Tuesday, March 30, 2010

And the award for the best comment in this blog’s four-year history goes to…

This comment…


… in response to this post:tectonics

The fact that my oldest son Peter wrote it might or might not have something to do with my decision.  (What a jokester!)

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That’s one giant leap…

You know that part of the movie Apollo 11 when the space craft goes behind the moon and all communication is cut off?  Both the astronauts and Houston know that chances are excellent that they’ll be back in touch again soon, but for a while it’s eerily silent because there’s simply no way to communicate.

That’s what it felt like to me (an obviously over-involved mother, it seems!) between the time when Aleks went through security here at the airport and when I saw his first Facebook posting from Prague…

prague Charles bridge

…which included this:

“I realized very quickly coming into Prague that English is mostly a written language here, but few people speak it proficiently. This made finding my unmarked apartment extremely difficult. The city is nice and very culturally rich but there are tons of left-over elements from the Soviet days. My apartment included. Also not helping the matter was the fact that, once I had positively confirmed exactly which unmarked door in the building was my apartment through less than successful random interviews with the locals, my room mate inside was so passed out that my pounding on the door would not wake her. So I sat outside the door for an hour or so waiting for something to happen. Luckily, something did happen, and the rest of my room mates came back from the market and let me in.”


In a personal message to me, he described that scene further:

“Getting into the apartment, though... yes, extremely stressful. My phone didn't work at all so there was literally nothing I could do. I had no one’s number, didn't know where anything was, etc. I stood on the street for a good fifteen minutes, close to breaking down but eventually argued myself into growing some balls and just sitting in this old post-Soviet apartment building for an hour until SOMETHING happened. Which it did. Thank god. I had never felt more unable or weak in my life.”


To which I answered:

“See, that's the thing about travel! In those 15 minutes that you stood on the street feeling vulnerable and scared and weak, you were actually maturing and getting strong at what was probably the most accelerated rate of your entire lifetime so far -- and from now on every time you feel unsure about something you will (consciously or subconsciously) remind yourself that if you could stand so alone on a street in a Prague, you can certainly do THIS... whatever “THIS” is.

It's maturity invading you and you are forever changed now because of those 15 minutes!

And in some small way they changed me too, because the thought of you alone in a foreign country in exactly that scenario has terrified me as a mother, too, and reading those words actually gave me a sick pit in my stomach that I'm sure is very primaly maternal... but I came out on the other end too, realizing that you made exactly the right decision and did exactly the right thing. “

prague square

I think feeling momentarily totally helpless in a foreign country is a right of passage of sorts. 

I remember traveling  alone in Germany when I was about Aleks’ age, long before cell phones and e-mail and Skype and Facebook, knowing that it was up to me to buy the right ticket, to board the right train, and to then find the right subway train to get to my destination.  I remember the same pit in my stomach and the feeling of being completely alone and vulnerable in a foreign country.  (And at least I spoke the language; Aleks doesn’t speak Czech -- yet!)  Coming out successful on the other end almost had a euphoria to it because I had seen a new side of myself and I knew for the first time beyond a doubt that I could be completely independent.

In the days since he arrived in Prague, Aleks has settled into the apartment he shares with seven other UW students, he’s attended his first day of classes, and has enjoyed his first evening visiting the local pubs (the drinking age in Prague is, like, 16).  He’s fully “wired” now, with Skype and Facebook up and running and a the purchase of a cell phone on today’s to-do list, so he’s fully emerged from behind the moon!

I’ve begged him to take pictures and to blog, but alas, we can only hope. 

Maybe if you urge him as well…

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Maternal heart attack!

When you have small children, you always pretty much know where they are and what they’re doing. 

Then they grow up and leave home and one day you sign onto Facebook and you see your oldest daughter doing THIS:

Elis trapeze

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Holy camoley!

Remember this little ditty, in which I joked that my mother probably drove Pope Joseph Ratzinger to the priesthood?

Well, tonight I was minding my own business, mindlessly thumbing through today’s paper, when I came upon this picture --- and gasped. 


Liked audibly. 

Dramatically, even.

Seriously, is it just me or is there an eerie resemblance between the pope and my mother and aunt… who were born in the same small German town at about the same time as the pope?!  (The pope’s birthday/place is April, 1927/Traunstein and Mom’s is June, 1927/Traunstein…)


Let’s look at this again, shall we?

