Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Jim Cortese

This was a friend who past away a few days ago. I had worked with him early on in my career as a usability person.

I had been out of touch with him for a few years, especially the last year and a half when he struggled with cancer. But I would see him now and then in passing. I always made it a point to get in his line of sight to say hello. Just knowing Jim and having him acknowledge you with a "hello", or "how are you", made my day.

Jim was a recluse and confident about it. But once confronted with social activity (talking to him in his office or at meetings), he was receptive and jovial.

The early days of my usability career were memories that remind me of being 'carefree'. Our group then, five of us, were in touch with each other and hoping to make differences in our workforce. Jim was a big influence for me for how I would work -- and continue to work -- in this field.

But the one thing I admire about Jim was his casual and relaxed demeanor. He knew what was important in life and he didn't sweat the unimportant stuff. It was obvious that his kids were the center of his life and THAT WAS WHAT WAS IMPORTANT. Work was work and although he was not lackadaisical about his work, he did his job and his expectation was that his contribution would follow through.

I would find out so much more at his memorial. But really, I learned more that he was indeed in love with his family (of course, who isn't?)...but he was and was dearly loved back by his family and his friends. I regret not seeing him in the last few years, but I did it because I was so concerned about his privacy. I had heard that he was self-concious about his previous surgery, which affected his speech, so I respected him enough not to barge into his office and ask him how he was doing. But, the e-mail that I meant to send to tell him how my thoughts were with him was never sent and thus, I'm left with the feeling of leaving myself out of the most important time in his life.

We heard so many different stories from Jim's co-worker, friends, acquaintences, and a fellow doctorate peer and they were all inspiring stories that I know made his beautiful wife and beautiful kids find peace that we experienced something about Jim slightly different than they did. But my friend Julie summed it up best when she said "Isn't it funny that we all heard different stories, but it's the same Jim that we all knew."

High School Musical

We took our daughter out to this musical at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium (RMA). She had seen the movie on the Disney Channel some time ago and when I saw that there was a musical about it coming to Raleigh, I decided to get tickets.

I knew nothing about this musical, except for being a Disney movie. But soon, I would hear my GOTR girls talk about having tickets for it. One girl even wore a shirt of a boy who is either from the musical or the movie.

So Tim and I took Cerina out for the show, but left Mia home with our babysitter. In retrospect, she probably could have joined us without being a problem.

The show was fine. It started out v*e*r*y similar to another high school musical that many may not know about: Grease. How's this for a spin on it: Boy meets Girl while on vacation. Boy goes back to his school and guess what? There's a new girl at the school who happens to be the same person he met while on vacation!

Well, that's where the obvious similarities break (but not end). Anyway, you can look up what the rest of the story is about. I soon discovered that I was probably one of the only two (Tim being the other) who knew nothing about this movie.

Tim and I have been to several shows at RMA, even Disney musicals like Beauty and the Beast. But the audience never reacted as this audience did when the show began.

Earth-shattering, ear-bleeding, GIRLY SCREAMS. It reminded me of what I heard when I saw old footage of fans going after Elvis, Michael Jackson, New Kids on the Block, 98 Degrees, and their like. Fortunately, Cerina wasn't doing the same, but her eyes shone in bewilderment, just as excited to be there as a few in the room.

Our seats were balcony seats, on the left side of the stage. I was glad to see we had front row seats, since we were oriented to the extreme side. I sat down and noticed that the two seats that Tim and Cerina had were in front of a 'window', which apparently was a 'code requirement' to prevent stupid people from falling down the stairs and over the balcony. Someone didn't test out their idea, because from where those two seats are situated, nothing but a big square see-through block was what could be seen. So essentially, you had to crouch down low enough so that you could view the show from the little window.

To top that off, once the lights went out, it was obvious that a big blob of something was on it, so not only was the view limited by the little window, but it was obscured more so by this big wad of unknown substance.

We were able to move over to the next aisle of seats, whose potential occupants were fortunate enough to miss the show. But Tim, on his way to get strong drink #2 (probably to just get through the show without banging his head against the window), he mentioned to our usher that the seats were crappy because there was a window with some sort of big booger on it. To which the nice usher replied "I didn't get you those tickets." Nice.

