Love Springs Eternal

I had the great fortune to attend a wedding this past weekend that gave me a huge warm fuzzy.

The Bride and Groom have both loved and lost, raised families and adore their grandchildren. You could say that they are seasoned veterans of life. Just seeing two people find each other is fantastic; seeing two people combine their families and friends so well is truly heartwarming.

They were both escorted down the aisle by their adult children. The Bride's ex-husband kept their youngest granddaughter occupied during the ceremony. Their grandkids played together before the ceremony and whooped it up on the dance floor together at the reception. This is what a family should be like.

(Side note - the youngest granddaughter has a future as a pop star or President of the USA. She danced on the stage with the band and refused to yield it until sheer exhaustion kicked in. That kid is going places.)

In addition to the families, there were many friends there. I got excused from table decorating (and stayed drinking with the boys, natch) but helped with the day after brunch. Other friends assembled decorations, prepped food, set up tables and chairs and basically did what they could to contribute to the event. You could tell everyone was very happy to be part of celebrating the occasion.

Weddings are always (well, almost, I've had my doubts at a few) joyous events. The love and hope for a lifetime together in partnership and love chokes me up every time. No matter the age of the participants, the feelings are the same.

Geez, I'm getting sentimental which is not my nature. (Really, I've been tested.)

Here are some pics from the wedding and the brunch.

Cool gift idea!

Different take on a sign in book.

Gorgeous table decorations
(prettier because I wasn't involved, I'm sure).

TKay is always the craftiest. Plasticware wrapped in napkins and tied to real shells.

Mason jar with Mimosa - awesomesauce!

17 Years!

Yesterday marked 17 years at my current job. That number is near to being a lifetime for new employees.

Sigh. I may be feeling old because of that. (And, by may, I mean I am.)

Those 17 years have been filled with lots of ups and a few downs. I look back to when I started and it's amazing to see the changes in the company since then. Technology, business processes, globalization, increased employees, payroll processing,'s been quite a ride.

I remember when telecommuting was not an option and now it's a standard. One of my first benefits meetings, I heard that birth control wasn't covered but Viagra was. Well, that's certainly changed with the times. We've since acquired operations in Canada, Japan, Denmark and Germany and that's not the end of it; there's more to come.

There are times when I wish we were still the same, small company I started with. My first week, some guy showed up at my cube to welcome me. It was our CEO, Curt, and I'm sure he did that with many new hires. Now, he's traveling across the globe so much that it's a pleasant surprise to see him in the office.

I also used to know pretty much everyone. With telecommuting and being spread across several buildings and countries, I'm lucky to recognize someone's name. Even luckier when I can pronounce them properly.

But, with change came great opportunities. I travelled to Canada 12 times in two years on a long integration project. Because of that, I got to make great friends in our office there and also with the Calgary Parrot Head Club. I've been lucky enough to go to Europe for our Germany projects and have seen many parts of that country in addition to visiting Amsterdam and London.

That travel is not ending either. They're still threatening to send me to Japan but I'm resisting because 1) I will be a massive giant there and 2) I hate sushi and 3) I get lost when signs are in English so I'm doomed if they're not. I really mean that I won't make it back home. Seriously.

I confess, there have been times over the years when I've thought about leaving. But, just when I was about to actively get out there and search, something changed to make it really interesting again and I reengaged.

Another confession, there's another reason I haven't left and it came back to me recently.

One of my colleagues and I were the featured speakers at one of our Sales department's meetings. They've started a Tonight Show format and are inviting people from the company to be guests. Of course, I accepted immediately because...chance to be in the spotlight!

There were some standard questions (How did you get here?, What do you think is your greatest accomplishment at the company?, etc.) then they opened it up to the audience for more questions.

One person asked, "What are you most afraid of?"

That was an immediate answer to me. Failure. I told them it was so much so that I have chosen not to try things in my life because I didn't think I would be successful. I wish I could be fearless but it's just not my nature.

I was at my previous job a few weeks short of 13 years. I remember my first week at this job and I thought I was coming down with something. My stomach hurt and I had a headache and it was only that it would look bad to go home when I had just started that kept me in there.

Looking back, it was easy to identify what was affecting me. Anxiety. I had gone from a job where I knew everything inside and out to one where I knew nothing (at least it felt that way). Of course, I was anxious but I hadn't felt that emotion in so long that I didn't recognize it.

So, those times when I thought about leaving, fear was my overriding decision not to because I had learned most everything inside and out again.

Having said that, that's not what stops me from thinking about leaving now. I really love my job, my colleagues and am proud of the mission of our company.

Even though, just when I get comfortable, something upsets my apple cart like a new acquisition or a major system change and I still feel anxious. I've learned to work through it and appreciate the challenge. But, I don't appreciate the people who don't also appreciate the challenge and drag their heels. They're the worst ;)

So, a longwinded story with a moral. Find a place you love and embrace the change it forces upon you. In the long run, it's all worth it.

