November 30, 2006

And Back Again

As I mentioned, I took no pics of The Cutest Niece, or my sister, or their house. In the end, it’s probably a good thing for the sake of anonymity and family harmony, but sigh.

After our cross-country drive, Muttola is a seasoned road dog. As long as she has her bed and us she seems content. In fact, when we start packing suitcases and loading the car, she begins to hover near our feet with a pleading look that says, “Don’t leave me, don’t leave me!” Many times we’ve put her dog bed in the car early and let her watch the proceedings from there. She seems much more content knowing it’s guaranteed we can’t abandon her.

The morning we were leaving Medford, OR it was snowing on I-5. Apparently it’s state law that you can’t venture into the snowy regions without tire chains for your car. The irony is that despite 15 years in upstate New York with frequent 8-12 inch snowstorms we’ve never had to chain the tires. Jrex even went (with other buddies—I don’t like to be cold!) camping in the Adirondacks without needing chains. Out east they believe in salt and plows. Out here it’s a bit more wild west: ‘If you can’t survive alone in the wilderness—you shouldn’t be here!’ We decided to drive around the storm via Grants Pass and Highway 101 down the coast of California. That choice transformed a 6.5-hour drive into a 13-hour one! Much of that delay was due to us stopping to walk around and driving the scenic route, but it was still a long day. We bought tire chains and even learned how to install them, but it's not a waste since we hope to use them on treks to Lake Tahoe.

When we got to the coast in Northern California we stopped to walk the dog along the beach. These signs are posted all along the beach. It’s like a line from a horror movie, “Don’t turn your back on the waves”!

Given the horrifying fact that since 2004, four people including children have been swept from dry sand by sneaker waves, we were very careful to obey instructions.

The northern Redwoods (vs. the fatter Giant Sequoias) grow to incredible heights. The tree I’m leaning on is over 350 feet tall. When I was little I used to love to lean on trees and look up. I thought I could tell the age and ‘gender’ of the tree. Matriarch vs. adolescent. Grandfather vs. punk kid. This tree was the calmest matriarch tree I’ve ever been near. I love getting opportunities to feel small, to think about the fact that I’m really on earth for a very short time, and this tree in her towering silence was a gorgeous reminder of both things.

The view from my angle.

I love this stump. Lest you think I crawled on the ground to get the shot, it’s at least 15 feet tall.

This tree has survived and thrived despite a horrific fire in the core.

I’d feared a quick drive home. Jrex had so much he had to do this week that it seemed we were going to pick the utilitarian vs. the scenic route home. I’m thankful for the snowstorm that allowed us to go the scenic way. Cause, frankly, I hope NOT to do that drive again, as pretty as it was. I’d much rather do a 2 hour plane flight.

Now that I've crossed the country via the southern route (2-week trip after college), the northern route with Jrex, and gone up and down both coasts, I think I've seen every state but Nebraska and North Dakota. We both agreed on the drive home that we aren't taking any road trips for a while!

November 29, 2006

We Interrupt

...the regularly scheduled blog post for this update. While in the middle of switching to blogger beta, with links and formatting incomplete, two things happened. One: I finally went to the neighborhood pool and sampled the Menlo Masters. At the moment I'm thinking I'll join and swim 3x a week. We'll see how long that ambition lasts!! Also I got a contract job for a drug company. It's certainly nothing I'd want to do full time, but 25-35 hours of work/wk from home sounds great right now! I can continue (ha! Start is more like it) doing Flash tutorials, walking the dog, and now swimming.

It was gratifying at the end of the practice when the coach said, "Well, OTRgirl, you survived your first practice, congratulations!" and the woman I'd shared the lane with turned and gasped, "That was your FIRST one?" I guess she's been doing this for a while. Granted, she's petite and in her 50's or 60's so it wasn't particularly impressive that I was (barely) able to keep up with her, but it still felt good.

November 28, 2006


[I switched to the beta blogger and it seems no better about uploading pictures. I had a few for this post, but no luck uploading them. Sigh.]

I have this lamentable tendency to want to live life and not document it so I don’t have many pictures of The Cutest Niece in Washington (vs. Jrex’s sister’s baby: The Cutest Niece in California). Actually, I don’t have any. Somehow taking pictures puts me into the mindset of an observer rather than a participant. (Also, I kept forgetting I’d left the camera in the car.)

On the way up we drove 12 hours to Portland and stayed with otr mama and her daughter. Otr mama was my Mom’s best friend. They met when her daughter, Jdawg and I were in nursery school together. We also lunched with my mother's aunt. Great Aunt P is one of the healthiest and sharpest 84 year olds I know. She fell and tore up her rotator cuff, but she ad-libbed her own physical therapy for the last three weeks and found out she wouldn't have to get surgery.