Anyway, we were lucky that the seats we claimed were never reclaimed -- since our other crappy seats were taken by some folks who apparently had even crappier seats than ours.

The music was just OK. Well, probably less than OK for me. I am not a big musical fan, but I can appreciate some of it. I can enjoy some of the music while there, but you can bet your sweet petootie I ain't buying the CD to listen at my own leisure.

Anyway, the music was not appealing to me. If it were not for my daughter, who loved being there, I would have enjoyed making barf faces, or emulating blood shooting out of my ears, but with respect to her, I held back and clapped when I was supposed to. I felt like a Step-ford Mother.

At some point during the show, I noticed a woman - a mom - nearby who was jammin'. I mean, she was jiggling in her seat and singing the songs like she was in the choir. I enjoyed watching her throughout the show. Towards the end, the cast came out into the crowd and danced and sang -- the crowd was even louder and screamier than any other time during the show -- but this woman danced right out of her seat -- just boogying her ass off. I thought "Hmmm...I bet I look like that when I go to those concerts at Walnut Creek" so I did my best to not be too judgmental. Remember "do unto others as they do unto you" or something like that.

The Eyes Have It

Spots is a little Dalmatian webkinz that my daughter owns. My other daughter has Katty-Kat, which is, well, a _cat_ webkinz.

Background Information:
Webkinz are the latest craze. They are stuffed animal toys that have a security code attached to each one. This security code then gets registered at the Webkinz website and voilà! there is now an interactive virtual (aka cartoon) image of the stuffed animal toy that one can interact with online. It can be fed, or one can play games to earn money to buy everyday animal needs such as: a bed, toilet, clothing, hats, shoes, chairs, etc. And, all sorts of food can be purchased to keep your webkinz alive, such as pizza, cake, ice cream sundaes, and similar healthy animal treats.

Nearly every girl on my Girls on the Run (GOTR) team had at least one. These became our mascots during our practices. Some girls brought two of the many they had at home. Cerina (the owner of Spots) often spoke about her friends who had ten of these things. Webkinz are the latest in a crazy fad that I would generally not want to be a part of. I boasted to my daughters about one lone GOTR girl who said she did NOT want one. But alas, after Spring Break, she excitedly told everyone about her newly acquired webkinz. The disease had made its way into the resistance.

My girls were not part of the resistance. I gave in and thus, Spots and Katty-Kat made it into our home. These two things received, and continue to receive, more attention and love than our dog Brenna -- and by all means, Brenna is very loved in our home.

The other day, I noticed a stuffed bunny and Spots on the floor. I didn't think much of it because, well, it's not unusual to see toys and stuff strewn across the floor anywhere in the house. Some days, I walk over it; other days, I yell for clean-up. This day was a good mood day, so I simply let the two toys enjoy each other's company on the floor.

Some time had passed as we (the family) gathered in the dining room, having jovial conversations about our days. Once we were ready to break up the party, I randomly mentioned to Cerina "Hey, you better check on Spots. I saw him lying on the floor upstairs. Better hope Brenna doesn't get to him."

I seriously did not think those words would be a premonition.

Soon, a painful wail came from upstairs. I quickly ran upstairs, knowing exactly what must have happened. There was Cerina, gingerly holding Spots, crying with so much pain.

I looked at Spots and at first, didn't notice anything wrong other than obvious dampness from dog spit. But alas, the poor dog's eye had been viciously removed.

For the next 20 minutes, Cerina cried uncontrollably...a WAILING and PAINFUL cry. I could feel her pain and wanted to cry too -- over a webkinz? But yes, it's true...my daughter was in severe emotional pain and it pained me to see that. Anytime I tried to help her feel better by talking about fixing Spots, or even the word "Spots", her tears would flood even more than they were already flooding.

At one point, she screamed "This is what happened to Max! She ate his eye too!!" Max being the first victim to the eye-eating mongrel.

Then a tender, memorable moment: First, Mia came over to Cerina (who was lying on the couch) and offered a pillow for her head. She asked her to rise a bit so she could place the pillow under her head for comfort.

Cerina was still crying uncontrollably, so Mia said to me "I'm going to play the piano and sing to her to help her feel better." And that she did.