The pope:


My mother:

Omi 1998

The pope:


My aunt (with me):

Leni and Carolbeer02

And Mom (and me)…

Omi and Carol Xmas 01

Do you see it?  To me it is jarring. He feels completely familiar and I swear I can imagine his mannerisms

This is disturbing!

Call me crazy (go ahead, I don’t mind), but I have a feeling…

Oh, I can’t even SAY it.  (But do you see it?)

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Aleks has Czeched Out!

I know he’s twenty and independent and resourceful and smart.  I know this! But he’s still my baby and it was still really hard watching this earlier today:


Notice that he’s walking away from me…

…and toward Prague, where he’ll be studying for the next 11 weeks through a travel abroad program through the University of Washington. 

It’s perfect timing for him and he is ripe for an adventure like this.  He’ll come back a changed person… which is exactly as it should be.  He’ll be wiser, more worldly, and more mature -- yet still, I’m sure, the same ol’ Aleks we love. 


I’ve begged him to blog, but he said he’d rather write a private journal – which is actually a wonderful idea and something he’ll read for years to come, I’m sure.  Even getting him to take my old digital camera was a struggle. (Hell, even getting him to pose for this picture was a bit of a… well, it was definitely a mommy-request!  Can you tell by his smirk?) 

I just have to realize that blogging and pictures are my thing, not necessarily his. I have to be patient and just take what he offers.  I have a feeling it will be in the form of Facebook updates, which is just fine with me!


So there he goes.  My world-traveling, six-foot, body-building baby… off to see the world!  Be safe, Aleks.  Be a sponge!

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A rockin’, earth-shattering bumper sticker!


This just cracked me up! 

(Captured late this afternoon as I crossed the 520 bridge heading east on this gloriously warm and sunny early Spring day in beautiful Seattle.)

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Good ol’ Gottman!

In honor of completing my first month as Director of Professional Development at The Gottman Institute, I am finally answering some questions, via a few video clips, about my wonderful new gig.

Although I still have much to learn and probably will be in heavy-duty absorption mode for at least another 6 months, I already know that I have found the place where I hope to spend the remainder of my career.  The differences between Microsoft and the Gottman Institute are immense.  At Microsoft, crisis mode seemed to be the norm and projects were cranked through with project management perfection and precision but with little regard for personal satisfaction or positive interpersonal communication.  At the Gottman Institute everything is about strong, supportive relationships and positive, effective communication, both philosophically as an institute, because this is the focus of John’s research, and in our offices on an hour-to-hour, day-to-day basis. 

So who is this Gottman guy, you ask?  Here’s a flavor of who he is as a person, what his research has found, and the theories and practices he’s built around that research. 

Pretty cool, eh? Total common sense… backed by tons of research.

You should know, too, that like many successful men John is buoyed by a strong, supportive, intelligent, and organized woman behind the scenes – in this case his wonderful wife, Julie, who is an amazing therapist in her own right and is the Institute’s Clinical Director (and whom I adore!). 

Although Julie’s as involved in the workshops and trainings as John is (and she devises much of their content), she isn’t as well-known as John so there aren’t as many video clips focusing on her, but I love the way she presents material, both to the couples who come for the Art and Science of Love workshops and to our clinical trainings (“my” department).  Here’s a little snippet of Julie (unfortunately just her voice), talking to therapists:

So John started out kinda like my friend Grover here, just asking some questions about marriage…

… and look where he is now! 

Which kinda gets the marketer side of my brain all excited!  I can just SEE John and Julie on Sesame Street, talking to kids (and Muppets) about the importance of being friends, showing appreciation, resolving conflict with gentleness, and developing a positive perspective toward one another.  Lots of parents watch Sesame Street with their kids at just the time in the life of the family when these lessons become more and more important – for everyone!

And then we’ll get John and Julie into the work/office environment, where maybe they could address some of the toxicity often found there. Now THAT would totally rock, dontcha think?! 

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Friday, March 19, 2010

View from a Seattle traffic jam


Being stuck in Friday afternoon traffic on the 520 bridge is sometimes quite bearable…

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Now I’m really in for it!

If I spend money on something, my level of commitment toward it goes way up. It’s just frugal me; I can’t help it.

So this whole get-back-in-shape thing has my full commitment because… well, behold:

  • Personal trainer (6 weeks): $750.00 (gulp!)
  • Gym membership: $35 a month
  • Danskin triathlon: $130
  • And my latest purchases:


Now I’m really in for it!

