Saturday, December 7, 2013

Christmas Traditions

Growing up I thought traditions were handed down generation to generation and were important to maintain.  I did not think that new traditions should be adopted.  In my mind, only the traditions that were handed down from generation to generation could be called "tradition" and should be honored.   Yes, I can be a bit stubborn in thought, and I needed a lesson.  Life, of course, provided it.

In 1993 my first marriage ended.  The ensuing years were entwined with court date after court date.  The sudden change to life as a single parent with pre-teens made everyday living a bit challenging.  For a time, my children and I lived with my parents in their home. We were gladly welcomed.  I had never envisioned myself needing to move home at 34 with children in tow, yet there I was.  That Christmas I helped my Dad hang the red blinking bells that have been adorning the porch of our family home since I could remember. In the spring of 1995, my parents wanted to try living in a new town without selling their current home. 

My youngest sister and niece, myself and my children, joined together to rent the house from our parents while they rented a house in the mountains.  My budget, much like my sister's, was tight and nearly non-existent.  We both had to be creative to make each paycheck stretch while bills were paid, the heat was kept on, fuel was in the car to get to work, the kids had clothes, and there was food on the table.

For the first couple of years as a single parent, Christmas had been supplemented by parents decorations.  I didn't need to have any, as Mom and Dad had quite a stash from years of Christmas trees and four daughters with various crafty interests, plus Mom's handiwork.  The only problem in 1995 was the family tree had moved to the mountains.

The first Christmas in the house with my sister found us both setting up Christmas trees - hers was upstairs, mine was downstairs.  I wanted to find a way to bring holiday traditions for my children on a scant shoestring budget.  There was an immense amount of change in a short time for our entire family.  It was the first Christmas without Dad, as he passed away that summer.  I was compelled to move ahead, yet needed to keep as many traditions as I could for my children and myself as a means to keep my life together. 

I was able to scrape the funds together for a fresh tree and a new tree stand.  For our family, the Christmas tree was set up after Thanksgiving, but before my older sister's birthday.  In 1995 the tree was much smaller, but it was still fresh and it's aroma filled the living room.  It only took two strands of multicolored lights to decorate.  Because were left with very little to start our lives over with, the ornaments for the tree were pretty sparse, and  there was not enough in the budget to completely outfit a Christmas tree.

I knew there were possibilities, I just needed to figure it out while not spending a lot of money.  When I wandered into a fabric shop the week before Christmas and found 2" red round jingle bells on the clearance table, ideas popped.  The red metal bells made great substitutes for glass ornaments, and I loved the idea of "ringing in the season" with red bells on the tree.  It reminded me of the red bells that hung on the house those many years.  Dad also had a favorite yuletide wall hanging in which a rather red-nosed reindeer holds a banner that reads "Bingle Jells."  A new collection of Christmas ornaments ensued in the form of jingle bells.  New tradition #1 came to fruition.

With some tinsel, the tree was looking pretty good, but the decorations were still sparse.  A craft store had a sale, and it was close to work.  A lunchtime trip yielded spools of red, green, and gold ribbons which held "Merry Christmas" and "Seasons Greetings" tidings.  At 3 rolls for $1, I could easily afford a few spools.  While the kids were at the holiday dance for school, I cut the ribbons into 10" lengths.  I spent the evening hand tying bows onto the tips of the branches of the tree, filling in the sparse decorations.  The bows went perfectly with the jingle bell ornaments.   New tradition #2 was born.

Shopping the clearance table in the craft store that day brought a few punched paper cross-stitched Santa ornament kits to be stitched.  Six Santa's from different countries were quickly cross-stitched on my breaks and after work to hang on the tree.  This became new tradition #3.

As you can summize, my ideals of 'tradition' quickly went by the wayside.  Why hold on to something that clearly won't work for you?  On the other hand, why let go of the familiar and honored traditions.  I'm a Libra, therefore I like balance in my life.  I found it by shedding a preconceived ideal.

