Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wanna Buy a BOAT? (Discount for Bloggers!)

Anyone? Anyone...?

Really -- it's a NICE boat!! We're asking $13,995, but will give any Blogger Buyer a $500 dicount.(Will not ship -- ha ha! -- to Europe... sorry!)
It's a 1996 Mariah 215 -- 21.5 feet long. Great for wakeboarding, tubing, etc.

If the kids hadn't grown up so fast, we'd still be playing on it...!

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tempted to adopt Eva

A few months ago, when we had to say goodbye to Laura, our German exchange student who lived with us for a year, I was devastated. She had become very much part of our family and it just didn't seem right to let her go. That was silly, of course... she has a family in Germany and we'd known all along that the AFS exchange program was for a year. Still, the tears were flowing all around that day and, probably to ease the sadness a bit, I asked the liaison coordinator at the farewell event whether I might be able to be a liaison for a German girl (since AFS doesn't recommend hosting two years in a row).

A few days later I was sent information about Eva, a 17-year-old girl from Koeln. Aleks and I finally met Eva a few days ago (that's Aleks and Eva in the picture... they bonded!), and we all felt an instant connection. She's sweet and friendly and very pleasant, just like Laura was. We took Eva out for lunch and she spilled her heart, in broken English, about her current situation in her host family. The family is a dual-culture family, with a Japanese father who barely speaks English and an American mother who lived for 15 years in Japan. Eva was immediately told to call the father "Mr. X." So she can't talk to or understand him AND she has to be completely formal with him. Not a great start. The mom is nice enough, but is one of those very high-stress, "I need a vacation!" type of people who, she admitted, only took an exchange student because thet sent their son to Hungry and felt obligated to take another kid in. Both parents work long hours at Microsoft and, according to Eva, are more into their dogs when they come home late at night than into their own kids or their exchange student. To make things harder, Eva told me that in her application she had requested not to go to an Asian country (prospective exchange students list the countries they want to go to and countries they don't want to go to) AND, under food preferences, she listed that she doesn't like fish... yet this family has fish almost nightly. Because the host mom works at Microsoft, she and I got together for coffee today. She's certainly nice enough, but I wouldn't call her warm and she most definitely has a "just deal" attitude regarding Eva's place in her family and her household.

Needless to say, this all breaks my heart and puts me into rescue mode. Laura's room is empty... Eva's a doll... she says she's unhappy where she is... Tom wouldn't make her call him "Mr. S..." But Kathy, the head AFS coordinator regarding these things knows me well enough to have said to me, "Carol, it's too soon..." She doesn't recommend that we "adopt" Eva; instead, she recommends that we just be like another family to her, having her over for occasional weekends, taking her on family outings and just being there for her.

So, for now, that's what we'll do. Her placement with "Mr X's" family is only through December, so maybe we can "have" her in January. But then we'll have another excruciating goodbye again in June...!

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BF Skinner vs My Career

I had my fourth interview with the online early reading company last week. This time I met with the CTO and the President. I'd already met with the CEO and the Director of Instruction as well as quite a few of the staff on earlier occasions, and those interviews had gone swimmingly. This interview was going well too (it probably helps that I truly enjoy interviewing!), with the CTO and I discussing -- and yes dissing just a bit -- my current employer. It was a comfortable, personanable, informative discussion and I had a feeling that a job offer would be coming way the minute VC funding came through (which was expected any second). My last interview of the day, and of the process, took place with the president and founder of the company, a nice man, though not someone I'd describe as overtly friendly. Within a split second of sitting down, Joe seemed to launch into a tirade of sorts regarding the company's approach, which is purely 100% Skinnerian. That is, they believe that kids learn much the way pigeons do -- via sheer stimulus and response, positive and negative reinforcement. In this case, and for this company, this translates into sheer CLICKS. The company counts and analyzes every single one of millions of clicks and forms their entire product -- and philosophy -- around them. Environment and motivation and individual personality and abilities be damned; what counts is the CLICK.

This is about as different from my philosophy about kids and learning as you can get! Yet the company touts the ONLY guarantee to teach a kid reading in the entire industry. The method works -- if the click is the measure of true reading and comprehension. And so, assuming a job offer comes my way, I'm in a bit of a quandary! Especially because the Aussie job didn't come through (yes, I AM shocked)... Could I work for a company whose basic philosophy I disagree with? Hell, I'm doing it now and I'm miserable!

Things are looking... interesting! :-/

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Kindness of Strangers

While I was making dinner for Aleks (16) and IMing photos of our front yard remodel in progress to Elisabeth (22) and catching up on her already-successful medical device sales career, Peter (19) called to tell me that he and Danelle had run out of gas on his motorcycle (one of those "crotch-rocket" doo-dads...@@) and could I possibly go buy a gas can and gas and bring it to them. His timing wasn't great... since Tom and Kat are on their way back from a week in Southern California with Nana (Tom's mom) and they need to be picked up at the airport in a few hours. But in spite of it all, the only answer for a mom to give her woe begotten (HA!) son is, "Sure, I'll be there as soon as I can..."

So I set off to get gas, telling the station owner what had happened. He said, in a strong Asian accent, "You good mother. He lucky boy..." As I was paying, he dug into his drawer and handed me a lottery ticket, saying "You be lucky..." It was really very endearing and made me feel really good. As I left, I promised that if it was a winning ticket, I'd share it with him. It's still in my car; for some reason I can't scratch it yet!

When I brought Peter the gas, he thanked me profusely (really!), handed me money (knowing I would have demanded it anyway), and offered to pick up Tom and Kat at the airport at midnight. I accepted, of course!

I hope the lottery ticket is a winner so I can make the sweet gas station attendant -- and myself -- rich!

