Life

Winter blues

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It’s been such a long, long Winter here in Seattle. I can’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I find myself unmotivated to do anything. No ideas on what to paint! It’s been tough.

Hopefully, Spring will be here soon (at least the trees at UW got the message!) And with it, more ideas and creativity will flow.

Photo © Maria Rigou for Groundhog Design

Happy Groundhog Day!

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Today is Groundhog Day and it is also an opportunity for me to explain the reason behind the name, Groundhog Design.

According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then Spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its den, and Winter will persist for six more weeks.

Today we also remember the infamous Bill Murray movie, where his character relieves the same day (Groundhog Day) over and over again.

So why Groundhog Design? Two reasons: 1) Don’t you wish that you could relive certain days / moments more than once and not just rely on your memory? Examples of these days are my wedding day and the day we bought our condo (which is our first one!) I’m also pretty sure that whenever I have a child, this will be right up there in the top 5 of my ‘best-days-ever.’ And 2) Groundhogs are homebodies! I am an extremely extroverted extrovert, but I really love my home, and I want this home to be my burrow, just like a groundhog’s.

Happy Groundhog Day to everyone. Apparently Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, so we are well on our way to a happy, happy Spring!

Illustration by Andrew Ellis as part of a Bill Murray tribute postcard pack.

Career goals 2016

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I’ve spoken here about my personal goals for 2016 and I laid out a monthly plan for tiny goals to achieve that will make for a nice, whole year.

I also have separate career goals or resolutions for this year. I’ve been working at the foundation for a year and a half already, and I still have a lot to learn – both about how the foundation operates and also about philanthropy in general. I want 2016 to be the year that I do something significant, whether it is learning something new, develop or further my career or just being prepared for wherever the job might take me.

So here are some resolutions / goals / steps I want to take in 2016 to improve as an employee:

  1. Be an intentional learner: As I said before, I have only been in this job for 1.5 years and this is my first time in philanthropy, so I still have a lot to learn. I am continuously looking for ways to learn about philanthropy and in 2016 will intently look for opportunities for classes, conferences, workshops or networking events that can further my knowledge. There is a big conference in September in Detroit that I have my eye on.
  2. Take ownership and have a purpose: One of the many great things about my job is that I have a lot of ownership of the projects I do. However, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the task and not remember the purpose. So this year, I want to think about the purpose: know “what” to do, “how” to do it and achieve it, think about “why” I’m doing it, and “when” to accomplish it. The goal is to take a strategic approach to the task and having a clear sense of what I want to accomplish.
  3. Be concise and smarter with words, talk straight to the point and be confident. My boss always says that I am the expert at what I do, so I shouldn’t be shy to raise my voice and talk about the work.
  4. Be cooperative and respectful: Not that I am not, but be mindful of my team and work together towards one goal, which is to advance the work of the foundation and not just to manage my tasks.
  5. Network and gain visibility: One thing that I haven’t felt prepared to do just yet is to network. I don’t feel like I know everything about the foundation / philanthropy so I shy away from talking to others about my work. But I’m ready to do this! I’m already part of a Communities of Practice group in Seattle, and I think that this could be a great jumping off point for me.

Happy New Year! Do you have any career goals for this year?

Photo © Maria Rigou for Groundhog Design

Welcome 2016!

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This is the last full year before I turn 30, so I have decided that I am going to treat m’self all. year. long. But it’s not only about material stuff, I also want to do things for me that can make me feel better about myself, my career and my home.

Starting today, I will take on a new goal each month that will build on until the end of the year. Towards the end of 2016, I will come back and revisit my ‘resolutions’ (if you want to call them that) and grade me on how well I did.

So, without further ado, these are my monthly goals:

January: Start eating healthier! I don’t eat a lot of junk food but I am slightly disorganized with my meals. I never eat breakfast and I drink way too much Diet Coke. I started the Whole30 plan (not a diet), which eliminates certain food groups from your daily diet to ‘reset’ your metabolism. It basically consists of eating protein, vegetables and fruit and no grains, dairy, sugars, legumes and processed anything. So far, not good. I’m starving but I think it’s all in my head.

February: Start training for a Half Marathon. I think I’m going to enroll in the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Seattle in June. Run a 5k.

March: Plan an anniversary getaway for me and my husband. It doesn’t have to be the trip of a lifetime, but maybe a weekend away to somewhere picturesque like Leavenworth, WA.

April: Promote my art: I have a new show this month. It’s at Local Color, in Pike Place Market here in Seattle. The idea is for me to get out there and be more active with my artwork. Hopefully I’ll sell some art! Run a 10k.

May: Plan a mid-ish year vacation. We don’t go on vacation enough and I would like that to change this year. Maybe Disney World, just because we can.

June: Run a Half Marathon and finish decorating the condo (this could be tricky as I change my mind every single day about my furniture!)

July: Enjoy Seattle in the summer. They say that Summer in Seattle is from 4th of July until Labor Day, so I plan to go to the beach every. single. weekend.

August: Conquer a fear: I am deathly afraid of heights so I think going sky diving is the perfect cure.

