Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Family of Opposites

There are six people and six very different personalities in our family. Unlike Tom's original family, in which the five people had very similar personalities and temperaments, this family consists of six completely individual personalities. That had undoubtedly made things interesting and fun as well as challenging and difficult.

It probably started when Tom and I, absolute opposites, met in September, 1977, almost 30 years ago. Tom was shy, deliberate, measured... and very, very charming (in a shy, measured, deliberate sort of way). I was out-going, impulsive, and demonstrative. It took us six years to do all that dating, breaking up, dating again, and getting married stuff, and another year after that to welcome our first child into the world.

There was no wondering what Elisabeth would be like, not even for an instant, because the second she presented herself (she still doesn't just walk into a room, she presents herself!), it became obvious that this little thing was -- and would always be a determined dynamo! She never does anything half-way; instead, she attacks it with 120% gusto. Whether it was learning to ride a bike or learning the alphabet back then... or her approach to school or career now, there's no half-way for Elisabeth. Everything in life is a welcome challenge and opportunity and she lives her life fully, with blatant honesty, and yes -- fairly loudly, like when she arrives at home for a visit, throwing the door open, yelling a gleeful "helllloooooo!" (even at 3 AM -- she "didn't realize"), greeting the animals with whoops and hollers, and then sprinting into the kitchen, throwing open the cupboards and announcing that she's "starving"!

Peter, in contrast, is more like Tom in his approach, but nowhere near as shy. He's factual and exacting and literal, but he's also our stand-up comic and always has been. Peter's talents are in making connections, figurative and literal. He cracks people up with his hilarious anecdotes and off-beat analogies and when Peter's around there's sure to be continuous laughter. He also has a talent for making physical connections -- as in, talking apart and putting together just about anything mechanical. When the boat engine was broken, it was Peter who knew how to fix it. Even when he was 5, Peter could dis-assemble and re-assemble anything mechanical, from phones to lawnmowers. Where Elisabeth is book-smart, Peter is life-smart. Both will go far in life, and for completely different reasons.

Aleks has absolutely NO interest in anything physical or mechanical. He dislikes participating in organized sports (but does know everything about European fussball) and he could care less about machines or things. Instead, Aleks' passion is ideas. He is our philosopher and politician, and I am constantly impressed by his depth of knowledge about society, politics, activism and ideas. Whereas Peter likes nothing more than working on an engine and talking about it, Aleks likes nothing more than to work on a theory and writing about it.

Kat is a mixture of Tom and me in both appearance and personality. He often says "Kat is brown, Carol is orange." Her personality, too, is a blend of both her parents. She tends to be shy and measured like Tom, but there's also a side of her that I totally and completely KNOW, because it's a side of myself that I never exposed to many people, but I see it in Kat and hope she nurtures this side of herself. Kat's a thinker and a feeler, but she's more private and measured than the other kids. Whereas Elisabeth would be described as "feisty" and will provoke just to observe the resulting sparks, Kat is described often as "a sweetheart" and will go to great lengths not to rile or provoke. If Kat's angry or upset, she tends to quietly slip away to deal with things on her own. I do notice though, that in the past few months, Kat's getting bolder and more expressive, not as tentative about saying what she thinks, not as concerned about disappointing. This is a good thing and I love watching her come into her own.

I also love watching these siblings develop more mature adult sibling relationships. As different as they are, they understand each other well and are connected. Aleks and Kat, being twins, share an extraordinarily tight bond. They socialize with the same group of friends, often take classes together, have a whole arsenal of private jokes, and compete just enough to end up with wonderful grades (came in the mail today -- straights A's for both!)

Aleks and Peter, the most different siblings and not especially close as they were growing up, have even formed a tight bond lately and rumor has it that as a "bro thing," Aleks will get the same tattoo as Peter, except a mirror image.

Elisabeth and Kat, also complete opposites and also not especially close as they were growing up, have become very close over the past few years as Kat would fly to visit Elisabeth at Cal (and develop a serious crush on Elisabeth's house mate!) and these days as the two of them spend more and more time doing "sis stuff."