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Growing up in Berkeley in the 60's

Only when I went away to college in Santa Barbara did I realize that being the child of hippie parents in Berkeley in the 60's was out of the ordinary. Not all 6th graders spent their spare time with friends playing Mozart flute quartets; not all cities virtually shut down on the last Friday of the month in observance of the War Moratorium; not all families got a call requesting that their 17-year-old (my older brother) be picked up from the Santa Rita Detention Center after being arrested for taking part in the creation of People's Park. And not all mothers were professors at the university considered Ground Zero of the Civil Rights movement, conducting "office hours" at radical Cody's Books on University Avenue.

It was a unique childhood indeed -- and what did I do to show my appreciation? I became the "white sheep of the family," rebeling in the only way I could: I became a cheerleader and joined Young Life, prompting my parents to ask where they went wrong. I probably would have even joined the Republican Party, had I been old enough at that point, just to rebel as fully and as dramatically as I possibly could! My friends' parents wanted their kids to be just like me -- straight as an arrow, never touching drugs, self-monitoring and responsible... and I wanted my parents to be just like my friends' parents -- classically and sophisticately dressed, Republican (of course), and definitely NOT prone to smoking weed in the hot tub after dinner! Oh -- and I wanted my parents to pleeeease lose their German accents! How horrifyingly embarrassing! (And yet, when Steven Forscutt called me a Nazi in 3rd grade because my parents were German, I was embarrassed only, not hurt or enraged... Why couldn't my dad be an American war vet instead of a German concentration camp survivor?)

And now, years later, I embrace my unique childhood with all the passion I can muster. I have long since outgrown the propensity to be embarrassed by my parents and instead I fully appreciate their openness and individuality. Needless to say, I outgrew any desire to be a Republican -- and even have a 16-year-old kid who, I am proud to say, is destined to someday be the most radically liberal politician in Washington State... even if it's just at his high school. He makes my parents (rest my mom's soul), and my still-hippie-People's-Park-brother, proud... and would appropriately mortify my high school friends' parents!

And now that I'm approaching 50, I just hope to be able to watch my yet-to-be-born grandchildren in THEIR teens. What will THEIR parents do to mortify THEM?

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Back to Weight Watchers

Just had to type it and see it in print. I'm turning 50 in November and we're going to Hawaii in December... both good reasons to lose 20 pounds. Or maybe 30... And now that I've typed it for the whole world (OK, all three of you... whoever you are) to see, I need to actually DO it.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006


My grandmother was a German Aryan who was married to a German Jew in the 1930's and 40's. Supposedly, Jews who were married to Aryans were "protected" from the fate of other German Jews. Both my grandmother and my grandfather were acutely aware of the delicacy of their situation -- though my father and his siblings -- their children -- had no idea. (Parents kept many things from their children during the war, since a well-meaning or innocent slip of the tongue could mean death.) My father, now 78, has become more and more curious about his parents' situation and has begun extensive research, as he plans to write a book in the future (and yes, he seems to still have quite a future!). In his research he discovered a German movie called "Rosenstrasse," which is the story of Aryan women in Berlin who quietly protested their husbands' detainment at a "holding center" on Rosenstrasse. Every day, and often through the night, these women waited outside the stark building, hoping for the timely release of their husbands -- who had been previously promised "immunity," but in those desperate later years were realizing that there was no such actual security. Eventually, through the wives protests, the Jewish husbands were quietly released.

My father tells me that the whole operation on Rosenstrasse was kept quiet -- both the husbands' detainment and their release, since any publicity would have definitely hurt the Nazis. My grandmother wasn't part of that actual protest, since she lived in Chemnitz, but she was in a "privileged mixed marriage" just as the women in Berlin had been.

My grandfather died during the war after all, as a bomb landed directly on his house. My grandmother had already died a year or two earlier, apparently of brain cancer. So, by the time my father was 16, he was an orphan. I simply can't imagine! I have two 16-year-olds, and the thought of them being orphaned... and during war time... I just can't even imagine it!

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Friday, August 18, 2006

HELP! Send IT support to Microsoft!

No kidding -- this was the scene at a Microsoft spec review meeting today: the meeting was to have started at 1:00 with program managers, developers and testers in attendance. Purpose of the meeting: in-depth spec review for one teeeeeny-tiny feature for the new education platform we're working on. At 1:00 the "feature owner" PM was trying to get her spec to print to the local printer. No go. Paper jam. She tries to fix it, but can't. She sends it to another printer. No go. Paper jam. Since all MS conference rooms are both hard-wired and wireless (with absolutely high-tech, really cool "techy-tables"), she decides to just plug her laptop (all MS employees have them... no pe-ontractors have them) into the conference room table and run her presentation from there. No go. Something's wrong with her laptop's connection to the network. At this point, it's 1:15. She borrows another attendee's laptop and tries to hook-up. No go. I hear "let's re-format the drive," and I'm thinking, 'Holy crap, guys! This is Microsoft!!' At 1:20 she decides to just Xerox her notes and pass them around.

For the second time this week, we had a very low-tech meeting because of hardware/software failure. At Microsoft! I'm sorry, but I'm still giggling! The IT at the puny LOW-TECH nonprofit I used to work at was more impressive!

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Balls in the Air Go Round and Round...

...round and round, round and round...

In the next two weeks any of these things could happen:

  1. Microsoft could offer me a job (yes, contract/peon... I call it "pe-ontract") doing something I'd actually like and something I do well: bridge the education world with the high-tech world. They want someone to actually go out and talk with educators about what sorts of things they want from us. (I know -- earth shattering!) That's something I'd love, would be good at, and for which I actually speak the language... as opposed to what I was doing, where I was expected to know dev gobbledygook.
  2. The contract with the Aussie company to develop the American curriculum for their gorgeous animated (video and DVD game) childhood obesity product could finally be signed. We gave them two options, both of which would provide a full multi-media curriculum. One would be way more work and more headache (because I'd deal closely with their highly ADHD and extremely creative developer), but also more money. The hourly rate for this is about twice what I make at Microsoft, so I'd be pretty stupid to pass it up. But then, both are contract, and what I'd really like is permanent full-time.
  3. I have a third interview (more like just meeting more people on the leadership team) at the online early reading company next Thursday -- likely the same day I'll hear about the Aussie contract! I know they want to hire me (permanent full-time, which is a definite plus) as a Director of Product Development, but they're still awaiting VC funding. I love the people, the product and their development process, so I'd like to be able to entertain an offer from them. The good news is that they might just be getting rolling with this next phase as I finish the Aussie job. That'd be nice.
  4. Debra and I will meet this Tuesday about going into business together and to prepare for how we present ourselves at the Games for Health conference in September. We rock as a team -- she in business development and me in product development. We'll talk to the president of an online game development company who's doing a game (with a $10M NIH grant) around childhood obesity prevention... our collective field of expertise. The problem is that we both have mortgages and families to support, so we really can't go into business together and just hope. We need something solid. We'll hopefully head to New York in the near future for another possibility that could be quite solid.

