Friday, January 29, 2010

Big news is afoot!


More to come…

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reflections on Life Choices as prompted by a schmaltzy Nicholas Cage movie

I’m usually exhausted when I roll into bed after working literally morning (when production work comes in from our Mumbai production team), noon (as in, all day, when I work with Microsoft and at my agency office) and night (when I convey Microsoft’s wishes to our team for overnight production).  By the time my head hits the pillow, my mind is mush and I want to either read a good book or watch a movie – and neither should make me think.

Last night when I turned on the TV, Family Man was on.  I remember that I’d seen the movie at some point, I think on a flight years ago, but I didn’t remember details.  As I recalled, Family Man was about a wealthy corporate workaholic who one day magically finds himself to be a tire salesman living in New Jersey with his high school sweetheart wife and two kids. 

Cute.  Yawn.

I figured this light-hearted movie would fit my “mindless entertainment” requirement, so I fluffed a pillow or two and settled in.  


Ah yes… the formula is predictable but entertaining.  Rich snobby man wakes up in his new “messy” life surrounded by his wife and kids on one of those lazy entire-family-in-the-bed mornings.  He freaks out and tries to go back to his predictable Manhattan high-rise life, but is told by the angel who sent him on this freakish journey that he is being provided a “glimpse” and will just have to endure the apparent misery.

I’m getting sleepy at this point and I miss entire sections of the movie as I doze off.  I wake up to Tom gently pulling the remote from my hands and kissing my forehead as he turns off the TV.

“No, wait,” I mumble. “He has to see that his choices…” And I drifted off again. 

This morning, as I was getting ready for work I turned on the TV and there was Nicholas Cage the Family Man again (an obvious re-play of last night’s feature), only now he had settled into his married-with-children life and he was extraordinarily happy.  He had fallen in love with his kids, with his non-profit attorney wife, and with his unpredictable, messy, middle-class life.  And, predictably, it was now time for him to go back to his rich, single, corporate life – the one he loved so much before he got a “glimpse” of his other possible life, had he hade other choices.

I stood in front of the TV, riveted to the last 30 minutes of the movie as a lump formed in my throat. 

Life choices.  Forks in the road, taken.  Saying yes.  Saying no

Had I done it right, I wondered?  Had I made all the right choices?  Did I want the Choice Angel to give me more choices, retroactively? (Ah, movies!)

The lump in my throat grew bigger as I stood in front of the TV half-dressed and mesmerized.  It grew bigger because as I watched this Hollywood romantic comedy/soft drama, I realized beyond a doubt at the old age of 53, that I am completely, 100% satisfied with the major, life altering choices I’ve made in my life.

Most importantly, I know that I married the right man.  Had I married anyone else and had Tom reappeared in my life 20 or 30 years later, I’d be prodding the Choice Angel to give me another chance so I could marry this man.  As schmaltzy as it sounds, that realization turned the lump into a tear and I stood there, choked up and grateful for roads taken.

The little choices in life pretty much take care of themselves on a daily basis, but the Big Choices, the ones that can completely alter the course of one’s life, need more reflection and information, balanced with strong doses of trusted intuition.  I’m glad that I wasn’t fully aware of the magnitude of those Big Choices when I made them (that’s just too much pressure!), but so grateful that they turned out to be the right ones.

Or maybe I’m just sure they’re the right choices because I  lived them and made them the right choices.  Maybe!  But that’s too metaphysical for me right now because I have a to-do list a mile long and I have no choice but to work my way through it today.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Microsoft just got much smaller!

I was wondering if this would ever happen to me. No, I was hoping that someday this would happen to me…

And today it did!

I am still beaming.

So I’ve had an insane day. Got up at 6 AM to do my normal early morning work, which consists of receiving, reviewing, and (hopefully) approving work done by our amazing and wonderful production team in Mumbai, and then forwarding it on to Microsoft people who are anxiously awaiting it. I hurried through that, in spite of a few glitches, then hurried off to Harborview Medical Center where I had a follow-up ankle appointment (yes, 13 months later and I’m still in the process of healing). Harborview days are always insane because I feel like I’m thrown into a (literally) crazy world full of discouraged, damaged and devastated people. It always bums me out.

