Friday, February 29, 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quick First Day Post

A few first-day observations:

  • All in all, a good day. Smart, supportive boss and a good staff, as far as I can tell.
  • The everyone-sitting-at-one-table environment will take a bit of getting used to, but this is a start-up and the days of Monday lattes, $100 make-your-office-your-own allowances and foosball tables in break room (which is filled with free soda and snacks) ended with the dot-bomb fiasco of 2001. And really, lean and mean (well, not mean) makes much more business sense, so I'm fine with it.
  • After 4 hours of frustration, I can tell you that I'm not a fan of Vista -- but I am appreciative of a cool new laptop and Treo.
  • I think the 10AM - 4PM and 9PM - 11PM schedule will work fine, as long as I don't fall right back into my regular workaholic mode.
  • What will keep me heading out at 4:00 is my commitment to go to the gym every day after work. It took me almost an hour to drive those 14 miles today, so I'll be experimenting with alternate routes.
  • I'll appreciate the "heady" time at the gym, especially if it's heady-underwater! Today I planned my upcoming laptop file swap, planned dinner, and mentally composed a letter to my professional network, announcing my two new jobs, one as a Senior Product Manager and oneas a board member for the non-profit. Somehow I'll need to find a way to gently solicit donations to Open Arms in that letter. (<-- Notice the round-about plug for donations and the link to the place to make them?)
  • Glad I started work today and not yesterday, the day after a sleepless night (because when Elisabeth took Peter out for his first legal drink two nights ago, it ended up to be just a tad more than one, and they ended up to be the wrong kind of drinks... and that's all I'll say!) and also that I'm not starting work tomorrow, a date that would lead to long-term logistical HR nightmares. It'll be a busy weekend of getting up to speed...
  • ...and hiring a housecleaner!

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

21 Years Ago Today...

Peter Thomas was born. (Just look at the adorable cheeks on that 9+ pounder!!)

He has made me smile, or giggle, or laugh uproariously almost on a daily basis ever since then. He is a light of my life, a joy in every sense, and I am incredibly proud of the man he has become.

I love you with all my heart, Peter! Thanks for always being exactly and precisely YOU!

(And yes, being the dedicated and dutiful big sister she is, Elisabeth picked Peter up at 11:55 PM to be the first to buy him his first legal drink!)

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Suddenly, Something's Gotta Give

Today is my last day of leisurely panic-stricken unemployment and now, suddenly, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with all I've taken on.

The company I'll be working for has offices in both Mumbai, India and Redmond, Washington, with very close collaboration between the two, so I'll be expected to work at least six hours during the day and at least another two at night. I have no problem with that schedule because it will allow me to keep up with my habit of swimming daily and still allow me to be home by 5:00 or so, but it means that I need to fit my other obligations in somewhere.

And suddenly I have a lot of other obligations!

I went to the first board meeting for Open Arms last night and, assuming they vote me onto the board (I expect to hear today), that will be another substantial commitment, both in terms of time and money since, as a board member, I'll be expected to either raise or give at least $1000 per year to the organization.

(So hey, let me just take a paragraph and make my first shameless plug right here and now:

In the spirit of Obama-style fundraising, of and by the people and in numerous, but small amounts... would any of you like to donate to a very worthy cause? Open Arms is an absolutely awesome nonprofit organization that provides services that support, educate, respect, honor and empower women in need and their families throughout the childbearing year. Imagine an incarcerated woman who must give birth alone in prison, or a victim of domestic abuse, or a single immigrant with no health insurance. Open Arms provides these women with doulas to provide that very important labor support. If you'd like to donate any amount (it's tax deductible!), just go to the website and click "donate now," but please let me know that you did, so I can claim your contribution towards my $1000 fundraising requirement! And hey, thanks in advance! Plug over...)

Not sure I mentioned this here before, but I also answered the call (literally, actually) to be an AFS liaison again, this time for Manu, a Belgian boy. He's wonderful, and our whole family really likes him, but I'm feeling really guilty that I'm not a more dedicated and involved volunteer this year, as I was last year as a liaison to Eva, or the year before, as a host parent to Laura. But I still want to (and am required to) connect with him regularly, and I haven't been very good about that. At all. Sigh.

Annnnndddd... I have also signed on to do some freelance writing. I've already signed a contract with SimpleTuition (you can see my posts here), and am considering signing a contract to write for Parenting Squad, who has asked me to write for their "college age kids" section. (Goodness knows, I'll have fodder!) Their business model allows their writers to be paid 100% of ad revenue for their pages... but I have NO idea what that means in terms of dollars and cents! I know it's dependent on the number of readers a page has, but are we talking $5 a month? $50? $500? I truly have NO idea! And since something's gotta give and I haven't signed a contract with them yet, I'm trying to get some idea about the potential revenue I'd see if I wrote for them. Anyone know? Advice, anyone? They're really open regarding posting frequency, allowing daily posts, but only requiring one post every 90 days. Does anyone know more about this business model? Help!

Oh, and there's also this blogging, but I don't consider this to be an obligation. It's more of an obsession and it's NOT going away, no matter how much other stuff I take on! I just want to be sure that I still have time to post some thoughtful posts -- like that Letter to My Body, which I'm working on, but oh, man... I'm having a hard time getting beyond "I hate you! I hate you!" and I'm so ashamed, because my body has been so good to me, even though I tend to abuse and chastise it and disregard it... but that's SO another post! And I'm working on it.

So, these days of lazing about (ha!) are over and I'm gonna have to make some choices. I don't think I can do it all, especially since this is the last semester of Aleks' and Kat's senior year and anyone who's been through that knows what it means! And since we're coming down to the last six months with these kids still being home before heading off to college, I really want to make sure I save some important family time too!

What should I keep? (Other than the full-time job... duh!), and what should I let slide? What would YOU do?

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Big Day

Although I don't officially begin my new job until this Thursday, I'll be going in to the office for a few hours today for an important "process meeting." Since I've only met two people at the company (a small start-up), today is the day when I'll meet the rest of the staff. So yeah, it definitely "counts"!