After spending the night at Jdawg's house, we drove to my sister’s Thanksgiving morning. Of course we hit a fair amount of traffic but got there eventually. She made a wonderful meal. As kids we had a family friend who always made us a sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving. OTRsis gave a nod to the sweet potato tradition with a spicy sweet potato soup. We all agreed it was delicious, but perhaps better suited to rice (which we had the next day).

Cutest niece was scared of the dog at first. She’s 18 months old and has a couple words though she’s quite fluent in sign language. Apparently the hot toddler trend is to teach sign so they aren’t limited by the sounds they can control. On the first day, Cutest Niece kept doing the sign for ‘up, up’ whenever the dog was in the same room. Muttola was fabulous though: she didn’t lick Cutest Niece or run after her. By the time we left, Cutest Niece would see me coming and ask, “Da? Da?” which meant, “Where’s the dog, woman, you’re nice and all, but the dog, she’s like cheerios soaked in milk and poured onto my tray!?”

On our last night there my brother treated OTRsis, Jrex, and me to an IMAX showing of Happy Feet. My fantastic brother-in-law stayed home to watch Cutest Niece. It should be noted that this did not upset him since it gave him a chance to watch football and grade students’ work in peace. The three of us Body Part kids are a bit overwhelming as a group. Both of my parents were confident and opinionated people who took up a fair amount of space in a group. They raised three kids who each have different facets of their gifts. The downside is, there are opinions for every issue and rapid-fire discussions of the day’s to-do list accompanied by much loud joking and teasing. My sister and I married men who are more the strong, silent types. The ones you want to rely on, but who don’t take up huge amounts of public space. Our brave husbands are the kind of men who have opinions, but who usually wait to be asked before voicing them.

We all enjoyed Happy Feet. Probably too much. We cracked up over all the cheesy/sappy factors which were strewn throughout the movie like popcorn on a theater floor. I’ve never been glared at by so many four year olds in my life! Mostly it felt like the penguin’s eye view prequel to March of the Penguins. The thing that annoyed me the most was that the stupid lead character never finished molting! I thought it was impossible for penguins to swim until all the grey fuzz disappeared? Whatever. That was one of many huge suspensions of belief. The Hispanic penguin posse was fabulous. I would love to see them meet the penguins of Madagascar. It would be the Sharks vs. the Jets all over again.

Tomorrow I’ll tell the story of the homeward journey (hopefully with pictures!). Overall though it was a great trip. I’m thankful to have so many wonderful people in my life, and it’s even better that I’m related to a few of them.

November 27, 2006

Welcome Home, San Fran style

I hope to do a nice long entry tomorrow with stories and pictures, however, it’s late; it took us 13 hours to get home. Let’s just say, we were required to buy snow chains before crossing the border from Oregon to California.

Some of you may remember my tips and tricks for home repair. Well, tonight I have a travel tip. It has nothing to do with redwoods, or the ocean, or elk sightings, I assume you can handle those fine all by yourself. Just keep a handy supply of ‘oohs’ and ‘wows’ and you’ll be fine.

However, here’s a tip for 101 just leaving San Francisco. If you see a man in an overpass ahead of you, especially if his back is to you with his hands in front, lean over to your sweetie and say, “Hey, babe, switch lanes. NOW.” Otherwise you might get to say, “Hey, hon, you might want to run the washer blades for a while to clean off that urine.”

November 22, 2006

Follow the rainy brick road

I wrote a funny, witty post about our upcoming 15 hour drive to Seattle with visits to Great Aunt P, otr mama and family. but it got trashed by the evil google-blogger and I'm tired. I've spent over an hour trying to publish.

We're taking the mutt and going to visit my brother and sister for Thanksgiving. We're dreading the drive but really excited to see family and friends.

For those in the know:

Should I switch to the beta blogger? Cause blogger is driving me CRAZY lately. Why does Google have to mess up a perfectly good thing. DO NO EVIL, GOOGLE!? This shouldn't be so hard.

November 20, 2006


I think I've found a church. They meet in the Palo Alto High School theater. During worship songs at the beginning, they turn the lights down. Anyone who has been in church with me knows I often cry during worship. I'm an emotional person. This became much worse about a year ago. Having grown up with Christian parents, I sort of take the whole "God came as a man and died for me" thing for granted. You know, 'yeah, yeah, but what have you done for me lately?' So I started praying that the death and resurrection would really matter to me. I prayed that way for three months and have been crying during worship songs ever since. Mention heaven? I think of my Mom up there boogie-ing the night away, and I cry. Jesus? I am overwhelmed by who he is and what he's done, I cry. "You give and take away"? I had a house and now I don't, I cry. Bottom line? A dark theater is a good thing!!

