Tuesday, October 31, 2006

(Turkey) Dress(ing) Rehearsal

In what's rapidly becoming a tradition around here (this family's definition of "tradition": something we've done at least once and liked), we had a rehearsal Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday night. Truth be told, the only actual similarity to the real Thanksgiving was in the turkey -- and even that was scaled way back to just the breast and none of the wings, drumsticks, giblets, etc. Maybe going all-economy for this go-round makes the real thing in a few weeks that much more fun. Or maybe, with all these kids (ha -- kids?!) scattered about and busy with their own lives, I just needed an excuse to bring everyone together for a Sunday dinner, so I called it a (mock) Thanksgiving dinner.

So here's what we served for Sunday's "mock Thanksgiving dinner," compared with what we'll serve in a few weeks for our real Thanksgiving dinner (with Dad and Lou!):

Just turkey breast vs the whole entire turkey, dark meat, white meat, wings, drumsticks, giblets, etc.

Jarred gravy vs Tom's incredible slow-cooked, made-from-drippings gravy

StoveTop stuffing vs Tom's incredible made-from-scratch stuffing with apples, nuts, raisins, celery, water chestnuts, and different breads dried the night before.

Canned cranberries vs my cranberry mold made from fresh cranberries, Jello, and chopped (entire) oranges

Bagged dinner rolls vs my aunt's amazing and fantabulously delicious takes-all-day-to-rise-a-bunch-of-times yeast rolls. (These are our family's trademark Thanksgiving offering!)

Salad from a bag vs salad from scratch with all-freshly-chopped ingredients

Mashed potatoes (no, NOT from a box... who do you take me for?!) made with non-fat milk and Ranch dressing vs mashed potatoes made with butter, sour cream, half-and-half and Ranch dressing

Fresh asparagus vs frozen-fresh asparagus

Store bought pumpkin pie vs Tom's mother's from-scratch pumpkin chiffon pie and my mother's from-scratch raspberry cheesecake

Eating from every day dishes in the kitchen, seven of us squeezed around one table, country music in the background vs the whole extended family eating from "holiday dishes" in the dining room, classical music playing in the background.

And still, the evening ended with full bellies, lots of laughs, and excitement and anticipation about the upcoming holiday!

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Monday, October 30, 2006

From Our Haunts to Yours

(Yes, one of these was inspired by a certain resident cat...)

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False Alarm?!

Boo gets the award for "Most Dramatic." Baily gets the award for "Best Big Whoop."

I think they'll be OK after all!

And Shasta, being a Golden Retriever, just wants to be part of it.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Kitty for Kat

Just a little over a week after we said good-bye to Allegro, we're pleased to announce the latest addition to our family, Baily! (She's a 17th birthday present for Kat.)

Shasta is thrilled about having a new playmate around and if only she knew how much bigger she is than Baily, we could let her loose. She tries to be gentle, but just gets over-excited! Her tail-wag alone could send poor Baily across the room. Baily is completely unafraid of Shasta and I have a feeling they'll be good buddies within days -- or pounds.

Boo, on the other hand, can't believe we have the audacity to bring a feline into the house! (I'd have said another feline, but Boo is sure he's a dog.) He's pissed -- and he's not afraid to show it! Until today, I'd never heard (nor even imagined) Boo growling or hissing. After all, he IS King of the Kingdom around here! I hope he'll get over it; if he doesn't, we'll have a definite problem!

Stand by...

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The Bad News Is...

...a sudden gust of wind blew some trees down early this morning.

The good news is... they missed our car.

The bad news is... they also missed the boat -- which we've been trying to sell and have joked that it'd be easier at this point if a tree would just hit it so we could collect insurance money!

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Today's Lesson: How to Identify a Seattle-ite

This is a fairly common scene at Seattle shopping malls. (The sign says "Does it look like rain? Feel free to borrow an umbrella and kindly return it as you depart.")

The crazy thing is, the only people you'll ever see using umbrellas in Seattle are tourists! In fact, it's how we pick them out of a crowd. Anyone using an umbrella is probably from Tuscon or Kansas City. If you're looking for the real Seattle-ite, look for someone on a mountain bike, wearing fleece, latte in-hand (grande double-shot, extra hot sugar-free pumpkin spice one-Splenda macciatto), heading into REI (where both my son and his girlfriend work).

I'm willing to bet that these umbrellas not only rarely get used, I'll bet they rarely get stolen. That's because Seattle-ites are truly a POLITE bunch. You should see us on the roads. I've been here for almost 12 years (from California) and I still feel giddy every time someone waves me ahead of them as I'm looking to change lanes. The exchange happens many times a day, and I have yet to take it for granted: I put on my blinker and look in my mirror. The guy/girl behind me makes eye contact, slows down and ushers me in with the wave of a hand. I move gently over and wave and/or mouth thank you. The driver acknowledges my appreciation with a return wave and often a genuine smile. This doesn't just happen sometimes with some drivers; this is routine on the Seattle streets.

