Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ava's not so excited by Christmas...yet

Although Ava was too excited to sleep when we first arrived for Christmas breakfast at the in-laws', fatigue finally got the better of her, just as we started opening presents. I suspect next year with her will be completely different. And yes, she does look like a present under the tree, which is how we viewed her this year. Merry Christmas!
Ava sleeps next to tree

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy 3 month birthday

Today marks the end of Ava's third month out and about on the planet. As every parent will tell you, the time has flown by and dragged on at the same time. It's flying when you look down and realize the kidlet has outgrown yet another article of clothing that they fit just yesterday.
Yet time creeps at 2 or 3 or 4 a.m. when the baby is crying or mewling or howling or screaming in staccato bursts and you've cycled through your repertoire of gentle bounces, rapid back pats, shooshing, humming, and rocking, to finally settle on holding her close and just swaying in a way that makes it hard to tell which of you is holding on more for dear life.

At those moments, when an afternoon of smiling wonder and gurgling amazement seems so far away, or when the baby's blown out her diaper all the way up her back and she's wearing that outfit that she hates to have pulled over her head, I am so thankful that J. and I are in this together.
I also remind myself that this too shall pass, probably in an hour or less, and I will again find myself in bare feet beside her bassinet or inches from her in bed, staring intently at her sleeping face in the dimness and straining over the sound of her dad's snores to make out the tiny puffs of breath that prove she is indeed sleeping peacefully.As she giggles in her sleep (what are you laughing at and what does a 3 month old consider comedic?), I think back to all the giggles and smiles of the past three months. The very first smile in the delivery room, the smiles when I blow raspberries at you, and the ones that sprang forth inexplicably a couple weeks ago every time your dad said "PVC piping" as we talked about a drainage project. Budding hydro-engineer or just a fine sense of the absurd? Time will tell. She is such a gift and I can't wait to see what else she shares with us next month.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Passport? I can’t even sit up unassisted

So world travelers that we’ve been, J. and I want to get Ava a passport so we can be ready to travel abroad when the need arises. In the olden days, before the year 2004 or so, passports required extensive scheduling to get forms from some government office or other, then traveling across town to some other outlet for the specially-sized pictures, plus the return trip to turn in the whole shebang, then the interminable wait for processing. Who can live like that?! It’s like Little House on the Prairie or something.

Since I sold my butter churn years ago, I went online to try to get as much of the process out of the way as possible from the comfort of my computer. As the picture below shows, I was back online with three day old baby in tow soon after she came home. Actually, although I couldn't feel my legs due to the epidural, I could feel my arms, so I e-mailed people from the delivery room. What? I'm a multi-tasker.
Anywho, it turns out the government has been taking note of this “internet” thing and has automated or technology-enabled a lot of formerly tedious processes, like applying for a passport on the website http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html

What’s even better is that onerous photo part has a work around now too. There’s a site called http://www.epassportphoto.com/ that will let you use your own digital camera to take a passport picture, upload it, and crop it onscreen using their site and its handy guides to make sure it fits the federal requirements. Then they’ll either mail it to you, or you can download it to your computer and print it in as little as an hour at your local photo-finisher of choice. Mine is Walgreen’s: great selection of photo gifts, easy software, competitive pricing, and you can have pictures delivered or uploaded to any Walgreen’s in the country! Great for sending to widely dispersed family members who clamor for copies of holiday pictures.

The only challenge is getting an appropriate passport picture with a baby. They don’t exactly follow directions to sit up, look this way, no, the other way, etc. Plus, our little one seems to be a bit of a ham and will “gimme a big smile!” if asked or sometimes just whenever the camera comes out. It’s great, except that passport photos are supposed to have “a natural expression.” So we got pictures like this… and this….
And this…before we finally got the money shot. I love technology.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Why media matters even when it stinks

Reports out of Pakistan indicate that the president has declared a state of emergency, instituted martial law, dismissed most of the Supreme Court and is going after his political opponents. One of the first things he did after these frightening moves was to go after private media outlets to try to prevent them from reporting on what's happening. Details below.

'Hand Over Your Broadcast Equipment': Pakistan Stifles Media, Cuts Phone Lines - Foreign Governments Have Criticized President Musharraf's Moves

This points out the power of media in times of crisis. Hard to remember that in America's crime and celebrity-driven news coverage. When I traveled in Europe, my husband and I both remarked how much more in-depth, investigative and relevant news coverage was there.

This story struck a chord with me because my first career was in TV news and I loved the immediacy of it, being able to tell people's stories, and being able to connect people through those stories. I also felt the power of media and news to make a difference in people's lives by spotlighting injustice or inequality.

But those moments became fewer and farther between the longer I was in news. I also disliked how constrained news could be: usually, the only stories that were deemed worthy of coverage involved turmoil, negativity and what I liked to call "routine mayhem."

When I got out of news years ago, one of the final straws for me was having a somewhat substantive story bumped off the early 5pm news by coverage of a local man buying the rights to bring a Krispy Kreme franchise to the region - in five years. Yes, really. My station even had donuts flown in for that night's newscast from the nearest Krispy Kreme, which was out of state.

The person covering the story had been recently hired for the anchoring position I desperately wanted at the time. To add insult to ridiculousness, I was asked to help her put the story together because "she's not a very strong writer." Wow. There are not many jobs that will hire you even if you can't perform the duty the makes up 85% of the job. Yeah, I'm still a little bitter.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's not all roses and sunshine

You know how most commercials and magazines show cherubic, smiling babies and give the impression that newborns are gurgling bundles of happiness? Yeah, not always. That's why I love this family self-portrait with Ava demonstrating that her lungs work really, really well. It's funny at midday. Not so much between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's a swing thing

One of my friends from college and his wife sent us a swing for the baby. They have a 16-month old and say he loved his and still tries to climb in, even though he's getting to be a bit big for it.

