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Sadly, last week the old Escort was sold for scrap, after bravely
battling a long illness. The car would have needed a new engine, and
the family determined the Escort had suffered enough and deserved to
be put out of its misery. The Escort lived a long and useful life,
at over 160,000 miles old, and will be remembered as a
faithful servant and companion (except for when it wasn't). The
Escort enjoyed many adventures, including driving through fences,
scaling mountains in Wyoming, and carrying multitudes of sweaty
teenagers to and from their runs in Mendon Ponds Park. Other
adventures probably occurred in the backseat, but we choose not to
impugn the reputation of our departed friend. The Escort lately
attended Bowdoin College, but passed away before completing a degree.

Special thanks to frequent passenger Holly, who took the
final scanned and emailed paperwork to the car hospital in Boston to
authorize the pulling of the plug.

Survivors include Peter, who may not even have heard the sad
news yet as he is incommunicado at the 7D Ranch in Wyoming, where he
gets to drive much more manly tractors and giant pick-up trucks;
Gregory, who recently made the trip to and from Boston via
train, taking over twice as long as it would have in the Escort, and
who will be commuting by bicycle and bus in and around Brunswick,
Maine, this summer; and their mother Lisa, who eagerly awaits
the return of the license plates so she can cancel the insurance.

As of this writing, there are no plans for a memorial service.  In lieu of
flowers, donations in the Escort's memory may be made to the family's
Battered Used Car Replacement Fund.
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Went to TAM's (a Brazilian airline) website to check on the status of a flight:

Translation_Fail

Not that it matters; every choice yields an error anyway.
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This post is mostly for [livejournal.com profile] rdhdsnippet: the other night [livejournal.com profile] wotw was obsessing, as he has so often lately, about pants. After much trying on and discussion and wavering, he decided to return a few pairs. Because, he says, and I quote, "I think it's possible to have too many pants."

I so wish I'd had a witness.
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Somehow I made it this far in life without ever hearing of this thing called a timing belt, until now. Fortunately, I learned about it because [livejournal.com profile] wotw (of all people) suggested I might need one, not because mine broke. My 2000 Sienna minivan has about 93,400 miles on it. Toyota says I should have replaced the timing belt at 90K. I was planning on driving this van for several to many more years, but had not budgeted for a new timing belt, and spring tuition is due . . . On the other hand, this van will be making a nearly 800 mile round trip in a couple of weeks.

So tell me, auto-wonks, how important is it to replace the timing belt now?
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Day 7 of 7 seems like the right time to express how thankful I am for having met [livejournal.com profile] wotw 7 years ago this month. My life is far more full of love now than I dreamed possible back then. What a wild and wonderful ride it's been been!
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Today I am thankful that when my car wouldn't start, it was in my driveway, and I didn't have anywhere more pressing to go than the gym. I was able to wait for the tow truck in the comfort of my own living room. The refrigerator is full of food. I have to wait until Monday for a diagnosis (the battery is fine; it might be the starter motor), but I have access to another vehicle to drive Greg to the airport tomorrow morning. You know how you always say it's never a good time for your car to break down? All things considered, this was a good time.
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On Monday I was thankful not to be a Korean mother. Hearing about one country suddenly opening fire on another is always alarming, but having 18-year-old sons adds an extra element of gut-wrench to the news. My heart goes out to the parents, youth, and anyone else who involuntarily becomes involved in whatever conflict may arise.

[Tuesday was posted on schedule.]

On Wednesday I was thankful for courtesy. On my way to work I stopped at the little bakery near my house to pick up butter gems for the feast. (Butter gems are yummy rolls, without which my children would insist it could not possibly be Thanksgiving.) It's always very crowded that day, with a long line. As I approached the bakery, I noticed two elderly women ahead of me moving very slowly, one walking with apparent difficulty with a cane, so I hustled ahead to get the door. I kept the door open for the second woman, who really didn't need help, and when she hesitated, I motioned for her to go in. She looked at me in shock. Apparently she thought I had rushed so I could get ahead of her in line. She went in but then insisted that I should go ahead of her. Then the cane-woman joined in. The three of us played the "no, really, you go ahead" game until it became a moot point when the bakery workers called us all at the same time :) We all left with "happy thanksgiving"s on our tongues and smiles on our faces.

