Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Big sister, bigger brother

Here's a shot of the newest addition at 10 days old and already catching up to his petite big sister. I may start a separate savings account to cover his future food bills.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dad and son

Dylan arrived 12/8 weighing in at a chunky 9 lbs. 14.8 oz. My apologies on delayed post. I took a social media break to get adjusted to this new little one.

He is very mellow and is putting on weight like a pro. His big sister is enthralled and adores him but is having some terrible two issues (not her usual cooperative, helpful self and wants to do EVERYTHING herself, whether it's within her abilities and my patience level or not) that we're grappling with.

Those issues aside, we are LOVING the new addition. Non-cell phone pix to come.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Five days overdue

This is what it looks like: a woman trying unsuccessfully to smuggle a medicine ball.

I wake up every morning to Snap, Crackle and Pop. No, not the cereal. That's the sound my pregnancy-loosened joints make as I side-roll/hoist myself out of bed like a whale trying to un-beach itself.

Truthfully though, other than being really tired and short on stamina (and non-polyester/elastic clothing), I feel fine. Like I did 2-3 months ago.

No massive swelling turning the ends of my legs into "cankles," no headaches, major pains or other discomforts. I'm even still working, because If I'm not in active labor, I'd rather be working and saving up my leave for when the baby's really here, not home on the couch watching Ellen and "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" marathons. After all, that's what Saturdays are for. ;-)

I'm at Antipartum testing right now just making sure baby's movin' and groovin' okay since he's being all reluctant about joining us. So far so good: lots of kicks and rolls like he's trying out yoga poses in there. Ultrasound is up next, which is always cool. More news soon hopefully.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Playtime

I'm on unpaid furlough today so we're at storytime at a local toy store. Ava's playing mommy to twin dolls and losing herself in the wall of plush animals. I may soon need to pry some fluffy thing from her wail-enhanced grasp.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween 2009

Ava the bee and Natasha

"Let me get this straight: I dress like this and people give me candy? That it hilarious!"

Saturday sushi

We hit a new sushi spot in Seattle's Columbia City neighborhood called Wabi Sabi. Affordable, filling and delicious.

Ava loved her edamame, miso soup and the kid's bento box. It had teriyaki chicken, rice and a small seaweed and cucumber salad.

Watching her sip out a glass without spilling, eating the pre-opened edemame and happily sipping her soup with little assistance or fanfare, Jason said, "Man, I don't think I could do that until I was about four."

Still, he nearly choked when she appeared on the verge of maneuvering a piece of chicken into her mouth with the chopsticks. Yeah, she's pretty good, but not THAT adept. We set her up with a fork and she was good to go, with more food in her mouth than on the table by meal's end.

I know it's just standard kid development, but it's very nice to be at a point where we're able to go out for a meal and she's pretty self-regulating.

Also, it's not like one description I read in pre-kid days that said good practice for going out with a kid was to take a wild goat to a store and pay for everything it ate or damaged. Thankfully, our goat is pretty civilized and rarely damages anything.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Noticing an equine theme

We hit the Lakeside School rummage sale today and I made the mistake of inadvertently strolling down an aisle chock-a-block with stuffed animals. Hence our latest equine acquisition "Duke."

I just shipped a giant box of baby clothes to a sister-in-law, so I think I'm within my self-imposed stricture of "If you buy something, something has to go." Giddy up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Letters and emails and faxes, oh my! Behind the "Letters to the President"

Those who love letters and communication might be as intrigued as I was by this cool video from the White House about the 10 letters President Obama reads from the public every day to stay in touch with America's issues and concerns.

According to the site: "Letters to the President" is an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the process of how those ten letters make it to the President's desk from among the tens of thousands of letters, faxes, and e-mails that flood the White House each day.

The video has several neat factoids, such as, each week, the president receives about:
  • 65,000 letters
  • 100,000 emails
  • 1,000 faxes
  • and 2,500-3,500 calls per day
Video runs 5:54 - http://www.whitehouse.gov/video/Inside-the-White-House-Letters-to-the-President/

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Major project complete, rest ahead

Just over 48 hours after it was proposed, a big
media event I was tasked with organizing has taken place.

I worked the phonea and wrote many, many documents and e-mails to coordinate w/a cast of thousands behind the scenes to make it happen: reps from our county including two councilmembers, three cities, one govt. entity, attorneys and others.

In the end, the rain held off and it was a success! Lots of TV and radio coverage, great video and audio (why yes, driver of the loud, beeping backhoe/sandbag mover, it would be nice if you paused for six minutes while they speak. Thanks much!).
I'll be celebrating with a large, hot beverage as I head home to focus solely on my daughter instead of dividing my attention between her and my Blackberry for the first night this week. I know: the glamour overwhelms, doesn't it? ;-)
Sent from my Nokia phone

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heaven: thy name is quiche

Disappointed by yet another over-priced, under-flavored, flaccid slice of quiche at a coffee shop, I set out tonight to make my own low-cost, tasty version for breakfast tomorrow.