Unlike most kids, the car and vibrating movements and devices don't provide instant soothing for Ava. But hopefully she'll dig this. Especially during the 2 a.m.-5 a.m. period when she gets mysteriously cranky EVERY NIGHT and nothing soothes her except one of us holding her while either standing next to the bed swaying, or bouncing up and down gently on a big exercise ball. These are the things you do in hopes of getting even one more minute of sleep with a newborn in the house.

Reclining while holding or jiggling her does not work. Neither does anything that's actually comfortable for us too. Like bouncing her on our lap or stomach in bed. Or patting her gently while she lays on her side. She's not having it. This child's internal bubble level device could apparently be used to calibrate instruments because nothing besides bouncing upright or reclining at a precise 45-degree angle will do. Egads.

Which is why on most nights for the past couple weeks at our house, you could find one bleary-eyed, partially awake parent trying to keep their butt firmly on a ball and their feet firmly on the floor, while bouncing up and down with a limp, though content, baby clutched to their chest. In the dark. At 3am. Aaah, the joys of parenthood.

So my hopes were high when the swing arrived. This is the before shot, right out of the box. About an hour later, looky, looky: a cotton candy pink contraption almost guaranteed to provide hours of soothing movement for the baby and peace for us.
And here's Ava on its inaugural run.
Seems to work great, she slept in it for a bit, and my fear that it might malfunction and fling her across the room while Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star plays eerily in background was unfounded. Gold star for some swing designer toiling away in obscurity somewhere.
Unfortunately, it only kept her happy for about 4 minutes last night at 3:30 a.m. Oh well. At least she doesn't have colic.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Craigslist rocks for expectant parents

I'm well aware that the cost of raising a child in the United States these days is roughly equivalent to the GDP of some developing nations. That's why I'm approaching the accessory needs of my pending pregancy as an exercise in frugality.

No, I'm not resorting to buying bags of "irregular" onesies out of some guy's trunk or "gently used recalled toys" in the alley behind the dollar store, but I think there are ways to avoid getting sucked into the buy or die mentality that seems to permeate this particular life chapter.
It helps to keep in mind that women in developing countries, heck, some even in this country, get by without all the accoutrements some people and the retail industry would have you believe are "essential." Wipes warmer?It's nice, but the night I forgot to plug it back in, neither the baby nor her butt seemed to notice. Plus, I can't help but think of my grandparents who raised nine kids on a farm in rural Louisiana and didn't even have running water until the grandkids came along.

Last I checked, babies really only need love, attention, milk/food, water, air, diapers, a healthy environment, and a safe, comfortable place to sleep. Everything beyond that is pretty much gravy. And minus the diapers, I think that list could cover the basic needs of most people on the planet.

So I have been more than willing to troll the pages of Craigslist and Ebay looking for local parents off-loading their lightly used baby gear for a good price to a new home. Most of the stuff is only usable for 3-4 months or 20 pound ranges anyway, so unless the gear comes from a smoke- or other nastiness-infested home, I'm open to considering it.

Which is how I happened upon the sweet deal below: a barely-used bassinet from a smoke-free home for $35 right here in my city. And once we'd agreed we wanted it, the mom, cuddling their 4 month old who'd already outgrown the bassinet, said, "Um, do you need a stroller and car seat? We got new ones from our in-laws overseas that he seems to like better." "It's also better for me," said the husband. "Because I'm tall and it has adjustable handles."

So they bring out the equally pristine car seat and stroller, which had the expected wheel wear, but was otherwise in great shape.

And here we are leaving the hospital with the new addition in the car seat. Just to be sure, I checked online and it's not the subject of a recall or defect, so we're excited to have found a genuine deal online that will help us manage our baby while also being part of the reuse/recycle effort.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Googling parenthood & like father, like daughter

Google is a godsend for new parents. Especially ones like me: an only child with very little baby care experience. Every unexplained noise, body projectile or behavior is worth a query, if only to see if we're within some online norm.

One early question was "How soon to take newborn out?" We're apparently a little outside that norm, which ranged from a few days to the more common one or two months.

Um, I've got stuff to do and I would lose my mind stuck indoors with a newborn with no reprieve for 8 weeks straight.

We've been out and about a lot already and took her to dinner when she was a week old. I figured, we're both feeling up to it, the baby's getting some immunity protection from my nursing, and everyone's healthy, so let's give it a shot. Plus, we went to a nice, quiet, nearly empty restaurant w/an out of the way plush booth, not some child-filled, germatorium fast food joint, and we both did great for a first outing: I nursed without flashing anyone and she ate without having a fit. It's a good start. She's a month old now and this is a shot of her on her first international trip: Vancouver, BC.

She's been a little cranky because she doesn't sleep as well in the car seat as she does on me or her dad, so when we stopped in West Vancouver for a snack and rest, she and her dad caught some zzz. Let me tell you: the only thing that compares to sleeping with a warm baby on your chest is swapping the baby for a warm puppy. Yes, really.

--------- Moblogged from my Treo

Baby news

Yes, long overdue for an update, but baby girl Ava made it here safely by cesearean in mid-September. Despite the semi-sleepless nights that go hand in hand with a newborn, we're head over heels in love with this little being, who already cracks us up with her expressions, noises and antics. We can't wait until she's verbal.

Her breech position doesn't seem to have caused any lasting problems, other than a tendency for her to stick her legs straight out in front sometimes, instead of keeping them pulled up in the traditional fetal position. More gushing posts, pictures and a delivery blow-by-blow to follow.