And maybe that's it -- down from the six possible options a few weeks ago. I'm just glad I have a job while I wait for something else to materialize. But really, I am SO ready to settle down into something permanent that I can sink my teeth (and heart and soul) into!

Stand by... I'll post what's coming -- maybe right when it's hitting me upside the head!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

On edge at Microsoft

A few minutes ago, at just a few minutes past noon, when most of the department was at lunch, there was a LOUD (and I mean LOUD) explosion right outside my office door. My first thought was, of course, "Crap -- now they're targeting Microsoft!" (Hey, it's not an outlandish possibility...) I remained as calm as I could with my heart racing like crazy and (stupid me) ventured out into the hall, along with a smattering of others, to see what it was. No smoke. No funny smell. No dead bodies in the hallway. No blown-to-smithereen PCs (or Dell laptops with bad batteries). Nothing out of place.

It's still a mystery, an hour later. And while security was called just to be on the safe side, I wonder whether we'll ever know what it was. Which makes me a little nervous. And now my office mate, who has the maturity of Tweety Bird or Road Runner (and the intelligence of BillG) is playing various .wav files of explosions, with the speakers cranked way up, just to be funny.

I will never figure out the average MS worker.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

He's a People Person...

... OK, more like a people CAT.

It's BOO...

With Laura...

...and Danelle (Peter's girlfriend)...

...with Kat with a "K..."
With Tom...

With Peter...

With me...

Even (and especially) with Shasta!

The story behind his name is complicated. After we adopted him, no one could agree on a name. I called him Riley (his "given" name). Aleks called him "Phillip" (no idea why; he said he looked like a Phillip). Peter called him "Carbon." Laura called him "Caddy" (a German trying to say "kitty"!). And Tom called him "Your Cat." Kat, who never really had a "pet name" for him, had a friend over one day, who was amazed at the cat's CHILL-NESS (really, nothing fazes him and he loooooves to cuddle) and called him "Buddha." It stuck -- UNTIL one of Laura's AFS friends from Indonesia came over for dinner one night and I was calling the cat. "Buuuu-ddhaaaa!" Riska's mouth dropped. "What's your cat's name?" she asked incredulously. I just plain felt like an insensitive idiot -- even if his name was based on good qualities in both him and his namesake! I just felt stupid and clueless. AND from then on I've simply called him "Boo." Tom has never called him "Boo" and insists on calling him "Your Cat" -- which must sound pretty stupid to anyone who hears us calling him for dinner!

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pondering The Gates Effect

Bill Gates recently announced that he'll be leaving Microsoft to spend more time saving the world. I love that he's doing that I applaud him for it big time. But I really wish he would have had a little heart-to-heart chat about his "change of heart" (in other words, the decision to finally have one) with the 70,000 employees he's leaving behind. The prevailing philosophy at Microsoft seems to be a very NON-altruistic one -- and really, BillG couldn't have taken over his competitors and gobbled up the world with any other approach. Lord knows, it's worked for him and for his company thus far. It permeates everything at Microsoft and I feel it seeping into everything -- from formal to casual meetings to electronic communication to face-to-face communication -- even to lunchtime interactions in the cafeteria.

For the first 30 years of Microsoft's existence, it seems that the employee evaluation structure was similar to that of a college class: employees are graded on a bell curve, ensuring that some direct reports fail, some excel, and the rest fall somewhere in-between. What this does is breed and encourage back-stabbing and a very NON-cooperative, NON-collaborative spirit. No matter how "collaborative" one's team is touted as being, you can be sure that the desire to NOT be one of the failures becomes more important than the desire to share creative ideas and collaborate on the development of products. Oh no -- in an environment like that, the smartest thing you can do is keep creative, progressive and ground-breaking ideas to yourself!

That's completely different than the non-profit world I came to Microsoft from... and from the non-profit world BillG has will now devote almost all his time to. The reason why I was able to produce FUEL and CHILL as I did was because we had an incredibly collaborative, cooperative team full of people whose main goal was to work together to produce the greatest, most impactful product possible -- TOGETHER. That would never have been possible in an atosphere of fear, distrust and greed! No way!

And that, I think, is why I feel completely like the odd man (woman) out at Microsoft. At first, I thought it was the fact that I'm nowhere near as technical as most people there... that I'm right-brained in a sea of left-brainedness. But really, I think it's just the fact that I have a completely different philosophy and approach than BillG instilled in his employees right from the beginning.

Maybe he couldn't have gotten where he has without his "kill 'em all" approach... but my hope is that he's softened and opened up his heart (not just his wallet) as he now works to save the world instead of monopolize it. I just wish he'd bring some of that back to Microsoft; we could sure use some of it about now.

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Friday, August 11, 2006

I miss meine Laura (Part 3... scroll down for parts 1 & 2)

When we last left Laura, she and most of the family had gone skiing at Whistler.

In May, we went to the Bay Area for Elisabeth's graduation from Cal. Even though it was pouring (I'm sure it was sunny that day in Seattle!), Laura wanted a picture of her by the Golden Gate Bridge.

And that weekend, at Elisabeth's graduation, we got a photo with the whole family-- except Aleks who stayed home. Even Opa (my dad) is in this one!