This one has sauteed mushrooms, onions and shredded zucchini layered with diced cooked breakfast sausage, sliced grape tomatoes and grated gruyere cheese. And a partridge in a pear tree. Ha! Kidding on that last part.

It's pretty hearty but I need protein, iron and calcium these days. And instead of half and half and five eggs as called for in the recipe I used as a basis for it, I used whole milk and three eggs, so it's not a total heart bomb, but I'll see how it turns out when I cut a slice in the morning.

Update: it was all meaty, cheesy, protein- and veggie-filled perfection and just what I was hoping for.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Park playtime

We're enjoying the mild fall weather at a local park that's been taken over by a local bilingual preschool class. Ava is fascinated by all the kids but doesn't want to get too close. Kinda like seeing wildebeest on safari.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Post-birthday superstar!

This little girl is a hoot! Here she is modeling some of her birthday finery. The glasses are her own special addition. Gift she squealed the loudest about? The stuffed pink pony. What occupied her attention the longest after the gifts were unwrapped? The tangle of colorful ribbons. Of course.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Lions at the gate and fresh meat answering the door

At your workplace, does your first line of public contact really know your company? For most companies and organizations, their front desk staff may be the lowliest person on the organizational chart, but they're really one of the most important.

This point was reinforced for me recently when I called a large, local business trying to reach someone who could provide some specific clarifications about their product. The person answering the phone (who I later learned was an intern) transferred me to seven (!) different people before I finally reached someone in the know. Each time, she prefaced the transfer with, "Um, okay, I'll try this one." She had no idea what each one did and didn't know what their titles meant when I suggested options.

When I finally reached a real person who knew something, I told them about the difficulty I'd had reaching them. His reply? "Well she's an intern and you know, good help is hard to find." I'm not sure how much he was joking but really? In this recession?!

Having done my time as that phone answer or receptionist, I know it's usually not the most exciting position and often requires that you take the brunt of a complaint from a disgruntled customer. But it does give you an opportunity to really help people and give them an impression of what your organization or company is about.

I work for a government agency and I'm often forwarded a call from a resident unhappy with some aspect of the agency's service, or more often, just frustrated that they can't reach anyone who can help them solve a specific problem or answer a question.

Answering these questions or helping them find the right person is not part of my job description. But I feel it's one of those things that falls under the category "other duties as assigned." I always hear them out, figure out who can help them, offer to call them back in a few minutes if I can't figure it out quickly, then connect them with the right person and give them my direct number and full name in case they need to follow up.

Often, the department or person they're having a problem with isn't even my own and they just need help navigating a confusing bureaucracy. Again, not officially my job, but certainly part of being a public servant in my book. And the few minutes it takes out of my day is certainly worth it when I hear, "Thank you so much! You're the first person who's taken the time to help me. You've restored my faith in government." Hey: glad to help!

While snazzy websites can do a lot to present a company's image to the world, I suspect some businesses spend more time haggling about the placement of a button on their website than about the skill level or appropriateness of their reception or other staff that interacts with customers.

However, more companies should realize that the person in that spot and the customer service approach of the entire staff is just as important as their website in providing an impression of what their business is about, how it handles things and whether it's a place to which customers will want to provide repeat business or to which they'll refer friends and associates.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

PDX, Paul Bunyon and politics

Some interesting Oregon updates I just ran across. When I worked in TV news, I lived in Portland for a couple years as I made my way back up the I-5 corridor from Medford, Oregon home to Seattle. I started out in an apartment and eventually bought my first home in the Kenton neighborhood in North Portland.

Some folks know it as the place with the towering statue of mythological lumberjack Paul Bunyan (photo courtesy of http://www.neighborhoodnotes.com/). A fitting icon in a state built inlarge part on logging in decades past.

Others know it as the neighborhood that's also home to the Dancin' Bear Bare strip club (and yes, that's how it's written on the sign).

Whichever memory aid works for you, it was my 'hood in Portland: working class, a little rough around the edges, but I felt, on the upswing. Apparently, I was right, just a bit early back in 2001.

According to the Oregonian newspaper, the neighborhood's getting some revitalization money: Amid face-lift, Kenton values small-town feel.

In other Oregon news, former governor John Kitzhaber is back on the scene and planning to run for governor again. Although he served two terms as governor from 1995-2003, Oregon’s constitution only prohibits governors from serving more than two consecutive terms or more than eight years within a 12-year time frame.

I met Mr. Kitzhaber when I was a reporter in southern Oregon and he always struck me as a reluctant politician who eschewed partisanship and served for the right reasons: because he had good, innovative, progressive ideas, and wanted to work with others to make things better for as many people as possible, not just a select few.