And this evening I'll attend the first meeting at the childbirth organization that's asked me to be on their board. I met two of those board members already, but I'll meet the others this evening and they'll -- hopefully -- vote me in.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Tale of the Dog Who Ate Pants*

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a dog named Seppi**. Seppi, the dog I grew up with, was a sweet doggie who seemed to love everyone. Everyone, it seems, except the significant others of his "people siblings."

The first indication of Seppi's obvious and somewhat bizarre disregard for his masters' love interests came the morning after my brother's girlfriend spent the night. As she slipped on her pants, she noticed a hole in the crotch. She knew the hole hadn't been there the evening before when she left the pants on the floor by the bed, but here they were, obviously destroyed beyond repair -- and all the damage was focused directly on the crotch of her pants! We had a good laugh about it the next morning, but no one could explain where the hole had come from.

Not long after that, Tom spent the night at our house. Since we weren't married yet, we slept in separate rooms. (My parents wouldn't have cared one way or another, but Tom was a good Catholic boy and felt more comfortable with separate sleeping arrangements.) The next morning, Tom called me into his room and held up his jeans, and there, bulls-eyed on the crotch, was a huge hole! Putting two and two together and barely able to contain my giggles, I asked him if Seppi had slept in the room with him. Yes, he replied; it was nice to have the company of the dog that seemed to like Tom and seemed to welcome him into our home.

Mystery solved. Our dog, it seemed, was not only deceptive, but destructive! And he certainly knew how to most effectively express -- and target -- his jealousy! From then on, any time a love interest of my brothers or mine would stay at our house, we not only made sure all pants were off the floor, we made sure Seppi was locked out of the room!

*Yes, I thought of a few more creative post titles, but I fear what would have come my way via Google searches if I'd used any of them, and ultimately (because this a family blog) I decided to play it safe.
**Here's the perpetrator himself, looking all sweet and innocent with Elisabeth when she was a baby. Would you ever have guessed that this cute little mutt was capable of such a vile crime?

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

This Shirking Responsibilities on Sunny Seattle Saturdays has Got to Stop! (Or not...)

Remember last Saturday when we shirked our weekend responsibilities and went to the zoo because it was a beautiful sunny Seattle day?

Well, this morning when we woke up the sun was shining! Again! And you know what that meant? Another day of shirking weekend responsibilities and doing something fun in Seattle! This time, Kat and I grabbed our cameras and headed downtown to take pictures of this amazingly gorgeous city.

Here's our day as a Picasa slideshow:

And, of course, as a Smilebox. Take your pick. (But pssssst -- the Smilebox is more fun!)

Click to play Sunny Seattle Saturday
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Any more of this sunshine business and we'll have no clean clothes or food to eat and the government will come after us for non-payment of taxes. But I'm not too worried; in Seattle, especially in February, a sunny day is a real rarity -- and a week in a row of them is truly unique. So I think we'll have plenty of time to take care of all those responsibilities once the rainy, gray days return.

Like tomorrow.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Random Acts of Kindness -- Getting and Giving!

A few weeks ago, Tense Teacher, one of my favorite bloggers, posted "a meme of sorts, but with tangible results." In the spirit of the Pay-It-Forward movement, Tense (not her real name or, I'll bet, her disposition!) promised to bequeath upon three of her readers/commenters a random act of kindness.

I commented and I won! (Wouldn't randomness and winning be mutually exclusive things? Hmmmm... But let's move on.)

Me?! I never win anything! No really, I don't. I only won dumb consolation prizes 22 years ago when I appeared on Press Your Luck. Know who got all the good prizes? My opponent, Bill Dorfman. As in Dr. Bill Dorfman, the dentist on Extreme Makeover! Yup -- one and the same! He won a windsurfer and all kinds of other cool stuff... but me? I won a set of leftover dishes and an ice chest. And while we're at it, let me just say that I think he had a little makeover of his own, if you know what I mean, because he is still exactly as handsome as he was way back when he was an unknown struggling UCLA dental school student!

But I digress. Yet again. For the second time today.

To tell you the truth, I'd forgotten about being chosen to receive a "happy" (as Tense Teacher called it) until I got the mail today and was greeted by this absolutely stunningly beautiful handmade scarf and adorable plant pot. The scarf is scrumptiously soft, and the colors are absolutely vibrant! It will go perfectly with the maroonish-reddish suede blazer, (new) brown pants and beige blouse I'm planning to wear on my first day on the new job next week. (No, I don't normally plan what I'll wear any further in advance than when I stand in front of my closet.)

And the little plant pot is adorable too! Tom and I are going to the Northwest Flower and Garden show at the Seattle Convention Center tomorrow, so I'll surely find the perfect plant to put in it. Tom will have to water it, though, because I tend to kill every plant I attempt to nurture. He insists that I have a brown thumb. (He's absolutely correct -- so he waters all the houseplants. I mean the houseplant.)

So here are the official "rules" of this meme:

If you’d like to participate, leave me a comment. I will pick 3 commenters (I’ve already decided which numbers), and I will send them some kind of happy! I’m not sure what it will be yet, but that’s part of the fun… It’s a surprise! If I know you well enough, I’ll try to pick something based on what I know about you.

You will have to send me your “snail mail” address. Then, you must promise to make a similar post on your own blog, offering to pay it forward to 3 more bloggers who comment on your site. What happens is you will write a post, much as I am doing, but in your own words, of course (plagiarism is a crime! <-- Tense's exact words!). Within your post mention “Pay It Forward,” and specify which comments will be involved, or make it random if you prefer. Please don’t say you’ll play along and then not follow through.

On the other hand, if you decide to leave a comment, but you do not want to play, please tell me so in your comment.

Oh, and just in case you're expecting something handmade and beautiful, showing vast amounts of talent and dedication, like a gorgeous handmade scarf... I'm not that nice, nor that talented, so please don't hold your breath!

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Our Backyard

Photo courtesy of Kat, using her new Nikon D40! This is the forest behind the lawn and behind the shed and behind the part of the yard that we normally see and use (see photo below). The kids used to call this part of our property the "deep dark," but in Kat's photo I think it looks anything but!

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Unexplained Mysteries

I've been meaning to write about unexplained mysteries. Yes, I know that Pioneer Woman wrote about the same topic today. That's because she and I are cyber-soulmates and she read my mind. I had the idea first, but because I love and adore her I won't cyber-sue her for encroaching upon my psyche. Because, you know, I'd be happy to share my cyber-psyche with Ree any day. I guess that makes me a bit of a cyber-blogger-Lesbian or something.

