Saturday, March 31, 2012

Here's Looking at You, Cap'n

Sometimes I choose a midnight snack not for the way it tastes, but just for the way it looks. Mmmm, Cap'n Crunch with Crunch Berries, you look great in my mug.

Colorful Consolation

On any given Friday during the ski season, there is only one place I want to be and that's Stevens Pass. But today, I was asked by my homesick third-born to cancel my trip and spend the day with her. Sigh. I did the right thing and stayed home, but while I waited for her to finish up her last class of the day, I decided that I needed some sort of compensatory adventure. 

Sorting through my mental list of interesting possibilities, I remembered that my friend, Amanda, had recently invited me to check out an outdoor art installation by Suzanne Tidwell in Redmond. While I had been forced to cancel our original plan, due to the wicked virus that ruined two weeks of my life in February, and had not yet rescheduled, I knew this trip would be the perfect remedy to my Friday blues. 

So off I drove, through wind, rain and a little bit of hail, to check out the tree socks.

Wow. I was not disappointed! The scope, scale and phenomenal color of this art...well, it knocked my socks off. 

As I wandered among these trees, questions jumped into my brain. How many people helped to do all this knitting? How many hours and how much yarn did it take? How did they get the socks to fit so perfectly on the trees? What will happen to the socks when the installation is taken down? What do the local birds and bunnies think about this transformation of their woodland home?

Honestly, none of that matters. Just feast your eyes, as I did, on these amazing colors and vibrant stripes. 

 What a lovely consolation for my Friday in the lowlands.

P.S. Amanda, sorry for ditching you. But I'll gladly go back with you, any time you like!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Precious Luna

Here is a great thing about pets. Like little kids, they do the funniest things...and with such tender innocence that sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry or hug them till they collapse. 

Today, for example, my fourth daughter and I were lying on my bed. She was wrapping up her most recent re-reading of the Hunger Game trilogy, I was huddled under the comforter in an attempt to warm up my hypothermia-plagued feet while I waited for her to finish so we could go watch The X-files.

As she was reading, my daughter shifted around so she was lying on her back. I heard her give a little laugh, and I lifted my eyes to see what might be making her laugh. This is what I saw:

Cute little Luna was perched up on the bookcase over the head of my bed, looking down at us, shifting his curious and completely adorable gaze from my face to my daughter's face and back again. Soon after, he jumped down, walked across the comforter, sat down on top of me, and allowed us both to pet him.

I wanted to squeeze him till he squeaked, sweet thing. But I just gave him my patented under-the-chin rub until he decided that he had had enough, and calmly strolled away. Precious Luna.

A TERRA-ific Way To Say Thanks

My friend, Jenifer, and her husband, Greg, own a staffing company named TERRA.

This is Jenifer.
This is Greg.
This is SeƱor Frijole, their baby boy, pride and joy, office companion, and all-around snappy dresser.
Now, Jenifer and Greg (and Frijole) do lots of other interesting things besides work. But their work tells me a lot about them, and I find that to be very interesting, too.

TERRA Staffing Group is a company that helps people find jobs. Sometimes they match upper level management types to corner-office positions with six-figure salaries; other times, they help blue collar types find industrial work, like counting parts or squeegeeing out the insides of giant soup cookers. Jenifer works with the upper management clients, Greg is the CEO who keeps the whole operation humming, From what I hear, it's a good gig...but it's maybe not always the most exciting or glamorous or artistic work that could ever be imagined.

But it is work that matters. TERRA helps people earn an honest living, and at the same time, helps companies find the employees they need to make business happen. TERRA does the kind of work that makes the world go round, and at the same time, brings meaning to individual lives.

Even so, Jenifer and Greg strive to do more than just match people to jobs and vice versa. They want TERRA to matter. They want to be the kind of company that not only satisfies its clients' needs, but takes the best possible care of its own staff. They want to achieve their organizational goals and set standards in the industry, but they also want to do the right thing as human beings. Over the years, TERRA has won a surprising number of awards that suggest that it is possible to do both. After garnering prizes with titles like Best Companies to Work For and Best Workplace, this year, TERRA won recognition as the Inavero's 2012 Best of Staffing Client Winner. I'm no expert on this topic but I gather that it's an award that measures customer satisfaction, and the bar is set very high.

I am very impressed that TERRA won this title. Yet what they decided to next impresses me even more. Because the award was granted on the basis of customer input, Jen and Greg decided to thank their clients who took the time to complete the survey. 

