Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bum Camps and 1 Million Pounds of Trash

Last Saturday was my work's annual Community Service Day and I was in charge of coordinating and organizing it. I chose the non-profit (the San Diego River Park Foundation) and decided to do a river clean-up.

The good news was that we had a good turn-out (staff, alumni and current students, but no faculty--boo to that) and we helped the River Park Foundation clean up its 1 millionth pound of trash.

The bad part was (and which wasn't advertised on their website) that what we were mostly doing was cleaning out bum camps and picking up trash left by homeless people).

See pictures below:

I knew San Diego had a large homeless population because of the temperate climate, but I had never seen whole tent cities like there are back in the woods by the river.
Some of the things volunteers were pulling out of there were crazy. It was a little scary and we had to make sure we buddied up because you could tell people were "home". There were battery-operated radios playing and one guy came out of his tent with his pitbull and told the volunteers to leave.
While I know we helped clean up a lot of trash that would have eventually found its way into the river, I didn't realize it was a homeless clean sweep. It's also sad to think that there's going to be just as much trash back there in 3 months.
But I guess if you're homeless you have bigger fish to fry than worrying about littering.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dog Training, Capes and Divorce Proceedings

Well our little bundle of joy has come with a few bad habits. Namely, chewing things (for some Freudian reason, only stuff of mine including 2 bras, a pair of flip-flops, a pair of Adidas (salvageable), a pair of headphones, a book my boss lent me and a couch cushion (technically shared property).
Although she does seem to have some sort of vendetta against this particular couch cushion, and not the 2 others exactly like it, having successfully attacked it and pulled the stuffing out twice.
I digress, but I wanted to post some ever so cute pictures of her in her new vest (which Leo insists is really a cape). But it's not.
I bought her 2 Halloween costumes, neither of which fit her properly. First was a banana (too cute) and second was a turtle. She didn't care for either of those, but she loves her cape so I guess we're all happy.
So back to the story. I decided (after she ran off twice and was caught playing in traffic) that we needed to get a dog trainer. After much research, I found one and he came over for the first visit last night.
I now understand why divorce proceedings, especially if there are kids involved, can get so nasty.
It went something like this.
Dog Trainer (DT): So what seems to be the problem?
Me: Well, I think we need to set some boundaries with the dog and get on the same page about training her.
Leo: Well, I think she's the most wonderful, beautiful dog in the world and we don't really need this. Besides, she's so little and cute.
DT: Hmmm, interesting (said while taking notes)
Me: The main thing I'm worried about is that she's run off twice and hasn't come back when we've called and then she's run into traffic. She is so small that cars can't see her and I'm afraid she's going to get hit. The other thing I want to fix is her chewing. She's chewed up about $200 of my stuff already.
Leo: She hasn't chewed up anything of mine, so I don't think that's so much of the problem. But I do think we should work on her running away.
DT: I see.
Me: Well, I do think it's a problem and it needs to be solved. It's not funny. I think a main problem is that Leo babies the dog too much because she's so little.
Leo: DT, let me tell you. The truth is that the dog really likes me better and Kristin doesn't like that. She's a little jealous.
Me: (getting madder). That isn't the issue. Can we please work on this? This is serious.
Anyway, it kept going for a little bit and we spent the better part of the (expensive) first session talking like this.
To Leo's credit, he started to take it more seriously when we started leash work outside. He did really well and was really into it, when all of a sudden our neighbor, K decided to saunter past to see what we were up to.
K and Leo had been joking about the dog training all day and I guess he wanted to see what was going on. Two minutes later, Leo gets a phone call and starts giggling and I know it's K. Nice.
Anyway, now K is on my list.
All in all, I think the training was pretty much a success. A lot of it I knew, but I needed that kick in the pants (and in the wallet) to do it. I did learn a few new things though.
Our homework is to work with her on a leash. Basically, anytime she pulls ahead of you, you have to jerk the leash and then turn in the other direction so she starts paying attention to you and realizes she's not the leader.
We also have to practice making her sit and stay while we keep the door open so she doesn't bolt. If she does bolt, we have to throw this bag of pennies, that Leo calls the magic bag, down on the ground to startle her. Like shock aversion therapy I guess.
Wish us luck! Our next session is this Saturday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Must Do Things in San Diego

I've decided to merge my love of travel and love of making lists and create a guide of best/most fun/can't miss things to do in each of the cities I've been to. Seeing as how I live in San Diego, I thought I'd start right here and work my way out.