Anyway… I left Harborview in a hurry because I had a very full day of meetings at Microsoft and I knew I’d be flying from meeting to meeting, from building to building, from client to client, all afternoon. My workload is just about at that tipping point where I’ve reached full capacity and one more task could lead to – shudder and gasp! – dropped balls.

One meeting down. Client happy. Writer writing. Artist creating. Next meeting: GO!

I drove to the next building, scrambled for parking, clipped on my badge, and ran (ok, that’s a lie; I still can’t really run) into the building. Room 2051… where is it? Ah, here it is!


The friendly voice on the other side of the door, a new client named Cathy I’d be meeting today for the first time, called “Come in,” so I did.

“Oh my god…” She stared at me and then announced, “You’re Northwest Ladybug!”

Yup – I randomly met a faithful reader who, it turns out, is also a client! Needless to say, we spent most of out allotted meeting time blabbing like long-lost friends! It’s a bit odd to meet someone who knows so much about me when I know only her name, job title and Microsoft office number, but we intend to remedy that soon when we meet for lunch or coffee next week.

Yes, I took a photo, but I refuse to publish it (sorry Cathy) because I look like an overworked chipmunk. (Cathy, however, looks great!)

But I promise you, this actually happened!

So tonight when I pass Cathy’s project to our production team in Mumbai, I’ll ask them to treat it with just a slight extra flair because this new client is, after all, also a dear new friend!

This is exactly what I needed after last weeks “why do I blog?” whine.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

We lost LoLo

I came home to very sad news today:


Lois was Elisabeth and Peter’s babysitter for a period of about four years when we lived in LA in the mid-80’s.  I was working at Disney when LoLo joined our family and later, after Peter was born, I had my own educational software design company that I ran from home.  During those years LoLo came to our home each day and loved my children to pieces.

Scan145, March 04, 2006

   Scan141, March 04, 2006 Scan143, March 04, 2006  

Lois adored Elisabeth (known then, before she insisted on going by her middle name, as “Erin”) and Peter, and they adored her.  Somehow she was able to clean my house from top to bottom while giving complete, doting attention to my children – cooking with them, doing art projects with them, reading to them, and holding them lovingly for hours on end… often while vacuuming or doing laundry. 

Lolo was magical and she had a magical influence on my oldest two children during a period in their lives that they now barely remember, but that she touched profoundly.

Larry, her loving husband is so right: she WILL be missed.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Another Random Rainy Seattle Sunday

Elisabeth and CJ invited us to Sunday brunch at this house on Queen Anne hill in Seattle where they’re house-sitting for the next four months. Since I’ve already posted lots of pictures of this amazing house with the amazing view I won’t bore you with a whole lot more pictures – but I will bore you with a few more pictures.

It was a cruddy, rainy, yukky day in Seattle today. This is the kind of weather we’re infamous for around here. But the weather just can’t dampen a view like this!

IMG_2892 IMG_2918 IMG_2919 IMG_2934 IMG_2940 IMG_2944 IMG_2973

It was a no-occasion brunch, just for the fun of it. I brought some cinnamon rolls and a strata that I’d put together last night and Elisabeth made a delicious fruit salad and hash browns.



So here’s an impromptu recipe for strata, the world’s easiest breakfast casserole recipe (well, easy to prepare… the night before!):

Grease a 9x13” dish. Tear up pieces of day-old French bread and place them on the bottom of the dish, some with crust sides up. Now layer your favorite veggies over the bread. I used onion, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms and some red and yellow peppers. (You can also add ham, but I didn’t.) Layer grated cheddar cheese over the veggies. Then pour a mixture of 8 beaten eggs and 2 cups of milk over everything. Now add a bit more cheese over the whole casserole. Cover with foil and let sit in the fridge overnight. The next morning, just bake the strata, covered, for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes.


This wine is optional, but fun:


Before we left for the evening (because I have to work) I had to make a few more attempts to get a good night shot of the Space Needle from the bedroom. Meh…


IMG_2997 IMG_3015

Yikes! It’s 8:00 PM on Sunday night – time to start my work week.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

A State of the Nest Report

As of the beginning of January when Kat moved into her sorority at the University of Washington, none of our kids have been living at home. The house is quiet and clean and someone is not happy.


When our evenings were filled with the craziness of raising four kids, I wondered whether the day would ever come when our evenings were quiet and peaceful instead of filled with dinner-serving, homework-helping, bath-giving, lunch-making, story-reading, and in-tucking. On more than a few occasions back then I longed for those peaceful days to come.