But I digress.

One day (and it just happened to be my birthday) in November of 2000, I woke up and, like every other day since I suddenly needed glasses six weeks after the birth of my twins 11 years earlier, I reached for my glasses. On this particular day, however, I couldn't see with my glasses on. At first, I figured I was just particularly sleepy that day and my eyes needed extra time to get used to the prism which allowed me to see one image instead of two. But no matter how many times I blinked or how hard I tried to adjust the image, my glasses worked the exact opposite way they were supposed to on that day: I saw two images with the glasses and one without them!

As I made my way through the day, I repeatedly put on and took off my glasses, assuming that my brain would "click back" to it's broken state (officially called "fourth cranial nerve palsy") and the glasses would work as they were supposed to, re-aligning the pesky vertical imbalance that I'd learned to live with. But that didn't happen! Lynn, my friend and co-worker, took me out to lunch for my birthday that day and we discussed all the possible reasons for my sudden cure. The brain is a strange organ, we decided, and it had decided to fix itself as suddenly as it had broken years before.

I didn't really need an explanation; I was simply thrilled that I could see (single) again! For the rest of the day and into the evening, I kept my glasses off and I could see perfectly -- one perfect image, without even a hint of a floating second image. Hallelujah! I was cured! I put my glasses into their case and into my purse, assuming that they'd drift to the bottom of my purse and then eventually be relegated to a bottom drawer somewhere, a reminder of my mystery affliction of the past. Then I went to bed.

The next morning, I woke up, opened my eyes, and... I couldn't see. Or at least I couldn't see single. Duplicate objects floated in front of me, as they had for 11 years - except for the day before, my birthday.

I've never been able to explain what happened that day. Why could I see perfectly for one day, for my birthday? Was there a medical explanation? Last month, when I was given the option to have surgery to fix my vertical imbalance, I thought back to my "birthday gift" and couldn't help but wonder -- if I had the surgery, would double vision mysteriously come back to me one day? So far that hasn't happened, and I only see single now that I've had the surgery.

But I still wonder what happened on my birthday eight years ago. Can it be explained?

(By the way, here's a photo of me, taken a week after the surgery, showing my only-for-reading -- yippee!! -- glasses. I love these glasses and even my picky kids think they're stylish.)

Other unexplained mysteries:

Many (many) years ago, before we were married, Tom and I and a bunch of friends went on a ski trip to Mammoth Mountain. One night, as we lay in bed in the ground floor condo apartment that was surrounded by snow, we distinctly heard a man's voice between the two of us. Neither of us can recall exactly what was said, but it was definitely a man's voice and we both heard it. It wasn't scary the instant it happened, but as we tried to figure it out, it became more and more creepy!

And there's another unexplained mystery -- one that took place on our wedding night. (Oh, stop!) We spent our wedding night at the Paso Robles Inn in Central California, a quick overnight on the way to our honeymoon in Monterey and Yosemite. We'd heard that the hotel was haunted and found that to be a fun reason to stay there, never believing that it really was haunted. But that night we hardly got any sleep because (oh, stop!) there was an incessant tapping on the headboard that went on all night. Tap, tap, tap, all night long. And the bed was set at an angle in the corner, so the headboard didn't touch a wall or any other surface. It's another unexplained mystery!

What are the unexplained mysteries in your life?

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

What's the First Thing One Does Upon Landing a New Job?

Go shopping and clean out one's closets, of course!

I have a really hard time finding pants that fit. Always have. Part of it is that I'm short, but I'm also long waisted -- and the two together are not easy to fit. For every hundred pairs of pants I try on (not that I'd ever attempt that in one day), maybe 5 fit. It drives both me and the dressing room attendants crazy!

Today I went shopping and within the first hour I miraculously found five pairs of career pants (three of them on clearance!) that fit -- black, brown, charcoal pinstripe, blue and khaki. All the bases (and basics) covered! I have to hem them, of course (petite are usually too short, and regular are too long), but shrieks of "Eureka!" came from dressing room after dressing room today. (Or maybe from my imagination. Yes, probably from my imagination.)

Sure, I hate to look at the label and see the size, but I always have -- even when I wore a size 10. Now that I'm swimming (or will be again after the two week forced hiatus after my eye surgery), I'm trying really hard to be good to my body and not to hate it too overtly. It's a constant struggle and I'm not good at it. But I'm trying.

(I'm working on a post called "A Letter to My Body." It's excruciating to write and I wonder if I'll ever finish it. It drains me.)

In addition to the pants, I also bought a few sweaters and long-sleeve tees (this is Seattle, remember?) as well as some button-down, collared and fitted shirts.

And after a shopping expedition like that, there's only one thing to do and that's, well... make room for them in my too-small closet!

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

An Eclipse in the Seattle Sky

I didn't know anything about a lunar eclipse until Tom called me as he was heading home from work and suggested I go outside and look at it.

I grabbed (er, I mean borrowed) the tripod that came with Kat's new camera and headed outside, sans any source of light or my glasses (which I still need for reading).

Unable to see what I was doing at that point -- and too lazy to head back inside to gather implements -- I just futzed with the camera, moving a bunch of knobs and dials until I came up with this shot. Don't ask me what the setting are, because I have no clue!

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Change of Status (Or, stated as I actually feel about it: "CHANGE OF STATUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!")

My faithful readers know that, since leaving the non-profit health education organization where I was the executive producer of a series of eight videos for teens on topics like media literacy, self-esteem, body image, nutrition, teen activism and teen stress, I have been on a bit of a career roller coaster. I worked in a contract position at Microsoft, as a Program Manager in their Teaching and Learning Technologies group and then I went on to manage the Seattle office for a non-profit that was contracted with the Gates Foundation to do some work around education reform. That organization (or at least their Seattle office) disappeared as soon as the Foundation decided to change direction, putting all of us out of a job. That was 10 months ago.

