Monday, March 31, 2008

A Letter to My Body

Dear Body,

I hate you. (I love you.)

No one is more of a stranger to me. (No one could be more familiar to me.)

I can never count on you. (You never let me down.)

Please just get out of my face! (Please don't ever desert me.)

I hate you. (I love you.)

Ours is a dysfunctional relationship, dear body, and it's all my fault. I never appreciated you, I never nurtured and cared for you, I never let you know how much I appreciate all you've done for me. I've taken you completely for granted and I'm sorry. When I was very young, I had no real concept of body image. You were simply where my physical being was contained. I provided you with fuel and you provided me with energy.

Simple. Pure. Perfect.

And you know, I think that's when I had the healthiest body image, because really, that's how it should be! We should be able to live our lives with a reverence, awareness, and consideration of our bodies, but without obsession around them. Things were simple then. You were made for running, climbing and dancing, and nothing could feel more perfect than following your lead -- and leading you with strength and confidence.

And then, somewhat suddenly (or so it felt) curves and mounds and complicated cycles and funny-sounding chemicals invaded my life, and everything changed. You, who had been perfect to me for eleven years, could no longer do anything right. You felt strange and you looked awkward and suddenly I compared you to all the other bodies of girls my age and girls in movies and girls in magazines -- and you never measured up. I blamed everything on you and blamed you for everything that felt so wrong -- and I even somehow managed to blame my parents for your shortcomings. Why had I inherited my father's short, stubby legs instead of my mother's long, slim legs? Why did I inherit Mom's long waist, which just made Dad's short legs look worse? Why did my boobs have to come so early, when other girls were still so perfectly flat and tom-boyish. And hell, while we're at it, why did I have to have red hair and freckles? Did both my body and my face have to betray me together? How cruel can it get?

But body... you were beautiful! Why couldn't I see it? You were strong and curvy and womanly and capable! You had only begun to show me your commitment and loyalty, and I rejected you for it. I never thought about what you could -- and did -- do for me; I only thought about what you looked like to others, and you always fell short. (And speaking of short...)

Even when you were at your most miraculous, when you grew and birthed babies -- some fast, some slow and some even in pairs -- I couldn't learn to appreciate you! You nourished my babies for months, providing them exactly what they needed to grow their own perfect, strong healthy babies, and even then, my dear body, I could only see how the babies had made you flabbier and saggier and puffier and far, far more tired. And I kept complaining! How dare I keep complaining?! Oh body, can you ever forgive me?

Now, almost twenty years since I've felt a baby move within me (talk about miracles!) or nurtured a growing child at my breast, I'm still complaining about you! And you're still patiently putting up with me! Oh, I can feel your rebellion now -- and I can't say I really blame you. I've been ungrateful for far too long. I'd love to say that I've let go of all my envy and frustration and negativity about you and that I've come to love you unconditionally. But I'm only now finally beginning to understand, after over 50 years of living with you, that YOU need to be cared for a nurtured and nourished too -- that you can't be strong and selfless and -- well, perky forever, and that now it's my turn to take care of you. Not to make you beautiful again (oh, how I wish I felt it when I was closer to it!), but to simply keep you moving and agile and strong. It's finally less about what you look like and more about what you feel like -- and body, my dear friend, I hope it's not too late!

I would love to finally love you after all these years of criticizing you and finding fault in you, but to be very honest, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to love you unconditionally. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to accept you for you, without wanting something different... better... taller...slimmer...younger. I simply can't promise you that -- or much of anything, really. But I am working on finally (finally!) being good to you in some little way every day -- not because I want you to look great or turn heads (anymore), but because I have finally realized how important you are to me, how much you've given me over the years, and how very much I depend on you.

As always, though, I beg your patience and understanding because I know that tomorrow or the next day or next week I'll catch my reflection in a store window and curse you out again, focusing on all your shortcomings and all my desires for something different. Just ignore me -- and if I trip or get a sudden migraine, I'll know why.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Hillside Memorial to Americans Killed in Iraq

We came upon this makeshift memorial, apparently created by a father and son, and it took my breath away. Over 4000 Americans have been killed in Iraq in the five years since the war began.

I wonder how many hillsides it would take to show the well over 100,000 Iraqi deaths.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

My Favorite Cousin

I'd like to post all about Beate and what a wonderful person she was and how much she'll be missed and how sad it is to realize that she's really, truly gone (memorials are places where such realizations tend to really grab hold), but I can't find words. I have only sounds and images... but they're only in my head, and in my heart.

I'm staying with my favorite cousin Claudia, whom I adore. She's as close to a sister as I have and we share many, many sisterly childhood memories -- some of which I really must write about someday! But tonight I'm too tired to write anything of substance; all I can do is post a photo of Claudia and me as well as Claudia with her wonderful and very beautiful family.