Nice touch, right?  

But they didn't stop there; to offer their thanks in the most personal, heartfelt way, they wrote a thorough thank-you note, prettied it up with a cool photo of rock climbers and some graphic design flourishes, and Greg hand-signed every one of the hundreds of copies printed. 

That's it, right? What could anyone do to offer a more specific and generous 'thank you' than that?

I'll tell you what they did. 

Rather than hit a few keys on their database and run off all the machine-addressed envelopes needed to mail the thank-you cards, they hired me to hand-write each client's name and address on the front of their envelope. 

And rather than run these hundreds of envelopes through their mail machines to affix the proper postage, they asked me to buy 'real' postage stamps and plop them on the envelopes, one by one.  

Because, as Jenifer told me, she wanted her clients to notice that card in their mail and immediately recognize it as a personal, genuine, "you actually want to open this one" piece of mail. She understands that it's always a good thing to say thank you, but those words convey deeper meaning when they are offered with a special sensitivity and personal touch. 

That is why I respect her work at TERRA. 

And that is why I was honored to be a part of this letter project. 

And that is why I am so proud to call Jenifer my friend. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Pair of Miller Homecomings

In July, 2002, the USS Abraham Lincoln left her home port in Everett, Washington and headed for a six-month tour of the south Pacific. In late December, with the ship already en route for home, orders came to head back to the Persian Gulf for an indefinite length of time. Needless to say, it was an unanticipated hardship and a difficult time for all aboard the Lincoln.

One of those sailors was a young man named Justin Miller. Like many who serve in the military, he left at home his wife, Jaynelle, and young son, Jakob. Not only were mother and son thousands of miles away from their closest relatives, but Jaynelle was also expecting another baby in November. While this was a difficult situation for any young family, there was more to come.

By September, the pregnancy took a turn and Jaynelle was ordered to take bed rest. 

Now how in the world can a single mom with a toddler and no support system go on bed rest for weeks on end? 

Well, Jaynelle took the logical step of calling a family from her church with babysitter-age daughters and asking them to help her out. The girls came over to the Millers' apartment to watch endless repeats of Toy Story 2 with Jake while Jaynelle got some rest. Eventually, it became logical to send Jake over to play at their home, so she could have some peace and quiet, too.

As the weeks went by, Jake and the babysitters' family grew closer and closer. They spend countless days together, and Jake quickly fell into place as the youngest member of the big family. When his baby sister, Jolie, arrived safe and sound in November, it seemed only logical that he continue spending time with his new friends. As his mom and sister settled into a routine, they joined in the visits too. Big family and little family became one family.

Winter turned to spring and finally, finally, the good news came that the Lincoln was homeward bound. In a very special gesture to honor their newfound friends, Justin and Jaynelle secured clearances for the whole big family to join their little family on the pier, with thousands of other Navy family members, to welcome Justin home. 

If you haven't already guessed it, the babysitters' family is my family.

And so it was that on May 6, 2003, I had the incredible honor to experience the USS Lincoln's homecoming as a member of the Navy family. I stood with the little family I had come to love so much, and welcomed home their father and husband, the sailor whom I had never met, Justin.

It was quite a day.

This special memory is on my mind tonight because of a different homecoming. After another many-months-long international deployment, Justin is back home with his family tonight in faraway Florida. Although I couldn't be there, Jaynelle posted this pic of Jake and his little sister, Jolie, giving Justin the hero's welcome.  

{Editor's note: I just noticed that third-born Jensen is squished in the middle of this group hug...see the orange shirt and little glimpse of his face?!} 

I can't tell you how much it warms my heart to see them together and makes me proud to call them my family. Love you guys and miss you lots! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why I Love To Go To Target

I take a lot of teasing about my frequent trips to Target. Yes, I go almost every day. Most of the time, I am strictly business, in and out with whatever I need (usually groceries) in less than fifteen minutes.

But what I really love to do is stop in when I have nothing on my shopping list, but some free time to simply wander around the store.  Because Target is more than just a store; it's almost like an art exhibit full of visual beauty. Everywhere I look, I see a non-stop flow of interesting colors, textures, lines and shapes that stimulate my imagination and jump start my creativity. 

Here are a few pics from a recent visit to show you what I mean. I hope you enjoy browsing through them as much as I enjoyed capturing and posting them.