Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bad Cats! Bad, Bad Kitty Cats!

We adopted Steve (named after Steve Carell, who is the voice of Hammy the Squirrel in Over the Hedge), the squirrel that Bailey dragged in. Believe it or not, Steve has been thriving for the past two weeks, mostly under Kat's loving and dedicated care (feedings every three hours!), but also with Kat's friend Joe who squirrel-sat while we were in Oregon.

Steve, who was finally growing some fur but had not yet opened his eyes, had learned to recognize the (foul!) smell of the puppy formula-filled eye-dropper and would enthusiastically pull it into his mouth, draining it and squeaking for more.

We might have kept Steve, if he'd been our only wildlife rescue. But things have been busy around here.

Yesterday, Boo brought us an adorable baby bunny. Unfortunately, Boo had injured the rabbit's leg, but otherwise he seemed fine. Kat lovingly warmed and cared for the bunny who, by evening, had the run (hop?) of her room. Becoming emotionally attached to a baby squirrel that looks like a naked rodent is a stretch, but becoming emotionally attached to an adorable baby bunny was easy. Too easy!

When Kat brought the bunny upstairs this morning, it was on its side and breathing with difficulty. It had obviously taken a turn for the worse overnight and it was heart-wrenching to watch it struggle.

I immediately called PAWS Wildlife Rescue Center and told them our story. After scolding me for allowing our cats outdoors, they suggested that we immediately bring both animals to them -- which we did. We relinquished both Steve and the bunny (we didn't dare name him, since it was already an effort not to become attached) to the PAWS workers, who immediately jumped in to try to save the struggling bunny. (Steve, while skinny, is just fine!) We asked to be notified of the animals' conditions, so as soon as I know how things turn out, I'll post.

As for our naughty cats, we bought each of them a bell collar and a catnip-filled toy mouse, hoping to deter (or at least re-direct) some of their hunting instincts. They think we're crazy and are obviously annoyed by the collar and bored stiff by the mouse that moves and smells all wrong.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Rejuvenady Lady

I must be sick.

I don't have a fever, my appetite is perfectly (ravenously... sigh) healthy, and my throat isn't feeling particularly raspy (slash/sexy). But there's no doubt that I'm not myself.

If I were my normal ol' self I would have kvetched during the entire eight hour drive home from Ashland. I would have begged to know ahead of time just how sticky and grimy the kitchen floor was, because I needed "warning." I would have asked how many dishes were left on the kitchen counter and precisely how many entire editions of last week's newspapers were spread all over the livingroom. I would have asked if anyone did laundry and whether a broom or vacuum cleaner touched the floors even once.

If I were my normal self, I would have asked those things in order to prepare myself for what would await me when I walked in the front door, but also to instill a certain amount of guilt (which, of course, it never does).

I would have known the answers to all my questions because I always do. The answers are always the same: when Mom's away, the rest of the family turns into a bunch of frat boys. They eat and hang out and stay up all night. I'm sure that at regular intervals Tom announced that messes must be tidied. (And there's surely a "Mom" in there somewhere, as in "Mom would freak if she saw this...") But all in all, my absence seems to constitute a much-needed break for these poor souls and I am well aware that they revel in their freedom.

If I were feeling myself, I would have at least wondered, as we drove northward, how bad the mess was, even if I might have tried to squelch the actual expressed concern. But I didn't even wonder! I didn't even care! I noticed a few times during the long drive home that I wasn't even fretting. I wasn't tense about what would greet me. I didn't even care at all if I walked into a pig sty!

Surely, I figured, something must be wrong with me.

But then I realized that I didn't care because my life wasn't being lived from one time-crunch to the next. I didn't have to be at work seven hours after arriving home. I didn't have to do a load of laundry at 3 AM just to get it off the next day's to-do list. I didn't have to plan tomorrow's dinner tonight, having no idea what food had disappeared while I was gone, requiring me to go grocery shopping on my lunch hour. I didn't even have to set the alarm for 5:30 AM.

I had been rejuvenated during my week away. Whereas I left a ball of anxious and agitated nerves, I was returning almost in a peaceful "ohm" state! The week away in Ashland, from the lazy, relaxed days with just Dad and Lou to the crazy, family-filled, activity-filled days of the pre-union, had been good for me -- which means, of course, that by extension it had been good for my family.

In addition to having a chance to rejuvenate my spirit, I knew that once I arrived home, I had time to assess the dirt-and-dishes situation and deal with it over the next day. Or two. I never enjoy cleaning and laundry and shopping after being away. But I have almost enjoyed it this time. I spent all day yesterday unpacking and mopping and washing laundry, dishes and floors, but I didn't mind it because I didn't feel time-crunched.

