Oregon: The Jen-Friendly State

Walking the dog

Did I mention that I love it here? How could I not? It’s against the law to pump your own gas, and I HATE pumping gas. If I lived here I would joyfully fill my gas tank each week. And yours, too. And yours. And I would never even have to leave the car.

And not only are dogs allowed on the beaches – an accommodation not provided for in Washington state – but they are allowed on the beach OFF LEASH, which means my little Scout can run barefoot and carefree through the surf and sand.

Yes, I think I could live here and do all my shopping tax free.

The Post Wherein I Describe Everything I’ve Done This Week All At Once Because I Have No Time.


Ruthie now thinks all daddies take airplanes to work. She asked me that when her little friend left the other day and she asked if he was going home to see his daddy. I said his daddy was probably at work, but that he would see his daddy later. And she said, misusing her pronouns in the cutest way, “Her daddy take an airplane to work, too?”

On Wednesday the kids and I drove up to the Tulip Fields as I’ve done almost every year since I can remember, with only a few exceptions. We drove up in two car loads of four moms and six kids, ate a picnic lunch, and let the kids go wild in the dirt. You can see proof that boys will be boys here (pardon the sideways video, I haven’t had time to figure out how to rotate the image). This is the first time I’ve ever gone with other kids Ruthie’s age, and they were a fun little gang of toddlers to watch. Every time Nor said, “COME ON, ROOFIE!” I just wanted to pinch her, she was so cute. They are all such good friends when they’re not hitting each other or pulling hair. You can see all our Tulip Adventures here.

I rode up there with a good friend who has neither a computer nor access to the internet, so I can blab about her all I want on this blog and she’ll never be the wiser!

The guys finished most of the work downstairs, so I’ve been painting. Which is why I have not been writing. Can you even comprehend how difficult it is to paint WHITE primer on top of WHITE drywall mud and wall texture??? At any rate, the painting is slow going because on my shoulder is a muscle knot the size of a grapefruit. After about an hour my arm hurts so bad it radiates to my neck and head and I can’t move my arm or open my eyes. I’m beginning to wonder if we should have just paid the guys to paint as well. If you’re curious, here is what the room looked like before I started painting. We now have new windows around the entire basement!

I will now leave you with a Dora reference. Today at lunch Ruthie was muscling her way in to Bryan’s hummus, using her grimy fingers instead of anything like, say, a snow pea or a carrot. Finally Bryan says to her, “Hey Swiper, no swiping!”

Ruthie stopped and just looked at him. Blinking, I suppose, just like Dora might have in such a situation. Then she says to him, “No, I’m Ruthie.”

She’s a literalist to the end. That’s my girl!

Ladies Day Out (which means waaay more than you think).

Last year on my birthday I had dinner with girlfriends at a great steak house called Jimmy Mac’s where they play loud country music and throw peanut shells on the floor. The conversation eventually took the turn that all female conversations do when drinking is involved… a turn toward any subject that makes some people blush.

In particular, we landed on a discussion of bras.

I had never paid much attention to my bras, but thought of them more as the bastard step-child of my wardrobe. To me they are constricting and uncomfortable, and for the most part I hate them. My girls are… not large… and don’t require much support, so it never occurred to me that there would be a right or a wrong bra for me.

Somebody mentioned getting a bra fitting, and I was intrigued. I had never heard such a thing. Another friend explained the way a bra is SUPPOSED to fit, and I wondered, How did I get to be 34 years old and not know the fabric in your cleavage was supposed to lay flat against your chest?

I decided that evening that once I weaned Thomas and my voluptuous ladies returned to their former modest selves, I would celebrate by buying new bras that fit correctly (sadly, I wore my nursing bras long after weaning Ruthie, and in comparison to what I NOW am wearing, they are NOT flattering).

Yesterday was that day.

A friend and I went to Nordstrom’s by recommendation. I knew in part what to expect, based on Melissa’s description of her experience in this post at Suburban Bliss, but you’re never quite prepared for what actually happens.

I was fitted by a gal named Isabella, who had a fabulous accent. I think it might have been Russian. As she fondled my ladies she would say, “See how the bra cohvers all of the bress teeshu?” She measured my circumference, then declared I was a D cup.