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The difference between my old job and my new job (first in an occasional series)

  • Old job: “Sooner rather than later...”
  • New job: “All in good time…”

And… can you beat this?  New job office supply:


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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Surgery Tuesday… times TWO

Both Tom’s mother and my brother are having major surgery today.  Needless to say, we will be a bit distracted throughout the day until we hear that both are out of surgery and doing well.

Interestingly, both my brother Michael and Tom’s mother, Rose (“Nana”) are having full hip replacements.

Rose, who lives in Palm Desert, California had planned to have her hip replaced again (she’d had it done 12 years ago, but it needs a “renewal”) on April 2nd in Spokane, Washington, which is closer to both Tom’s sister’s family in Idaho and to our family in Seattle.  Plus, Dr. Benirschke, who performed miracle surgery on my ankle last year, had recommended a great surgeon in Spokane.  All was set. 


Last Thursday Rose fell in a parking lot and broke her femur.  It is a bad break, just below her current artificial hip and for reasons I don’t quite comprehend, that makes for a far more difficult surgery – or rather TWO surgeries done in one day, as they will now perform both a full hip replacement and repair her broken femur. 

When Rose was visiting at Christmas I told her that I was worried that she’d fall at home and couldn’t get help, as she lives alone.  She didn’t seem concerned (“I have a Rolodex on the kitchen counter”), but I remained very concerned and I must say that I’m just grateful that this happened in a public parking lot, almost right in front of a fire station!

The recovery is said to be at least a year – and given her age (85), it might even be longer.  :-(

Please think positive thoughts for Nana!


(Tom and his mother making Christmas rum balls, 2008)

My brother Michael, who is only 58 will also have a full hip replacement in San Francisco.  His surgery was scheduled for a few weeks ago, but his asthma was so bad he had to postpone his surgery.  He has always had bad bones, the result of Mom’s war-time and post-war malnutrition in Germany.

Please also think healing and positive thoughts for my dear brother Michael – a true “hippy,” so he should do just fine with this surgery!  :-)


(This is Michael, shooting a video in Africa.)

I’ll let you know how things go…

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pity the Kitty

March, 2009:


March, 2010:


The difference is that I understood why I had to wear the stupid cast; Boo doesn’t.  Poor guy!  (This is not good for his dude-ness…)

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Does this look like an “animal exhibiting vicious behaviors”?

a IMG_0325 IMG_3135  P1010139


Well, apparently Shasta has a dark side. 

It seems that she bit someone!  Yeah, I know.  I don’t believe it either. 

Here’s what we know:

As we often do on Sunday evenings before we drop Alex and Kat off at UW, we (Tom, Kat, Aleks and me) went out for dinner last weekend at The Ram, a restaurant at the University Village shopping center near the University of Washington campus.  And as we often do when we go somewhere together as a family, we took Shasta with us.  She couldn’t go in the restaurant, of course, so we cracked the window open a tad and left her in the car.  Shasta’s used to this and seems to really enjoy “people watching,” wagging her tail and yes, sometimes barking as people walk nearby.

Nothing seemed different when we came back to the car after dinner.  Shasta was happy to see us, as usual, and after dropping Aleks and Kat off at school, Tom and I headed back across the bridge and went home.

The next day when Tom came home from work, he found a “Seattle Animal Control Warning Notice” posted on our front door.  It indicated that Shasta had bitten someone while she was locked in our car that evening!


I still don’t believe it, but here’s the story as indicated on the Warning Notice from Seattle Animal Control.  There are many holes and gaps, but this is what I was told when I called the officer who wrote up the warning (but who didn’t witness the incident; it seems that no human except our accuser did).  It seems that Shasta somehow managed to bite a man’s pinkie, requiring a trip to the hospital and three stitches for the mystery man.  (I do feel badly for him.  Surely that must have not been any fun…)

THAT is all we know!

Here’s what we don’t know:

  1. How did the man’s hand get close enough to be bitten?  Remember, the window was cracked open only about 3 inches and the car doors were locked.
  2. Why was this man close enough to our car to be bitten?
  3. What could have prompted a VERY friendly, sweet Golden Retriever to bite someone?  This is totally and completely unlike Shasta in every way!  In fact, we always joke that if she saw a burglar at our front door, she’d just go get her tennis ball, thinking he was there to play with her!
  4. Even if Shasta was behaving in a threatening manner (because she’s inside a locked car and she’s feeling both confined and protective), why would anyone put their hand up to her?
  5. Did Mystery Man trespass?
  6. Why doesn’t he want his identity revealed?