Well, let me tell you: nice as it is -- and it definitely has its perks… like a perpetually clean and very peaceful house and all that “hey, we’re aloooone!” time we could ever want -- empty-nesting is over-rated.

By Friday, both Tom and I are wondering – sometimes silently and sometimes out-loud, whether any of the kids will come home for the weekend. Not wanting to be that parent who calls and asks, “Are you coming home this weekend, honey? I’ll make you your favorite dinner,” we’ve learned to wait and see whether they instigate a visit.

Granted, the incentive is often pretty clear…


…but by 2:00 on Friday afternoon, either Tom or I usually get a text message asking if there’s any way one of us can stop by UW on our way home to bring one or both of the twins home for a day or two.

The Greek life and the academic life at UW are both intense, and those young lives are filled with a play hard, work hard existence.


As fun and full as life is at school, there’s little real privacy or down-time and I think that by Friday afternoon Aleks and Kat just need a bit of this…

IMG_2869 … and this:


Sometimes Elisabeth will come home for a few hours or an overnight as well, and if we’re lucky – as we have been lately due to logistics like a car in need of repair – Peter might even drive the five hours from Pullman to give us a short-lived, but very enjoyable full-nest for the weekend.

By Sunday night a quiet, clean house seems fine with me again… and I’m sure a parent-free week or two is fine with the kids as well. But often, within a few weeks the proverbial -- and literal -- laundry basket is full again and we have our favorite weekend visitors back in the nest.

I think the greatest gift Tom and I have are four adult kids who like us, who like each other, and who like being home as a family – while at the same time having very full independent lives.


That, in itself, sometimes fills my gratitude cup to the brim.

It also makes someone else around here very, very happy:


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Friday, January 22, 2010

I think I’m in love!

Can you even watch him without smiling?!

It just won’t be the same when he learns the words…

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Stupid Deaths in Haiti

No matter what I do or where I go these days, Haiti is on my mind.  If I’m in the shower, I wonder how the people in Haiti are doing without basic sanitation.  When I grab a quick bowl of cereal or a banana, I know that many Haitians haven’t eaten in days and are hungrier than I’ve ever been.  When I pull my yummy German down comforter over my shoulders and snuggle in for a cozy night’s sleep, I am well aware that thousands and thousands of people in Haiti have no bed, no blanket and perhaps even no roof over their heads.

When I think about what the people of Haiti are going through now, I realize how incredibly lucky I was last year when I broke my ankle.  An ambulance was at my house within minutes, I had immediate and excellent care at the ER, and within three days my ankle was put back together by one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the country, if not the world.  The four days in the hospital and subsequent months of rehabilitation were lucky inconveniences for me, one of the fortunate ones. 

For the thousands and thousands of Haitians who are lucky enough to be “only” injured, and not dead, there is little to no hope of the surgery they so desperately need and there is nowhere near enough medicine to treat their pain and antibiotics to stave off the dangers of infection as they lie in makeshift outside “hospitals.” 


And now the “stupid deaths,” as Anderson Cooper calls them, will begin.  Throngs of people will now begin to die completely preventable deaths.  They will die because their wounds are infected.  They will die because they don’t have enough food or clean water.  They will die because help was too long in coming.  They will die because this horrible natural disaster hit in the worst possible place to a country that simply wasn’t prepared for such devastation.

Watching the children of Haiti – those who were already orphans and those who became orphans due to this earthquake – tugs at my heart harder than any other part of this tragedy.  My friend Steve and his wife had already legally adopted a little girl from Haiti but were just awaiting the final stages of the adoption and their daughter’s arrival home.  Now they’re not sure when they’ll see their new daughter.  My hope is that the process will actually be expedited, and I’ve seen some indication on CNN that that’s happening for some of these children.

I remember when children were airlifted from Vietnam in the 70’s… my dad asked my mom, only in half-jest, if we could please adopt a Vietnamese baby.  I was in high school at the time and was all for it, but it never happened of course.  I only half-jokingly asked Tom this morning if we could adopt a Haitian child, should there be a similar airlift.  He looked at me like I was just a bit crazy and reminded me that we have four kids in college right now.  Yeah, I know, but…


I texted five digit numbers to give to the Red Cross and I gave online through the Clinton Foundation, like millions of other Americans and people around the world.  But I have a feeling that no matter how much we give it simply won’t be enough.  How can it be?  How can we, as a country or a country of individuals, help anywhere near enough?