One of these days I expect some Seattle driver (in a fleece, with a latte) to wave me in, then follow me home and make me a gourmet dinner.

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Merchandising Idea

This is my hotflash-friendly fleece pullover.

Hotflashes are a grand waste of time in themselves, but to make the whole ordeal worse, I waste a huge amount of time putting on and taking off clothes. (And unfortunately it's not half as much fun at this age as it was in my twenties.)

When you put on and take off the same pullover 40 times a day, it helps a lot if you don't have to double that already-wasted time by turning the damn thing right-side-out every single time. And that's why I love my fully reversible gray and pink fleece pullover. One minute I'm stylin' in pink and the next minute I'm dazzling in gray. My trusty fleece pullover just cycles that way throughout the day -- from pink (alright, who fiddled with the thermostat?)... to gray (who opened all the doors and windows?)... to pink (time for another shower)... to gray (where's my down throw?)... with nary a moment wasted!

Now I just need a name for my merchandising idea.

"Quick-Change (of Life)"?

"Reverse (the Clock!)"?

Dammit -- my brain truly has turned to mush.

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Friday, October 27, 2006


Here's an interesting site, worth a visit if you're seeking, confirmed, curious or just plain bored.

Here are my results:
1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
Liberal Quakers (98%)
Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (98%)
Neo-Pagan (90%)
New Age (88%)
Secular Humanism (78%)
Theravada Buddhism (76%)
Mahayana Buddhism (71%)
Bahá'í Faith (71%)
Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (67%)
Taoism (65%)
Reform Judaism (62%)
New Thought (61%)
Orthodox Quaker (53%)
Scientology (53%)
Nontheist (50%)
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (48%)
Jainism (46%)
Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (42%)
Sikhism (39%)
Jehovah's Witness (35%)
Orthodox Judaism (35%)
Hinduism (31%)
Islam (26%)
Seventh Day Adventist (22%)
Eastern Orthodox (16%)
Roman Catholic (16%)

Most interesting, perhaps, is that I was raised a Unitarian Universalist -- by a German-Jewish father and German-Protestant mother, both of whom were (or became?) agnostic or atheist after WWII. I wholeheartedly believe in the tenets of UU (obviously), but I married a non-practicing, but too-good'n'guilty-to-reform/rebel Catholic!

How did you "score"?

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Goodbye Microsoft (or Not)

Today is my last day at Microsoft. I think.

Instead of vacation pay, the agency I work for gives a week's pay for every 1000 hours worked. At the end of today, I will have accrued 977 hours.

Yeah, that was my initial thought, too. But Microsoft is not a "cheap" company (oh no...), so I can't imagine this to be anything but sheer consequence. I appealed to my manager, asking for another couple days, but he'd already closed the requisition. So I appealed to the marketing manager (who has more evolved social skills than the average Microsoftie; he actually looks at you and displays facial expressions when he talks to you), for whom I've been conducting some market research lately. Turns out he'd like me to continue down the road I've been headed and will try to open a req of his own to keep me on for at least another week, though I'd work at home...

...which is FINE with me! ;-)

So instead of sleeping late, cooking lavish meals and starting my novel next week, it looks like I'll be plenty busy with employment-type work -- either doing it or trying to secure it.

I got a call yesterday from the HR manager of the casual games company I interviewed with on Monday. They want me to come back next Tuesday to meet the VP for what he ominously called "the final interview." (Now there's a test of innate optimism or pessimism!) I really loved what I heard about the Producer position there. It sounds perfect for me! And yeah, I would love to be back downtown again. I wouldn't presume to have a "window office" there, but if I did I'd look out from the top floors of a highrise onto the Space Needle, ferries crossing the Puget Sound, and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains in the distance. But the nature of the position is what's most appealing: designing the games (creativity!), overseeing the project (project management!) and working with developers in far-off lands (travel!). Sounds perfect.

But I've also had other interviews this week and more scheduled next week. Yesterday I talked to the HR manager at the local museum. They're looking for a Director of Educational Outreach. Obviously, I have no museum experience and that was an issue. I of course acknowledged that and told her that it might be difficult to find someone with museum experience, educational experience and media experience. I suggested that if she does find someone with all three, to NAB him/her, because that's likely quite a rarity. I do, however, have education and media experience, so if they decide to go that route, I might be a good fit. We'll see where that one goes...

Next Monday I have an interview with the handheld games company, the one who develops entertainment games around licensed characters. The nice thing about networking is that you get an insider view of companies where your connections have worked -- and the "warning" that comes with this one is "Caution! Micromanager!" If there's one thing that drives me nuts in my old age, it's a micromanager. I'm a firm believer in hiring the best people and then getting out of their way so they can do their best work. Sort of the "lead from behind with a flashlight" philosophy. I've worked long and hard to get where I am, and the last thing I need at work is someone breathing down my neck, "guiding my creativity." That kind of approach pretty much guarantees doom for all involved. So I'll keep my eyes and ears (and intuition) open when I talk with that CEO on Monday.