Had I been drinking coffee at that moment, I would have spewed it all over her in utter shock. Nevertheless, I humored Isabella and tried on several D cups, only to have this reaction. I may be the only woman on the planet who LIKES her small ladies – I was irritated that I might actually be bigger. I pushed her to try on a smaller size, and in the end she acquiesced that I was a C cup – albeit a BORDERLINE C cup.

I am now obsessed with my ladies. I want to fondle them all the time because they look so perky. I went from having embarrassingly few bras to now having a black one, a lacey red one, a seamless one, a few everyday whities, and a sports bra. I am in the midst of a BRA REVOLUTION!

Bryan is in full support. (Ha! Get it?)

If in the country, I would have heard crickets.

One thing I like about staying at the Kennedy School (described in this post by Bryan) is there is no television in any of the rooms, so we are more inclined to talk, or read, or write when not out and about. The biggest television trap for me at home is watching in bed late at night and staying up way too far into Conan, which is completely unproductive.

This weekend I decided to start a new habit. I have decided to be in bed by ten with a good book, rather than the t.v. I felt so calm and relaxed each evening in the quiet as I explored the books we bought at Powell’s, and I know it helped me feel refreshed the next day. Plus, I’m more likely to fall asleep earlier while reading than while watching television.


The other thing I like about staying at the Kennedy School is that every inch of that place is interesting. There is original art hanging in the halls, and each room is uniquely decorated with custom murals. Everything about the environment inspires creativity. One morning as we waited for our breakfast I found myself shooting stills of my coffee, the menu, and so forth, and Bryan says, “I like the transformation I’m seeing.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You are beginning to digitally scrapbook,” he said.

And sure enough, that’s what I was doing. Here is what I captured from our trip.

Hey kids – Having fun, missing you lots. Love, Mom.

After breakfast this morning Bryan and I drove around a couple neighborhoods looking for design inspiration in architecture. We drove down Alberta Street and came across this building with corrugated metal siding. Bryan’s been trying to convince me that our house would look cool with this siding, but I was skeptical since the house is a 1910 Craftsman style. The building in these pictures is of a similar style as ours (though much smaller) so it helps give me an idea for his vision.

Corrugated Metal Siding

Then, after reading in a Starbucks for an hour, we attended church at Imago Dei Community in the Laurelhurst neighborhood. I hate going to church on vacation. When I was a kid, my parents always made me attend the tiny country church near our cabin in Northern Minnesota when we vacationed on the weekends. I hated it then, I hate it now. But I love my husband so we went to church.

It was much warmer outside today. I had come prepared for the frosty weather of yesterday, wearing tights and three layers of shirts, sweaters, and jackets, so instead of being comfortably warm I was downright sweating. Seems the Northwest keeps you guessing. At any rate, we had stored all our leftovers from various meals this weekend in the car, figuring the freezing temps would keep it all from spoiling, so after church we pulled it all together and had a leftover picnic in the park with the warm sun on our backs. It was all rather SPONTANEOUS, which seems to be the mood of the weekend.

Picnic in the park.

Later we connected with Mike and Brianna Showell who used to live near us in Seattle. They picked us up and drove us out to the Nike headquarters in Beaverton where Brianna is a Product Line Manager. She does consumer research and trend spotting to help design new shoes, and I got to see all the shoes she was involved with designing. I just have to say that she is a ROCK STAR in my eyes! How crazy is that to be able to see something you created on a sales rack, and watch people try it on, and make a decision to pay money for it? This is the pride I should have for Bryan for all the projects he creates, the websites he designs, the educational systems he’s created. I guess I didn’t really make that connection with him until I saw it in something more tangible for me… like a shoe.

...and these shoes...

It is late, and here we sit: two geeks with our twin laptops snuggled together in bed. We’ve had a great time connecting this weekend, refreshing our vision, readjusting our course, reflecting on the past few months. I am very grateful for every moment, but I miss my kids and can’t wait to see them tomorrow.

I’m having a hard time describing happiness.

I’m not really sure how to describe the feeling the aura the so obviously NOT US nature of this weekend, especially for those who don’t know me in person, but I am having HELLA fun with my booty-licious husband on this weekend getaway.

