Topic: Now that we're home.
Dear family and friends,
When I reflect back on 2007, I realize that the year was neatly divided into four primary themes, which also nicely divided the year in quarters. Hence, I’ve organized my year in review in such a manner.
Q1. Catastrophe & Repair
We ended last year with a trip to Lake Tahoe-- our first pseudo-family vacation. It was fun and relaxing in an exhausting, stressful kind of way. Ron and I slept in separate beds for the kids sake; Jiana had a bad cold and spent the first night screaming; but we managed to get three kids dressed, fed, bathroomed and to the hill in under 4 hours. Since Jiana wasn’t skiing and Jonah was focusing on the easiest part of the bunny hill, Ron and I took turns kidsitting on and off the slopes, running pit stops and tracking down lost skis. The last time I skied, I was single and childfree, so this required a bit of expectation adjustment.
2006 went out with a bang--literally. On December 31, an iPod-preoccupied snow boarder rammed into me on the slopes of Northstar, knocking my skis in excruciating directions and causing me to scream as loud as anyone has ever screamed for ski patrol. I’m not sure what was worst-- that the snowboarder took off and barely apologized or the humiliation of taking my last run of the day on a stretcher.
The emergency room doctor informed me that the ACL in my knee was trashed and would require surgery. This inaugurated my several month medical odyssey involving a world class orthopedist, several physical therapists, crutches, braces, bandages and an onslaught of medical bills, with the only perk being a handicap parking sticker. After weeks of injury recovery, I underwent ACL surgery in March and repeated the process all over again. As if it wasn’t challenging enough to be a single working mom with a toddler and a landslide, I needed this.
I hobbled around on crutches and on my bottom chasing after Jiana while overseeing property and landslide repairs (landslide details are commemorated in last year’s letter). Ron played Florence Nightingale—driving Jiana to and from daycare, feeding us, running errands, and lifting me into the shower, upstairs and into the car. If not for Ron, I don’t know how I would have made it through this.
Q2. Rest & Relaxation
By April, I was desperate to sit poolside with a fancy cocktail, and I had forgotten the trauma of traveling in a pack. We took the crew on a road trip down south across the Mexican boarder to Rosarita Beach. The weather was good, but not great; the food vacilated between good and ok and the Margaritas were right on. For entertainment, Ron and I kept a secret tally of tantrums (Jonah’s sunburn put him head-to-head with Jiana for 1st place). The kids were relentless in their demands for a coconut and were thrilled for four minutes until they actually tasted coconut milk. This was a far departure from my last trip to Baja as a tequila- soaked college student.
Fortunately, Ron’s nerves weren’t too shattered from our adventures with three kids, as he still wanted to move in with me when we returned.
As I was making progress on my knee and house rehabilitation, our cat Sunkissed developed a funky eye problem. (Last year he had bone cancer and lost his leg.) Several visits to two veterinary opthomologists, trials of various treatment regimes and over a thousand dollars later, a pathology report indicated that he had incurable scaumous carcinoma. On a very sad day in May, I had to put my much loved pussycat son to sleep.
In June, we ventured off on our 3rd ‘family vacation.” We spent a few days in New Jersey and Manhattan, visiting with my grad school friends, Eileen and Charlie; and cousins Danny, Jeremy, Anita and Flo. We happened to arrive in NYC during the Gay Pride parade-- Jonah questioned us about the guys in chaps and other outrageous costumes, but was generally more focused on fighting with Danielle over who got to push Jiana in the stroller. I got to shop in peace for a whole half hour while everyone took a break at McDonalds. We eventually joined up with Ron’s parents and sister’s family for a 9-day Caribbean cruise. Jonah and Jiana enjoyed Kid’s Club, Danielle enjoyed the unlimited Shirley Temples, and Ron and I obsessed about all the weight we were probably gaining. The highlights for me were the leisurely meals with Ron’s family and our way too short, kid encumbered Port stops at San Juan, St. Maartin, St. Thomas and Grand Turk.
The day after returning from the cruise, we signed escrow papers for our new house in Oakland. See www.4060oakmoreroad.com for pictures. We had stumbled upon our dream home the weekend before leaving on vacation and had our bid accepted, went through inspections and loan approval before we left. The house, which had great bones to start, was owned and remodeled by two architects and required virtually no improvements. Having spent the last year with all sorts of remodeling and repair headaches, this was too good to pass up.
While madly packing, I was also in the midst of getting my house ready for market. It was a bit nerve raking to take this leap given that just last year my house had been a FEMA poster child due to the landslide with its picture in the Oakland Tribune. That combined with the almost daily reports of the softening real estate market and pending mortgage crisis didn’t help us sleep. At the same time, we had another problem-- The renters at Ron’s Miraposa house decided that they would rather NOT pay rent. So we were staring down the barrel of three mortgages.
We closed on the house on July 14, moved and put my house on the market a week later. I received an offer following the second open house and after some tense negotiations settled on a price. We retook our Miraposa home and are fixing it up as a vacation rental (it’s 45 minutes from Yosemite.)
