Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Making things meaningful

I keep putting off writing this post. In fact, it's been so long that the issue came up again and reminded me that I am just not getting around to things.

It started like this [ok, male audience, if you exist, you can stop reading]

[really, I mean it, close this window & come back again next time.]


I go to what we call the mikva - a ritual bath and every time I go, I remember going with my mom when I was younger. She often had to drive a very long way (try Lawton, Oklahoma to Dallas, for example) just to take a 2 minute dip. But her taking the time to go there and taking me along, sometimes as "the mikva lady" (the one who makes sure every last hair goes under the water) taught me something. It taught me that this meant something to my parents, enough for them to make the effort to continue even when it was really difficult. It was enough that I remember these trips every time I go. It makes me feel like I'm part of a chain that I don't want to break...

In Israel, the mikva is maybe a 5-minute-drive from my house. Kids aren't really supposed to know you're going there (though I'm sure it looks suspicious for me to leave the house with a towel and a hairbrush, in the evening, alone) and you certainly can't take your daughter along. So how do they learn about it? How do you get them to understand that it's meaningful? What memories will my daughters have that will make them keep going?

And when I thought about that, I thought about how we make other things meaningful. I guess it's repetition, involving the kids, explaining things to them, letting them ask questions... Probably many other things that I've missed.

What makes something meaningful to you? What things would you want your children to feel are meaningful to you when they grow up? What do you think we, as parents, can do to make things meaningful to our children?

And I have to leave you with a few pictures from this afternoon, since I got all the kids together :-)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A surprise from Singapore

One of my sweet blogger friends, Bea (let me know if it's OK/possible to link to your blog) sent Yirmi a terrific surprise. I totally love it! I was amazed when he took it and started 'driving' it all over the house. He's never played that way with a car before. (We've now put it away so it will stay nice for when he'll enjoy it even more.)

Thank you so, so much!!! It fits in perfectly with our car collection that currently includes 2 Fiat 500's, a VW Bus, a Porsche 356B, and several others. Um, yeah. Ohad seriously loves cars (his favorite is the Citroen DS). (OK, I admit it. I like them too.)

Earlier this morning, Yirmi was holding the Xbox remote and looking at a baby video. Such a boy. The girls are totally ambivalent to the remote.

Next up: teaching Yirmi to play Guitar Hero :-)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Furry Happy Monsters

Sesame Street often cracks me up. We have about 50 recorded episodes that we watch over and over (yes, I often end up watching them too). I loved this...

I especially love the female monster - good voice ;-)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And in my spare time, I model

Yes. One of my many gigs in the past few years. This time, Yirmi came along too.

You never know to what kind of fame a job like this might lead...

Ready for the picture*?





Tell me you're not jealous...

*photo taken with permission of the supermarket chain and the store manager.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A bright idea

So... I agreed to try to come up with something bright - a helpful tip (click on the title of this posting to find out why). [To skip to the tip, scroll almost to the bottom. I got completely carried away writing this post.]

In my last post, I wrote about some of the things I do, but I didn't write how I got into user interface design or human computer interaction or whatever you want to call it when someone helps make the interaction between people and technology more usable...

Almost exactly 10 years ago (Feb 1, 1999) I started working for a company that did technical writing and GUI (graphical user interface) and graphic design. I had very little experience with Microsoft Office (which was still fairly new then), but I'd worked with computers for several years - doing word processing (with practically every word processing software that came out before Word) and building databases (with dBase 3+) and what they really wanted was someone who'd learn quickly. I asked for a nothing salary (so nothing that it barely covered my transportation to and from work, really) because I had no idea what to ask for - and they hired me. I wasn't really looking for a job at the time, but it sounded interesting... I started out doing whatever was needed - editing, proofreading, and a bit of technical writing. It was a fabulous time for hi-tech and the company had tons of work. More than they could handle. My boss really believed in giving people a chance, so she threw me (with backup) into projects that could have been way beyond my capabilities. I started to get some experience and one of the women I was working with suggested that instead of technical writing, the company might be better off with me doing user interface design.

I don't think anyone had ever moved to a different group in the company before and I was both flattered and excited to have the opportunity to try. Something about the dynamics in the company (mostly within the groups) worked really well - there was a lot of cooperation and sharing of ideas. We always worked in teams of at least 2 and then we'd split up, each working on our own for a while, and then present our ideas to everyone from the group that was available (6 or 7 people) and sometimes to people from other groups too. That way, we'd get input from a several people before we got too far - and we'd go back and make changes and present them again.

The projects were from a variety of fields - I did many that had to do with printed circuit boards, so I actually went to a factory that produced them (they forgot to tell me to bring a clothespin for my nose) and flew to Germany for a week to a company that built camera-based inspection machines, to learn exactly how they worked. I did a huge project for WAP (when people still thought it was going to be the next big thing), medical products, security systems and all sorts of web applications - some of which are still around in various forms. Looking back, it was an incredible time - I worked a lot and I really enjoyed what I was doing and knew to appreciate the opportunity to work with such talented people (most of whom I'm still in touch with).