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Long-Winded

One of the great things about being with extended family is that you hear stories -- sometimes multiple times, but that's part of the fun -- about your relatives' pasts. Last night at a dinner gathering at my aunts' house, we not only heard, but experienced, the story of my uncle Ted's correspondence with his mother during an extended road trip through California that he took in the early 50's as a young lad in his early 20's.

My uncle Ted's words in themselves are marvelous ("Golly gee, Mother, but these gals are cool!"), but it's how many words he wrote and his mode of communication that's so amazing! Ted (bless his soul) wrote to his mother on long -- very long -- rolls of shelf-lining paper! This is just one of many "letters," held on one end by our dear family friend, Cornelia, and by the other end by my cousin, Claudia, with my niece Sophia helping mid-span. My brother Michael is reading another one of the letters (which is probably another 20 feet long -- both sides!), and many more were laying in a box nearby.

In this age of IM and e-mail communication, this is truly unique! (There's a book here somewhere, don't you think?)

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Friday, March 28, 2008

A Tour of my Childhood Home: The Second Story

I’ve been a bad friend. You’ve been waiting all day and night for me at the bottom of the staircase because I promised that I’d be back soon to show you around the upstairs of my childhood home in the Berkeley Hills (the one that was “built by an eccentric judge in 1906”), and then I stood you up. My apologies!

Yesterday was extraordinarily busy because I’ve taken today off work to fly back to the Bay Area (Berkeley, in fact) for the memorial of Beate, our dear family friend who died suddenly last November. In fact, I’m sitting at SeaTac airport as I write this, trying to wrap my head around the fact that it’s snowing outside at the end of March! Weren’t we just planting beautiful Spring flowers in our front yard?! (And damn – the flight is even delayed because we need to be de-iced!)

So now let’s head upstairs.

As we ascend the U-shaped staircase with another big picture window at the half-way landing, I can hear the distinct creak of the wood in very particular places on the staircase – once when I first step on the landing and again about halfway up the second flight of steps. At the far end of the landing is a door that leads to the back staircase, the one from the kitchen area. Eventually my father split this staircase with a wall; the bottom half became a guest closet and the washer and dryer occupied the top half. I don’t remember having any feelings about it either way at the time, but now I shudder to think that he could virtually destroy this distinctly wonderful part of our old Craftsman home!

As we reach the top of the stairs, we find ourselves in a wide hall that runs the width of the house. On the left end of the hall are two doors, one leading to my parents’ bedroom and one leading to what became known as “the angry bedroom.” I’ll let you guess how it got that name! The two bedrooms are separated by very tall floor-to-ceiling double doors made of beautifully carved wood. I remember my dad being excited about finding these doors, but I have no recollection of him tearing down the wall between the two rooms or installing the beautiful doors.

I know the large closet of my parents’ bedroom well because this is where I did two things in secret: I’d “steal” dry spaghetti noodles from the kitchen and bring them up to this closet to eat them. (Someday I’ll write a post about my parents’ strict rules about food and why I felt the need to sneak dry spaghetti noodles.) I also came here to sneak a look at the sealskin after-ski boots I was going to get for my tenth birthday. I had begged for them and couldn’t resist “checking” whether my request had been granted. I remember concentrating very hard on acting surprised when they were finally given to me, and I wished and wished that I hadn’t ruined my own birthday surprise.

There are two bedrooms off the hall near the top of the steps. The one straight across from the top of the steps was mine. The best thing about this room was the small square porch that was connected to it through a narrow glass door with a purple glass handle. From this porch we could see the Golden Gate Bridge which sat directly across from our house, and behind which the sun set in a concert of reds and oranges to match the deep orange of the bridge itself. In addition to the Golden Gate Bridge, we had a glorious view of the Bay Bridge and we could have seen the San Mateo Bridge if some of the neighbor’s trees had been shorter or sparser. I loved my room and I took great care to fill it with as much pink as I could. Even my clock, which came from Germany and had a different wooden animal for each number, had a light pink background.

My brother’s room was next to mine, much darker and with nothing as cool as a porch. At one point I shared this room with him (though I can’t remember why) and my father built a wall out of pegboard so we’d each have our own space. My most poignant memory of my brother’s room involved his closet, into which I’d sneak early in the morning when I was in fifth grade. (What was it with me and closets?!) I had just begun sprouting breasts and decided that I definitely didn’t want them – and I especially didn’t want to wear that awful bra thing that could be noticed under my white blouse! So I’d sneak into my brother’s room while he slept and took not one, but TWO t-shirts out of the built-in drawers in his closet. No one could see my bra strap when I wore boys’ t-shirts. I don’t know why I so resisted developing a womanly figure. My daughters certainly welcomed it, as did all their friends, but when I was their age I was mortified at the fact that I was developing breasts and I wanted nothing more than to be completely flat again.