We are laughing, we are jesting, we are gazing fondly at one another as if on our first date again. And the touching? At dinner last night I felt very strongly that Bryan’s leg be pressed up against mine AT ALL TIMES no matter where he had to itch – I just couldn’t get enough snuggle.

And today we are actually agreeing on what to do next EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE NOT MAPPED OUT A SPECIFIC PLAN FOR THE DAY. Where do I begin to describe the significance of spontaneity in our relationship?

At any rate, we spent the morning in downtown Portland at the mall, then wandered over to Powell’s City of Books (aka the Mecca of bookstores) where we browsed for various things on our list.


I picked up My Sister’s Keeper and Anansi Boys, books I’m reading for two different book clubs I participate in, plus The Search for Significance, a book recommended by my therapist as a tool to break through the errors in my belief system (like playing the blame game, or being a victim).

As I sit here in the quiet of my hotel room, my mind is clear, and I feel relaxed – both mentally and physically. The stress has melted away, and all the balls I juggle on a daily basis are quietly holstered… in their ball pit… somewhere within this bad metaphor.

During the last week my mind felt so full of information that I couldn’t muster up enough brain cells to make a grocery list. A friend who offered to keep Scout for the weekend wanted to pick her up a day early, and I gazed at her with an empty face as I listened to her ask the question.

“I don’t even know how to make that happen,” I finally said.

And truly, I had no random access memory left to sort through the simple steps of collecting the dog food, the bowls, and the leash. There was too much noise in my head.

This weekend I look forward to experiencing the quietness of spirit to think, to read, and to write as I have very little space in my life for thoughtful, reflective writing. As we checked in late last night there were three guys in the office – one covered in tatts, one with a handlebar mustache, and the other wearing an indie rock band t-shirt. I asked if there was wifi available on site and the three of them lit up like Christmas morning.

“Uh huh!” they all said simultaneously.

“Really?” I asked. “Like, I’ll have internet access in my room?”

Again with the wide eyes and the Cheshire grins, “Uh huh!”

I felt relief again that on this holiday from my hectic life, I can write and blog and reflect in real time. I can create and share things as they happen. If I have an inspiration, I don’t have to store it in my mind, yearning for an opportunity or the energy to express it. If only for a few days, my mind can be free from its daily clutter.

At this moment I could not be happier if it was raining chocolate covered raisins.

Hi, It’s Me. I’m Back!

And without warning I left town and bid you no farewell. I spent the weekend at a vacation home on the Straight of Juan de Fuca with seven friends, one tiny baby, and a fabulous view of Canada. There was wine, there was laughing, and a little tinkling in the panties. (oh my!)

Last week I had a revival of sorts in my relationship with Bryan, so on Friday night as we settled in with our jammies and wine I found myself missing him to the point of tears. That felt good, and it was an excellent warm-up to this coming weekend when I will be getting away with him alone.

Pictures of a cute blonde girl to lighten the mood in here…

Ruthie is all about “doing craps,” as she calls it. Her favorite craft right now is to use her scissors to cut paper into very tiny miniscule little pieces of confetti that flitter about the house clogging up the esophagus of Thomas. It’s amazing (and relieving) to know that a coloring book is just as captivating to her while I’m making dinner as the t.v. used to be. Here are some of the projects we’ve been working on…

Crafting Slideshow

Naked Conversations: the post containing obscene amounts of hyperlinks

Last night Bryan and I had the privilege of attending the launch party for Naked Conversations, the new book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. Knowing I was the non-geek wife who was about to enter a Den of Geeks, I brushed up on the recommended Survivial Guide Maryam recently published on her site. But just to be safe, on the way to the event I instructed Bryan that he was NOT PERMITTED TO LEAVE ME ALONE at any point during the evening.

Ironically, ten minutes into the evening I ditched him and found a group of ladies out on the deck, never to see him again until it was over.

I found Julie Leung, whom I had met at previous functions, and we had a chance to catch up with each other ‘offline.’ She introduced me to Liz Lawley and Anita Rowland and we enjoyed warm conversation about our children, work, and finding time to blog. Nabila Lacey (wife of Steve), a lovely, lovely woman with two children the same age as mine, joined the conversation as well.

Anita Rowland organizes ‘meet-ups’ for Seattle area bloggers, so perhaps I will drop in on the next one with my children.