My quest to find "the perfect job" (now that I'm considered - pfffft! -- an "older worker"... oh god, I hate seeing that in print; surely it refers to someone else!) has been more like a roller coaster, with starts and stops, peaks and valleys -- and moments when I felt like throwing up. I told myself that I would not just accept any job, but that my next position should be one where I hope to stay. And in order to stay, I'd want to work in (or at least towards) a leadership position where I could be both creative and strategic, where I could both plan and execute, and where I both felt valued myself and could contribute to others' sense of purpose and value. I also knew that, in order to feel continually challenged, I'd want to work with a variety of media, with both internal and external partners, and in an environment where growth, change, and flexibility are expected and valued.

So guess what? I found just such a place and accepted a position this morning! I'll start work as a Senior Project Manager on February 28th. And that's all I'll say for now -- though you know that I'll add bits and pieces (short of disclosing the company's identity, of course) as time goes on.

Why is it that all of a sudden, this stuff is going through my head:

  • Clean garage
  • Organize closets
  • Costco run
  • Clean fridge
  • Fix transmission on Tom's truck
OK, that last one? Not true. But if I could, I would, because he brought me roses last night.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

He Brought Home Groceries -- and These!

Stay tuned for an explanation...

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February Nineteenth

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Monday, February 18, 2008

In Seattle, in Mid-February, This is Huge

The sun is out and the air is crisp and clean -- though only about 50 degrees. This door is staying open all day, just to let some fresh Northwest air into the house!

(Shasta loves the sunshine too and is saying, Please stop vacuuming and come play with me! Can't you see it in those eyes?!)

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Baby Steps to an Empty Nest

You know that "all's well" feeling us mothers have sometimes? The feeling when everyone's home within the solid walls of your warm and cozy house and you know exactly where everyone is and that your entire family is safe and sound?

I love that feeling.

When you have four kids between the ages of 18 and 23, that feeling tends to be fleeting because sometimes, just when you've settled into the mother hen-ness of it all, everything suddenly changes.

Take this evening...

One minute we were all watching Across the Universe and mutually admiring its amazing artistry and incredible music, and then suddenly, within just 20 minutes ALL this happened and sucked the mom-ahhhhhhh feeling right out of me:

Aleks suddenly hopped up and reminded me that he's going to his friend Megan's house and then to a party with her; he doesn't know the people throwing the party, but he's sure he'll be fine. He'll probably be home tonight, but isn't sure. (He's 18, I remind myself. Learn to let go.)

Some of Kat's friends stop by and ask her to hang out with them at a mutual friend's house. She throws on shoes and a sweater and on her way out I ask and she answers all the requisite questions -- where, when, who. (She's 18, I remind myself. Learn to let go.)

Peter and Danelle, who joined us mid-movie, take off as they do every evening, and head to Danelle's house just a third of a mile away. Even though I'm used to it, the distinct difference in activity and noise level is always a bit disconcerting. (But Peter will be 21 in a few days, I tell myself. Goodness, mama -- learn to let go.)

And then Elisabeth gathers up ski gear for a week-long business trip to Park City, Utah that will be part ski, part play, and part professional sales-schmooze. Before I know it, she too is off. (She first left home almost six years ago, so I tell myself that I've already learned to let go. But does a mother ever really let go of an oldest daughter?)

Then the house is suddenly quiet. Very quiet. Disturbingly quiet. I look quizzically at Tom and then at the front door. "What just happened?" I ask, rhetorically. "Weren't they all just here?" Why do they do that?"

"They do that," Tom reminds me, "because they are full-fledged, independent adults who are in the midst of leaving the nest, and this is how it's done. They'll be back -- a few at a time, all at once, and everything in between. Tomorrow, next week, and everything in between."

We do some dishes, read a column or two in the Sunday paper and then decide to watch the special features disk to Across the Universe, knowing that we must begin to slowly get used to the quiet that will surround us constantly, come next fall.

But before we even really have a chance to settle in, the front door opens and Aleks kicks off his shoes and heads upstairs. "Hey, you're home!" I announce. (Duh! God, I am such a mom!) "How come?"

"Because," Aleks replies., with that what-a-dumb-question tone. "I just felt like being home."

"Cool," I say as non-nonchalantly as I can. And one sixth of that "all's well" feeling settles peacefully within me again.

I wonder if a mother hen ever completely stops being a mother hen, even when her proverbial chickadees are completely on their own. When my whole family gathers together for holidays in the years to come, will I still feel this familiar "all's well" peace when my family is together?

Somehow, I hope it never really goes away. Because I will never NOT be a mom.

Addendum: Within 20 minutes of posting this, Kat came back home with a few friends, asking to hot tub in our back yard and Aleks decided to go back to Megan's house, but not to the party.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

It Didn't Rain in Seattle Today (and Kat Bought a New Camera) So We Played at the Zoo!

I had so much to do today -- taxes, laundry, bills (among other stuff that conjures up the word "drudgery"), but when Kat suggested that we go to the Woodland Park Zoo so she could play with her new Nikon D40 camera, neither Tom nor I could think of a really good reason (and I mean better than taxes, laundry and bills) not to just drop everything on a whim and GO.

So we did.

And later in the day, Elisabeth chucked a bunch of her own responsibilities and joined us. Then we went home, where Kat's new boyfriend Stevo (yes, his name is Stevo; do NOT call him "Steve") joined us for Peter and Danelle's exquisite barbecue chicken pizza.

Does anyone ever regret making these spur-of-the-moment choices?! Hell, the taxes, laundry, and bills will definitely be here to greet me when I wake up tomorrow, but how often does one get to spend a day with a bunch of silly grown kids and zoo animals? (Or is it gown animals and zoo kids?!)

Click to play Don't Feed the Animals!
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
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And yes, I'm putting the photos into another Smilebox because, not only is it so much fun to create, but the whole thing goes together faster and easier and with more control than trying to get Blogger to cooperate in putting the photos exactly where I want them! Plus, there's nothing like adding just the right music to make the whole thing one fun, multi-sensory, multimedia experience.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Facebook Love -- and Lack Thereof

Today's word is: "Facebookbreakup"
IPA Pronunciation: /feɪs/bʊk/breɪk/ʌp/
Part of speech: Verb
Definition: To change one's relationship status
within the Facebook web interface, thereby severing a relationship without any in-person interaction. Changing one's own relationship status automatically changes the other person's status as well, thus exposing the often heart-breaking and humiliating break-up for the entire virtual world (or at least your hundreds of shared friends) to see.
Used in a sentence: "I facebookbrokeup with him/her, so we won't be getting together on Valentine's Day." "I can't believe s/he facebookbrokeup with you! What a chicken!"