In June, it was time for Laura to go back to Germany. She'd gathered so much stuff while here that we sent two boxes and got her an additional bag to take with her!

The final goodbye was excruciating! Until we see you again, Laura... we miss you and love you!!

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I miss meine Laura (part 2)

Continued from previous post...

Christmas in America. I can't imagine having to make the transition from a very traditional German Christmas to a very (unfortunately) commercially-oriented American Christmas, but Laura seemed to have adjusted just fine. I love this picture of Laura! I think I'll make an ornament out of it.

Making Christmas cookies. Those are my two daughters on the left, my son's girlfriend (who is like a daughter!) and Laura.

Kat and Laura attempting to sway the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, BC.

At The Cheesecake Factory, Laura's favorite American restaurant. When you come back, Laura, we'll take you there again! (Left to right: DanelleandPeter --one word! -- Elisabeth, Laura and Kat)

Skiing at Whistler. That's Danelle, Laura, her best friend in the US, fellow AFS student (from Italy), Lavinia, and Tom (hubby... mine). This was on my first day at MS, so I couldn't go along. :-(

To be continued, dammit! (Is there a reason why Blogger only allows a limited number of photos per entry?)

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I miss meine Laura!!

Almost exactly a year ago, we "got" Laura, an AFS exchange student from Germany. When we finally met her in person, we had already been IMing and e-mailing for months, so we felt that we knew her, but finally here she was -- a new member of our family, and we could "keep" her for a full year! (This picture was taken on the day she arrived, with three of our four kids. Laura is second from the left.)

And oh, what a wonderful year it was! Laura was (and is) wonderful in every way! She was (and is) sweet, kind, helpful, funny and full of life. We had to send her back to Germany in late June and it felt like torture to give up someone who had essentially become a daughter and sister to us.

Here's a VERY abbreviated pictorial chronology of our year together. And yes, of COURSE I'm making her a scrapbook!

This is Laura and Kat (16) at Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho, where we went before Laura could even shake her jet lag!

Laura got into Halloween with Aleks, Kat's twin brother.

"What odd holidays you American's have!" Yes, that's a raw turkey. (The glob in the middle, not my hubby. He's fully cooked.)

After the meal, tummies full. (Twins Kat and Aleks on the ends, Elisabeth in the middle, Laura spanning all...)

And now, because Blogger just suddenly refuses to display any more uploaded pictures, I'll insert a "to be continued" and just start a new post. (Help! What am I doing wrong?)

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

They're (Mostly) Happy Tears

For E's graduation from Cal, I made her a scrapbook of her life. Worked on it during every spare moment I had for months, some nights till 4 or 5 AM (totally not like me!).
I presented it to her at the party we had for her immediately following the graduation ceremony (what an emotional day!). Here are some photos of that "unveiling."
This is "Omi's" page. E was very, very close to Omi, and it really got to her. I hope it's not mean to say that that was actually the intent!
I wanted those pages to really feel like Omi.
And the page she's laughing at is a page that has a photo of her at 6 months in a Stanford sweatshirt -- a definite NO-NO for a Cal alumna! The copy says "Mom's alma mater -- not for her daughter!" The little window she's opening reveals a photo of her just weeks previous to this, in which she was cold and grabbed the first sweatshirt available -- my Stanford sweatshirt! I, of course, quickly snapped a picture... and USED it! :-)

I'm so proud of my "little grrrrl"!

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fifty more tidbits

Okay, okay! FINE! Apparently "50 Things" just doesn't cut it. It has to be "100 Things." This post will definitely take me days to write!


51.) I have lots of patience for other people. I have none for myself.
52.) I was one of the first 5 members of what's now Disney Interactive. (It was called "Walt Disney Personal Computer Software" back then, and it was a teeny-tiny division of WDEMCO, which stood for Walt Disney Educational Media Company.)
53.) On a related note, I was once pinched on the butt by Donald Duck. Actually, it was the guy who did Donald's voice for like 40 years, known to all as "Ducky Nash." He was a dirty old man!
54.) I was a developmental psych major in college. My graduate degree is in education with an emphasis on media.
55.) I sleep with a pillow under or between my knees.
56.) I had my twins after a full-term pregnancy. In fact, I was induced. They weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce and 7 pounds 6 ounces. When they were little we called them Pebbles and Bam-Bam. They're now 5'1"and 5'10" respectively.
57.) My happiest years were the years when I was home with 4 kids under the age of 5.
58.) I'm scared of the empty nest years.
59.) I'm super ticklish.
60.) I love the smell of plumeria.
61.) I hate math. I can't think mathmatically. Math makes NO sense to me.
62.) I love reading and writing. I can't NOT write.
64.) I am pro-choice.
65.) I believe that what people do behind closed doors is no one else's business
66.) I type with two fingers -- really, really fast.
67.) I am agnostic.
68.) My mother died on Easter morning. Our Golden Retriever died on Christmas morning the same year ('04).
69.) That dog's name was Tahoe. Our current Golden's name is Shasta.
70.) I played the flute pretty seriously when I was young. (I should start playing again.)
71.) I was the Educational Design Consultant" for the Blue's Clues PC games. I love Blue!
72.) I love having my hair brushed.
73.) When I was a camp counselor for first graders, I'd take them to the park and they'd take turns brushing my hair and giving me very um... creative (ouch!) hairstyles.
74.) I've been drunk. Hated it. (But tipy's fun!) I've tried weed. Hated it. I've tried coke. Hated it. I think I just prefer life-as-is.
75.) My hubby's cousin's husband's brother is Harrison Ford. I've never met him.
76.) My mother's cousin died climbing K2.
77.) My mother spoke "Bayerish." When she really got going, it sounded nothing like "hoch deutsch."
78.) Lamb is my favorite food. I refuse to eat it.
79.) I think George Bush is scary.
80.) I was a total flirt in high school.
82.) We have a cat who's 22 years old. She has a senile, loud, horrific meow that scares people. I think her time is nearing...
83.) My mom made me wear dirndl dresses and braids when I was little. It was so embarrassing!
84.) I remember my mom crying while she vacuumed the livingroom carpet on the day Kennedy was shot.
85.) I've fallen in love at first sight.
86.) I'm addicted to Starbucks. Good thing I live in Seattle!
87.) I love marzipan.
88.) I used to wish my aunt were my mom. My cousin wished my mom was her mom.
89.) For the past few years I've believed that I'll someday die in a car accident. Can't shake it. Hope it's not true.
90.) I love flying but I have acrophobia.
91.) I went out for almost a year with an Olympic gold medalist.
92.) I hardly ever eat breakfast.
93.) I love to scrapbook.
94.) I absolutely can't sleep in. I wish I could.
95.) I can ride a unicycle. Or I could... haven't tried in a while!
96.) I'm very picky about pens. It has to be the Sanford uni-ball ONYX, fine point. Preferably black.
97.) My parents' four kids were all born between 11/29 and 1/6.
98.) I can't draw worth beans.
99.) I hardly ever watch T.V
100.) I can't believe I thought of 50 more things!

