Friday, October 31, 2008

Next Time You Visit the Microsoft Campus... sure to visit one of their many commissaries. This meal, a made-to-order omelet (red and green peppers, mushrooms, onions, spinach and cheese, and some delicious, fresh toppings) and the best creamy scalloped potatoes I've ever had (sorry Mom!), comprised my rainy day lunch at the building 117 commissary today. I could have also chosen a variety of grilled to order steaks and burgers, any of a combination of Indian or Mexican or Italian dishes, a salad bar, a pasta bar... and of course endless free beverages.

Sure, Microsoft has a few products to offer. Yeah, they run a fairly significant business headed by a few influential movers and shakers. But that's not all they have to offer, folks -- and all I can say is "Mmmmmm-mmmmmmm!"


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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Full Nest for the Weekend!

Peter called us on Thursday night to tell us that he'd be coming home from Washington State University for the weekend.* Aleks, Kat, and Elisabeth live nearby in Seattle, so they come home often -- certainly much more often than Peter, who lives five hours away.

Of course, when all kids are home, they spend time catching up on each others' lives and "just chillin'. Yeah, I admit it -- it totally warms my heart!IMG_9548

Making our favorite German family dinner of sauerbraten, rotkraut and kaese speaetzle was a spur-of-the-moment idea, but turned out to be well worth it -- even after a full afternoon of cooking!


Aleks chopped onions (for about 10 seconds).


Elisabeth and Tom carefully made the spaetzle, batch after batch.

This is my Mom's Bavarian rotkraut...IMG_9540

...and sauerbraten made from memory.IMG_9537

It didn't taste right -- until we realized that we'd forgotten the molasses!

Finally -- dinner time! It's good to be home! (At least that's what I tell myself they were thinking!)IMG_9558

Here's the finished meal -- yum!IMG_9564

Dig in!


Here's Tom, Peter, Elisabeth and Kat, goofing off after dinner:


And me as a "house divided" mom -- meaning we have kids attending both big Washington State universities, University of Washington and Washington State University. Gotta always be fair, ya know!


For today, this house is lively and full of laughter. Tomorrow night, after all four kids head back to their apartments and their schools, things will be a little too quiet again. But every week Tom and I get a little more used to having an empty nest, and it turns out to be just fine... as long as they all come home on a regular basis, like they did this weekend!

(*Peter's first two months of college have been filled with the normal changes of going off to college, but in addition he's been dealing with the breakup of his four-year relationship with Danelle, which has especially been tough on Peter since they'd just moved into an apartment together in August. In the past few weeks, we've rented him his own place, furnished it, and helped him move in and move forward on his own. Since Danelle has essentially been part of our family for the past four years, this has been tough on all of us.)

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

If You're Still Undecided You Live Under a ROCK!

According to the latest CNN poll, 7% of registered voters still don't know who they'll vote for in the upcoming presidential election. Seriously? Is it possible that some Americans are still saying, "Hmmmm... I dunno, I just can't decide who best reflects my attitudes, hopes and philosophies as an American -- Obama or McCain..."

Seriously? I simply can't believe that.

Obama and McCain are diametrically opposed on just about any issue facing Americans today -- social issues, financial issues, foreign policy issues. Name an issue and you can bet that Obama and McCain have completely different philosophies and approaches. With our lives being inundated every minute of every day with a politically obsessed media, there's absolutely NO excuse for any thinking American to still be undecided about who to vote for to lead this country for the next four years.

So if you're still undecided, this is me calling you, well...


And ignorant.

And un-American.

Read a newspaper. Turn on the TV. Explore the Internet. Get out from under that rock and do something to educate yourself about the candidates who want to be the next president of YOUR United States of America at this absolutely critical time.

But do NOT tell me that you're "undecided"!

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The View From My Office Window - Fall Edition

Every now and then (at least once per season, certainly!) I'll post photos from my office window. I love fall -- and this year it seems to be more beautiful than ever! Okay, so I don't have a view of the Space Needle, like my previous office. But the commute's shorter and parking's a breeze, so I'm just fine with this ol' Redmond business park office!


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: A Picture for Mr. McCain

(Compliments of Ron, our dear friend from ALASKA!)