September: Take another vacation. I think that if I take small, strategic breaks throughout the year, I won’t burn out by the time December rolls around. This year I was this close to burnout it wasn’t even funny.

October: Create something and remember it: plan the most EPIC Halloween costume of all times.

November: Learn something new. Maybe enroll in a life-drawing class, or a sewing class, a graphic design course, or a social media certification? Who knows. I still have time to plan this out.

December: Have fun.

I never set ‘resolutions’ when the new year rolls around. This isn’t something that is very common in Argentina, but I think that the new year is a good opportunity for some changes, either minor or major. Though most of these goals are quantitative, I think that my whole idea for this year is to grow as a person, as a professional and a wife, and be ready to receive the big 3-0 in 2017.

What are your goals, dreams, aspirations or resolutions for this year?

Photo Isla Catalina, Dominican Republic; © Maria Rigou for Groundhog Design

Weird

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You know that feeling when you sense something will happen, there is a strange vibe in the air? I’ve felt weirdness in the air since I woke up Monday morning.

This week is not over yet but it’s definitely been along week and I think I might need more than a weekend to recover from this.

Weird. That’s all. And I want it to go away.

Photo © Maria Rigou

Lessons learned

I’m back from my ultra-quick trip to Argentina, where I – finally! – got my visa and also visited some doctors and spent some nice time with my family, especially with my grandfather (who is 80-something years old and misses his wife – my grandmother – terribly since she passed in 2012).

Going back is always hard. Family draws you in and it’s hard to say good-bye, but I also noticed other things that I miss, and things that I definitely not miss. Here is my list:

  1. I do miss my family, especially now that it’s getting warmer (it’s going into Summer in the Southern Hemisphere) and weekends are getting busier. I especially enjoy the fact that my parents have a nice house with a big yard and entertaining area, so it is great for family (and friends) gathering on the weekends.
  2. I definitely miss the food. I managed to eat everything I wanted that I can’t get here, like empanadas, gnocchi, milanesas and tartas.
  3. I do not miss my fellow Argentineans. I felt like as if everyone is always on a rush for everything, angry at themselves and hating their lives. Example: I was at the eye doctor and there was an older lady before me that was hard of hearing. She was asking the receptionist every 5 – 10 minutes if she had been called, only to be responded every single time with a “calm down ma’am.” How hard is it to just say “ma’am, when we are ready for you, I will come up and get you, don’t worry” ? And that is only a small example…
  4. And almost along the same lines… people complaining about how hard their lives are and how easy I have it because I live in the United States. Look, OK, so maybe I am better off, I have a great job and a nice place to live, but we are also missing out on a lot of things back home: family, friends, services ($10 weekly manicures, help around the house with chores, accessible day care for children – not that I need it yet -, etc). Sometimes it’s about putting everything on a balance and prioritizing what you care about the most. For us, right now, is having a steady job where we know we are going to grow, maybe save some money and then we’ll see. Other people prefer to be close to family. But again, it’s about personal balances and trade offs.
  5. I absolutely DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT miss driving a car – any car – in Buenos Aires. It’s chaos. Cars everywhere. Motorcycles everywhere. I get violent and yell. So no more driving for me, thank you very much.

All in all, though, it was a good trip. I got to spend some time with a couple friends from college and my best friend from high school. I spent time with my uncle and grandpa, and with my parents. It’s hard to leave but it feels nice to be back. Too bad about the weather…

Source: NuNomad

One year cativersary!

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One year ago today, Benito, our orange domestic medium hair, joined our small family!

I always knew that I wanted to have a cat but my husband was never really convinced. He has been – and I think will always be – a dog person.

Before we got Benito, we had been talking about getting a cat since moving to Michigan. At the time, we were both in school and uncertain of where we were going next, so we delayed the process of running to the shelter to adopt and waited until we were settled.

On October 18, 2014, we intently drove to the Seattle Humane Society in Bellevue to “just look” at the kitties there. We had stopped by the previous week but could not find a parking spot, so we left without even getting out of the cat. On this rainy Saturday morning, we found the last spot in the small parking lot.

We walked into the building and realized it was free adoptions weekend! Not that we cared, but it was a nice incentive. We checked in, filled some paperwork and then started to look at cats. When we talked about cats, my husband insisted on a young one, not set in its ways. So we headed over to a small room with about 6 or 7 different kittens.

And there he was. Sitting on one of those kitty condos, looking out the glass door. Every time something moved, he turned to look at it. He went up and down, moving around and inspecting every single corner of the room. The attendant outside told us that Benito (then-named ‘Tito’) had arrived to Seattle the previous day from a shelter in Olympia.

Apparently, he was found on the street some months prior and was about 6-months-old. We knew he was for us. Ginger, curious and young.

We entered the room to meet him and all he wanted to do was play with a tassel hanging from my coat. It was a done deal. We took him home and we have been hooked every since. And to think that we had gone the week before… He wasn’t even there that week!

My husband says he is the best dog in the shape of a cat he has ever had.