*Photos via Google Images.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

I’ve opened Live Writer. Now what?

This is new for me.  Since I started this blog almost four years ago I’ve had a constant stream of ideas running around my head and I could hardly wait to free them onto my blog. 

But now?  Now the ideas are more like a power surge that come to me like a bolt of lightning and then just as quickly disappear.  Or, because I suffer from a bad case of Social Media Confusion – I might post a quick Facebook status update instead of writing a well thought-out blog post.  (Twitter? Meh, redundant.)  And with my job occupying my energy during most hours of most days, 12 seconds for a Facebook update is much easier to commit to than 30 minutes for a decent blog post.

Take the post that’s been ruminating since last weekend when I saw this at the checkout stand at Target:


Normally I would have mentally down jotted a few notes about the memories this product evoked in me when I saw it.  As I absentmindedly paid for my socks and shampoo, I would have mentally ruffled through the old photos I keep on the little red Western Digital external drive, the old photos of Mom that caused such strong memories when I saw that silly Bumpits product.  Photos like this one…


…and this one…


I would have dusted off and tossed around old memories, as I drove home paying far too little attention to the road, of Mom at her vanity, pulling up a handful of hair at the crown of her head and then “teasing” it until it was a ratty mess, and then gently smoothing out the top layer over the mess, and declaring herself “put together.” 

I would have written about how odd this seemed to me when I was ten, and yet how I wanted to rat and tease my own hair to look just like Mom’s.  That would have launched me into a full description of Mom “putting on her face” as she sat in the backless chair at the antique vanity that had drawers on both sides for her extensive make-up collection and a lowered surface in front of the attached mirror, where she carefully arranged the particular make-up pieces she’d chosen to use that morning.

I would have written about myself at ten, in my fake Sperry Topsider tennis shoes (which might have led to a few sentences about my embarrassment of never having the “right” shoes and clothes because my German parents just didn’t get it), watching Mom’s mouth open slightly as she applied her mascara, or her eye closing halfway as she oh-so-carefully, and with expert precision, painted on her eyeliner.

But these days I no longer open Live Writer and pour my thoughts and memories onto my blog.  I want to… but for some reason that I can’t quite explain, I just haven’t.  Maybe I need a blog break.  Or maybe I need to not feel such pressure (from where? from whom? I have no idea!) to write about things that matter – and to write well.

I used to just write.  I didn’t care how well I wrote and I didn’t care who was reading and I didn’t care if I’d chosen an interesting topic.  I just wrote.  And I felt completely connected, completely transparent, and completely fulfilled with blogging.

There are things going on in my life now that I’ll write about someday, but that I simply can’t share publicly yet – and it feels dishonest and secretive for me to NOT write about my life as openly as I’d done for more than three years.  I have a very faithful following and I’ve always been so completely open on my blog that I feel like I’m betraying my best friends to censure myself a bit -- and that makes this not feel like my blog anymore. 

I’ll be back, I promise.  I love blogging too much not to be back full-force.  And I do believe that I continue to have plenty to say about family life and the process of empty nesting, about Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, about my career and my quest to get back to work that matters, and about my life in general, however mundane it is.  I hope my faithful readers will stick around… or will at least friend me on Facebook (refer to my blog when you do) where I do keep up because THAT’S easy!

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

One man’s marketing is another wife’s nightmare

One of Tom’s favorite magazines is Sport Rider because it appeals to the speed-demon, leather-wearing, risk-taking rebel in him.  The fact that the magazine is often left in the bathroom cracks me up because I can’t help but imagine this staid and stable 54-year-old engineer sitting on the porcelain throne pretending it’s the seat of one of these:


Tonight the magazine was open to an article about Shoei X-Twelve helmet.  Ooooh-la-la – what a helmet it is!


But the WIFE and MOTHER in me was drawn directly to this:


Seriously?  “The X-Twelve is equipped with Shoei’s EQRS (Emergency Quick Release System) for the cheekpads that allow quick and easy removal to allow medical personnel to more easily remove the helmet from the rider’s head”!