He's a former emergency room doctor who helped write the Oregon Health Plan . After he left office, one of his projects was (from Wikipedia) launching the Archimedes Movement, an organization seeking to maximize the health of the population by creating a sustainable system which uses the public resources spent on health care to ensure that everyone has access to a defined set of effective health services.

When he was in office, one of the criticisms of his tenure was that he didn't work well with the Republican-controlled legislature during his term. Not sure how he'll approach that this time around, but he seems like just the kind of politician we need in the fray these days.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Evening swimming

Our last night of evening swimming in Dallas. 7pm and 85 degrees. Aaah: perfect.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dallas World Aquarium

I considered going to the Ft. Worth Stockyardds for the twice daily cattle drives down the middle of the street. But my aunt was more partial to the aquarium option.
So we headed to Dallas World Aquarium which had fish, birds, reptiles, spiders and penguins! It was like air conditioned animal kingdom and Ava loved it. My favorite? The walk-through shark tank tunnel. Wish I'd had a Jaws theme ringtone to enhance the mood.

Dallas chicas

Hanging in the a/c in Dallas.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Portrait of an artist at work

Looks like that kid-friendly book on the life of Georgia O'Keefe has provided inspiration to our tiny artiste. Thankfully, no hints yet of her being a lonely, tortured soul. She woke up this morning, grabbed us in a double neck hug and proclaimed, "I love you guys!" Right back atcha little bunny.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Snail mail under seige: USPS looks to cut service

The New York Times has a story about how the "Increasing Postal Deficits Intensify Talks on Solution." One option? Cut delivery service to five days per week, eliminating Saturday mail and potentially saving more than $3 billion a year.

As a person who loves writing, fountain pens, and handwritten letters, this makes me sad. In fact, it's renewed my fervor for letter writing and journaling, which has almost completely fallen by the wayside since I became a working mom. There just do not seem to be enough hours in the day to feed the beast at work, feed and spend time with my family at night, and carve out "me time" for things like writing letters to friends and chronicling life's weekly ebbs and flows.

But you make time for the things that matter, right? So now that Ava's getting bigger, more verbal (latest words? "Sometimes" and "I guess"), I'm sharing my love of writing with her.

I don't use pencils, so she's learning how to use a fountain pen, ink pens and markers without stabbing herself or anyone else in the eyeball, or ruining nearby clothing or furniture. Only a couple times have I had to explain, "Pens are for paper, not tables or walls or couches, right?" Given that boundary, an unlimited supply of legal size sheets or left over scratch paper from me and her dad, she's been fine and is content to happily scribble away at my side or while sitting on our laps as we read or catch up at the end of the day.

"Dear Santa, I know it's July but..."

Ava making edits on my letter.


I was also poking around online and realized I'm not the only one who loves writing, pens and snail mail. I found the following pen and snail-mail-centric blogs. How cool is that?! I'll be adding these to my feed reader pronto.


I also just refilled a pen and pulled out some paper I've been saving for when inspiration hits. Today's as good a day as any. And sure, e-mail and Twitter and blogging are faster, but really, have you ever opened your e-mail with the same sense of anticipation that you have opening an unexpected letter from a friend? I think not.

So why not sit down tonight before the USPS goes under or stamps go up again and jot off a few lines on a piece of paper or a card to a friend just to say, "Hey, I thought about you today and hope you're enjoying the summer or life finally free of that deadweight or the Mariners this season" or whatever. As one writer said, "I hate writing, but love having written." I would add, I love having received a written letter.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Support on Click: if it walks like a scam and talks like a scam...

A couple nights ago, I got one of those annoying telemarketing calls from a guy claiming to be from a company called Support On Click offering to "check out your computer and fix the problems you are having if you would just go boot up your computer and click the start key..." The Indian accent, cold call and strange area code didn't add up.

Being impatient to finish dinner and figure out what this was about, but also curious about something so clearly BS, I interrupted immediately: "Before I do that, what exactly are you asking me to do?" He explained that he could remotely access my computer to "fix any problems and make sure it's all updated with the latest software. You just need to go to your control panel to arrange the remote access settings."

Riiight. I'll get right on that as soon as I put my bank PIN, credit card numbers and all my online passwords on business cards and hand them out to passers by, preferably ones exiting any local criminal justice facility and looking kind of shady.

I let him go on for a bit, frankly amazed at the brazeness, and finally just asked, "Do you think people are really that stupid? Do you actually get people to give you, some random caller, remote access to their computer? Even if I WAS having problems with my computer, I'd contact my ISP or computer manufacturer, not let some random person tinker with it over the phone."

He started to sputter, "No, no, we are Microsoft-approved, better than the manufacturer..." Yeah, and I can fix a broken carburator with a butter knife, some baling wire, a tube of super glue and a stick of chewing gum.