Mia cannot play the piano, but Cerina has been taking lessons. So Mia got right up to playing - banging softly on the keys and making up a song as she played. I can't remember the lyrics, but it didn't really matter. She was in her own world now. The only goal, was to soften the blow of the attack on Spots.

Mia would then stop playing and would read the notes on the music sheets -- mimicking her sister's ability to learn sheet music. It was the most amazing, uplifting thing I've ever seen. It is one of those rare moments in life where one wishes there was an instant rewind to play it over and over again.

At some point, Cerina regained her composure. She never appeared angry at Brenna, who was completely unaware of the cruelty she inflicted on the household.

The next day, Cerina happily shared how one of her friend's webkinz had also been attacked by the family mutt, and it's eye was also the starter course for it's destruction. She seemed content that she was not the only victim of the stuffed animal-eye-eating family beast.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dos Taquitos

One of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh. Tim and I had frequented this place nearly eleven years ago, but after we had kids, it kind of fell off of our radar.

But as luck would have it, we would end up moving in a neighborhood that was a hop, skip and a jump away from the place. We even drag our kids to it, who are slowly acquiring a level of tolerance for the place.

The decor is very Cantina-barrio-like. It reminds me of places I went to in the Philippines. The lights are off with only Christmas lights and candles to light the way of the place.

The tables are rustic - some with graffiti written or carved into the table. Some have pictures embedded in them. I don't know who they are, but they look like people having fun. And these aren't pictures of folks coming to the restaurant -- their like friends and/or family photos. Oh and none of the chairs match.

There are sombreros and other hats hanging from the ceilings. All kinds of rustic "junk" that makes the place unique and kitschy.

The people there are so nice. It seems like they are the same folks from years ago, but I can't tell because the place is dimly lit. But does it matter? The mood hasn't changed over this many years and it feels like they know how to be customer-driven without being sterile.

There is always a line. Eleven years ago, there was a wait and it hasn't dropped over time. What is different is their 'paging' service. Instead of buzzers that light off and buzz, they give you a stuffed animal. When your table is ready, you hear over the intercom "Monkey, your table is ready". No list of names -- just what animal you have been given. You couldn't have asked for a more ingenious 'invention' than that -- so much more creative than those uninspiring buzzers. Most of the time, I worry that my buzzer is the one buzzer that is broken and will never go off. I start imagining a fight with the staff over being given a defunct buzzer and once my adrenaline gets pumping, the darn thing goes off and I feel like I need to jump for joy over the miracle of getting a table...but I digress...

The menu fare is not typical of our area's Mexican cuisine, IMO. The early years of our visits, the menu included one section -- more like a small column -- of the typical Speedy Gonzalez stuff. You know, two tacos, rice and beans; burrito, rice and beans, etc. The primary part of the menu focused on their unique entrees, some of which are still on the menu today.

But over the last few weeks, the 'typical' stuff has dropped from the menu all-together. They have nightly specials that have been different from every visit. I have to order the specials - they are the best deals.

The last special I got, well, I forgot the name, but it was three small corn tortillas, topped with beans, which was topped with carne asada chunks, which was topped with a barbecued shrimp, which was topped with avocado slices and then all was drizzled with a 'Mexican cream sauce'. Okay, let the imagination run wild, but IT WAS GOOD so I won't ask what was in the cream...

Along with the scrumptious dish was a choice of soup or salad. The soup is always different -- from the last visit's special to any other Mexican place in the area. Again, I don't recall the name of the soup, but it had corn in a very brothy broth, with Mexican cheese and other stuff that made it quite spicy, but not burning. At previous visits, I had a soup with Chorizo in it that was just as different and yummy. The salad is also quite good. The house dressing is some kind of cilantro vinaigrette that is to-die-for. The salad isn't iceberg either - a combination of quality greens that always includes some radishes (which seems to be a common garnish in many of their dishes).

The regular menu items are quite good and unique as well. The homemade tamales used to be a common request for me, but I just can't turn down the specials. They used to be wrapped individually in corn husks, but it's been awhile since I've had them, so I'm not sure they still do that. And although rice and beans are still the common sides, I strongly recommend the cilantro rice, which appears only on a few of the items on the menu, but can be requested as a sub to the regular rice.