---------Moblogged from my Treo

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Palm Foleo pulled, or I should have been a technology analyst

Jeff Hawkins unveiling Foleo in May (courtesy of PC World)

The Associated Press and many others are reporting that Palm has pulled it's Foleo device, just before shipping it to market saying the company "needs to focus all its resources on developing its next-generation smartphones." Uh, ya' think? More info from the AP article available here: Palm Cancels Foleo Companion to Treo.

As I mentioned here and here when the Foleo was first announced in late May, this thing was a solution in search of a problem. Like many Treo users, I am proud to have been one of Handspring/Palm's early adopters for the the past 7-8 years, so when someone aching to love your product and evangelize it to the moon can't find something good to say about it, you've got trouble ahead.

Despite my continued annoyance with the company and their lack of a new, updated Palm operating system and more non-Windows devices, I'm glad to see them making a decisive move like this one with the Foleo. The sooner they stop wasting time and money on that thing, the sooner they can move forward with good stuff for the Treo and new Linux operating system. Until then, I'll putter along with my Treo 650. It's almost two years old and a bit haggard, but it still allows me to continue my power-user tasks.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tougher Canadian border crossings ahead - for some

The Seattle P-I has a story about the "Wait at Canadian border going from bad to brutal" partly because of construction, but also due to tougher checks in anticipation of the coming Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. The bad news is wait times and traffic congestion will increase dramatically. The good news is the crossing is getting a total makeover so that it can handle the expected increase in traffic for the winter games.

As I've mentioned before, we have Nexus passes because we do Vancouver, BC daytrips fairly often and they make that trip a breeze. I'm so glad we have them and I'm not sure how we'll be impacted by the construction changes ahead, but it can only be better than not having them at all.

In fact, I'm already planning to get a pass for the baby so she can travel right along with us as soon as she and I are mobile. She doesn't need a passport, so I was a little surprised that babies need a Nexus pass too, because it's basically a background check card. So her application should be really easy to fill out. Residence for last five years: gleam in her dad's eye, followed by uterus at mother's address for past 9 months.

But everyone in the vehicle has to have a Nexus pass if you use it to cross the border, so we'll be following those rules as soon as possible, hopefully followed by another quick and trouble-free interview at the border office. However, given how nasty some of the border agents are portrayed in the P-I article, perhaps both me and the baby should head to the interview wearing easy-on, easy-off clothes in case cavity searches ensue. Adult onesie, anyone?

Monday, September 03, 2007

What's in a name? Maybe a lifetime of joblessness

The top three questions I've gotten with this pregnancy are "How far along are you?" "How are you feeling?" and "Have you picked out any names?" Talk about a loaded question. Do you go with some old family name or something that instantly pegs your kid to a particular era? Oscar, Doris, Curtis, Wanda, Moon Unit, Leopold or Brittany anyone? A name can also tie you unmistakably to a particular area of the country, socioeconomic group or even race.

Think I'm kidding? Check out this Slate article on white vs. black names for babies. http://www.slate.com/id/2116449/ The title says it all. A Roshanda by Any Other Name: How do babies with super-black names fare?

Even if you're not exactly sure what a super-black name means, you know it when you hear it: often lots of syllables, random capital letters and apostrophes, or references to luxury retail products or TV stars.

What's interesting to me is that, according to the researchers referenced in the article, until the 1970s or so, Black and White parents chose pretty similar names for their children. But due in part to the Black Power movement, some Black parents began adopting increasingly distinctive names. Also, the researchers found "no negative relationship between having a distinctively Black name and later life outcomes after controlling for a child's circumstances at birth."

Hmm. I seem to recall ABC's 20/20 doing a show (Top 20 'Whitest' and 'Blackest' Names) that disputed that finding by showing that if two job applicants with identical backgrounds were up for the same position, the ones with more "ethnic" or Black-sounding names were not called for an interview.

Given that, J. and I agreed that a key criteria for baby name options was that it look and sound good on a resume. Seriously. Does a more traditional name guarantee future success? Of course not. Is it one less hurdle for a child of color to grapple with in life? I think so. Sure there are people who are exceptions to the "traditional is better approach" to naming who do well in life with very unique names. However, the use of varied spellings of the name "Unique" as outlined in the Slate article seems to belie that. My personal favorite is a local baby a firefighter acquaintence came across during a service call whose name was spelled something like "Omyuneeque" pronounced "I'm unique." Uh, right. See you at the job fair.

Still, since people are so interested in our name options, I've probably derived a little too much fun from answering their questions with complicated, poly-syllabic names just to see the reaction. "Well, we're leaning towards Myshan'Tymeeka Traniece Jazmin-Raven or DeLoQuéShaunishia Möet Lexus." Every single time, a stunned silence and rapid eye blinks ensue as the person tries to comprehend this information or quickly find a polite way to say, "What the hell are you thinking?"

Then I laugh and say, "Kidding. No, we have settled on a short list of very traditional names that we cycle through each day, trying each one for fit. Nothing unpronouncable." An audible sigh of relief follows. One man added, "Well, that's really what I wanted to ask but I wasn't sure how. Some of these kids are walking around with names THEY can't even spell." Exactly.

But there's further name narrowing to be done after you decide on a general strategy and make it through the ethnic vs. crossover name mine field. When you start considering actual names, you have to take into account the personal baggage you and your spouse/partner may associate with particlar names. You throw out those that remind either of you of someone you dated or really disliked or which just rub either of you the wrong way.

"Beatrice?! That was the name of the mom of the girl who was mean to me in middle school." "Shayla?! Why not just put strobe lights in her room and send her to pole dancing lessons?" And on and on it goes. We definitely went through many, many names to get to the handful or so that we were both pretty okay with. But I think we will just have to get a look at her before we decide.