At my brother’s room, the wide hall narrowed into a smaller, darker hall. The tiled bathroom with the old-fashioned pedestal sink was on the right. One night, around the time that I was sneaking my brother’s t-shirts, I was taking my evening bath. My bath had always been my refuge (still is), and on this particular evening I had decided to run the water, submerge by head, and sing the newest Herman’s Hermits song, Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. I was lost in my own world, singing my little head off, when I hear a loud CRASH. I bolted up in the tub, splashing water everywhere, and was absolutely mortified to see my father bolting through the bathroom door – and by “through,” I mean through the middle panel; the door itself was still closed and locked in the frame! It seems that Dad had been knocking and knocking and, unable to hear my singing above the pouring water, he thought I was drowning! So there I was, stark naked in front of my father, who had just ruined the bathroom door (he later replaced only the center panel with harvest gold plastic!), and who was both furious and relieved.

At the end of the narrow hall on the right was a teeny-tiny room which belonged to my teeny-tiny brother, whom we called “Tootsie.” This room was barely big enough for a bed and I’m quite certain that it was never meant to be a bedroom at all. It, too, had a closet – one that was so narrow that even a slim ten-year-old had to slide in sideways in order to stand in it. The room was L-shaped, with an alcove that could almost (almost!) be hidden in. The light switch in this room was higher than in the others, and I had to stand on my tippie-toes to reach it.

At the end of this narrow hall was a glass door leading to the “ping-pong” room – even though we had a model railroad and not a ping-pong table in it. This room had full panels of windows on three sides, and was probably more a sun porch than either a ping-pong or a train room! It wasn’t heated due to all the windows, so in the winter it was very cold and in the summer it got very hot. My parents had found old fashioned classroom desks somewhere – the kind with bench seat attached to the front of each desk – and we lined these up in the ping-pong room and played school. Of course, I was usually the teacher and my little brother was usually the unruly student. Or my biggest brother was the teacher and the three of us siblings were his unruly students!

I think Shryiansi, my dear new friend/co-worker in India, who left a comment on my first post about my childhood house, saying we tend to remember things as grander and more spectacular than they actually are, is probably right. The livingroom might actually not have been as big as a jet hanger and kitchen sink probably was no wider than the average sink of the time. But in my memory, this house is grander than the grandest house on any historic register.

I’ve lived in many different houses since my childhood – split-level, Mediterranean, brand-new, and even ranch style – but none of them compare to the happiest home of them all, our Craftsman home in the Berkeley Hills that was built by an eccentric judge in 1906.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Tour of my Childhood Home in the Berkeley Hills

I grew up in this house in the Berkeley Hills. I'd always heard it said that our house was "built in 1906 by an eccentric San Francisco judge," but I never really knew what that meant until I left Berkeley and its distinctive old Craftsman style houses and went to college in Southern California, where something called the "ranch style home" prevailed.

Tom was normal because he grew up in a ranch style house. But me? I grew up in a house that had a ball room and a sun porch and a fresh air pantry. It was downright weird to the rest of the world (or maybe just the rest of California), but to me it was home -- and I miss it greatly, even now.

Hundreds of aged red brick steps led from Tunnel Road, through our front garden (a holly tree, a Japanese garden, a bay laurel tree, and paths winding this way and that) and up to the front door -- or rather, the outside front door, which led to the sun porch. The real front door, the one inside the sun porch, was three times as wide as I was lying down flat. Only guests were allowed to use the front entrance. Kids were required to use the rickety wood back steps which led unceremoniously to the narrow door which led into the kitchen.

Let's say that you've come to visit my childhood home. Let's just say.

You're obviously a guest, so you're allowed to approach from front steps and ring the doorbell at the outside front door. You could have come into the front porch and rung the doorbell to the house itself but, like everyone else, you're not sure of the proper etiquette with such things, so you ring the outside doorbell.

I fly down the staircase -- because I'm eight and excited that you're coming to visit me. I answer the door, throw my arms around your waist and invite you in.

The first room you stand in is the large, square entry hall. The carpet is dark burgundy red. To your right, just to the side of the sliding glass doors which disappear into the wall when open (as they are now) is my favorite brass heater register. I have spent many hours laying on my tummy with my feet against the metal bars as the heat warms all of me. There's one of these in every room, but this one's my favorite -- probably because it's in the middle of everything and when I warm myself here, I can know exactly who's coming and going. Or which adults are coming and going, anyway.

The "big living room" is just beyond the sliding glass doors. It's by far the largest room in the house, stretching all the way from the front sun porch to the outside back walkway. A majestic marble (no, maybe porcelain or maybe something else completely... white and cold and hard, like a stone) fireplace occupies the back wall, between two windows (that's Mom and me in front of the fireplace, circa 1958). Directly across from the sliding glass doors is a huge picture window and on the wall opposite the fireplace there are French doors leading into the sun porch. I don't think I ever saw those door open, though -- not in the entire 12 years I lived in that house. Between the large window and the French doors sat our piano, the same piano that sits in my home now -- the same one my son plays almost daily. That's me playing (well, tinkering on) the piano when I was about ten.)