Cilantro rice is green, most likely from the cilantro. It isn't very cilantro-tasting (to me), but instead, a nutty flavor overall. I can't have any other rice with my dishes except that.

Service is prompt and casual. We almost always have a male waiter who calls us 'amigos', as in "How's the food, amigos?" or "Can I get you some more alcohol, amigos?"

The downside: there are beautiful women working here but we always end up with a male waiter. But I don't think it's the restaurants fault, rather the curse that Tim carries with him, because we almost ALWAYS get a male waiter when we dine with him.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

FarmerJane, I Am Not

FarmerJane is one of a few common user IDs that I use. I like the way it sounds, but I can tell you, it is the antithesis of who I am.

I was reminded of this today when I noticed something moving within my screened porch.

It was a squirrel.

Part of one of the doors, on the screened porch, has screen that is loose, due to Brenna (our beloved mutt) tearing it away over and over to get through it. Now, it's just a pass-through screen and apparently, a squirrel found this pass-through but couldn't figure out how to get back out.

Since the squirrel couldn't figure out how to get back out, it was just scurrying around the porch. I was trying to figure out how I could help it out, knowing that the reality is that I would never set foot on the porch with some creature on it. My day started flashing before me: What am I going to do when I want to just sit out there this afternoon? Drinking my Corona Light, sitting and listening to my iPod, and enjoying the 'great outdoors' from the comforts of my own screened porch? Why does this have to happen to me? A SQUIRREL ON MY PORCH???

Fortunately, my husband hadn't left for his job so I played it off cooly when he came into the kitchen. "Hey, there's a squirrel on the porch." I was even surprised at how calm and cool I sounded.

He looks out on the porch: "Where?"

I kind of hope it's gone, but then I think, he won't believe me if that squirrel is gone. I peek out through the door looking for it and I see nothing but suddenly, movement from one of my plants makes my heart skip a beat. "There it is!!"

So, my man to the rescue. The squirrel gets 'squirreled' away and I have the luxury of sitting out on my porch, doing exactly what I had envisioned. But the incident reminds me of other very daunting events that took place in my life.

Turtle on the Deck
This happened at my previous house, before my beautiful children were born. I came home from work and looked outside the window to the deck and notice a big turtle roaming around it. I had no earthly idea how the heck that thing got up there, but our best guess was that our dog Soc had found it in the yard, picked it up and brought it to the deck. I frantically called Tim and told him there was a TURTLE ON THE DECK but all I heard was laughter. No respect for a real crisis but he did help it off the deck after he made it home.

Turtle under the Leaves
This happened last Easter, as I was 'hiding' eggs for the girls' Easter Egg Hunt. I was placing one of the eggs in a pile of leaves next to a tree when something poked its head out from the leaves. I screamed -- and I'm sure if it could, the turtle would have screamed. Granted, I didn't know it was a turtle. I think I may have thought it was a snake; for all I care, it was a sea-monster right in my own backyard. But I had the shivers the rest of the day anytime I thought about my meeting with that thing.

Squirrel-or-Bird stuck in my Car's Grill
I recall going to my car one morning and seeing something that looked like a plant or pile of leaves sticking out from my car's grill. As I got closer, I noticed it was in fact, animal in nature. Panic sets in, along with the shivers and retching. Tim (my savior) wasn't home and I am not a neighbor-kind-of-neighbor, so what did I do? What could I do? I got in the car and drove straight to work. All the while, I "see" people staring at me and my horror is that I have a squirrel's tail, or worse, its head, sticking straight out and staring at everyone I pass. These people must think I am a MONSTER for blatantly driving with a creature sticking straight out of my grill.

I get to work and I find a parkiang spot with bushes in front and I pull WAY UP so no one can see the hideous creature. I call Tim and explain this horrible discovery. Laughter. And a "i'll check it out when you get home." Seriously? I now have to drive back home with this thing?

So it turns out that I can be overdramatic (surprise) and that, although Tim did find a bird, it was barely visible unless you were close enough to the car to notice it.

So, the very idea that I desire having a 'farm' and having farm animals (okay, maybe just a cow) and planting a nice garden full of veggies and fruit is so absurd, but I *do* think about it. The reality is that I would have to hire someone to actually farm my land, which would me allow me to walk around and enjoy the fruits of their labor. I will just FREAK if I see anything other than my dog roaming around my farm.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Poetry in Motion?

