Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Land of Rain???

I think it's kind of funny that the two trips I've taken to Portland have been filled with blue skies, white puffy clouds, and sunshine. My first visit was in August 2004, and my friend Anna, who lives there, informed me that July and August are the "dry months". "It really does rain a lot here," she insisted. When I told her I was visiting in February, she replied that I'd actually get to see Portland at its wettest. On my last evening in Portland, Anna and I went out to dinner, and she tried hard to convince me that all the stories we hear about how much rain Portland gets isn't just an attempt to keep people from moving there. I'm not buying it.

Wonderful weather was only one part of the wonderfulness that was my business trip. At one point I considered a minute-by-minute telling of my time there, but decided that you'd probably be more than a little bored after the first half-hour and it would take as much, if not more, time to write it as to experience it. Instead, I opted for one of my favorite writing devices - highlights. So, here they are, the highlights of my business trip to Portland: (in no particular order)

1. Hotel room to myself. I stayed at the Marriott Downtown Hotel and it was pretty fab-u-lous. It still had the essence of the typical hotel room but with enough tweaks to make it seem almost like a bedroom. Almost. I had two beds, one in which to sleep, the other on which to pile the goodies I acquired throughout my stay. The bed was deliciously comfortable and the pillows were divine. I only needed one pillow! Yes, they were that fab.

2. Rubbing elbows with movers and shakers. I sat next to and conversed with CEOs of huge companies, an Air Force general, scientists who pioneered the hearing conservation movement, and other highly influential people. For example, on the bus to the Friday night event (dinner and a show at the planitarium), I sat next to a very nice woman in her early 60's. We chatted, and she noticed the ribbons on my name tag that indicated I'm new to the association and the conference. She asked how I got involved in hearing conservation, and I told her how I kind of fell into it. We discussed what we find interesting in Audiology and hearing loss prevention, and she encouraged me to become more involved in the association. The next day, at the awards luncheon, she was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award - only the second given in the last 20 or so years. The presenter mentioned all her accomplishments and how many of the things we do now in hearing conservation are due to her doctoral dissertation. Her husband and brother-in-law were instrumental in getting the Occupational Health and Safety Act passed; her husband was a speech writer for President Ford. And I had sat next to her on that bus having no clue. Sigh.

3. Networking. Not only did I meet prestigious people, I also met people that will help me grow this business. I met a man who is a higher-up at a hearing protection lab, and he taught me a lot about how to train employees on how to wear the ear plugs. We exchanged business cards, and he offered to help in any way possible. Incidentally, he's LDS and attended BYU. We sat by each other at the planitarium show and he noticed that I live in Utah, so he commented that he had graduated from BYU. I mentioned attending the "U" and that I wouldn't hold his alma mater against him. He laughed, and we ended up chatting for a long time. He also introduced me to other people that are "in the know" about things I need to know. It was awesome to make these contacts and build a network of people that I can turn to for information!

4. Anna. I only get to see my former missionary companion every couple years or so, so it was great to spend time with her and her family. She is married and has two darling little girls. The first night that I hung out with her, Thursday night, we went to her house and had dinner with her kids while her husband was at night classes. We talked and talked and talked and talked. It was great! Saturday night, she and I went out to dinner by ourselves - no kids - and talked some more. Anna gets me. She always has. I don't have to explain myself at all when I'm around her. There is a bond between us that is as strong as it is undefineable. I know we've known each other for an eternity. It was so great being with her again.

5. Time to relax. Okay, I didn't have a lot of time to relax because I kept pretty busy, but when I managed to have time to myself, I could relax completely. I didn't have to worry about cleaning my house, running errands, or doing any of the million things I do at home. I could just relax! I realized during this trip that my life has become off-balanced. I have so much on my plate that I have shoved off some of the things that are essential for my well-being; namely sleep, healthy eating, exercise, and quiet time. I'm not 100% sure how to rearrange my life to refit these important things, but this trip reminded me how essential it is that I do it.

