Monday, April 30, 2007

Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty: The Perfect Blend

So after this morning's little self-analysis blogging session, I met Tom for lunch and did some gardening (I know -- meeee... gardening?!) and thought more about what energizes and motivates me. As I was struggling with a particularly stubborn weed, it came to me: Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty is the perfect blend of a for-profit product with a non-profit (activist, even) message. How great would it be to produce something like that, except for teen girls... something hard-hitting and personal, something that encourages youth to take a different look at an issue, something that encourages them to turn around and do something impactful themselves (sort of like FUEL's "response project").

Many companies have non-profit-type initiatives, like Starbucks' Neighborhood Parks program and Ben and Jerry's foundation work, but what makes Dove's campaign different is that they had the guts to infuse the Campaign for Real Beauty their core business plan. It's not just something extra; it's part of how they sell their product. With the media frenzy around "physical perfection" (yes, that is sooo in quotes!), turning the concept of beauty upside-down took real guts -- real corporate GUTS. I'd have loved to have been part of that!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

First: Find My Passion. Next: Find Employment

This isn't the first time I've been unemployed and a bit freaked. It is, however, the first time I've been so suddenly unemployed, this freaked, and over 50.

My resume -- which, according to all the experts, needs to be re-written to more tightly brand myself -- reflects someone who has successfully traveled an enviable path. I have a great education, with a BA in developmental psych from UCSB and an MA in Education and Media from Stanford. After graduation (which was, er... 1981), I jumped right into Stage One of my career: the perfect position with a now-defunct division of Disney called WDEMCO (Walt Disney Educational Media Company), designing and producing not-so-cutting-edge educational media (e.g., filmstrips, comic books, etc.) of the day. About a year into that position, I was told that I'd be transitioned to a small team working on something called "personal computer software." I freaked a bit because I had absolutely no interest in computers or technology. My interest was in content development, character and story development, and inspiring kids to learn in engaging, non-textbooky ways. Once I finished freaking ("I don't doooo computers!"), I realized that designing games for this new-fangled home computer "craze" actually spoke to everything I was passionate about, and once I realized that I wouldn't be required to A.) write code or to B.) create art (areas that still today I have A.) no interest in and B.) no talent for), I poured myself into my new endeavor with great fervor. Within a little over a year, I had designed and managed the development of about 20 computer games -- ten, with names like Queen's Revenge and Dwarfs Dilemma, for a Panasonic Home Computer that never saw the light of day, three with Sierra Online (when it really was in the Sierras; we'd fly to Fresno and drive to Oakhust, near Yosemite, where we'd design with Ken and Roberta Williams on the deck of their beautiful riverfront home), and a few (Disney's Comic Strip Maker and Disney's Card and Party Shop) with Looking Glass Software. And within that short time I got married and had a baby, too. Saying that those were productive years would be an understatement! I was young and driven and ambitious -- in every aspect of my life!

What I consider Stage One of my career extended beyond Disney and into Educational Insights, where I designed non-electronic educational media. Loved that, but longed to be home with kids.

Time out (seven years) to stay home with four kidlets.

Stage Two: Six years of mostly long-term contracts at companies like Humongous, KnowWonder and Edmark, designing educational software that I loved -- simple, graphical interface; simple, straight-forward game-play; simple, engaging characters and storylines. I consider software during these years (1995 - 2000) to be the heyday of educational software. Current "casual gaming" is reminiscent of this era, which is why I love that arena and why it's the only software endeavor I'd consider at this point in my career. (Hey, that's a pretty strong realization! I knew blogging about this would get me somewhere in this process...!)

Stage Three: I discovered educational media production in the non-profit world... and fell in love. Finally, my passion for great product development and my desire to truly have a positive impact on kids' lives came together. Again I was tasked with producing media in an unfamiliar format (video) and this time I didn't freak quite as much, realizing that the medium is just a small part of product development, and that the process is what really drives product development. The two years I spent creating and developing the eight videos that comprise FUEL and CHILL were definitely some of the most positive and productive of my career, and now that I look back as part of my quest to "find my passion," I realize that what I loved so much about was the approach we took -- the honest, direct, impactful approach of talking directly to youth about issues that matter in their lives and to allow -- and encourage -- them to be the voices that implement positive action and change.

