Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Job Opening: Writer. Requirement: Ability to Write

I'm advertising for an experienced technical writer. Here are a few unedited e-mails I've received from candidates:

"I found you ad on Craig's list seeking a technical writer. Please find the attached resume."

Followed quickly by:


I just wanted to let you know that I am aware I missed the letter "R" in the previous message, my apologies. Please do not hold that against me, I am an excellent technical writer.”

(What was that rule about when to use periods and commas? Heck, even a semi-colon would have sufficed!)

So I sent that e-mail to a professional writer I know, thinking he’d pick up on the irony of it all. He replied:

“Funny stuff. These resumes are hard, I’m sure he has the chops and should get a shot at MS, but it would be much easier if he’d already been there.”

(What was that rule about when to use periods and commas? Heck, even a semi-colon would have sufficed!)

Hey – déjà vu!

Later in the day I received this cover letter from someone who wanted to be sure that I knew that she was a great writer (and I swear on my copy of Woe Is I, that this is a direct copy and paste):

“I have wrote materials that are very technical. The listing said that telecommuting was OK, I live in Arizona. Let me know if this works,

I will never again hesitate to call myself a writer.

(And if you're an experienced technical writer with Microsoft experience who can write deeply technical deployment guides and whitepapers, please contact me ASAP. Just please, please proof your cover letter!)

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Blanket THANK YOU to Seattle 's Very Polite Drivers

Late this afternoon, right in the middle of the heavy evening rush hour, I was heading home from a doctor's appointment (where I'd just heard that my affliction is likely stress-related... but that's another post) on one of Seattle's main thoroughfares. Just as the light ahead of me was turning yellow (and then red), I made the snap decision to try to avoid the traffic I'd just noticed directly ahead of me, and to turn into the left turn lane and go around the mess. I quickly turned the wheel to move into the left turn lane, hoping to quickly make the turn, but but there was neither time nor distance enough and I ended up stopped diagonally across two lanes -- one of which by this time had a green light.

Unfortunately because of a rash (and definitely stupid) decision on my part, I was now blocking people from driving straight ahead. It was the evening rush hour and drivers undoubtedly wanted to get home after their long days, and there I was -- sprawled across both lanes, stopped dead, and blocking a whole long line of cars behind me. I can only imagine that there must have been a hundred drivers behind me as I sat motionless, blocking two lanes. My face grew hot and red and I wanted to disappear, but all I could do was stay where I was and take the collective wrath that was surely heading my way. Right?

Wrong!

Would you believe that, in the three minutes or more it took for the traffic lights to cycle to the left turn arrow, not one person honked? Not one! Instead, they drove around me one by one, passing into the only available open lane, and went on their way through the green light. No one honked, no one flipped me off, and as far as I can tell, no one spazzed out at my spazziness.

Seattle drivers, I love you! You rock completely in your graciousness and patience, and there's no other city in the world in which I'd rather drive on a daily basis. The skies can be cloudy and gray around here, but the drivers in Seattle are pretty damn sunny and very, very bright!

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A Peek Inside My Head (Sigh...)

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Monday, April 28, 2008

It's Elemental

This is how my work days have been feeling lately:


This is what happens when I get into the pool after work:

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Evening Serenity

Of the human variety (also known as the calm before the storm):


And of the feline variety (also known as Yawn -- what do "Sunday" and serenity" mean? Never mind... Yawn. Purr.)

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Where the Used Car Salesman Gets His Name

Renton, Washington. The used car salesman definitely gets his name (and reputation) at a particular used car lot in Renton. I won't say exactly which one, but it begins with an "F" and ends with a "D" and it's right next to the freeway.

We're still looking to buy a car to replace Tom's god-awful truck. Fortunately, we're in no hurry at all -- which is good because someone keeps changing his mind about what car he wants. Which, actually, is also good because we're zeroing in on smarter choices, like rejecting cars that take only premium gas (goodbye, Beemer!) or get atrocious gas mileage (goodbye, Landcruiser) or have no room in the back seats (goodbye, Exterra) or are too expensive, even if it is the perfect car for us (goodbye...sigh... beautiful blue 4Runner Limited with all the bells and whistles and hardly any miles).

Yesterday, after a previous evening of car shopping in Bellevue and a morning at the REI Scratch and Dent sale, we decided to head to a particular used car lot in Renton to look at a particular car that had been listed on Autotrader.

As we drove onto the lot and slowed the car to a crawl, looking for a place to park, we noticed that we were being "tailgated" by a salesman. We hadn't even stopped the car, when this man -- who looked more like he belonged on the streets of Pioneer Square by night than on a used car lot by day -- accosted us, begging asking if he could be of assistance. Tom, being the kind and friendly type, was kind and friendly, explaining that we were responding to the ad for the specific car. The salesman immediately looked nervous and confused, shuffling his feet and wringing his hands. This was too much for him; he had to summon the master salesman.
The master salesman, who was maybe 23, tops, appeared and Tom repeated his inquiry.