6. Anthony. Someday I'll write a post without mentioning him, but it may be awhile. Sorry! Anyway, it was good to have some time away from him. Hmmm. That doesn't sound right; let me explain. Last Monday night, he came over to my house because we knew we wouldn't see each other for at least a week. We played the dice game my family loves, laughing and talking for hours. It got kind of late, so I started to say goodbye, but he told me we needed to talk. That's never good. Well, it really was in a way. Without going into details (sorry!), let me just say that he blew my mind again. He was really honest about his feelings, about his past, about what he wants for his future, his faith and beliefs, everything! I handled it fairly well while we were talking, and in return for his openess, was quite honest with him about some of my issues. When he left at 2am, he kissed me goodbye, and looked deep into my eyes and said he loves me. At one point during the talk I had questioned this, so it was like he was trying to assure me that he really does love me. After he left, I kind of freaked out. Remember, I'm off-balance and can't cope with things as well as I normally could! I didn't sleep a lot that night, and the next day I asked my boss for a blessing. It had such a calming effect, it's undescribable! Anthony texted me every night I was in Portland to see how my day had gone. We'd "chat" for a couple minutes, then he'd say good night, tell me he loves me and that he was missing me a lot. It always made my heart melt to see the words "I love you" on the screen. The blessing from my boss, Anthony's attentiveness, and a little time to ponder everything was just what I had needed. I came back ready to see what happens next and to have fun with it all.

7. Knowledge. I learned so much at this conference, it isn't even funny. I took so many notes and came up with so many ideas on how to do things better! It's going to take me a few days to process everything I learned and to develop exact strategies for implementing the new ideas. I'm excited to do it! Who would have thought I'd find a field that interests me so much? Who would have thought it would have to do with hearing? Life is funny.

So, those are the highlights. Notice how I didn't say at the start that they'd be short highlights? Can you imagine if I would have given you the minute-to-minute version??? It was a wonderful trip, and I'm already coming up with reasons for my boss to let me go next year!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Business Trip

"Business trip" sounds so grown up! I don't know why I have such a hard time believing I'm an adult considering I'm 30 years old, but I still think of myself as a 20-year old sometimes.

Anyhoo, this weekend I'm off on a business trip to Portland, OR. When I decided to stay at my job, I was put in charge of the industrial hearing test division of the company. Actually, there wasn't a division until I decided to stay, but that's being a bit pedantic. I'm in charge of making the industrial hearing test division of the company - I set up contracts, perform the tests, send out reports, etc. One of my official titles is Occupational Hearing Conservationist (OHC) and as such I decided to become a member of the National Hearing Conservation Association. Well, this week is the annual NHCA convention, and it is being held in Portland, OR. Hence, the business trip!

The last time I went to a convention was last April when I went to the American Academy of Audiology convention with my boss and his wife. They were having some insurance coding and billing classes, and since Insurance Biller is another one of my official titles, my boss decided I should attend. It was a lot of fun; I love staying in hotel rooms by myself, the classes were very educational (I spent more time in classes than my boss!), and I met a lot of interesting people. It's funny because it was during this convention that I found out that Adam liked me and our relationship started. Huh.

This time, I'm going by myself. I'm flying to Portland Wednesday morning and will be picked up by a woman with whom I've been talking about doing hearing tests for the various locations she has around the state. We're going to go out to lunch and will discuss what her expectations are and finalize prices and dates for the testing. With this contract, I'll be doing a lot of traveling! Yeah! I'm hoping to spend some time with my former mission companion Wednesday night, as well as a few other times when I don't have a class or NHCA event. Again, I love staying in hotel rooms by myself, so I'm really looking forward to that. I'm also excited because I'll be alone at the conference. This will enable me to meet a lot more people than if my boss and his wife were there. When they were with me last year, I talked to them most of the time. With them absent, I'll feel free to mingle and introduce myself to as many people as I want! I can't wait! Events like this really bring out the social butterfly in me that lays dormant a lot more than it used to.

The trip is coming at a good time. I'm starting to freak out just a little about how fast things are going with Anthony. He drops little comments about our life together that make me think his feelings are pretty strong, or that he's making some pretty big leaps. Either way, a little freaky. And a little nice. Sigh. Anyway, a little break will be nice; it will give me a little breathing room and a little time to think without him distracting me with his good looks and charm.

Speaking of, because it's my blog and I can bring up topics that aren't related to the post's title, I invited Anthony over to my mom's house this weekend to hang out with my family. My brother and his fiancee were down, so as many of us that were in town got together and played games. I was very impressed with how well Anthony fit in with my family. I know my mom was a little worried about how to communicate with him, but he's so easy-going and patient that it never seemed to be a problem. I was struck with how happy Anthony seems to be; not only does he make me (and others) laugh, but he laughs a lot. I like that. I'm a naturally happy person, so I like that he seems to be, too. I also noticed that Anthony is a bit competetive. I'm not sure if he's as competetive as our family, but he likes to win. So, he fits in with my family that way as well! It was a fun evening and I thoroughly enjoyed having him there. My family seemed to like him; my future sister-in-law said he was "a hoot" and "really good-looking". What else could you ask for? Okay, there's more, but I'm not there yet.