The first thing anyone coming to San Diego has to see is Balboa Park--it's our version of Central Park. All the buildings are done in the Spanish Colonial Revival style and were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

The carving is amazing and so ornate. There are several museums in the park, including the Natural History Museum (has good traveling exhibits), The Museum of Man (beautiful building but so-so anthropological museum), the Timken Museum of Art (free and has an amazing collection of Russian icons and old European Masters, including many of the famous Flemish and Dutch painters--Rembrandt, Hals, Rubens and Brughel the Elder).

There is also a model Railroad Museum, a Photographic Arts Museum, the San Diego Art Museum, the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center and the world famous San Diego zoo.

Also in Balboa Park are many gardens, including a Japanese Tea Garden. As an English major, the most interesting thing to me is the exact replica of Shakespeare's Old Globe Theater. As a lazy English major, I'm ashamed to say I've yet to see a play here.
Residents of San Diego County and active duty military personnel (along with dependents) get free admission on rotating Tuesdays to several of the museums.
I can't think of a better way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon except to go to Seal Cove in La Jolla. This is a protected cove where a seal colony and their descendants have taken up residence (although some evil people have been lobbying to chase away the seals and turn it into a children's swimming area, as if there aren't enough of those anyway).

La Jolla is very beautiful, although very expensive. You wil have to drive here (it's about 15 miles north of downtown) but so worth it. The downtown area is filled with art galleries, expensive boutiques and fancy restaurants. But it's fun to walk around and see how the other half lives. For me, the seals are the best part. They are so cute and fun to watch (but a little stinky).

After that, you'll want to swing by Pacific Beach, which is a collegey, hard partying neighborhood. It was one of the last beaches in San Diego to ban drinking alcohol on the beach and there was a huge uproar about it.
In fact, one group decided to collect signatures to try to get a measure on the ballot to overturn it and they did get the required number of signatures, but when the county tried to verify them, they found out most of them were fake or were from out of town people (who can't vote in SD).
It turns out the volunteers were going to all the local bars (of which there are many) and asking people there to sign the petition. Which seems like the right target market, but unfortunately drunks who make up fake names and out of towners don't qualify.

This is a view of the Pacific Beach Pier (you can rent these bungalows over the water).

The main drag in Pacific Beach (or PB as the locals call it) is Garnet Avenue. This is lined with bathing suit shops, restaurants, bars, clothing stores and hair/nail salons.

There are so many Brazilians who live in PB that it's sometimes called Brazilian Beach.

There's so much to do in San Diego. More to come!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ok, if anyone knows how I can make this part of the masthead and not just an individual post, please let me know :D

Onward to the Northwestern Frontier!

So it's official! In 3 weeks, we're off to a Navy weekend workshop in Spokane, Wash. The workshop is called the "Returning Warriors" Workshop and it's for people who have recently come back from Iraq or Afhganistan.

Even though Leo returned more than 4 years ago, he's going to be running it for his command, so we have to go check it out. Basically, it's a 2-day workshop where they put you and your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend or whatever up in a 4-star hotel with NO kids allowed.

The military used to be really strict about only allowing spouses before to this stuff, but they've lightened up in the past few years. They've come along way from the days of, "If the military had wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one."

They've realized that family and relationships are important and that a happy soldier who doesn't have to worry about his loved ones, is a more productive soldier and one who is less likely to get himself and others killed.

