Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dog Cookies

Ah, New Year's Eve. A night fit for profound thought. Or not... @ and I were talking about cookies. He decided I should make dog cookies for blue doggie (his constant snooze companion).

Me: Do I make them out of real dogs?

@: Dog cookies aren't made from dogs, they're made from things dogs like.

Me: But apple pies are made from apples, not things apples like. 

@: Just make them out of cat poo. Dogs like cat poo, especially Butchie.

Me: Eeeeew, that sounds pretty gross. 

@: But it's funny too, right?

Me: Yep, it's gross and funny.

@: Oh, and it has to be really fresh so the dogs are attracted by the smell.


 It's official. I've been verbally one-upped by a six-year-old.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Don't Need a Leaf Blower...

I asked for one thing out loud this holiday season. And I got it. In fact, @ tested it out and it blew away my expectations. OK, not exactly. It blew away the leaves in my front yard. Yes, I am now the proud owner of a leaf blower.




Maybe it's the editor thing, but I make a clear distinction between the terms need and want. And that's a good thing to teach @ when he proclaims a deep abiding neeeeeeeeeeed for 17 different things in 34 minutes at Target.

Truth be told, I don't need a leaf blower. And I'd never buy it for myself. But I wanted one. I have a lot of rocks in the landscaping of my yard. It makes things easier. And while the novelty of it lasts, I have a very small, but determined gardener to "help."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sticky Situations

Things are well-fastened at my house.

An elaborate system of bungee cords connects doors to one another so that "you need to know the unlocking secret" to enter a room.

Fear of being tangled like a helpless fly prompted me to remove the ones strung between doors in the hallway. Forgetting the web in the middle of the night could leave me as bait for the dreaded bungee spider.

Various arrangements of electrical- and duct-tape striping code the orange cones I once used to coach soccer practices. The coding has something to do with guiding guests through the house vs. women in cleats around a soccer field. I've received the explanation a few times. Next time I should probably take notes.

And we just had a long series of one-page bedtime stories from The Jumbo Duct Tape Book, immediately preceded by a conversation along the lines of "No, we don't really duct tape dogs and horses." (A conversation to which Luke paid rapt attention in the hopes that the message would resonate clearly with @.) One hundred pages down, 329 to go. My eyes started crossing at page 78.

All of this is very serious business to @.

My first inclination as the "aha!" expression creeps across his face as he lunges for his tape-laden backpack is "Wait, stop, no!" But watching the scenarios unroll is fairly fascinating and I have to remind myself that as long as no dog, mom, child, or piece of furniture is harmed, it's all good fun.

Unless there really is such thing as bungee spider.
And I forget to unweb the hallway.
In which case, I'm basically screwed.

P.S. Dear Mom and Al, Thanks for the plethora of industrial-grade fastening devices now festooning my humble abode. Should the bungee spider be real -- well...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice Walk

smell of woodsmoke and wet leaves,
feel of brisk air and misty rain,
dark of evening masking suburbia
as i walk on the evening of solstice


There are plenty of holidays to keep everyone amused this time of year. But for me, winter solstice has the most meaning. This is the longest night. Tomorrow the nights will get shorter, the days will stretch longer bit-by-bit. It marks a turning point that doesn't have retail mania and free shipping.

The leaves have fallen, the nights are darker, and so many things are seemingly in stasis waiting for their next act. And that next act is rebirth, growth, reaching for the sun. It may look like everything is dead, brown, wilted, but there is plenty happening in preparation for the coming of spring. The rain is cleansing, removing the dust, restoring the damp to the ground.

I am not very different. This year has brought me many things. The arrival of fall marked many of them. As the leaves fell from the trees, I was uncovering aspects of myself that I had hidden or been unable to acknowledge. And walking in the rain is as much a metaphor as it is a physical sense of renewal.

I was a duck with one flat foot firmly nailed to the floor -- moving in circles. The scenery wasn't changing and I hadn't really noticed. I was too busy moving in my little circle, doing my daily deal, taking care of everything around me. Then the late summer sun glinted off that nail on that duck foot of mine. And I looked up and realized so much of the scenery was too familiar. And I looked down and saw the circular path I'd worn in the floor.

Wow.

So I've set about using new tools to pry up that nail so I can remove myself from that circular groove and move forward. Maybe not in a straight line. The best journeys are those where you can experience the scenery, stop and take the side roads, meet the characters along the way, and remove the time-bound sense of "gotta get there." 

Some of these tools have surprised me -- they were always there and I just couldn't name them. I put too-specific meanings on words like spirituality and faith such that I couldn't use them. I released the words from that binding. Now, just being able to integrate those concepts and those words in a way that has meaning for me has created a new energy and a relief that I can't really describe.

I set that darn nail pretty well. I've always been thorough. Removing it is a process. But I have maps to guide me through the steps that will take me there.

Unlike before, I also know that I don't have to be little miss tough girl and do it all on my own. That admitting my own challenges takes more strength than combating them alone.

On this evening of the solstice, I have walked in the rain, smelled the woodsmoke, and found clarity in the cold air. And for me, that is celebration.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Don't Be a Turkey...

Recently I received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity.

I tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else I could think of to 'clean up' the bird's vocabulary. Finally, I was fed up and I yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back.

I shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. So, in desperation, I threw up my hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer.

For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. Fearing that I'd hurt the parrot, I quickly opened the door to the freezer.