Bottom line? It's a scam preying on folks who aren't great with computers. Here's a great write up from One girl’s technology world, a blog written by a tech savvy woman in Australia who checked the company out and a follow up police alert identifying it as a scam. There are a ton of message boards with entries about this scam and people who, unfortunately, didn't realize it wasn't legit until they'd paid money for what is likely just spyware put on their computer, possibly to find and send important personal information, like credit card numbers and passwords to these shady operators, wherever they actually are in the world.

Never give personal info to people who call you or send you e-mail. If a message claims to be from your bank or financial institution, get the info, then hang up and call the number listed on your bank statement or credit card directly. Never click links supposedly from your bank if it claims that you need to "log in through this special link and verify your login and password." Banks don't do that. Just call them directly, tell them what you've received or heard and ask if there's any issue with your account.

Here are two good articles on how to avoid this type of scam - known as phishing:
This one's from CNET the computer experts and this one's from the Federal Trade Commission. Happy safe surfing!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Urban cowgirls

Our vet had a 25 yr. celebration in his parking lot w/food and farm animals.

The pygmy goats elicited a squeal of delight but the highlight for my pony-loving girl was the horseback ride. This is me and Ava on Little Red.

Getting on was easy with the handler's help. Going over the steeples was a little tougher.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wild haired al fresco brunch

It's about 75 degrees already today, edging towards a likely 80+, so we opted to have brunch on the patio.
It's too nice of a day to delay the meal just to put a few hairs in place to hang in our own backyard, so we're disregarding my child's extremely wild bed head.
Menu: egg sandwich on toasted whole grain w/a slice of Dubliner Kerrygold cheese, Johnsonville breakfast links (are they publicly traded? Because we should own stock), red and green seedless grapes, Rainier cherries (yes, Ava can get the pit out on her own), and the requisite cup of whole organic milk. Man, is it snack time yet? I'm suddenly hungry again.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Beignet day

About once a year, I indulge my neverending craving for the cinnamon sugar dusted, fried dough concoction known as beignets. Since they have origins in New Orleans French culture, I'm counting their ingestion as a cultural experience for Ava since we're part Creole. C'est très bon!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Shock and awe

Introduced Ava (wearing my sandals) to the concept of eating olives off of her fingertips. By the delighted look of awe on her face you'd think I showed her a shortcut for nuclear fission in our kitchen. Toddlers are way too fun.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ava plays the name game

At one year and nine months (21 months), having heard many conversations among the adults in her life, my daughter Ava has figured out that grownups have different names, as evidenced by the video.

It's a neat developmental milestone, but a little disconcerting to have this tiny being who seven months ago couldn't even propel her own body across the room unassisted turn to me and say, "Tasha? Tasha? Juice?"

Yeeeaaah... um, no. It's still 'Mommy' to you little bean. Or as Jason put it, "I'm not on a first name basis with 21 month olds."

I have friends whose two year old already follows yes and no with sir or ma'am. We're pretty informal out here on the West Coast so I don't think we'll be going that route with Ava, but I do want her to talk respectfully to adults.

I remember visiting relatives in the south when I was a teen. After answering some question with "Yes," an elder demanded, "Yes what?"

"Indeed?" I suggested, more to be humorously meddlesome than disrespectful.

We'll fine tune the respectful language as Ava begins to use more of it, but in the meantime, I'm just happy she articulates well enunciated and appropriately used yeses and nos (rather than yeah and uh-uh) and that she's figured out if she says "Mommy?" six times in a row and doesn't get my attention, saying "Tasha?" certainly will.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Maximus-minimus lunch

Ran out for lunch to try this BBQ truck, which sets up shop weekdays at 2nd & Pike in downtown Seattle.

I spotted it from a block away by the giant silver pig-shaped truck and the line doubled back on itself with salivating customers-to-be.

The owner was out schmoozing the line and answering questions. Nice guy, interesting concept.

I opted for the pulled pork sandwich with sweeter minimus sauce (maximus is apparently like two stars in Thai cuisine. The minimus is like one), no slaw, with a side of vegetable chips, which appear to be deep fried potato slices, green beans, beets, and sweet potato.

I also had a ginger lemonade, which struck me as just right, despite the owner's warning that some people found it too tart, others found the hibiscus nectar too sweet, and he advised that both just need vodka.

It was all delish and well worth the trek and line, although to be honest, they had me at deep fried vegetables. Menu, hours, locations and more at their site: www.maximus-minimus.com

China makes it even harder to be informed

Crazy! From Www.informationweek.com: China To Require Filtering Software On PCs http://tinyurl.com/l5y4tw

NPR had an eye-opening story related to this last week about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprisings. There were young Chinese who either did not believe it really happened or didn't believe their government would have committed acts of violence against its own people unprovoked.