On Thursday I was thankful for having all my babies home. I've always been acutely aware of how lucky I am to have three healthy and relatively problem-free kids. And for years I've been used to brief stints away from them, since I share custody with their father. In fact, for the last year, the custody schedule has been week on/week off (easier on teenage kids but harder on parents). So the adjustment to college wasn't too hard. (I'm talking about me now, not them.) But my oh my it's good to have them all around!!

Today I am thankful for pie for breakfast! (Which serves as a stand-in for my thankfulness for access to good and healthful food year-round.)
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I'm going to try a week of thanksgiving, copying shamelessly from aroraborealis.

Today I am grateful for 3 1/2 days in a row (so far) without a headache. This feels amazing!
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As follow-up to [livejournal.com profile] sunspiral's post about the worst college marketing postcard ever, check out the Drake University admission page. There are four alternating photos; you'll notice which is the marketing fail.
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I thought I was doing ok with the impending semi-emptying of the nest, but over the weekend I saw Toy Story 3, which is about the kid clearing out his room before he leaves for college. Toward the end of the movie, the mom walks into the kid's room and - although she's been nagging him to clean it out - is shocked at how empty it looks. She puts her hands up to her mouth in dismay . . . and yours truly bursts into tears. I'm not talking the little trickle and sniffles one has during a sad movie, I'm talking all out sobbing.

If I react that way at a movie, how much worse will it be when it's time to actually say goodbye?
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Greg - Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
Peter - Hamilton College, Clinton, NY
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My family is small to begin with, and most recent Thanksgivings since my father died have been way too small. But yesterday we put an extra leaf in the big table and timed dinner so my sons' girlfriends could join us after their own family dinners. So we had Greg, Kayla, Peter, Emily, Laura, [livejournal.com profile] wotw, his daughter Cayley and her friend Ron, and me. (Yeah, I know some people have 30 for Thanksgiving, but this was big for us.) For my part, it was all family-of-choice and utterly delightful. The kids were off school Wednesday so I took the day off too, and we made pumpkin, apple, and chocolate pies; squash, and cranberry relish. I went to the grocery store for the fourth time in four days (oops) but it wasn't even that bad. Yesterday we made stuffing and roasted turkey and mashed potatoes and toasted almonds for the green beans and whipped cream and then ate too much. I am thankful for it all, the family and friends and food.

Work

Nov. 18th, 2009 05:25 pm
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I spent the last couple of days doing Interesting and Useful Work. It was a lot of fun. Not only that, it was noticed and appreciated. Not only that, it was noticed that I should be spending more time doing this sort of Cool Hard Stuff and less time doing Boring Routine Stuff, and it was suggested that maybe we should even hire someone else to do the Boring Routine Stuff. This is good.

And just now I had a revelation about what makes work fun for me. I have the most fun when I'm given a sinking-feeling problem. By that I mean at the beginning I have no idea where to start, so I get a sinking feeling. But I always manage to start somewhere, and that leads me to the next question, which leads me to the next person, which leads me to the next file, etc. Sort of like a private eye. And eventually I find the right thread, and I tug and pull and dig, and the problem unravels. These are not math problems, or code problems, or accounting problems, although solving them can be fun too. These are "what the hell is going on here?" problems. They usually involve a bit of who said what to whom with what intent, where is the original contract/agreement/email/file/anything in writing, how to interpret said writing, who do I need to talk to; lots of who what when where why. That sort of problem. I piece together the story. Then I write it up, so we'll all know for next time.

Meanwhile, the mountain of Boring Routine Stuff on my desk is growing . . . but I'm leaving work with a smile today.
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My daughter is on her fifth day of fever. Both sons had it. At least 10% of the school district is out sick on any given day. Sons report 1/4 of their classes had substitute teachers today.

(No, I can't be sure it's swine flu, but it's definitely flu of some sort, and oh boy is it contagious!)

The "good" problem:
My serious runner son Greg will be running in THE big cross-country meet of his high school career (he's a senior) on Saturday afternoon. My daughter Laura, selected from a large pool of flute players, will be playing in the Area All-State concert . . . on Saturday afternoon. At the exact same time Greg runs. A 30-45 minute drive apart. Gah!
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Friday I got a nice email from X warning me that he had had a private meeting with Dean Y and Vice-Provost Z, and, partly as a result of what X said, he feared Y and Z were going to publicly throw me under the bus at Monday's meeting.

I just got a call from Z warning me that X was going to throw me under the bus at the meeting.

wtf?