OK, so this "just type what you're thinking" exercise that I've selfishly subjected you to has led me to two realizations: I love the creative aspect of educational media development for a younger audience -- the story, the characters, the FUN part of curriculum... and I love making media that includes my older audience in an almost activist sense -- focusing on their words, their inspiration, their passion to motivate their peers. I love the nonprofit world because I'm not big on making money for the sake of making money, but I love the pace of the for-profit world -- the inertia, the inspiration and the energy behind the looming deadline. I still don't have a huge affinity for technology, unless it saves time and energy or helps people connect (example: blogging!) and I have no real interest in high tech jobs in and of themselves... though I keep getting pulled down that road -- and feeling like a failure at it! I need to work with creative, compassionate people who share my passions for the product, for the process and for the audience. I need to make great products and I need to make a difference.

And maybe that's my brand and the launch for Stage Four:

"Producing great products that produce great inspiration."

The statement needs refining, but it's a start. Thanks for your patience as I did todays "work." What do you think of the result?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, April 29, 2007

To My Pacific Northwest Boat Lovin' Readers

Remember this, way back when? Well, we put it on the market a bit too late last summer and by summer's end, it hadn't sold. Opening Day is a big day around the Puget Sound, and this year it falls on May 5th -- which is next Saturday. So I spent all day today cleaning this baby up (I call her Tom's "Miss-Stress"), inside and out. Then I advertised it.

And now we wait. Anyone interested?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Ladies' Day in Seattle

Elisabeth, Kat, Eva ("our" AFS student from Germany) and I spent a wonderful sunny (relatively, anyway...) Seattle day at the new Sculpture Gardens in downtown Seattle. What goofballs! What fun!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

The Happiest Years

I knew they'd be my happiest years before they occurred. I knew they were my happiest years when I was in the midst of living them. And I remember them as my happiest years now, long after they've passed.

The years from 1983 to 1995, from when I was 27 until I was 39, were filled with birth, life, love, and growth. Everything in my life was new, fresh, and continually changing in the most wonderful ways. Relationships were sprouting and growing. I felt needed and loved, whole and complete. Friendships were abundant, family was ever-present, nurtured, and nurturing. Home was the center of the universe. The sun shone on me then, figuratively and literally, in Southern California.

A few snapshot memories from those years:

1983: May. A wedding. A beginning. The ceremony was held late in the morning at the Wayfarer's Chapel in Palos Verdes, right on the ocean. The fog hadn't quite lifted yet, but my mind and my heart couldn't have been more crystal clear. It was perfect.

1984: I worked at Disney in a new venture called "Personal Computer Software." I didn't quite understand the technology of it all (still don't!), but I fully understood the characters that we'd bring to life on a different sort of screen. With a team of four others, I designed simple, engaging and very primitive electronic games called Donald Duck's Playground, Mickey's Space Adventure and Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood. Big-wig managers continually rejected the art, insisting that Mickey's ears be perfectly round, as they are on the painted cels in Disney movies. We told them that there was no way. They asked, accusingly, what needs to happen for Mickey's ears to be perfectly round. We told them that technology needs to be more advanced. They approved the pixelized art -- "for now."

At home, I nurtured a growing belly, loving every minute of my changing body and my changing life. We moved from a small apartment in Santa Monica to a small house in Westchester, almost directly under the LAX flight path. Elisabeth -- whom we named Erin -- was born in May, after a barely perceptible labor.

1985: Life with a new baby. Amazing! All my life, from the time I could remember, I'd wanted babies. And this was better than anything I'd ever imagined. I had a full-time career an hour from home (in LA traffic), but it was a fulfilling, creative career and my child had a loving, doting grandma-type who came to our house every day to love and dote. I missed Erin hugely, but knew she was in good hands.

1986: After Disney, a supposedly family-oriented company, refused my proposal to job-share with another producer, I left to take a part-time design job at Educational Insights. It was closer to home as well as more manageable hours. Perfect again.

1987: Peter was born in February, after a very long, very hard labor. I thought, 'How can I ever parent a BOY?!' Peter was a calm, sweet, adorable baby. I was amazed that I had even more love to give! Where does all this love come from, so fruitfully? Is it unending? Life was amazing -- and being victim to an 11% company-wide lay-off barely fazed me, as I was floating in home-happiness and happy to leave the work world behind for a while.