Our move coincided with the kids summer visit and I experienced parental trial by fire chauffeuring three kids to three different spots—2 camps and a preschool at various times throughout the day. During this same time, my much-loved blue Passat was rear-ended and totaled by a women talking on her cell phone in an SUV. Jiana and Jonah were in the car and fortunately not hurt. But, I ended up with whiplash and a great chiropractor to add to my medical team.
Ron and I powered ahead with unpacking and were out of boxes for the most part in about two weeks. We settled into domestic life and divvied up responsibilities. Ron took on all the cooking (which he loves and I hate) and most of the grocery shopping. I manage the house and money, do all the dishes and am the laundry slave. (For those of you who don’t have 3+ kids, we are talking 8-10 loads a week of each.)
The combination of stress, laundry detergent fumes and my general reluctance to visit the doctor caught up with me. My unattended flu developed into pneumonia and an emergency room visit turned into a three-night hospital stay. The silver lining in all this was that my ACL surgery had totally tapped out my insurance deductible for the year so my hospital stay didn’t end up costing me a dime. I was also stoked about the 5 pounds I had lost due to the intravenous feedings.
I slowed down for about a week after being released from the hospital and capitalized on the excuse not to FAST this Yom Kippur. Then I proceeded to ignore everyone’s prescriptions that I “take it easy” and dove back into my work.
Thanks to having one of the few careers that I can do on my back, I’ve managed to run and build my recruiting business through all of this. I even closed a couple of deals while on the cruise ship and from my hospital bed. While I spent most of last year as a contract recruiter (consultant), once I was injured it wasn’t as workable to go onsite with clients. Shortly after my surgery, a business acquaintance approached me to join forces with him. We arranged to share clients and profits according to who owns which piece of the transaction. It’s working out well as my partner Robert has great relationships with some top tier venture capital firms and their portfolio companies. And it didn’t take me long for business contacts to start referring clients my way. Demand for candidates is so hot right now, that I actually get cold calls from VPs of Engineering asking me to recruit for their companies. If only finding suitable candidates was so easy, I would be on the fast track to retirement. So amazingly, in spite of being bed bound, hospital bound and insanely busy for much of the year, I’ve still managed to close deals and grow my business.
Now that things have quiet a bit, I’ve recently begun volunteering with World Pulse Media, a Portland-based nonprofit that is developing a website (Pulsewire.net) for global activists focusing HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and water sustainability. I’ve been working with the President and staff and one of their founding members (a renown AIDS activist) in San Francisco to kick-start fundraising and recruitment of technical leadership in the Silicon Valley. Our long-term plan is to provide Internet access via cell phones for activists working in the “Global South” (the new PC term for the developing world. More advanced countries are referred to as the “Global North.”) I couldn’t be more excited about working on developing PulseWire as this the type of initiative that I have always dreamed of being apart of.
Q4. Moving Forward
On a rainy October night, Ron surprised Jiana and me with a decadent gourmet dinner of foie gras, artisan cheeses, olives and fine wine. He caught me totally off guard when he brought in a mini wedding cake and popped the question. One might ordinarily catch on sooner than I did if their sweetheart was to bring out all of the stops, but Ron makes gourmet meals so often that I thought it business as usual. A few minutes after I finished jumping up and down with excitement, I went into high gear on wedding planning. I’ve been ecstatic ever since and often find myself singing “Fiddler on the Roof” songs and the best of Burt Bacharach. I may be driving poor Ron too nuts with “all wedding, all the time.” After all, I never let on that he would be getting Bridezilla with the bargain.
Jiana continues to be as cute as ever and is growing up faster than I can blink. This morning she asked me to point out North America on a puzzle map—no joke. The kids (Danielle (now 10), Jonah (7) and Jiana (3.5) get along really great for the most part. Aside from the typical sibling challenges of toy sharing and such, they generally have fun together. When I’m not gritting my teeth over clothes on the floor, kids wearing skates in the house and sticky fingers on the furniture, I love the chaos. Lots of kids = lots of fun and they never cease to crack us up. The commotion of it all has really brought Ron and me closer as we cling together for a bit of support and sanity.
All and all I’m feeling extremely blessed these days. I finally have a family that is bigger and better than I ever dreamed. I am madly in love with my sweet, supportive, gourmet cooking, piano playing fiancé who tolerates my passion for advanced planning, accompanies my Burt Bacharach songs, and keeps me on track with baths and bedtimes.
Add to that three amazing kids, a fat demonstrative orange cat, the ability to walk without crutches, full lung capacity, a house that’s not on FEMA’s agenda, a thriving life and a wedding to plan. What could be better?
Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful 2008! We look forward to many guests at our home this year and hope you will be among them.
Love Genice (and Ron, Danielle, Jupiter, Jonah and Jiana)
4060 Oakmore Road
Oakland, CA 94602
email@example.com (please do not use any other email for me)
510-530-6687 – home
415-298-0679 – Genice’s cell
415-748-6034 – Ron’s cell