On the other side of the entry way is the dining room, with our big mahogany dining table which occupies almost the entire room. Except for eight large white overstuffed dining chairs, there's no other furniture in the room. There is, however, a built in hutch and cabinet. Below waist level (grown-up waists, not mine) are six drawers, three on each side. Above the drawers is an alcove with a mirror on the back wall, and above the alcove are cabinets with glass doors, where we kept our white Rosenthal dishes -- the same dishes that are now packed into boxes in our garage. The ceiling of the dining room boasted a decorative sconce (?) which dipped about eight inches into the room and lined the ceiling in a square pattern. A large picture window overlooked the brick staircase leading to the front door and through this window we could see visitors as they rang the "first" front doorbell!

Next to the dining room is the "little living room" which is... well, a smaller living room -- probably more of a family room. If we'd owned a TV, it likely would have been in this room. But we didn't own a TV. Instead, the built-in book cases, one on each side of another large picture window, were filled with books, old leather books with gold engraved covers, parchment pages and a musty smell, even then. The front of the little living room faced the street and on that side of the room was one huge floor-to-ceiling window. I remember it being curved, but I believe my memory fails me; what was curved, I think, was my brother's perfectly round mattress that occupied that space in the year just before we moved, when he lived in that room for a reason that I can't make sense of, even today!

Through a small door from the little living room, we access the "maid's quarters" which consists of a bathroom with a free-standing bear claw bathtub (which is where I learned to love baths, when my dear friend Kristin lived here-- and no, she wasn't a maid!), a small hallway, and a bedroom. All of this is separated by another door from...

The kitchen. Our kitchen was on the dark side of the house, with one small window that looked onto a dark pathway. I remember three things about the kitchen: the walk-in pantry with the cabinet which had a latched door and inside had a screened wall which allowed air from outside into the closet! We kept apples on the bottom shelf, but I can't remember what we kept on the other shelves. I could only reach the closet by jumping up on the counter on which it sat -- and I can, to this day, hear the sound of my foot hitting the lower cabinets and my knee landing on the counter!

I also remember our huge (or did it just seem that way?) porcelain sink. I'm sure my memory plays tricks on me, but I swear that sink was two or three feet wide! Next to the sink were three drawers. Rats always found their way into the top drawer where we kept our bread and I recall this being a problem for as long as we owned that house!

The house I grew up in had two staircases leading upstairs -- the dark, narrow "back staircase," which was made of unfinished wood and sat just outside the door from the kitchen to the dining room, and the "main staircase," the beautiful majestic one, which was the main feature of the entry way. The main staircase had a banister that was, of course, perfect for sliding -- but only when parents weren't home or not around!

Leading down from the entry hall was yet another staircase. It led to the basement, the sub-basement, and the boiler room where a huge round heater with FIRE in it occupied the entire room! Emanating from the boiler were eight large round pipes, making the whole thing look (to a kid, anyway) like a huge spider. Also in the basement was an entire apartment with a kitchen and bedroom... but it was all dominated by the massive boiler spider -- which our boarder painted all sorts of bright psychedelic colors, appropriately enough, sometime around... oh, 1967!

Most of the basement, however, consisted of the ballroom. When I was very young, I actually thought that all houses in America had ballrooms! My parents had costume parties in the ballroom, with people dressed as clowns and jesters and knights milling their way around the room or seated on the bench that was built into the wall and circumvented the entire room. There was a fireplace in the ballroom, too, and although my memory seems to recall it being massively huge, I have a feeling it was of average size, but blown out of proportion by a child's memory of what was certainly a massively large space. In later years, my parents rented out the ballroom to another boarder, so I rarely had a chance to see it since I was very young, and surely my memory has played tricks on me!

It's late now, so our tour will be continued tomorrow when we'll head upstairs and visit my bedroom with the attached porch from where I had a perfect view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I'll also show you the "angry bedroom" and the ping-pong/train room -- another room I was sure everyone had!

Till then!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm a Little Behind in Paying It Forward

Remember way back in February when I posted about the Pay-It-Forward phenomenon that was going around the blogosphere, and that I was lucky enough to take part in, thanks to Tense Teacher? Well, I'm finally getting around to announcing the winners!

(Sorry... did I mention that my life has gone from calm to crazed?!)

The winners are, in no particular order:
Maria
Juanita
Susan

Congratulations! Now I get to send each of you a little something -- which means that you need to e-mail me your snail mail address. Annnnnd... 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 did here, but in your own words, of course. Within your post mention “Pay It Forward,” and specify which comments will be involved, or make it random if you prefer.

It's fun -- and heck, we can all use a fun little pick-me-up these days, can't we? No go forth and pay it forward! (And pssssst -- you can always start your own Pay-It-Forward thread, even if you didn't "win" here... because this is so NOT about "winning.")

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Today's Guest Photographer: Kat

This is Kat with her beloved new camera!

This piano has been in my family since my parent immigrated to America from Germany in the early 50's.