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For Our 30th Valentine's Day...

Psssst... Hey, Tommy! This is for you.

(Sometimes, in the name of love and glory, your ol' shy self just has to endure center stage!)

Click to play Smilebox for my Sweetie
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Paid Blogging!

No, not here.

I don't have any plans to put ads on this blog in the foreseeable future. It's not that I don't want money for blogging; believe me, I'd love to make money from blogging! But not here, not on this personal, all-over-the-board, no-one-theme, write-whatever-I-want blog. I don't want to feel beholden to any one audience, any specific topic, or any particular theme, and somehow it seems to me that a lot of paid blogging is just that.

(Unless you're everyone's blogging idol, Pioneer Woman. She is the Queen of Everything and I have a feeling she gets paid for uttering the word "blog." Or maybe even just for breathing. Have I mentioned before that I adore her? Oh yeah, I have.)

Actually, I LIKE the idea of contributing to other blogs and being paid for my themed writing. And lately I've been approached by a few professional bloggers who have asked me to contribute to their professional sites. For a few months now, I've been contributing to's "tuition tales." You can read those entries here.

Yesterday I was asked to contribute to as their "parent of young adults" blogger. I'm still looking into that one, but I have a feeling I'll accept their invitation -- especially because 1.) I have plenty to say on that topic and 2.) their revenue/payment model is interesting and potentially lucrative. (I'd get 100% of the ad revenue made on "my" pages.)

But this l'il down-home blog shall remain in its own friendly, unpaid corner of the blogosphere, chatting up benign, inane, frivolous and otherwise mind-boggling and earth-shattering tidbits for you, my faithful readers.

And I'm not making a dime off you; I just love your company. Y'all come back now, y'hear?

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Boo Bombards the Bed

Boo lives for the weekly changing of the sheets.

No matter where he is, how deep asleep, or even how busy he might be hunting squirrels, bunnies and birds, when he hears the sounds of the rustling of clean sheets, he comes running. His favorite part of the changing of the sheets is the laying down of the fitted sheet. He practically goes bazonkers with glee as the sheet is stretched over the mattress, and when it descends upon him and "locks him in," he is positively giddy with kitty delight.

He revels in his cocoon world until we finally make him come out, but then he knows the next treat is in order: the fluffing of the German down comforters. By this point, Boo is ecstatic. As we shake and puff and fluff, Boo jumps and twists and somersaults among the bedding, exhausting himself and cracking us up.

By the time Boo's done with the changing of the sheets, he finds the fluffiest, cloudiest place to konk out and he's gone for the night -- or at least until a few toes wiggle.

That, however, can NOT be described as fun for any of us, and any toe-attack antics on his part in the middle of the night get him quickly banished from the room!

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Monday, February 11, 2008

An Ego Meme

I normally try to avoid the "me-me-me-me-me" memes, but this one looked interesting and thought-provoking so I decided to give it a whirl.

(And hey -- speaking of "whirl," is it just me, or does that picture look like a whirling, wandering eyeball?! Yeah, it's just me, isn't it?)

I tag the entire blogosphere. Hell, if we're gonna be egotistical and egocentric, let's at least do it together!

I know... that absolutely nothing is absolutely certain.
I believe... in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. (Yes, I'm pretty much a UU...)
I fought... the Vista (CA) school district when they wanted to teach creationism in public school science classes.
I am... a good mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend.
I love... my children, my husband, my parents, my brothers, and my extended family and my friends.
I take... NO time at all to fall asleep.
I need... to feel valued and appreciated.
I hear... that those of us who paid University of California tuition in Spring 2003 overpaid and that we'll get a refund! This would be great for Elisabeth because she has to pay for grad school herself, so we'd pass it right to her.
I drink... coffee. I'll drink it at home, at Starbuck's, and Peets, at Tully's and at that quaint coffee shop at Pioneer Square.
I eat... too much.
I hate... people who use the phrase "I hate" lightly.
I use... two fingers to type. I'm working on using 10, but that method is still much slower than my lightening-fast two fingers!
I want... to find the perfect job for my passions, experience and skills.
I think... I've been a victim of age discrimination in the work place.
I like... to have my back, forearms and scalp scratched. Not rubbed, but scratched.
I feel... kind of dizzy and nauseas since my eye surgery last week. According to the doctor, some of that is the result of leftover anesthesia, but much of it is my brain trying to figure out what the hell happened in that operating room and protesting the whole thing in it's own brainy (pffffft!) way.
I wear... a lot of fleece. Jackets, pants, vests, shirts, gloves, hats, even socks. What do you expect? I'm from Seattle!
I left...
Germany last September before I was ready to come home. I would have loved to have traveled more with both Tom and Elisabeth. Then I would have liked to have traveled with Aleks, Peter and Kat... and my friend Kristin and my brothers... and even alone. And I was ready to explore far beyond Germany, too.
I do...
unto others as I would have them do unto me.
I hope...
Barack Obama will be our next president.
I dream...
out loud sometimes. Sometimes I cry -- hysterically -- in my sleep. I must be deeply distoibed!
I drive...
like a typical Seattle-ite: always waving "thank you" when people let me in, never honking, and never driving aggressively. I hate it when people get pissed on the road.
I listen...
but probably not as well as I could. Sometimes I should work on talking less and listening more.
I a very different way than my husband and most of my kids. They're analytical; I'm creative. They like numbers; I like words; they think linearly, I think in curly-q's. Drives 'em nuts!
I wish...
I could have Mom back, just to check in with her now and then and let her know how life is going for the people she loved.
I should...
lose some weight and grow my fingernails.
I regret...
nothing. Even the painful times in my life have ultimately served a positive purpose.
I said...
"What happened to your BRAIN?" to a kid at summer camp who made a gross-out face and asked, "Ewwww -- what happened to your thumb ?" (I was born with two thumbs on my right hand, and although I only have one left, it's... well, it's special-looking.) It felt great, I'm sorry to say!
I care...
which means that all four of my kids in college next year will expect CARE packages!
I wonder...
who wrote the book of love.
I changed...
a lot since I was 20... and since I was 25. I don't think I've changed that much since I was 30, but I'm sure I have.
I cry...
when I'm really frustrated and don't feel acknowledged or when I feel belittled. I hardly ever cry in sappy movies.
I lose...
my reading lasses now that I no longer always have some pair of glasses on (one for reading and one for distance). I've been making fun of Tom for years because he's forever losing glasses, and just the other day I heard myself asking him if he'd seen my glasses. He just laughed. Hysterically. I deserved it.
I leave...
mental breadcrumbs so I can find my way back.
I am...
worth it.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008