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An Open Letter to John McCain

Dear John,

If you were a true patriot and if you truly believed in "country first," you would be thinking past November 4th and realize that, no matter how this election turns out, we will ALL wake up on November 5th to a divided country in desperate need of healing. Instead, you're spending the last two weeks of your campaign acting like a suicide bomber, not only destroying yourself, but destroying everything in your path and intentionally, it seems, doing everything you can to further divide the country that you proclaim to love.

Instead of talking directly to the American people on the issues -- something that just might change a few votes -- you have decided that your best tactic at this late hour is to be hateful, divisive and petty. Why? What will that do for you? More importantly, what will that do for the country you insist that you put first? You are very obviously putting yourself first, John! The only explanation for your erratic and divisive behavior is that nothing -- NOTHING, including country -- is as important as your own ambition.

Look, I know that you've wanted this all your life and I know that it must be hard to see Barack Obama, a relative newcomer, incite such huge hope and attract such a huge and dedicated following, but it is what it is, John. You can do a lot to save yourself, your political future, and your reputation in these last weeks by changing your tone from attacking and negative to positive and progressive and talking about the issues and what you would do for this country that you opponent can't or won't do.

So my word of advice to you, Mr. McCain, is to be a man of your word, to actually PUT your country first by doing something that your friend George Bush never did do -- be a uniter, not a divider, starting right now. Because on the morning of November 5th, we ALL have to wake up and find a way to get along.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008


A long time ago, at the very beginning of my career, I produced an educational filmstrip (that'll date me!) called Winnie the Pooh Discovers the Seasons for a now-defunct division of The Walt Disney Company called Walt Disney Educational Media Company. In it, we talked about four distinct seasons and the noticeable changes from one season to the next. We showed Pooh Bear's excitement as bare trees blossomed in the spring, bore fruit in the summer, lost leaves in the fall, and were bare and sparse in the winter. I remember lamenting that the seasons were nowhere near as noticeable for me in Southern California as we depicted them in the filmstrip, wondering if perhaps we'd been a bit too dramatic.

At that point, I'd never lived outside Califonia and never experienced the sort of seasonal transition that we touted in the production -- a transition that I notice every year, now that we live in the Pacific Northwest!

This weekend, Fall was in the air. It was crips and cold, but sunny. The colors in the trees were almost beyond description, with deep reds and oranges and vibrant yellows. Finally this weekend I was forced to come to terms with the fact that it was time to winterize -- something we never did in California!

became this:This...became this:And as my back cramped up, this...

(That's Elisabeth arriving home to spend the day with us. Aleks also came home for some peace and quiet away from the fraternity yesterday!)

became this:and this...(That's the shed in the background. Tom's still building it; his goal is to finish it in time for it to be a Santa's workshop.)

became this:Winnie the Pooh was right to get excited about the changing seasons and even though I'm not quite as dramatic in expressing my own excitement, I must admit that there's a palpable thrill in the air as the seasons change around here!

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Photographers' Field Trip: From Duvall to North Bend (The Scenic Route)

Last weekend, when Tom and I drove to Pullman to visit Peter, we took the back route to Interstate 90 in order to avoid Friday afternoon traffic on State Route 405. We drove into Duvall, and then through the towns of Carnation, Stillwater and Snoqualamie on our way to North Bend, where we hopped on the freeway. (That's our route, below.) As we drove those beautiful back roads last weekend, I called Kat and asked if she'd be interested in coming back with our cameras this weekend.duvallroute

She was, of course, completely down with that idea!

So early this morning Kat and I headed back to highways 202 and 203. Here are some of the photos we took:

IMG_9253 The fog in Duvall was soupy-thick, which served as a great backdrop to this old buggy.IMG_9260

A few miles further down the road, we found the quintessential fall trail.


Signs of fall were everywhere!





We even found a pumpkin patch...


...and this little pumpkin in a pumpkin cap in the pumpkin patch!


Of course, Snoqualamie Falls was the ultimate destination!


And of course the observation deck was filled with tourists. Forgive me, but I couldn't resist taking this one...


The town of Snoqualamie is apparently where old trains go to die. There were "retired" old trains everywhere!


And of course we HAD to enjoy Mt. Si...