Next year at this time I'll be preparing to usher three kids out the door as Peter, Aleks and Kat all head to university -- Peter likely in Eastern Washington and Aleks and Kat across the water to UW. That will be a hard time.

But after 30-some years it'll also be nice to bring our lives full-circle, as Tom and I will have a chance to re-discover what it was that made these opposites attract so many years ago.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Rescue Attempt

Our cats are good hunters -- much to our dismay. Boo has been known to present us with full-grown birds, moles and other "trophies," while Bailey, Boo's pupil, has only brought us spiders, moths and other insects.

Until this evening. An hour ago I noticed Baily batting something around on the diningroom floor. I was disheartened to realize that she had obviously robbed a nest and had stolen a very (very!) tiny baby bird. The bird looked dead to me so I carefully wrapped it in a napkin and placed it in the garbage can. What else could I do?

Bailey sniffed around furiously for a few minutes, obviously confused (and pissed), and then left, heading outside again. Not more than 10 minutes later, she came back -- with another baby bird! I feel horrible that I allowed her to go outside again; I obviously wasn't thinking... and I really didn't believe that she'd remember, head right back to the scene of the crime and commit the same crime (OK, follow the same instinct) again.

Fortunately, Kat and I intervened immediately this time and scooped the baby bird immediately into a napkin. We allowed Bailey out again, but only to lead us to the nest so we could put the baby bird back. She went into the forest and proceeded to climb a tree... then another... and another. We couldn't see a nest in any of them.

We decided to take the bird back inside and at least keep it warm, so we placed it in soft towels and pulled a lamp close to it. At this moment I realized that perhaps the first baby bird hadn't been dead after all -- so I reached into the garbage can where I had gently placed the bird, loosely wrapped in a napkin. I carefully unwrapped the napkin and, although Baily had definitely bitten into the bird (there was a small gash on the bird's side that was bleeding), it was alive and breathing.

I placed the first bird, which was larger but more injured, next to the second bird, which was smaller, but uninjured. Then Kat and I did some research on what to do with tiny baby birds and found some informative resources as well as a recipe for baby bird food (cat food, applesauce, a multi-vitamin and a hard-boiled egg, all mashed together).

Kat made some baby bird food (a full cup of it!) and we were both somewhat surprised when the smaller baby squirmed back and forth energetically and then opened its beak wide open and practically swallowed the syringe! (The bigger bird will almost surely die of its injuries; it can hardly move.)

We'll keep the birds in the bathroom overnight, hoping that at least one will be alive in the morning and that maybe, just maybe, we can nurse it back to health. We don't have particularly high hopes, but we'll do what we can.

We can't very well punish Bailey for following her cat instincts, but I wish she'd stuck with insects!

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"Dilemma": The Defining "D" Word

My career dilemma focuses on two more "D" words: "difference" and "dollars."

I need both. I need to know that I'm making a difference in the world, that my contribution somehow enhances others' lives, because that's what will keep me motivated and driven. And I need to make money doing it, because that's just the reality of our lives, with three more kids headed to college in September, '08.

Most of the jobs I'm looking at now are executive level jobs, and in most cases that satisfies one of my requirements. Most of the executive level jobs I'm looking at (not that they're looking at me...) pay quite well and have a great amount of authority as well as, I'd hope, the opportunity for me to use my team-building and leadership skills. But with the exception of a few executive level positions in nonprofit organizations, I wouldn't be able to say that I make much of a difference in the world or that I better people's lives in those positions.

Plus, I've come to the conclusion that I really have to force myself to think like an executive. I can do it, but usually it doesn't come naturally. I'm a great manager and team leader, but not the best "boss." I have a great amount of empathy for "the worker," and I believe that as a manager my primary responsibility is to support my team. But I'm not great at bossing employees around based on policy, ROI, or "bottom line." In other words, I'm good at team leadership thinking, but not necessarily executive leadership thinking.