This year marks the 50th year the red blinking bells have welcomed Christmas in my family's home, a tradition now reflected by the red bells hanging on my tree.  I still hand-tie bows on the tree as a reminder that no matter how bad things seem to be, there will be a way to "fill in the holes".   There are 12 different Santa punched paper cross-stitched ornaments representing different countries and folklore. There is a small herd of clothespin reindeer.  There are angels made from beads and safetypins, with others stitched in traditional norwegian hardanger.

To a younger me who thought "You can't have 'new' traditions"  I can only say this:  You silly girl  Just wait.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Recipes by 25 Kindergarten Chefs

It's the time of year that we get out the family favorite recipes to prepare for the Thanksgiving meal.  I present for your reading pleasure, the 2013 edition of Thanksgiving Recipes by Mrs. Braga's Kindergarten Class at Sonora Elementary School. Bon Appetit!

Kiera - We get the turkey from the store.  Add stuff to it.  I want to add sugar and chicken and some of apples and my last thing is pumpkin squash.  Put the turkey in the oven, a warm oven.  Cook 45 minutes.  It's done when the timer rings.  And then you eat it.

Brady - My dad or my cousin Erick could kill a big daddy turkey.  Take the feathers off it and then put it in the oven.  Put some salsa sauce on it.  The oven should be 30 degrees.  Cook one hour.  The beep thing will go, "Beep, beep!"  We will have mashed potatoes with it.  I love mashed potatoes, so does my sister.  And then the turkey legs, you can hold the bones.  And I like wings.

Tayfun - Mom and Dad get the turkey from the store.  First they wash the turkey.  Then put it in the oven.  It should be a little hot.  Cook four hours.  The beeper thing will go.  We'll eat with a fork.  We'll have rice, beans, collard greens, and spinach.

Brody - Mrs. Braga will kill the turkey because she is the teacher.  Clean it.  Pick the feathers off and put it in the oven.  Add some fruit to it.  It should cook for 20 minutes.  The oven should be 15 degrees.  It's done because it's hot enough.  We will have fruit and vegetables with it and eggs.

Jesse - We will get the turkey from a farm.  Cut it.  Put ketchup and salsa on it.  Cook it in the oven, a very hot oven about 100 degrees hot.  Cook for 6 minutes.  I want some ranch dressing with it and hot sauce!

Evan M. - You get a big, huge, large turkey from the turkey farm.  (I don't like lobster and I don't like fish.  I only like turkey.)  Take the feathers off before you can take it home.  Don't put anything on it.  I don't like spices.  Put it in the oven.  On-hundred-thousand-forty-three degrees or one-hundred-thousand-sixty-seven degrees for 100 and then 60 hours.  It goes Pop when it's done.  I like ice cream, steak, and orange juice with it.  And that's it!

Peyton - We will buy and turkey and kill it and eat it.  Cut the skin off.  Put cinnamon on it and chocolate chips then put it in the oven.  A really hot oven, about 50 degrees.  Cook 5 minutes.  The timer will beep.  We will have gravy and bread and beans with it.

Zackery - Get the turkey from the turkey place.  Put it in a frying pan.  Put a wrapper thing over it.  Put it in the oven, a really hot oven, super hot - 85 degrees.  Cook for a long time, for 100 minutes.  Eat with a fork.  I want mac and cheese with it cause I love mac and cheese!

Ava - Get the turkey from the store.  Cook it in the oven, a warm oven.  I like potatoes with it.

Lucas - The turkey always comes from a turkey farm.  Grab it by the neck and cut it.  You can't cut it because it's super fast.  I am going to cut it up to pieces, take out the bad stuff and the beard and then put it in the oven.  I add lots of spices - pepper, salt, and a little bit of maybe salt.  Put it in the oven, 60 degrees hot so it can burn up the flavor and you can smell it.  Then you take the bad bones out and eat it.