On Wednesday, I have an interview with the development director at the company I met at Startupalooza. I'm really looking forward to that one, partly because I'm so intrigued by their product and partly because I love everything I've read about their people and their approach to business. And really, those two things are what it ultimately all comes down to. And hey, working at Pioneer Square would just be fun! I love that place!

And if the req at Microsoft goes through, I'll be doing that work as well. So I guess I won't be sleeping late, cooking lavish meals and starting my novel next week after all. If I play my cards right, I can do that the week after, having solidified the right job to jump head-long into after I take some time to rejuvinate myself -- and to turn 50! And if I don't play my cards right or life just throws me that proverbial curve-ball, I'll still turn 50... and I'll have myself a pity-party.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Another Cheesy Get-To-Know-Me Post

Blythe Spirit got this from The Badger, who got it from Karla. So obviously stealing is okay.

1. You can press a button that will make any one person explode. Who would you blow up?
George Bush, when he's standing next to Rove, Rumsfeld and Cheney. (OK fine... effigies will suffice.)
2. You can flip a switch that will wipe any band or musical artist out of existence. Which one will it be?
All gangsta rap.
3. Who would you really like to just punch in the face?
See #1 and add Ann Coulter, Laura Schlessinger and Rush Limbaugh.
4 . What is your favorite cheese?
5. You can only have one kind of sandwich. Every sandwich ingredient known to humankind is at your immediate disposal. What kind will you make?
And calories are of no concern? Sourdough roll with pesto, LOTS of avacado, sprouts, freshly grilled veggies, Portabello mushroom, sun-dried tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes (pico de gallo, too), Havarti cheese and turkey.
6. You have the opportunity to sleep with the movie celebrity of your choice. We are talking no-strings-attached sex and it can only happen once. Who is the lucky celebrity of your choice?
Pierce Brosnan (once) on the stairway, Richard Gere (once) in a limo and Johnny Depp (once) on the beach.
7. You have the opportunity to sleep with the music-celebrity of your choice. Who do you pick?
John Mayer, but only because anyone who can write lyrics like "Your Body is a Wonderland" must be wonderful in bed! ("And if you want love We'll make it Swimming a deep sea Of blankets Take all your big plans And break 'em This is bound to be a while...I love the shape you take when crawling towards the pillowcase You tell me where to go and Though I might leave to find it I'll never let your head hit the bed Without my hand behind it...")
8. Now that you've slept with two different people in a row, you seem to be having an excellent day because you just came across a hundred-dollar bill on the sidewalk. Holy crap, a hundred bucks! How are you gonna spend it?
On scrapbooking stuff.
9. You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you gonna go?
Ruhpolding, Bavaria, Germany
10. Upon arrival to the aforementioned location, you get off the plane and discover another hundred-dollar bill. Now that you are in the new location, what are you gonna do?
Take my 90-something-year-old aunt out for Eis Kaffee and dinner. (Her shaking disorder would be miraculously cured, so she could eat in a restaurant.)
11. A demon rises out of Hell and offers you a lifetime supply of the alcoholic beverage of your choice. It is...?
A flying saucer (kahlua, ammaretto, cream and ice, blended). Or Cabernet Savignon. (Is it before dinner or after?)
12. Rufus appears out of nowhere with a time-traveling phone booth. You can go anytime in the PAST. What time are you traveling to and what are you going to do when you get there?
Florence in the 1700's.
13. You discover a beautiful island upon which you may build your own society. You make the rules. What is the first rule you put into place?
No war. Ever. For any reason. Women rule the island. (Yes, they're related.)
14. You have been given the opportunity to create the half-hour TV show of your own design. What is it called and what's the premise?
A scavenger hunt around the world. The clues are all food, cooked by the world's great chef's. (I wouldn't be surprised if this already exists.)
15. What is your favorite curse word?
"Scheibenkleiste!" My mom was SCARY when she said this! It was only years after I grew up that I found out that it means window putty!
16. One night you wake up because you heard a noise. You turn on the light to find that you are surrounded by MUMMIES. The mummies aren't really doing anything, they're just standing around your bed. What do you do?
Tell them that I just ran out of toilet paper.
17. Your house is on fire! You have just enough time to run in there and grab ONE inanimate object. Don't worry, your loved ones and pets have already made it out safely. So what's the item?
My box with all the family photos, videos, etc in it. (No, they're not all in a box; I fudged that in order to comply with your rules.)
18. The Angel of Death has descended upon you. Fortunately, the Angel of Death is pretty cool and in a good mood, and it offers you a half-hour to do whatever you want before you bite it. Whatcha gonna do in that half-hour?
Turn all the clocks back!
19. You accidentally eat some radioactive vegetables. They were good, and what's even cooler is that they endow you with the super-power of your choice! What's it gonna be?
What's that cylindrical thing in Star Trek that transports people instantly anywhere? THAT.
20. You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be?
The phone call from the sick-o who said he had my hubby hostage and would kill him if I hung up. (I testified against him, via writing...)
21. You got kicked out of the country for being a time-traveling heathen who sleeps with celebrities and has super-powers. But check out this cool stuff... you can move to anywhere else in the world! Bitchin'! What country are you going to live in now?
I'd move onto a luxury yacht and sail from exotic port to exotic port.
22. This question still counts, even for those of you who are under age. You have been eternally banned from every single bar in the world except for ONE. Which one is it gonna be?
Not into the bar scene. Go ahead and ban me from all of them.
23. Hopefully you didn't mention this in the super-powers question.... If you did, then we'll just expand on that. Check it out... Suddenly, you have gained the ability to FLOAT!!! Whose house are you going to float to first, and be like "Dude, check it out... I can FLOAT!"?
Actually, I CAN float... forever. Yawn. Next question?
24. The constant absorption of magical moonbeams mixed with the radioactive vegetables you consumed earlier has given you the ability to resurrect the dead famous-person of your choice. Who would you bring back to life?
I'd like to have a conversation with Jesus and Thomas Jefferson -- together.
25. The Gates of Hell have opened, and Death appears. As it turns out, Death is actually a pretty cool entity, and happens to be in a fantastic mood. Death offers to return the friend/family-member/person, etc. of your choice to the living world. Who will you bring back?
My mother.
26. What's your theme song?
Man! I Feel Like a (Hotflashin') Woman!