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Oh, the guilt...

...should really be bothering me. But it isn't.

I was hired at MS in April as a program manager for a new education platform (I could tell you more, but I'd have to... yeah). Turned out to be a mismatch because I am NOT really technical -- which I kept repeating over and over and over again in my interview (which was, by the way, mostly with people I haven't seen since, people who have nothing to do with the project). The position for which I was hired is a more technical position, though. Within a few weeks of my hire I insisted on what I called an "Elephant in the Livingroom" meeting with my boss and once it was all out in the open, we both breathed a sigh of relief and agreed that, while there is definitely a place for me at MS, that particular PM position wasn't it. In that meeting I pretty much said to my boss, "So this is what I think I should do..." and he pretty much breathed a sigh of relief and said, "Cool!" (I know he didn't WANT to lay me off because he felt responsible for the mis-hire, even though he wasn't even in the department when I was hired.) We've both looked for the "perfect position" within MS for me since then, but haven't found it. Yet.

In that meeting I proposed that I be more of a PRODUCT manager than a program manager(never confuse the two within 100 miles of Redmond... program is development and product is marketing), and I even gave myself an informal new title: "Education Advocate." In other words, I've taken it upon myself to assure that our end audience is being listened to and that we're developing something that meets their needs. It came more from self-preservation and fear of unemployment at that moment, but it IS what I love and what I'm good at. The thing is, I'm really not doing that much! I'm doing some research and surveys and putting together a PowerPoint presentation ("Understanding Our Audience") that I'll present to the PMs, dev and test teams, but really, I'm FLUFF. Really well-paid fluff. Guilty fluff. Mis-hired fluff. But FLUFF. And it's only a matter of time before they realize that and boot me.

Or IS it? The company is paying something like 362 MILLION dollars a DAY in fines for the whole EU snafu, and *I* feel guilty for working not quite hard enough and costing some infinitesimal fraction of that?! What IS my problem, anyway?! (Actually, I know where this guilt comes from. I came from a small nonprofit where there was a constant awareness of fiscal responsibility, and that's hard to shake.)

So... those six balls I was juggling? One came crashing to the ground yesterday. I interviewed for the software company that makes games for girls and we (both sides) were getting pretty enthused about the whole thing, but it turns out that the mid salary range is barely half what I make now. Much as I'd love to do games for girls, I couldn't do that... and they WON'T find someone with much experience in this field who will. So that's out. The Aussie company might not be as financially stable as they wanted us to believe, so who knows where that will go. The online early reading company is still a possibility -- though I foresee the same salary discussion. (Hey, we have three more kids to put through college! And now that oldest daughter opened up the going-to-college-out-of-state thing, the others want to follow. HELP!)

What an awful, rambling post this is! My apologies. But it did allow me to put my thoughts down on "screen" and that does tend to help me sort things through. When all is said and done, my only option, as always, is to wait and see what life deals me...

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

On a bathroom break at Microsoft

It'd be funny if it weren't so true!

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Some of my best friends are...

MEN! Grrrrrrr!

Preface: My high school buddy from waaaay back who is currently a screenwriter in LA sent me an e-mail this morning after an interesting IM last night about why men and women don't understand each other: "Hey Carol, on a research front (for the new story we're doing), can you tell me the thing(s) you hate most about men. Don't hold back. Just the stuff that bugs you."

Can of worms, Matt. CAN OF WORMS! But hey, you asked, so here goes.

First, I absolutely don't hate men. Love the buggers. After all, some of my best friends are men.
Oh wait -- strike that...

Some of my best friends USED TO BE men. It seems that some men (and you know who you are) promise to be your friend forever and tell you how your friendship means everything to them and how you can count on them to be there no matter what... and then suddenly, out of the blue, they're completely silent. Gone. Dead, it seems. But not. And not acting much like a friend at all. Why IS that?

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So... can we change "what I hate about men" to "what drives me bonkers about men"?

What drives me bonkers about men:

  1. They drop their dirty socks (I had typed "sex..." how Freudian!) directly along the outside of the hamper. A millimeter further and it'd be on this inside of the hamper! Is this a passive-aggressive control tactic?
  2. They stand at an open refrigerator and ask if there's anything to eat. Hey darlin' -- if there's food in the fridge, there's something to eat!
  3. Or they stand at the fridge, staring directly at the strawberry-banana yogurt and ask if there's any strawberry-banana yogurt. I have a feeling men's eyes needs to be wife-voice-activated to actually work!
  4. They can't find something (anything -- wives/girlfriends, fill-in-the-blank) and insist that you must have thrown it out (and likely maliciously) because they "just had it and now it's gone!" Stress-filled treasure hunts ensue, often with garbage cans emptied, just-cleaned rooms turned inside out and blood pressure levels (of all involved) rising significantly. Then, with a timid voice, said man exclaims meekly, "Found it." Which leads to...
  5. They can't seem to muster a sincere apology. It seems to be sheer agony for some men to admit to themselves and to us that they're wrong and to say (and mean) "I'm sorry." Trust me here: we'll see you as stronger, more endearing, more sincere and all-around more loveable if you apologize when an apology is warranted.
  6. They refuse to go to a doctor. Like EVER! This is actually supported by statistics. True story: hubby was up peeing a LOT one night. I asked if he was OK, and of course he said "Yeah, I'm fine" but I knew he wasn't -- and I knew what a kidney infection feels like. I begged him to make an appointment first thing in the morning, but he shrugged it off, saying he'd call if he needs to. Now this is either a very good or a very bad wife, but I knew what was coming, and as soon as I got to work I called the doc and made an appointment for 6 PM that evening. Good thing, too! By 5:00 he couldn't walk. He needed assistance to go into the doc's office and left in a wheelchair -- with a flaming kidney infection. I'm fine, my ass!
  7. They mumble.
  8. They nap on the bed while you fold five loads of laundry... or konk out on the couch while you empty the dishwasher or read the paper while you do the dinner dishes (which you cooked after an 8-hour day at work). They're not doing it to be mean or because houeswork is "woman's work" or any of that. Because really they're not mean and they don't think that housework is woman's work. They do it because they're oblivious. They're a few feet away from you, and they see you toiling away, but it simply doesn't register. Ah, to be so unaware...
  9. They only see messes when guests are expected, and then they wonder why "this place is such a mess." Otherwise, see the "o" word in #8, above.

Ok Matt, that's nine. Good enough for a start? I'm sure it will be added to by my faithful readers. (Do I have any faithful readers?!)

But I really have to follow it with a list of thing I love about men (or MY man, anyway)...

  1. He brings me coffee when I'm posting about things that drive me bonkers about men... and then he retreats back into the kitchen (barefoot, in fact) to wash the pots and pans.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

From Environmental Engineer to Environmental Artist

Whereas I am a type-A, task-oriented, list-making, get-it-done, never-slow-down type of person, my husband is generally much more um... relaxed and patient. He ponders, plans, procrastinates and postulates. He has eventually achieved plenty, like basically rebuilding our entire house... but it has taken years because he is a meticulous, methodical perfectionist. It is for this reason that I am so dang proud of him (and yes, just a tad amazed) for switching careers at the ripe old age of 45.

In 2000, when I went to work at a spankin' brand new internet start-up (with promises of wealth and prosperity... ha ha!), my hubby decided to take a few classes in digital art and animation at the local community college. He'd always been an artist in an engineers button-up and he'd been miserable for almost 20 years, working at huge aerospace companies, essentially keeping their top management out of jail for polluting. Whereas he got his BS degree in environmental sciences and then a masters in environmental engineering in hopes of "keeping the air and water clean" (as our kids used to say), he found that he was actually being a bad guy by essentially helping those aerospace companies dance around environmental regulations... and he hated himself for it.

The community college classes at night were a way for him to at least dip his finger into something that spoke more to his deep-down passions and talents -- and he loved those classes! He was the star student in each and every class, blowing away both his instructors and his fellow students in his amazing drawing, animation and design abilities. Every morning he'd go to work at the Big Bad Company (that makes both of us, huh?!), and every evening he'd be inspired (well, as inspired as someone as um... calm as he is gets) by digital art and animation.

Then 9/11 hit and he was laid off from the Big Bad Aerospace Company. We both decided that this was his opportunity to finally do what he loves. I encouraged him to go to school full time and assured him that I'd support the family. He'd done it for almost 20 years; now it was my turn. It was probably an insane idea, considering that we had four pre-teens and teens who were college-bound (and our oldest was talking Stanford, my alma mater... and at many times the cost of when I was there!). But I longed to see him come in the door upbeat and inspired instead of downtrodden and discouraged. So, having recovered from the dot-bomb catastophe and having lucked out finding a job as an executive producer of some pretty cool media, I went off to work and hubby and kids went to off to school each morning. A few years later, having worked harder for an AA than he ever did for his BS or MS, he "graduated" and began looking for employment.

Remember the non-go-getter-ness I referred to above? Consider it now. This sweet, kind, self-effacing man is the kind who would say, in a call to a prospective empoyer (which took days of fretting to muster the guts to pick up the phone), "You don't by any chance need a digital animator, do you?" That was him pushing his "selling yourself" comfort level! (I, on the other hand, love cold calls and talking to new people!) Fortunately, we had a few connections with a local software company (no, not the Big Bad Company I presently work for), and hubby was able to secure an unpaid internship. He considered himself amazingly fortunate, as no one else from his school class had found anything. After 6 months they liked his work so much that they offered him a paid internship -- which turned out to have been a financial step backwards, as he had at least been bringing in unemployment and 9/11-based retraining assistance. A few months later, he was offered full-time employment as an environmental artist (he creates backgrounds for DS handheld games) and we rejoiced! We chose to just try to ignore the fact that his starting salary was less than half what he had been making in the aerospace industry. He was starting at the bottom rung of the ladder, along with the young whipper-snapper gamers (which he isn't... young or a gamer!), but we were thrilled.

That was a few years ago. Since that time, he's continued to hone his skills and the company continues to love his work. He's still making far less than he did in his previous professional life, but he is far happier -- which means that we're ALL happier.

Except that some days I'll call him at work at 8:30 PM and ask when he's coming home and he'll exclaim that he got so involved in his art that he lost track of time, and then we eat dinner without him.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Bottom Lip Way Out

I'm pouting because the rest of the family did this (photo sent from Kat's cell as she was thigh-deep in Lake Washington!)...

...while I stayed at home and responded to a proposal from the Australian company who wants me to develop a curriculum for the American schools. The current product includes an animated movie, an animated DVD and a beautiful poster. The movie is fine (just needs to be segmented into academic-sized chunks), the poster is gorgeous (but could use a "board game" designed around it), but the DVD game, while visually GORGEOUS and very entertaining for kids (superheroes address the childhood obesity epidemic), is educationally completely off-base, with poorly-written questions and inappropriately-placed content. This potential job represents an opportunity for me to quit the big MS (although, as of Friday, I have another potential opportunity there!) and to earn twice as much hourly. However, I refuse to put my name (and stake my reputation) on something that is downright incorrect. I'll only write curriculum around the game if the company agrees to revise the product per my recommendations to make it educationally appropriate and correct.