Sarah - Well, maybe we will get the turkey from Jeff's store, Safeway.  They put like some crumbs in there to make the stuffing.  (I keep thinking are they going to put feathers in the turkey? But I think they just get them without the feathers).  No spices.  Put it in the oven.  It should be maybe 50 degrees for 40 minutes.  I don't know ho to tell if it's done but it will be done in 40 minutes.  Maybe some dessert with it.  Ice cream.

Joseph - My daddy is going to shoot one of the turkeys in Modesto.  My Daddy's big and strong.  We are going to take the feathers and then we are going to cook it and take the feathers off.  Put it in the oven and cook it until it warms up.  And then the feast comes!

Kelsey - Get the turkey from the grocery store.  Cut the legs off.  No spices.  Put cheese on it.  Ready to cook.  Put some more cheese on after because some might have falled off.  Put it in the oven, a warm oven, a little bit hot.  Cook for an hour and a half.  Put a timer on.  I would make a scarecrow and put it inside the turkey.  Forks are the legs.  Asparagus are the body.  The spoons are the arms.  And the face was a plate.

Riley - Get the turkey from the store.  Pt in on the stove or the oven.  I want to put on it some a little salt and a little parmesan cheese or just plain, actually.  I just like it in the refrigerator not the oven because I do like it cold!  You could put cucumbers on it with salt on the cucumbers.  And milk, almond milk or plain milk.  And some bacon with it because I like bacon.

Everett - I think my dad said the turkey is going to come from a big, huge field.  And my dad also said that he is going to shoot a big fat one.  We are going to have pumpkin pie for dessert and I am going to have pumpkin bread with my dinner.  They are going to put the turkey on a big pan that you usually put cupcake batter on.  Put that in the oven.  Cook at 25 or 22 degrees.  Cook for 20 minutes.  I look at the timer and my mom tells me.  We are going to have apple pie and apple bread, too.  That's it!

Hannah - We will get the turkey from the store.  Cut it up.  Put it in the oven.  The oven is 5 degrees.  Cook for 5 hours.  The oven beeps!  I want corn with my turkey.  I like corn!

Marley - The turkey comes from the wild.  Take it home.  Cut it.  Cook it in the oven.  Hot oven, 64 degrees.  Cook five-forty minutes.  I will have chicken nuggets with turkey and ketchup.

McKenna - We will get the turkey from Wal Mart.  Put it in the oven, about 30 or 40 degrees.  Cook 50 or 60 minutes.  It dings when it is done.  I want ketchup with the turkey.  I love ketchup!  I love turkey!

Violet - We will get the turkey from the market store.  Put some sausage meat on it then cook it.  Put it in the oven.  The oven is 4 degrees.  Cook 4 hours.  Take it out.  I want sausage with it and olives and salad.

Mateo - My Papa already has the turkey.  He killed it.  It fell off the truck and he killed it.  He already got all the feathers off.  He has to put bar-b-que sauce on it to make it good.  PUt it in the oven.  My Pap he cooks it up to 29 degrees.  He cooks it for two minutes.  There is a timer on it.  We will have salad.  There's carrots in the salad.

Adelyn - Mom and Dad will get the turkey at the woods.  They got to shoot it.  They are gonna put it in a pot.  They will put a red sauce on it.  Put it in the oven.  A kind of hot oven, 10 degrees.  Cook 20 or 30 hours.  It will beep.  I want carrots with it and purple grapes and brocolli and punch and some chicken.

Adyson - We will get the turkey at the farm.  Maybe herbs on it, maybe.  Then cook it in the oven.  The oven is 4 degrees.  Cook 2 hours.  It goes "Beep, beep, beep, beep!"  I want cranberries and, um, chicken and roast beef with dinner.

Sasha - Mom will get the turkey from the store.  Put pepper and salt on it and some hot sauce.  Put it in the oven, 20 degrees.  Cook a long time, forever - 10 minutes.  It will beep.  We will have pumpkin pie with it.