Not really, but a great article for the anti-Bush in you:

Ode to a Stubborn Bush
http://www.newsobserver.com/105/story/565849.html

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tragic

I couldn't believe the number I had seen when I read "22 killed" during Monday's tragic event at Virginia Tech. When I clicked the link, the article had not actually been updated and it stated "2 killed" and for a millisecond I thought what a horrible typo. But, unfortunately, that indeed was the number at that time and as we all know now, it grew even worse.

It was shocking and yes, thoughts of Columbine hit me first. I remember Columbine pretty clearly and one of my memories from then was relating to the families who were home that evening without their children. The media had stated that the police were still trying to identify the victims -- that late in the evening -- and whether it was true or not, I was empathizing the hopelessness and emptiness and dread these families must have been feeling, knowing (but probably praying it wasn't) their children were victims of Dylan and Eric.

So those same thoughts hit me Monday. Parents frantically trying to contact their children. The dread that these families and friends must be feeling, and for many, the realization that their dread turns to horrifying sadness.

And now, the media is trying to lead "us" to believe something could have been done to prevent this. The fingers are starting to point: why was there a 2 hour gap between the first and second shooting? Why didn't VA Tech continue the lockdown? Why didn't anyone realize this guy was koo-koo?

Hindsight is 20-20 and we all can play armchair quarterback on what _could have_ been done to prevent this.

But seriously, would the proper authorities believe anyone who would say "this guy is going to go on a murderous rampage and kill 30 people"? I think not.

The same for Columbine and the same for 9/11. No one would believe two teenagers were REALLY serious about planting bombs and shooting their peers. What about suicide planes into the Pentagon and the World Trade Centers? How crazy would that have sounded BEFORE it actually happened?

I've seen reports since Columbine and 9/11 on similar plans being 'thwarted'. Where do I read these? Usually page three or four of the paper or minutes into a newscast. They aren't the headlines. Why? Because I believe no one actually believed these were really going to happen. But maybe they were stopped and hundreds of lives have been saved because of it.

Instead, the media, and the sheep who believe them, want 'us' to believe that if we actually made an effort, we could have stopped Columbine and now, the VA Tech tragedy.

I don't want to take away from this tragedy -- I would rather see a 2nd page blurb on "lunatic was planning a massacre at VA Tech and authorities thwarted his plans". But to now advertise that those who thought he was crazy should've done something about it is just plain silly, This happened because this guy was NUTS and it is HIS FAULT that at least 2 people are dead -- the other 30 two hours later (and I am purposely not including the gunman) may be questionable due to the two hour lapse, although I still stand by the fact that no one could ever believe what happened two hours later.

One of his professors booted him from her class and reported him to authorities. What would have the authorities done? There is no way to know someone would be capable of that and even if she said "He is capable of something bad", would anyone believe her?

I worked with someone who made me feel uneasy. He was not a total lunatic, but he was constantly insubordinate, resisting constructive criticism and continuing to create a tense working environment.

One morning, I sat in my chair and heard a pop. I looked under my chair wheels and found poppers (those subtle 'fireworks'). I know it was him and maybe it was a joke, but I didn't have a strong, good relationship with him and it really made me wonder what the heck was wrong with him.

I reported it to my manager, who blew it off as a joke and pretty much this 'overreacting female' thing. It was insulting that no one thought it was as strange as I thought it was and it was swept under the rug.

Sure, I'm still alive and he still works where I work and he hasn't hurt anyone (that I know of). But I'm cautious and I still think there's a screw loose in him. But I relate this story to VA Tech, Columbine, or any other tragic event. NO ONE WILL BELIEVE THAT SOMEONE IS CAPABLE OF BEING THIS HORRIFIC, or even a miniscule of this horror.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Actually, this is an article from one of the News & Observer columnists, A.C. Snow. I enjoyed it because 1) he apparently lives in my neighborhood and 2) he has a lot of sentiment in this article with regard to getting older and watching your neighborhood move into the next phase of its life.

Sell this House? Not in April
http://www.newsobserver.com/313/story/564423.html

I'm not sure how long this link will be available without registering...