And here's another dilemma: most of the products I've designed and developed have been delivered in a technical format -- mostly PC software, but also videos, websites, etc. Only a few of my products have been completely non-technical (a Colorforms-type weather activity, a few educational table-top games, and classroom curricula), but I prefer to work in a less technical environment with less technical media and with less technical people. I'd love, for example, to be a librarian at a neighborhood elementary school, or to work with teens as THEY develop their own media and programs, or to be a mid-wife. I have no passion for technology for the sake of technology -- though I find technology hugely helpful as a tool.

And yet, because I've worked among technologists and designed products that are delivered through technical media, I am often assumed to be far more technically oriented than I actually am.

So back to the "D" words. (I promise, by tomorrow I'll have put the whole silly alphabet thing behind me...) My dilemma is how to find a job that contributes in a positive way to kids' lives, a job that I love and in which I can lead a passionate team, a job that isn't highly technical, and that makes the big bucks. Does such a job exist? I'd even be happy to create it -- if I knew what it was!

In the meantime, I'll continue to field job listings that come to me, insisting that I'm a perfect fit (an insurance agent... yeah right!) or that appeal to part of my passion (education, teaching, kids) but require a strong focus on an area I have no passion for, like this job at Microsoft that I actually applied for today. (Me... considering heading back to Microsoft?!)

I'm in the odd position of having a career focus that is both broad-based (education/media) and niche (activism, youth, non-profit), and perhaps it'd be wise for me to either give something up (the educational technology or the non-profit focus) or gain something (more technical expertise).

The answer often seems to be to start all over again with something completely different -- for example, midwifery -- but that's just not one of my options at this point, with Tom having recently started over again in his career (something which I completely support, by the way). Not if we want to send three more kids to college, pay a mortgage or... oh, say... buy groceries.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Todays "D" Words


Hopefully tomorrow will appropriately follow with an enthusiastic and energizing "E" day.

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June 27, 1927

Happy birthday, Mom!

Eighty years ago today my mother was born in Traunstein, a Bavarian town near the shores of the Chiemsee. I only know Traunstein as a visitor, but each time I'm there, I feel completely at home, as if I know the region in my soul... as if it knows me.

If I believed in spirits finding their way home after death (and I think maybe I do), I'd believe that Mom has found her way back to Traunstein and to the Bavarian Alps near her home. (The photo is of her in Salzburg, one of her favorite cities, during our visit in 2001.)

During her last days, when Mom could barely speak, she whispered her thoughts to me in both English and German, and they seemed to center on her Heimat: floating in a lake, hiking a mountain (she even moved her legs as if she were climbing), and being back with her mother. ("Your mother?" I whispered back. "Let me tell you about my mother...")

I miss Mom, and I'm sure that if she were still alive we'd be having one helluva party for her today as she'd turn 80. She'd insist on it. She died too early and she knew it. She fought the ovarian cancer that robbed her from us with every fiber of her being until she could fight no longer. She denied and defied her death until there was no fight left in her, somehow believing, I think, that if she refused to acknowledge it, it wouldn't take her.

But it did.

Dad has, thankfully, gone on and is living life fully, probably more fully than he ever did before. He and Lou, who I adore, have settled into a new life together and are blissfully happy. (Lou was Mom's friend; her husband died of cancer shortly after Mom did. What was friendship for many years blossomed into love...) I expect Dad to be around for a long time to come and can't even fathom the thought of losing him now, when his life is finally perfect for him.

He has a CT scan today to look further into a mysterious abdominal pain. I hope positive (defiant?) thought actually works, because I'll be focusing on it big time today. He simply must stay here in his happy life for a very long time to come. He deserves it.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Back on the Weight Watchers Wagon

Unemployment and menopause do not make a happy combination, and nowhere does it show more than in my weight. Since I went to Germany with Mom in 2001 I have lost two jobs and gained almost 30 pounds.

Not acceptable.

So as of yesterday at noon I'm officially back on the Weight Watchers wagon (for the umpteenth time in my life; I have always struggled with my weight). I don't imagine that I can lose all 30 pounds before we leave for Germany in early September, but I can get started. Even losing 15 or 20 would make me feel so much better, both physically and emotionally.

I think I'll start with some fresh blueberries and a walk with Shasta around this mile-long block. Wish me luck!