What to do, what to do?! In any case, I need to keep all these balls in the air -- which is why I had to forego the Blue Angels today, because it's up to me to support the family and put the next three kids through college. (One down, three to go.)

Which gives me an idea for the next post: How my hubby switched careers at the age of 45, from environmental engineer to environmental artist, and traded money for happiness.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Late Summer Reading

Went to garage sales this morning and SCORED on some late summer reading!

Any reviews or recommendations as to what I should devour first? The Maui book is for hubby, since he's completely obsessed by the place... but the rest are mine! I'm thinking that I'll begin with A Thousand Days in Venice -- An Unexpected Romance. Has a familiar ring to it... ! The Loose Canons book is a hoot! It's filled with quotes from defiant, feisty women... which is why I gave a copy of it to my mom a few years ago. This one, though, is mine! My favorite quote so far is, "Nature gives you the face you have when you are twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But it is up to you to earn the face you have at fifty." Maybe THAT should be my blog tagline! The Nicholas Sparks book is among the only remaining books of his that I haven't read. Just finished Two Weeks With My Brother. Loved it. Sea Glass is by the author of The Pilot's Wife, which I thought was great. (I read it on the plane to Germany in 2001 -- that felt like a very short flight!) I keep picking up Best Friends at Target and putting it back again... but for a buck, I'll read it! I've been curious about Five People You Meet in Heaven since Mom died. She absolutely, positively experienced something extaordinary as she went through the process of dying, and now I seem to be intrigued -- though hopefully not in a morbid way -- with the whole subject. The Frank McCourt book? I dunno -- caught my eye, and I know that he's highly regarded. And Europe Through the Back Door? Need you even ask?! I'm going back... but likely not per anything in that book. I got it for my son (uh-huh!). He and his buddies invited Rick Steves (a Seattle local) to their advanced German class... but alas he couldn't make it because he was -- yup, traveling!!

Isn't it odd that the "books" section of my profile barely has any books in it, yet I'm an avid reader? I swear, I always forget the titles of the books I read as soon as I'm finished reading them. But I have a feeling a few of these might make it onto my profile list.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

Why is it that I'm...

...always the travel agent and never the traveler? :-(

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fifty Little Tidbits...

...about l'il ol' me (in no particular order):

1.) My nickname growing up was "Ladybug" because I had red hair and freckles.
2.) I have three brothers and always wanted a sister. I still do.
3.) My dad is my hero.
4.) I'm old enough to remember removing pop-tops and sticking them INTO the drink.
5.) I grew up in Berkeley in the 60's, but I'm not a hippie.
6.) I rebelled as a teen by becoming a cheerleader. That, to my radical family, was absolute defiance.
7.) I have truly loved three men in my lifetime. I still love all three of them.
8.) According to Myers-Briggs, I'm an ESFJ -- The Provider (Extroverted/Sensing/Feeling/Judging)
9.) I work in a high tech industry, but I'm not really techy. (I am, however, a geek!)
10.) I absolutely love my cat... and I swear that he absolutely loves me.
11.) I wish I were as smart as my oldest daughter.
12.) I forgot how to drive a stick shift.
13.) Deep inside of me is a broken heart.
14.) I have never loved or really accepted my body, yet I make media about positive self-esteem and body image.
15.) I remember names and dates very easily. I forget where I put things when I clean (drives hubby nuts!).
16.) I think about Germany a lot. My heritage is there and I feel it calling me sometimes... (Yes, I'm a bit nuts!)
17.) I love almonds and fall leaves.
18.) I look at men's wedding ring fingers. It's a habit; not sure why. My husband has never worn a wedding ring. I wish he would.
19.) My oldest son makes me laugh more and harder than anyone has, ever. He could absolutely be a stand-up comic if he wanted to.
20.) My twins -- the grandchildren of a German Jew -- were born exactly as the Berlin Wall was coming down. Like on that day and within those hours.
21.) Bavaria feels like home. Can't explain that one either -- except that it was my mother's home...
22.) I think a man speaking German is incredibly sexy.
23.) I seriously considered marrying a sexy Bavarian man.
24.) I kill any plant I own. I simply forget to water it.
25.) I was born with two thumbs on one hand. The extra digit was removed when I was a baby, but hands are still ugly, as I bite my nails. Tried to stop a few times; it's torture.
26.) I'm willing to bet that my youngest son will someday be a US senator... at least.
27.) I love domestics -- sheets, towels, dishes, etc. Forget the bee-line to clothes when I go shopping -- I head to the pillows and mugs!
28.) I long to go to Florence again, but I don't think I ever will.
29.) I've had some blissfully perfect days in my life. I remember the best of them by date.
30.) I do media about physical activity and good nutrition, yet I lack in both areas.
31.) I can do this bizarre thing with my tongue. I am a tongue contortionist.
32.) I should be working right now. I'm being paid to write this!
33.) I talk in my sleep. I've walked in my sleep, too.
34.) I insist on taking a bath every night. If I don't, I can't sleep.
35.) I'm curious about Ecstacy but I don't like drugs.
36.) I long to feel a baby move inside me and to breastfeed again, but I'll never again do either.
37.) I am a Certified Childbirth Educator and doula, but I haven't taught a class or attended a birth in years.
38.) I'm more comfortable in a group of men than in a group of women. Both my daughters feel the same way. I think it comes from having a couple of brothers.
39.) I love going to sleep. I also love waking up.
40.) Somewhere deep inside, I'm shy.
41.) Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" makes me instantly sob, no matter where I am. (Happened in Safeway once...) It reminds me of my mother's death because my brother played a slideshow of his kids to its accompaniment during her few last lucid hours.
42.) I would have been a good midwife. I often wonder if I went into the wrong profession.
43.) I wonder what it's like to be in my husband's head. Sometimes I totally GET him and other times I can't for the life of me figure out how he thinks.
44.) I long to go to Greece. Can it really be as beautiful as it is in movies?
45.) I have a novel in my head. Will I ever put it on paper?
46.) I love my husband, but sometimes I'd like to take a 6-month "marriage sabbatical."
47.) I think that the most exquisite and perfect piece of music ever written is Christoph Gluck's "Dance of the Blessed Spirit."
48.) I'm not scared of death. That is a gift from Mom, who had a beautiful, peaceful, almost holy (especially for an atheist!) death.
49.) I'm a product developer/manager by trade, but I think I'm a marketer (and a midwife?!) at heart.
50.) I only like bacon when I'm camping. Any other time, I think it's disgusting.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Option #6?!

