Much like I wrote almost three years ago when Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids in baseball, another athlete held up by the American people has given up the fight against drug charges. I had watched the Tour de France since before Lance Armstrong won his first race in 1999, but admit I watched it more frequently between 1999 and 2005 when he was on his win streak. My dad was also an athlete with cancer and had admired Lance for his triumphs in both areas of his life, but was very put off by Lance when he divorced his wife Kristin in 2003
My sister-in-law posted a link today to a blog post regarding the "boys will be boys" mentality that has allowed young girls to be told that boys chase them around and pull their hair on the playground "because he likes you" and calling proper BS on the fact that it's not okay for kids to do that to each other no matter the gender or the amount of love they might or might not feel for each other.

My oldest daughter just turned 14 yesterday and has been taking Tae Kwon Do for almost 8 years now. This is actually one of the primary lessons we've hoped she's learned from her martial arts classes and is the first mental requirement for every rank: Respect for yourself, your family, the school, and all the students. It's been a battle for many years for her to understand what it meant to respect yourself and most of her school-yard issues dealt with words rather than actions, but it was still tough having her come home so upset at what boys would tease her with. Never mind that we thought that the boys came up with some pretty funny lines (like calling her Tae Kwon Cookie Dough), but if she didn't like it she had to learn how to diffuse the situation so they would understand that it wasn't okay. Once she learned to respond with humor ("That's Tae Kwon Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough to you!") rather than tears we thought we were on a better track, but it's still a struggle even in middle school.

As a parent of three girls, I can only hope that they all learn that it's not okay to let someone treat you in any way that you don't want to be treated, but I also know that it will come up for all three of them more than once. It's not okay, but it is something that they have to learn. I've had bosses that acted like schoolyard bullies and I didn't like it, didn't put up with it, and didn't stay in that situation for very long because I couldn't respect an adult who would treat people that way. But I do have to say that thankfully, none of the teachers that my daughters have had have used that dreaded phrase to my knowledge. The "oh, that just means he likes you." Um, no. That means he's immature and doesn't know how to treat other people respectfully. If he wants my child's attention, that is not the way to get it and yes, my children know the flip side is true as well. There are not specific gender lines when it comes to this kind of treatment and it all needs to stop. But I have great hope - maybe it's the fact that marriage equality was just signed into law in my home state, but I think each generation is teaching more tolerance and not perpetuating the cycle.
Not that I even have in the tens of followers here, but I do realize that I have been absent from this blog for quite some time. Most of the topics that have been coming to mind for me are fairly repetitive from what I've talked about previously when it comes to what's going on in my life - I've been unemployed (again) since August and am really doing some internal searching for what it is that makes me fulfilled as a person. Working on it... we'll see if I can get into a new routine for posting on here. No promises!! Any requests for my musings?
I am 100% in support of our troops and have complete respect for our intelligence personnel as well. What I’m conflicted about regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden yesterday and the subsequent announcement last night were the celebrations that occurred in Washington DC, at Ground Zero, and elsewhere. I think a retweet that ended up in my twitter feed summed it up fairly well: “Tonight is a night for sober and mature reflection, not glee. Mindless celebration is both spiritually inappropriate and politically naïve.”  (@marwilliamson)

I admit that the Team America: World Police song popped into my head last night – “America, f**k yeah!” – but I wasn’t ready to fly my American flag and chant “USA! USA!” with the others they were showing on TV. It was an important enough event that I made sure my oldest daughter was in front of the TV with us to hear Obama’s address, but as my husband and many others commented on last night: it’s morally hard to cheer for the death of someone else even if we know that person committed such atrocities against other human beings.

I’m grateful that Obama was able to come into office and focus on the mission that Bush seemed to lose sight of when he turned our military attention to Iraq as well as Afghanistan, but it’s still crazy to think that it took almost 10 years to bring bin Laden down. That means all the college students out celebrating in the streets were 10-12 years old when 9/11 happened and don’t really have the perspective that older folks have on it.