(If anyone wants to be my WW buddy, let me know and we can attack this together...)

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Don't Buy this House!

This house next door to us isn't haunted... exactly.

But if you buy it and move in, statistics gathered over the past 12 years indicate that the chance of you going through a vicious divorce hover around... 100%.

I remember wanting to warn the really nice young couple who moved in 18 months ago to stay away. They were the fifth couple/family to move into the house since we've lived here, and each of the other four couples ended up divorcing -- and all of the divorces occurred because the husbands decided to sow their wild oats and leave. The last guy, a young stylish attorney, wooed just about every woman in the neighborhood (except me; I was almost insulted that he didn't even try!) before she finally kicked him out.

This afternoon my neighbor told me that unfortunately her house would be on the market soon because -- you guessed it -- her husband left her in January. She said she hadn't even seen it coming; he just decided one day that he wasn't happy and that was that -- after 8 years of marriage. I was just about speechless when she told me and I decided to tell her the unfortunate saga of the house.

I think it almost made her feel better, as if it was more out of her control than she had even originally thought.

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I've Been Tagged

Vailian tagged me to meme "six weird things about my sleeping habits."

1.) I love to fall asleep and I love to wake up and I usually have no problem with either. This is very different from my husband who has real difficulty with "change of state" and can't fall asleep before the wee hours of the morning and would sleep till noon if his life (and wife!) allowed it. There have been times when he slips into bed at 5 AM on one side of the mattress while I get up on the other...
2.) I am very picky about the environmental conditions around me when I sleep. Unlike my kids, I can't just fall asleep anywhere; I need my own room or a comfortable guest bed. (My favorite was at a hotel at the Berkeley Marina that I stayed at often while shooting videos in the Bay Area. So cozy!) I need FLUFF when I sleep. It doesn't have to be down, but blankets don't cut it. I found my favorite pillow on a "dent and scape" sale at Linens & Things. All the soft filling sort of matted and separated into chunks. I love it!
3.) If I lay on my side and cross my arms around my neck in a sort of self-hug, I fall asleep instantly.
4.) I'll shop for sleeping clothes before I'll shop for jeans any day! I wear soft, stretchy pants and a tank top to bed and I'm perfecting the science of the perfect combination. I think I found the perfect pants at Costco ($4!) last week. I bought three pair. Heaven.
5.) I can't wait to go back to Germany and sleep under their fluffy folded "federbetten" and on their big square pillows. Every time I come back from Germany, I wonder why Americans find the need to tuck everything into the mattress. Maybe we're just anal and uptight. The Germans simply cover themselves with the the big fluffy federbett which is perfectly conducive to individual style (toes in or out, tightly wrapped or loosely draped, etc.) and in the morning they simply fold the federbett in half and lay it on the bed. Voila -- no bed to "make."
6.) As much as I love them, I rarely take afternoon naps. I feel guilty and lazy if I do. That, plus the fact that it's almost impossible to fully wake from one for a good hour or two -- and then it's just time for bed again!

I tag Jen and Jenn.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Blog Bits

I've been looking forward to "celebrating" my 365th post, which I assumed would coincide very closely with my one year blogging anniversary.

But when I looked at my stats, I noticed that I've posted 390 times as of today, and my one year blogging anniversary won't be until July 13th. I guess I've been somewhat of a a blogging glutton. A poor blogging glutton...

There was an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today about people who make money while sleeping or while watering their lawns. They do this by featuring ad space on their blogs. Each time someone clicks on an ad, the blog owner makes a few pennies. One guy who owns a podcast directory site started with about 100 clicks per month and now makes well over $50,000 per year JUST from ads on his blog!

And then there's PostSecret, the largest ad-free blog on the Web. I admire Frank, the owner of PostSecret, for staying "pure." I'm sure he makes plenty of money selling his books, but the site still feels very "grass roots," which I like.

I get between 40 and 60 readers per day. Most are faithful regulars (I love you guys!), with maybe 2 or 3 new readers a day, some who visit a second time at some point, most who don't. Even if I seriously entertained the idea of adding advertising to my site (and I'm not), I think the most I could expect to make would be enough to pay for maybe an ice cream cone per month.