And if the kid REALLY hates it, she can always change it when she's older like these well known singers did: http://www.digitaldreamdoor.com/pages/realname.html. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Girls getaway to the Portland Pen show

In July, Isis the wonder dog, my mom, and I took off to Oregon for a whirlwind 36 hours at the Portland Pen Show. I love writing with fountain pens and wanted to look for one with an extra fine nib to add to my cache.

Most American stores that carry fountain pens only carry them in fine, medium and bold, but there are many more sizes and styles available, particularly in Europe and Japan, where fountain pens are still used by a greater percentage of the population.

Here’s Portland Pen Show organizer Carla Mortenson, who again did a fabulous job pulling this together. I missed the seafood buffet Friday night, but the Saturday post-show spread was just as tasty.
This is a small, regional show, but it’s also more intimate and not as potentially overwhelming as the big city shows. So I felt comfortable taking my mom without fear that she’d be bored or might be put off by the pen-focused conversations. I needn’t have worried. First of all, she can strike up a conversation with anyone. Second, pen show participants are about the nicest, most open folks around.

There were many familiar and new faces who welcomed us both warmly. Among them, Sherrell Tyree and her brother Joel Hamilton, seen here helping a fellow pen aficionado find just the right one.
They have a cool online shop called Inkpen Vintage Fountain Pen where they sell pens, books, and more, and also do repairs.

Upon hearing that mom is a lefty (considered by some to be poorly suited to fountain pen writing because some lefties drag their hand through freshly-written and instantly smeared lines), Joel proffered a pen perfectly suited for her and let her give it a whirl. Nicer?! And she could instantly feel how much better it glided across the page than a standard ballpoint or rollerball. She liked it, but she’s not ready to dive into the fountain pen niche just yet.

I also chatted with John Mottishaw again, pen repair and adjustment guru extraordinaire who I met at my first pen show.
He did my first fountain pen modification last year through his http://www.nibs.com/ site and I'm hooked. Here's John getting an up close view of a pen in need of adjustment.Using a fountain pen that's been modified to fit your hand and handwriting style is like the difference between buying clothes off the rack and getting them tailored to fit you.

The weather in Portland that weekend was near 90, which is not the best for a dark dog like Isis, as we found out when she overheated and lost her recently ingested lunch and water under my seat while we sat at an outdoor restaurant in the Pearl District. Oops.

I simply chalked it up as good practice for the inevitable baby stomach and diaper explosions to come and snagged a couple plastic baggies from the car, cleaned up the mess, washed my hands, and continued with our day. But we were glad to be able to take her to our dog-friendly hotel (The La Quinta Inn by the Convention Center) afterwards where she could chill out with some AC (literally) while we hit the show.
The next day, my mom walked the trails at the Grotto while I returned to the show to retrieve a pen that caught my eye the day before. It's a Sheaffer from the 1980s or so that has an ultra fine nib that's been modified to be both sharp and smooth: no small feat. It writes like a dream and has become my new favorite. See below for what my husband calls fountain pen porn shots. Pen aficionados: try not to drool on the keyboard. Everyone else: try not to nod off.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Awards, articles and generational differences

It's been a busy couple months, besides the whole growing a baby thing. I received the National Urban League's Western Region Member of the Year award for my volunteer work with the Seattle Urban League Young Professionals (SULYP).

Our chapter also received the Western Region Chapter of Excellence Award based on our leadership development, community impact, membership development, fund development and communications, and our President Felicia Kline received the Western Region Heineken USA Rising Star award for her policy paper on the importance and effectiveness of the Community Reinvestment Act. A local community paper the Seattle Medium had a story about it here.

The awards were given out at the National Urban League's conference in St. Louis in July, which I missed (too late in the pregnancy to fly). But here's a shot of me, SULPY's founding president, SULYP's current president, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle President and CEO James Kelly, former SULYP Secretary, and Education Committee Chair at last year's conference in Atlanta, which was incredibly informative.
In late July, I learned I'd had an article published in Urban Influence Magazine (the National Urban League's magazine) about the digital divide in the Black community. I believe there was a 400 word limit, so it's no comprehensive piece, but I think it came out fine. Click image for larger version.
And finally, in August, I was one of the eight women featured in a Seattle Times article for their Gender F section that focuses on women's issues. You can read the full article here and the other related articles on the Seattle Times' Gender F website.
Talking across the gap
Generations chat about stereotypes, cluelessness and cleavage

In the article, writer Michelle Goodman talked with women from several different generations about how they relate to each other in the workplace. Michelle is a longtime freelance writer who has a great book and website (both called The Anti 9 to 5 Guide) about how to transition to part-time, flextime, at-home, outdoor, overseas, nonprofit, or self-employed work so you can build the life you want without spending all your time chained to a cubicle. Read more here: http://www.anti9to5guide.com/

It was fascinating to be part of the discussion and hear about how the work world has changed for many of the women who've been at it a while, as well as hearing from the younger ladies about how their approach to work is so different from earlier generations - even mine.

The most experienced woman in the group talked about the days of having to wear a full girdle, conservative skirt suit, hosiery and pumps every day when she started out, even though she worked in a construction-related industry.

In contrast, some of the younger women said they feel it's okay to express themselves through their attire, even in a sexy way, because "it's just clothes and just who we are." My comments on that are in the article.

Even though I'm glad I (and Hillary) helped get the word 'cleavage' in a headline in a major daily paper, frankly, I think the pendulum has swung too far to the "flaunt what ya' got" side where daytime/workplace clothing is concerned.

In their defense, one of the young women on the panel said, "But look at Sex in the City! They dress cute but sexy." Yeah, they're also on premium cable after 9 p.m., not sitting across a conference table in a position of authority or across a service counter in a workplace. I think some young women don't get that there's a time and a place for certain fashions.