1988: We moved from a rented house in a noisy post-war LA neighborhood to purchased newly-built home in a quiet suburban neighborhood in Oceanside, near San Diego. Bliss was putting it mildly. I had a happy marriage, two adorable children, a brand new house full of decorating possibilities, and a group of fast friends whose lives paralleled mine, with new babies, new houses, and new dreams. My days were spent nurturing, loving and laughing... and cleaning, cooking and organizing. It was perfect. I was happy.

1989: Sixteen weeks into our third pregnancy, at our first ultrasound, we were told that I was carrying twins. Everything went white for a brief moment, and then I remembered a game of Life I had played with my family when I was about 10. I "spun" boy/girl twins in the game and burst into happy tears. My three brothers made fun of me and my parents found it "touching," but I remember that there was nothing I'd rather have in real life, and I secretly hoped for the next 20 years, that the game of Life I'd played at 10 would be predictive. And it was!

Alexander and Katherine were born at the very moment that the Berlin Wall was brought down in November -- just perfect, as my father was a German Jew who had grown up near that wall.

1990: With four kids under the age of 5 1/2, I was busier than I'd ever been before -- or than I'd ever be again. But I also felt more purpose in life than I'd ever felt before -- or than I'd ever feel again. Days were spent at neighborhood and twins' playgroups. I was learning to cook for the first time -- something my mom never had any interest in -- from a dear neighbor friend. I attended (and hosted) Tupperware parties galore. I lived the life of a typical young suburban American wife and mother. Life was busy, I never had a moment to myself, I was needed every minute of every day... and I couldn't have been happier.

1991 & 1992: A blissful blur. Today, when I hear music or watch a TV show or movie made during those years, it's a completely new experience for me, as I was almost completely out of touch with the popular culture of those years. My life was lived within the bubble of our family, our home and our neighborhood. That's all I needed. That's all I wanted.

1993: We moved to Eastern Washington, where Tom, who was an environmental engineer at the time, had found a position as a Principal Engineer at a place called Hanford Nuclear Reservation. While he was tested daily for radiation as he arrived at work, I blissfully decorated another, larger, newer home and brought children to and from the park and preschool and the mall. Erin changed her name, quite defiantly, to "Elisabeth" (her middle name) and never answered to "Erin" again.

1994: We went to Washington with high hopes of a fulfilling career move for Tom, but he had next to nothing to do at work. It turned out that his Principal Engineer position was all "for show," because Hanford had to have X number of engineers on site to clean up the nuclear mess that had been made in the years since the nuclear bomb was hastily created on the site -- leaving almost an almost unimaginable amount of nuclear mess behind. It bothered us to be associated in any way with that act in our history and to the death and destruction it caused. It bothered us to live in a town where the high school mascot was the "bombers." But the kids were happy, we had a happy home and a beautiful house, and life was good.

1995: Tom found a job in Seattle and we left Hanford -- and our beautiful home -- behind. I went back to work part-time designing educational computer games for Edmark and the twins started kindergarten. In December, Tom was laid off and I started full-time work. Two weeks later, in a storm, a huge tree fell on our house, destroying all but one upstairs bedroom and totalling both cars. It took a year to clean up the mess and make the house livable again.

The "blissful" part of life had suddenly ended... though I have never blamed that on our move to Seattle because I LOVE Seattle. Instead, it's just how life happens. For many years after 1995 I waited for "bliss" to return, but it never did.

I know I can't go back. I can't bring back the blissful first years of marriage, the magical early years of childhood, or the confident sense of absolute purpose.

These years are so different. Marriage is something to "hold together." Children become independent -- as well they should -- finding their own confident way. "Purpose" has come to be defined job status and salary level.

From 1995 until now, I have travelled the road of my life as it lies before me, but instead of reveling in each step of the journey, in the place I find myself at any given moment, I've been looking ahead, wondering if there's any adventure, any color, anything that will bloom and blossom, on the road ahead.

My fear is that there IS adventure ahead, that there IS purpose, and that there IS bliss, but that I'll miss it. I don't think it's on the path itself as it was earlier in my life; I think it's probably hidden quietly off the side of the road and that I'll need to LOOK for it this time, notice it, and pursue it. Will I know it? Will I be ready for it? Will I be quiet enough to hear it? Or will I be looking behind me too often? Will I not looking in the right place when I should? Will I not be listening? Will I be making too much senseless noise and miss it?