"Oh, sure!" the salesman replied eagerly, and began to walk toward a row of cars. Salesman B followed closely, like a puppy dog, on the tail of Mr. Master Salesman. It was the first time of many that day that I wondered why we needed two salesmen to hound help us. "Get in!" he demanded, opening the doors to a car that didn't even begin to fit the description of the car we came to look at. "We need to drive to it; it's on our other lot." I was feeling more and more captive and more and more uncomfortable, and when my choice was to sit in the backseat with creepy Salesman B or to leave Tom to sit in the back with him, I -- well, I opted to let Tom sit with him.

We drove about a mile (it seemed like 10) in silence. (I know -- silence, in the presence of used car salesmen! Talk about a contradiction in terms! And I don't mean not-putting-on-the-pressure silent; I mean creeeeeepy-silent!) When we arrived at the other lot, the car we'd come to see practically jumped out at us. I thought I'd like a bright, bright yellow Exterra, but upon seeing it I immediately had second thoughts. We'd come all the way to Renton, though -- and all the way to this lot in the middle of nowhere-in-Renton -- to see this car, so we knew we should drive it. First we explored its interior, which was amazingly small and cramped for such a big, rugged off-road SUV. By the time we agreed to drive it, my primary purpose was to dodge the two hovering, creepy, young, silent salesmen.

But nooooo. They piled into the back seat of the car and handed Tom the keys. Wait a minute! We'd gone on a few test drives in the past weeks and the salesmen had never gone with us. How could Tom and I discuss a car's virtues with salesmen breathing down our necks? And two of them, no less! Two silent salesmen! Two very young, silent salesmen. Two young, silent, creepy salesmen. Ewwwwww.

Our response in this situation was... well, silence! Tom accelerated, braked, drive a few tight circles, then stopped and handed me the keys. I did the same. Then I broke the silence, asking directions back to the lot. Once we got back to the main lot, we explored the car again, talking quietly in the back seat -- the only place we could get away from these guys, one of whom had absolutely no respect for the notion of personal space. We decided the car was too cramped inside and that we weren't interested in pursuing it further.

But they continued to hover. And like robots, they'd ask silly little questions ("did you like the back seat?") and make stupid little comments ("I have one of these myself..." BULL!) By this time, I was creeped out enough to just want to leave. There was no way in hell I'd get into a sales discussion with these two! Even if we'd loved the car, I'd have wanted to leave. Maybe we were just hungry and cranky, not having eaten anything all day (and it was approaching mid-afternoon), but we both obviously wanted to leave -- which we finally did, but only after my kind and friendly husband provided Mr. Creepy with our contact information.

I know -- ewwwwww again!

Once we escaped that lot, we stopped at a Wendy's to finally get a bite to eat and noticed that there was a used Subaru lot just adjacent to the restaurant. We decided to take a quick peek before heading home, but we ended up staying for a good half-hour, looking at their Foresters and Outbacks, accompanied by a very nice, very friendly salesman, who didn't creep us out at all.
We're seriously considering the Subaru now (and welcome opinions!), more because of the virtues of the car, certainly, than the salesperson. But still, a creepy used car salesman is very effective -- at driving AWAY potential customers. And when I think about our experience at the creepy used car lot with the two creepy salesmen yesterday, only one thought comes to mind: "eeeeeeeew!"

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Afternoon IM

Jolting me out of intense concentration on a very focused project:

TomHubby says:
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Carol says:
OK, I'll never think about her again.
TomHubby says:
Who?
Carol says:
I don't know.
TomHubby says:
Okay
Carol says:
Anything else?
TomHubby says:
:-)
Carol says:
Wanna see a movie?
TomHubby says:
Oh, okay.
Carol says:
Which one?
TomHubby says:
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Carol says:
Who?
TomHubby says:
I don't know.
Carol says:
Have a nice day!
Carol says:
:-o
TomHubby says:
;-)
Carol says:
So whatcha wanna do for date night?
TomHubby says:
See a movie
Carol says:
Sounds great. Me too. Just name it!
TomHubby says:
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Carol says:
Who?
TomHubby says:
I don't know.
Carol says:
Who's on first?
TomHubby says:
Apparently Sarah
Carol says:
Certainly.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Downright Neighborly!

I was treated to a bright spot in the middle of an otherwise absolutely insane day today: I finally had a chance to visit with my blogging buddy Susan! Susan and I have been meaning to get together for about a year now, but for one reason or another we've never been able to coordinate our schedules.