Girls Rule

I have been coaching 14 girls, ages 8-10, for nearly 12 weeks for a 5K race. That race took place this past Saturday, April 14th. It was one of my greatest moments: to be there and see the excitement in these girls and the culmination of all their hard work they have done over the past three months.

It's been an amazing three months for me. It was my first time volunteering for something long-term like this and it was something I had wanted to do for a very long time. I decided this year I would do it and I am so glad I did.

I've learned a lot from being a part of this team. I originally thought that I would be coaching 'average' girls -- my definition of average being from an average economy class, possibly needing some sort of scholarship to help pay the $175 that this program costs (there are scholarships available).

Over the first few weeks, it occurred to me that these girls did not fit my stereotype. Instead, for the most part, these girls lived in the surrounding neighborhood of the school we meet at. The neighborhood is upper-middle to upper-class. I even felt like the fellow coaches I coached with were from that 'caste'. I was keeping an open-mind, but I couldn't help but think "Uh-oh. What have I got myself into?" This recalls a previous post of mine where I think of myself as a BCMiaWCS.

But I soon learned that these girls were just girls. I don't know for sure if they are the same as other 8-10 year olds from different economic structures, but they sure were fun and not a single one acted any different than I expected any other girl to act at their age. I also found that my coaches and I were more alike than I thought -- and any differences were not through any economic or high attitude standards -- just different types of people.

Anyway, the premise of this program, Girls on the Run, is to teach girls, ages 8-12 years of age, empowerment, strong self-images, and other emotional tools to help them deal with the pressures of being 8-12 years old. Along with these tools, we coach them to run with the goal of finishing a 5K race. That's the short version of the intentions of this program.

My view: a program to help train girls to run a 5K at their own pace, along with self-empowerment modules within it. In the end, running a 5K is total independence, with no competition except for what the individual wants to get out of it for themselves. I, of course, am a runner and I love it so I can't think of any other sport that could incorporate so much into one run (the race).

The girls were awesome on race day. Two of them ran competitively; the other girls ran recreationally -- which basically means two girls had a timing chip and their results are recorded 'officially' and the others did not.

The first girl from my group to cross was Mattison, who is definitely our sports aficiando. One of my favorite anecdotes regarding Mattison is when she introduced herself at one of our first meetings and she announced how she loved hockey: 'not watching it but _playing_ it.'

Next to cross was Mattison's friend, Ali. This was a big surprise for me because, even though Ali has shown herself to be a consistently good runner, she has never broadcast herself to be fast, competitive, or anything close to that. I couldn't have been more proud to see this talent come through on race day. I nearly cried -- which I swore I wouldn't do at the race -- when I took a picture of her with this written on her hand: "Pace Your Self". I get vaklempt just thinking about it. She is inspirational for me. Oh, and the first person she ran to when she crossed the finish: her mom. I needed a box of tissues...

The next few came relatively close together and it was a frenzy for me and Coach Corrie to meet/greet/congratulate/hug/take pictures and give them their medals all at once. But we did it.

Sarah C. was next. Another wonderful surprise because again, not one who showcases her running ability at practice.

Caitlyn came after Sarah. I have really admired Caitlyn for her sense of independence. She seems too young to be as sophisticated as she is, but I love it because she thinks for herself -- which is what I want my daughters to do. One of the modules we went over was regarding Peer Pressure and one of the stories had to do with not socializing with one of the kids in the class. During our meeting, one of Caitlyn's friends mentioned how she stopped making fun of the kid because Caitlyn had 'announced' to her peers that she was no longer participating in making fun of the kid because she didn't like it and it didn't make her feel good. That bold statement is what I hope I do, and can teach my kids to do, and I hope Caitlyn continues to do -- which is to stand up for what she believes is right, no matter what others around you do.

After Caitlyn came Sarah H. A beautiful red-headed freckled face girl who is just, did I mention, beautiful! She is a spiritual kid -- going to a private religious school. She is somewhat quiet, but pretty vibrant and has a strong sense of faith for her religion, without forcing it on anyone else.

Holly came next. Holly, Holly, Holly. She is just adorable and also very sporty. She is funny and has moments of spasmodic silliness and outrageousness that freaks me out (in a good way).

