Mood: accident prone
Topic: Now that we're home.
As Charles Dickens once wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” That pretty much sums up my 2006-- both one of my best and absolutely most challenging years.
LOVE AND ENTERTAINMENT
My darling daughter continues to bring me unimaginable happiness and ample giggles. Single motherhood and mothering a toddler in general has proven to be very workable and not especially stressful. With the exception of multiple middle of the night wake up calls (Jiana, Sunkissed and Jupiter tag team it :<, nightly wrestling with the toothbrush, a napping strike, and three or so tantrums a day, I pretty much take it all in stride and only resort to primal screams occasionally.
To make life even sweeter-- just when I least expected it and was getting exasperated waiting-- prince charming finally showed up. What the “#!&%*$” took him so long! Ironically, we came very close to crossing paths a few times over the years… we both spent the summers of ’84 and ’85 in Washington, DC… both worked abroad on AIESEC traineeships in ’87 – Ron was in Germany, while I was in Japan… came close to attending graduate school together at Northwestern in ’91. I applied there while Ron was working on his PhD in Economics. And for two years before we started dating, we lived a few miles apart in Oakland.
After careful scrutiny, I’ve decided that Ron is really the most wonderful of the approximately 250 or so guys I’ve considered over the past 26 years (no one can accuse me of being impulsive in romance). He’s kind, generous, good looking, funny, flexible, romantic, liberal enough, cultured and whip smart. To boot he shares my love of traveling, skiing, music and food. He plays brilliant piano and guitar, speaks German, French and is studying Spanish with me and is a gourmet cook (which is way fabulous as I can live without ever cooking). As an added bonus, the package includes two charming and adorable children. Danielle age 9 and Jonah, 6 are great fun and are happy to entertain Jiana and teach her the likes of “hide and go seek”. She idolizes them and when not fighting over toys, they crack each other up. They are sweet and polite towards me and only look perturbed if I get within 4 feet of their father. I just love all the chaos and commotion when we are all together – I intermittently chuckle and roll my eyes at Ron during the cacophony of Jonah and Danielle torturing each other and yelling Daddy, while Jiana whines for Mama.
In all, the first few months of the year were great. I got in a groove with the motherhood thing, was enjoying play dates and my re-energized love life. Jiana and I were going on regular stroller hikes, zoo trips, and she was mastering the joy of clothes shopping with mama… Jiana settled into daycare a few days a week and became fully conversant within minutes. I’m awed and surprised by what she now pipes up with. In my spare time, I was also finding gratification volunteering to assist Katrina evacuees and doing some freelance writing. I even played reporter/paparazzi one night at the Northern California Emmy Awards.
Then late one rainy night when I was sitting at home (March 25), I heard a very loud thunk. I first thought it was a downed Eucalyptus tree-- It turned out to be a very significant landslide on our property running between our house and our next-door neighbor’s. It took down a chunk of street, a parking spot, our fence and the staircase to our utility room. Fire trucks stopped the gushing water from the broken water line and sandbagged the street. Then the TV news showed up, which was sobering (nothing like TV reporters interviewing you about a disaster at your house). In coming days, a metro section cover story about our house in the Oakland Tribune prompted reporters from Infinity Radio and two other television stations to show up at our door. While the slide was major headache, we were blessed that it didn’t take down the gas line just a few feet away and that our foundation wasn’t affected. And by a further act of G_D, the City of Oakland engineer waved his wand and faulted a clogged storm drain. This supporting my claim of City responsibility and effectively saved me from financial ruin.
While the city’s reluctant admission of responsibility was somewhat of a relief, in the months to come I found it impossible to get anything from the City in writing. I was encouraged to submit a claim, but found my real challenge to be finding a contractor willing to give me a written quote in order to submit my claim.