In most circumstances that's pretty understandable. I mean, we're all busy and it's sometimes hard to coordinate schedules and travel to meet people we've met in the blogosphere, even if they're local. But for Susan and I there's really no excuse because -- well, put it this way: if I were to call my kids for dinner or call for my pets to come inside at night, Susan could very likely hear me! It turns out she's my neighbor!

We discovered that we were neighbors quite by accident, actually. Last summer I posted a little ditty about a garage sale we'd just had, along with a photo of our driveway with all kinds of junk in it. Within a day, I got an e-mail saying, Oh my goodness, I think we might be neighbors!" And sure enough, we are!

Now if that isn't a small world story...

Susan was one of the recipients of my Pay-It-Forward post, and I absolutely wanted to deliver her gift (homemade earrings) in person, so finally today we met for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Baja Fresh -- which just happens to be very close to my office. I wish we could have had hours to visit -- and I'm sure we could have filled the time with chatter -- but unfortunately I only had an hour before I had to get back for a conference call that I'd been. But oh, what an hour it was! Susan is gracious and sweet and funny and kind -- exactly as she is on her blog. We talked about raising teens, about our pets, about our hubbies and our parents, about blogging and scrapbooking, and about living in Seattle.

Our time together ended far too soon, but no worries -- all I'd need to do is open my back door and call out "Suuuuuusaaaaaan" and we can meet again for a walk around the block!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"We, the People of Anonymous Proxy..."

Readers from 99 countries have visited my blog. I keep waiting for someone from a hundredth country to show up, but for weeks now my Neocounter has hovered right at 99.

(Which begs this contest: if you're my first reader from country #100, and you're willing to give me your address, I'll send you a prize from America! And I promise it won't have anything to do with George Bush.)

Today I noticed that I've had a visitor from the illustrious country of "Anonymous Proxy"! Which makes me wonder all kinds of things.

Like -- do Anonymous Proxians really wear eye patches?

And what if one of them happens to be the attention-getting sort? Does he or she get extradited?

And if someone from Anonymous Proxy signs a legal document for another citizen, is it considered "by-proxy-in-Proxy"?

And do the citizens of Anonymous Proxy have identifying numbers like a social security number, or does that go against their Constitution of Anonymity?

And hey -- do people even have names in Anonymous Proxy, or is everyone... anonymous?

I wonder if Alaska Airlines flies to Anonymous Proxy because, you know, I have $50 ticket to anywhere they fly and I'm ready for a vacation. But I have a feeling I'd be stuck there, because how could I board a plane to come back if... if I don't have a name?!

Ah, the things that tickle my mind before my morning cup of coffee hits my brain cells...

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Hot Flashin' in a Pressure Cooker

I have a theory: I think stress and hot flashes are closely correlated. And while we're at it, I think Microsoft plays a role in there too.
To wit:

  • My hot flashes were constant when I worked as a contractor at Microsoft in 2006.
  • When I was unemployed, they practically went away.
  • They're back now, full-force.
See? It's a causal relationship. (I ain't nuttin' if not scientific!)

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sorry, Starbucks -- Visa Bought Us a TallNonfatDoubleshot VanillaLatteWithWhip Machine!

About a month ago, we got an e-mail from the people who bring us our Alaska Airlines Visa card, asking us if we wanted to upgrade to a hoity-toity "Signature" Visa card. We knew that such an upgrade would probably mean extra fees and an increased spending cap (which is never good), so we chose not to take Visa up on the offer and we deliberately didn't respond to the e-mail.

Two weeks later we got two Alaska Airlines Signature Visa cards in the mail -- and they even had a different account number on them! The accompanying letter congratulated us on the upgrade, insisting that we'll love the great perks of our new card. The letter ended with the "suggestion" that we notify all our creditors of our new credit card with the different number, and that failure to do so might (might?!) cause unintentional charging of a closed account.

Hello?! I thought we were given a choice about this so-called upgrade! And now we're being told that these are our new credit cards? What the...?!

I immediately logged onto my online bank account and there it was -- a strange new Visa number attached to our account, with activity we'd assumed was under our old card transferred to the new card that we never asked for or approved! We were livid!

I called Visa and asked them for an explanation and the first thing they did was let me know that I'm about millionth on the list -- it seems that quite a few of us Visa customers felt screwed. It wasn't that we were upgraded without our permission (although that was definitely disconcerting); it was more that we were forced into cards with different numbers and then told to notify our creditors of our new account numbers -- which can be a hell of a lot of work, especially if merchants auto-deduct payments! The whole idea of this happening with no input or permission from us just felt violating and not at all consumer friendly!