Case in point, this month's Cosmo Magazine's Fashion section with the headline: The Heat Is On - These low-cut, barely buttoned clothes are racy enough to grab any guy's attention. So true: they are racy and attention-grabbing. And I might consider sporting the white micro cardigan, bra, shorts and six inch platforms the next time I'm poolside on the Riviera with my hubby. But not when I head to the office, where no one should be wearing clothing that requires waxing any body part between their knees and neck. This goes double for you guys.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Fellowship-filled Fourth of July

J. and I had the pleasure of hosting three of the six European Memorial Marshall Fellows for the Fourth of July along with Spring 2007 American Marshall Fellow Heather from Seattle.
Here we are after dinner... pregnancy

And all of us again with Heather's friend Nate in the picture on the left. We had a great time getting to know each other, talking about European institutions versus the American versions, and the unique experiences they had already had in their travels around the U.S.

Such as the church two of them visited in the south that was celebrating military veterans on the Sunday they attended services. In addition to the Marine-turned-pastor who gave the sermon, several Marines rappeled from the ceiling of the sanctuary during the services!

"This is very different from churches in Europe," one of the EMMF's said, still surprised by the event even in the retelling.

"Uh, that's very differnt from most churches here in the U.S.," I clarified.

They were all as smart and accomplished as the other fellows I've met to date, although they of course had the added skill of speaking multiple languages. They each spoke at least three to four, which reminded us Americans in the room how much of a disadvantage we're at on the international stage due to the typical American educational system's approach of not teaching foreign language until middle or high school.

Linguistic regrets notwithstanding, it was a wonderful evening and I hope they enjoyed a typical American fourth with a fairly typical American couple as much as we enjoyed them.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Doggie doings all weekend long

These days during my pregnancy, I find my energy levels veering from energizer bunny to desperately in need of a nap. Last weekend was an energized one, despite having managed to catch a cold.

I'm usually very diligent about handwashing, slathering on antibacterial gel and not touching doorknobs, handrails and other often-handled surfaces, so colds for me a very rare. Like once every year or 18 months. So having one in the summer while I'm pregnant was both surprising and annoying. Mainly because not only did it cut into my enjoyment of the incredible Seattle summer weather, but I also couldn't take my usual pharmacoeia to make the effects more managable.

A consultant nurse with my doctor's office said Tylenol was the only safe medicine for me at this point and suggested I take "hot liquids, spicy soups, and hot juices" to soothe my sore throat. Um, it's 80 degrees out, so the thought of hot juice would make me gag if my throat didn't already hurt. So I had to just tough it out cold turkey.

Plugged nose and sore throat notwithstanding, I at least had energy, so I decided to get out and enjoy the sun with the dog, use anti-bacterial like crazy, and steer clear of touching anything so as not to spread my cold germs around.

After picking up the pooch at my folks' house and a fun breakfast with an old co-worker in West Seattle, I headed to Seattle's North Beacon Hill area for a Meetup with other Pit Bull owners.
Here's Isis looking super attentive because she thinks I'm going to throw her ball any minute now. Note the dog that looks like her twin to the right. That dog's owner confirmed that there are many dogs with the same look around the area. Not sure who's breeding them, but they all have awesome temperaments, although his girl was a year or two younger than Isis and bigger. She also wasn't quite as dog-friendly as the others and was apparently prone to running giddily off into the woods for hours at a stretch, so her owner opted to keep her on leash even though we met in one of Seattle's many off-leash dog parks.

Here's me, the belly, and a still-attentive Isis. She did great, despite the 80+ degree heat. She'd romp with the other dogs a bit, chase the ball a bit, then lay in the shade a bit. Dark dogs and hot days are usually not the best combo, but there was plenty of water and shade and she was a great breed ambassador.

The next day, we hit the Fremont Sunday Market where I needed to pick up a ring to temporarily replace my wedding band which I've grown too big to fit. I have been wearing my engagement ring and band on a necklace. Now I can at least wear some semblance of a band.

With J. busy for the day, Isis played sidekick again and lounged in the shade of each stand I perused and willingly submitted to lots of petting by passersby who found her glossy coat and laid back demeanor irresistable.
The only activities that marred the sunny lovefest were two (!) separate West Highland Terriers who attacked Isis - once as she lay at my feet just inside a booth, and again as we walked up the sidewalk towards our car. One minute all's quiet and we're minding our own business, the next the Westies are lunging and snarling at the end of their leashes. Only one of the owners apologized. In both cases, Isis returned the growling and barking favor, which of course looks a lot more menacing coming from a 58 pound pitbull than a 2o pound Westie.

According to the Wikipedia, Westies are known as "big dogs in a little body" because of their "bold temperament." These could have become "hurt dogs in little bodies" if I wasn't so quick to take control of the situation and rein Isis back in, and if she had a more aggressive temperament.

In each case, I pulled her back into a sit then calmly walked her away from the situation while the Westie owners continued wrestling with the barking, snarling ball's of white fur at the end of their leashes.

Because of Isis's breed, she is held to a higher standard of behavior, as am I as her owner. Going after another dog the way the Westies did to her would be absolutely unacceptable and would likely result in police being called to the scene. Unfortunately, I've found that many small dogs are allowed by their owners to engage in behavior that would not be tolerated in a larger breed from the menacing barking and lunging to jumping up.

It's unfair to all dog owners and especially to those whose well-managed and well-behaved dogs that may be kept out of events or venues because of someone's past experience with one of the not-so-well-behaved ones. All I can do is make sure I'm doing everything I can to make sure Isis and I are ambassadors for her breed. So far, it seems to be working out, despite incidents like that.