Fast-forward a few months. Our landslide was deemed an official FEMA disaster enabling the City to obtain federal funding for the street repair… after 14 or so meetings with various contractors, I finally found one to repair my hill… hill work was completed in October with the exception of landscaping and just before Halloween, I received a check for $88.4K from the City to cover repairs. All along I was promised that the City was also on track to build a large $150K retaining wall at the street before this coming rainy season. But just a few days before the project was to start (with a contractor in place and steel on order), FEMA funding was put on hold due to a missing environment report. A major oopsee for the City. By now after hundreds of calls, I’m on a first name basis, which anyone who might pick up the phone at Public Works or my Councilwoman’s office. After prompting several neighbors to writing letters of complaint, I’m practicing taking deep breaths for the moment,
In between breaths, I am busily interviewing contractors to rebuild my staircase, fix my deck, carport and dry rot in the shower other in order to ready my house for sale. I am going on the optimistic assumption that the City will eventually repair my street and I will be able to eventually remove the sandbags and plastic sheeting protecting the hill and put my house on the market.
In between harassing City of Oakland officials and tracking down contractors, I am also doing the work thing. Thankfully, hiring in Silicon Valley is back into high gear and business has been very good this year. In April, I wrapped up my two-year contract recruiting work with Sunflower Systems and found myself back on the job market. With a recruiter friend’s referral, I quickly landed a gig with a very promising early stage company in Redwood City. It’s a great well paying gig enabling me to work mostly from home. Attributor is developing technology to protect against copyright infringements on the Internet. We just emerged from “stealth-mode” earlier this month with an article in the Wall Street Journal and announcement of Series B funding. See: www.attributor.com. When things slowed down at Attributor in September, one of Attributor’s founders introduced me the founders of Fraudwall, another early stage company. Fraudwall, which is still in “stealth mode”, is developing a solution to the “click-fraud” problem (when people or organized schemes fraudulently click on pay-per-click advertising). I’m currently busying myself bouncing between the two companies and scrambling to make hires and amass some stock.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
As if raising a toddler along with juggling a demanding career, a new relationship with three kids in toe and a landslide weren’t enough; we had a cancer scare in July. After a trip to Washington, DC (to visit friends, cousins and meet Ron’s family), I came home to discover a malignant lump on my older cat son, Sunkissed’s leg. It was an emotional rollercoaster for about 10 days as he was diagnosed and I made the difficult decision to proceed with amputation. Fortunately after surgery, he recovered well and was back wrestling with Jupiter and damaging my furniture in no time.
And if that wasn’t enough… With Sunkissed on the mend, I followed him to the infirmary in September. Flying down the last two stairs of my deck, I managed to badly sprain my ankle. Serves me right for nicknaming the little guy “hop along”.
Never a dull moment at our house, in November Jiana learned the true meaning of “HOT” when she placed her full palm on the electric stove burner causing first and second degree burns…. A couple of hours of screaming and icing later… a second mortgage worth of cute band aids… her hand blistered, but did not infect or scar.
What else? I couldn't figure out where to fit this in so here goes. Somewhere along the way... stroller and carseat in toe, we also managed visits to Austin to see grad school friends, Scottsdale to tag along on Ron's business trips at a cool resort, and LA to see my mom play the Domra in a concert of the Los Angeles-St Petersburg Russian Folk Orchestra.
So this brings us to real time-- the last week of the year. The holidays have been busy and festive. My mom visited over Thanksgiving. Ron cooked an amazing dinner, which blew her away. So much for all her years of suggesting that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I got there by simply agreeing to do the dishes. For Chanukah, we broke latkas with an assortment of friends and enjoyed watching the kids frolic in presents. We enjoyed a Guatamalan-style Christmas eve with my nanny Claudia’s family and got to practice our Spanish. The holidays have never been so much fun. Tomorrow morning we leave for Lake Tahoe to spend New Years with friends Setsuko and Solomon and their 3 year old twin girls, and connect up with my Nepal treking partner Pam (now career diplomat) and husband Woody from DC and my old college roommate Diane, husband Jon and kids from San Diego. I hope to get to ski one or two days, assuming I can pawn Jiana off on one of them for a few hours (No, I'm not an awful mother, just a flippant one).
It’s been a wild ride of year. I feel blessed and grateful to have so much love and joy in our lives, our health, our home, my sanity and our beloved "hop along".
Love, peace and "uppy" for everyone!
Genice, Jiana, Sunkissed and Jupiter