Back to the subject at hand, my trip to Portland, in case you've forgotten, I'll be gone 'til Sunday night. At one point, my flight was getting in around 6:30 pm. That would have been nice; I could have relaxed a little Sunday evening. The flight changed, though, and now I get home around 10:30 pm. This means I'll get home in time to go to bed, wake up, and go to work. Yeehaw! Oh well, I guess that's the price you pay for an all-expenses paid trip to a city you really enjoy!

Friday, February 15, 2008

My Valentine

Even though I'm usually single on Valentine's Day, I have never hated the holiday. It ends up being a day like any other except for the fun graphics on Google and MSN. Maybe a chick flick with friends to make me feel depressed, in a good way. In my thirty years on this earth I've only had a boyfriend for V-Day twice until last night. The first time was in 1995 and it was with my first love, Keith. If I remember correctly, my friend Missy and I made dinner for our boyfriends and we ate it at my house. I think Keith gave me a couple roses and a card. I think. The second time was ten years later when I dated Adam the first time. He had to work on V-Day, so I took him a little present (a book, I think), and we chatted for a little while. A couple days later he took me to dinner. So, all-in-all, my experiences with boyfriends on V-Day have been quite nice.

Last night, Anthony blew me away. Again.

When he came to pick me up for dinner, I opened the door to see him standing there (looking amazing!) with a huge grin, a huge teddy bear, a huge heart-shaped box of chocolates, and a dozen red roses! I couldn't believe it. He later said that the look on my face was totally worth having to save up for a few weeks. He told me he's never had a girlfriend on Valentine's Day and he wanted me to feel special. Say whatever you want about me because of it, but it felt incredible to have someone do that for me. I'm not used to being pampered by guys, I don't need it, but Anthony pampered me last night. It wasn't just the presents; it was him making sure I didn't slip on the ice, dishing up my ice cream for me (we had dinner and watched a movie at his sister and brother-in-law's house), holding my hand during the movie (finally!), looking at me like he couldn't take his eyes off me, not wanting to stop talking to me even though he had to wake up in less than four hours, holding me a little longer and a little tighter at the end of the night, telling me he loves me with a little catch in his voice. I felt like the luckiest woman in the world and couldn't believe that a guy so wonderful likes me so much.

I feel like I'm at the top of the roller coaster again, just about to fall, and the only thing holding me back is fear. I'm afraid to fall again, honestly. And yet, I can feel the strain on the cord holding me back, and it won't be long before it snaps. Heaven help me when it does. Seriously.

You never know, though, I may get impatient and just cut the dang thing myself.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

What A Crazy Life!

*I just want to warn you that I'm turning comments off for this post. I'm writing somethings that I can't believe I'm going to write, and the only way I'll be brave enough is to turn off the comments.

Do you want me to tell you something absolutely C-R-A-Z-Y???

I have a boyfriend.

Yep, it's true. I am dating someone. I am someone's girlfriend. I am in a relationship. I have a boyfriend! Crazy!!

I'm sure you can guess who it is. If not, check out this post, or this post, or this post, or this post, or even this post.

Yes, it's Anthony. Don't ask me how it happened, because I seriously don't know. I mean, I can tell you all the events that have happened, everything that was said and done, but I'm still fuzzy about how they all have rolled up into me having a boyfriend.

As you know, I've had a crush on him on and off since Nov./Dec. 2006, and I've always (even since the first time I met him) thought he was very attractive, but nothing ever happened. My boss has said for years that he thought Anthony liked me, but since Anthony wasn't doing anything about it, I didn't believe him. He'd come into the office every few months, we'd flirt, then I wouldn't see him again for awhile. Then I fell in love with someone else and didn't want anything to happen with Anthony, though I did go on a date with him during that time because I had agreed to months earlier, before Adam. Once Adam and I broke up, I almost rebounded with Anthony, but fortunately, common sense restrained me - rebounds are usually quite unhealthy.

Here's where the fuzziness creeps in. I'm not sure how Anthony went from popping into my life every so often to us dating. Something must have happened in his mind that I don't know about. Anyhoo, from September to December of last year, I saw him a small handful of times. Each time we'd flirt, talk, and laugh a lot, but he never asked me out. I made the logical conclusion that he wasn't interested in me.