I am absolutely proud to be an American and to have such an amazing military to protect my freedoms, but I know that the celebrations are not the most appropriate way to mark such a serious event. I appreciate that Obama mentioned that we know bin Laden was not a Muslim leader since he killed just as many Muslims as not; I laughed when someone else mentioned that Obama’s speech was interrupting “Celebrity Apprentice”; and I grew quiet as I tried to figure out how I felt the event will shape America’s future. I thought to the fact that we’re supposed to be withdrawing our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and that bin Laden’s death will only help in the long-term stability of the region. I also know that bin Laden’s al Qaida and the Taliban had parted ways so it’s not really as simple as that, but it is a step in the right direction.

I respect the political maneuvering that Obama made last week by “finally” offering up his birth certificate and stating that it was time to move on to more important things – knowing all the while that the final stages of the bin Laden mission were in action. I think he proved that there were certainly more important items on the horizon than his long-form birth certificate.

I’m avoiding the news today so that I can filter out the truth from the opinions as time gives us a little perspective on the events of yesterday. I can only hope that this perspective will bring us together as a country. I know that yesterday’s events probably mean more to the military troops and families as well as anyone directly affected by 9/11 – either through proximity to the events or relation to those who were killed. But even for this 30-something West Coast girl, I can appreciate that bin Laden’s death means a great deal to many people. I just hope that we can be respectful of the rest of the world as we mark the end of that era.
It seems like the more I hear about various issues going on around the U.S. and the World the more the concept of choice comes up. The biggest element of the human experience that gives us the most grief is free will – there are people who really don’t like that they can’t control other people’s choices and there are the choice-less who just want the opportunity to make the decision for themselves even if it is the “wrong” choice.

The uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East seem to all have that theme: Leaders who are holding their power in perpetuity and not giving their people the choice of who leads them. It has become the rallying point for the uprisings – the desire for choice in leadership and life. I think that’s one of the reasons that so many Americans are apathetic about politics – there are many of us who have never had to worry about choosing our political leaders – we always do every 2, 4, or 6 years and we know that right isn’t going anywhere no matter how we choose to vote. It’s not about picking the “right” or “wrong” candidate, it’s about being able to choose for yourself who you think should be put in that leadership position.

Religion is another example of how the freedom of choice makes a difference. My oldest daughter is doing a report on her ancestry and we’re trying to tell her about why our ancestors from Europe would have come to America to live – it was the “Land of Opportunity” with the freedom of religion that they weren’t getting at home and the potential to obtain land or jobs that they didn’t think they could get in their home countries.

One of the continuing “hot button” topics is abortion and the right to choose. I’m pro-choice, but it doesn’t mean I will ever choose to have an abortion myself – it means I believe that I should be able to make that choice for myself and have more than one safe, legal path that I can take with my own body. The decision of Roe v. Wade made a huge difference in the lives of many people just by giving women a choice. This choice factor stands out to me since I just finished “Freakonomics” – they spell out how just having abortion legalized helped the crime rate because the kids who would have gone on to commit crimes weren’t born into homes that didn’t want them or couldn’t support them – a major indicator of future crime potential. Just having it has a valid option makes a difference for a lot of women since thinking about terminating the pregnancy versus keeping the baby makes them realize how much they really do want the baby.

What gets me on the abortion topic is how there are groups that are trying to take away that choice for others. I realize that there are majority opinions that change over time – with respect to slavery, women’s voting, if a Catholic is qualified be President, that the Earth revolves around the Sun – that seem obvious to us now, but weren’t always so clear. Do these groups realize that their oppression is what drove their ancestors to come to the United States in the first place? They just wanted the opportunity to choose for themselves. And now there are people who are trying to limit the choices of others due to their religious beliefs. You have the freedom to practice your religion and I have the freedom to practice mine or none at all. Forcing a woman to have an ultrasound before being allowed to have an abortion is cruel and unusual. Women know what’s going on – we know that it is a potential human life, but please let us make that choice. I don’t see paid maternity leave in the U.S. like in other countries, I don’t see universal health care, or any number of other programs that make it economically feasible to have children. Yes, those women didn’t “choose” to abstain or “choose” to use more than one method of contraception, but that doesn’t mean that they are deferring all future decisions to someone else.

If we keep allowing people to make their own choices for themselves within the framework of a civilization (i.e. I can’t choose to make your choices for you), I think the world as a whole will be a better place. Live and let live.