A few evenings ago, Tom and I joined Peter and Danelle for a double date at our local sushi restaurant. The really fun thing about this restaurant is that the chefs assemble sushi delicacies right in the middle of the restaurant, and that area is surrounded by a moving conveyor belt onto which they place the various plates of sushi. Once on the belt, the plates of sushi move right past your table on the conveyor and you just reach over and take what you want.

The plates are color-coded indicating the price of the food on them. Sushi on green plates cost $1.00, on orange plates cost $1.50, on blue plates cost $2.00, and on purple plates cost $3.00.

A variation on this theme can be found at a sushi restaurant on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley called (I think) "Sushi Boat." The idea there is the same, except that instead of plates on a conveyor belt, the sushi is placed in little "boats" that float past the guests' tables. What fun!

At the end of the meal, when everyone is full and satisfied, the plates are simply stacked and tallied. It's fun, it's easy, and it's delicious! What more could you ask?

What's YOUR favorite "themed" restaurant?

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Really Old: "Going Steady." Less Old: "Going Out." Contemporary: Change of Facebook Relationship Status.

Kat's Facebook profile changed from "single" to "in a relationship" this weekend. That, she told us, signifies among her peers the official beginning of a romantic relationship.

Really nice guy. Really good to her. Really considerate.

I hesitate to say more because chances are I'd say exactly the wrong thing!

Like I'd probably say something about how cute they are together... or how happy and goofy she's been lately. I'm not sure, but that kind of stuff might be the wrong kind of stuff to be saying, so let's just leave it at "two Facebook profiles have changed"! :-)

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

My Son the Obama Delegate!

Our large, fully voter-registered family descended en mass upon our neighborhood Democratic caucus this afternoon to take part in a highly charged, highly personalized democratic process. We were some of the first to arrive at the large, empty elementary school gymnasium around noon, but by shortly after 1:00, the place was jam-packed, leaving standing room only.

The order of business was to sign in and declare the candidate of our choice. Then we were given about 30 minutes to debate, dialog, challenge, and otherwise verbally engage each other in hopes of swaying some votes to our side. This debate got off to a slow start, but once we got going... wow! Aleks spoke eloquently in favor of Obama and did quite well in rebutting challenges from Hillary fans. I even proudly caught the moment on video:

Once the debating period was over, we were asked to find our name on the sign-in sheet and declare our choice again. Most people wrote the same name a second time, but one person in our precinct did change his mind. Based on the breakdown of our precinct's second votes, we were asked to elect a total of four candidates, one for Clinton and three for Obama. I looked over at Aleks, silently asking if he was interested. He shook his head, no. But right away after that, he was approached by quite a few people in our group and encouraged to "run" for one of our precinct's delegate positions. It didn't take long for our precinct's voters to declare that the youth voice is very important and before we knew it, Aleks -- along with another young man as well as a 30-something gentleman -- had been nominated and voted a delegate who would represent our precinct for Obama.

That moment did this mama PROUD!

So here they are -- our precinct's three Obama delegates (Aleks is on the left)! You GO, guys! (Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of Meredith, our 24-year-old neighbor, who will be the lone Hillary delegate...)

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Here's Looking (Right) at You!

See how my eyeball is looking straight ahead? Not floating upwards and inwards at all?

It's swollen and red and it feels like I have a few pebbles in my eye. That will last for a week or two, but I can live with it, especially since I'm not working these days, so make-up isn't part of my daily routine. The doctor even removed a small growth that I had under my eye. (The fact that he's biopsying it has me just a tad concerned, but I'm sure it was nothing but one of those -- gulp -- "age spots"!)

This photo was taken about 24 hours after the surgery. I also have a photo that was taken about two hours after surgery, but I'm not so cruel as to show that one to you!

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Obama is in Seattle!

But unfortunately I can't go see him. Damn! I'm still on a 24-hour "anesthesia watch" which includes stuff like constant supervision (though I defied that and sent Tom to work) no driving, and no physical exertion. (Does holding a sign and chanting "Yes We Can!" fall under physical exertion?) I guess I'll just have to watch him on TV, maybe holding my yukky, red, swollen eye open!

Fortunately, my politically passionate and astute son ditched school this morning with a few friends to head into the city and see Obama -- but I have a feeling he's one of the throngs of people who were turned away once Key Arena filled up.

As I watch the excitement America's youth has for this year's election, I am SO heartened (especially in light of what I posted a while back about "18 in '08"). But I'm also really worried that all the youth passion and involvement won't translate into votes at the polls. I agree with Richard Dreyfuss' assessment (see video in link above) that youth expect instant gratification and they expect to express themselves on their computers. The idea of driving to a polling place and actually voting is something that I think really needs to be emphasized. I think we have to "warn" them that, while it's great to be inspired by a candidate and to make awesome videos about them, the critical piece of the youth vote is that, well...that YOUTH MUST ACTUALLY VOTE! My four 18 to 23-year-old "kids" are all excited about this 2008 campaign, but I had to practically force them to actually register to vote -- and that was even an online thing!

Tomorrow the Washington State caucuses will be held and you better believe that our entire family of six voters will be there!

OK, actually five of us; Elisabeth is back in the States from Germany, but had to fly directly to Atlanta for a work conference. She said that it was really hard to leave Germany, that she sooo loves it there, and it was especially hard jumping right back into her "hot-shot" career when she'd rather be traveling the world -- as all 23-year-olds should!

I feel a very positive "crisis" coming on for her. As I told her, we should all be so lucky that the world is our oyster. How often can we decide to be anywhere we want and to do anything we want? I implored her to to just revel in this time -- though I know that's easier for a 51-year-old to say than for a 23-year-old -- especially one who likes everything planned and organized -- to do!