I could get used to this! I could bask and revel in it.

But not now. I need to find a job.

(Illustration: http://www.frenchtoastgirl.com/weblog/images/ill-fri-tranquility.jpg)

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The State of the Pre-Union

What a weekend! The only problem with it was that it ended far too soon. How silly of us to gather from as far away as Texas, and only be able to come together for only two nights and one short day. Just as we were beginning to form real friendships and get to know each other better, the weekend came to an end.

For next year's RE-union, we'll have to find a way to block off more than a day or two on our busy calendars. Why is it that work and the craziness of our daily lives so often prevent us from stopping and taking some time to savor what really matters -- family connections, friendships and rejuvenating "down" time? We tend to so often back-burner the really important things in life and get so caught up in the heat of our daily lives that we forget... or deny... or excuse ourselves from making and maintaining the connections that really matter -- and deny ourselves the fun and relaxation that we need.

Dad and Lou did, indeed, announce -- as casually as they could, but there was no denying the depth of feeling and the great significance of -- their love and commitment to each other for the rest of their lives. It was touching for all, very emotional for some, and definitely a wonderful impetus for a family celebration. Lou's three sons, some children and grandchildren joined Dad's sister, her husband, three of Dad's four children (unfortunately, my little brother and his family couldn't make it) and his grandchildren for a wonderful weekend at Howard Prarie Lake Resort in Oregon. We played, ate, swam, sunbathed, read, nurtured familiar family ties and established new friendships. Some of the more adventurous among us even attempted kite sailing! This is Tom making a go of it, with my brother Michael barking orders at him!

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Are They Still Called Step-Brothers if You Meet Them When You're 50?

In about an hour I'll meet my "step-brothers" for the first time. (Even though Dad and Lou aren't married and never will be, they live together and are committed for life -- and saying so publicly is a large impetus to this weekend's "pre-union.") Steve is a year older than me and Jim is my age. There's also Paul, who is two years younger than me, who I met last summer.

Not sure if I should be gracious and lady-like or if I should just get it over with and stick out my tongue at them and run away, like any good half-sister.

And damn, what if they're manly and good looking? (I've seen pictures; I already know that they are.) Does that alter the required meeting-step-siblings-at-50 decorum? Might I catch myself flirting? (As if I just couldn't help myself. Puh-leeeze! I'm 50! I wish!) And if I do, wouldn't that just be wwrroonngg, on so many levels?

Lou went to pick up her sons at the airport and Dad went to get pizza. And as I wait at home for the new family to come home, I feel like the sister who's waiting to see who Dad and Mom brought home from their trip to the hop-spital.

Addendum: Really nice guys. New friends -- and there's not much better than new friends.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Words of Wisdom and Sights of Splendor

No, not from me! Hell, I'm feeling decidedly unwise and unsplendiferous these days.

Oh no -- these wise words and splendid sights were bestowed upon me.

The first wise words of the day were offered to me by Fayegail Mandell Basaccia, author of Dancing in my Mother's Slippers, with whom I met in Ashland for coffee this morning. Having recently read her book about her very intimate journey with her mother's struggle with (and ultimate death from) ovarian cancer, I felt a connection before we ever met -- and an even stronger one even before we'd settled in to sip our lattes. The conversation was immediately comfortable and flowing as we discussed the loss of our mothers, but also our similar careers in non-profits.

I told FayeGail about my dilemma regarding vision & purpose vs money & security in my career choices, especially as I move forward. She offered some wise advice: "Maybe you can think of it in terms of moving toward the yesses and moving away from the nos." That immediately struck me, and I immediately knew that she was right.

I get scads of e-mail solicitations from high-tech firms who see that I'm a project manager and that I've worked in electronic media. They must figure that I'm a techie, Microsoftie-ish PM, but I bristle when I read those job descriptions, knowing that I have no passion for those positions. My first instinct already IS to move away from them! And fast! It's not that I can't do them, as much as that I'm not good at what I don't love. So I do instinctively move away from them.

In contrast, when I see job descriptions like this, from the organization that strives to make cultural exchange programs available to disadvantaged youth, or this, from the organization that strives to support all birthing women, no matter what their financial or social circumstances, I get positively giddy with hope and excitement. Those are absolute YESSES! Until, that is, I find out what the salaries are, which is what happened at the tail end of last week's interview. Unfortunately, that salary (and many in the nonprofit arena) was half of what I normally make. And then that whole "three more kids to put through school" attacks me and my heart drops into the pit of my stomach because I feel that I've let myself, disadvantaged youth and unsupported birthing women down (because truly, I'd be good at those jobs!)... but that I have little choice right now.