Making Art At Work

We recently remodeled our lobby (among other spaces) in one of our buildings but there's still one unfinished wall by the front door. It's waiting for us to complete our corporate art project.

"I feel so nekkid!"
It's quite the job, too. One of our VPs used to be an art teacher and she's really into pottery and ceramics with a kiln at her house. Our CEO is a cactus freak. Really. He even discovered a previously uncatalogued cactus one time and got to name it.

So, the project combines both of their interests. We're making ceramic tiles to put on the wall and we're using cacti shapes for the molds.

Taking over a conference room for art class.
Everyone in the company has been invited to attend one of the tile making sessions. We need over 400 tiles in all so it's a lot of work.

Cutting the tiles from the big blocks of clay.
A few experts cut the tiles into the right size height, width and depth. Then, the rest of us got to go to work.
Made with one of the deeper molds.
Working with the molds.
We used molds made from actual cacti. In fact, a few of the molds still had cactus needles in them so we had to be careful. For the deep molds, we pushed the clay in then molded additional clay in to fill in the resulting depression.

Pressing in an actual plant.
We also had some nature shapes to push in or roll on to the clay. You could make lots of variations but you couldn't put your initials on anything or use anything other than the tools given. Quality control, I guess. I think a tiny "Princess" wouldn't have hurt anything. ;)

Close up of a completed tile.
More completed tiles.
The day I worked on them was one those "could it be any MORE stressful?" days. I decided the world would not end if I took twenty minutes to get my hands dirty and hang out with some of my colleagues. In that time, I made three tiles, did get my hands pretty dirty and dropped my stress level back to normal. I also got to say hey to some folks I don't see very often.

I wish we had arts and crafts every day!

I don't envy our Facilities Staff who has to make sure they all stay on the wall. They're fairly heavy.

It's going to look quite (hopefully not literally) smashing when it's done, though!

Parrot Head Spirit Exemplified

When you tell someone you're a Parrot Head, you get several different responses:

1.  "Oh, what type of bird do you have?"
2.  Blank stare.
3.  "You're the group that drinks a lot to Jimmy Buffett music, right?"

Very rarely do you get the more accurate response:

4.  "I know of you, you guys do a lot of charity work while you're partying!"

I've been a Buffett fan for years. What made me join, and keeps me going, with the Parrot Head organization is the sincere and dedicated effort our members make towards making the world a better place. It's really what's at the heart of Parrot Head club members.

My friend, Sam Rainwater, truly exemplifies the Parrot Head spirit. A Rocket Scientist by day, Sam decided a few years ago to go back to his love of music. He started with the ukulele, learned songs, got on every stage he could, grilled other artists for pointers, started writing his own music and now has three albums of his own published. 

All of that is pretty amazing.

What's even more amazing is that Sam donates all the money from his gigs, CD and SWAG sales to charity! Yep, 100% of the revenue.

Well, 100% plus, to be more accurate. Sam's business partners have been matching his donations and, to date, have donated over $114,000.

Yes, $114,000 USD!

Sam presenting a check for $15,091 to my Parrot Grande Co-Chair Barb Young and me at Parrot Grande.
Sam and his lovely wife Elizabeth recently completed a road trip tour through out the flyover states. They got back in town for the Arizona Parrot Head Club's Parrot Grande weekend event last month and had a lovely surprise for us. A check from his tour for $15,091 to be divided up among three worthy charities:  Packages From Home, USO Arizona and DAV. In addition to being a Rocket Scientist and Trop Rock Musician, Sam is a Vietnam Vet so these are charities near and dear to his large heart.

Sam is one the many people I know from the Parrot Heads who give back to their communities. Not everyone can afford to do it with money so they give their time. Many give both. In 2014, all of the clubs within the Parrot Heads in Paradise organization helped to raise $3.3 million and donated 372,000 volunteer hours.

I'm proud to be associated with my friend Sam, proud to be part of this great organization that has given me the opportunity to do good deeds, have fun and make so many wonderful friends.

Yeah, we may be a bunch of drinkers but we're dedicated to the purpose of giving back to our world. I think we totally rock!

Bucket List - Stonehenge

Or, as those of us in the know like to call it, the Stones.

I learned that from our tour guide and our bus driver. When in Rome and all, right, pip, pip and cheerio!

So cool!
I've been fascinated by Stonehenge for years. I used to buy into the theory that the Druids built it because, well, Druids seem really cool. But, then I learned that they predate the Druids by 2,000 years or so.

Loves me the Bernard Cornwell!
There are different theories as to how the stones were assembled and how they got to this site since they're not native to the area. It will probably remain a mystery but I like the story that Bernard Cornwell wrote and the book just happened to be in the gift shop.

Per my usual, I listened to the audio tour while I walked around the Stones. You're no longer allowed to get up close without advance permission because the ground has eroded around them so I circled from a distance and listened.