So you're wondering what this has to do with coffee and Starbucks, eh? Well, it seems that Visa has angered so many people that they're trying to appease their customers with gift cards from various businesses. And I'm not talking $5 gift certificates, either. Apparently they feel really, really bad about screwing their customers because I bought this coffee/espresso/cappuccino maker with the Target gift card they sent me:
I'm still not a happy camper and I still feel screwed by Visa... or Bank of America or Alaska Airlines, or whoever I should feel screwed by. But I guess now, with all this caffeine in my system, I can get really riled up on my choice of caffeinated beverage rather than just being mildly peeved.

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Spring Snow Three Days in a Row!

OK, this is just bizarre! Anyone who doesn't believe that something really odd is going on with the planet's climate is just completely in denial. And "global warming" is a misleading misnomer. It was 80 degrees here a week ago and now this!
video
Yesterday we went to get pavers to build a few steps from the pathway to the patio in the front yard. Not only did we feel like we were in the mountains in the dead of winter while driving there, but we had to dust the snow off everything just to see what our rock choices were -- and when we headed to the nursery to pick up some Spring flowers... well, that just felt completely wrong!

Even the cats are confused.


In other non-news...

I have been working entirely too hard for the past seven weeks -- like constantly, every day -- and I can feel myself beginning to burn out. So today I'm not checking work mail (till tonight, of course) and I'm not gonna work on that project brief that's nagging at me. And I'm not even gonna work on the complicated work-back schedule for my latest project. Nope -- not gonna do it! (I don't think...)

Instead, I'm gonna manage a different project all together -- this one, finally:

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Friday, April 18, 2008

It's Bloomin' (and) Snowin' in Seattle!

A week ago, it was warm and glorious in Seattle. In fact, when the Dalai Lama was here last Saturday it was sunny and in the mid-70's! People were in sandals, t-shirts and visors.

Ah, how things can change in a week! This was the view from our office window just an hour ago. There's nothing that evacuates a Seattle office on a Friday afternoon faster than a sudden snowfall!

(OK, that's not true; a warm and sunny day will empty offices twice as fast...)

By the time I got home (where the snow covered our newly planted spring flowers), it had stopped snowing, but more of the cold white stuff is due tonight and through the weekend!And now, lest you think I actually finished my work day at 4:00 (ha!)... it's back to work in my home office. This job is truly all-encompassing and never-ending. (Good thing I like it!)

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Why I'll be Late for Work

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BMW Stands for "Bliss Must Wait"

After his dad died, Tom inherited his father's 1989 Ford F-150 mega-truck. While the car has relatively few miles on it, it looks like hell -- partly due to Peter's... well, to his inexperience with driving such a monstrosity and his wayward and naive belief that once you're scraping anyway, you should just pull through instead of back up (don't make me think about it!), and partly due to the moss (yes, MOSS) that's literally growing on it. This truck looks like hell and gets gas mileage to match -- 11 MPG. And that's always 11 MPG, whether on the freeway or a back road, whether hauling a heavy boat or completely empty.

Eleven frikkin' miles per gallon! At $3.60 a gallon, times two big ol' tanks, and we're talking big time inefficiency, stupidity... and redneckery.

So we've been looking at cars. While we don't need a soccer-mom van anymore and we don't want a huge truck anymore (handy as it was), we still want some towing capacity (for that tent trailer I'm gonna want someday) and we still want enough room go on trips, and with these Northwest winters and our proximity to the ski slopes, we definitely need four wheel drive.

This is what we're looking at -- it's a 2004 BMW x3. Anyone have any experience with it? We like the ride a lot and it seems to have good reviews and, believe it or not, the price is more reasonable than a lot of other mid-size SUVs. We almost bought one tonight, but just weren't positive and we always like to sleep on big decisions like this. Plus, we have a feeling the deals are gonna get even better if we wait a bit.

Yeah, there's that side of me that wants a new toy NOW, but I'm also finally learning (at 51) the virtue of patience.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tendy-Ten

I've seen this meme around the blogosphere lately and thought it looked interesting...

Ten seconds ago... I was petting Boo.
Ten minutes ago... I remembered that tomorrow is garbage day and attempted to rally the garbage-take-out troops.
Ten days ago... I interviewed someone with whom I now share an office.
Ten weeks ago... I had eye surgery!
Ten months ago... I was preparing for a trip to Germany.
Ten years ago... I was teaching childbirth classes a few times a week.

**********************************

Ten years from now... I'll be the best Noni (grandma -- a mix of "Nana" and "Omi") around!
Ten months from now... I'll be getting used to empty-nesting it.
Ten weeks from now... I hope to be settled and confident in my job.
Ten days from now... is the day I predict that my co-worker will have her baby!
Ten minutes from now... I 'll be settling in for the night.
Ten seconds from now... I'll check e-mail (work and personal) one last time.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Hello Dalai! (Gee, how original...)


Photos by the illustrious Ron, as promised!