PS - Isn't it ironic that we spent Saturday with several other pitbulls in a somewhat confined space with no problems but just a day later had two less than stellar episodes with so-called "family friendly companion dogs"? See: that's why I'm sticking with pitbulls. Those little dogs are like walking around with loaded guns. Hee hee! :-)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Power tool packin' mama (to be)

A co-worker mentioned today that she was mildly dismayed when her 2 1/2 year old daughter recently declared, "I'm a girl. I'm not a boy. Boys fix fire engines." This despite having a very adept mom who in fact handles most of their household repairs, many of which in fact come at the hands of her tool-challenged husband. "How does this gender stuff get ingrained so early?" she asked slightly incredulously.

I don't know, but I hope our child will see that girls can fix fire engines or anything else, if they put their mind to it. To that end, I'm documenting for posterity my own power tool packin' ways so the bundle-to-be will see that even in-utero, she and her mom were comfortable fixin' broke stuff.

Case in point: our carport light went out last week and we hadn't made time to get it fixed. I did manage to pick up a replacement, but that was about it. After more than a week of putting off the task, fumbling with my key in the dark and not wanting to wait any longer, I took advantage of the 75 degree evening to do some home improvement, pregnancy and all. It took one light, one drill, four drill bits of increasing size (I kept underestimating the size of the screw and expander), two screwdrivers, one pen for marking holes, and one hour of my time. But we've got light, I didn't incur any injuries, and I'm feeling pretty pleased with the result. Guess those high school auto mechanics and woodworking classes are still paying dividends. My child-to-be will either be mildly amused by this memento or use it as proof that I've been a very capable but total dork for a very long time.

28 Weeks

Chugging right along. This is me at the 28 week mark of my pregnancy, in a lovely trapeze cut A-line frock from my friend's shop Missi Lu in Seattle's Madison Valley neighborhood. A-line's are of course great for hiding a multitude of figure features from which one might want to deflect attention. But it's hard to hide the belly at this point. Hard to believe I've still got almost three months to go and this is when women supposedly gain most of their weight. If that's the case for me too, this dress may look like it shrunk in the dryer by the time September rolls around.

GMF ties revisited

The German Marshall Fund contacts we made told us fellowship participants, "You're now part of a network of fellows around the U.S. and Europe." I had a sense of that in meeting European Fellows who'd traveled the U.S. for their fellowship and welcomed us as instant friends, and before I left for my trip when I called a couple fellows from other years for guidance. Without knowing anything more about me than than I was about to embark on the same wonderful adventure they had, they opened up and provide great tips and insights.

Now that I've returned to my regular day-to-day grind, I was reminded of the camaraderie of the trip and the network to which I do indeed belong when I received a call from a fellow traveler, Carrie from Chicago.
She was coming to town for a short visit and we had a chance to get together, reminisce, and catch up on changes in our lives since the trip. The most obvious difference: I've gained some girth and she's lost over a foot of hair!

She also had a chance to catch up with Heather, another fellow in this area. I didn't get a chance to catch up with them again, but it's nice to be reminded that we are indeed part of a unique network of people from all walks of life who are interested in building ties with people across the Atlantic and across the U.S.

I'll get a chance to increase my ties later this week when I host some European Fellows as they travel through the area. I don't think we can match the grandeur of some of our visits in Europe, but we'll try to show the Northwest in a positive light. More fun sure to ensue!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Surgeon takes new route to gallbladder: weird surgery news that manages to irk me

Okay file this under things I probably could have died without knowing and been just fine. But I share it with you because it’s like an online car wreck: you know you want to look. Just be glad there are not pictures. I came across this article on an Oregon newspaper site.

Surgeon takes new route to gallbladder: U.S. first - A Portland doctor removes the organ in the abdomen through a woman's mouth

The article states the innovative doc:

“is part of a group of doctors and medical device manufacturers nationwide working to develop "natural orifice" surgeries -- through the mouth, vagina and rectum -- to help eliminate pain and scarring and reduce recovery time…

[his] procedure follows one in April by another team of surgeons in New York where a woman's gallbladder was taken out through her vagina. He applauded that effort but added that "since only half the population has vaginas we were looking for a more universal platform."”

Funny: only half the population has a penis and even fewer of those have erectile dysfunction, and even fewer have the money to pay for surgery or prescriptions to fix it, but that didn’t stop the medical community from coming up with penile implants and Viagra.

And of course by funny above I mean like, “Ha-freaking-ha.”

Freakin' chilly Father's Day

For J.’s first Expectant Father's Day, we planned to have brunch at his cousin's house after chilly, overcast weather seemed to put a crimp in plans for the family to meet at a nearby park and lake where the cousin had rented a shelter. So after checking that we were indeed meeting at the house, we set off. But enroute, with me in my flip flops thinking we'd be inside, the cousin’s wife calls and says plans have changed because J.’s mom is already set up at the shelter. Uh, okay.

We show up a the admittedly picturesque park, but not only is it 55 degrees out (but no rain, thankfully), the shelter is like 10 miles from the parking lot. Okay, it's really only a brisk 3-5 minute walk. But we've got cookout crap to carry and J’s 90 year old great aunt who’s had two knee surgeries is also with us and has to walk it too (and she had on three layers just thinking we'd be in the house!). Not to mention me with my Buddha belly, in flip flops, a capri jogging suit, and my customary internal thermostat at a level that registers 75 degrees as the start of comfortable.

But I grabbed my "emergency" fleece blanket from the car, put it on like a sarong, and toughed it out. Because the first rule of camping or cooking out is "no complaining." Or it should be. J. remarked, "Yeah, that's why I don't camp." :-) He and his mom have already made it clear that growing up, their family’s idea of roughin' was a deluxe motor home or a two star hotel. That approach has carried through to adulthood for him.