The other words of wisdom came from Lou when we were discussing relationships, communication and the concept of intimacy. She said, "Arguments can be a form of deep intimacy... when they're conducted well." That was encouraging to hear -- not because there are many arguments in my relationships, but because there are so few.

Depending on one's family background, conflict can be threatening or it can be liberating. I grew up in a fairly loud, very open family, where arguments began, were worked through, and ended. Not only did everyone survive the argument, but often (not always!) it led to a deeper connection. Tom grew up in a much quieter, more reserved family where arguments were rare. So in our relationship I believe that an argument can be part of the process toward new resolution and closeness, whereas Tom sees it as much more threatening and ominous. He prefers to avoid them if at all possible and I see them as the bridge one must sometimes cross to get to the next leg of the journey. The idea of a well-conducted argument deepening intimacy is a helpful one. Not because I like arguing; I don't. But I do like deepening the most important relationships of my life and it's encouraging to know how many forms that can take.

And sights of splendor? Are you wondering what long-winded tome I'll launch into about that? None. I'll just leave you with a few photos of the Oregon sky as we drove from Ashland toward some mountain lakes nearby -- which is where 26 family members will gather over the weekend (and I'll probably have to go blog-less for three days).

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Much Ado About Ashland

Ashland has a flavor all its own. The Shakespeare Festival is certainly part of it -- a very big part. But it's more than that. It's the people who make up the town's permanent residents and the low-key, small-town pride that make this town what it is. In fact, I believe that Ashland is more itself and projects its true, more private spirit between the months of October and March, when the stage lights are turned off, the tourists have gone home, and the smaller, twinklier lights line the old shop facades on Lithia Plaza .

But man, this town can put on a festival like no other! As much as I love peaceful, quiet true-to-self Ashland in the winter (when I feel like a visitor), I really love flamboyant, bright, dramatic Ashland in the summer (when I feel like a tourist). And today was one big touristy day!

The backstage tour is one of the highlights of a visit to Ashland because you're given a sneak peak into the inner working of the festival, from how the actors are hired (20 hires for 5000+ auditions!) to the sets (200 detailed complicated set changes per play, per season, averaging two per day at two hours each), to the costumes (the second biggest department after the actors themselves). I've been on the back stage tour quite a few times, and each time I leave feeling like I've been let in on some deep, dark secrets... along with 100 other people!

After making Dad's favorite stuffed green peppers for dinner, I headed off to the big Elizabethan theater by way of Lithia Park (surely one of the most beautiful parks in the country) to see an unusual performance of Romeo & Juliet.

But first, I had the chance to enjoy the pre-performance "green show," featuring excellent ballet dancers (and, I couldn't help noticing, their well-chiseled male ballet buns!). The play was excellent -- although I'm still not sure how I feel about the unusual idea of dressing the younger Montagues and Capulets in today's fashions and the older generation of both houses in Italian Renaissance costumes. I ignored it after a while, which means to me that it wasn't as effective -- and certainly not as impactful -- as the creative director had hoped. Still, what drama, what emotion! What a performance!

I'm only kinda sorta working on finding a job this week. I'm following up on some and applying for others, but basically I really need to take a few days away from it all. Maybe if I don't obsess about it, things will start happening as they're meant to. That would be wonderful.

For now, I'm enjoying the sunshine, the peace and quiet, my dad and Lou, and this amazingly colorful, vibrant, alive town, hoping some of its spirit will rub off on me.

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Game Night

While the rest of the world read Harry Potter, Dad, Lou and I played a few games.

On this particular evening, I won the game of Upwords. But that's a rare feat. So rare, in fact, that it warranted a photo.

Normally, Dad wins the word games -- unless his sister Ulli is also playing, in which case she often wins, touching off some old-people sibling rivalry that can only be described as cute. And the notable thing there is that neither Dad nor Ulli are native American speakers!

I haven't played games with Lou enough to size her up quite yet, but based on her skill last night, I'd say she's a definite contender with Dad and I'm sure they have many a joyous -- and playfully competitive -- game nights.

If the game involves numbers, like Rummy, there's no predictable winner -- although Mom played a mean game. Two weeks before Mom died, she told me that she couldn't make sense of Rummy anymore, and that's when I knew that she was really slipping. I can still hear her voice, when she couldn't make a good play: "Scheiss spiel!" she'd exclaim -- and then she'd suddenly discover a move and rack up a gazillion points, smirking her trademark smirk (which Kat has inherited) as Dad noted the score on his neat and tidy score sheet.