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Blogger Analytics"

So it looks like my networking letter worked -- at least to some extent!

As of right now, I have either already had or I've scheduled five interviews in a period of seven days! I waffle between cautious optimism -- because every interview increases my chances of finding the Right Thing -- and relative pessimism -- because I've been here before and things withered up and blew away one by one back then. But mostly I want to stay realistic... and very selective, because this is the last time I want to do this job search thing for a good, long while. Not only am I too old to job-hop anymore, but looking for a job is exhausting, both physically and mentally.

Yesterday I talked with two people at a local casual gaming company (no, not the one that assured its staff that their jobs were secure one week and laid them off the next). One interview was for a product manager position and one was for a producer position. It became apparent to me in the first 5 minutes of the first interview that, as much as I like the hiring manager (I've worked with her before), that particular PM position was not for me. So off I went across the hall to talk about the producer position -- and within the first 5 minutes of that conversation, I knew that I'd love the job... and be good at it. It calls for the perfect combination of creativity, organization, team work, leadership and passion. And the thing I love about casual gaming (other than the fun and addiction) is that *I* am their prime demographic! Most casual gamers are women over the age of 35 -- so why not have a producer who is, as well?! I'm definitely looking forward to hearing about that job and hope-hope-hope to continue in the interview process. Cross your finger (or drueck die Daume) for me!

On Thursday I'll have a phone interview with the museum -- a one-of-a-kind museum -- for the position of Director of Educational Outreach. Oh man, what a job that would be! Suffice it to say that growing up in Berkeley in the 60's might add to my qualifications for that one...

On Monday I'll interview for a producer position with a handheld gaming company. While their products are pretty much for kids (which is good), they're strictly licensed properties and strictly entertainment -- not even edutainment. I might have a problem with that over time... but we'll see. For now, I just want to hear more.

And next Wednesday I'll interview for a marketing/product development position at a start-up that makes a really, REALLY cool device that's like a portable pen-sized and shaped scanner. It's an absolutely awesome piece of hardware (and software) with some amazing applications in the education arena. I'm totally intrigued and can't wait to find out more about both the gizmo and the company.

And in between those meetings I have a few networking meetings at various Starbuck's with friends and co-workers who have friends and co-workers who know of a friend or co-workers who's looking for someone like me.

And I thought I'd spend the week cleaning out the linen closet and dusting the tops of picture frames! Ha!

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The Bachelor

I have a dirty little secret. I'll tell you if you promise not to tell anyone. ;-)

I have been addicted to The Bachelor. For almost three years I have snuck off every Monday night, holed myself up in the bedroom and watched this silly little show. I got hooked when the sparks between Krista and Ryan were flying in all directions from our own Space Needle years ago... and I guess I've been waiting and hoping to see the same realism and romance since.

Last night I decided that it's just not gonna happen. I am finally willing to admit it. The show has become stupid, trite, and overly-dramatic. It's now obviously 99.5% scripted and produced, whereas I believe that applied to maybe 50% of it in its earlier years. After this season (I still like Lisa, though I do believe Sadie to be sincere... ), I'm quitting cold turkey, I promise.

Gray's Anatomy is my new drug.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Expecting a Stressful Week

Tomorrow I have an interview for two possible positions (Producer and Product Manager) at a local casual games company. I won't go into any detail for fear of jinxing things, but suffice it to say that I'm nervous -- and actually, excited!