I got a lot of things out of working there. First of all, a career. More important were the things I got on a personal level - I remember being amazed by my boss so many times - when I reminded her of something she had said, she never denied it. When I said I was having trouble with something, she didn't say I was a lousy person - she found ways to help me... And then I saw the same things happening with the other people I was working with... As time went on, I began to realize that it wasn't me who was crazy or unworthy - it was just my (now ex) husband who was trying to convince me that I was. He had cut off all of my communication with my pre-marriage friends and detested when I talked to anyone from my family on the phone, but he couldn't keep me from talking to my co-workers... I took advantage of the conversations to do reality checks. It took me a long time to open up, but as I did, I found that what I was living was what they considered a nightmare. I stuck around with him (nicknamed Oscar, for his unbelievable grouchiness) for what I thought was my last chance to ever have another baby. I was 32 (which seemed old at the time) and already had 3 kids. It never crossed my mind that after a divorce I might get remarried. And certainly not in time to still be able to have a baby.

Around this time, 7 years ago, I miscarried at 13 weeks*. It wasn't a pregnancy with a lot of hope because even though the fetus was healthy, there was a large hematoma (blood clot) that bled on and off. I was on strict bed rest for the two weeks before the miscarriage. Oscar couldn't be bothered to offer me a glass of water or arrange a tv for me, even though I was only allowed to get up to go to the bathroom. When I came home from the hospital (my mom took me) after the miscarriage, he was angry that my crying woke him up and told me to just 'shut up and let him sleep'. A few weeks later I told him I wanted a divorce.

You're probably wondering how offering to give a tip for technical writers wound up with this crazy-long story. Well, I didn't mean for it to... I really just wanted to write how I started doing technical writing and then, when I wrote about the company I worked for, I couldn't help but mention the huge impact it had on my life (not to mention the fact that I ended up marrying Ohad who was one of my co-workers there, and, um, having three children with him). So.... if you've stuck around this long, here's the tip:

Got a blank page you can't get rid of at the end of a document?
  1. Turn on 'show all' (Ctrl+Shift+8) and find the last paragraph mark.
  2. Highlight it.
  3. In the font size box, type 2 and hit Enter.
Gone? It usually works :-)

* Although I had what is considered a late miscarriage, I was not left with a sense of loss. Since it was inevitable, I think of it as G-d giving me that last, much-needed push to get out of a bad situation and I am very thankful for that.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What I've been up to

I've written plenty of posts in my head. Actually, one of them really needs to (and will) be written. But these past few months, I've been trying really hard to keep my head above water - to be at home with Yirmi and whoever happens to be sick AND to work is challenging to say the least. (Um, yeah, blogging may make some people rich, but for me, if it covers my chewing gum for the month, I feel fortunate. I am not going to be quitting my day job too soon. Not that I really have a day job. I have about 7 day jobs (or more) many of which I don't get paid for... OK, that wasn't really the point... and if it was, it shouldn't have been in parentheses, but it is... hmm...)

Hadas has been at her new school long enough to get a report card for her first semester (very impressive) and we've gotten used to the fact that she's away. She comes home for a short time most Tuesdays and almost every weekend (though when she goes to her father's house for the weekend, we only get to see her for a few hours on Friday). Nomi's been sick on and off for the past few weeks. Today was the first day she went back to her preschool after 4 days at home (OK, there were elections in the middle, but she wouldn't have gone that day anyway). Abigail and Nomi are both still giving us (i.e., mostly Ohad) trouble in the morning when we drop them off, being terribly clingy and crying. Hullo? It's February. They should be used to it by now. Yirmi (turned 11 months on Sunday) is still not really sleeping through the night. Occasionally he sleeps from 11:30 to 6 or something like that, but more often, he goes to sleep at 8:30 and then wakes up at 2 and again at 5. We can't sleep train either, because he screams and wakes up not only the other kids, but the neighbors too. So I do whatever I can to keep him quiet (i.e., nurse him - yes, I'm still doing that and have totally given up on formula) and to get him go back to sleep as soon as possible - usually about 20-30 minutes.

Ohad, in addition to working on his doctorate, teaching a course, working through the university and a few other things, is also working on a new idea. On top of all that, he helps a lot with the kids and cooks about 8 meals a week (and prepares a few more) and does the shopping. Sound like enough work for 2? It is. Fortunately, we work well together, so I help whenever necessary (often) and that keeps me busy too. Among other things, I've done user interface design, built online survey systems from scratch (not the back-end) and edited a few articles.

Tonight, all the kids were home and it wasn't Shabbat, so we got a few pictures together. I have no idea why the pictures look like they were taken 20 years ago (but I blame Picasa. Hey, why not?)

from left to right: Nomi, Abigail, Hadas (deliberately making a silly face), Lilach and Matan (still in his Taekwondo clothes)

Lilach, Abigail, Yirmi and Matan

The whole gang - Hadas, Lilach, Abigail, Yirmi, Matan and Nomi
And even one with me in it :-)