But that's not the mortification of which I speak. I met a cool couple after church a couple weeks ago. The guy turns out to be a wonderful networker. He sent an email to both me and a graphic design friend of his. From the casual way he talked about her, she sounded like a young, free-lance type designer. When I wrote to her, I took that tone: "Hey, just moved here, let's do lunch and chat". I got back an out of office reply which included her job title:

Art Director for a large SF firm.

How do I take it back and write a lovely, grammatically correct letter, "Dear Ms. _____, [insert professional qualifications and much flattery here] I would love an opportunity to meet with you and discuss design in the Bay area."?

November 17, 2006


Well, I must say I've been enjoying the gracious responses you all gave to my last post. I'm feeling quite Sally Fieldish.
The sofa is here. We rented a Uhaul cargo van last Saturday and drove up to collect it. Fortunately for us one of Jrex's labmates is looking for a better apartment and so had incentive to want to help us (in that he could help move the sofa in and check out our digs). Also, he's a nice guy. I'll post pictures soon. I'm still tweaking the living room layout.
Tuesday I registered with a creative placement agency in San Francisco. Not that it's yielded any work in the subsequent three days... but hopefully after Thanksgiving it will.
Yesterday I dropped off a stellar resume packet at a design firm here in Menlo Park. They didn't call me today, so I'm guessing they aren't interested. Sigh.
Before moving here I somehow expected all I had to do was show up and declare, "Ta Da!" and all the design agencies would roll over and beg me to come toil for them. Don't they know what they're missing?! In the meantime, I have to start mucking with Flash tutorials.
Jrex's advisor just bought a bunch of tickets for tonight's Stanford Women's Soccer game. I guess they've made it to the NCAA finals or quarterfinals or something. Heck, I'm just excited to get out of the house and hang out with people I don't see every day! Jrex assembled a crock-pot chili that I finally remembered to plug in today (yesterday's dinner was not what he'd expected...). We're planning to bring a thermos of chili to share at the game.
Once I hang all the pictures, the apartment will be officially done. And THEN what will I do to fill my days? Oh yeah, finish one of the Irish websites. The other one was finished two weeks ago. Finish a brochure I promised someone before I moved. I suppose I could also pretend to be an artist and paint or sculpt all day? Join the Master's swim team? Any recommendations for tricks to find jobs? Quirky methods that work? (cause then I could write a book...) Activities to try in the meantime?

November 13, 2006

In which I write alot about not having much to say

The wind has died in my blogging sails. I’m becalmed for many reasons:

1. One by one the friends I’ve met in the blogosphere are walking away from their blogs. All for valid reasons, but without a quick stroll through their lives, I’m uninspired to make much of my own.

2. I’m no longer in a job I want to escape. If I’d merely sat at my desk all last year I would have lost my mind. So I read about other people’s lives and escaped my own. At a time when I had few creative outlets, low-grade creativity kept me sane.

3. I’ve been reading Anne Lamott and Annie Dillard. Writing anything after delving into their worlds feels a bit like trying to compose a silly song after gloaming through some Shakespeare. (And, yes, K, I did just use a noun as a verb—K works as an editor for a dictionary.)

4. It’s too seductive to sit and read other blogs all day and pretend I’ve done something useful with my free time, so to combat that, I’ve been avoiding the computer.

5. I have a fear of becoming the lonely old woman in the dog park who goes on and on and you have to listen to her because you feel how lonely she is but you’re drowning in the vapid torrent of blah blah blah. I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a deep fear of being some narcissistic bore: the one you hope doesn’t corner you at the party. In order to feel safe talking, I wait for someone who asks me thought-provoking questions, leaves room for my answers, and then asks still more questions. If they look away while I’m answering, or give any indication of impatience or boredom, I shut down and start asking them questions. Thus far it’s proven true that most people would rather be listened to than listen. Sure, being the listener lets me control my fear, but at a cost. The problem with a blog is that I can’t tell when people are bored. The whole comments thing feeds the obsession: lots of comments—‘you like me, you really like me!’; few comments—‘see, I knew I was boring them!’

6. In a compromise between my comfort with public disclosure and my husband’s need for privacy, I choose not to write much about him/us. However, until I get a job and a network here, he’s all I’ve got except the dog and I KNOW too many dog stories would glaze your eyes and make you peek at your watch.

November 10, 2006

The Job Front

Here's an article about thirty-somethings that helps explain why I don't have a job yet. (Thanks for the forward, Aunt Gemstone!) The bottom line is that for most people my age, we want a job we feel passionate about. It's true. After a job interview I usually send a thank you card. Well, after last week's interview, I didn't want to. It would have been a neat job in some ways, but busy, cluttered, and disorganized. I just don't want to commute for 45 minutes to get somewhere I'm not excited about.