Stevo gave Kat a dozen roses for Valentine's Day. Aren't they beautiful?

You know Spring is here when you see (and buy and plant and talk to) this.

Bailey has this constant expression of bewilderment on her face.


Kat took this picture of the Puget Sound from the Olympic Sculpture Park after dinner at The Spaghetti Factory on Easter Sunday.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

An Unusual Easter Tradition

One Easter about ten years ago, we were invited to my sister-in-law's house on Bainbridge Island for Easter brunch. Since we ate at about 11 AM, we were hungry again by the time we got off the ferry in downtown Seattle, so we decided that we'd head to The Spaghetti Factory, our favorite downtown restaurant -- the one that serves the meal that all kids love, pasta with butter and cheese.

We prepared ourselves for a long wait because we had never, ever waited less than 45 minutes to be seated at The Spaghetti Factory on a weekend evening. But when we arrived at the restaurant, we were shocked to find that there was no wait at all! It seems that this just wasn't the "right" place for a traditional Easter dinner, and the entire city of Seattle didn't turn out on this one Sunday to eat pasta with Mizithra cheese, salad with pesto dressing, and a scoop of spumoni ice cream for dessert.

But that evening, a family tradition was born, and from then on we've gone to the SpagFact (as it's come to be called, thanks to a few silly IM messages!) almost every Easter -- including this one.

In other weekend news: the glorious Seattle weather yesterday prompted us to go to Molbacks (our world famous home town nursery) and Home Depot in search of color for our yard. After a wonderful breakfast at Julia's with Elisabeth (who can walk from her house in Wallingford to many of the best restaurants in all of Seattle), we spent the day picking out flowers, bringing them home, and planting many of them before nightfall, leaving about half to be planted today.

Unfortunately, though, when we woke up this morning it was pouring rain and the last thing we wanted to do was go outside and dig in the mud! But we did and oh, how I wish someone had taken a picture of Tom and me in our raincoats, hoods up and tied, pants sopping wet, digging silly holes in the ground!

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An Easter Memory

On Easter morning in 2004, just before the sun rose over the mountain tops, my mother died peacefully in her own bed, surrounded by her husband and her adult children. Until that morning I'd rarely used the word "holy" because it never had a personal meaning for me, though I knew that it referred to something deeply miraculous.

But that morning felt holy to me.

I don't mean to be sacrilegious and my mom was anything but a saint. And the fact that it was Easter -- a holiday that only means bunnies and colored eggs for us -- was merely coincidence. But the experience was as close to holy as I can comprehend.

One week previous, my father had called my brothers and me and told us that "it's time," so without children or spouses we all arrived at my parents' Oregon home. We expected Mom to die within days of the ovarian cancer that had finally riddled her body, but she held on for a full week, during which time she taught me more about grace and tenacity than I'd ever known.

At 4 AM on Easter morning, Dad woke me up from a fitful sleep to tell me that it was time. He said, "If you listen very carefully, you can see how peaceful death can be."

I had just been dreaming (or maybe just sleepily thinking, because I don't think I really slept that week) that I had emulated something my kindergarten teacher did when I was very young: in order to make sure that our parents received our important take-home notices, she'd pin them to the front of our clothes, right over our bellies. I dreamed that I found a photo of Mom when she was most beautiful and pinned it to her nightgown so the people who would deal with her body after death could see how beautiful she'd been and not treat her like a skeletal cancer patient she currently was.

Dad took my hand and led me to the bed where my mother lay almost lifeless in a fetal position.

Her breaths were like a tiny, delicate little bird’s: very shallow, very regular, and very soft, with a faint rhythmic “click” to each breath. She looked totally relaxed. But she didn’t look like my mother. Mom had taken leave two days before when she had shared with us where she was -- floating on a Bavarian lake, flying high above Hawaii, finding her own mother. Over the period of an hour on that Easter morning, she drifted so sweetly and peacefully away, surrounded by her family, and within the glimmer of her favorite Bavarian candle.

After she died, Dad went outside and picked a dogwood flower and placed it on Mom. He commented to me that dogwood flowers only stay totally white for a short time. He was right; in a matter of minutes, dark spots appeared on the tip of each flower. Then we all sat with her. No one cried. It was simply too serene and beautiful, too “holy," to cry. Michael and Dad even took a few pictures. Mom looked beautiful in her white lace gown, under the white lace sheet, with the white dogwood flower on Easter morning as the sun rose.

About two hours after Mom died, a Funeral Alternative couple came to get her. A husband/wife team, they gently told us what would happen. State law requires gloves and a plastic sheet and that she be covered and encased. Previously, I’d thought I couldn’t stay for such a thing, but I would have never considered leaving at that point. They handed me the dogwood while they wrapped her and placed her on the gurney. Then they “zipped her in,” forgetting to replace the flower – which I wanted with her.

So I found my way to her, unwrapping her, and placed the flower on her chest. Then I gave her a kiss and said, “Schlafy, schlafy (my family’s “sleep tight”) one last time.