I've also been talking to another gaming company, a museum, two online learning companies, and a university-based research project. (And of course, I'm finishing out my contracting stint at Microsoft this week.) As encouraging as all that sounds, I'm trying to balance hopeful optimism with objective realism. I want to find the right thing this time, something that draws on my specific skills and passions and doesn't ask me to be someone I'm not, or to pretend to have skills I don't. I'll never be a left-brained engineer... and I don't want to be. I am a producer, an educator (and edutainer), and a team player and I hope that any job I accept will draw on those strengths. My dream job would be designing and developing really cool products (media) or programs (museums, academia) for kids in a tight-knit, supportive team environment. Microsoft, where people work on "feature teams" (which only deal with one very narrow aspect of a product), is way too big for me, and I feel much more isolation and competition there than team work. (A co-worker said to me on my first day there, "Good luck -- you're on your own now. It's sink or swim." How true I've found that to be!) I much prefer having my fingers -- and my heart -- in every aspect of a project, from design to peripherals to marketing, and working within a truly collaborative team.

I have to remind myself not to panic or to accept the first possibility that comes my way. It's time for me to settle down and find the right position, and that might not happen until after the holidays. Fortunately, I qualify for unemployment and, with Tom's salary, that will see us through just fine.

Plus, I love the idea of finally having some time to read, scrapbook, garden (yes, garden!) and even clean, cook and organize! And I've had a novel swimming around my head for years that really needs to be finally committed to the page!

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Mama and her Boy

Italian Trivia posted today about how fast the first 18 months of her son's life has gone -- that he's grown up so quickly and that she can hardly believe that he's well on his way toward two.

Her post brought tears to my eyes as I realized that my baby boy, who adored me beyond measure has gown up to be the most wonderful young man who now adores a wonderful young woman beyond measure!

When did the moments turn into days and the days turn into months... and years... and decades?

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Survey Question

If you could re-live one day of your life, what day would it be? Why?

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I'm Either Hard-Up or an Effective Networker (or Both!)

I sent this e-mail to my entire professional network. Hey, who knows where I might find that one critical nibble...?

Hello Network Friends,

Over the years, I have found professional networking to be the most reliable and fruitful (and even enjoyable) aspect of looking for work, so I am once again appealing to you and any contacts you might have as I search for a permanent position in the field of education/edutainment media development.

As of October 27th, my contracting stint as a Program Manager (actually, more of an "education advocate") with Microsoft will come to an end. During my 20+ year career, I have designed and developed media products and programs for companies like Disney, Edmark, Humongous, AOL, SRA-McGraw-Hill, and Microsoft, and I hope to go from here to that "keeper job," the one that feels right for all involved, where I can settle in and contribute long-term to designing and developing products and programs that teach, inspire and entertain.

Might you (or your contacts) know of a position or have a lead that I might pursue? I can work locally or remotely, at home or in an office, in sweats or in a suit. I'd prefer work that utilizes my leadership and organizational skills, sparks my creativity, and inspires my passion for quality media -- video, print, software, manipulatives or programs that include a variety of positive and inspirational media. I have attached a chronological resume; in addition, you'll find links to both my web portfolio and my LinkedIn profile in my sig line.
(Bloggers, my LinkedIn profile is also in the sidebar!)

Please feel free to forward this e-mail as you see fit. Thanks in advance!


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Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Allegro had a long (a VERY long) and happy life. Here's a picture memorial: Elisabeth(now 22), in overalls, with Allegro as a kitten; Kat, in striped shirt (now almost 17), teasing Allegro with her toes; Peter (now 19) serving "tea" to a less-than-cooperative kitty; and Aleks (now almost 17) and Tom (now almost 51 ), napping with Allego.

And then there's Elisabeth and Allegro today at the vet's office, before...

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Farewell to Allegro

We got Allegro when Elisabeth, now 22, was just a baby (that's the three of us at bedtime many years ago). They grew up together, and Allegro's had a long, happy life -- until about two years ago. Two Thanksgivings ago, we came very close to putting her down because she was literally "attacking" herself -- chewing herself until she bled. She seemed miserable then and, not wanting her to suffer, I advocated putting her down. Not everyone agreed with me, and Tom most vehemently disagreed.

Both of us were coming from a place of compassion, but from completely different angles. That was TWO years ago, and it has been an on-going debate -- especially as Allegro became weaker, less able to take care of herself, and more bizarre (she developed a yowl that could be heard -- and feared -- for miles). In the past few months, I could hardly watch it as she staggered haltingly across the room, had trouble standing up straight, obviously couldn't see well, and acted completely feeble. But still, my attempts to allow her to be put out of her misery were met with (equally compassionate) attempts to allow her to live. In a debate like that, life has to win. It just must. And it did.