Kendra - Mom will get the turkey from the store.  I know what they do with the turkeys - they chop them up in the truck and make them eating turkeys.  Mom's going to cook it in a pan.  Cook on the stove because that's where you put your pans, in the bottom of the stove.  It will cook about an hour.  The stove will be burning.  It will beep.  I think a Thanksgiving feast would be good.  We will have grapes, too.  Grapes are part of Thanksgiving.  They are juicy and good for you.

Evan H. - Mom and Dad are going to shoot the turkey.  They will get a tray and put it on it.  They will put hot sauce on the turkey.  Then they are gonna cut it.  Then it is ready to cook in the oven, a warm oven, about 100 degrees.  Cook 50 minutes.  They will just check it and will be done!  We will have mashed potatoes with it.  That's it!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Changing Seasons

257,135 acres burned, nearly 2 months later the Rim Fire is 95% contained but still alive.  Resources are now focused on how to manage the recovery of the area.  The local mill seems to be a benefactor with harvestable trees being delivered, truck after truck.  Justifiably so, as SPI did not hesitate to send their bulldozer crew out to cut breaks to protect Tuolumne City.

Life is returning to somewhat normal around the county.  The incident crew camp recently disbanded in Tuolumne City.  Traffic signs reminding local drivers of caution due to fire equipment have been removed.  The Thank You signs still remain hung around town. The local schools are teaming with many visitors from the crews of the local firefighting agencies for visits with the students. 

Some of the students seize the chance to thank the firefighters personally, while others eagerly climbed into the cabs of the trucks to seize the opportunity to honk the horn in the big red trucks.  The fire crews were just as eager to spend time with the students, with some of them making a nostalgic trip into the Principal's Office, as a number of them grew up in the area.

Mother nature has already started to play her recovery hand in the burn zone.  Ferns have sprouted in some of the burned out areas.  Many people are looking foward to spring - it will be a wild flower bonanza.  The nights are most definitely cooler, the sun a bit later in breaking over the horizon.

This is the time of the year I play a game with mother nature:  which weekend is going to be the best weekend to take a drive and absorb the spectacle of fall colors.  I may already be late for some areas on the east side of the Sierras, if a couple of photos of Aspen trees I saw last week from the top of Sonora Pass are any indicator.  Two years ago I was late, last year I was a tad early.

Maybe this year I'll get it just right.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And On the 12th Day...

For 12 days the Rim Fire has burned.  Daily routines for everyone in Tuolumne county have been changed.  Morning routines include checking the updates from the incident managers to see if evacuation orders have changed, seeing what the latest perimeter map looks like, and assessing the air quality based on how much haze and how much discernible orange and red shows in the sunlight.

The southwest corner of the perimeter is of specific concern for us.  While the perimeter lines include areas where lines have been cut and backfire operations have been conducted, the potential for the fire to jump the lines remains.  The southwest perimeter runs along a ridge line leading into a river canyon that runs to the north.  Tuolumne City is along the west edge of that canyon, with Soulsbyville, Twain Harte, Mi Wuk, Sugar Pine, and Long Barn in the path.  To the south, the canyon runs to Don Pedro reservoir, which would put Jamestown and Sonora at larger risk.

The behavior history of the Rim Fire, from my perspective, is to run wildly up river canyons, spread by spotting, crowning (tree top to tree top), and breaking over lines.  The number of firefighters increases daily and is likely to soon equal the population of the largest city in Tuolumne county (Sonora, 4,992).  Containment is slow in coming, and the local communities celebrate every single digit percentage of increase, particularly since we experienced days of decrease earlier in the history of this burn.

It has become unusual to go anywhere in the area without coming across fire rigs from the various agencies who have come to help.  Local businesses are coming together to host dinners for the fire crews.  Volunteers are flooding to local agencies donating their time as well as food and clothing for evacuees.  Home baked goods often make their way to the fire crews in the parking lots of the local stores.