It's been four years since Mom died. It’s odd to think that she never knew of her youngest grandson, TJ, or of Peter’s girlfriend, Danelle, or of Shasta, or of so many things and people that have become a part of our lives since her death. As the years pass, Mom will have shared less and less of our lives. But she’ll always be a huge part of my own life and I will always miss her. And because she died on Easter morning, which happened to be on April 11th that year, there will always be two days per year (Easter and 4/11) when I have especially poignant memories of her death – and her life!

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Sisters

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

I Miss Blogging!

I haven't been a good blogger lately. That goes for both reading others' blogs and writing my own.

During the ten months since I'd been laid off, I blogged more and more regularly and I really tried to focus on writing something of substance every day. I had plenty of time during those months and I not only blogged here, but I found a few paid writing jobs as well. It was a very writing-focused time for me and I hoped that I could somehow put three kids through college on the very small amount of money I'd been making from my writing.

I was clearly delusional.

Last month I found a good full-time job with good people, good benefits and incentives, interesting and challenging work, and a schedule (10 - 4 and 8 - 10 daily) that I hoped would allow me to continue to write thoughtful, considered posts on a daily basis.

I was clearly delusional.

Have you noticed that for, oh about a month, I have written very few thoughtful, original posts? My readership, which has dwindled considerably, shows it -- but I promised myself a while ago that it's not really about readership; it's about writing. I miss my both my readers (please, don't gooooo!) and the opportunity to write (not just post) daily!

I hope to be back. Really, I do! But for now, my new job is all-encompassing, with little time for anything else. My days have become quite predictable, with a schedule that looks very much like this every day:

7:00: Up, clean, work.
9:00: Stop working at home and get in the car to drive to work.
9:30: Work. At work.
12:00: Eat lunch. While working.
4:00: Leave work. Drive to gym.
4:30: Swim/work-out. Mentally work while working out.
6:30: Home. Cook. Work. Clean. Work. Think about work.
7:00 Dinner with family (from one to seven other people). NOT working or thinking about work!
8:00: Work on phone with Mumbia. Or work alone in my home office.
10:00: Space out in front of the TV until...
10:02: Fall asleep while thinking about work.

Do you see blogging in there? Neither do I.

Any new job is demanding, and project management tends to be especially demanding because the details and organization of the project is dependent on the PM -- and I have four separate projects that are focused on a technology that I am still very much learning. This should eventually calm down and I should be able to eventually relax, not feeling that I need to be "on" my projects every minute of every day.

But at this company someone IS working every minute of every day, because we have a presence in both India and the US. So when I pass off a task to our (wonderful!) people in India at night, I wake up to a finished task when I check my in-box first thing in the morning! It's a bit like the Elves and the Shoemaker! I love that... and our clients REALLY love it because it means that we can literally do the job overnight!

And now I really need to... work.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Do You Want to Report Your Non-Problem to Microsoft?

This cracked me up! For a few moments this morning, I couldn't connect to the Internet so I asked Windows (Vista... need I say more?) to "diagnose" the problem.


This is what came back:

"Windows did not find any problem with your Internet connection. (OK, cool! Thanks.) Do you want to report the problem to Microsoft? (But I thought you said there WAS no problem?!) Additional details about what went wrong can help create a solution. (But wait! You told me there's no problem, so why would I need a solution?) The report will be sent next time you go online. (But see, I AM online because... well, because, according to you, there's no problem!)"

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

"I don't find that Science is comfortable accepting things which cannot be explained scientifically."

A dear (Mormon) friend of mine from high school sent me an interesting video promo for an upcoming movie called Expelled.

Interesting stuff.

I replied:

Wow -- looks like interesting stuff! Certainly, the production value looks extraordinary!

Like Ben Stein, I believe in religious freedom, tolerance, and respect. You know me; that goes without saying.

Where I start getting vocal however (and I have!), is when religion begins to creep into public school science classes. I DID lose friends in the early 90's when I spoke up at public meetings against the Vista School Board which had implemented teaching creationism in our local public school science classes.

I have NO problem with private religious schools teaching that, if they want, but it has no place in public school science classes, since that'd be governed by the doctrine of separation of church and state. Though we all know that there's little real separation -- proven by Obama being challenged for NOT putting his hand on the Bible to take a government oath, even though he's a Christian. I honor and respect his desire (and statement) to keep the two separate! (But then, I honor and respect just about everything about that man!)


Anyway, are you sure you want to get me started on this? Ha ha!!
But truly, thanks for sending what looks like it'll be a great movie -- one definitely worth seeing, no matter what side of the issue one might be on.

Hope all is well for you and yours!

He replied:

Thanks Carol. It's always good to hear from you.

The movie sounds very interesting to me. For me, the issue falls on, what is authenticated by science versus that which is not. I don't find that Science is comfortable accepting things which cannot be explained scientifically. And since any scientist who believes in entropy (for starters) has a hard time justifying a "big bang theory" or accidental existence, the debate is as broad and unsubstantiated as a world that was created by a higher power--or even those which lay their life's work on Darwinism.