Until today. This morning, Allegro could barely come out her bed (I took this picture as I watched her, apologizing to her...) and I simply couldn't stand it anymore. How cruel must we continue to be to her? She couldn't sip water, she couldn't eat, and when she tried to pee (barely able to crawl into her box), she wobbled until she did a face-plant in the sand. I woke Tom up and absolutely insisted that that he watch her as she struggled to just do the basic things of life -- eating, drinking, peeing. I can't bear to do this to her anymore. How cruel can we be to force her to live a "life" like this?

Truly, in some ways, this has been harder than watching my own mother die. My mother wasn't in the agony that I believe Allegro is in. My mother didn't suffer for years. I just can't watch this anymore; we can't do this to Allegro anymore. It's wrong.

I don't know if it was watching Allegro or watching me finally lose it, but Tom has agreed that it's time. So we called Elisabeth and today at 5:20, she and I will bring Allegro to the vet and say farewell.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Educational Media Specialist Available for Hire

It's official: my days as a Microsoft contractor (at least this stint) will end on October 27th. They'll need an educator again, possibly at the beginning of the new year, but for now they'll be concentrating on the technical development of the platform. So my search for The Perfect Job intensifies...

If you know of anything for an educational media designer (film, software, print, board games, etc.) in Seattle or via a remote arrangement, let me know! Here's my LinkedIn profile.


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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Homecoming Night (The Event)

It's after 1 AM and the night is (somewhat unfortunately) young -- and I'm no night owl. There are twenty-some 16and 17-year-olds here for the night... and I'm trying to walk the fine line between being the vigilant parent and being the cool parent. Man, sometimes being a parent of teens isn't easy -- and we've been through all this before with our now-19 and now-22 year olds! That doesn't make it any easier. In fact, now that we "have a clue," it makes it harder in some ways.

So, here are the promised pictures of Homecoming. That's Elisabeth and Kat; Kat and her best friend, Britany (after they had their hair done); Kat and her date, Tim; and the whole group. (No, I'm not going to go take any of the party going on now...)

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Saturday, October 14, 2006


Tom and I decided to go to a few nurseries between the Homecoming prep and Homecoming event. It was a delightful hometown field trip.

The beauty in this little Pacific Northwest town really is amazing...

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Homecoming Morning (Prep)

Tonight is the Big Night: The High School Homecoming Dance! This is not just an evening gig; it is an all-day gig.

Background story: We have two almost-17-year-olds, twins Aleks and Kat. You can imagine the drama around homecoming day! Aleks had asked one girl to go to Homecoming with him. She said yes, and apparently both of them were all excited about it. A few days later, Aleks was at a party with his future date, his best friend, and other friends. (Drama warning:) He walked in on his date and his best friend making out! Long story short -- Aleks backed out "on principle" (I agree), so now he's not going to Homecoming. However, he will be "chilling" with his two new German exchange student friends (freundinen), and believe me, there's plenty of drama there, too. Something about one of the girls liking him, but him liking her friend, the other exchange student. I'm sure there's more to it than that, but I'll have to prod a bit. Stand by...

Kat IS going to Homecoming tonight, with Tim Ip (love the name!), a guy she's pretty much had a crush on for a year now. Tim is extremely shy (like Kat's dad!) and only managed to ask Kat to Homecoming with the help of her best friend, who helped him rig lights on the school football field, spelling "homecoming?". They kidnapped Kat at 2 AM (yup, I was in on it), put a pillowcase over her head, and brought her to the high school where Tim presented her with a rose and "lit the invitation." Cute, eh?

So today's the big day, and preparations began early (see "before" photo, below). Kat came with me to Weight Watchers (it's very slow but steady in the right direction), then we went to get her boutonnière (no that's not a fish bowl!), followed -- of course -- by a trip to Starbucks.

Elisabeth will come home (from her wonderful little house in Seattle) to be part of the whole thing and reminisce about her own high school years oh so long ago. (NOT!) After we take pictures of the kids all gussied up (of course I'll post again with those pictures), Elisabeth and I will go pick up Eva, the German exchange student (not one of those mentioned above) for whom I'm a liasion, and we'll do a "girls shopping evening."

It should be a good day. These days, I really never know how the day will pan out... Stay tuned for the Homecoming Evening post!

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Reflection and Update

Blood test: normal. Abdominal pain: decreased. Sense of relief: real. Hot flashes: unreal. Mood: Who are you and what have you done with the old me? (No, not old like THAT!)


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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Call Me Dummy (or Call Me Smarty)

Ho-kay. So. I refused a CT scan. Feel free to vote "dummy" or "smarty" -- once you know how it all went down.