I fear that I'll miss my life because I'm stuck on this dusty path looking for the next sign that says "Your Life." Earlier in my life, I didn't notice or need any of those signs because I KNEW exactly where my life was. But now I find myself looking for and relying on those signs and I can't find them!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, April 27, 2007

They Forgot "Northwest"!

Sorry -- I'm just easily amused...

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Grow Where You're Planted?

I found myself "planted" at the local JiffyLube today -- which happens to be across the street from our to world-famous nursery. Unfortunately I haven't been able to nurture a single plant in my life, so the only time I ever pay a visit to Molbaks is when we have out-of-town visitors who can, apparently, nurture plants.

Since I had some time to kill in the middle of the day while my car ,was being serviced (I'm beginning to like this!) and since we're in the process of re-doing our yard, I decided to take a stroll through the acres and acres of foliage (and coffee shop and upscale gift shop) at Molbaks...
and I left wishing that I actually could be a gardener and that I actually could keep a plant alive!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I met a former co-worker for lunch today. I never worked closely with M, but I admired her from afar because she seemed so wise, so compassionate, so self-aware. A few weeks ago, when I asked another friend if she knew of a good career counselor, she suggested M -- who isn't really an official career counselor, but who apparently is good to talk to about transitions.

"Good to talk to" -- definitely.

"Life altering"
-- perhaps!

M did a lot of listening, bless her heart. I talked about the work that spoke most directly to my passion (producing FUEL and CHILL), about the work that I found most creative and exhilerating (designing Blue's Clues games), about the work in which I felt most out of my social and intellectual element (Microsoft), and about the work that most challenged my patience and self-esteem (my latest position). M offered such wisdom, and I so appreciate it! She suggested that, at this point in my career it's less about bullet points on a resume and more about leadership skills. She also suggested that I won't find a job on or Craigslist (I knew that), but instead I'll probably find it through very personal networking channels -- which I'm sure is absolutely true. (I did spend the week completing a very extensive application for an Executive Director position at a VERY cool Seattle non-profit that focuses on healthy kids.)

Then M gave me a book called Transitions -- Making Sense of Life's Changes, by William Bridges, which is completely relevant to my current situation. "Every transition begins with an ending," it says. "We have to let go of old things before we can pick up the new -- not just outwardly, but inwardly, where we keep our connections to people and places that act as definitions of who we are." It goes on: "First there is an ending, then a beginning, and an important empty or fallow time in between. That is the order of things in nature. Leaf-fall, winter, and then green emerges again from dead wood."

So I need to not be fearful of this ending and I need to trust that it will bring exactly the right new beginning. Most of all I need to accept and fully believe in this "fallow time in between." Somehow I need to work on it, but not rush it -- even if we DO have three kids starting college a little over a year from now! I work hard and I'll continue to work hard... not just on finding a job, but in finding myself.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sights and Sounds: A Yard Metamorphosis

It's not quite finished yet, but I couldn't resist posting a video of our new front yard waterfall so you can hear what it sounds like. Eventually, it will look much more natural, with various sizes of rock beneath it and a creekbed winding its way from the waterfall down the slight hill toward the driveway. I like the sight and sound of the waterfall so much that I've decided that we need to build a small patio area nearby with two wrought iron chairs and a small table (to hold our margaritas) so we can really enjoy the peaceful sights and sounds.

And the backyard... hoo-boy! It got completely torn up this morning and the entire half-acre or so of lawn was decimated and dumped into the forest. It's about time we tore up this lawn. In fact, you could hardly call it lawn anymore; it had really become one big sheet of moss. So the plan is to smooth out the grade, bring in a bunch of top soil, replant a beautiful green lawn, and surround the whole thing with very Pacific Northwest-looking shredded bark interspersed with a few large native-growing ferns. Within a few weeks, this place should look completely transformed. I can hardly wait!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How to Tell That Your Kid is All Grown Up

After having coffee with the staff from my most recent job (yeah, that one) and then heading downtown to have a few drinks with some former co-workers from the non-profit I worked at before that (fun!), I drove across the Aurora Bridge to Elisabeth's cute little blue house in Wallingford.