P.S. Children love choices as much as bigger humans do - the easiest way to get a kid to do something is to give them a choice, even if both choices lead to them doing what you would like them to do (i.e. go potty before getting the car, or getting their shoes on before going out the door). But eventually kids have to come up with their own choices and their own decisions since that's what we expect of successful adults. Choices are important to humans and we shouldn't try to limit them if they don't harm anyone but the chooser.
With spring comes the hope of better weather and I’m fully guilty of that hope even though I live in the Pacific Northwest. We took advantage of it “only” drizzling off and on Saturday morning to take the girls on their first real hike of the year.  They did great, but we definitely need to get them new shoes if we’re going to get some miles logged this year. One of the twins ended up with the backs of her heels really irritated – I lamented that it was too bad we didn’t bring a change of shoes for them and of course my husband laughed and pointed at her sister. If we hadn’t stopped and switched their shoes when we did she would have easily had a blister which is not a good way to get a 4-year-old back in hiking mode. We still ended up having to put some moleskin on the backs of her heels to help protect the newly damaged skin. They LOVE using our hiking poles though, so that’s a big help for motivation. I think they’re a little bummed that we didn’t bring the packs since this will be their first full year without being able to use them – a bummer for us as well since we have to go their speed all the time now. It was a good start, though, and we’re going to try to get out for little hikes as much as we can this year now that I’m in a better routine at work as compared to last year at this time.

In the rundown of family happenings: our oldest daughter is going to test for her first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do on Friday and Saturday nights, so we’re going to have a low-key Easter at home this year which I’m very okay with. She’s going to be testing with two of her peers, so it will be a great challenge for her. My hubby is back in the garden again this year and has been breaking out some cookbooks to find new vegetarian recipes for us to try. It’s always interesting to come home to see what new dish he’s trying – quite a few with curry last week!

Work is moving right along for me, more design work and construction support for my projects all the time and we’re still waiting on some new projects to come in and make us super busy. I’m still not mentally back in for the long-haul, but I’m here for now and that’s what matters to my family. I’m back to resisting the constant stream of sugar that seems to go around the office since I think any weight loss I had in January is creeping back with my accepting little bits of sugar here and there enough to add up to more than I really would like. That’s the other reason I’m getting my family going on hiking again – it’s for me to get outside and get moving!
I’ve started writing a new blog post every week, but never seem to get past the first few sentences before life gets in the way. Two weeks ago the post was starting out as a rant on my supervisors at work which then morphed the next week into a panic at my chosen profession and now I’m just getting bitter that I can’t get my work issues to go away in a timely manner.

What’s been making my blog turn into a bunch of starts and stops? A project at work that I did the design for over the summer that is now being constructed and running into a couple issues.  Nothing earth-shattering for the world-at-large. Nothing that will make the evening news. It’s not even anything that I’m going to lose my job over, but definitely something that is not “business as usual” for me and it is another nail in the coffin of my chosen profession.

Those who know me in real life or have read some of my older blog posts know that I’ve been struggling with my career choice for quite some time now. Between the timing of my twins and the timing of the current economic situation of the U.S., I don’t really have the flexibility to change careers any time soon. But I kind of had the wind knocked out of my engineering sails at the end of my tenure with my last job and they’re not really re-inflating at this one. I’m just not excited to wake up every morning and do design work anymore. I enjoy the project management side of things, but I don’t have enough experience to jump into that without having to change companies. It’s possible to pigeon-hole myself into just the materials and projects that I’m better at, but that didn’t work out so well for me at my last company when the economy went down the toilet. I have to expand if I want to stay employable, but I have to figure out at what cost to myself and my family.

Since I’m now at a multi-disciplinary company, I’m taking all the opportunities that I can to expand beyond the limits of my current field, but that really just compounds the issue: I’m kind of good at a lot of things, but not really good at any (that I’ve found yet). There are a lot of things that I enjoy doing, but there are a lot more people out there better at it than I am, so I can’t really make a living at doing a mediocre version.

I’m still working on the question I posed almost a year ago – where do I belong?  I’ve already made the decision to stay in my current town to raise my kids even though that means I’m commuting over 75 miles round-trip every day, but I’m really not ready to relocate to the city where my work is, and I don’t particularly want to up-root my family for a job that I don’t really see myself doing in 5 years.  The company itself is great, but I don’t want to string them along if my heart’s not in it anymore.