That's Washington's governor, Christine Gregoire, introducing His Holiness.
And that's (left to right) Ron's sister Cindy, me, Kat and Tom, enjoying the festivities.

(*They're copyrighted by him too...)

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

His Holiness the Dalai Lama Visits Seattle

Wow.

I now understand why people all over the world are drawn to and in awe of this wise, humble, compassionate and -- yes, holy man. If only we all would follow his teachings and his leadership, the world would definitely be a better place!

(I took this little video at the very end of the event.)

video

Unfortunately, because of a work-related crisis having absolutely nothing to do with world peace, teaching children to be compassionate, or seeking love and friendship instead of war and divisiveness, I don't have time to express my thoughts and feelings about the Dalai Lama's visit as I'd like to.

But I must say that I especially loved his suggestion that all world leaders, their spouses and their children vacation together for two weeks with absolutely no political agenda or meetings. Instead, he suggested, these people would simply have fun together as individuals and families, swimming, playing games and having casual, friendly conversations. Then, he insisted, when a political crisis hit and the world leaders are thrown together again in a political arena this time, they have the basis of friendship on which to focus their conversations. His Holiness asserts, and I absolutely agree, that if our political leaders knew each other as individuals and even friends, the world would be a much more peaceful place.

Love that!

I also love his assertion that women might be very effective world leaders because they seem to have an innately stronger, more developed sense of compassion and empathy and that men can't seem to get past the testosterone and aggressiveness to effectively bring about peace and to promote harmony. He didn't say those exact words, of course, but that's what I got from it. I think he has a real point!

(But I'm still voting for Obama over Clinton because, between the two, I think she displays more aggressiveness and blind ambition than he does... )

Ron was among the press forces covering the Dalai Lama's visit and it was great to see him in his Robert Kincaid vest, zipping around the stadium! I was hoping to post a few of his photos today, but he won't have them for me until tomorrow, so stand by...

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Late Evening Entertainment with Ron

Ron arrived at our house shortly after 11 PM and by 11:15, this is what was goin' down:

video

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Photo Op

I met Tom in 1976 when he was a senior at UCSB and I was a sophomore. He was an RA (Resident Assistant) in the dorm I lived in and I, along with a gazillion other girls, had a huge crush on him because he was cute and shy and sweet. But that's another post.

This post is about Ron, a guy who lived on Tom's hall and who Tom and I both befriended that year. Ron is a brilliant musician, a hilarious comedian, and an amazing photographer. Was then and is now. Throughout the past (gulp!) 32 years, we've all stayed in touch and even though Ron and his family live in Alaska, we manage to get together at least yearly.

In his role as an accomplished photographer (for National Geographic, among other clients), Ron has taken photos all around the world. This weekend he'll be in Seattle to photograph the Dalai Lama, and of course we'll spend the weekend together. In fact, he'll even be staying with us, which will be a hoot. (The kids' favorite memory of Ron is his hilarious rendition of Rindercella, the backwards fairly tale, which he used to recite until all four kids were on the floor, in stitches!)

I asked Ron to send me a photo of his family, since we haven't seen his kids in at least a year and I wanted to see how much they'd grown. Since he's a photographer, I was expecting something somewhat different. THIS is what he sent -- a photo of his family on Splash Mountain at Disneyland! I just think it's hilarious how the mouths get wider and the eyes get narrower as you move from the front of the log-car to the back. Mom is clearly not quite as enthralled as dad and sons! :-)

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Seeds of Compassion and the Dalai Lama in Seattle

The Dalai Lama will be in Seattle this weekend for "an unprecedented gathering to engage the hearts and minds of our community by highlighting the vision, science, and programs of early social, emotional, and cognitive learning."

Guess what I just got, thanks to a very compassionate and kind soul?

Yup -- tickets to this event and to the Compassion in Action workshop for educators and the community.

I can hardly wait!

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Monday, April 07, 2008

Opa's Offer

This is my dad, known to his grandchildren as "Opa," shown here with ten of his eleven grandchildren (TJ made his appearance about 8 months later). The photo was taken in May, 2004 at the memorial service we'd just had for Mom. That's her -- or a watercolor painting of her, anyway -- watching over the group, true to her matriarchal spirit.
My dad is big on education, big on culture and big on language. He believes strongly that one of the best ways to be a true citizen of the world is to travel, to immerse oneself in a new culture (or many of them), and to learn a new language while immersed in a new culture.

Today my dad put his beliefs "on paper" in the form of an offer to his grandchildren. True to his German-ness, he drew up a document which spelled out an offer for each of his grandchildren. His goal is to encourage them to learn a foreign language in-depth.