"Elisabeth's house."

Wasn't Elisabeth just playing house? Wasn't it just yesterday that she held the poor cat and her baby brother hostage at her plastic Little Tykes table for a tea party?

And now she has a beautiful little place of her own, with all her own furniture, paying her own rent, buying her own food, forging her own successful career, and living very much her own life!

When on earth did that happen? Did I age during those years too? I don't know how I possibly could have because I feel just the same. But there was definitely a passage of time, a birth of a young woman, a blossoming of a true friendship.

So here's how you can tell that your baby is all grown up:

1.) She hugs you when she greets you, hugs you when she says goodbye and tells you she loves you in between.

2.) There are family photos everywhere in her place -- childhood bubble-bath photos of her siblings on the bathroom walls, pictures of her parents on her bookshelves, framed photos of grandparents on her dresser. All the same people who were considered dorks and dweebs (except the granfdparents, of course) just a few years ago...

3.) She insists on splitting the check when you go out for a fancy and delicious sushi dinner.

4.) She asks you how your life is going -- and is genuinely interested in the answer. And you feel that you can really tell her honestly how life is going and how you're feeling about it.

5.) She no longer asks for help with her homework (you couldn't have kept up since she was in 8th grade anyway), but she does ask you for help with her 401K and her health insurance deductibles.

6.) She talks to you about anything and everything. Really -- anything and everything! And it's like talking to a good friend, not a child.

7.) She loves her siblings in a completely new way. She invites them to her cocktail parties and takes them shopping and keeps an eye on them when Mom and Dad go out of town -- and doesn't fink on her siblings... even if she probably should! ;-)

8.) She picks up a few groceries on her way to your house.

9.) She takes "her" cat home with her, to her new house... to her own house. And the cat is much happier there.

10.) You have a new friend... who's been your friend all along.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring has Sprung: Home Improvement

I think the weekend garage cleaning nudged some hidden recessive and long-forgotten nesting and cleaning gene in me, because I'm like a woman possessed.

Surely this will pass -- likely by tomorrow -- but until it does, I'm putting it to good use... and encouraging (pleading... demanding?!) others around me to do the same!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Readers, Reveal Thyselves!

My blogger friend Richard recently asked his readers to pop in and say hello. I thought that was a great idea, especially since I have some very faithful readers who I know only as places -- Mr./Ms. Sacramento, Mr./Ms. San Leandro, Mr./Ms. Noblesville, Mr./Ms. Ottawa, Mr./Ms. Baunatal, Mr./Ms. Krottorf, even a Mr./Ms. Harbin! And you Washingtonians... I know many of you are my personal friends, checking in on me (keeping me in line?!)... but the rest of you? Introduce yourselves! Have we met?

And to my California friends... are any of you dear old (by now!) friends from my childhood or youth? Well dang, at least say HI and perhaps share a memory!

I never understood bloggers' desires to "market themselves" to drive up traffic (OK, maybe that's not true; I'm understanding -- and relating to it -- more and more... short of putting ads on my site!), but my career is based on "knowing thy user" or in this case, "thy reader." So consider this... um, market research?!

Yes, in fact that IS bullshit; I want to know who you are out of sheer personal curiosity!

So hey, don't be shy! Drop on in and say hello and tell me a bit about yourself! It's only fair, ya know... since you know an awful lot about me! I promise I won't bite. In fact, I'd be every so grateful! It's easy as clicking that "comment" button right under your nose.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Garage for Sale

I absolutely hate cleaning the garage. Hate it. Each year, there's more junk and more to clean, and I hate cleaning it that much more. I've been putting it off for months this year, and I always had a good excuse for procrastinating. I've been working too hard and deserve relaxing weekends. It's raining. It's cold. NetFlix arrived in the mail. And my personal favorite: how can I clean the garage if so much crap is blocking the door that I can't even get INTO said garage?!