Air traffic has increased significantly, and all the planes and helicopters are fire management resources.   We were used to the occasional CAL FIRE flight leaving the base at Columbia.  DC10's and C130 sightings used to be rare.  They are all considered to be the friendly fireflies of our summer.

Students, out of school due to county wide closures, have taken to decorating the area with home made signs, thanking the firefighters for their selfless work.  The more the fire rages, the more the community pulls together.  Recovery planning is in it's infancy, but therein lies the hope of our community and our next course of action.

One day the Rim Fire will be out.  We have a forest to replant.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Living Near the Rim Fire

Nine days after the initial report, the Rim Fire continues to change the face of Tuolumne County.  The population of firefighters on the lines is now larger than the normal populations of Groveland (609) and Tuolumne City (1779) combined.  Rim Fire is the 7th largest fire on record in the state, and still burning.

I have woken up daily to the yellow-orange, orange, and one day red-orange tinged sunlight breaking through the window.  The important perishables in the house have been identified, stacked and ready to pack the car once the neighborhood enters into  the state of evacuation advisory.  So far, the house remains a few miles outside of the advisory zone, to the west and south.

I fall into the category of "sensitive persons" for air quality, so an N95 mask has become an important tool, along with lots of water, allergy meds, and albuterol.  The County Office of Education, on recommendation of the Office of Emergency Services, Air Quality Board, and Department of Public Health closed all schools in the county.  We will hear later today if that is to continue tomorrow or possibly through the rest of the week.  If I need to leave the area to get away from the smoke, I'll be leaving as if I was evacuated, with car packed.

Mom has stepped up her volunteer schedule with Interfaith to daily half days instead of twice a week.  With evacuees coming into the area, the agency has been tapped to assist with needs. The local communities are no strangers to wild fires.  They know how valuable the teams are that are on the lines as well as in the background supporting the crews.  It's hard to find someone that lives here who does not directly know a member of CAL FIRE or any of the other local fire agencies on the lines.  Daily Town Hall meetings keep the public directly informed on fire operations as well as create an open venue for direct questions from the public. 

 In a state of emergency, accurate information is critical.  For those of you out of the area seeking information for concern of family and friends,  the following websites, in my personal opinion, are the most accurate websites I have found for reliable information.  CALFIRE Tuolumne-Calaveras and Stanislaus National Forest are the lead organizations on the fire.  Motherlode Fairgrounds and Calaveras Fairgrounds are areas where evacuees can go to wait it out and gain assistance from Red Cross. - Local news for Tuolumne County.  They know a lot of people are relying on the information they produce on their website and are striving for most accurate reporting for the sake of the communities in the area. - covers all wildfires in the lower 48 states of the US.  This particular page is updated by US Forest Services for Stanislaus Forest.  Inciweb posts daily perimeter maps that can be loaded into Google Earth that provides not only full detail of where the perimeter runs, but also the terrains the teams on the ground and in the air are having to deal with.  You can see that a good portion of the 20% containment is due to granite formations, void of vegetation, that is halting the forward spread in some areas on the north east edge.

CAL FIRE has status for all fires in the state of California, including Rim.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Who's that old lady?

I had one of those mornings recently, waking up and looking in a mirror, seeing my reflection and thinking "When did that happen?"  I suppose it's natural when you reach the middle age years to reflect back and remember yourself as a younger person.  Maybe it's been on my mind a bit more since my next birthday will grant me double-nickel status later this year.

I have developed my maternal grandmother's figure, albeit I'm a  few inches taller than she was.  My orthopedic says I also have her knees.  I know when the seasons are changing because my knees will tell me long before the meteorologists take note of the distinctive shift in weather patterns of the western hemisphere.

Old?  Me?  No.

Aged?  Not until I'm ninety.  Seasoned?  Certainly.