And that's all I can write without needing to rest my eye...

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

It's Over!

The surgery is over.

They had a hell of a time finding a vein for the IV -- tried about five locations on either arm and went through two docs... but eventually they must have found it. Kat took a picture of my eye, but in the interest of preventing gross-out among my readers -- and in the interest of my own vanity-- I decided not to post it. Suffice it to say that I look like hell!

But it's over and I'm glad and it looks like it was a success. It's gonna be weird to not need glasses anymore except to read... and then to only need generic "drugstore glasses"!

-- and now I can actually get cool sunglasses!

(That reminds me -- here's an interesting Seattle tidbit regarding sunglasses: we have the highest national per-capita ownership of sunglasses. Considering our incessantly gray, non-sunglass-wearing weather, it seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? It's because we buy sunglasses, then put them away because they're not needed for long stretches at a time, then we forget where we put them and we go out and get a new pair. This goes on forever, so we buy sunglasses to replace the sunglasses that were bought to replace the sunglasses that we bought to...)

And now I'm gonna sleep off these drugs that are obviously making me think weird.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Just Put Me Out. No Really, You Can Put Me Out Now. Hey! I'm Still AWAKE!

Two years ago I was awake throughout a colonoscopy. The only good thing about that experience was that I came out of it feeling a sort of kinship with Katie Couric. Except that she meant to be awake and I didn't.

I can (but won't) tell you every detail of what transpired in that room and everything the medical personnel talked about. I was on Versed which is an amnesic; it allows the patient to converse, but should wipe out all memory while the patient is under its influence. Except that it didn't wipe out my memory at all -- not then, and not later. I told the nurses that I wasn't out -- that I was really sleepy and feeling dopey, but that I was sure I'd remember everything -- and hey, that hurts! They condescendingly told me that no, I wouldn't remember any of the procedure, including any of the pain.

They were wrong. I can still recall details of that procedure and it's not pretty. In the recovery room, I told the nurses that I had been awake the whole time and they, too, discounted my fear (and my tears). It remains a horrendous memory and even though I'll be given something completely different (Diprivan) on Thursday, I still don't like the idea of anesthesia. Plus, I've heard that redheads need more medication and that we tend to have "patchy results" more often, and I just hope that that's not considered a myth with my surgeon and anesthesiologist! My personal doc told me today that it is, indeed, proving to be true.

While all this was going through my mind this morning, I saw this article on the front page of the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Oh great -- just great! This is all I need! Here's an excerpt:

Soon after being put under anesthesia to undergo a hysterectomy, Diana Todd began hearing voices. As she tried to listen to what the voices were saying, she felt the first cut.

The pain was indescribable.

She stopped counting after the fifth time her surgeon's scalpel sliced into her body.

Lying on the operating room table, the anesthesia drugs had her paralyzed. She was screaming on the inside, but no one in the room knew she was fully aware of the surgery being performed on her.

It's been nearly four years since Todd experienced what is called awareness -- being awake and able to hear or feel what is happening during a surgery when one is supposed to be unconscious.

Similar accounts from patients nationwide (about 28 percent say they experience physical pain when aware of their surgery) prompted the University of Washington to create an anesthesia awareness registry to understand how and why it happens and come up with ways to prevent it. Launched in October, the registry is a forum for patients from around the country to share their stories of awareness. Physicians then look at their medical records, from which names and locations have been removed, to try to determine if mistakes were made.

I promise you that I'm not normally a chicken about medical procedures, but this one's got me a bit (OK, very) nervous. But I can't focus on all this (ha!) until I get through two interviews tomorrow.

Maybe after tomorrow I'll beg to be put under!

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super (To-Do) Tuesday and a View from the Kitchen Sink

Today will be a very busy day -- even without Washington taking part in Super Tuesday. (Go Obama!) I do intend to take part in the Washington caucuses on Saturday, though, even with a swollen red eye. I have a bunch of pre-surgery doctor's appointments coming up in the next two days and, as if prepping for the surgery (physically, logistically and emotionally) weren't enough, I also have two big interviews tomorrow. One is for a board position for the childbirth organization I interviewed with in October and one is an all-afternoon interview with a major Seattle game company -- which is all I can say at the moment. Yes, I'm still juggling other balls in the air and I'll be honest with you: my arms are getting really tired! Once all this juggling comes to an end and I've caught a really cool, colorful, dynamic ball (I still refuse to settle for just any ball; I still want the coolest, most exciting, most challenging ball!), I'll debrief you on what has been a long roller-coaster ride and an interesting and challenging process.

But for now, I'll take part in an interesting meme that has been making its way around the blogosphere -- and what makes it most interesting is that there's worldwide participation. It's simple, really: just post a photo of the view from your kitchen window. Here's Lynda's in Cairo, Egypt... and here's the view from the window of "Swenglishexpat," a Swedish-English expat (as the name suggests!), currently living in Germany. And here's this morning's view from our kitchen sink on this gray, cloudy winter day in the Pacific Northwest:

The bin in the corner is one of our recycle bins. In the winter, we place the recycling bins on a table just under the kitchen window so placing things into the recycling is a simple matter of opening the window and dropping the item! So easy! In the summer, we use the table to eat on and we want the deck to look nicer, so during those months we actually have to take a few steps and open a door to dispose of recyclables. The lengths we go to... sheesh!

Winter has definitely taken its toll on our yard. The grass has lost its luster and is pale green at best, and brown in many spots. The deck is full of windblown needles and even big branches that have blown onto it in big Seattle windstorms. It also serves as our winter drink cooler because the temperature in the Pacific Northwest in the winter is perfect for storing pop and pre-opened juices outside!

I can hardly wait for Spring when we can spruce up the deck again, barbecue and eat dinners outside, and start planting flowers in our newly landscaped yard!

So, show us the view from YOUR kitchen window and tell us a little something about your photo!

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Monday, February 04, 2008

The Official Medical Term is "Sludgeball"

I had a mammogram and a breast ultrasound this morning because I found a lump in December.