By this weekend I'd run out of excuses. And Tom had even offered to help me (OK, I begged/conned him), so I had no choice but to tackle the dreaded, dirty, thankless job. This is what greeted me:

We took just about everything out of the garage and tossed what we could -- or rather I tossed what I was allowed. Tom's and I are very different in just about every way, but way #724 is our very different thresholds for "stuff-keeping." I want it outta here if it either hasn't been used in 6 months and holds no sentimental value. Tom, on the other hand, is sure that someday -- possibly tomorrow, even -- we'll have a use for it. In fact, chances are that we'll NEED it in the near future, so it'd be best to hold onto it. It's amazing that we could clean the garage together today. I'm sure that what saved us was that he cleaned half of it and I cleaned the other half, no (OK, few) questions asked.

Just as we had piled the driveway high with stuff, the sky got dark and rain clouds gathered... and we quickly pulled it all back inside. A huge amount of what went back was the garage sale pile... literally 30 huge black bags filled with clothes (remember this?!), as well as litchen crap, some electronics, small appliances, gardening gizmos, and various and insundry other useless and unwanted thingamajiggers. As soon as I can count on a sunny day (like, August), I'll price it all to go and garage-sale it all... with a trip to the Goodwill later that afternoon to give away the rest. By that time, more junk will have accrued, all to be gathered NEXT year at the dreaded annual garage clean-out.

If you look really carefully, you might notice a slight difference between those photos and these (no snooty comments of you don't, OK?!):

And now I'm off to bed. Every muscle hurts! Time for another massage!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, April 20, 2007

I Met a Man without a Wedding Ring for Lunch

I made the call soon after everyone had left for the day and the house was quiet. I knew the number by heart and dialed it with anticipation.

"Hello?" said the deep voice on the other end, almost a whisper. I got right to the point, knowing that our call could be cut short at any moment. "Can we meet for lunch?" I asked.

"Yes, that would be nice," said the voice. "But I can't be gone long. I'll meet you in the back parking lot. What time?"

"1:15," I suggested. And so it was arranged. I showered, dressed in black slacks and a casual green sweater, and applied just a touch of make-up and an ever-so-slight mist of Hawaii perfume. His favorite, of course.

At 1:15, I pulled into the back parking lot with just enough time to freshen up my Desert Rose lipstick before I saw him walking toward the car. "Damn, he looks good!' I thought to myself, but when he opened the door I only said "Hi," and gave him a quick kiss.

The hostess at the restaurant greeted us with a smile. "Two?" she asked. We nodded. As she gathered the menus, I felt her eyes glancing almost imperceptibly at our hands. I knew what she was thinking. This has been going on long enough that I've figured it out by now. She's thinking that the wedding rings don't match. As in, she's wearing one and he isn't. "

Right this way," she said as she led us to a small table for two in the darkest corner of the restaurant.

We'd been discovered. She saw it, she noticed it, and she knew. And somehow there was a slight thrill in knowing that she knew.

He spoke first. "I've been thinking. I think we should just do it. We've waited so long. I think it's time."

He's right. We had waited too long. Spring had come, somehow making it feel more urgent, and there could be no more waiting. "OK," I agreed. "When?"

"Soon. Before I change my mind."

He was teasing me now.

"When?" I implored again.

"We need to consider the electricity. There's no denying that..."

"Go on," I pleaded with anticipation.

And then, once he began, I knew he'd spill his thoughts and plans quickly. I knew there'd be no holding back from this man without a wedding ring.

"First I'll run electricity to where the current garden shed is, so we can have a light in the new shed, and so we can plug in things like the leaf blower. After I dismantle the old shed, I'll use some of those 4x8 sheets of plywood in the garage for the floor of the new shed..."

So add this to the upside of unemployment: lunch with my non-wedding-ring-wearing husband!

But geeeeeze! And growl and roar! And grrrrrrrrr! We'd bought a gorgeous ring together back in 1983 -- a gold band with a channel of gold nuggets. Very 1983, you're thinking. And you're right. But if he'd been wearing the ring for the past 24 years, it'd now be a beautifully smooth gold band with just hint of mystery where the nuggets had been. It'd be different now, changed over time, with the kind of personality that takes years to develop -- well-weathered, well-loved and well-worn. Like its owner. Like the marriage it signifies.

Instead, it's still new and angular, with no earned personality, no softening edges, no signs of the weathering and mellowing and deepening of the relationship it represents. Even the inscription, "love, Carol," is still perfectly legible.

