yellow. We've got a box of Old Bay in the cupboard and use it pretty liberally. I recommend sprinkling it over buttered popcorn. Andrew doesn't like popcorn much, but whenever I make Old Bay popcorn, he ends up eating a bunch.

Watching the Phillies

Our view of the field

Rockin' my Phillies hat, my Sennheiser headphones, and a goofy cross-eyed grin

I'm Thankful for Philadelphia

If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.

Today was one of those days. I had a full-on case of the Mondays. There wasn't any one thing that put me in a mood, it was just a compilation of a bunch of little annoyances that dragged me down into a pool of gloominess. My computer decided that Calibri (the default font for Microsoft Office 2007) needed a lot of smoke breaks; hence only five words of a fifty-word email were visible unless I hit forward and switched to plain text. Add to that a mound of filing, an acne flare-up, and feeling hormonal beyond belief, and you've got yourself one grumpy Business Support Manager.

It got so bad that I decided to listen to music. I carry a 30 GB iPod everywhere I go, but fewer than 10 GB are music. I listen to podcasts constantly; stand-up comics interviewing other stand-up comics, overly explanatory BBC audio documentaries, and audiobooks in the public domain. My brain was wired at a young age, through constant exposure to NPR and WCCO, to appreciate the chatter of people talking to people. I've never been a big music listener and my tastes are pretty conventional, breaking out the music only when I need to exercise or when I don't want to think my own thoughts any more. Turn the music up, turn my thoughts over to the band for a while.

I'm convinced that everybody has an album - their album, the one that never gets old no matter how many times it gets played. The desert island pick. In an effort to drain the pool of gloominess, I broke out my desert island album and immediately felt the change. Perhaps it's because I listen to this album every time I work out or perhaps it's just a great album; my breathing changes, my muscles relax. I feel good.

Halfway through the album (I always listen in track order), I stepped outside for a short walk to the office supply store. One Liberty Place is directly across the street, a beautiful glass skyscraper and symbol of the city. I looked up at it, something I don't do often enough, and noticed that it was set off by a crisp blue sky with perfect white clouds. No rain, little wind. There, on the sidewalk, at 3:30 p.m. on a gloomy Monday, Philly and I had a moment together. God was in his heaven and I was in Philly on my way to purchase certificate holders for our quarterly awards dinner with my favorite music blasting in my ears and everything was a-okay, Microsoft Office be damned.

I spend too much of my time wishing I was back home in Minnesota and not enough time enjoying the city I'm in. Most days I'm perfectly happy with Philadelphia (moving into the new apartment in Media has helped enormously), but on gloomy days like today I find myself thinking "if I was just at home, I'd be happier." Research - specifically the affective forecasting error - tells me I'm probably wrong. My happiness depends not so much on where I am as who I am and how I tend to view the world. I have to say, in spite of my earlier grumpy mood, Philly was looking pretty nice today.

I still have trouble believing that I've been in Philadelphia for four whole years. I never expected my stay to last this long, but overall it has been a very positive experience. My job is the presiding factor in that happiness; I work with a great group of people that put a lot of passion into their work and extend a lot of compassion to each other, and tonight was a great chance to celebrate that. We have these get-togethers quarterly to celebrate our accomplishments and catch up as a company on all the exciting projects in the works. It felt extra-special to hold a potluck instead of our usual happy hour or catered dinner; there's something special about sharing a home-cooked meal and all of my coworkers turned out to be excellent cooks. I brought a good old Minnesota specialty, Tater Tot Hotdish. It's been a long time since I've had a hotdish and it was a pleasure to share it with all my Philly friends.