My blog has no theme beyond "menopausal career woman/mom," it has no deep message, no running plot, and no gorgeous graphic lay-out (now there's something I would like to change!). It's just a quiet, mundane little blog, but over the past year I've gotten kinda attached to it, and my day doesn't feel complete until I've posted -- even on days like today when I've done very little worth mentioning. (Today my allergies kicked into high gear and even sitting still in front of my laptop or TV would throw me into sneezing fits. All I could do all day was lay still and sleep the hours away. I've never had allergies until a year ago; what is going ON?!)

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

An Interesting Meme

I found this meme here (not a blog I know; I was just exploring memes) and thought it sounded interesting. I didn't read this person's answers (or the "key" that explains the significance of the questions and answers) before I wrote my own answers, so I don't know exactly what I've gotten myself into! (Scroll down for the meaning of the whole thing... I'll post them after I'm finished writing.)

If you decide to do this meme yourself, copy the questions, erase my answers and insert your own answers before peeking at the "key"! Promise that you won't peek at the meanings before answering the questions... and further promise that you won't change your answers once you read the meaning of each question!

OK, here goes:

So you're walking along in a forest. What season is it?
It's fall and the orange and yellow leaves are drifting from the trees, forming a soft cushion for my feet. The air is crisp and clear, but it's not cold.

After a while, you come to a wall. What kind of wall is it? (height, material, shape, etc..)
It's a rustic rock wall made entirely of natural materials. The rocks are rounded, not jagged. The wall is about 3 feet tall, certainly not foreboding, and keeping only the smallest creatures in (or out). Ivy grows on the wall and there are patches of small blue flowers poking through the larger gaps between the rocks.

What do you do about it?
Nothing. I lean against it (standing) for a while, then sit down, still leaning against it, pull out my blank journal and begin to write.

Further in the forest, you happen upon a cup. Describe the cup.
It's an old tarnished silver baby cup, the kind with a handle on both sides.

What do you do with it (if anything)?
I fill it with water and drink from it (I love how water tastes cold and pure from silver containers), and decide to keep it. (I know that I probably shouldn't, but I can't help myself.) I put it into my backpack.

Next you spot a knife. Describe the knife.
It looks like a knife my brother once made: the handle is made from a deer antler. The blade looks like it was sharp at one time, but the elements have worn it down so that it's now soft and safe.

What do you do with it (if anything)?
I admire it, but leave it in the ivy at the base of the wall, where I found it. A knife doesn't belong in my backpack with the baby cup.

Next you come across a body of water. What type of body of water is it?
It's a clear, cool, clean, deep blue-green pond with a beautiful waterfall flowing into it.

What do you do about it?
I can't resist it. I strip off my clothes and dive in! I float in the water until my thoughts themselves float. (I will never drown; I have always been able to float forever!)

Finally, the path you seemed to have made for yourself looks like it ends at a cave. What do you think of it?
I like the path I made, but I fear the cave. It's dark and I can't shake the memories from my childhood of the dark cave-like tunnels at the end of the drainage troughs on either side of the path between my house and my elementary school. I was sure tigers lived in them! I don't like caves or the dark.

What do you do about it?
See above. I stay far away from the openings... in case the tigers lurk there, waiting for me!

The End


The meaning of the questions (pasted only after I answered the questions):

The journey through the forest represents your life.

The way you feel about the season you picked represents the way you feel about life. If it's winter in your story and you love winter, you are enjoying your life.

The wall represents your problems in life. The height, material, and shape is your view of your problems' surmountability. What you do about it is how you face your problems.

The cup means your friends. What you do with it is you feel about them or how you treat them.

The knife is your view of marriage. What you do with it is how you feel about it.

The body of water is your view of sex. Was it a large ocean of opportunity? Was it a dirty puddle? Did you jump in? Did you drink it up? Did you pass it by?

The cave is your view of death. If you went in, you are not afraid of death.