So our criminal doggie is quarantined for 10 days.  We can’t even take her for a walk.  We will also likely be cited and fined $269 – which we will fight.  If we do end up in a court room with Mystery Man, we will definitely ask a few questions – the first of which is, “If a dog in a parked, locked car is barking at you, even if it seems to be a harmless, friendly dog, why would you put your hand close enough to the dogs mouth to be bitten?!”

Actually, now that I think of it, Shasta HAS bitten someone before!  Remember THIS?!

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

It’s worse

We brought Boo to the vet again today in order to discuss the idea of a toe amputation further with the vet.  She strongly believed that, based on what she saw both during surgery and based on the lab results, the cancer had been confined to Boo’s toe, but she suggested that we do a chest X-ray just to be sure that there weren’t signs of cancer elsewhere in his body core.


It turns out that Boo does have quite a few “small, abnormal, suspicious” spots in his chest region.  The X-rays have been sent to a specialist and we should know more on Monday.

If the spots are cancer, then we will not amputate the toe. Instead, we will spoil Boo rotten, be grateful that his favorite two seasons are upon us, and love him to pieces. 

After that -- when he is no longer active and pain-free… well, right now I’m not going there.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

It’s not good

Boo has malignant fibro-sarcoma.  It turns out that this little boo-boo on his paw that hardly even seemed to warrant a trip to the vet is very serious after all.

Our current thinking is that we’ll do a full body X-ray to see if there’s cancer elsewhere.  If not, we can amputate his toe and hope for the best.

If so, well I’ll still hope for the best because hope is better than the alternative.


He’s acting perfectly healthy.  I just don’t get this.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Kitty rehab

Boo’s surgery went well – though we don’t know yet whether the tumor was benign or malignant.  Our fingers and paws are crossed, though!

The vet sent Boo home without any dressing on his paw but wearing one of those god-awful stiff plastic Elizabethan pet collars. But strong-willed Boo would have nothing of it, clawing at the dang thing, then backing into a corner and freaking out.  We couldn’t handle that either and we took it off in a matter of minutes.  Instead, we decided to cover his paw in a light sterile dressing. He hates that, too, but at least he’s putting up with it.

IMG_3395 IMG_3398

I did call the vet to inform her that we did this because none of us could handle that collar.  Her reply was that “most animals get used to the collar within 48 hours.”  Uh, sorry!  We couldn't even handle that thing for 48 minutes – or 4.8 minutes!

Boo was also sent home with his favorite drug, Buprenorphine, which he was first exposed to when he was injured on the day Tom and I flew to Europe (remember that distressing story?!).  He loves this stuff!  I thought he’d hate it (since we weren’t the ones to administer it to him last time; our kids did that), but the minute he sees the syringe he goes wild with joy and anticipation, pawing at it, trying to bring it TO his mouth! 


Yeah, my cat the druggie…

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Boo’s baffling boo-boo – surgery tomorrow!

One day a few weeks ago, Boo came in from outside tracking “blood prints” through the kitchen.  Alarmed, I checked his paw and noticed that one of the pads was bleeding.  I assumed he’d stepped on a thorn or perhaps even a piece of glass and we kept an eye on both his paw and his behavior.


Boo never seemed terribly bothered by his paw and by last week I figured the whole not-so-traumatic ordeal was behind him.  But Tom noticed this weekend that, although Boo wasn’t limping, he was favoring his “good” paw and he’d hold his “bad” paw off the ground when he sat upright.  We decided this morning to make a vet appointment for him, just to be on the safe side.


Tom took him to the vet this afternoon and I assumed I’d get a report this evening along the lines of “we’re apparently over-protective.”  Instead, I got a call as I was driving home.  Tom asked me to come right to the veterinary hospital because the issue with Boo’s paw isn’t an injury, but a TUMOR.


By the time I arrived, we’d know (because a blood test had been taken as was being evaluated) whether the tumor was one that most likely indicates a malignant cancer or a possibly -- but not definitely – more benign tumor.

Fortunately, the blood test was negative… but surgery is still indicated because this could still be something quite serious and the tumor must be removed no matter what.  So tomorrow I’ll drop Boo off at the veterinary hospital on my way to work and Tom and I will pick him up in the evening.

Please think positive thoughts for my poor Boo baby!  I’ll let you know what we find out tomorrow.

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