IMG_9366 ...from the comfort of the North Bend Outlet Mall!IMG_9370

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Cool Tool!

My dear friend Marco, whom I admire and adore and who I work with daily but have yet to meet (because he lives in Mumbai!), introduced me to a fabulous new blogging tool called Windows Live Writer. LiveWriter

Finally -- a tool that makes writing a blog post truly a WYSIYWG experience! I'm still experimenting, but so far inserting a link and a photograph -- and even text-wrapping around the photo -- has been an absolute breeze!

All I had to do was download the tool, "introduce it" to my blog so it understands all the colors, formatting, etc., and then just GO!

Leave it to Marco, one of my favorite geeks (here's his wonderful geek blog!) to find a completely enjoyable, intuitive way to blog! Thanks Marco!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Proposition 1000, Death with Dignity: A Personal Story

After a four year battle with ovarian cancer, my mother died in Oregon in 2004.

More than once during those four years, Mom reminded me that she was lucky to live in a state in which assisted suicide was legal because there was nothing she feared more than being incapacitated, locked inside her dying body, in pain, and unable do anything for herself, let alone to express herself. "At least I won't die with Alzheimers," she'd say, implying that losing one's mind and one's sense of control is more dire, somehow, than battling stage 4 ovarian cancer.

Over the years, Mom had gathered a collection of pills large enough to be considered a lethal dose of painkillers. Those pills -- the simple possession of them -- gave Mom a sense of security, knowing that no matter what, she wouldn't need to suffer. On the one hand, she seemed to deny that she really was terminal and that she really was dying (even after she was on Hospice), but at the same time, she'd mention that the fact that she lived in Oregon would allow her to die with dignity.

When the time finally came, Mom went downhill too quickly to self-administer her lethal dose of painkillers. Overnight, she seemed to not only became confused, she lost the ability to swallow reliably. And because the law requires that the patient be of sound mind and to self-administer the medication, Mom's window passed her by. And Dad, at that point, felt awful that he didn't see that fleeting window and draw her attention to it, and he worried that she might now suffer needlessly and be unable to express herself and her pain. It was excruciating for all of us to know that Mom's wish, her last act of control in her life, would not be granted.

So we waited for nature to take its course. And while we were treated to some undeniable gifts during those days (such as the Mom recalling her life's most precious memories in halted words and emotional grimaces and her whispered request to Dad: "Can you carry me across?"), I know that Mom didn't die as she wanted and on her own terms.

I'll never know if or how much she suffered. I choose to believe that, after her spirit left her body on Wednesday, she was just a shell until her heart stopped beating on Sunday. I want to believe that, but did she suffer during those days? Did she endure what she so feared: being locked inside herself with her pain, unable to express herself? I don't know... and it sometimes eats me up to this day.

Washington State will be voting on its own "death with dignity" act, Proposition 1000, in a few weeks. I am a firm supporter of this proposition because people like Mom, who are at the end of their lives, suffering and in pain, need to know that they have the option to go when they feel it's time. Some, like Mom, won't ultimately act on the law, but people like her will have one less thing to fear and to worry about, knowing that the option is there for them. Mom depended on that knowledge and it gave her peace at a time when peace was the ultimate gift.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hey Coyote, My Kitty is Not Your Kibble!

I was running late for work this morning (because I'd been working!), just about ready to walk out the door, when Shasta started barking furiously (or as furiously as an uber-friendly Golden Retriever can bark, anyway). I looked outside and noticed a coyote in our front yard! I opened the door, thinking the coyote would run away, but it just looked at me, like, "Whaaaaat?" So I ran outside, shooing him away. Instead of running, it slowly mozied out of our yard and onto the street, looking back every few seconds, presumably to see if I'd given up the chase yet.

I had to chase the dang dog all the way across the street and up the hill before I was sure it was headed away.

At that point, my biggest concern was for Boo and Bailey, who were outside somewhere. We keep them in at night because we know coyotes are around then, but never thought we had to worry in broad daylight!

I called both of them.


Called some more.


Then finally I saw a gray and white puff-ball out of the corner of my eye. It was Bailey -- five times her normal size and with every hair on her hide pointing straight out! She was terrified... and apparently paralyzed! I called her to come to me, but she scattered under the deck. After a bit of a game of cat and... mom, I finally grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and brought her into the house, closing the open window so she couldn't get out again.