I did an interview back in September with an exhibit design firm in Oakland. Two weeks ago I tried the drive there from my apartment during the tail end of rush hour. It took 45 minutes. I was supposed to call him to touch base about whether I'm interested in an interview. I haven't yet because I don't want to drive an hour and a half for work every day, but at the same time, I don't want to shut the door. I would be excited about working there. But I haven't seen what's available closer to home. I have an interview on Tuesday with a creative placement firm in San Francisco. That should help me get shorter-term contract work, or possibly a full-time job. In the meantime, I'm going to mail a card today to my Oakland contact telling him I'd be interested if they have a position available. Because at the end of the day, no matter whether it's practical for my future career, I want to be passionate about my work.

November 8, 2006

Invisibility Cloak

One of the things I'm finding strange here is that I feel invisible. I have no connections here, heck, I hardly ever pass the same strangers on the street. Somehow I feel like I could do anything because who would care? Leave the dog's poop in 8 inch deep ivy on a road no one ever walks but me? Sure! Walk around with the same clothes and hat day after day, why not? White socks with sandals? It's a fashion statement! I'm becoming that eccentric woman you wonder about. The one you hope never stops to talk to you. It's sort of freeing, really. No connections equals no accountability.

When we went to vote the woman who checked us in exclaimed, "Oh, ____ Street, you're my neighbor!" With those five words, she stripped my invisibility cloak.

November 6, 2006

To Ahnold or not to Ahnold, that is the question...

Just think, OTRsis, if Ahnold is voted out of office, his parting line is already written. (Or did Clint say, "I'll be back"?)

I've just spent three hours researching issues and candidates here in California. I'm starting to agree with John Adams that government should not be entrusted to the mob. I know I'm just getting a tiny slice of the whole picture and depending how I read it, and what annoyed mood I'm in, I'm not voting based on facts, just gut reactions. After tomorrow, I'll have voted in four states (Massachusets, New York, Maryland and California) and I've never seen this many propositions. There's something to be said for professionals deciding some of these issues. Heck, I can't even find info on the judicial candidates! So should I vote based on whether I like their name?!!

When Jrex was visited by the biohazard guy at Stanford he was told, "Welcome to the most regulated spot on earth. Not only are you in the US, you're in California, and even for California, you're at Stanford." I swear this state must have a law about whether or not I can pick my nose in my own car! (Not that I WOULD just that I COULD...)

No, Dad, this blog is not going to turn into a bitch session about California but it may temporarily veer in that direction. Anyone else frustrated by their options (lack of or over-abundance)?

November 4, 2006

Signs posted near job prospect in San Francisco

Every 20 feet, looking like normal parking info signs:

"No vehicle habitation from 10 pm to 6 am."

1. It was common enough that an 8-block area needed signs?!
2. If they own the car, what do you care?
3. Is it legal to habitate your vehicle from 6 pm to 10 pm?

November 2, 2006

The reason I became a designer

My schedule since Sunday:

Sunday afternoon chatted with OTRsis about what design companies like to see in portfolios. Applied via to a fun-sounding job in San Francisco.

Monday drove to Oakland to check commute during rush hour. Doable. Went to two art stores to view portfolios. Realized I would have to pay $60 to $120 for a generic portfolio. Remembered I know how to make books. Said, "Screw that!" Returned to my side of the Bay. Shopped for materials. Went home and sketched and concepted for two hours. Went to sleep.

Tuesday woke up excited to start project. Checked Craig's list for printers since I'd need a 13x19 inch printer to produce portfolio pages. Made appointment for Wednesday evening to see a printer. Got off phone. Which promptly rang. Fun-sounding job, "Do you have time to meet with the owner today, he'll be down in Palo Alto this evening" Me, panicked but smooth, "I'd much rather see the office, does he have time tomorrow, or Thursday?" Time set for 2:30 pm. Cancelled appointment with printer guy, ran all over town to buy a printer. Found out that Staples has a 14-day return policy even if I use the printer. Perfect, since it's bigger than we need for a regular printer. Just need to do portfolio. Ran back to art store for a couple additional items. Came home and finished concept. Completed book cover and placed it under 15 pounds of books on kitchen table to dry it flat. Was glad for too many books. Worked on layout, dug up files to print. Stayed up til 4:30 am.

Wednesday woke up at 6:30. Started printing pages. Jrex worked from home in the morning so I wouldn't have to waste time driving to and fro. (Love him!!) Finished installing final page at 12:30. Washed hair and face, got dressed. Made Jrex drive to his office with me riding shotgun with the makeup drawer in my lap. (Faster to just take whole drawer). Completed makeup, dropped him off, tore up 280 and arrived to appointment five minutes early. The interview goes well. After chatting a while the owner passes me to one of the account managers. Who asks how I am with tight deadlines. He's holding my portfolio as he asks. I laugh, "Well, I went from concept to completion on that in less than 24 hours."

I respond well to deadlines. No deadline, no work. Deadline, I make it happen.