My response:

I'm most surprised by the significance of the cave. Since experiencing Mom's death as I did, I really don't believe that I'm afraid of death.

I also think it's funny (since reading the "key") that I didn't feel that the knife belongs with the cup! Hmmmm... According to the "key," I should have definitely taken the knife, too!

I'd like to know more about the significance of various answers. How does the chosen season indicate how I feel about life? What does it mean if I swam in the water versus drinking it... or passing it by?

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Friday, June 22, 2007

OK, I'll Admit It...

...this IS kinda sexy!

(His new nickname is Mr. Bumblebee.)

Now if he'd just stay in the driveway, I'd have no problem at all with it.

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If I Were 35 Again

When I was 35 I had a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old and two 2-year-olds. I was a busy stay-at-home mom who had deliberately quit working when my then-5-year-old was born. I had very little concern about my future career, confident that when the time was right I'd be able to jump right back into developing educational products for kids. And, although it happened before the time was right (because Tom got laid off), I was able to jump right back into my career when I went to Edmark as a designer/producer in '95. But while I've loved designing and developing products and programs like Disney and Blue's Clues PC games, classroom manipulatives, and the FUEL and CHILL videos, I can't help but wonder whether I should have followed my other dream.

I am a childbirth fanatic. I'm one of those people who loves learning about and discussing everything about birth -- birth issues, birth options, birthing trends through history, birth stories, etc. I decided to become a Certified Childbirth Educator while I was home with kids because I'd had one quick, easy non-medicated birth (Elisabeth), one long, hard, medicated birth (Peter), and a C-section delivery of twins (Aleks and Kat), and I felt that my range of childbirth experiences provided me with something to offer other women. And of course, I'm an educator at heart so the progression was a natural one. I've trained as both an ICEA Certified Childbirth Educator and a DONA certified doula and I absolutely love helping families through the whole pregnancy and birth experience. Each time one of my students would ask me to attend her birth as a doula, I felt an instant connection to the family and to the baby, and for a while I felt like I had a bunch of little godchildren running around!

Unfortunately, teaching childbirth classes and being a doula never even came close to paying the bills (and actually, I never had the heart to charge for my doula services), so I had to go back to my "real" career when Tom was laid off in '95.

But if I had it to do over again, if I were 35 again, I think I'd apply to the Seattle Midwifery School and become a midwife. It's a far different path than the one I chose (and certainly not as lucrative, which is always a consideration with four college-bound kids) but I think I would have made a great midwife. I know I would have loved it!

Fifteen years ago, midwives practiced on the fridge of both social acceptance and legality, but things have changed and now they are simply a part of the community. Fifteen years ago, leaving the family suddenly in the middle of the night for an unknown amount of time also posed significant logistical problems and were a big factor in my decision to pursue a more dependable schedule and career, but now those situations wouldn't cause any problems at all.

I hate to sound like a pessimist, but it's too late (or maybe just too early?!) to become a midwife right now. I need to support the family and I need to do it now, not "someday." I need to be able to pay for at least a substantial portion of three kids' college tuition from 9/08 to 6/12. I can't ignore those financial obligations. Tom does what he can, but he switched careers -- with my complete support and encouragement -- five years ago, so the burden falls mostly on me... and I'm OK with that. He provided the primary financial support for the family for 18 years; now it's my turn.

But still. I mourn the loss of a career that could have been. And I miss fulfilling a passion that I feel to the depths of my being and that every so often beckons me back. When, if ever, will I be able to pay attention again and heed the calling?

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Title-less (I'm BoycottingThought)

I just got home from taking Annette to the airport and saying a sad goodbye (I miss her already), and I'm completely at lose ends.

I don't feel like doing anything -- which is completely unlike me. I don't want to look for a job. I don't want to socialize. I don't want to shop. I don't want to do laundry. I don't want to cook. I don't even want to prepare for the garage sale that I know we need to have now that we have a huge pile of STUFF in our garage.

I want to veg. I want to watch movie after movie on the various Encore stations that we can now watch on HDTV. I don't even know how to turn the damn thing on... that's how seldom I watch TV! But I have a feeling that will be extent of my activity today.