Next was Caroline F. Caroline has me smitten with her. The first day I met her, she told me she loved my finger nail polish -- which I had painted pink for my first GOTR practice. The fact that she noticed made me feel good and she has continued to 'throw me a bone' and talk to me at every practice. Another beautiful girl with a very mature personality.

After Caroline came Edy, that little stinker. Edy *is* one of our walkers. She prefers to walk and walk s-l-o-w-l-y. I actually have no problem with that, because what I care is that she is doing what she wants to do and does not compare herself to others. Well, that is definitely Edy. She is one of the most gregarious girls of the bunch -- and moody. Well, at least I think she is. I actually only noticed one dark mood throughout these past weeks, but it was dark enough to have her drop out of the exercise we were doing that day. I'd like to see people -- despite being disappointed or hurt -- continue a task and be part of the team, so I was a bit surprised that Edy didn't feel the same way (that day).

Caroline K. came next. She was amazing - she had actually crossed the finished before her mom, but waited for her mom at the finish and gave her a big hug. I know her mom was a bit nervous about running the 5K with her daughter but they were both awesome.

Carol came next. I have a soft spot for Carol too. She and her buddy Holly are two peas in a pod. During one of our practices, there was sheer fear from the two of them of a possible decision to make their elementary school students wear uniforms. Not only that, the girls were potentially going to have to wear SKIRTS!! No word on that change yet...

Next was Lil and her mom. This would be one of the families that I would have stereotyped but found to be pretty grounded. I was so proud of Lil because she had been hospitalized years ago with viral meningitis and lost nearly a year of school to it. She frequently has headaches so she doesn't run as much as the other girls at practice. So seeing her cross the finish with her mom - amazing. Then her mom grabbed her and hugged her telling her how proud she was of her...again, where is that box of tissues?

Perry, Lil's sister, came in next. The amazing thing was to see Lil waiting for her sister at the finish -- proudly and excitedly anticipating her sister's finish. They both have been great together and I have not seen a sign of sibling rivalry between them. Perry is awesome -- I like to run with her and get her talking, which isn't that easy.

Last, but not least, was Hannah. I didn't notice it right away, but later in the pictures I took, I saw her with her hands straight up in the air as she crossed the finish -- as in a winning runner breaking the tape. Her dad, early that morning, had been joking with her and instructing her to cross the finish that way. Looking back, again being vaklempt, thinking about how she listened to her dad and followed through.

I have only two more sessions with these girls left. Next Monday being the final party. These girls have no idea the impact they have made on me as a person, a girl, a friend and especially, as a mother. Amazing that volunteering time ends up feeling as though it's all about me than them -- well, actually, I guess it is! :-)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Diamond in the Rough


That would be where I live. The heart of suburban Raleigh -- just a hop, skip and a jump away from being part of the urban metropolis that Raleigh is becoming.

The view of my backyard resembles something from a mountain countryside. With Spring here, the foliage is out and covers the views of fellow homes. What is missing from this picture, though, are the sounds of the city. When I took the picture, there were noises from large construction equipment -- possibly from the nearby McMansion development. That's why I decided to grab a shot of the view -- the irony of something so beautiful right outside my back door, with the sights and sounds of the city outside the front...

Oh, and yes, that is a waveboard in the yard.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Obama, Hilary, Edwards

Those are the bumper stickers I want to put on my car (it's actually a minivan). I just want to make the point that I support anyone (of the Democratic party) other than Dubya.

I am a registered Independent, whatever that means. Really, it's a two-party system. I will not support the Republican Party, so where does that leave me? But, I don't like to be 'grouped' into one party...you know, in case the Whigs come back into power...so being an Independent makes me feel better.

I am actually supporting John Edwards this early in the campaign. Obama and Hilary: I'll have to see where this nomination goes later in this race. It's still pretty early. But so far, John Edwards is talking the talk - the stuff **I** want to hear.

He's looking out for the working man and the poor man. He's what I classify as a blue-collar man in a white-collar suit (BCMiaWCS). I've met very, very few people like this. I am one of those BCMiaWCS -- an NCO-bred-Air Force-brat. I wanted to become an officer in the Air Force just to kick sand in their faces, but be the NCO-supporter. Instead (and fortunately), I married an NCO, which led me down a different [white-collar suit] path.