These are some of the things he likes to do:

  • He plays fetch with a little foam ball
  • As soon as we walk in the door, we tells us all about his day
  • He licks his lips when we are prepping his wet food, and patiently waits, sitting down, for us to set the bowl on the floor
  • He sits on command
  • He hates stuffed animals and attacks everything that is on sight
  • He likes cheap toys – as in used zip ties or empty candy wrappers cheap
  • Benito sleeps with us on the bed, usually in between my legs. When he is ready to sleep, he will scratch my legs, asking me to open them so that he can use that space is his little enclosed bed

We are head over heels with this furry child. Every day he gives us a little glimpse of what our family can be in the future. My husband is definitely the authority figure, Benito pretty much laughs at me when I scold him. But we love him very much and hope that he stays with us for a long, long time.

Happy cat-iversary, Benito!

Photo © Maria Rigou for Groundhog Design

Morning routine

I always thought that I was a night owl. When I was younger (think high school and college) I could stay up until the wee hours of the morning – either finishing a project or an essay, studying for a test or maybe just IMing with friends in different time zones – and then be up again the next morning as if nothing had happened.

Now, 10 years later, I can barely stay up past midnight on a school night, and every day is harder to get up to go to work.

You see, since we moved to the condo I have absolutely no need to wake up as early as I did before because we are 8 blocks away from my office – a 15 minute walk max. So I can get away with waking up at 8 a.m., showering, changing and then I can be on my way by 8:30 a.m.

However, my mornings feel rushed. I’ve been tying to establish a morning routine so that, when I wake up, I have some time to browse the news (I read theSkimm, it’s great and you can sign up here!), read some blogs, catch up on my Instagram and Twitter feeds AND have breakfast. I always skip breakfast and I hate it.

So since the move, I’ve been trying to wake up with enough time to do everything that I want without wasting too much time. That means prepping everything the night before – even breakfast – and then doing it the next morning in the same order, every day.

Some days I’m successful, others I’m not and it makes a bad start to my day (usually it’s on Mondays that I have a hard time, so it’s a bad start to my week). To get motivated, I watched this – free – video / lesson to get ideas on how to create a morning routine, and so far, I love some of them. I especially liked his idea when he said he watched a highly addicting show in the morning instead of staying up late. Right now, I’m really into House, M.D. and this might be the key to my mornings!

The more I do it, the faster it will become a habit and, hopefully, one day I’ll become a morning person. Right now, I’m just a sleepy head that enjoys sleeping and I work best after lunch, but hoping to change that.

What habit are you trying to form? Do you have any ideas on how to successfully wake up and do ALL THE THINGS I want to do in the morning, but maximizing my sleep at the same time? 

Source: Adrienne Breaux via Apartment Therapy

P.S. Check out this list of other free or cheap classes you can take online! I signed up for Creative Bug and did a tutorial on Watercolor Painting that taught me some sweet techniques I’ll be trying out this week at the studio.

Downsizing

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One of the only things I *enjoy* about moving is the possibility of starting fresh.

Before moving to Seattle, we were living in Ann Arbor, Michigan because my husband was attending grad school at U of M. When we accepted jobs in Seattle, we made the – almost – cross-country trek to the West Coast and I saw that as an opportunity to purge. So we (by we I mean mostly me), decided to donate, sell or toss those things that weren’t useful to us anymore – furniture, clothes, school stuff, etc and came to Seattle with only the things we loved. And if we needed more things, then we could add on as we saw fit.

Fast forward 15 months and we are still in the purging phase. When moving to the condo from the apartment, I donated 4 bags of my clothing, 2 bags of my husband’s clothing and we sold a sofa, one closet, our king size bed and a mattress.

Some of the things that I do to purge involve invoking my memory and asking / wondering if we used it in the past year. If the answer is ‘no,’ it goes to either a Donate (if in good condition) or Toss pile. Sometimes I prefer to donate instead of selling, just because I think that others might use it more and love it more than I do. We try not to hold on to things just because we love them, but sometimes it’s hard! For example, recently, my husband showed me two great coats he hasn’t worn in two years. I told him to donate them, but he isn’t ready yet. So we set them aside and in January we will re-evaluate. If he didn’t wear them by then, then off they go to someone who needs them more.

Moving reminds me of the joy of living with just the necessary. Because it’s incredibly amazing the amount of stuff one can collect in one year.

So from the move we have learned a number of things, the number one thing has been learning to acknowledge that we don’t need that much! Why store sweaters or coats we haven’t used in years “just in case I need them”? Or maybe samples of my work (I studied journalism and wrote for a newspaper) in the form of 5 or 6 copies of each edition of the paper with my stories in them? Just one is enough! More than enough.

What I am trying to say is that, yes, we moved to a bigger place, with bigger things and more storage space, but we also downsized. And now we have just what we need and nothing more. And that is perfectly OK with us.

As a side note: I’m participating in Apartment Therapy’s 2015 ‘Closet Cure’ and really excited about it! Today’s turn was sweaters. Luckily, I am good about them, but I still have a couple that I separated for donation. Hopefully, by the end of the week, we will have big piles of stuff to donate. The #bigpurge continues thanks to AT! If you would like to participate in this challenge, there is still time! Sign up here.

Source: Homepolish Mag via Instagram (don’t you love that art!?)