I'm sure it's escapism. And exhaustion. I'm back to square one on the job-hunting front, which is a bit scary. All my fears about not being young enough or focused enough or technical enough are flooding back and I just don't want to deal with it right now.

Maybe tomorrow, but not right now. Today I'm gonna cuddle up with my kitty cats, watch movies and Oprah, and allow myself to fall asleep in the middle of the day.

I'll even attempt to not feel guilty about it all.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Der Letzte Tag und das Abschiedsessen

(The Last Day and the Farewell Dinner)

I asked Annette this morning what food she'd like if she could have anything at all for dinner tonight, the night before she flies back to Germany. She said she absolutely loves fresh seafood, especially fresh Alaskan king crab, and that she would love to go back to Pike Place and get fresh seafood and vegetables to bring back home to barbeque on our deck.

So off we went, back to Seattle... which I am always so happy to do! We took the long way back to Pike Place, via Pioneer Square and the waterfront (where we had lunch at Ivars). We bought king crab, scallops, huge jumbo prawns, and mahi-mahi along with amazing fresh garlic spears, which I've never had before (apparently they're a delicacy and only available for a short time each year), zucchini, mushrooms, sweet onions and red and green peppers.

When we got home, everyone had a job: Annette made a delicious tomato salad, Elisabeth prepared the raspberries and strawberries for dessert, I prepared the veggies and Tom grilled everything.


We'll miss Annette. What a wonderful visit it's been! Tomorrow I'll have to get back to real life. Damn.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"The Mountain Is Out!"

We woke up to blue skies this morning and decided that before Eva goes back to Koeln in a few weeks and before Annette goes back to Bayern on Thursday, they really need to see Mt. Rainier up close and personal. Since none of "the guys" could go, we decided to make it a girls day out (and UP), so we snuck Kat out of school after she took her chemistry final, bought picnic food at Safeway, and headed south.

It was a gogeorgeous day and the ginormous Mountain was spendiferous and jamestic (yeah, we played with language all day... how could you tell?!). I absolutely love this mountain and I really do feel a sort of kinship and connection with it -- especially on days like today.

So here are just a few of the 101 pictures I took within a few hours. (The fox really was that close to us -- which is actually a bad thing. These animals shouldn't be so tame!)

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Like Son...

... like father!

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It's Called a "Widow Maker" Burger...

... and it's Peter's favorite menu item at Claim Jumper.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Eines Tages in Seattle

This morning at 7 AM I was at SeaTac Airport, picking up my niece (actually my cousin's daughter... is that a niece?) who's visiting the United States from a small town at the very southern border of Germany. Annette is a delight, and always has been -- from the first time I met her when she was barely two and I was in 6th grade, to the week I spent with her family when she was in 6th grade and I was in college, to various visits since then, both in Germany and in America.

By now, the age difference has all but disappeared and she's a peer, and I SO look forward to spending the next four days with her! Today is the only day that most of the family could be together, so we spent the day in Seattle and Peter and Danelle will join us in an hour for a Father's Day dinner at Claim Jumper, one of our favorite restaurants.

Of course we played tourist, showing Annette all the typical sights on a typical gray, drizzly Seattle day.

More to come!

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Yard Update for Laura... and My Blog-Buddies

When Laura lived with us last year, our front yard was an overgrown jungle and our back yard was a weed and moss-infested mat of green stuff. We talked about re-landscaping during the entire year that Laura was here, but we never actually did anything about it until a few months after she went back to Germany.

It's not finished yet (the dry creek bed still needs much work), but it's getting close. When we can flip a switch that turns on the waterfall and another that turns on the light atop the rock (that's now on it's side), and when the split rail fence finally lines the driveway and climbs up the hill by the street... THEN we'll know that we're almost done.

But that will be a while, of course! Because everything around here does...

So Laura, this is for you! (Yes, I know you're a regular reader.) We can hardly wait to see you in September and I'm counting the days till I can give my "Germany-daughter" a big hug again!

And Christiane (Laura's "Germany-mom"), you and I will finally have a chance to chat in broken English and broken German about the daughter who we both love so dearly.