On the other hand, how does one defer to a "higher power" w/o making it religion-specific? I think that is your debate. In other words, is it not possible to suggest that a higher intelligence had a hand in creating the universe, of which we do not necessarily understand the actual inception? There are, of course, plenty of examples of natural selection and survival of the fittest. The leap for Darwinism, however, is as controversial as "creationism." I do not refer to the Bible's explanation of creation as much as an admission that there was an intelligent origin to the order or our world. Call it God, call it whatever you like. But ultimately, the evidence of "order" is too overwhelming to dismiss it entirely, in my opinion.

Big topic, I know. No need to go on, since science and religion will continue to do that for us.

Glad to hear you're working again."

Now I adore this friend, in spite of our religious differences. And I do believe that he makes a good point about all this "order" probably not being completely random. But I have to giggle a bit at the highlighted sentence, above. I mean, really.

Let's extrapolate:

I don’t find that Geology is comfortable accepting things which cannot be explained geologically.

I don’t find that History is comfortable accepting things which cannot be explained historically.

I don’t find that Psychology is comfortable accepting things which cannot be explained psychologically.

Yup, truly interesting stuff! (Also interesting: why Blogger won't allow me to remove italics...)


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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Things That Aren't Fair

1.) I've been swimming regularly (30 - 45 minutes, 4 - 6 days a week) since before Christmas and I don't see any change to my body or my weight. Tom has been swimming regularly since January and he looks more and more chiseled and studly every day.

I can't think of a #2.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Aleks, If You Get Into UW I'll Give You a Pie. Oh Wait! If You Get Into UW You'll Give ME PI!


He got in! (We're still waiting to hear about Kat...)

And suddenly he's thinking, Oh my god, this is real life! This is so-what-are-you-studying-young-man? This is the-job-prospects-in-your-chosen-field-are-quite-healthy. Or not. This is that'll-be-ten-thousand-dollars-for-a-few-units-and-not-many-more-weeks-please.

"Mooommmmy!"

OK, none of that's actually true. He's thrilled, and calm, and even a bit giddy because UW is so where he wants to go!

But first, he has to prove him self intellectually worthy:

video

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Here, Let Me Get the Door for You

I know what you're thinking. "What an adorable kitty!" "What an angel-cat." "Just look at that face!"

Yeah, well that's what Boo wants you to think! But believe me, what we have here is the Eddie Haskell of all cats. Do NOT trust that handsome face because this cat is up to no good!

As Peter drove up the hill to our house the other day, he noticed a brown dog with a few golden spots on it. As he got closer, he realized that it was a currently-muddy, once-golden dog. In fact, it was Shasta, our very own Golden Retriever! We never allow Shasta to run free in the neighborhood, so Peter knew something was up. When he got home, he noticed that the back door was wide open.

Peter immediately knew exactly what had happened: the cat had let the dog out.

We have European door handles in our house, the kind that work by pushing down on them. Boo, being a curious and exceedingly intelligent cat (uh-huh, riiiight), has figured out how to stretch his body up to the door handle, give a little hop for boosted power, and then pull down on the lever with his front paws, thus opening the door! He's been doing this for a while now to get from the house into the garage, but he's never tried to actually escape from the house before. And he's certainly never opened the door for his fellow pets.

But these day Boo is quite the naughty kitty. Apparently, Shasta has discovered Boo's talent for opening doors and has requested (or maybe bribed?!) that Boo help her escape. So Boo, being the middle pet and the quintessential people (or in this case, dog) pleaser, has obliged by opening the door, allowing Shasta to escape.

As if that wasn't bad enough!

Yesterday morning, just as I was getting ready to head to work, Boo, who was outside at the time, pulled down on the handle and pushed on the door, allowing Shasta, who had pressed her nose against the panes of the French door with a "please lemme out" expression, full outside freedom. So now Mr. Haskell is letting Shasta both in and out!

We never had to get kiddie locks for the doors to this house, but it looks like we're gonna have to invest in some kitty locks pretty darn soon.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

"Slash-Slash, Whack-Whack" OR "What a Whack Job!" OR "You Learn Something New Every Day" OR "Add this to the Microsoft Lexicon!"

An e-mail exchange between me and my boss after a meeting with a client at Microsoft:

Me: What is “WAC (K? CK?)-WAC” that J referred to today when he spoke of users accessing info?

My boss: "He probably was referring to ‘whack’ which is just the word for the ‘back slash’ symbol - \\"

It's Friday and I must be really tired because I found this giggle-worthy.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Making More Microsoft

I was back on the Microsoft campus today, and in fact right back to my ol' stompin' grounds on the West Campus. There are hundreds of buildings on the Microsoft campus, which essentially covers the city of Redmond (as well as parts of Bellevue, Seattle and other local cities), so to be doing business at almost the same exact location as where I used to work certainly defies the odds -- especially since I'm now working in a completely different line of business.