Last year I abandoned coloring my hair so I can allow the silver threads to become my natural highlights.  True, my hair is not the rich brunette that it once was.  These days it is more of a medium ash, and trust me, I know those silver threads have hoards of friends just waiting to be invited out to the party.  If I look close, those threads are not really silver or gray.  They are white, as white as norwegian snow. 

Skipping gray and going straight to white?  I'm okay with that.  After all I have carried the moniker since the day I was born.

I have never feared age.  I had some coworkers who asked if I was sad because I was turning forty.  I was a single parent at the time, and both kids were finishing high school.  That was not something to be sad about.  That was an achievement.  My kids threw me a party with friends and family.  One of my friends showed up in a gorilla suit and provided me with a bag of supplies, which of course included Depends, magnifying glasses, and various vitamins. With forty came wisdom and perspective to view my personal history as learning experiences, for better or for worse.

Fifty rolled around and was christened by a surprise birthday party with friends and family, including live music by Roger Kardinal.  I remember thinking "Fifty is not so bad.  What's the big deal about retiring at 55?"  Three years later, I totally understood.  It's not about the age, it's about the freedom of choosing what to do with your day because there will always be grocery money, gas in the car, a roof over your head, heating and cooling when you need it,  and being completely alleviated of the responsibility of having to hold down a job.

Retirement is a ways off for me.  I haven't defined what that should look like, other than being free of the bonds of having to go to work five days a week.  The economy is not encouraging to make an exit from the workforce any time soon.  Having both my husband and I experience on-again, off-again employment for the past five years has set the goal line back at least another ten years.  Right now I'm just hoping we keep averaging to be employed more often than unemployed. 

For now I can live vicariously through a few of my friends who have been blessed with retirement and are creating their new futures.  Like Bill, who recently bought a house and moved to Talkeetna, Alaska.  After backpacking around Denali and exploring the Kenai penninsula for most of his vacations, he finally pulled the trigger.  Life Dream achieved.  Well done, Bill.  And there are others making plans to make their grand exit by the end of the year, aren't they, Ellen?

I'll get there one of these years.  In the meantime, Bill, would you hook up a webcam and point it to the night sky this winter so I can watch the aurora borealis out your window?




Saturday, July 27, 2013

It Wasn't Invented Yet

A video posted on social media by one of my favorite Nerd Girls recently triggered thoughts about what I have seen - and worked with - since becoming involved in the IT industry as a work choice.

I am what used to be a rarity in the IT workplace:  Female.  Nerd Girl. Geek Girl.  Take your pick.

My first IT job was Help Desk/Desktop Support in Technical Computing at an R&D Center.  Why did I get that job?  Simple.  When the Help Desk person was out of the office, as the department secretary for the computing group I took over the phones.  I was supposed to take messages then pass them on to the technician to take care of.  I knew the answers to most of the questions that some 400+ scientists were asking, so instead of an expected ten calls for the technician to take care of, there were only two.  The two managers that I worked for noticed, particularly the one who was running the Technical Computing department.

Did I mention the tech was also female? At the time, IT was an industry was very much a "mens club."  Women were out there, but not typically when it came to slinging hardware. 

When I successfully built my first home computer and was discussing the finer merits of having to set the right combination of jumpers and dip switches for the hard drive to boot as master with the designation of C:\ instead of D:\ or E:\, a plan was hatched.  Within a year or so after dodging a reduction in force, there was an opportunity to make a change where half of a head count was traded to the IT department so the company could put me where they thought I would do the most good for the business.