Per Marty's instructions, I showed up at the hospital for the ultrasound. Like a good patient, I was nice and still and asked only enough questions to avoid being obnoxious. (I wanted to ask more; this stuff fascinates me!) The ultrasound technition is amazed at the number of ovarian cysts I have and insists that they're the culprits, but I assure her that I have them every time I have a "preventative pelvic ultrasound" and that they are not what's causing the pain -- especially since the pain is over here, not there! (Sheesh.) She moves the wand over the area I specified and of course, I jump three feet in the air. "Hmmmm, interesting," she notes, adding that she's not sure why my pain is there and not here. She seems slightly aggitated that 1.) my pain isn't in my ovary and 2.) the appendix isn't what she seems to be seeing each time I yelp. Sorry I can't comply, lady...

After more poking and prodding (and a bit of leaping and yelping), the tech announces that we are officially finished with the ultrasound, adding that she's still baffled, but that I should get dressed and wait. Which I do. I figure that I'm waiting for the doctor to talk with me about the findings, so I'm a compliant, patient patient and I sit in the dark room, waiting.

The doctor never comes to talk with me. Instead, the tech comes back and announces that I need a CT scan. Just like that -- no reason given, just "you need a CT scan, follow me." I'm completely taken aback. "Why?" I ask. "What does the doctor suspect?" Three steps ahead of me and walking fast (I can't keep up because -- hello... this hurts when I walk!), she answers, "Not sure, I was just told to take you across the way." Which she does, ordering me to "sit here and wait." I was alone in an empty waiting room, with no indication as to why I was there. Why the mystery? Why the rush? Is the rush because the office is busy and they're trying to move patients in and out, or is it because my health warrants it? What am I waiting for? Who am I waiting for? Why do I need a CT scan? What's going on?

I call Tom and of course I start to cry. He offers to come to the hospital (which is a few blocks from his office), but I don't know how he can help, so I ask him to hold off. Another call interrupts my call with Tom. It's Marty (my PA), saying "I bet you're kinda confused..."

Uh, YEAH!!

Marty explains that, because they couldn't see my appendix, because of my family history (with ovarian cancer... huh?!) and because my "insurance is so good" she decided that I should play it safe and have the CT scan. Good insurance? Huh? What does that have to do with anything? And why do you think my insurance is so good? Turns out that Marty was under the mistaken assumption that I'm a Microsoft employee and she figures that, since they'll pay for it all, why not go for the CT scan? (Proof that insurance drives the health care industry?!) I explain to her that I'm NOT an employee, but a contractor, and that my insurance is mediocre at best... but if she feels that a CT scan is best, OK I'll do it. She assures me that she isn't worried about cancer or any suspicious mass; she's worried about my appendix rupturing.

I am sufficiently scared enough to comply and I head back to the diagnostic imaging department and fill out the patient information for the CT scan. So far, so good. I'm not happy, but I'm being a responsible health care consumer. Right? Well, the three venti-sized (hey, I'm from Seattle -- all liquids are categorized as short, tall, grande or venti!) cups of contract that I was ordered to drink in an hour definitely gave me second thoughts. I do not consider the injestion of vile contrast to be under the label of "non-invasive." By the time he mentioned the barium enema and the IV I'd also be asked to endure, my gut instinct -- which has never betrayed me -- was screaming "Noooooooooo!" Staring at the three full cups of contrast (which Mom always threw up... not a good memory for me), I called Marty back, sat on hold for 20 minutes (the CT staff was definitely thinking "difficult patient" by this time) and when she finally answered, I asked whether this was absolutely necessary right this minute. Marty hesitated a bit and said, "No, you don't have to do this right away."

That's all I needed to hear. I brought the contrast -- untouched -- back to the nurse and told them that I was opting out. And I left (of course bursting into tears again once I got to the car).

Hey, unless I am in absolute imminent danger, I want to do some research and educate myself about what's happening to me... or might be happening to me... or isn't happening to me. Good thing I did. What I found was that I don't have all the symptoms of appendicitis (does a hot flash count as a fever?!) and that I should probably go with the smaller, less expensive, less invasive diagnoistic test (like a simple blood test) first. Which is exactly what I'm gonna do.

Ho-kay. So. After a night during which my symptoms got worse -- which I chalked up to "everything feels worse at night" -- I came to work today because I don't get paid if I don't and my family counts on my salary and I'll leave early to get a -- you guessed it -- simple blood test. I'll bet that it will show that maybe an ovarian cyst ruptured (which is not a dire emergency), but that I don't have appendicitis.

And yet again, I will be assured that intuition is a wonderful thing and something that I should never stop listening to it... because it has truly never betrayed me. And yes, in case you're wondering, I will get the CT scan if my white cell count is elevated. I'm no dummy!

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

We Interrupt This Blog...

...for a trip to the hospital.

For a few days now I've had this nagging pain on my right side. I successfully ignored it for a while, but yesterday it prevented me from being very effective in helping Elisabeth put her furniture together -- or doing much else. This morning it was down-right debilitating and, with Mom's ovarian cancer always fresh in my mind -- I got myself to the doctor (who I like so much I consider the visit a sort of treat!).