The reason that I haven't mentioned this previously and the reason that I sound cavalier is...well, because I am. I'm prone to benign fluid-filled cysts and I was 98% sure that this was simply another one of those pesky but harmless balloons-in-a-boob.

After having my breasts squished every which way to Tuesday (but I swear, it felt like Saturday!), I was sent into another room to have an ultrasound done by the specialist doctor. (They were plum out of techs today, it seems.) He immediately honed in on the familiar black balloon and I said, "Yup -- it's another cyst!" And he said, "Yup, sure enough." And that was going to be that.

Except it wasn't. Inside that round black lake (good) was a white island (not good). He and I both saw it at the same time and, being the nosy, question-asking, prodding variety of patient, I immediately asked, "And what is that?!" He replied honestly, "I don't know, but we'll need to check it out." At that point, my casual, chatty demeanor changed immediately and I shut up. He ran the ultrasound over and around the big round black spot, stopping when the white spot became more pronounced.

"Hmmmmmm..." he said. I hate it when doctors say "Hmmmm..." The longer the "mmmmm" and the deeper and more monotone the utterance, the more I hate it. This "hmmmmmmm" wasn't especially ominous, but it still made me nervous.

"Hmmmm..." said Dr. Maragam. (I know --with a name like that, he chose the right field, eh?!) "Tell you what. I want you to lie on your right side. Let's see if this sludegball likes gravity."

"This what?" I asked.

"Well, we hope it's a sludgeball, anyway. We hope it's just a piece of gunk."

"Is that the medical term?" I asked with a chuckle.

"Well, 'gunk' isn't, but 'sludgeball' is. Let's hope it's a gravity-lovin' sludgeball."

"That's what I was thinking on my way here," I teased. "I hope I have a gravity-lovin' sludgeball in my boobie."

"Me too," he assured me, explaining that if it "falls" when I lie on my side, it's loose in the lake, which would be a good thing. I couldn't help but conjure images of the Loch Ness monster...

As I moved onto my right side, the sludgeball dropped to the bottom of the lake. No wait -- wrong visual; it dropped to the downhill shore of the lake. Good sludgeball!

"Now turn onto your left side and let's see what it does," Dr. Maragam suggested. So I turned onto the other side and he proceeded to move the wand over -- the other breast! I didn't say anything for a few moments. Nor did he. Nor did his nurse.

'Hmmmmmm,' I thought (which is far less worrisome than those 'hmmmmmms' that doctors say), 'Maybe this is for comparison. Maybe there's something I don't get. Maybe I'll sound like a fool if I ask...'

So I asked, never one to mind all that much if I do look a little foolish. It wouldn't be the first time for sure and it certainly wouldn't be the last!

"Um, why that breast, if I may ask?"

The doctor withdrew the ultrasound wand as if it was being burned by my skin! "OH!" he blurted. "Well!"

"I figured it was for comparison," I suggested quickly, offering him an easy way out.

"Well, it would be nice if I could say that, but I can't. I was just being absent-minded!" I decided to give the guy a break. I mean, really -- he has to deal with set after set of these things all day long. It must be monotonous as hell! But still, when it's mine he's dealing with, I want his full attention! (You know you're really old and that you've been married for eons when you can only say that about your mammogram doctor...)

Fortunately, the sludgeball dropped obediently when I turned from side to side, obeying the laws of gravity and relieving us of any worry about cancer.

So today, for the first time, I was ever so grateful for gravity's effect on my breasts. Which just goes to show you that perspective is everything!

And speaking of perspective, I couldn't resist posting this:

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Eye" am Really Nervous!

Eye just want to warn you that Eye'll probably be a bit distracted this week because my surgery date (February 7th) is fast approaching and Eye am getting really nervous!

This isn't the first surgery I've had. In fact, I've had quite a few surgeries in the past, from exploratory laprascopic surgery the year before we were married (the concern was that I might not be able to get pregnant... ha-ha!) to abdominoplasty (to attempt to give me my body back after the twin birth) to a hysterectomy (due to uterine fibroids), as well as a few other minor procedures. But this one has me stymied (st-eye-mied? sorry -- I'll stop now...) because it makes feel so much more vulnerable that the other surgeries.

I mean, the eyes are the "windows to the soul" right? They are the part of the body that we tend to use (usually, anyway!) use when we communicate with others and they are where we tend to focus our attention (usually, anyway!) when others communication with us. The eyes show us love and compassions and pain and happiness and longing, and I simply can't imagine not having both that window and that mirror. I know, I know -- this surgery doesn't actually touch the eyeball itself and going blind isn't even a possibility. So maybe I'm just being dramatic. But still, I'm nervous!

So what will they be doing? Here's an official explanation, along with a few graphics, thanks to this site:

"Eye muscle surgery, or "strabismus surgery", involves either increasing or decreasing the tension of the small muscles on the surface of the eye. These muscles move the eye in all directions. This type of surgery is typically performed in a hospital outpatient surgical facility. During the surgery the eye is never removed! Rather, a small incision (approximately 1/4 inch) is made on the clear membrane covering the white part of one or both eyes. Through this incision, the appropriate surgery is then performed on the surface of the eye to eliminate the strabismus. The inside of the eyeball is not entered during this type of surgery. Contemporary strabismus surgical techniques involve "hidden" incisions where there is no visible scarring of the eye surface as a result of this surgery.

In adjustable suture surgery, the surgery is performed under general anesthesia in the typical fashion except that temporary suture knots are placed. Several hours after awakening from anesthesia, the eye alignment is evaluated. If it is good, permanent knots are tied. If the eyes are not adequately aligned, an adjustment in the muscle tension can be performed. These final steps are completed with the patient awake and the surface of the eye anesthetized with eye drops. When appropriate, this technique can enhance the surgical outcome."

It's the description of that post-surgical "adjustment" that gives me the heebie-jeebies! I can't help but picture the doc pulling on the string that'll be hanging from my eye and my eyeball moving around like a marionette. Yuck! Hopefully I'll still be pretty well doped up when he has that fun...

I did see another specialist last week for a second opinion and she concurred with my doctor's assessment that I'm a good candidate for surgery, so I really have no reason (other than irrational fear) not to do this. Insurance will even cover 90% of the cost ($5000 per eye)! But please excuse me if I seem preoccupied; I'll try not to dwell!

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