The parrot calmly stepped out onto my outstretched arms and said "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior."

I was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As I was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Toughest Question

I spoke at an event at Valley Med this morning as part of a "town hall" panel about prematurity at the opening of a new NICU family support program for the hospital. Here's my speech.

I was at the grocery store on Tuesday and the checker asked me how many kids I have. It’s a pretty simple question. Innocent. Yet, it’s probably the hardest question in the world for me.

The easy answer is to say one. But the fact is that I have two sons -- I have this amazing, intelligent, goofy six-year-old sidekick who charms the socks off of people every day. And in my heart, I have his twin brother, who I held in my arms for only an hour but will always be a part of me.

I usually say I have one child because it’s somehow easier to say that out loud. But inside I always know the difference.

I went in for a regular prenatal check on a Friday afternoon and was in the hospital within an hour. I remember walking by the NICU on my way to check in and thinking that I’d rather jump from a plane than have to go in there. Parachute or not. By Wednesday, I was there.

My sons were born 14 weeks early at 26 weeks gestation. They weighed less than two pounds each. N lived only an hour and @ spent 110 days in the NICU. In that time he had three surgeries plus blood transfusions, platelet transfusions, and more time on a ventilator than anyone wanted to see. I watched him turn blue and be resuscitated by doctors and nurses more than once.

As a parent you feel overwhelmed, helpless, and scared. As a mother, if you’re like me and many others I’ve met, it doesn’t matter that in 50% of cases, they don’t know what causes premature birth. As a mother, all you know is that your body failed to protect your child. And now you have to watch as other people try to protect and heal your child. Throw in some post-partum hormones and it’s one bad roller coaster.

The most important thing I learned was to let go and to take things one day at a time. Personally I would have rather learned that from a book, but I didn’t have that choice. Some of the parents drove themselves crazy doing research on all of the possible outcomes – if this happens, this might happen in two years. If and might can throw you into a tailspin pretty quickly.

I learned “today is Thursday, today went well.” Or, “last night was rough, but this morning his numbers are good.” “He peed.” Who thought weighing a tiny diaper could have such an impact on a person’s day?

I watched him have seizures and met with a neurologist who didn’t want to have to tell me that he couldn’t predict if it would happen again.

After he finally came home, @ spent another year tethered to an oxygen tank 24x7. He had at least one medical appointment every week. He had physical therapy. Later he had speech therapy and feeding therapy.

When @ was two, that same neurologist told me that when he first met us, he thought our son’s chances of a normal outcome were very low. In the next breath, he discharged us from his care because @’s exams were now normal.

@ started first grade in August. He’s very small for his age, but he’s a tough little guy. He loves school. And he is very proud of helping the March of Dimes in honor of his brother.

He has experienced far more than anyone his age should have to see. And sometimes he just amazes me. And other times, when he’s doing all of those things six-year-olds do to drive their moms crazy – I do my best to remember how lucky I am that he survived to poke the dog, or jump on my new chair, or turn the entire contents of the recycling bin into a drum set.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prematurity Awareness Day

What is scarier than standing on the edge of a cliff? Walking into a NICU for the first time.




Posts about @ and N: http://wordjanitor.blogspot.com/search/label/preemie

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ceremonial Chair

I'm big on metaphors. Some might consider it an affliction. Maybe it's the lapsed writer/poet in me. Maybe it's because I consider words to be playthings. Sometimes it's definitely to make a point when people are so tied up in the context of a thing that they need to see it in an entirely different language. (I have a whole slide deck on chocolate chip cookies, pecans, and network switches...)

In the moment, I don't always know why I do what I do. Other times, I know the symbolism exactly. I live the metaphor.

The day I went to the courthouse to file the original dee-vorce papers, I next went to a park where I could look out over a big open field to the hills. I wanted to see uncluttered distance, undeveloped space leading into trees. It had to be organic, growing, uncontrolled.

After another courthouse visit, I found myself in a shoe store. Mind you, I consider shoe stores as entertaining as dental offices. But I was taking more steps. You can't do that in old shoes. Sometimes new steps pinch a bit. You have to break them in. Get used to them and get them used to you. Sometimes you get them home and they're just not right -- the key is to not revert to the comfy Ugg boots.

Yesterday I had a meeting to finish the title transfer of my house to remove x's name. I wrote the big fat buyout check awhile ago. (Actually, the bank wrote it -- hence the lack of vomit on the document itself.) It's a hunk of paperwork that didn't get done right on the first try. Now, with signatures on Monday, it's done.

On my way home, I bought a chair. A big brown comfy leather chair. A chair of the type I've been wanting for several years. And when x moved out, he bought himself a big brown comfy leather chair. There's a little-known commandment -- thou shalt not covet thy x's chair. I've broken that commandment consistently.

I have this big deal about want vs. need. I don't splurge or indulge on much. I shop at Nordstrom Rack and if it ain't on sale, it ain't coming home with me. If I get a bonus at work, I put it toward bills or extra on my car or mortgage.

But I bought the chair. It's another element of the transformation of my house into my home. It's a sturdy place to sit. It's comfortable. And I got it myself -- including the dog-leash rigging to keep the box in the not-so-giant back of the car and muscling the awkward box into the house.

I got the chair because I wanted it. Because I acknowledged that it's OK to have something I want. If we never explore what we want in life, how do we know who we are? When to turn left or right? When to pause? And if we never allow ourselves the things we want, we become static and stoic.