Some interesting things I learned:

  • The nearby British Army training base used to use the stones for target practice and even requested at one time to have them torn down because they were worried about them hindering plane landings.
  • The so-called Blood Stone (a flat stone not high off the ground) was rumored to be used for Druidic sacrifices (which they didn't do) but the red color of the stone is just a quality of that type of rock. The rumor did make for a good story.
  • They spent 25 million British pounds on the new visitor center. It's pretty amazing. I guess they figured out what a money maker it is.
  • The Stones are surrounded by pastures with sheep. Smelly sheep. 
It's quite a jaunt away from London to get there but I would go back again if I could. I would love to have more time to just lounge in the grass, soak up the atmosphere and ponder all that came before me to that same spot. 

Poorly done selfie to prove I was really there. 
There have been few places in the world where I've felt what I can only describe as a mystical vibe. Sedona, AZ is one of those places. So, is Stonehenge. And, so is Wrigley Field for that matter so I got that going for me.

My Love/Hate Relationship - Fantasy Football

I just got home from my second FFL draft. Thankfully, I only do two leagues because anymore would make my head explode from keeping track of the permutations.

I felt pretty good about my club team. Not so much about my work team. For those who are interested in it all, here's whom I have.

Parrot Head League:

QB1 Andrew Luck (my first round pick - I drafted 10 out of 12 and passing TDs only score 4)
QB2 Alex Smith
RB1 Andre Ellington
RB2 Joseph Randle
RB3 Shane Vereen
RB4 Devonta Freeman
RB5 David Cobb
WR1 Emmanuel Sanders
WR2 Golden Tate
WR3 Anquan Boldin
WR4 Eric Decker
WR5 Steve Smith, Sr
TE1 Rob Gronkowski
D/ST Packers
K1 Dan Bailey

SmartBall League:

QB1 Matt Ryan
QB2 Eli Manning
RB1 Matt Forte (my first round pick - I drafted 8 out of 10)
RB2 Lamar Miller
RB3 Andre Ellington
RB4 Devonta Freeman
RB5 Shane Vereen
RB6 DeAngelo Williams
WR1 Dez Bryant
WR2 Emmanuel Sanders
WR3Amari Cooper
WR4 Brandon Marshall
WR5 Donte Moncrief
WR6 Markus Wheaton
TE1 Jordan Cameron
TE2 Charles Clay
D/ST Seahawks
K1 Matt Bryant

We draft so many players (18) in our work league that you're literally just hitting the Draft button and muttering, "What the hell", by the end.

Without actively trying, I have four of the same players on both teams. That makes it easy on game day to know whom to watch for sure.

It's so fun to draft live which we haven't done in our work league since I've been in it. The trash talking is awesome. What wasn't so awesome is that the guy next to me kept taking the picks I had in the queue. I do not believe it was a coincidence at all, Tyler!

When I got home, I had an email from where we do the work league. Perhaps I shouldn't feel so inadequate about my picks because they're projecting me to go 12-1 and win the league.

From their calculations to the football gods' ears!

Bucket List - Crown Jewels

I loves me the jewelry. The more bling, the better. So, I was very excited to visit The Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels.

There are actually 21 total towers at the Tower of London.
First up on our visit was a lecture by one of the Beefeaters also known as Yeoman Warders. Those are the colorful guards who must have served at least 22 years in the military, reached the rank of Warrant Officer and been awarded a good conduct medal.

Yeah, these guys.
Our Beefeater is not one of the guys pictured above. He basically threatened anyone who took and published his picture. I chose not to mess with him about it. He seemed to be a pretty cranky Welshman. He did give a thorough and entertaining tour and answered many questions from the crowd. It was certainly worth the time.

It was amazing to think that we were standing in a structure built by William the Conqueror and housed too many famous prisoners to list here.

They certainly built things to last.
The last time this roof was rebuilt was about 500 years ago.
History lesson complete, it was off to see the pretty stuff! The line seemed long and we were getting antsy since we were on the tour's schedule. But, it moved pretty quickly. You first go through some historical scenes/information then go by some ancillary items before getting to the crowns.

Here's the rub of it all. No pictures are allowed. They were pretty serious about it, too. I scavenged among the interwebs to find some.

Blurry because it was taken on the down low.
The scepters were HUGE. You'd need some pretty good upper body strength to carry them for any length of time. Unless they were hollow gold then hmmm...

Just a few of the many crowns.
There wasn't an ability to lollygag or plop yourself in front of any of the crowns because those tour people were genius. While you could study the earlier material to your heart's content, the jewel themselves went by at a rapid pace because you were on a moving sidewalk.

Don't blink or you may miss something.
Just as with the scepters, I can't imagine having to support the weight of the crowns for very long. They were all pretty heavy on the gold and jewels. The heaviest that can be worn is about 5 pounds. Think about having a bag of sugar on your head for an extended period of time.

Imperial Crown of India made for George V.
Trust me, the emerald in the middle is ginormous.
I would definitely suggest visiting the Tower on your own schedule so you have plenty of time to roam around. I missed out on seeing the torture stuff, the chapel and hunting down Anne Boleyn's ghost. I bet she had a lot she could have told me.