I also met the wife of Ben Connor, though I am ashamed to say that after nearly thirty minutes of conversation about children, geek husbands, and her fascinating educational path toward a career in Genetic Research, I cannot remember her name. I am so sorry your name slipped my mind, but know that it was fun talking to you.

It was nice to finally meet Maryam Scoble, whose blog I follow. She has such a warm and inviting presence about her, such a hospitable personality — the perfect complement to a man whose very public career requires many events, gatherings, and opportunities for networking. Her devotion to him makes him shine.

Here is a photo of Bryan and I at the event.

Here is an article about the beautiful home we were hosted in (thanks to the link by Steve). While Bryan geeked out with his tech friends, I ‘geeked’ out over beautiful woodwork, grand staircases, and ancient wisteria vines.

Thank you to the Scobles for inviting us to share in the celebration of your accomplishments. We hope to see you again soon.

She’s Crafty…

Lately I’ve been using the morning hours during Thomas’ nap to do crafty things with Ruthie, and it’s been a lot of fun for both of us. Today we made this small poster (8×10) to illustrate Ruthie’s new bedtime routine. I wrote out the letters and cut out the pictures, but Ruthie used her new glue stick for the first time to paste the pictures onto the page. She’s getting to be such a big girl (teary sigh) and seems ready for new responsibilities, like following through on a routine.


Yesterday Ruthie painted with her new tempera paint. This stuff is fantastic! It washes out of everything with soap and water!


Virtual Soul Mate

I love reading Maryam Scoble’s blog. I find so much comfort in knowing someone else out there is married to a geek with tunnel vision. It’s downright creepy how much her life parallels my own.

I especially love how ornery she is. Half the time I can’t figure out if her tone is bitter or dry wit. She’s that good.

Year of the Crystal

I always feel a bit reminiscent on my birthday because it also marks the anniversary of my arrival in Seattle, of the day I left home forever, of the day I met my lifelong friends. I spent my eighteenth birthday on an airplane, terrified and excited about my new adventure.

Inevitably I think back to the first time I met my new family. I was wearing a plaid skirt and I probably looked like I was twelve years old. Alecia had a perm. The names on the door across from mine were Sarah and Larah, and before I met those girls and realized one was a Philippina and one was ghostly white, I thought they might be twins. Kristin tried to convince everyone that her hair was naturally blond. My roommate was Genevieve, a sophomore. She was bold and confident and popular, and seemed invincible to me.

In 1996 I was living in New York, and on my birthday my friends, led by Sarah, sent me a memory book they made of our friendship to date. In it, they recapped the first few birthdays we spent together:

I remember how you used to sit and sulk on your birthday because no one paid attention to it (it being the first day of school and all). Let’s have a revue of the last five big B-days:

#1: We completely overlooked it because, heck, we hardly knew you.
#2: We forced you out of bed and dragged you to Red Robin where you paid for your own meal.
#3: We can’t remember what happened this year (1992), we think Jeff took you out, but we are not sure.
#4: This year we had a party at the girls’ house. You wore a green sweater. That’s the extent of my memory.
#5: This year was the big hooplah. This year made up for the other years. The 70s party was the event of the season and Chris’ suit was the envy of all.

And now we are celebrating birthday number six. Do you feel old yet? Don’t expect me to keep track after this year.

Tonight I will see my friends, and we will drink, and we will toast to our friendship of fifteen years, and we will likely choke at the realization that we are old enough to have known each other for so long.

I’m not usually one to feel like I’m old. Having children doesn’t make me feel old, driving a minivan doesn’t make me feel old, even gaining a few pounds doesn’t make me feel old.

What makes me feel old is when college students call me ma’am, when they say to me that U2 must be really important to my generation, and when I start a story with the words, “Fifteen years ago, when I was in college…”

But I guess maybe if I really thought about it, I feel old in the way wine ages. Wine tastes better with age, its flavor is reminiscent of its beginnings, and the oak barrel infuses its spice and vanilla aroma. Exposure to oxygen changes the wine.

Everything that touches wine – from the grape, to the barrel, to the type of glass we pour it into, to the air we breath – it all influences its outcome, its flavor, its impact on who comes in contact with it. We reject distasteful wine and we savor beautiful wine.

I feel beautiful in my age because of all that has touched me. Thank you.