My parents loved to play board games with their grandchildren almost as much as their grandchildren loved playing with them, and every time we'd get together, the evenings would be spent around their large round table or our large rectangular one, huddled around letter or number tiles (Upwords and Rummy) or little silver do-dads, like thimbles, race cars and wheelbarrows (Monopoly). Dad always infused education where ever possible, teaching the kids strategy, addition, spelling, and any other lesson that could be squeezed out of the evening.

Elisabeth always caught on quickly and was hooked on each new game, begging another round, another hand, another hour. And whereas I'm sure Dad allowed her to win in the beginning, even when she was four she stole some games from everyone!

Aleks learned to be cunning. During one game of Monopoly with the his grandparents, cousins and a few aunts and uncles, Aleks rolled a few doubles in a row. He was thrilled, of course, but decided to turn it into a business venture. At six (six!), Aleks came up with his first marketing ploy: "For two bucks I'll roll your dice for you!" he offered. "You saw how lucky I am! Just pay me and I'll be lucky for YOU!" And amazingly enough (or not amazing at all, really), my brother, my father and a variety of others each payed Aleks $2. Because, you know, he was just that cute. I'm sure that somehow formed the basis to actions like this one, 11 years later.

I miss game night with Omi and Opa and a bunch of eager little kidlets, warding off bedtime, connecting with their adored grandparents, and learning skills that they probably use more than some they've learned in the classroom.

But time does pass, and people do die... and grow up... and move on. Memories form and settle in and nudge us every once in a while, bringing both happiness and sadness in the realization that it's now all but a memory.

Still, playing Upwords with Dad and Lou was wonderfully fun, even without children around, and even without Mom. I realized, as Lou sweetly suggested a particularly useful move I could make, that new memories are emerging now, and that these memories, like the ones I hold so dear, are formed around and filled with love of a new and different kind.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

A Morning Walk in the Hills of Ashland

At 10:00 it was already well into the 80's, so we took our hour-long walk then, and the rest of the day will be spent moving slowly (or not at all) in the shade... or dipping occasionally in the pool.

The poison oak is everywhere and at it's most vicious stage, so we avoided the more woodsy trails.
The manzanita trees, with their peeling bark revealing fresh, raw, red "baby bark" always looks so hopeful to me. If a tree can project hope, this would be the one.

I'm trying to relax; really, I am. But that nagging feeling is back... the feeling that I need to be in touch with something, or know something, or feel something that's just slightly out of reach. As if there's an "ah-ha" moment waiting for me, if only I knew where to look, or weren't so afraid of what I'd find, or didn't cling so tightly to what's known and comfortable. Everything that's felt like "mine" all along, from career to "the rest of life," feels strange and disconnected now, like I need to look at it all again with fresh eyes and an open mind and heart and ask myself what road to take now.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007


After dinner at Pasta Piati, a stroll along Main Street and a shared pre-theater ice cream, we saw a play in Ashland this evening -- and it was about as far from Elizabethan Shakespeare as you can get.

"Distracted" is a modern play about our connected, digitized, modern life. We live at a hyper-pace, competing in an incessant hyper-race, and when our kids are diagnosed with 21st century "diseases" like ADD, we rush out to "cure" them. The play is about a well-meaning, well-educated mom who wants to help her son who has been diagnosed with ADD. The father, who very obviously is completely ADD himself, objects to treatment, urging that his son just be allowed to "be a boy." While hilariously funny in places, the play was also exceptionally poignant -- especially because it hit so close to home for me, with both Aleks and Peter being INCORRECTLY diagnosed with ADD, and with Tom definitely having numerous signs of it, but never having been diagnosed.

While the actors and the production were excellent (I especially liked the actors' acknowledged awareness of themselves as actors), I left with some burning questions:

Jesse, the kid in the play, is an only child of a stay-at-home mom whose only apparent job is to find a way to help her son. But what about ADD (or just "different") kids who have busy working moms and siblings who tend towards torment and make life tough for them?

And, while it's obvious that the author of Distracted, Lisa Loomer, is anti-medication for these kids, what about the kid whose life is vastly IMPROVED by medications that allow them to feel calm and balanced and present? And happy -- finally? The "evil" is sometimes the withholding of medication, not the dispensing of it. This point of view was only ridiculed in the play, not given its fair due, as I believe it should have.

I wish there had been some sort of forum after the play for people to spend 20 minutes or so discussing the play's impact -- which was obviously intense. (One teen was left sobbing, her head buried against her father's shoulder as we left.) That would have nicely continued the theme of involving the audience in the production!