Having what you need means you're fed, clothed, and surviving.

Most things I want aren't material objects. I can't buy them. But I do need to reach out or take action to get them. And sometimes it takes a chair to remind me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

@ Defines Talent

"Nate can make arm farts and Ian can make leg farts.
They're really talented.
Mom, real-sounding fart noises are hard to do."

What's a mom to do? Well @, I hope you come up with some different talents.

"Well I can make mouth farts, but that's not as hard to do. But mine sound real. See???"

Are you prepared to say "excuse me" every time you make that noise?

"phbbbt, excuse meez. phbbbt, excuse meez..."
and on, and again, and on all the way from the parking lot through the first few minutes of shopping in Trader Joes. Saved by the banana display with the animatronic monkey. Phew!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Hobbies for Halliburton

Certain degenerates at Halliburton and KBR will soon need new hobbies. Why? Victims of their previous hobbies will now be able to take legal action against them. Where once protected they're now subject to at least one rule of human decency.

A certain headline on SFGate caught my attention this morning: The Gang Rape and the Republicans

I'm not sure what nerve it touched -- is it because I'm a woman? liberal? HUMAN? But I clicked through. Mark Morford can be pretty aggressive, so I wanted to see what had raised his hackles. And oh, yeah, I get it. I read his column, looked at some more information, and yep -- I wanna hurl. Twice.

What did I learn?

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Wait, already knew that.

Money is the root of all evil.
Wait, knew that too.

There are people for whom power and money are so shiny that they've lost all sense of human decency. Wait, I'm sorry, let me correct that. It's not possible for them to have human decency -- they're no longer human.

What has me all hackling and hurling? The fact that 30 people (strangely all Republican) voted against an amendment that reads in summary:
To prohibit the use of funds for any Federal contract with Halliburton Company, KBR, Inc., any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, or any other contracting party if such contractor or a subcontractor at any tier under such contract requires that employees or independent contractors sign mandatory arbitration clauses regarding certain claims.
Hmm... Certain claims. OK, maybe Morford is adding drama. So I dug a little to find out what "certain claims" means in the text of the amendment (that thankfully passed). The definition of certain claims:
sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention.
No, really. In context, here you go:

SA 2588. Mr. FRANKEN (for himself and Ms. Landrieu) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill H.R. 3326, making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes; as follows:

On page 245, between lines 8 and 9, insert the following:

Sec. 8104. (a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any existing or new Federal contract if the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier requires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention.

Rather than actually commit to screen the string of invective vocabulary that ran across the tickertape readerboard of my brain, I'll stick with basic TLAs: WTF? NFW!

Now, please excuse me while I go hurl.






Sunday, August 16, 2009

Flashback: Letter to Parents

A search through my file cabinet for a particular piece I wrote eons ago unearthed some random amusement from past attempts to slay boredom with a pen. (Old school stuff -- I had my choice of a pen, pencil, or a typewriter, not a computer.)

circa 1987

It's April, do you know where your parents are? Do your parents know
who you are? Have they forgotten you? When is the last time you received a letter that ended "... and your little brother shaved the cat last week. Be good and try not to study too hard. Love, Mom and Dad"

It has been quite awhile since my mailbox was last graced with the presence of such a letter, so I decided to write home and attempt to get to the root of the problem...

To Whom It May Confuse (Mom & Dad),

I was sitting in front of my empty mailbox, wallowing in self pity and decided that I ought to write to you. It seems to me that you do, but I sure hope that you don't, subscribe to the "out of sight out of mind" point of view. I may not be at home, but I do still exist.

Well, have you invested in stamps yet? Found the Post Office on the map? Unearthed my address from that stack of party invitations that make it so difficult to find the time to write?


You do--I should hope--remember my name. If not, I think my birth certificate is in your file cabinet. It should help to refresh your memories of my name and verify both my existence and relationship to you.


If that doesn't work, check your dresser for pictures. I'm the one wearing the white sheet and the square frisbee hat getting an empty envelope for high school graduation. They did give me a diploma after I returned the sheet. If you want to see the diploma and verify that the name matches the one on the birth certificate, check the floor of my closet.


Remember me yet?

I'm the one of threw up on your shoulder after amost every meal for the first phase of my existence.

In first grade, I kicked my "Inch-High Private Eye" lunchbox home from school until you broke down and boght me a soccer ball.


If none of the above hit any memory nerves, I'm sure this will: Those demands for outrageous sums of money that you have been receiving and paying? They are not actually ransom notes or blackmail threats. It's my tuition.

Well, I'll be watching for news from you.

Your Daughter

P.S. Please send food and money -- not necessarily in that order.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wee Boy Quote

"We don't need to bring the radio outside.
We can dance to the sounds of the birds chirping."
--@, Aug '09

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tree-Hugger Bumper Stickers

Before someone throws bird poo at me... The irony that these go on CARS is not lost on me.

NICE HUMMER
Sorry about your little pee-pee.

SAVE THE WHALES!
Trade them for valuable prizes!

May the Forest be with You

Compost Happens

My Car is an Honors Student
at the EPA

COMPOST
A rind is a terrible thing to waste

SAVE THE EARTH
It's the only planet with chocolate

The one I have in my cube at work?