My "unofficial" career started when I held the title of clerk, these things were in an around in the office:

Floppy Disks: 7 1/2" diameter or 5 1/4" in SSSD or DSDD format
Memory: measured in kilobytes and 640kb was the absolute most you could have.
Hard drives were measured in megabytes and they were luxury items. 
The operating system was DOS, and there were two flavors:  MS-DOS or PC-DOS
Local area networks were token ring and running on DOS-LAN Services
Most workstations consisted of a monitor and a keyboard hard wired by coax to a mainframe
Word Processing was done on a Word Processor System produced by Wang.
Personal Computers starting to become something that was not just for the office.
Pay Telephones were outside the buildings

In the two short years later, before my career became "official" with the first IT job, these things were in and around the office:

Floppy Disks:  5-1/4" and the newly arrived 3-1/2" format
Memory:  still largely measured in kb, but with the option to address the upper 641-1024kb by some fancy config.sys and autoexec.bat finagling.
Hard drives: still measured in megabytes.  A 40mb hard drive would take about $300.00 out of your wallet.
Operating system:  MS-DOS 6.0, IBM's OS/2 for servers, and <gasp> the new Windows 2.0
Local area networks were introduced to ethernet technology and network level operating systems heated up the competition for DOS-LAN services with the likes of Novell Netware.
Word Processing:  Word Perfect 5.0 and Ami Pro, and Lotus 1-2-3 for spreadsheets
Personal Computers: IBM introduced the PS/2 system for home use.
Processors:    Intel introduced the world to x86 processors, starting with the 286, followed by the 386SX and DX processors, and Motorola had the PowerPC processor.

What still didn't exist? Broadband, Fast Ethernet, CD's, DVD's, MP3's,  wireless networks, and a multitude of now commonplace network and internet paraphernalia like debit cards, smartphones, or Windows NT Server.  Connections to other networks were gained by creating trusts between servers or using dial-up modems at the rip-roaring speed of 28.8kbps.  If you had a fast modem, it was a smoking 56.6kpbs dialing speed demon.

In the years that followed, I watched the Internet explode.  Because of the company and people I worked with, I was able to be right in the middle of it.  It seemed I was always running with my hair on fire, but I loved every late night server-crashing-virus-chasing minute of it.

I was blessed to get to know more Nerd Girls.  We did strange things like challenge the support techs at Word Perfect who's knee-jerk reactions to our macro programming questions were "You can't do that," to which we challenged "But this works right up to this step, we just need this line to function and the whole script will work.  What do you mean we can't do that?"  (Pat H.)

We walked through the buildings, resetting MUX and manually backed up the mainframe to tape once a week (Judy R. and Sam D).  We took care of the e-mail system compacted the huge database on the mail server so it wouldn't collapse (Gina T).  We would spend Saturday nights upgrading and fixing servers (Suzanne W, Regina O). We learned new technology on the fly to ensure projects could be delivered on time when there were holes in staffing (Sheryl S) simply because we loved working on new stuff and figuring it out.

We helped each other learn, we celebrated our successes,we broke a few barriers by becoming among the first women to hold senior engineer and architect titles in segments of IT in the company's history.

And we laughed.  A lot.  It was often the only thing left that saved our sanity at 3AM while trying to resuscitate a business critical system before the start of the day.

Oh, we're still out there today, geeky and nerdy as ever.  We marvel at technology advances, catch ourselves drooling over the latest gadgets, and are ever eager to figure out what it takes to make them run, what it takes to break them, and on occasion, what it takes to break into them.  Over the years our job titles have changed.  These same women have monikers like CIO, senior technical consultant, architect, disaster recovery specialist, director, senior manager, senior forensic security analyst, consultant, and business owner.

Don't get me wrong, I mean no disrespect to men.  The more saavy fellows welcomed us into their technical playground and joined in our laughter.  In the 1980's and 1990's as women, we had to prove ourselves worthy of being in the technical end of IT and earn our spot.  We knew we were cutting paths for other women to follow in this nation as a whole.  All I'm saying is I am proud to have been a part of it.

Cheers, girls!