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I Need More Angst?!

I was sharing my new playlist with Aleks, asking him if he recognized "this one" as I cued up Pink Floyd's The Wall. I absent-mindedly sang along a bit... interrupted by Alek's exasperated exclamation:

"Mom, you can't just sing this sort of song. You have to really feeeeel it. You know what you need? You need more ANGST in your life!"

I'm brimming with angst. Overflowing with it. Working hard to contain it, in fact. But, like my inability to see Mom's angst when I was in high school, I don't think my teens can really see mine.

And that's probably a good thing.

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Friday, June 15, 2007


They're back.

First I assumed it was the other change -- the spring to summer change. Then, I assumed it was a wacky (external) thermostat. I even thought I might be getting sick.

But I think I'm about to enter another wave of hot-flash hell.

A hot flash has a voice of its own. Think Linda Blair in The Exorcist: "You only feel hot, but you're not lookin' so hot, lady. In fact, you're looking downright dowdy. And just in case you think you have a handle on any of this, I'm gonna hit you upside your head with doubt to go with the dowdy. Nya-ah-ah!"

It's cruel, is what it is. And having two beautiful young daughters who of course don't have the perspective to appreciate their youth and vibrancy doesn't make it any easier.

I remember a shopping trip with my mom when I was a sophomore in high school. She was complaining about hot flashes and feeling out-of-sorts, just like I do now. All I could think then was, "Stop complaining, Mom. You wear a size 6 and I wear a size 10 ... so just stop complaining!" (I always hated that I got the short, stocky genes from Dad instead of her tall, slim genes.) I so didn't get it -- nor could I be expected to understand where she was in her life when I was at that oh-so-self-centered age of 16. I wish I could tell her now that I GET it, finally. She'd probably chuckle and tell me to appreciate even my 50's because, in comparison to the 70's, 50's pretty darn young.

Damn perspective!

The memory of youth is annoyingly persistent, but the reality of age can't quite yet be considered wisdom. The desire for desire is there, but the desire itself is slipping slowly away.

I have to keep reminding myself about that perspective thing.

(And as I wrote this entry, this is what was playing on iTunes-- over and over because I love its Queen-like catchiness:)

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

To My German Blogging Buddies

So here's an idea...

If you expect to be anywhere near FRA on the afternoon/evening of September 29th, let me know. Elisabeth and I will be staying at a hotel near the airport that night since we have an early morning flight back to Seattle the next morning.

After reading daily doings of most of you, I would SOOOO love to meet the "Whiney Expat Bloggers in Germany!

Anyone up for a drink and some actual verbal communication?!

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I Just Thought it Was Funny

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I woke up this morning is a dull gray fog, fumbling for a thought.

No work... clean house... should join Weight Watchers, go to gym... trip to Costco a must...

And then a thought jolted me wide awake like an electric shock: I frikkin' bought airline tickets to Germany within hours of NOT getting a permanent job and NOT finishing as many freelance hours as I'd expected! How irresponsible can I be?! What if I now encounter a severe dry spell? Am I absolutely nuts?!

But then the mid-life-crisis-laden angel spoke to me and said, "Dude [she's a hip angel] stop worrying about SHOULDS and LOGIC and RESPONSIBILITY for once and just go with this! This is gooooood! This is important. No, this is criiiitical... Let go, m'lady and enjoy..."

Once my heart stops pounding and my breathing returns to a normal pace, I'll try to let go. I know in my gut that this trip is not irresponsible and that it's very much the right thing to do. I just woke up with that damn always be responsible cap on today, dammit.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

AFTER Photos (and an Excuse)

It's 8:00 and I've been at this for almost 12 hours. Admittedly, I didn't move like a mad woman today like I normally do... and admittedly I took a few breaks (oh yeah, you know that already), but I've decided that I really need to hire someone to do the really deep cleaning once every few months.

Yeah, so I didn't get to the bedroom yet. Heading there now -- maybe to clean and um... maybe to sleep.

(Midnight addendum photo post -- see below. Now can I go to sleep?!)

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