Oh, how I wish I could have had the opportunity -- and the courage -- to do something like this when I was a young adult! Here's what Opa offered:

  1. Purpose: to help you prepare for life in a world in which success will depend on thorough knowledge of a language besides English. Near-fluency in a foreign language is the primary aim; understanding the other culture will follow as a result.
  2. Format: The study time need not be academic, but must be well-planned and organized. It must include formal study of the language, either before or during the stay. Employment in an extended job toward leaning a skill also counts, but leisure traveling in foreign countries will not qualify for help.
  3. Length: The time abroad should be planned to be six months or more.
  4. Independence: Your stay may start out in an English-speaking group or entity, but you must know language and culture well enough after three months to be on your own from then on.
  5. Advance: if you study the language before traveling there, so that you are able to start out studying or working there without an interpreter, I will pay you an advance of $ 1,250 when you leave. If you leave "cold", i.e. without knowledge of the language, I'll pay you the $ 1,250 after being there three months, provided you learn the language there.
  6. Payments: I'll pay you $ 1,250 after six months, and an additional $ 2,500 after one year abroad.
  7. Limit: the first six-month tour may be repeated in another country and another language, but I have to set a limit per person to $ 5,000 total..
  8. Timing: the studies may occur any time between Junior year in high school and a PhD degree.
  9. Scholarships: This is in addition to any scholarships you may be getting for study abroad.
I can't promise to keep track of timing, so please remind me when you have met any milestones of these "rules". I must reserve the right to be the only judge in ambiguous cases, though.
Viel Glück, bonne chance, kharoshi shastye, buena suerte, mazel tov, etc, etc!
Love –
Opa

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Doors: Closing, Opening, and Somewhere In-Between

A letter came for Kat from the University of Washington Office of Admissions. It was most decidedly a letter and not a big purple envelope. The mail was brought into the house while Kat was at work, so we all saw it and pondered -- not really what it was, but more how she'd take the news.

Kat is a wonderful combination of strength, balance, compassion, optimism and grace. She plans instead of frets and she thinks before she acts. She can be serene and goofy within the same five minutes, and while she tends to be more private than the other three kids, she is anything but a stranger to anyone who's ever met her. But of all her endearing qualities, I'd have to say that Kat's positive and optimistic approach to life describe her best.

As she came home and greeted the family, she was upbeat and energetic. Aleks looked at me and said quietly, "Um, are you gonna...?" And then, before I could answer, he handed Kat the letter. As I watched Aleks' face, I saw more compassion and sympathy than is characteristic of him (he's our most cynical and sarcastic kid) and he truly looked pained. Kat didn't miss a beat as she took the letter, maintained her smile and announced, "Well, I don't think it's much of a surprise what this is..."

I asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else to open it, instead of having the whole family peer over her shoulder. "Nah," she said nonchalantly, "This is fine." She read the letter silently and announced with a smile (which still seemed completely genuine), "Well, I didn't get in."

"Joe was wait-listed," Aleks announced. "Are you sure you're not on the waiting list?" Kat scanned the letter again and then announced calmly, "Oh yeah. I guess I am wait-listed."

So that's where things are. Kat might or might not go to the University of Washington next year.
Today she announced some other things she might or might not do next year:

  1. She might take part in a program in Africa that introduces wild animals back into the wild after they've been captured.
  2. She might work as an NAC nurse (through a high school program, she'll be certified next month) at an orphanage in Thailand.
  3. She might apply to University of Queenland's (Australia!) world famous program in conservation ecology.
  4. She might live with Elisabeth in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood and work at Woodland Park, Seattle's wonderful zoo which is a half a mile from Elisabeth's house.
  5. And she might go to UW -- if she is taken off the dang waiting list and admitted -- and if she darn well feels like it!
Of course she'll eventually go to college and graduate; I'm not at all worried about that! I'm not worried about Kat at all! Whatever she chooses to do next year, she'll do it with passion and commitment and flair. And it will likely be the education of her life -- on a university campus or not.

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This is Even Slow by "Island Time"!

My most faithful readers might remember that all seven of us (six immediate family plus "Peter's Danelle") went to Maui way back in December , 2006. You might even remember the day Tom and I left the kids on their own to explore the island on cute little motorcycles while we went on an ocean sail skippered sigh -- er, I mean by -- this man:
Not that I noticed.

Aaaaanyway, on that day we had a very touristy photo taken of us as we boarded the sailboat. You know -- "here, hold this silly little touristy lifesaver and smiiile!" That photo's been sitting on my dresser for well over a year, waiting for the right frame. In my mind's eye, I saw a scrapbooky 3-D sort of frame (hey, I should have just made it!) with a nautical theme. You know -- ropes and shells and maybe a cute little white lifesaver. But heaven forbid, it would NOT be kitsch because, according to my mother, kitsch has no place in our lives.