Friday, June 28, 2013


Hashtags are popular.  Each of us has their own view on the world.  We each define our environment, relationships, and how we perceive our presence in the world from looking through our personal looking glass, be it rose-colored, clear, or slightly askew.  It is common practice to tag your digital message with a summarizing hashtag to be counted amongst the markers in this now digital society.

Me?  Like countless others, I invent hashtags for my own purpose.  My latest invention:


The first question someone with the name Cathy usually gets is "Is that with a C or a K?"  The name Cathy has unique history for me.  When I was born the labor and delivery nurse actually argued with my mother over the spelling of my name, insisting that I should be named Katherine or Cathleen.  Apparently the woman had a career going for her, as a similar argument ensued when my sister Vicki was born.

My parent's logic was simple:  "We'll end up calling her Cathy, so that's what we want on the certificate."  The nurse, however, had the last say as it turned out. When I was 15, I had to obtain a certified copy of my birth certificate to take to the DMV so I could get my learner's permit.  My Aunt Fran graciously went to the county offices and mailed a copy of not only my birth certificate, but each of my sisters.  Upon examining the document, I made a discovery. There it was, microfiched, photocopied, and certified by the county and state, spelled out cleanly in black and white, my name:    

Kathy Marie White 

WHAT!?!?  A "K" Kathy, not a "C" Cathy?  Yes.  That is how it is spelled on my birth certificate.  My parents filled out an affidavit to correct the spelling from the argumentative nurse's rendering of "Kathy" to the parent-preferred spelling, "Cathy."  Despite having completed the form and going through the trouble of having it notarized, the document was never actually returned to the Department of Records to fix the record. 

My mother gave me the original, signed, and  fully notarized affidavit for the name change request that they had filled out.  The certified birth certificate and the affidavit, notarized but not filed, rendered "Cathy" on my learner's permit and subsequently my drivers license.  It was also in that moment that I realized something unique and humorous about myself. 

I have been misspelling my first name my entire life.  #cathy-ism

From the time I learned to write letters and assemble them together to spell my name, I have written  "Cathy".  According to the official records, that is not the correct spelling.

Through my school years there were always one or two others who carried the moniker Cathy or Kathy.  Or Cathryn or Kathleen.  Spell it any which way you want,  we Cathy's of the world seem to have our own unique take on things, not too unlike a well known cartoon strip counterpart. My senior year in high school yielded a sweetheart who had a sister who was named Kathy.  Among gatherings with his family, and due to the different spelling (okay, my misspelling versus her accurate spelling), we quickly became known as "Kathy-with-a-K" and "Cathy-with-a-C".   

Fast forward to nine years ago, I acquired a bonus-daughter with similar name and keeping with the "C", by marrying a man who has a daughter named Catherine. That brings us to present day and my current job.  I work part time at two elementary school districts in a small town doing the nuts-to-bolts technical support from tablets and computers to the network.  What's the big deal?  I'm not the only Cathy on campus.  Not terribly unusual - or is it?

There is not one Cathy, not two Kathy's, but FIVE. Count them - FIVE Cathy's (or Kathy's or Kathie's or Cathi's) on each campus I work at.  We all work within 300 yards of each other, and often a number of us can be found in the same room at the same time.  Considering there are no more than 50 employees at each campus, there is a high concentration of Cathy-to-non-Kathy personnel. 

Is that Cathy with a "C" or a "K"?

Will I file the notarized affidavit with the state one day and correct the spelling of my first name?  Yes, eventually, someday as to avoid legal SNAFU's and ease the research work for a future geneaologist.  For now I like the novelty of it - and the amusement.

And I'm back...

This was my first ever blog, and having recently reclaimed the URL from, I hope to put it to good use.

I had removed this blog in favor of "Crafter Gone Crazy" during a time where I was unemployed.   While I had time then to delve into new artistic projects, now employed I find that I simply don't have the time and energy to keep that blog going.  Hence, a safe retreat to posting whatever happens to roam through my brain to my fingertips on the keyboard.

Look out digital world.  I'm back.