But I still stand by the working man (and I mean man and woe-man). And I believe John Edwards will too.

Yes, he's rich. But so what? I'm not sure why it's a major issue in politics when 1) you have to be rich to run for President and B) no one listens to the working class, so what makes anyone believe that a working class man/woman could make a difference? Hey, I'm not saying it's right, because it ain't (and I mean ain't). But the hard truth is that wealth, power, and a name-brand education gets you in the Oval Office.

At this point, I don't think John Edwards is in the political "IN" crowd. Of course, this could be his demise in this presidential campaign; there's no way to know at this point.

But I admire his platform. He's my West Wing guy -- the president who really wants to make a difference. After seeing "An Inconvenient Truth", I thought about the difference Al Gore could have made over our lives versus the numbskull we've had for the past six years...and unfortunately, still counting.

Lost in Raleigh



Not really, but come on Raleigh! with the freakin' signs!

Day Two of Spring Break was to hit the Museum of Natural Science. I have been to this museum three times before; the last time being last month's 3rd grade field trip with my daughter's class (I was the cool chaperone). But today, I couldn't seem to **get there**.

Course, I didn't look it up before heading that way. I got a bit cocky after my trip to Fearrington Village yesterday, which I hadn't googled and read the directions briefly from the website. Plus, it's a city museum, how hard can it be?? Surely there will be signs to direct me -- what else do I need?

Luckily, I had an old Raleigh Rand McNally map in my car. I struggled to find it behind the passenger seat (to which my daughter thoughtfully reminded me that 'it's been there all the time') after circling the area twice.

The first time I headed that way, I saw the sign to the city museums. Ha! I was right - the city was going to get me there. So I followed sign #1, turned as it instructed then followed sign #2 and suddenly, I'm on Capital Blvd. headed AWAY from downtown Raleigh. Where the hell did sign #3 go? Sure, I passed a sign telling me where to go to the State Capitol, but nothing indicates that it also includes the museums.

Then I miss the turn to Peace Street and I'm almost back to where I started from on Glenwood. I am reminded of the movie "Groundhog Day".

I try a different route - and end up heading away from where the musuem is supposed to be. Come on now! I've driven to the museum before, why the heck can I not find out it now (answer: because I didn't map it like I did before)???!!!???

So I sit at some parking lot, trying to figure out where the hell I need to turn to get to it -- making sure my streets are going the direction I need to go in. I went the different route mentioned in the previous paragraph - forget the Raleigh signs -- and somehow ended up where I had wanted to in the first place. As we walked to the museum, I told the girls that I don't even know how I ended up here and probably wouldn't be able to find it again (on my own).

Oh and the best part of it: we were there maybe an hour, no more than 1 1/2 hours. When we left, I couldn't find the damn parking ticket anywhere and paid $8 for a lost ticket -- as opposed to the $1 it would've cost with the ticket in hand.

Mooooooo


This is the most amazing sound we heard at Fearrington Village. It was Day One of Spring Break and the "we" was me and my two lovely girls. We had spent the afternoon wandering the village, although our intent was to see the famous Belted Galloways (black and white cows) at the farm. They were there alright. We drove through the neighborhood and they are scattered throughout this little hamlet. Immediately I thought how cool it must be to wake up and look out your window and see these Oreo cows roaming around.

Anyway, we had an amazing lunch at one of their restaurants when we decided one last stop was to check out the cows. As fate would have it, they were right around the corner from us. Not only were there "belties" but some oreo-like goats and a couple of asses (once those folks got out of the way, we saw donkeys).

The belties were a bit far from us so as we looked at them from afar, we heard a "moooooo" coming from the nearby barn. We looked over and there was the culprit, a big beautiful black cow (possibly a beltie, but she didn't come out) head mooing away.

Yeah, so we've been urbanized enough to be awed by the natural sound of a cow. I know I've heard cows before, so I was even surprised that I had been so tickled by it. My daughter Cerina was astounded though. And seeing her eyes pop out at the sound of a moo was incredible -- and yes, silly to think that we are so citified to be so smitten with the sound of a cow.