This was attributed to the lack of accurate, information inside China about the event that hadn't been "sanitized" by government censors. It's not even mentioned in history classes! Amazing.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Ava grooves after her bath

I usually play music on my phone while we do Ava's bath. This night, we finally had a camera closeby to catch her shaking her groove thing. Perhaps I should introduce her to Shakira's Hips Don't Lie.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Critics: Michelle Obama should cook more too

A friend sent me a link to this Slate magazine article "Organic Panic" about how agribusiness and others are carping about the organic garden Michelle Obama had installed on the White House lawn and "the message it sends" that organic is better than conventionally raised foods. Right. Head. Throbbing.

Michelle Obama and school kids plant the organic garden at the White House

From the official White House Flickr stream

Anywho, according to Slate, in addition to their issue with whether touting organically grown food is good (like that 'complaint' passes the stink test), there are also those who are bothered that since she's pushing fresh, local food, she's not also pushing home cooking. "The main criticism: She should cook, too."

Seriously?! I don't even run a household for the leader of the free world and I would drop cooking nightly dinner in a heartbeat if I could, as I did tonight (Thanks J.!).

Are these critics for real? What's she supposed to do? After visiting schools, giving speeches, and hosting dignitaries all day, then prepping for the next day's work on behalf of the country and underserved constituencies, she should head to the White House kitchen and elbow the trained chefs aside so she can work a little Rachael Ray action, all before the girls are home from school? Puh-leeze. Has this been a big complaint of previous first ladies too? I'd bet the closest Nancy Reagan ever came to the kitchen was the tour on move-in day.

And I'm not even going to get into how this harkens back to time worn stereotypes and realities of Black women as household cooks in homes that weren't even their own.

As one of my aunts told me when I said J. does his own laundry, "Good chile. And let him keep doin' it. We've done enough laundry for men in our lifetimes to cover you and everybody else for a while." I'd say the same goes for women (of any race) and cooking, if they are so inclined.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Resting in Denver

I'm in Denver for a long weekend visiting friends & extended in-laws. It's at least 85 today, otherwise known as PERFECT, so I'm eating fro-yo in Denver's Cherry Creek area while Ava naps in her adorable new, first ever sandals. Sign the recession is being felt here too: several vacant store fronts in this upscale area.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Re-inventing your career? Try these tips

The Seattle Association of Black Journalists (SABJ) held a Career Re-invention Workshop last weekend at the University of Washington aimed at any current and soon-to-be non-journalists or others considering transitioning out of or into journalism as it changes and figures out what it will look like in the coming years.

I had the pleasure of serving on the day's second panel, made up of people who make hiring decisions, to offer some advice to journalists on how to put their best foot forward in the interview or interview process. The panelists were Scott Battishill, Senior Vice President of internationl PR firm DDB; me, Rhonda Woods, Human Resources Recruiter for Seattle University; Susan Long-Walsh, owner of a recruiting firm, who has worked for companies like Microsoft and Starbucks; and  Jack Evans, Director of Public Relations for Legal and Policy Issues at Microsoft.

Here were some of the top tips offered. 

1.      Learn about and use new media and social media media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Understand how they can help you as an individual (networking, job research) and how they can help companies (connecting with customers, market research) you want to work for. LinkedIn can also help you research people and positions. Here’s a useful slideshare on it Using LinkedIn in Your Job Search and Guy Kawasaki’s Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn to Find a Job.

2.      Make sure your resume conveys your transferable skills, not just titles, companies, and job-specific jargon, especially if you’re trying to transition to a new field or a job very different from previous ones on your resume. This is also true in the interview. Assume your interviewers have no knowledge of what your past jobs entailed so paint a picture of what you did day to day and the skills involved.

When I was transitioning from reporting to communications, my resume had all my previous writing, reporting, and anchoring positions. Someone in the TV industry would know what that involved day to day. But one of my three interviewers, who was clearly not convinced I had the skills they were looking for, finally said, “I don’t own a TV so I don’t know anything about reporters. I thought you all just stood there and ad-libbed all that stuff you said.”

Umm, no. So I walked her through my day as a reporter: the story research, the source building, the contact with organizations, the outreach to experts and people who could provide insights for stories, the collaboration with a photographer and project management on longer-form pieces to get the right pictures, interviews and full-screen explanatory images to bolster the story, and through it all, the daily deadline writing. At the end of my explanation, she said, “Oh. Well I didn’t realize how involved it is. Thank you.” I got the job and had a great tenure there. I still see the people I worked with then and they remind me, “If you ever want to come back, we’d love to have you!”

3.      Be clear yourself about what you want in a new job. Is a long commute a deal-breaker? Then don't bother applying to the position that's an hour away with traffic. You’ll spend the weekends dreading Monday and hate the job the moment you sit at your desk.