On Tuesday we'll do the backstage tour, which Lou has never been on, in spite of living in Ashland for over 10 years! On Wednesday, I'll have coffee at Bloomsbury Books with FayeGail Basaccia, author of Dancing in my Mother's Slippers. And on Thursday, at least one of Lou's three sons will arrive in Ashland before everyone else, including my family, arrives on Friday.

The rest of the time I intend to "relax with purpose." That is, I intend to let my mind calm down and let go of enough panic so that I can be open to whatever else my life is trying to tell me -- and I do believe that it's screaming at me. I just can't make out exactly what it's trying to say quite yet because there's been so much self-inflicted noise.

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Life at Ashland Pace

I arrived in Ashland yesterday, leaving the rain and clouds of Seattle behind for the warm, blue skies of Southern Oregon. My intent has been to work hard here because, after all, I can look for a job from anywhere.

But there's something about my dad's and Lou's place that makes work feel out-of-place, superfluous, and unnecessary. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, so I've been forcing myself to hop on to the various job sites and job boards I frequent, connect with networking associates, and follow up on a few possibilities. But, to be honest, I'm discouraged and unmotivated and I'd just really like a break from the incessant "gotta get a job" chatter that constantly bounces around in my head these days!

Ashland feels like home to me, although I've never actually lived here since my parents moved here when I was in grad school. People here are very present, very deliberate. Minds and bodies are active, people seem exceptionally creative, but they don't take themselves too seriously. It feels a bit like Berkeley used to feel to me as I was growing up.

We won't spend time with the people of Ashland until tonight when we go into town for dinner and then to see the play Distracted about the 24/7 lifestyles of the Y generation. Should be interesting!

Until then, it's a very non-people day, just relaxing, working a bit on Learning Friends (which I'm enjoying... man, I hope they get funded!), a dip in the pool, and a nap. The nap is because Dad knocked on the door of the cottage at 7:15 this morning -- after I stayed up till 2:30 teaching myself how to edit movies -- inviting me for waffles and blueberries!

It's so good to be "home." Alone.

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Seattle Bloggers Unite (and Par-tay!)!

Is this cool, or what?! I will definitely be there, along with Susan. If you're a Seattle or northwest blogger, you're invited!

So... will we see you there?! C'mon! Come join us!

KOMO-TV and its owner, Fisher Communications, has graciously agreed to serve as host for a blogger meet-up at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday August 2nd. The event will be at Fisher Plaza, 140 Fourth Avenue North in downtown Seattle. Light hors d'oeuvres and refreshments (alcoholic and otherwise) will be served and everyone who attends is promised a cool piece (or pieces) of KOMO swag. That's right; we're digging deep for this.

This is a social event, so come prepared to meet and make new friends. If you know of a local blogger who's not on the list here, please let me know or feel free to invite them, too. We'd like to meet everybody.

If you don't already know me, I'm Chris Pirillo - coffee addict, Seattlite, and a regular ol' blogger who also has a YouTube channel.

KOMO-TV is interested in getting to know bloggers in the area, and what better way to do that than with a little party? Again, this is a social event; there's no agenda for the station other than helping facilitate this meet-up. Fisher Communications recognizes the significance of the personal media revolution, and they want to listen and pay attention to what you're saying. I think this is a good way to start.

KOMO-TV news anchors will be there, so don't forget to bring your camera! You'll also be able to take pictures of yourself (and your co-anchors) at the anchor desk.

Please use the RSVP function of this Evite to let us know if you're coming. We want to make sure we have enough food for everybody.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Look What the Cat Dragged In (Again)

Hoo-boy, here we go again!

Different animal, same routine. It's not injured and it's breathing just fine.

Guesses as to what it is...?!

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Seattle's Suffering from a Case of Weather Confusion!

A week ago I was hot-flashin in the middle of a 100-degree heat-wave... and today Lady Seattle isn't sure if it's winter or fall, but she's pretty dang sure it ain't summer!

It's been cool, gray, and pouring (not just drizzling) all day. People are ordering soup instead of ice cream and going to movies instead of to the beach. (But they're still bicycling to work!)

But you know how I know that the Pacific Northwest is the perfect place for me? Because I prefer this!

(Yeah, Kat and I did swoon a bit over ladybug rain gear. If only they came about 47 sizes larger, I'd buy myself a blogger-gift.)

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(Silly) Family Photo Friday

Thought you might enjoy -- or at least roll your eyes at -- some of the sillier photos in my vast collection of family photos.

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