ETA: Meeting went fine, no buses in sight - go figure. Dean Y even said something to the effect of "this $stuff is really complicated so we're glad to have Lisa manage it."
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My readers will recall that two weeks ago I gave major presentations to the CIO and directors of our 210-person IT organization. My six team members and I have been working on this process re-engineering project for five months (in addition to our day jobs). They nominated me to present our recommendations. The recommendations include formation of a new service/support group with a new director, and adoption of knowledge centered support. These are huge changes from the way we currently provide (or not) service and support.

Yesterday the directors came to us and said they want to implement ALL of our recommendations.

We win!
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This week the kids and I have or had:
4 AP exams (2 each for Greg & Peter)
3 lacrosse games (Laura)
3 track meets (boys)
1 big project for English class (Laura)
1 presentation to the CIO (me)
1 presentation to the entire leadership team (ditto)
1 big math test (Laura)
4 soccer games (Laura)
1 lacrosse team sleepover (Laura)
junior prom (boys)

So far things are going well - better than expected, even. G&P feel confident about the AP exams, and now that they're over, they can coast the rest of the school year. The first of the track meets yielded a PR for Peter. It rained only at relatively convenient times.

Six months ago I was tapped for a process re-engineering project. The team of seven has been meeting 12 hrs/week since then. Twelve hrs/week every week in a very small windowless room. We have gotten to know each other very well. Our job - it took a while to figure out what that was; apparently the directors thought it was better not to, you know, direct us, so we made more than a few false starts and wrong turns - anyway, our job is to redesign the way we (a 210-person IT organization) provide support and fulfill service requests, from pretty much the ground up. We are by no means finished, but yesterday and today we presented our recommendations. The team nominated me to give the presentations, and I was rather nervous . . . but it went quite well. It was gratifying to see some of the directors nodding agreement during the talk, and we kicked ass during the Q&A, because after six months we - not to put too fine a point on it - really know our shit.

Whew! Just a math test, some lacrosse and a lot of soccer, a sleepover, and a prom to go! ETA: and 2 track meets!

*dives back under*
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The College of William and Mary is still the prettiest campus *evar*

Just sayin'
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Last week: $500 on brakes and oil change for van.
Yesterday morning: $400 on emissions work for the Escort.
Yesterday afternoon: leave the office to find a flat tire on my van.

grrr

On the bright side - I enjoyed the beautiful weather while waiting for the tire-change guy. The tire-change guy was very friendly. The spare had just enough air to get me to the nearest gas station, and the nearest gas station had free air. I was able to get from there to the shop to pick up the Escort 15 minutes before the shop closed. While paying for the emissions work I asked if I could leave the van for tire work the next day; they said instead they would look at it right then. They replaced the valve stem, put the tire and spare back on their rightful spots . . . and waved me off when I went in to pay, saying I'd paid enough already in the past week :)

I hope that's all the car trouble for a while; Peter and I take off on Sunday for a week of college shopping, probably about 1500 miles-worth.
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My three kids and their respective girlfriends (or "just friend" in one case) and boyfriend are off ice skating together. A triple date (though Laura would hate to hear me say that). Peter drove. I can't tell you how weird, but also wonderful, this feels. (The fact that I like the girlfriends/boyfriend doesn't hurt.)

For the first time ever, they slept in on "christmas" morning, which we did here today - the kids were at their dad's yesterday. It was a modest stash under the tree - mostly books and chocolate - since we just bought a new flute for Laura and I'm buying my mom's '97 Escort for the boys. Then the kids walked to Twelve Corners for bagels and cream cheese while I did some more dishes from last night's feast. [livejournal.com profile] wotw brought about 150 lbs. of assorted smoked fish and lox, along with enough cucumbers, sweet onions, and tomatoes to feed an army. We assembled a traditional Jewish platter, which has become our new ritual for christmas morning. We tried to do justice to the quantities; afterward there was much napping on sofas.

Over the last two weeks I made our family's traditional xmas cookies (sugar cookies with sherry), rum balls, Russian tea cakes, thumbprint cookies, and a cranberry fruit tart. I'm not sure what got into me, normally I never bake that much. Now it's time to get serious about some exercise.

Both thanksgiving and christmas this year were relaxed and fun, without stress. They were also (except for my kids, of course) bio-family-free. Coincidence?

Oh, and my sister celebrated in California with her new family - it's official, she and her boyfriend are getting married! *squee*

Hope your $holiday was equally warm, loving, and stress-free!
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