She poked and prodded a bit and then, with one soft touch, sent me up to the ceiling! "Know what's there?" she asked. "Hmmmm... nope -- other than an ovary, which I think should be a bit lower." "Your pain seems to be you appendix," she informed me, "and I want you to get to the hospital today to check this out." My first thought was, 'I can't, Marty. I don't get paid if I don't work, so sorry, but no can do.' But realizing that I had just posted about the importance of quality of life over work and money, I simply said, "OK, fine... but I'm sure it's nothing." And I'm probably right. (How embarrassing if it turns out to be gas, eh?!)

Nonetheless, I'm off to the hospital (the same one where I used to teach childbirth classes). And the reason Marty told me not to eat anything between this morning and my ultrasound is because, if it is my appendix or an ovarian cyst rupturing (I'm not worried about ovarian cancer; it's not this severe or this sudden), I'll be wheeled directly into surgery.

So stand by...

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It's been nagging at the back of my mind (and heart) for a few years now, but these days it's beginning to be more of a persistent calling: I think I want to teach.

Call it ego, but I need to make a difference. I know I did that as the executive producer of FUEL and CHILL because the whole premise of those productions was encouraging teens to do something to change their lives, their communities and the world for the better. But what am I doing now to make a difference? After developing those videos, and before that, designing and producing educational software that enhanced kids' days and taught them important skills (the greatest was producing the Blue's Clues games!), I feel that I'm really having no influence at all on kids and learning right now at Microsoft -- that I'm just a blip on the radar rather than a significant contributor to kids' education. I soooooo miss feeling the pace, the drive and the energy of creating an important product -- and of being in charge of the development and production of those products! "The buck stops here" is a phrase that serves more to motivate than to intimidate me and, as stressful as it is to be the producer, product manager and the one in charge, I love it and thrive on that sort of team environment and that sort of motivating energy.

I have a Master's degree in education, but I don't have a teaching credential, so this morning, just for fun (ha!), I looked into what it would take for me to get out of the corporate business world and into the classroom. First, it would take me chopping my salary by half to two-thirds. That, in itself, might be enough to stop me because we have three kids yet to put through college. Next, it'd take about a year of schooling and a classroom internship. I love school, so that would be great... but when would I do a classroom internship if I'm working full-time?

If only I could find a position in which I'd again design and develop educational media for kids -- as a key team member, not a blip -- I'd be happy again as a producer and product manager. But I can't seem to find the right job that's more "teachy" than techy and more people-oriented than programming-oriented. If I can't identify and secure that sort of position soon, I truly will look further into teaching -- salary hit or no salary hit -- because life is short and because I neeeeeed to make a difference, not just collect a paycheck!

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

No-Photo Post

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Monday, October 09, 2006


So while I was here with our daughter:

Tom was here, backpacking with friends:

The irony of it is that he has often said to me, "You should see Las Vegas; it's incredible!" And I have been known to say to him, "You should see Crater Lake; it's incredible!"

What a partnership, eh?!

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Yard Update

Richard's recent post reminded me to post an update on our front yard metamorphosis! We have a long ways to go -- cobble or flagstone pathway over the concrete and gravel, wood bridge over the dry river bed, water feature (we have the main big rock, but have to do the work around it and some other smaller rocks), plants, bench, split rail fence, etc. -- but we've come such a long way and I absolutely can't believe how different it all looks! I swear, I just about drive right by our house every time!

Here are before and after (er, I mean "during") pictures:

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1400 (2253 kilometers) Miles Later...

We're home! After having a blast in Las Vegas, we got in the car and drove...and drove... and drove! I don't think I've ever driven that far in that short a time! Basically, it went really well. Thank goodness we had no mechanical problems. The only problem we did have was with a... um... different approach to the driving aspect of the whole thing. Elisabeth is 22, very impatient and very... well -- DRIVEN. She's stubborn, determined, and she lives life at high speed -- and, it turns out, she drives a car with the same impetuous attitude! And the more I'd fret and complain and cajole and flinch and lecture, the more she'd push it, defiant child that she is! I'm sure I'll eventually I'll have blood flow back in my nuckles, but oh my gawd! (I love you, m'dear! )

As long as we weren't driving, we did great and had a wonderful time together! It was a blast doing the whole Las Vegas thing together and I am honored that she could have taken any of her friends but took her mommy instead. It was definitely a bonding experience and we've vowed to do it again again someday... without the driving piece of it.

The play in Ashland was great, and the dog did, indeed, steal the show. The production was creative and hilarious and just a lot of fun! Afterwards we went to Chateaulin, one of Ashland's landmark resaurants, for French onion soup, delicious salad and scrumptious desserts. It was great to have a chance to get to know Lou better and I can't think of anyone more perfect for my dad. How wonderful to see him so incredibly happy after so many rough years -- both during Mom's illness and before.

We left Ashland this morning at 6:15 and we drove into our driveway at 1:59 (see reference to driving above), allowing me enough time to actually get some Microsoft work in... which is a good thing after a weekend like that!

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