At least the war on the environment is going well!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Peachy Day

Queen of domestic culinary skills that I am...
insert laugh track here
... I've never actually made a peach pie. Before today. And now I've made three. And I still have plans for cobblers, strudels, and other such previously unprepared pastrified peachification projects.

I'm on a mission.

My dad's peach trees went more than a little over-the-top this year. Despite thinning the fruit earlier in the season, he has three trees that quite possibly define the term prolific. The fruit on two of the trees is so ripe it can't be transported further than to the house.

So, I've picked, peeled, pitted, and pared pounds and pounds of peaches.

After pie #1 I was already bored with plain ol' peaches, so I've been experimenting... Muah ha ha ha... So far no explosions due to chemical reactions between grated ginger, peaches, and pecans.

Tomorrow... The Strudel Experiment...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Golf Tourney '09

Interestingly enough, one of my previous jobs included working at golf tournaments every six months. Our company and hosted golf tournaments designed specifically for executive schmoozing at trade shows. The executive schmoozing, in itself, makes it even more amusing that it was my job to be there. At that point in my job history, I owned one suit and it was the one I interviewed in.

My role was as a magazine editor and the tournaments allowed me the opportunity to meet execs of companies we might profile. But it was mostly an escape from the fluorescent lighting and concrete floors of the convention center. And it was an opportunity to spend the day with the professional golfer hired to amuse and gladhand the execs.

The best of the bunch was David Fehrety, also known as "the sharpest wit in golf," who writes for Golf magazine and does commentary for CBS. How can you not like a guy whose tagline on his web page says "Raising potty mouth to a third-grade level"? Definitely one of the more humorous people on the planet. Classic line was one of the (clueless) execs asked him where he got his Ryder Cup bag. "Well, you have to be a pretty good golfer to be in the Ryder Cup."

These days I go to one golf tournament a year, now as a volunteer. This week was the 7th Annual W.L. Butler Construction tournament to raise money for the March of Dimes. This was my fifth year volunteering and this time @ and x came with me as "ambassadors." It's always amazing -- and gratifying -- to see that people who can, will write big checks for a good cause.

Part of our role this year was to give a speech at the dinner and auction.
Last time I gave a speech like this and X was holding @, @ peed on him.

Peanut gallery: Pee @, Pee!!!

@ and his twin brother were born 14 weeks early and weighed less than two pounds each. @'s brother lived only an hour. Today you see a wicked smart little guy about to start first grade.

After he was born, @ spent 110 days in intensive care, had heart sugery, eye surgery, and two hernias repaired. He racked up a $1.4 million hospital bill. The hospital was the most dramatic part of his journey but it was just the beginning.

@ came home on oxygen and spent his first year home leashed to an oxygen tank we named Hank. Anytime we left the house, we had to bring smaller tanks -- known as Hank Jr. -- with us. @ had a long list of doctors -- pulmnologist, urologist, neurologist, gastroenterologist, opthalmalogist...

He went through two years of weekly speech therapy before he spoke. Now, well, it's definitely not a problem. Quiet... That's the challenge now.

Until a year ago, @ couldn't eat solid food. As slowly as he was growing, his tonsils grew three times as fast and prevented him from swallowing real food. Once he had his tonsils removed, he could eat. The difference was amazing.

We put him in a private kindergarten in case he had to go through it twice. Despite the seizures at birth, the speech delays, and the predictions of the best doctors around -- @ aced kindergarten and starts first grade in two weeks.

His challenges now are harder to see, but he still has a few. The prematurity affected his growth hormones and he's much smaller than other kids his age. Because his hormone levels aren't normal, there are other potential health impacts as well. We now face a decision about daily injections to get the levels right. And let me tell you, this kid will put up with a lot, but he is definitely not fond of needles.

But thanks to an amazingly tough spirit, excellent doctors, and treatments developed through March of Dimes-funded research, @ is here today to thank you and ask for your continued support of the March of Dimes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Field Trippin' to a Field

The walls were closing in on Cubeville.
It was definitely time for a break.
I pulled @ out of his summer program and took off Friday from work.


FIELD TRIP!!!
Destination: Harley Farms Goat Dairy, Pescadero.

I figured it would be a neat experience for @ and I'd get some amusement out of it too. You know -- breathe some good coastal air, get close to some goats, learn how they make goat cheese, add an answer to the logarithmically expanding "how do they? how does it work? where does it come from?" list.

How did we do?
  • Breathe good coastal air: check
  • Get close to some goats: check
  • Learn how they make goat cheese: check
  • Add an answer to the logarithmically expanding "how do they? how does it work? where does it come from?" list: check, check, check
But really, how did it go?

@'s trip report:
"I milked a goat!!! It was so AWESOME!"
My trip report:
"I milked a goat! It was great fun!"

And, no need to brag, but according to our absolute rockstar tour guide goddess Colleen, I may in fact be a natural at goat-milking. (My dad's response was "Good thing. The news is full of your company's impending layoffs. Maybe you can get a job with the goats.")

My head is full of all sorts of factoids and new-found knowledge.
  • Dairy goats are like big happy, cloven-hooved puppies. Curious, friendly, gentle, and affectionate. Dare I say even a bit snuggly? Banish the image of aggressive little petting zoo monsters.
  • With a good business, ecological, and community-minded mind, Dee Harley has created an amazing sustainable farm that's more than just a business. (Sure, everyone likes to say that's the fact of their organization, but... sometimes it actually IS.)
  • The cells in goat milk are round vs. oblong cells in cow milk, which contributes something in the complexity of why lactose-intolerant goofs like me can handle goat milk and cheese vs. the moo-moo variety.
  • Llamas are great goat guard dogs mostly because they don't like dogs, namely the coyote form of dogs. And although Bart the llama has a funky grin, he's fabulous.
  • After hugging goats like crazy in a field, kids will still attempt to milk them using a single pokey finger when faced with a loaded udder.