Also evaluate the culture of the place and whether it matches what makes you tick. If you’re hard-charging and they talk a lot about how laid-back it is, you might want to ask more questions to decide if it’s really the place for you to spend 40+ hours of your life each week. Being the impatient person in a meeting of ditherers or the person who wants to walk through the options a couple more times while everyone else is off and running on the next task will get old quickly.

4.      Quantify what you’ve done. Number of projects completed on time and on budget. Number of stories researched and written each week. Dollar amount of coverage you secured for your company. Number of events you planned and number of attendees or amount of media coverage. Numbers help people put things in context.

5.      Give examples of your skills. Tell stories. Review your old performance evaluations to refresh your memory on projects and successes you’ve had before interviews so that you have examples to share that help you sell your skills. Whether you’ve had a short or long career, you’ve probably forgotten some of the big projects you worked on and how you contributed. Examples help you show what you’ve done and what you can do for another company or organization.

One candidate I interviewed had great examples in response to questions about her skills. She said, “Yes, I have a lot of project management experience. Week to week I always have at least two on-going, multi-part projects that I’m moving forward. I get out my excel charts and track each step so that I don’t miss anything and I can see what’s left to be done or who I need to contact to keep it moving. One recent example was a major outreach event I coordinated for one of our divisions. I planned the event, contacted all of the participants and third-party validators and followed up to make sure they would be coming, and created the publicity pieces for it in coordination with our staff. I also did outreach to local media to get coverage. I also coordinated with staff and gave them talking points on all of the improvements we were announcing so they would be prepared if they were interviewed.

On the day of the event, I put up signs directing people to the staging area, made sure all the speakers stayed on schedule, then I took the media on a tour of the facility and did a number of interviews with them and connected them with staff, volunteers and other participants for interviews. In the end, stories on the event ran in two papers, two TV newscasts, three high traffic community blogs, and one local radio news program. It was a lot of work but it was so much fun pulling all of those pieces together!” She told a story that conveyed her expertise, her initiative, her project management ability and her positive attitude. She got the job.

6.      Increase or develop new skills by volunteering or freelancing on a project-to-project basis. Many organizations have had to cut staff but still need help. Find a need and fill it. Author and freelancing expert Michelle Goodman's book and website www.anti9to5guide.com has great tips on working for yourself permanently or while you look for something else.

7.      Look beyond titles when you job hunt. Just as titles on your resume may not convey the full scope of what you did, a job listing title may not paint an accurate picture of daily duties. Especially in companies that use non-standard titles like “People Pleaser Extraordinaire” instead of Customer Service Manager. Read closely for key words that match what you’re truly looking for in a position.

8.      The panel of hiring managers was mixed in its responses on whether cover letters were still useful. Some said they never read them, other said they always do but they agreed that if you do one, it should be (like your resume) targeted to the position and error-free.

Overall, the panelists and audience had great tips to share for journalists and anyone else looking to transition from one industry to another and the Seattle Association of Black Journalists did a great job of putting together the entire morning of panels, discussions and resume reviews. It was a pleasure to be part of it.

Be the change you want to see

I saw this quote in Oprah’s magazine recently and it perfectly captures how I’ve felt since Ava arrived. 

“In bathrooms, boardrooms, buses, bagel shops, and everywhere, we all need to imagine a little girl following us around, repeating everything we say and everything we do. Think about all the things you want for yourself and your daughters, granddaughters, and girls everywhere – and teach them by living it yourself.” – Nell Merlino, entrepreneur, former union organizer, author

Wearing our fleece, sharing cereal on the kitchen floor while we look out at the sunny, but cold weather.

Superstar!

It's like having a little shadow following me around, copying what I do, how I do it and taking copious mental notes. It's inspiring and daunting at the same time. How do I prepare her for a future that will likely be dramatically different from what I've known? Think about the advances and changes of the past 80 years and try to imagine what the next 80 will look like.  It's mind-boggling but I want to get it as right as possible for her so she can adapt to whatever life throws her way.

What lessons do you hope kids today are getting from their parents or caregivers?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hosed by Nokia e71

Back when I had a Palm, I learned the painful lesson of backing up my data on a regular basis when an upgrade to a new phone went horribly awry and instead of copying all my old data to the shiny new phone, I wiped over all of my old data. I felt a sick feeling in my stomach as I realized the years of calendar items, memos and contacts gone in the push of a button.

I did damage control as best I could, sending a plaintive message to everyone in my e-mail address book for new contact info. Still, I knew there were some people I would simply lose touch with because they'd only been listed in my PDA. I became a backup utility evangelist, strongly recommending/entreating everyone I knew to backup their phone/PDA to a card or a desktop or hard drive. If I drove in NASCAR, my ride would have been covered in logos for SanDisk, Fusion-Seagate and Maxtor.