And now, for Boo.

"Boooooooooo?" I called.


"Boooooo! Kitty-kitty!"

And there he was, mozying to me with not a care in the world.

Whaaaaaaat? You woke me up...

I grabbed him, too, and put him into the house with l'il ol' Puffball.

It'll be a while before we let Boo and Bailey out again because those coyote are on the prowl! Local cat lovers, take note!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

This Evening's IM

Carol says (6:17 PM):
When are you planning on being home? (Trying decide when to put dinner in oven and send lover home.)

TomHubby says (6:18 PM):
I think I'll be leaving 'bout 7:00 from here and heading straight to the gun shop. Should be armed and home about 7:15 or 7:30.

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Don't Vote (OK, actually... DO)

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Empty Nest: The First 30 Days (A Report)

Last Saturday marked thirty days since our last child left home (and sixty days since our second child left home, and 45 days since our third child left home).

It's no secret that I was dreading the day when this house was no longer full of the energy that had occupied our home for the past 24 years -- happy, energetic kids (and teens), their friends, and a lot of truly fun and connected family time. I dreaded the quiet and the lack of activity, thinking that it'd all feel too much like a vacuum and that it would be depressing and lonely.

I was wrong.

First, the past month has felt like anything "empty nest" because in some ways our kids have needed us more than they have in years. Each one of them has had to deal with some situation, from mild to severe, and Tom and I have been there for them -- which has meant anything from a supportive phone call to much more significant presence. It has NOT been a quiet, lonely month by any means. They're all fine, but the transition hasn't been as smooth for any of them as I think they were expecting.

Quite unexpectedly, though, I have really been enjoying some aspects of this empty nest!

  1. I love coming home to the same neat, clean house that I leave in the morning. After years of having no idea who messed up what while I'm at work during the day, this is a real treat! Even the towels stay clean and hung up!
  2. I run the dishwasher once every couple of days instead of once a day or more.
  3. We generate a bag or two of garbage per week instead of 6 or 8 or more bags.
  4. Tom and I have been really enjoying each other's company, in so many ways. We're completely addicted to this presidential campaign, which is great conversation fodder. And we just seem to both know how important it is now to be cohesive, look in the same direction, and just plain get along well.
  5. I have no guilt about "getting home to the kids" or working less so I can spend more time with them. It always bothered me, even when they were in high school and very independent, that I was often distracted by a demanding job and long work hours. Now, though, I make a point of NOT working on weekends when (if!) they're home, which means I can dedicate my complete attention to them. Not that they want it; hell, they just want to chill in front of the TV, with their friends, and in their own rooms when they come home!
  6. I love shopping for smaller amounts and at smaller stores, like Trader Joe's. And I love not cooking unless I feel like it!
  7. Did I mention loving that the house STAYS clean when I clean it?
Of course, I still love the vibrant, vivacious time we spend as a family on weekends... but I also like looking forward to that time during a relatively peaceful week.

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A Seattle and Washington State Slideshow

Tom and I went to Pullman this weekend to spend some time with Peter and, as usual, I took lots of photos on both sides of the Cascade Mountains. (Most people think of Washington State as lush, wet, and green, but the eastern side of Washington consists of dry dessert and chaparral.) Every time I get some decent photos of sites around the state, I add them to my screensaver slide show... which I thought I'd share with you:

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Things That Make Me Go "HUH?!" and Things That Make Me Cry

Things that make me go "huh?!":
And things that make me cry: we've been saving money for our kids' college educations for 20 years and in the past year we transferred all the funds for all the kids into 529 plans. ALL four kids are in college now. All four 529 accounts are based in the stock market and have taken huge hits.

I just don't know how to break it to them...

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

My Proposal for How to Fix This Financial Crisis

Instead of giving $700 billion dollars to Wall Street, why not divide that amount by the total number of taxpayers in the US so they can pay off mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, etc.?

If my debts were paid down by $13,000 - $20,000 (the two numbers I've heard as how $700 billion divides into the number of US taxpayers), I'd be WAY more willing to pump my (now much more discretionary) money into the economy!

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