Next step?

Convince LD he needs to adopt a couple of milk-goat retirees up in G'town.

Hmm... Or research local city ordinances...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

If You Love...

If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was, and always will be yours. If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with. If it just sits in your room, messes up your stuff, eats your food, uses your phone, takes your money, and never behaves as if you actually set it free in the first place, you either married it or gave birth to it.


I didn't write it, but gee... I dunno.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

So, There Was This Tree...

(I'm typing this as my dog is sleeping on my right foot, dreaming, twitching, and barking in his sleep.)

So, there was this tree. And it needed pruning. Not a very big tree, really. But apparently big enough.

And I have some killer branch chompers. So I got into the tree. And well, kinda got out of the tree. Abruptly. And since I'd already done some definite damage to the tree before gravity nudged me onto the ground, I landed somewhat tangled in some branches.

While flat on the ground, staring at the tree that ousted me and doing the mandatory self-assessment that usually follows such a test of gravity, @ walks over and looks down at me, very seriously.

@: Mama, get up. We still have work to do.
Me: Why don't we go inside and watch TV for awhile.
@: No Mama, we're not done working.
Me: Well, I need a little break to ice my leg.
@: Well OK, but we're not finished working.

Junior Taskmaster, at your service.

I had a pretty good bruise on my foot and figured I'd sprained my ankle. (Yes, in fact, I did conveniently extend the definition of ankle for this self-diagnosis. Why do you ask?)

When the "sprain" was still rather uncomfortable after three weeks, I relented and called up my podiatrist (who really oughta be on speed dial by now).

Surfer Doc: What did you do?

Me: Fell out of a tree.
Surfer Doc: No really.
Me: Yep.
Surfer Doc: Some people hire gardeners.
Me: Yep.
Surfer Doc: When did you do it?
Me: You don't want to know...
Surfer Doc: You're never going to learn, are you?
Me: Probably not.

So, x-rays taken, he gets his nifty ruler and measures the film. Then measures my leg and proves, beyond doubt, that yep -- three inches above my ankle -- that's the spot. On my left leg. Then he shows me the fracture on the film. And yes, I laugh rather hysterically. Because by now, it's funny.

My oft-therapied, scarred, and screwed left leg is now back in the lovely massive velcro boot contraption that I'm smart enough not to throw away.

A year ago this week -- I had surgery to repair my achilles tendon, on my left leg. Two years before that, surgery to remove a broken bone and fuse my big toe with a two-inch titanium screw -- on my left leg. A few years before that, a couple of other foot surgeries and a knee surgery. ALL ON MY FREAKIN' LEFT LEG.

The last thing I wanted to do was admit that the sprain was yet another bit of damage to this dang thing. Alas. So I had to call my dad to let him know I wouldn't be able to help much with work on the weekend of the fourth.

LD: Now what did you do?
Me: Well, there was this tree...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Club

I belong to a very exclusive club. It's club no one ever wants to join. I'm part of an an online group for parents who have lost infants.

I met a woman named Lisa through e-mail yesterday. She recently had preemie twins and her beautiful little girl passed away. I wrote this right before @ and N's second birthday.

For Nobie

In my mind, you are six years old
Though if you were here, you would be only two
I see you every day in my heart
You are in a meadow, at a fence
And you are happy
And you are beautiful

I probably picture you as six
Because I think you would be safe
That you would be happy
That you would be past the pain
And you would understand
That we are not with you, but you are part of us

I imagine that my uncle guides you
He shows you how to watch us
And answers your every question
Though there is no one to answer mine
He teaches you and shows you how to find us
To watch us, to know us from afar

You are connected
To everyone I’ve loved
And you are connected, to me

I can’t call it heaven
Because I don’t know what heaven is
But I know you are safe and loved
And never alone
—October 2005

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Typo of the Week

In a work-related e-mail no less!!!
Found a ghiradelli lava cake mix in my panty last night. Made it. Have pics for you. :-)
I think I've found the true meaning of ROFLMAO

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It is a paradoxical but profoundly true
and important principle of life
that the most likely way to reach a goal
is to be aiming not at that goal itself
but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.
- Arnold Toynbee

Now, to make a list...
  • End global warming
  • Enable world peace
  • ...
Or is this just a really fancy way of explaining why when playing soccer I had sooo many OTB (over the bar) shots?