I know that theoretically I should be able to put my head down and trudge through it, but that was how I survived the last two years of college and the last 10 years of my current career. I want to stop and look around now. It’s not even that I’m burned out; it’s more like it was beaten out of me.

Any tips for survival? I’m really hoping that the emergence of spring will bring more outdoor activities for me which will help my overall mood, but that certainly doesn’t give me the motivation to get back inside and work!
It is very difficult to see the pictures from the tragedy in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami and not wonder, as a structural engineer, what there is to learn from it so that it doesn’t happen again.  From all accounts, it sounds like it wasn’t the massive 9.0 earthquake that did the most damage; it was the 10-meter (33-foot) high tsunami wave that really created the devastation that we see in the news.  The nuclear reactors aren’t having meltdown because of the shaking of the quake, it’s because the back-up diesel generators weren’t located on high enough ground to survive the tsunami wave and the battery back-up to those couldn’t last more than 4-8 hours.

I’m not even going to try to wrap my head around the reports that 9,500 people from just one town were all swept up in the tsunami in addition to all the other losses, but I will take comfort in not hearing much in the way of damage in Tokyo.  That means that all the seismic designs that we implement should work when our country gets hit with another massive earthquake.  That is something that I can comprehend and move forward in my life with.  I’m not even remotely saying that it means your private residence is safe from even partial collapse in an earthquake, but it does mean that the modern structures that are designed to current codes and seismic loads should behave the way we want them to.  That’s what lets the structural engineer sleep at night.

So why did I title this blog post “Another Wake-up Call”?  Because I had just posted on February 22nd about Earthquake Preparedness following the New Zealand earthquake and it is now even more obvious how timely this information is.  The “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean has just unleashed 7.0 and 7.1 earthquakes in Chile and Argentina on January 1st and 2nd of this year, New Zealand has had up to 7.0 earthquakes in the area since September of last year, and Japan’s 7.2 quake two days before the 9.0 was enough to get us talking about the fact that the Pacific Plate is on the move.  The only quadrant that hasn’t had a major subduction earthquake in the last 400 years is the Northwest coast of the U.S. where the Juan de Fuca plate is located.  Those great earthquakes arrive about every 400 years, which is not a good statistic for those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest.

What does it really mean?  That anyone on the western coast of the U.S. has had ample warning to be prepared in the event of an earthquake.  Even though the subduction zone quake will only happen between about Crescent City in California and up through Oregon and Washington into British Columbia, California still needs to be equally prepared.  The more they study the history of the earthquakes, the more they find to support the theory that the great subduction earthquakes actually trigger San Andreas Fault quakes.  Fun right?

So what is the progress of my emergency shed?  I got some new Rubbermaid Roughneck storage boxes that fit the dimensions of the shed a little better and have transferred the supplies that I had compiled before into these more durable containers.  I made a list from all the sites that I had mentioned in my previous post and have been making sure to get the last of the items into the shed – we didn’t have our set of adult clothes and shoes in there, I hadn’t put any towels in before, our water storage had diminished over time and moving to new houses, and we even are adding more in the way of entertainment – a deck of cards, some dice games, coloring books with colored pencils.  I’m going to revamp the food storage at some point too, and am excited about some of the new backpacking recipe books that I have that would work for the food supply portion as well.

My only request at this point is for the earthquake to not happen when I’m not with my family.  Wishful thinking, I know.  What do you have in your emergency survival box?
I really try to not give too much additional press to some of the more sensational stories that come out of the 24/7 news feeds (*coughCharlieSheencough*), but there was one last week that I can’t let by without giving some of the other side of the story and rambling/ranting a bit.  What am I talking about?  The author of a new book who discusses how she was a better mother when she left her 20-year marriage and two young boys behind.  Um, excuse me?