Anyway, so this workshop has classes like, "Couples Coming Back Together", "Money Matters" and "Why I Want to Go Back". A lot of people don't realize how hard and difficult it is to adjust when your spouse has been gone for 9 months to a year in a combat zone.

It's tough for both people. The whole relationship dynamic can change. For example, if the man had previously done everything around the house and then leaves, the wife has to learn how to pay the bills, how to fix the garbage disposal, how to juggle kids, a dog, chores, a job, etc.

A lot of times, the woman (especially if she wasn't very independent before) resents it when the man comes back and tries to take over. The man is upset because he doesn't recognize this new woman.

This is just one example but I know personally from our separations, it's very hard to get back in the groove. It's like you have a stranger in the house for the first couple of weeks. I've never met anyone who can just jump back in and pick up right where they left off.

A friend of ours has been in the Philippines for 6 months and she's nervous about seeing her husband again. It's just a weird, shy, awful feeling.

There's also a lot of infidelity that happens during deployments (on both sides). Sad but true.

When soldiers come back from Iraq, I know how hard it is for them to adjust. When Leo came back the second time (he was injured and earned the Purple Heart the first time), it was really hard for him to pass under highway overpasses because in Irag, insurgents used to wait for a convoy to pass under them and then set off a bomb.

I remember one time driving in Philly and he almost made me pull off the highway rather than go under a bridge because there was a truck parked on top of the overpass and he had a flashback to Iraq.

He came back in late June and had a very hard time with the 4th of July fireworks that year.

Also, a lot of guys have survivor's guilt (that's why they have that class on helping them understand their feelings about wanting to go back). They have the class on money management because our military is paid so poorly, that a lot of the junior enlisted guys make such little money, they qualify for food stamps.

But anyway, this is a happy post about our upcoming trip.

I've planned it all out. We'll stay in Spokane Friday through Sunday and then drive down to Coer d'Alene, Idaho (about 1 hour away I think) and then on to Missoula, Montana.

Neither of us has been out to this corner of the country, so it will be totally new for us. Any suggestions on things to do would be greatly appreciated!

We are going to do a day trip to Wallace, Idaho which is called, "The Silver Capital of the World" and for some reason, "The Center of the Universe". I'll let you know if I find out why.

While the building to the left may not look like much, it's one of the places I really want to see. It's the Oasis Bordello Museum and it was the last operating brothel in Idaho, finally shutting its doors in 1988.

It was converted into a museum in 1993 and showcases how the working girls of the period lived.

They also have a gift shop on the ground floor. Not too sure about that one.

I also want to see Garnet Ghost Town outside Missoula, Montana. Growing up in Michigan, ghost towns were things you only saw on "Scooby Doo"

If anyone has ever been out this way or has any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Crazy California Drivers

So I know that every state I move to, I say the drivers are bad. I moved to Atlanta, I was like WTF?

I moved to Boston, I was like, these people don't know how to drive.

I moved to Philly, I was like these people have no clue.

I moved to Virginia Beach, I was floored by how bad the driving skills were.

However, California drivers really do take the cake.

It's not that they're all that bad at driving, they are just super rude. For example, you know the courtesy wave that people give to you when you graciously let them in front of you? Doesn't exist here.

It's taken as some sort of birthright that you only exist to let them out in front of you.

You know the slow lane? That's supposed to be used for slower cars?

Here, it's the passing lane.

In other states, when you're trying to merge onto the highway, most drivers who are already on the highway (in aforementioned slow lane) merge over into the next lane in order to give the merging drivers room to get onto the highway.

Not here. They just toodle along, not letting you over. Despite the fact that it's very obvious you are trying to get on the highway.

I truly believe people from Detroit are the only good drivers in this nation. Maybe it's because we've all had cars since we were 13 or something. Who knows?

I've also never seen a state where there is so much crap on the highway as well. I'm talking mattresses, ladders, sofas, clothing and tables right in the middle of a lane.

And people just swerve around it like it's no big deal. Last weekend, there was a huge bumper in the middle lane of I-8.