All snarky comments aside: It's food for thought indeed.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Enemies of Language

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.
When there is a gap between
one's real and one's declared aims,
one turns as it were instinctively to
long words and exhausted idioms,
like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.
--George Orwell

Ah, my new excuse for simple language. I am primarily monosyllabic because I am so damn sincere. Hmm... the long words in the previous sentence suggest I am insincere about sincerity? So much to consider and my idioms are just too tired.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Different Paces

I'm the type of person who gets to the airport early, brings a book, and chills out before a flight. Right now I'm working with the people who breathlessly slide into their seats eight seconds before they close the doors at the gate.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Animal Instincts

I have fun with Facebook update posts--those odd little things that have taught so many of us to refer to ourselves in the third person. Being a wordgeek, I'm entertained by finding ways to express myself in a sentence--hopefully with some humor attached. Reading them gives me a quick read on my friends--laughing, standing in line somewhere, stressed, vacationing, hospitalized. Heck, Friday I learned DaveBro was (briefly) 40 miles away at SFO instead of the usual several hundred in Texas. (Brat)

I sometimes look back at my recent posts for some sort of accounting of the week. Apparently, animals are really causing me stress lately. Wordjanitor...
  • is chillin' in the sunny backyard and checking e-mail for flaming chickens.
  • would be getting this stuff done if not for the flying monkeys throwing poo.
  • is just having a fine ol' time juggling rabid wolverines and herding tired cats.
  • laughs: "Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come."- Matt Groening
At least one person was amused by the chicken comment. Why? Check out the photo that appeared in my e-mail inbox under the subject line "Important."

Lingua Franca

The common language of simple things differs greatly depending on a variety of factors, even within the same geographical area. An example:
Situation: @ burps
Response: At my house, @ follows with, "Excuse me."
At x's house, @ follows with, "That's the sign that the tank is full."
Ah, the intricacies of dialects.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

New Buildings, Well, Suck...

Quick, I saw some open space, stick an empty building in it! Welcome to my pet peeve. Obnoxiously rampant in San Jose -- biz occupancy rates are down, so what are we doing? Building more huge empty buildings! YAY! Open space? BOO! Knock down an empty building to build a bigger empty one! YAY!

The article by Jennifer Berry that got me all riled up and feeling green? The Greenest Building

The environmental cost of commercial construction = huge. And knocking down something just to put a new one up -- even worse. And even if the new construction is "green" -- the total environmental and economic costs are massive.

How massive? I've cribbed some nifty tidbits from the article below.
  • “The Pew Center on Global Climate Change estimates that 43% of carbon emissions in the United States are attributable to energy used in residential, commercial and industrial buildings, making the building sector the largest source of greenhouse gases in America. This figure does not even include the energy required to build new structures or to demolish established structures.”
  • “Demolishing a 50,000 square foot building creates 4,000 tons of waste… Constructing a new 50,000 square foot building releases as much carbon as driving a car 2.8 million miles.” -- Richard Moe, president for the National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • At current rates, one third of the existing building stock in the United States will be demolished in the next 25 years. The refuse from construction, primarily from demolition, represents approximately 25 percent of the waste added to our landfills each year.”-- The Brookings Institution
  • “It takes approximately 65 years for a green, energy-efficient building to recover the energy lost in demolition of an existing building even if 40 percent of the building materials from the demolition are recycled.”--Richard Moe
  • “Data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency indicates that structures built prior to 1920 are more energy-efficient than those built through the year 2000, when the concept of sustainability began to take hold.”
  • The General Services Administration estimates that the utility costs for historic buildings in its inventory are 27% less than for modern structures.
  • “If you are rehab-ing any building in a city, the labor costs are a lot more than the actual materials, helping provide jobs. For example, [economist Donovan] Rypkema said that if you spend more money on the labor, you’re spending more money for the economy, because the laborer will spend the money again.”-- Heather Massler, TAE
I'm going to go eat some tofu and drive my Prius around the block now...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why I Walk

This is my sixth year walking for March of Dimes. I walk, speak, and work on behalf of March of Dimes to honor my sons -- the one who has the most amazing laugh in the world and the one who is forever etched in my memory.

My sons were born at 26 weeks and weighed less than two pounds each. It was, by far, the most frightening and memorable day of my life. And it was just the beginning of months of heartbreak and fear.

@s brother died within an hour of being born. We didn't have time to grieve because we had to be strong and give @ every ounce of our strength and love to help him survive. He was in intensive care for nearly four months, had several surgeries, and spent a year on oxygen after finally coming home.

We finally felt confident to celebrate on his second birthday. It took that long just to feel confident that yes, this amazing strong fighter of a kid would get to be a kid.

@ is five. This year we celebrated his birthday with a trip to the Academy of Sciences and I decorated a cake with a construction theme. I still can't handle birthday parties -- as much as I celebrate @'s life now, his birthday is also the day my heart broke.

Why do I walk? I walk because...
  • I want other families to know their children's birthdays as no more than the most amazing day when that beautiful child entered their lives.
  • I want other families to drive past the hospital and not actually have a favorite parking space.
  • My son knows he was "tiny tiny" and "really sick" when he was born. And he knows that we walk together so other babies won't be born that way.
  • When my son did his "family booklet" for kindergarten and there was a blank line for "brothers," I couldn't let him write a zero.
  • My sons have each had a profound impact on my life.
They both remind me every day about what is truly important in this world. How little things can hold the greatest fascination. How what seems like a big deal most often isn't even close to nudging the needle on the big-deal meter of life.

I walk because I know that -- experiencing what we have -- no matter what comes our way, he and I can learn from it, grow through it, and use our experience to help someone else. He's five and he already believes in that. What more can I ask?

Peace, love, and laughter.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lightbulbs at Work

How many stakeholders does it take to change a lightbulb?
Can we put the lightbulb in a microsite with really neat flash stuff?

How many site strategists does it take to change a lightbulb?
Do we still need this lightbulb on the site?
What's the customer benefit of the lightbulb?
How are the metrics for the lightbulb?
What's the drive-to strategy?