Fast forward a few years and many backup utility tools later and I again find myself staring sickly into a smartphone that has done me wrong. This time, it's my formerly enjoyed Nokia e71. Despite backing up my phone's contents regularly to the microSD card, I recently lost the entire contents of my calendar while trying to delete a single recurring appointment.

"What a pain," I thought. "But lucky for me I ALWAYS backup my data. So even if I've lost a couple calendar items entered in the last few days, at least I have a copy from last week." Right? RIGHT?! 

When I tried to restore the entries, I discovered (to my horror) that the default settings for the card backup application only back up images, sound files, video clips, documents and MIDP apps to the card, but not the calendar, contacts or messages!

Excuse me? What coder/engineer decided that in the event of some sort of catastrophic issue, the default setting for the most important data to be preserved on my phone would be the ringtone that sounds like a laser beam or perhaps a picture of daughter looking hilariously adorable in a hat while emptying a laundry basket, but NOT my calendar entries, contacts or SMS files?! WTH! To make it worse, I cannot find any menu for adjusting these properties. Aaaaaaggggh!

I've checked the user guide, forums, message boards, FAQ, etc., to no avail. I've e-mailed Nokia and look forward to learning something that will assuage my fears of continuing to use this device's backup tool.

UPDATE: Here's what Nokia had to say. First they wrote back and said the solution to my problem was to back up my data in the future using the Nokia PC Suite, which of course does not address my problem of being unable to backup my contents to the microSD card in the event that I need to do a restore when I'm away from my computer, which has happened several times over the years with other PDAs, namely Palms. 

Palm's Backup Buddy included the option of fully restoring everything from the card. Unfortunately, Nokia's tech support folk wrote that the backup application on the e71 cannot be modified to include the calendar, messages and contacts. Grrr.
Dear Natasha, Thank you for your response. I'm sorry that your original inquiry was not addressed in our previous e-mail to you. However, I am more than happy to assist you. Natasha, your Nokia E71 does not have any settings that can be adjusted to change what information is backed up to your microSD card. Also, there is not a way to save your calendar to your memory card, but there is a way to save your contacts and messages to your memory card. I have provided the steps below.
So, note to self: try not to break or lock up your PDA if you're ever away from your computer. And keep watching for announcements of availability for the unlocked Palm Pre.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Future student

I don't think I'll have to worry about Ava's school readiness. Not only is she already sitting flipping through books with a knowing look as if she's assessing the narrative arc and plot development (Ava on Pat the Bunny: nice!), her vocabulary is growing almost daily and she's starting to be bored with some of the shorter books in her collection.

She also loves this backpack my parents bought her when she was literally about 14 months old. She had barely started walking and would bop around the house with it on.
Note the scary-ish happy monster on the back. Yes, that is a matching coin purse.
I hope she loves school as much as I did. I loved it so much, I once ran six blocks, crying, chasing a school bus I'd missed. Only to catch it, out of breathe and sweaty and discover... it wasn't my bus. I trudged back home, dejected and had my dad call the late bus for pickup.

Needless to say, I was not a kid who my parents had to harangue to get going in the morning. In fact, since I was bussed to the other side of the city for many of my school years, including a two hour public bus ride from middle school on, part of my morning routine was to wake my parents up for work before I went to catch the bus and to let them know I was leaving. Fun times.
I don't know what Ava's school years will look like but I hope she has this same smile on her face when she heads off to school in less than 4 years.

Mom's night out

After a busy day at work, it's Mom's night out. Bookstore, reading by Heather Armstrong and a slice of quiche w/bacon and gruyere. An awesome trifecta! Always nice to hear from a mom who acknowledges some of the downside (in her case, many downsides) to mothering an infant. So I'm live-blogging this.

Having never been to this bookstore before, I came a bit early from my board meeting to get some food and roam the aisles. Because I don't care where it is, if you put me in a bookstore or library anywhere in the world, I'm at home. 

After roaming a bit, I bellied up to a table with my laptop, quiche and a beverage to people-watch. Within a few minutes, I'm 98.3% sure I'm the only person here w/any melanin. Not even someone with a slight tan! Interesting. But then, it IS Seattle in March. Oh, I stand corrected: there's an Indian couple... aaand they're leaving. Make that 100% sure.

This place is packed! I was able to snag a chair but many folks are standing in the back. See that distant figure with the lovely pregnant glow in the image below? Yep: Heather. She's quite funny and she talks like she writes, or vice versus. Either way, lots of laughs already.

Okay, logging out to immerse myself in the hilarity.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The more things change...