This can all go either of two ways: either I have a few career options... or I have none. What looks so promising now could all fizzle into nothing, leaving me unemployed.

But there's now a possibility #6. A Seattle software company that makes PC games exclusively for girls called me regarding an open producer position. I have a phone interview with them next week.

I had coffee today with the co-worker who suggested I work as a vendor directly for him. Turns out (I think) that he wants my networking connections, as he thinks we'd be a good team, with me "making the contacts and getting our feet in the door" and him "doing all the technical work." Sounds a little fishy to me!

So, I'm juggling 6 balls at the moment: My MS contract job, which is not only temporary and contract, but which I've basically re-defined, with my boss' apparent support -- or apathy; the online early reading company job -- which is the one I want the most, I think, assuming the conditions (read: mula) are right; the American curriculum for the Aussie production company's childhood obesity project (which definitely pays the most, but would be a potential day-to-day nightmare); the partnership ("Health Media Studios") with my former boss, which I'd love but the money is anything but secure; a consulting position with a Houston production company that just landed a 10M NIH grant, and the girls' game company. Oh, and #7 -- my co-worker's proposal.

Why do I -- who's been accused of being a "hopeless optimist" -- have a feeling all seven balls could well come crashing to the ground?! It's all a waiting game -- especially this week, while the Aussies are making a decision regarding who they want to go with.

Thank goodness I have a day job!

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Seattle Drivers

I've lived in Seattle for 11 years now, and I'm still getting used to how exceedingly POLITE Seattle drivers are!

In California, if you want to change lanes, signaling is a dead giveaway and prompts the guy in the next lane to actually speed up to prevent you from moving over. In Seattle, if you want to change lanes, you signal, which prompts the guy in the lane next to you to slow down slightly to leave you plenty of room. Then, once you've changed lanes, it's customary to give a "hey, thanks buddy!" wave, which is invariably greed with a smile and a return, "sure, no problem... have a nice day" wave.

Silly me -- I took that for flirtation when I first arrived here!

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Finding Love at 78

When Mom died two and a half years ago, Dad was physically exhausted from "a thousand sleepless nights," and emotionally spent after four years of faithful and dedicated care-taking. Mom was demanding throughout her life, and became even more so when she had cancer. I think her high maintenance demeanor stemmed from fear, and far be it for me to criticize, having never gone through what she did. But it was very difficult for Dad and we all worried that he would die from exhaustion before she died of cancer.

Once Mom died, Dad quickly began his "sixth life." He had a very happy childhood (life #1) until being a "mischling," a half-Jew, in Germany became his identity in his early teen years. Having lost both parents and escaped a concentration camp by the time he was 17, he never had an adolescence (life #2). After the war, once he could breathe and was ready for a more carefree young adulthood, he met my Mom and soon she was pregnant. Being a "hochanstaendiger Mensch" (an upstanding citizen, a moral human being), he married Mom. So much for a carefree young adulthood (a very short life #3). He and Mom immigrated to America, where he began his career (life #4) as an engineer -- having paid his tuition as a plumber, helping to re-build the University of Munich after the war. They settled in Berkeley in the 50's and raised their four kids in the most alive and stimulating social and political environment one could wish for -- Berkeley in the 60's, where Mom taught at Cal. Only in the 80's, when they retired and moved to Ashland, Oregon (life #5) did life calm down for them. They had 24 relatively happy years there before Mom died.

And Dad still hadn't had an adolescence. He went headlong into the dating scene fairly quickly after of Mom's death --something that bothered me then, but which I've come to understand since. Mom didn't die overnight; it took four long years -- a thousand nights, as Dad put it -- so somewhere inside, Dad had to prepare for his "next life" during that time. Of course, like any teenager, he had to "get through" a few relationships (yes, even a story) before he'd find the right person, who I had stipulated all along would be "someone you've known forever... maybe even a friend of Moms."And that's exactly who Lou is: a dear friend of Mom's, who lost her husband the same year we lost Mom. The funny (no really, it is funny!) thing is that Mom and Kurt, Lou's husband, didn't get along at all! They bickered constantly, disagreed about everything, and generally had an adversarial relationship. But both Mom and Dad both adored Lou -- and she adored both of them.About a year and a half after Mom died and after Dad had gone through some other dating experiences and had resigned himself to living alone forever, he took Lou to a concert (as just a friend) and apparently said to her that he still thinks of her as Mom's friend and Kurt's wife... which Lou was apparently disappointed to hear, because she had been hoping...

And now they ARE like a couple of teenagers -- and I love it! And I am coming to love Lou, too. It's an easy love. I know what Dad means by "it feels just right..." I love and miss Mom, but I am so happy that Dad found love -- it seems that he's waited a long time for this.

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Testing, Testing...

I've been trying for two days to upload photos into my previous post, but no luck. The dang thing (as in, BLOGGER!) seems to be broken. So here's a test -- and my opportunity to post a completely random photos. Or not.

Well I'll BE!!

By the way, that's Mt. Rainier finally peeking out of the clouds just as we were leaving the park a few weeks ago. Even at Paradise Lodge we couldn't see anything but clouds. Grrrr!

So now maybe I'll post a new entry with old text...

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