It's because people drive around carrying their entire household goods and worldly possessions in the back of their pick-up trucks here.

It's ridiculous, but kind of comical.

Although the first time I had to swerve across 2 lanes of traffic to avoid a mattress I wasn't laughing so hard.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Raffle Winner!

So, I have to go to these HR meetings for work. Some are fun, some are not so fun. But this last one I was actually looking forward to going to. Basically, you had to fill out a personality assessment (kind of like Myers-Briggs) and it would tell you how you communicate and the best way to communicate with others.

Have you ever felt like you just can't communicate with someone at your job? Or you are at a meeting and people are just talking about the same thing over and over and never seem to come to a decision---and this either drives you nuts or you're cool with it?

This "psychological inventory" is called DISC for the 4 main personality styles it breaks people down into: Dominant; Interactive; Steady; Compliant.

Here are the criterion--I think most people can peg themselves or a coworker pretty quickly without going through this training.

High Dominant Style
Pace Fast/decisive
Priority Goal
Seeks Productivity/control
Strengths Administration/Leadership/Pioneering
Growth Areas Impatient/Insensitive to others/poor listener
Fears Being taken advantage of
Irritations Inefficiency/Indecision
Under Stress My Become Critical/dictatorial
Gains Security by Control/leadership
Personal Worth Measured By Impact/results/track record and progress
Workplace Efficient/busy/structured

High Interactive Style

Pace Fast/spontaneous

Priority People

Seeks Participation/Applause

Strengths Persuading/Motivating/Entertaining

Growth Areas Inattentive to detail/short attention span/low follow-through

Fears Loss of social recognition

Irritations Routines/complexity

Under Stress May Become Sarcastic/superficial

Gains Security Through Playfulness/Other's approval

Measures Personal Worth By Acknowledgements/applause/compliments

Workplace Interacting/Busy/Personal

High Steady Style

Pace Slower/relaxed

Priority Relationship

Seeks Acceptance

Strengths Listening/teamwork/follow-through

Growth Areas Oversensitive/slow to begin action/lacks global perspective

Fears Sudden changes/instability

Irritations Insensitivity/impatience

Under Stress May Become Submissive/indecisive

Gains Security Through Friendship.cooperation

Measures Personal Worth By Compatibility with others/depth of contribution

Workplace Friendly/functional/personal

High Compliant Style

Pace Slower/systematic

Priority Task

Seeks Accuracy/precision

Strengths Planning/systematizing/orchestration

Growth Areas Perfectionists/critical/unresponsive

Fears Personal criticism of their work efforts

Irritations Disorganization/impropriety

Under Stress May Become Withdrawn/headstrong

Gains Security Through Preparation/Thoroughness

Measures Personal Worth By Precision/accuracy/quality of results

Workplace Formal/functional/structured

So that's a very rudimentary graph of the process. You can read more here.

So I scored a very high Dominant style, which in some ways is not so great. For example, I don't want to be impatient or critical but, let's face it, at times I really can be.

It's not a very common style, but my coworker (who is very good at reading people) saw my results and was like that's so you.

During the workshop, out of the whole group of 18, there were only 3 Dominant styles (that may be because it's all women who work in HR, but who knows?). The biggest group was Steady with 9 women.

What's very weird though, is that all 3 of us had sat right next to each other (without knowing it) and we're all left-handed! I think that's a very strange coincidence. Out of a room of 15, we all sit in a row and we all use the same hand to write.

Anyway, at the end of the workshop the facilitator did a raffle and I won!

A free 2-day workshop learning how to administer these DISC assessments. It's a $2,000 prize. I've never won anything that big in my life.

I wish it had been a free vacation, gas cards, stock options, massage therapy.....but having talked to several people in HR, they say it's a huge benefit and a great thing to be able to put on your resume. Not that I want to work in HR, but in this economy, any extra skills or certifications are always welcome.

The hubs still thinks it's a pyramid scheme though. Wait until I administer the test on him. Then we'll see who's laughing....