Then the week before Christmas, he IM'd me and asked me out on a date. I tried to pretend I wasn't as pleased as I was, but I really was. On that date, he talked about all the things in the future he wanted us to do, like we'd be spending a lot of time together. He asked me out for New Year's Eve, and, as many of you know, he ended up kissing me at midnight. Yeah!! I figured this meant things were going to start going somewhere, but then it stalled. I went awhile without seeing him for various reasons; work, he got sick, his uncle died, etc. Doubts started creeping in, and I wondered if the kiss was just a token New Year's Eve kiss.

If I didn't tell you, you wouldn't realize that at this point in the story I had to pause and try to figure out what happened at this point, it's that fuzzy in my head. We went out a couple times fairly close together (especially considering our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd dates were each separated by months), but he didn't kiss me again and didn't even hold my hand. However, he did hug me at the end of each date. I finally accepted that he might like me a little bit but because of shyness and inexperience (according to his sister), he was just taking things slow. I was okay with slow.

So, imagine my surprise when this past Saturday, after spending an enjoyable evening together eating, talking, laughing, and watching movies without cuddling or holding hands, Anthony gave me a nice long hug, kissed me softly, and dropped the "L" word. THE "L" WORD, PEOPLE! As in, "I l*** chocolate" or "You l*** to look at the stars". It absolutely blew me away. Heck, it still blows me away when I think about it!

Yesterday, I got a call from a mutual friend, a woman who works with Anthony and who I met when I tested the hearing at his work. She told me back then (September) that she thought Anthony liked me, and I admitted to having the occassional crush on him. Well, she left a voice message saying this week Anthony kept mentioning his girlfriend at work and she finally asked who it was. He looked at her like she was a tad slow and said, "You know her, it's Julie" and she was so excited she did a little jig (her word, not mine). I was a little surprised by "girlfriend", but then I usually am. It always seems like the guy thinks of us as girlfriend/boyfriend before I do. Not that I mind, I just don't get to that label very quickly. Anyway, it was a nice surprise. A bit mind blowing, though.

Last night, he texted me and asked to show me the four trucks he'd like to buy. Afterwards, we ate and he helped me with my sign language homework (he's deaf, remember). Throughout the evening, he repeatedly referred to me as his girlfriend. It sounded nice. As it got closer to 10, he kept saying he should go home because he works really early, then he'd start talking about something else. I was pleased because it seemed like he didn't want to go, that he'd rather be with me, even if it meant getting less sleep. I'm like this when I like a guy, so it was kind of nice to have it reciprocated. Finally, I insisted he go home, trying to be considerate of his need for sleep, even though I wanted to keep talking to him. He hugged me tightly and for a long time, kissed me, talked some more, kissed me again, and said that he loves me. It wasn't quite as big of a shock as the first time, but it still floored me a little. Of course, the rest of the night I couldn't stop thinking and was pretty much floating on cloud nine.

I just realized something; I've never really told you much about him except that I find him incredibly attractive. There's more to him than looks, of course. So, here's a "quick" rundown of Anthony:

Physical: Tall - definitely over 6' - I have to stand on my tiptoes to hug him, with him bending down a bit. He has long, wavy, dark blond hair, a neatly trimmed beard, blue eyes (I'm pretty sure! yikes!), medium build, nice hands, and a great smile. What can I say? He's hot.

Personality: Talkative. This pleases me to no end. He loves to tell stories and crack jokes. He also asks me questions about myself and is very open to answering my questions about him. He has a great memory and often surprises me when he remembers things I told him years ago. A gentleman. No, he doesn't always remember to open the door for me (most of the time, though), but he makes up for it in many other little ways that I won't go into right now for the sake of brevity (too late!). Funny. He makes me laugh so hard and so often. He also laughs a lot, a good sign. Masculine. Seriously, he's a man through and through, for good and bad. Sometimes I think, "Uh, he is such a man", and other times I think, "Ahhh, he is such a man!". Catch the difference? Again, I won't go into more detail, just take me at my word. He's certainly not perfect, but I think he's pretty great.

So...I know what you've been wanting to know...I've been evading your question on purpose. No, I don't love him. Not yet. I'm not sure I'm ready to fall in love again so soon after the last time. However, I really like Anthony a lot. I look forward to the times I get to be with him and always enjoy the time we spend together. In short (ha!), I may not be ready to love him, but I'm on the path that could lead to it. And, I'm okay with that. Yes, it makes me nervous, but in an excited, happy way.

And, to top it all off...I have a date for St. Valentine's Day! Yeah!!

Life sure keeps you on your toes!