Even though I was back to familiar territory, everything looks very different than it did just a year ago. An entirely new complex of buildings went in -- seemingly overnight -- right next door to where I used to work, and now there's massive building going on right on the other side, and cranes occupy the skyline, seemingly as far as the eye can see! (If you look carefully, you can see the beautiful snowcapped Cascade Mountains in the background. )

The white car is a hybrid Microsoft shuttle car. You see them zipping all over Redmond, shuttling workers from meeting to meeting -- and all-day interviewers from manager to manager.

I'm liking my new job. I didn't really have any expectations going in, except that I wondered what it would be like to NOT work in education or media production. But other than learning about an entirely new business of which I previously knew absolutely nothing, I'm settling in quite comfortably. I like both my boss and the people I work with -- and that always makes a job far more enjoyable! I still have a lot to learn about the businesses we're dealing with, but the project management piece of it all feels familiar and comfortable, and I have a feeling the job will exceed my expectations.

Phew, eh?!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A 17-Month Old Baby Who (Really) Can READ!

This is truly incredible!

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I Can Hardly Contain My Excitement!

For the first time in a year, a real bona fide house cleaner is coming to our house tomorrow! And I already love her! She's from Germany and prides herself on her German fastidiousness -- which I can promise you I'll love too.

I am gonna love coming home tomorrow!

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Not Complainin', Just Sayin'

My previous office:
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My current space:
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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Google Images Meme

It was between doing this meme or filling out paperwork for my new insurance plan and updating the kids' FAFSA information.

Hey, it's Sunday and I'll do that other stuff later...

Instructions: For each of the following, search Google Images and post your favorite pic.

Where I grew up:
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I had no idea, as I was growing up, what a unique time and place in history I was experiencing first-hand. My mom taught at Cal, my brother was arrested for helping to build People's Park, and the city practically shut down every fourth Friday in protest of the Vietnam War. Growing up in Berkeley in the 60's has shaped everything about me, from my unique form of teen rebellion (I became a straight-laced, goody-two-shoes teenager) to my life-long liberal politics and activist mindset.

Where I live now:
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In the summer, these things are everywhere around here! Last summer, as we were having a barbecue on our deck, one floated right past us! I'd absolutely love -- and would be mortally terrified -- to ride in one! (Note to self: this might be a good thing for Tom and I to do for our upcoming 25th anniversary. Look into it!)

My favorite place:
Ruhpolding
Ruhpolding, a small town just a few miles from my mother's hometown of Traunstein in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, is my favorite place on earth -- so far. I have yet to experience places like Greece and Croatia and Maldives and I desperately want to visit those place! (Note to self: buy a lottery ticket today.)

My name:
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Yes, there was a Hurricane Carol (in August, 1954)! Sure, I could have chosen some schmaltzy Christmas Carol photo, but why would I do that when I could chose a hurricane that even had an accompanying storm surge?! Somehow that just works better for me.

My grandmother's name (or, in this case, my grandmothers' names):
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Irmgard, the name on this house, was the name of my paternal grandmother whom I greatly admire, even though I never had the chance to meet her. Irmgard, a gentile, married my grandfather Carl, a Jew, in the early 1920s in Germany, having no idea what the future would bring to her family as World War II drew closer. In the period of ten years, my father's family went from being a wealthy, privileged German banker's family to not having enough to eat or a home for themselves (since refugees lived in every room of their home -- which I envision to look much like the home in the photo). My grandmother, who had begun to suffer from excruciating headaches, was well aware that she was the only reason that her Jewish husband and "mischling" children had not been taken away, and when she died of a brain tumor in 1944, all hell broke loose for my father, his siblings and his father. Eventually my father found his way out of a concentration camp (he didn't exactly escape, per se, but was "allowed to leave" from the warehouse he'd been helping to build when the warehouse owner was taken for smuggling silk stockings, cigarettes and chocolate), made his way home by traveling at night, found his childhood home, the one that looked like the picture, bombed and his father's body in the ruins. All this happened when he was only 16, making him a tragically young orphan. More of the story is here.

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This photo came up when I searched Google images for "Mathilde," my mother's mother's name. I never met Mathilde but have always been told that she was quite the feisty, independent woman! In the 20's and 30's, she was one of Traunstein's business owners, running the city's big sports store. She was also quite a prominent athlete, and is wearing tennis clothes or a 20's style bathing suit or mountain climbing gear in many of the photos I've seen of her. Always the rule-breaker (my mom was definitely her daughter!), she died because she defied an air raid siren, insisting that she had to go into her garden to cut some lettuce. What a dummy.

My favorite food:
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Mashed potatoes. Note to self: make these for dinner tonight.

My favorite drink:
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Mmmmmmm... a fruit smoothie!

My favorite smell:
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Plumeria. Hawaii. Plumeria permeating the air in Hawaii.

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