How many writers does it take to change a light bulb?
What do you mean you're changing the lightbulb?
Do you know how long I worked on that lightbulb?

How many designers does it take to change a lightbulb?
Can we make it a candle? Candles are pretty.

Lying, Cheating, and Stealing

May you never lie, cheat, or steal.

But if you shall lie, cheat, or steal:

.....steal a kiss
........................cheat on death
..................................................&
..................................................... lie with someone you love

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Energy Credits for Stress?

I had a money-saving thought: If I could convert my workday stress into electricity, I could power the house and still get a credit back from PG&E. Gas, well that's another story. But with the right diet... Wrong diet?

So far, 2009 has been the Year of Working My Tailfeathers Off. Yes, it ends in a preposition and you probably had no prior knowledge that I ever had tailfeathers. Well, no way to prove it now because they're gone baby gone. And if they have any sense, they ain't coming back.

The big admission: I have a work ethic problem.

It's not enough to get the job done. It's not enough to get the job done well. I have to figure out how to make it better. (Somehow this does not apply to cleaning my house...)

Yeah yeah. It's not actually the intensity and long hours, though they're part of the equation. And it's not just in the job I get paid to do. But in the cube-dwelling arena, I have made a habit of seeing beyond the task at hand. I'm definitely in the middle of that now with some fairly substantial projects -- they're kicking my ass, but they'll be more effective in the end. It makes my job more difficult, but more fulfilling -- because, to me anyway, I'm participating vs. doing.

I'm not in it for happy little brownie points (although I have a well-established reputation for working for high-end dark chocolate). There's plenty of superficial b.s. I can highlight if I want to get attention. I need the challenge. Once I've "been there, done that" with a particular project type, I need another level to keep up my own interest. I like to figure out new things, build the relationships between x and y, and see where it goes.

What's the root? As a writer (I use that term with hesitation), there's always an edit to be made -- a twist of a phrase, a more evocative word, a more precise verb -- to improve your work. I grew up watching my dad return things from rusty dusty abandoned pieces into cars or an airplane -- locating or building the random little part to get it just right -- because he could. As a kid I spent frustrated energy trying to fit in and meet the expectations of others, then woke to realize that I really didn't care. Fulfillment comes from flying my own kite, defining my own challenges, and looking for the next ones.

Or, with a five-year-old as my guide, I'm still asking "Why, how, why, how, why..." and answering my own questions with "why not?" and "let me figure it out."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sleep or Fava Beans? Maybe Both

I have my second sleep study tonight. Last week I put on my jammies, gathered up my blanket and pillow, drove across town and they wired me up like a giant lab rat with:
  • electrodes to measure my brain waves and stages of sleep (there are 3 plus REM)
  • movement sensors on my legs, arms, and parts of my face
  • a heart rate monitor
  • belts on my chest and tummy to measure movement when I inhale and exhale
  • a microphone
  • a nasal cannula
  • a second measuring something or other under my nose
  • an oxygen saturation probe on my finger
And then they told me to sleep. Oh, and don't forget the camera on the wall with the circle of little red lights that you can see even without your glasses. All night.

They monitor and watch, collect a ton of data, wake you up at 6a, rip off all the wires, tell you basically nothing, and send you on your way.

I did sleep off and on. I woke up whenever there was noise in the hallway -- usually to hear someone tell the guy in the room across the hall to roll over or to change out his mask. You think they'd do a better job of soundproofing a sleep clinic! The guy should probably have his own county. Maybe he does. I can't imagine neighbors, dogs, cats, goldfish, or wild animals putting up with the ruckus. Amazing!

And I can tell you exactly where the monitoring room was in proximity to my room because well, the sleep techs don't sleep at night, they talk.

This week, they'll put on a lot of the same sensors and then go through having me sleep -- or try mightily -- with a series of CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) masks to see if they prevent the apnea spells and contribute to better sleep -- actual consistent breathing, oxygenation, deeper stages of sleep, REM, etc.

I can't imagine being able to sleep with a freakin' Hannibal Lechter-esque mask on my face, but we'll see what happens. (I almost included a photo of a mask in this post, but very quickly closed the google image search results because the pix were freaking me out...)

If nothing else, I predict a craving for fava beans will strike sometime tomorrow.

A Facebook Duel of Geek Proportions

A recent Facebook update by a friend read:
Alex is wondering if anyone can explain in one paragraph how to setup a simple mailto contact form on IIS 6.0 (that doesn'Alt like perl - I normally use FormMail).
So, being the snot I have grown to be, I commented back:
Kim is wondering if she has ever seen a geekier FB update than this nonsense. Please, next time just put in some unix code and dispense with the formalities of actual words.
To which, he replied:
Kim, you're right. This is for you:
01001001001000000110001101
10000101101110001001110111010000100000011000100110010101101100011010010110010101110110011001010010000001111001011011110111010100100000011000010110001101110100011101010110000101101100011011000111100100100000011011000110111101101111011010110110010101100100001000000111010001101000011010010111001100100000011101010111000000101110001000000010000001001110011011110111011100100000011101110110100001101111001001110111001100100000011101000110100001100101001000000110011101100101011001010110101100101110
To which, I replied:
OMG, CLASSIC. YOU WIN!!! Or should I say:
01001111 01001101 01000111 00101110 00100000 01000011 01001100 01000001 01010011 01010011 01001001 01000011 00101110 00100000 01011001 01001111 01010101 00100000 01010111 01001001 01001110 00100001 00100001 00100001
Why? Go here, paste the binary code (all them 0101010s up there) into the second box on the grid, hit , and then... well... you just have to laugh at me (and then perhaps, yourself...).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Are You Sleepy?