But I could never find a frame even close to what I was imagining. The closest I came was -- well, BLUE.

Then yesterday at TJ Maxx I found something that works. It's not fabulous and my mother would probably say that it's most certainly kitsch. But what the hell; it works. And at this point, that's all I ask. (The tiki torch is a very poor attempt at infusing some Pacific Northwest-influenced --that is, soggy -- island flavor.)

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

My Family is a Basket Case!

If there's one thing that drives me nuts, it's people who live out of laundry baskets because either they're too lazy to use dresser drawers or they have too much stuff to fit in their dresser drawers. I mean, really -- why have nice bedroom furniture if laundry baskets -- and the floor -- are the only place you keep your clothes? Sheesh! Drives me bonkers.

You know how sometimes the things that drive us crazy about other people are the things we kinda have to acknowledge about ourselves? Um... yeah.

I looked at our bedroom with fresh eyes lately and guess what I saw? You guessed it -- I saw this:
And this:

For shame! How dare I criticize others when I am guilty of exactly the same thing? Obviously something had to be done.

So we went to our favorite furniture store today and bought this*:


First Aleks and Tom had to test it for the "chill factor." It apparently passed.

Then I decided that this was an opportunity to give our room a thorough cleaning. It's about time!
Once I was finished cleaning (of course), Kat decided to crawl into our bed and watch some TV. I stood at the door and watched our new furniture.*We also bought this couch, though we won't see it until this summer when Peter and Danelle "steal" our current couches for their apartment at Washington State University. And we'll eventually also buy this chair, which we have wanted for a long, long time.

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Aleks 'n Barack = Buds!

So guess where Aleks is right now?

Yup! At this Washington Democratic Caucus of the 45th Legislative District! I wonder if he's the youngest elected precinct delegate there, since he's just a few months past his 18th birthday.

He got cold feet last week, since the thrill of his election at the February 9th Washington precinct caucuses had worn off a bit, and since he couldn't bring anyone with him to this meeting. But thanks to persistent and amazingly nice Obama volunteers, he's there now!

I just saw this photo on the metroblogging Seattle website. Looks like there's a huge turn-put at the caucus. Phew!

I begged him to take a camera and his laptop and guest blog a moment-by-moment impression throughout the day (which promises to be a lot of hurry up and wait, especially with this huge turn-out!), but he flashed his book on existentialist theory at me, rolled his eyes, and insisted that he'd rather read.

I have a feeling that this is a very apropos beginning to Aleks' future International (OK, so this is national) Relations major at UW.

And for your viewing edification today, I am happy to present you with this little Obaba-ditty!

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Do We Really Need a Menopause Predictor Kit?!

As I was waiting for Tom to show up for Friday Date Night (a new weekly tradition... tonight we saw Leatherheads), I strolled around Bartells drug store, not looking for anything in particular.

Then this caught my eye:

Now, this is either hilariously funny or not funny whatsoever. Are you frikkin' kidding me? The pharmaceutical industry feels the need to produce (for profit, of course) a product that women can purchase to tell them whether or not they're in the midst of menopause?! Dude, I haven't had a period since Aleks and Kat were three years old and even I knew beyond a doubt when I was approaching the throes of menopause!

Really, let me save you about twenty bucks here. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news (and I won't even charge you for some sort of "kit"!), but there's really no two ways about it. If you have more than a few of these symptoms and you're in your mid-40s to early-50s, chances are you're there, my friend:

Memory lapses
Mood swings
Headaches

Weight gain
Dry skin
Loss of... well, that "blossoming" feeling


Anxiety and irritability


Insomnia

Oh yeah, and hot flashes.
But fear not -- because life is good, and you WILL find your way. We all do, you know.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Guilt and Apologies

I used to begin my morning with a leisurely cup of coffee, my warm fuzzy robe and slippers, my kitty in my lap and my personalized Google Reader list of blog posts on my laptop. I'd read every single new post and respond to many of them. Then I'd ponder my own post, write it, finesse it and eventually post it.*

That was then.

This morning Google Reader told me that I had 536 unread blog posts. Granted, well over 150 were from BlogHer, but many of them were my favorite blogs, like Confessions of a Pioneer Woman, Nothing But Bonfires, LifeAfter, Metro Dad, A2EatWrite, All & Sundry, Sandiegomomma, and a whole long list of my favorite Expat blogs.

This simply cannot go on. I am enduring a severe case of blogging withdrawals (reading and writing -- or at least good writing). When I open Google Reader during the day, just for a fix, just to see it on my Mozilla tabs, just to know it's theeeeere, and I see a number in the hundreds, I begin to visibly shake. (Well, my new office is freezing too, so that might have something to do with it.) I vow to catch up on reading soon. Very, very soon.