It doesn't even feel like our ring anymore. Instead, it feels like a ring that belongs to that young couple who purchased it at the Santa Monica Mall so many years ago. That couple is only slightly familiar now, like an old acquaintance whose name remains in the address book, but with whom no real connection still exists. We went through so many changes and experiences while the ring sat motionless in the dark box, cradled in velvet and undisturbed, lest it be nicked or scraped or weathered. The ring wasn't there for children's births, or for up-rootings and re-rootings, or for fights and silences and re-connections. It never had to be re-sized, it never got lost and welcomed back, it was never cleaned -- or dirtied.

It's the exact same ring that was purchased by a two young people in love in 1983, but it's their ring, not ours. Because we are very different people than we were then, this is a different relationship than it was then, and any ring that is a symbol of this 24-year marriage would need to show some age, some mellowing, some weathering, a few scrapes and scars, and a whole lot of changes from what it looked like in the beginning.

If we met for lunch tomorrow and my husband wore his shiny, angular wedding ring, the waitress wouldn't give it a second thought, but I'd definitely wonder what was up!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Scary School Threats in Seattle

OK, this is just really scary: THREE stories in the local news today about school violence issues near Seattle! This, this and this. I don't even know what to think. This just makes me sick to my stomach. I've always regarded Seattle as such a safe place... but maybe there is no such thing anymore.

Blacksburg, Virginia was considered a safe place too.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Help, Blogging Wizards (and Wizardesses)!

I spent some time exploring a bunch of blogs yesterday and when I came back "home" to mine, I just wanted to torch the thing! Not the content (that is what it is), but the template. Boooooring! And completely devoid of personality.

So I guess this is where I should be technical. But really, are all those beautiful, spunky, well-designed blogs out there created by techies?! What am I not getting?

I want to take this photo (yes, I flipped it... so far, so good -- yes?), put the ladybug on the left top of the gray surface, add some ferns and other NW foliage, and top it off with a really nice font for my name and blog description. Oh, and then I want to do what it takes to replace what I have with the new graphic, columns and all, and have it work seamlessly.

Am I asking too much? Should I be able to do this myself or is this something for a professional? (Can you suggest anyone?) And if I can't do this, should I really be working in media at all?!

This hopeful little project of mine is really very badly timed and no good at all for the self-esteem!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Interview

My dear blogging friend Dixie was interviewed by her dear blogging friend, Shiela. Dixie's answers were thoughtful, honest and revealing -- and when she offered to throw out some questions to her faithful readers, I took her up on it, having no idea what she might ask me. Leave it to Dixie to ask some pretty thought-provoking questions... at a pretty thought-provoking time in my life!

Now, shall we? (I'm so nervous!) Here's what Dixie asked me:

1. You have the opportunity to spend the day with a relative who has passed on and who you've never met. With whom will you pick to spend that day?
This one's easy. My aunt Ulli spent the past few years translating letters written by her mother, Irmgard (my grandmother) to her grandmother, Adele (my great-grandmother) between 1905 and 1944. The 600-page collection, called Letters from Chemnitz, chronicles the life of a German family before and during World War II. What made my father's family somewhat unique was the fact that his father was Jewish (though not religiously; he was brought up as a Christian) and his mother wasn't, making the children, my father and his siblings, "mischlings" -- the Nazi era equivalent of a "half-breed." Between the early-30's and the early-40's my father's family went from living the lives of an an upper-middle class banker's family with servants, cooks and chauffeurs, to a family that was struggling, starving and fearful of every passing moment, wondering when my grandfather would be taken... and what would happen to the rest of the family. Irmgard was, in a very real sense, the family's "protector," since her non-Jewish status gave the family the status of "privileged mixed marriage" which apparently meant that my Jewish grandfather and his mischling children couldn't be taken by the SS. When Irmgard died suddenly of a brain tumor in 1944, the family was left unprotected.
It sounds like my father's family's experiences should be chronicled in a book, doesn't it? Well, my dad is in the process of writing that book, and as a first step he began a blog to find out if people were interested in reading such a proposed book. (In fact Dixie was one of his interested readers!)