Rumor has it I likely have sleep apnea. I suppose repeatedly ceasing breathing in the middle of the night is not a habit one should cultivate or continue. So off I went to a consult yesterday with a pulmonologist/sleep specialist.

Some people are just too serious. You can almost see their thought processes on a LED readerboard above their heads.

I am a doctor.
I have a form.
I am going to ask you questions on the form.
I will scrawl the answers in the appropriate spaces.
I will not deviate from this path.
Then, based on your answers, I will give you a rehearsed speech about the next steps.
I will not deviate from the script.

Want to make a doctor of this variety really uncomfortable? Use multiple-word answers.

WAIT, I have a box for yes or no.
I don't want to listen to a sentence, I wan't a monosyllabic response.

How serious was this guy? He's asking me if I'm sleepy during the day. I honest-to-goodness involuntarily yawned. In fact, I'd been yawning since I landed in this giant funky weird thronelike chair where I was seated for the inquisition.

I laughed and responded, "I suppose that should be evidence enough."

His response, "What? Are you sleepy during the day?"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Parisian Burger for Tofu Girl

My (week)daily lunch travels usually take me to the building 3 cafeteria where I fill a compostable plastic container with whole grains, edamame, cucumber, tomatoes, tofu, sunflower seeds, and a bit of soy dressing. There's some variation depending on the veggie selection, but I pretty much have the same thing every day.

Yes, because I actually like it. No, really.

Every once in awhile, a coworker will catch me eating something from the animal kingdom and react with some surprise that I consume things that used to moo, bok, swim, or otherwise require chasing to catch for use as food.

So my absolute glee (yes GLEE) upon receiving an Armadillo Willy's e-mail titled "The Legend Returns" and announcing the return of the Linda's Drive-In Parisian Burger could be quite a shock to some.

E-mail marketing sometimes hits the mark. Even to a jaded web marketing chick.

You see, the Parisian Burger isn't just a burger. It's nostalgia. It's the one burger place I ever remember going with LD when I was a kid. The red and white striped awning, the walk-up counter, the bolted-down stools and chairs, the cars going by on El Camino. Freezing my a** off on one of those little metal stools while waiting for the food.

Then the sauce on the sourdough bun, requisite 2 or 3 napkins, testing the tater tots until they were cool enough to eat. Not just any sauce, not just any bun. Linda's Drive-in closed in 1984. But there are some things that you don't forget. And a Parisian Burger is one of them.

DaveBro (my leetle brother) lives in Texas now, but I forwarded him the e-mail with the addition of, "Oddly enough, this is the highlight of my day." His response was this
"that's awesome! I forgot about those. I went to Sonic burger after the gym the other night and got some tater tots. But, their burgers are nowhere near the Parisian. I loved those things! "
I posted a short note about it on my Facebook page -- more responses than anything I've posted...
OH my goodness....Life has meaning once again!!!!
Just went and had my first Parisian Burger in over 30 years!! Wow .. this is gonna be a great year!!!
Yes, I was there within 48 hours -- enjoying a Parisian burger, actually eating the tater tots, and staring down lactose tolerance while I drank a chocolate shake. Minus the cold metal stool, it was all it needed to be.

And yes, I'm going back for more. You should too...

No News is Good News

Luke brought me a holiday gift this year... I had to wait to mention it, but I think it's finally safe.

I figured I should be cautious. I spent the last few weeks scouring the headlines, google news searching, and otherwise verifying that come next winter, my dog won't be responsible for going way beyond Seuss's Grinch.

When we're up in G'town visiting LD, Luke has the run of the woods. No fences, no leash. He patrols the property using the house as his base. A bird -- or for that matter, a moth -- flutters on the other side of the pond and he's off to the races to check it out. He sleeps quite well at night because he spends the days in nearly constant motion -- generally at high speed crashing through the woods, circling the pond, or traversing the driveway.

A couple of days after Christmas, while my dad and I were moving random slash piles to burn piles, Luke emerged triumphant from the woods carrying a branch. As my proud pooch approached, I noticed the branch had a funny bend in it. No, wait -- two.

This is a dog that only fetches when there's competition, so his emergence from the trees with a stick was a bit odd in itself. And then I figured it out.

That funny bend was a joint. And that other funny bend toward the end, well, another joint. Ever so proudly, my charming dog presented me with the foreleg of a deer -- hoof intact. Boy howdy was I glad I was wearing work gloves. Ditto that @ was happily amused on a stack of cut 20 yards away imagining himself floating a barge of timber down an Alaskan river.

Given the recent holiday, I figured I should watch the news. Did one of Santa's reindeer go astray? Was there a mid-air reindeer collision between Prancer and Rudolph over the Sierra foothills? Would I need an alibi for my loyal canine protector?

The news has been quiet. No investigators have shown up to scour my dad's property for remnants of a flight disaster involving missing Rangifer tarandus east of Sacramento.

I never saw the nose, so I can't verify Rudolph will be around next year, but if he's not? Well, I'm a good storyteller and this is all completely fictional.