And this weekend I will keep my promise. If I work constantly, as I'm doing now, from early morning (at home) to all day (in the office), to while I'm swimming and working out (mentally) to in the evening (with India), to all weekend (mentally/in my home office) I will absolutely burn out. I NEED that mental "ahhhhh" that I used to have with my favorite blogs in the morning! This bolting out of bed and running through a mental task list, then running to my computer to implement it can't be sustained forever.

So I'm gonna breathe and relax, starting this weekend (no, not tonight; I met with a client this afternoon and there's much implementation to be done tonight!) and I'm gonna dedicate some time every day to reading your blogs. Because I MISS you! And I'm sorry I've been such a crappy blogging buddy.


*Then I'd panic about being unemployed and spend hours applying for jobs and making calls -- but I've already conveniently forgotten THAT piece of it!

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Song That Does Me In -- Every Time, Anywhere

Early one morning, less than a week before Mom died, on the day that she was to slip most profoundly away from us and retreat deeply into herself, my brother Chris sat next to her pillow, opened his iMac, tilted the screen so Mom could see it see it, and clicked "start."



For just just under five minutes that morning, the voice of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole filled the room as Mom silently watched a slideshow that Chris had made of his three gleeful and adorable daughters. As the song so sweetly depicted life, energy and youth, and the photos depicted Mom's grandchildren laughing and smiling, Mom was slipping undeniably away from us. At first, for just a fleeting moment, I silently wondered whether it was cruel to play such a beautiful song about the magnificence of life at a time when death was undeniably and persistently present, but then I saw just a hint of a smile come to Mom's face and, even as the single tear streamed silently down her cheek, she never took her eyes of the screen until the song was over, and then, exhausted, she slipped into a deep sleep.

Neither Chris nor I moved nor said a word for a long time after the song ended. Tears streamed silently down our faces, too, that morning and we were at once immeasurably bonded and newly alone. Eventually, we tucked Mom in and left the room, both of us somehow changed by the experience.

I didn't cry again that week, not even six days later when Mom died. And, for some reason that I still don't really understand, I didn't cry for months after that. Until one day when I was at Safeway, strolling mindlessly down the isles, in search of pimientos or pistachios or peanut better. On the speaker system that filled the store with mindless background music, the song that Chris had played for Mom, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," began to play. Instantly something welled up from deep inside me, and before I could hide in a bathroom or leave the store, I was sobbing.

I've heard that song many times since then, and every time the same thing happens: no matter where I am, what I'm doing or what mood I'm in, I
begin to cry, suddenly and uncontrollably.

Today I was in the car, driving home from work after a particularly stressful day. My mind was on project management -- the meetings I needed to set up at Microsoft, the technical writer I need to hire, the document I'm submitting to our client. I was driving along 156th, "Microsoft Boulevard," directly in front of the main campus, with employees crossing the street in front of me as I rolled to a stop.

Suddenly the strumming ukulele music began, and within seconds I was sobbing almost uncontrollably. I could hear Mom's voice and feel her presence, and instantly I desperately wanted her with me -- just as I do every time I hear this song. Once the song ended I was fine again and my thoughts went back to tasks on my calendar and project briefs to complete. But for five minutes I was worlds away from corporate concerns and "critical agendas." I was immersed in what really, truly matters: love, family, and connections.

Maybe the reason why this song is so impactful every time I hear it is because I'm being reminded to simply STOP EVERYTHING, let go, and instead of fretting about groceries or gross revenues, I'm being gently (or not so gently!) reminded to be thankful for the true blessings of my life.

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An All-Natural Wee World Built by Wee-mazing Kids

My cousin Claudia is both an amazingly creative and dedicated fifth grade teacher and an amazing and dedicated mother to fourth and fifth grade children. She's not one to go out and buy a bunch of toys and send her children (or students) on their way. Instead, she believes in building and creating play experiences and she and her kids (and students, I assume) always seem to be deeply immersed in the most incredible creative projects.

Claudia was shopping on Berkeley's trendy, upscale Fourth Street a few years ago and saw this "Wee-World" created entirely of natural materials. Its price tag was in the thousands of dollars!

'We can do that ourselves,' Claudia decided, and she and her kids set off for a hike in Berkeley's Tilden Park, where they found the perfect hollowed out stump. They came home and got to work, creating an entire environment from that stump and other natural materials.

They built tables from eucalyptus bark, steps from tiny sticks, cradles with soft moss, a wheelbarrow with a button for a wheel, and even an outhouse, a rope elevator and a clay oven!

And the people they made...! Each wee-person is made from a pipe cleaner, embroidery floss, a wood ball and felt fabric for clothes, which the kids so beautifully decorated.

This project took an entire summer a few years ago, and is still played with today. I'm just in awe!

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