I realize that people can be misrepresented in the quest to get better book sales or hits on their website (Yes, Tiger Mom, I’m talking about you), but seriously? There’s no way that someone should be making the abandonment of your family into a book.  A blog maybe, but not a book to take on the Today Show circuit. All parents know there are ups and downs to the “job” – no one signs up for the tantrums of 2- or 13-year-olds, but we press on because like it or not, that’s part of being a parent.  I used to say that I never really knew what the term “forever” meant until I gave birth to my twins.  I was FOREVER in charge of the well-being of these tiny little humans and for the rest of my life I was a mom! Holy moly! And there have been many days between then and now where I wanted a weekend off or even just one night, sometimes life just doesn’t work that way. It’s called something that I’m working on with my own kids: responsibility.  I completely understand that women (or men) shouldn’t have to give up their life for 18 years so their kids can grow up in a loving home, but my goodness – how selfish can you get?

I want to read her husband’s side of this story because I’ve seen first-hand how the children fare when Mommy decides she doesn’t want that responsibility anymore and it’s not an improvement for anyone left behind.  My 13-year-old step-daughter was “abandoned” by her birth mom when she was barely two years old. Her birth mom decided she wasn’t really ready to be a mom and left. My daughter grieved and does have some continuing things that she’s working through, but she’s been able to have a fairly stable life provided by her dad and has done okay for herself. There has been more than one occasion over the years where she has questioned if she did something to force her birth mom out or if her birth mom loves/remembers her. No kid should have to go through that. Luckily my husband was able to get help from his family and make sure that his (now our) daughter was cared for and loved. He could handle whatever came his way, but when it came to it, he couldn’t protect his daughter from that pain and that was the hardest part for him.

I realize that parents leave all the time due to all sorts of reasons, but at least when the reason is that the parents aren’t compatible, the kids can (someday) rationalize that it wasn’t their fault. How does the kid that was abandoned because their mom or dad didn’t want to be a parent anymore work through that? And yes, it is abandonment. A child who has had two parents in their life and suddenly doesn’t have one anymore due to a parent’s free-will decision (and not a tragedy) has been abandoned. That is not something that we need to be writing books about – I think every parent would know that not having kids anymore would be a freeing exercise; we don’t have to pay you money to read about it. And if you feel the need to justify your decisions by writing a book, keep it in your journal. Parenthood isn’t for everyone, but please make sure you figure that out BEFORE you become a parent. Maybe that’s her intent? To be a form of birth control by saying that parenthood isn’t for everyone? I think maybe there’s a better way to market yourself without seeming like a selfish b*tch if that’s the case.
I thought I'd post a separate musing on where we're starting from in regards to our move toward a less-meat household.  (I like using "less-meat" rather than "meat-less" for now since we're still omnivores at this stage of the game).  I actually pulled out the last of a Costco bag of chicken breasts from the freezer this weekend as well as a couple pounds of ground turkey and made a couple freezer meals that we'll use up in the next month or so as needed.  I grabbed a frozen turkey breast to thaw in the fridge for a couple days (that per DH is cooking in the oven today) and noted that we had 2 more pounds of ground turkey and a pot roast in the freezer.  We also have a couple of pounds of halibut steaks that we're just not getting through, so I may bring those to the office to share with some co-workers to get it out, but not wasted.  We're still consciously not buying any new meat for our household, but I have a feeling that we might get some more turkey lunch meat for the twins since it's a lean source of protein that they are willing to eat.  We also have a bag of Trader Joe's orange chicken in the freezer and a pack of hot dogs that we keep on hand for the girls that will get used up fairly soon.  They love the TJ's meatless corn dogs, so we might be good to go in that regard.

As part of the less-meat change, I also have a personal goal to consume less refined sugars.  I did great in January and lost 7 pounds, but allowed myself a bit more in February and leveled out.  Today being March 1st gives me a good spot to go for less sugar again.  If I drink anything besides water, it's fat-free milk or plain green tea, so I'm good to go in that regard since I'm not really drinking that many calories/sugar each day. (Yes, I know milk has calories AND sugar, but I really don't end up having more than 1 to 1-1/2 cups per day, if that).  My biggest obstacles are the goodies at work, the goodies that DH likes to bake at home, and the business trips that I go on which inevitably mean eating out more and consuming more than I do at home.

I don't have another business trip (that I know of) for three weeks, so I've got time to get going on less-meat meals before heading back to BBQ City.