In fact, along those lines, my favorite quote of the day came from J.’s mom. She’s planning their bi-annual family gathering for next summer. We usually go to one of the resorts where she has timeshares which are always in picturesque, touristy locations with abundant nearby shopping, preferably outlet stores, for her and the other ladies in the family.

I suggested looking into Lake Chelan in Eastern Washington, which is a picturesque annual vacation and reunion hotspot for many families. Plus, the weather on that side of the Cascade mountains is generally much sunnier and warmer than Western Washington and the Oregon coast, where we’ve gone before.

“Lake Chelan?” she said, skeptically. “There’s nothing to do over there. Unless you like fishing or boating or hiking or bike riding or swimming or camping or things like that. I mean, it's dead.” Uh huh. I see your point. Zero activity in those parts. Forget I mentioned it. :-)

Conversely, my family had our fair share of camp outs in rustic cabins or tents, slept in sleeping bags on lumpy sleeping pads, cooked on open fires, and generally did the whole northwest outdoorsy thing. In fact, my middle and high school, in addition to annual, multi-day beach hikes and camping trips for the entire grade, even had a wilderness requirement to graduate: you had to spend a week or more camping in the wilderness with a group of other students and instructors. It was good experience to get under my belt even though I haven't camped in years.

So back to Father’s Day. Basically, and thankfully, everyone opted to just suck it up and deal with the crappy weather. People put on hats, gloves and whatever clothes and fabric they could find in their cars, hung out a bit, and ate and grilled a boat load of food: salmon, burgers, hotdogs, shrimp skewers, chicken and vegetable shish kabobs, salads, pasta salads, baked beans, spaghetti and of course, several cakes and banana pudding for dessert. Yes really. And yes, they do this kind of spread for all family gatherings. Although the sheer amount of food can seem a bit much sometimes, I have to admit it was so nice to marry into another family that can cook just like the one I grew up in. I always feel kind of bad for people who say they grew up on takeout or frozen dinners because neither of their parents cooked.

But after about two hours, the wind picked up and we were all like, "Everyone done eating? Great. Let's pack up and go to the house." So that's where we spent the remainder of the afternoon/early evening , watching a movie with the heat cranked!

And J. loved his gifts: a daddy/daughter advice book and a book with beautiful black and white pictures of African American men ruminating on what fatherhood has meant to them as sons and as fathers themselves. “I can’t wait,” J. said with a smile. Good answer and that makes two of us.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Growing Girth: 26 weeks

Last week I hit the 26 week mark (out of 40) and I had gained 26 pounds, which is a nice bit of symmetry in my life. I'm a fan of symmetry.

By the way, you may be among those who, like me, hear women mention being so many weeks along and think, "What is the deal with the weeks? I don't want to do math just to follow the conversation. Can't you just say how many months along you are?" An older woman said the same thing at a gathering last weekend.

"We didn't have all this "weeks" stuff in my day," she harrumphed. I'm with you sister. But it's a medical thing. As soon as you become pregnant, doctors and nurses start talking to you this way because they calculate how far along you based on when you got pregnant and a typical nine-month pregnancy averages out to 40 weeks, not 36 as you'd expect. Then all the tests must be done at specific weeks into your pregnancy, hence the pregnancy-by-the-week conspiracy, as I like to call it. :-)

So now I'm very obviously pregnant and carrying very high up. When people who haven't seen me in a while notice the change, I've been saying, "Yeah, I know it looks like I'm smuggling a basketball." Someone last week remarked, "Uh, it's a little more than a basketball." Gee thanks. Have you seen the door? From the other side?
I'm actually not sensitive about it, so we had a chuckle. But I figured it's time for updated shots of the burgeoning belly. Here they are. You'll note a pronounced "linea negra" as it's called - the dark belly line many pregnant women get which is especially noticable on women of color. Info about it here.

Apparently it usually fades after the birth, but sometimes it doesn't. Great. It's not like I would have gone into a tatoo parlor and said, "Hey can you give me a permanent reminder of my pregnancy up the front of my body? No, nothing cool, decorative or inspiring. How about a plain, not very well-centered or defined line, preferably several shades darker than my skin tone. It should look kind of like a drunken monkey with a brown Sharpie drew it on with one eye closed while balancing on a wheel of cheese. That'd be GREAT!"

Needless to say, despite my admittedly awesome and nearly trouble-free pregnancy, it's one of many not so lovely changes that pregnancy has wrought with my body. You moms know. You dads only know the parts your partner lets you know. Trust me on this.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Analyst says Palm Foleo falls short

Oh really? Apparently I missed my calling as an analyst for Gartner. See "I told you so" article about the Palm Faux-lio here entitled "Analyst says Palm Foleo falls short."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Amnesia days in Seattle

When temperatures are in the upper 70s to mid-80s here in Seattle as they were last week, I call them "amnesia days" because they make you forget about the cold, drizzly winter weather we have to slog through. Seattle really is amazing in the summer. You get the payoff for the winter and spring rain because it's so lush here with the super bright green trees, snow covered mountains in the distance, and bright blue water ringing the city (Puget Sound, Lake Union, Lake Washington, not to mention the various rivers and creeks nearby).

I took this picture Sunday from a coffee shop on Capitol Hill where I sat outside, ate a flaky croissant and worked on the computer with their free wi-fi. Bountiful free wi-fi: another reason I love Seattle.

The amazing little heat streak last week which was GREAT. Well, great for people like me who love it hot. For typical Seattleites, any temperature above 68 is considered "sweltering." I have to listen to them grouse in elevators, at bus stops and in meetings about how "unbearable" it is, as they speculate about how soon it'll get back to "normal," meaning 55-65 degrees.