I've been home sick, laid up with coughing jags, nose blowing and a general feeling of miserable-ness. The older I get, the less frequently I get colds but when they do hit, they pack a punch. The one bright spot this week has been the extended time hanging out with Ava. She is a fun kid! She walks around "talking" about things in the room, brings me books to read to her, tells me when she wants more or no more of food, and generally is a happy little camper whenever she gets to spend time with me. 
Taking this time prone on the couch to organize some digital photos on the laptop warming my stomach, I found these pictures: one with me holding 3-day old Ava fresh from the hospital, and one from last week. Note the similarities: mom, content/napping baby, laptop. Amazing how much has changed and how much consistency there is in these snapshots of our lives 18 months apart. This is still Ava's favorite spot in the whole world. And mine. :-) 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Editing on iPhone: This is news?

The New York Times reports that iPhone users will get cut, copy and paste ability at long last this summer after a software upgrade. Uh, I've had this feature for at least 9 years since my first Handspring/Palm PDA in 2000. What's next? MMS (multimedia messaging service)? Oh, still doesn't have that either except through 3rd party work arounds? Remind me again why this device is worth camping out for?

Granted, I have had my share of days drooling over, scrimping and saving to get the lastest sparkly tech tool (Previous: Treo line from Palm. Latest? Nokia e71. Review: Nokia E71 Is a Legit iPhone Killer — We’re Serious This Time) and having a child has forced me to curtail my early-adopter tendencies in favor of less sparkly, non-sexy items like college funds and medical insurance co-payments. Still, call me a heretic, but me in the Apple store is like Elton John at Hooters: I don't feel anything for the iPhone. My mouth is not agape and it's definitely drool-free.

Now for all my cheerleading of Palm, I can admit it's not perfect either. In fact, with the Palm Pre announcement little more than rumors and blurry web shots last fall, I had to ditch my trusty Treo 680 after an incurable resetting glitch. But I passed my 650 along to my smartphone newbie mom and still keep the 680 for archival and nostalgia reasons.

I stuck with Handspring/Palm for nearly a decade because it captured all the tools and applications I needed in one handy, albeit slightly thick, package: phone, calendar, web access, laptop tethering using the PDA's unlimited data plan, SMS, MMS, MP3, camera, web radio, cut, copy and paste from every program to every program, QWERTY keyboard, and Microsoft word document creation and editing. It also grates cheese and can be used to flavor soup base. Kidding. But it was a workhorse for me and although I love having wi-fi now, I miss many of its innate charms, including the touchscreen.

Reading about the iPhone cut, copy, paste excitement (I'm still: "Uh, okay.") reminded me that content creation tools were a major part of the Palm's appeal - ones I feared I'd lost completely when I switched to the Nokia e71. It does most of what I need, but its cut, copy, paste function is a bit limited compared to the Treo line, forcing odd workarounds, like having to forward then cancel messages to make them editable for copying text (say a Fedex tracking number), then pasting the number into the browser for tracking a package online.

On the Treo, I could used the touchscreen to copy a line of text in a web page to e-mail to a friend, easily copy and paste a web address (this has become more important with the advent of Twitter and TinyURLs), or highlight and copy a name or number to paste into a contact. These things can be done on the Nokia, but it's awkward, not intuitive, and requires multiple steps.

That said, the e71's wi-fi and ability to run multiple applications at once and hardly make a dent in the crazy-long battery life are huge improvements over the Treo. But even here, I miss the ability to charge the PDA through the USB synch cable. Treo could, Nokia can't.

I know that everyone's "perfect" device is subjective and a personal decision, like deciding what constitutes the "perfect jean." For now, the Nokia has most of what I want in one sleek, speedy package.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Ava update: sleep trouble, spray cream and smiles

Life is grand with our nearly 1 1/2 year old. New words are coming along weekly, including wow, what?, nice, mice, up, yay!, doggie, and my personal favorite: book. 

We did have a rough week sleep-wise with Ava, possibly due to molars coming in and the transition from two naps per day down to one. The upshot has been lots of tossing, turning and waking up for no apparent reason throughout the night. Well, for her and me. J. can somehow snore through a writhing toddler next to his head. Grrr. It's no picnic for her and it's particularly hard on me since I've always been a light sleeper and have trouble staying asleep even under the best conditions. There have been several nights with less than five hours sleep for me, making the whole working mom thing more like the walking dead.

One thing that has helped Ava during the half days she spends with my mom is having a little bed/couch to call her own so that she can get some solid naps when she does go down. We finally snagged one for our place this week to try to transition her to her own bed. 

She loves having a piece of furniture just her size that she can open and close on her own. And now that she's bigger (about 23 pounds) having one at our house like the one at my parents' means some consistency and it means that J.'s Great Aunt who lives with us no longer has to hold her while she naps when she's visiting with her, although I think she loves holding Ava as much as Ava loves being held. 
Although it's branded with the kid Diego from the Dora the Explorer program, it's less annoying to me than the ones slathered with disproportionately shaped and non-diverse princess characters.  And of course, it's NOT PINK.

In other news, I had the pleasure of introducing Ava to spray whipped cream this week. Suffice to say, it will henceforth be known as Toddler Crack at our house.