So, to get back to Dixie's question... I wish I had met my grandmother Irmgard and my great grandmother, Adele and I'd love to spend a day -- or a week or a year -- with them! Irmgard's letters were always full of deep love for her family, absolute adoration of her children, and a generosity of spirit that must have warmed those around her even in the bleakest of times. She was kind, funny and caring, never angry or vengeful in any way, no matter what. I remember reading her loving words for and about her children and marveling at how she was never angry or frustrated with them. My father was only 16 when he was orphaned (yes, his father died in an American air raid less than a year after his mother died) and my aunt was only 12. But I believe that it is because of Irmgard's and Carl's (I think I was named after him; I hope I was! Dad?) loving parenting that my father and his siblings grew up to be such kind, optimistic and loving people -- and such wonderful parents -- themselves.

2. When things get tough, what characteristic that you possess can you rely on best to help you through it?
You mean like... now? :-/

I think my tenacity gets me through a lot. I'm pretty focused and driven and when I set my mind on something, very little can stop me. I'm a list-maker and a methodical organizer and once I start a project I'll be up at dawn and work until midnight on it -- as long as I see purpose in it and as long as I feel an emotional attachment to it. If I don't, it's busy work and I lose interest quickly.

That said, I've felt kind of lost since being laid off last week. I'm questioning my talents and skills, second-guessing my goals, and wondering whether I've been trying to fit a square peg in a round hole lately. Normally I'd have re-written, re-purposed resumes ready to go and distributed by now, I'd have some interviews scheduled, and I'd be forging ahead with great... well, with great tenacity. But that's not happening at all. I'm questioning everything. Do I want to work for any boss -- even for any company or organization -- again, or do I want to work for myself this time, and be my own boss? Do I want to focus on educational technology... or just on education? (I admit it -- I'm not a fan of technology UNLESS it's integral to the product, and then I do fully embrace it... but there's something to be said for just a damn good tabletop game!) Do I want to work for kids... or with them? I feel paralyzed and insecure and gun-shy right now.

But that's another post, isn't it?

3. You've got 24 hours at home alone with no kids and no husband around. What are you going to do with your day?
There was a time when I had four kidlets under the age of five, and during that time and the ensuing 10 years or so, I'd have had a long dreamy, oh-if-this-would-only-happen-just-once sort of answer to this question. But these days it's quite a regular occurrence that all four kids are off working or in school or with friends and I don't see them for a day or two, and then I'm alone all day (well, lately anyway!) and Tom and I are alone in the evenings.

This question reminds me of the promise I made to my kids waaaaay back when we had little or no break (who in their right mind is going to offer to babysit for two babies, a toddler and a preschooler?!). I promised myself -- and made a silent promise to them -- that when they have kids we'll just TELL them and their spouses to take off for a weekend and leave the kids with us. They won't have to ask; we'll just offer. I soooooooo wished someone would do that for us during those crazy years!

But I digress.

If I had 24 hours of total solitude, and no other worries of any sort, like (ahem) unemployment, I'd travel alone to a cottage in the woods somewhere near a beach and immerse myself in two activities: I'd start scrapbooking Alek's and Kat's high school graduation and Peter's college graduation
scrapbooks (see, I even feel pressured to do the fun stuff!) and I'd start writing the novel I've been meaning to write and just can't seem to get started. And I'd listen to lots of good music, sip some good wine, and take a few long walks in the forest and on the beach.

4. Is there anyone from your past to whom you wish you could extend an apology? Tell who and why if you wish.
I've really wracked my brain on this one and I have to say that, as far as I know, I don't think I've ever hurt someone really badly or done something awful that begs forgiveness. I have tried to live by the Golden Rule, sappy as that sounds, and I hope that I've done a fairly good job of it.

5. Is there a film that's a little cheesy/trashy/raunchy/dumb/sappy or any combination thereof that you secretly like and will watch at any opportunity? And tell us which on it is!
OK, this is embarrassing. But I am a hopeless romantic. I will watch Under the Tuscan Sun, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and The Bridges of Madison County (stop snickering!) any time I have the chance. Yeah, I know -- there is a thread that runs through all of them... and yes, there's a part of me and a part of my life in all of those movies. Now if I could just start that damn novel!

How's that, Dix? Did I do OK?

And just so I play this game correctly, I'll quote Dixie with further instructions: "Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.” I will respond by asking you five questions in the comments here on this post so check back here. I get to pick the questions. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions."

Ok, who's next?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

The Upside of Unemployment

Stumble Upon Toolbar
Related Posts with Thumbnails