This is a product feature!  The marketer in my totally gets it… but the wife in me can’t help but conjure up horrible, gruesome, petrifying images that I can’t imagine any marketer wants conjured up. 

Of course I immediately brought this to Tom’s attention, asking him (yes, rhetorically) what it is about men that they have a desire to pursue an activity dangerous enough to demand the creation of such a gizmo.  Without missing a beat he asked me what it is about people that they have such a desire to pursue an activity dangerous enough to require the creation of “the jaws of life.”

Touché.  And point well taken.  But still – is this really good marketing?  Or am I just a bit too much of a fuddy-duddy wife?

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Headin’ home, Seattle style

I hit traffic on the 520 Evergreen Bridge yesterday when I was heading home after dropping Kat off at her sorority. (She’d come home for 24 hours of “veg time” after a very busy first week of school.) 

Traffic at 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon?, I thought. Huh?!


Then I noticed why the cars had stopped right there on the bridge on a quiet Saturday afternoon at 4:00.  I quickly grabbed my camera from my purse and snapped some  photos: 

IMG_2841 IMG_2845 IMG_2846

In stark contrast to last winter at this time, when Seattle was dealing with freezing temperatures and then flooding, we’ve had some glorious, clear, relatively warm weather lately, and The Mountain (as we Pacific Northwesterners like to call Mt. Rainier) has been out in all her glory fairly often.

Mt. Rainier, at 14,411 feet elevation, is so high it sometimes creates its own weather system. Warm, moist air flows eastward from the Pacific Ocean until it runs up against the ice covered slopes of the mountain, creating clouds which often obscure the peak.

It really is amazing to live amid all the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest!  Tom often talks about someday moving to Maui, but I have a feeling I’d miss the varied beauty of this place, with its TWO surrounding mountain ranges (Cascades and Olympics) , its beautiful lakes and rivers, and its actual seasons. 

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Doing a little jig on my one-year “ankleversary”!

A year ago today I stupidly slipped on the ice on our front steps and broke the three big bones and tore dang near all the ligaments in my left ankle.


Today, just three weeks after having the hardware store in my ankle removed…



…I’m putting the whole ordeal behind me and steppin’ out! 

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Kat has flown the coop

This has been a weekend of big changes for all the kids.

Elisabeth and CJ are moving into this cute little (ha!) abode for four months of house-sitting.  Peter moved from his own off-campus apartment in Pullman to a house full of friends that’s just a block from the Washington State campus.  Aleks “only”  moved rooms in his fraternity.

But for Kat, everything changed this weekend!  Last year she lived in an apartment near the University of Washington but attended the local community college.  She moved home last summer and stayed through the fall while she applied to UW for a third time, hoping that sheer persistence would pay off.  (I still don’t see why she didn’t get in the first two times… she had a 3.8 GPA in high school, along with quite a few AP classes and lots of community service – but we’ll let bygones be bygones.)

In late November, Kat was accepted to UW for Winter quarter, which would begin in five short weeks! 


Her persistence, it seems, had finally paid off.

Fortunately Kat was already somewhat enmeshed in the UW culture, especially the Greek culture, since her brother and some friends from high school were already in fraternities and sororities.  Within a week of being accepted to UW she was invited to join the Delta Delta Delta (“Tri-Delts”) sorority… and today she moved in!


As you can imagine, I was requested NOT to follow her around with the camera asking her to pose for pictures, so I was only able to sneak one of her and Elisabeth carrying a box inside.


The house itself is beautiful both inside and out (fraternities are often beautiful outside, but look like Animal House inside…) and the girls seem to be really nice. 


Kat only knows a few of the girls so far, but I have a feeling she’ll have 97 new friends within a few days.

Oh, and she’ll also have a full load of new university classes in a new major, Environmental Studies (which, coincidentally, was Tom’s major and is also Peter’s major).

So now Aleks and Kat are both at UW, just as they hoped to be way back in 2006 when we visited the campus and I took these pictures:





So now, with all FOUR children in college, Tom and I are back to empty nesting.  (Yes, it is indeed the financial craziness you’re imagining!!)  I’m sure they’ll be home often – fortunately doing laundry at school gets expensive – but most evenings will be pretty quiet around here.  With me consistently online in the evenings with co-workers in Mumbai, poor Tom will have to become addicted to bad TV… or a good book.

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