Bleah, I say. When I hear them carping and fanning themselves and carrying on as if they were just plopped down in a parking lot in Phoenix in August, I just want to say, "Hey! Shut your moss-lovin' pie hole!"

Let those of us here who like it a little warmer than the inside of a refrigerator enjoy this all too short period while we've got it. You get 8-9 stinkin' months of what I consider misery to bask in plenty of rain, drizzle, and overcast skies so keep your whining to yourself.

In the middle of December, when I'm rechanneling flood water in the driveway away from the house or helping my husband fill our 15th bag of wet leaves of the day for yard waste pickup, you don't hear me moping about and complaining to anyone within earshot about how "unbearable" and "ridiculously cold and wet" it is.

I just put on another layer (preferably fleece), knit up another colorful scarf, make sure my gloves and hat are at the ready, wipe my snotty nose, and go on about my life, happy to have another healthy day above ground with my faculties intact, regardless of the temperature. You could be living in Iraq or even New Orleans, wondering if you'll get one or four hours of electricity today to run a fan or be able to turn on a light, or cook a meal for your family. So get some perspective and a cool beverage and keep it movin'! Sheesh. Okay. Rant over. Hope you enjoy the temperature in your city today. :-)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Lisbon castle rocks!

No really, it’s made of rocks. Okay, stones technically. But you get the picture.
I'm finally getting back to my German Marshall Fellowship trip recap with this quick entry. Last time we chatted, I was in Lisbon, which has a long, tumultuous, interesting history with documented archeological finds in the city that stretch back to the neolithic era (7000 - 3000 BC). In fact, one of our group meetings there was with a reporter who had done stories about how often construction sites in the city hit ancient ruins as they demolish old buildings and begin new ones. That alone was fascinating given the U.S.'s relatively short history in comparison.

We visited several notable Lisbon locations that warrant mention. First was the Castelo de São Jorge on top of the highest hill in Lisbon. Although the castle dates back to the 10th-11th centuries, the oldest remains there date back to the 6th century BC. In 1147, the first king of Portugal conquered the castle and captured the city from the Moors. At that time, Lsbon was an important Moslem port.

Shyam from Atlanta, Jeff from North Carolina and Carrie from Chicago looking cool outside the castle walls in Lisbon.

Over the next 300 years, the castle played an important role in the life of the city on historic and celebratory occasions. For instance, actors performed the first Portuguese theatrical work there to mark the occasion of the birth of future King Joào III. The castle was declared a national monument in 1910 and it was restored during most of the 20th century.

Portions of the castle still looks as rustic as they did in its heyday, with self-guided tours of the towers, lookout points, former moats and all the nooks and crannies that make ancient stone structures so interesting to see and touch.

Panoramic view from outside the castle

However, the castle has been "enhanced" for modern tastes and expectations and now includes a multimedia exhibition, gallery, a café and restaurant, gift shop, and concession stands. It seemed a little Disney-esque, but still impressive nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's here: the Foleo future of Palm

Okay, I hopped up this morning all psyched to see the future and it turns out the future is already in my tote bag. Here's the deal. Palm founder Jeff Hawkins announced the next generation Palm device is a smartphone companion that is similar to an ultra-portable laptop. It's called the Palm Foleo and it's shown below next to a Treo. Palm announcement site is here. Write up from the D5 conference announcement is here.

I guess it's sorta cool if you don't already have a laptop but I do. And it rocks. See it over there. In fact, it's nearly the same form factor as the "next gen" Foleo and I already carry it with me most everywhere. So as the Engadget site pointed out: "Damned if we need yet another friggin device." Hear, hear.

Almost two years ago, after one too many trips through airports lugging a gigantic, employer-provided laptop that left me with sore arms and and an aching back, I vowed that my next laptop would be the smallest thing out there that I could afford. After much research, I settled on the Sony VGN-TX670P, a 2.8 pound wonder that has stood me in good stead ever since.

In addition to the expected suite of Microsoft productivity programs bundled with it, I've also used it to create mini-movies and slideshows set to music. It's no gaming marvel, but neither am I and that's not what I bought it for. I spend 95% of my time on it doing desktop publishing, text content creation and editing, internet browsing, and e-mail, with picture downloads and edits, and the occasional DVD viewing session thrown in for good measure.
So here's a comparison table I put together of the main highlights of the two machines.
Device Palm Foleo Sony TX-670VGN
Screen 10-inch screen 11.1-inch wide-screen display
Weight 2.5 lbs 2.8 pounds (3.5 pounds with AC adapter)
Keyboard full-size keyboard Considered smallish/cramped (but I like it fine)
OS Linux Windows XP
Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF Create, edit Word and Excel docs, view but not edit PPT. PDF viewer Full versions of each program included
Email Can read, create, edit using VersaMail or Outlook Mobile. Future iteration of the device will allow e-mail over Wi-Fi to do e-mail Outlook, webmail
Web connectivity no built-in network connectivity, but relies on its host smartphone to connect via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi
Boot up Instant on Several minutes
Battery life Five+ hours of use 6.6 hours in drain test by ZDNet.com
Other USB port, video-out port, headphone jack, and slots for SD and compact flash cards for memory expansion DVD/CD player/burner, 60GB Hard drive, two USB 2.0 ports, four-pin FireWire, VGA video out port, PCI Express card slot, headphone jack, Sony Memory stick slot, SD card slot
Price $499, after an introductory $100 rebate. $2,100 almost two years ago

Although the laptop cost more, I also get more, can connect to the VPN at work, and do lots of other tasks with the numerous programs that are already installed. And, if needed, I can also connect my phone to it and use the unlimited data plan I already have on my Treo to connect to the internet, which is essentially what the Foleo does. So consider me completely underwhelmed by the Foleo. For me, it feels so...2005.