Monday, March 30, 2009

Blogger Friends

Sometimes Mike gets irritated with me because he thinks I spend too much time with my laptop reading blogs, commenting on blogs, and writing my own blog posts. HMPFF! Too bad. I (we) have been so very fortunate to communicate with and sometimes actually meet bloggers that have been very kind to us.

One of those people is Teresa from Lake Stevens (north of Seattle, Washington.) I wrote about her earlier this month because she is going to do the Breast Cancer 3 Day Walk this September. While we had never met, Teresa is out there commenting on many of the Mexican blogs I read and it felt like I already knew her. She has been a volunteer English teacher in Mexico and she’s from the area I lived in for most of my life. This weekend Teresa made a special visit to Salem and I finally got to spend some “live” time with her. What a neat lady! Of course, Mike fell for her and I had a tough time keeping them apart...

She is just like I had expected and we gabbed and gabbed and ate and ate! And last night we met up with Mr. Steve Cotton who treated us to dinner at Bentley’s Grill in downtown Salem. It was so neat to trade stories about each of our Mexican adventures, as well as our American adventures. All four of us love to talk and it was fun to watch the turn-taking. Thank you Steve!

This morning Teresa treated me to breakfast at Busick Court, another downtown restaurant. It was yummy (I had heuvos rancheros) and a nice place for 2 gals to drink coffee and chat. Thank you Teresa! But before we knew it, it was time for Teresa to head out of Salem and on to her friends’ place south of here.

It was a good weekend. It was another confirmation for me that blogging is more than just writing…it’s about people.

(By the way, if any other bloggers want to visit Salem and take me out to eat just let me know!)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Behavioral Interviewing

I first learned about Behavioral Interviewing when Mike was a supervisor with AT&T Wireless. The IT Department was a big proponent of Behavioral Interviewing. He would come home and tell me how different candidates had done in their interviews – some good, some not so good. And when I hit the job market in 2000 I remember him advising me to be prepared with answers to Behavior Interviewing questions..."All of corporate America is using this type of interview these days and if you aren’t prepared you will fall short!"... As it turns out, I was never faced with this type of interview – until yesterday. Gulp.

My interview was at 3:00, but I was told to be there at 2:45. At precisely 2:45 I was given an envelope with my name on it. I opened it to find 8 key questions (with little questions included like, “Were you successful? Why or why not?”) My letter about the appointment interview made a vague reference to some “interview questions,” but it hadn’t dawned on me that this meant the dreaded Behavioral Interviewing questions!!!

So there I was. I had 15 minutes to wrack my brain for witty answers. Gulp. Before I knew it, at 3:00, I was met by the head of the Department and taken into a small conference room where I was introduced to 3 other people on the team. There was no chit-chat, just a brief overview about the position, and I was told I would have 40 minutes to read each question out loud and then provide my answers.

So I dug in. And one thing I knew I could do was to read. So I read each question loud and clear, followed by my humble answer. It was weird because all 4 of them were busy scribbling notes about my responses and I had very little eye contact so I received next-to-none non-verbal feedback. But I pressed forward and finally I was done. I took about 30 minutes and I almost felt like I had failed just because I didn’t use all of the allotted time.

I was able to ask a couple of questions I had about the position. Then I provided the panel with my resume and letters of reference and the interview was over. The head of the Department walked me to the door and that was when my blood pressure began to drop.

I’ve now done some checking on the internet and I will practice using the STAR approach to Behavioral Interviewing. And next time I will do better! I just wish I had listened more to Mike way back when…

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Arachnoid Cyst

A year ago today Mike and I were in Mexico City. Our intentions were to take a 5-day business trip to interview for English teaching positions and to decide whether we really wanted to live in Mexico City. If you’ve been following our blog you know the story

On March 18, 2008 our lives changed in ways we still have not realized. Mike had 2 seizures, 2 brain surgeries and we learned that an arachnoid cyst (yup, it is like a spiderweb) is growing on his brain. The surgeries went well and 3 weeks later we were back home in Duvall, WA. We went forward with our plan, moved to Mexico City and accepted the teaching jobs. But soon other events transpired and for the past month and a half we have been living in Salem, OR.

Mike’s recovery has been slow. But slow and steady. By taking anti-seizure medications every 8 hours he probably won’t have any more seizures. And with the implant in his head the fluid in the cyst will (hopefully) drain automatically and not cause any issues.

The unknown element is Mike’s vision which has dramatically diminished since the surgeries. He can’t use his laptop for more that 15 minutes or so – and that is with large font. He can’t read a newspaper or the mail. He seems to have a blind spot in his right eye and while he is looking straight at an object his right eye does not see it. His equilibrium has also been affected and he has a difficult time walking on anything uneven, or climbing and descending stairs. And Sitka – she is so big – he is continually tripping over her or her big floor pillow.

I cannot imagine the challenges Mike faces everyday. But he presses on. He makes me laugh. He gets mad when I sing too loud (or too often.) He loves to watch John Wayne movies. He can still be as ornery as hell. He tells me he loves me everyday. And I cannot imagine life without him.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Seattle, Washington - My Hometown!

I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington – the “Emerald City” or the “Queen City” or the “Jet City” as it was known when Boeing was a big part of the economy. Some people would remind me that it was also known as the “Rain City.” HA!

I’m just 220 miles south in Salem, Oregon and I have no issues with the rain or the drizzle that we see quite often in the Great Pacific Northwest. Heck, if it wasn’t wet we wouldn’t have the wonderful trees and lush growth that we see everywhere here. Bottom line – I love the Northwest!

And I have this little thingy on my blog, FEEDJIT (look for the world map under my Blog Archives,) and it shows me where my readers are located. I’m always happy to see the many readers from the Seattle area, but I rarely get any comments from you. That said, if you’re up there post a comment! We’d love to hear about “home” and what’s up!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The World’s Shortest Interview

Yesterday morning at 11:00 I had an interview with a law firm for a bankruptcy paralegal position. I wore my new skirt and jacket, styled my freshly cut hair, shined my shoes, popped a Tic-Tac, and was ready to answer any and all questions about my paralegal background.

However, within minutes I learned there was no paralegal position available – even though this is why the temporary employment agency had sent me to the interview. Gulp. Major miscommunication on someone’s side.

I was outta there by 11:09. NEXT!

I do have an interview scheduled with the Oregon Department of Transportation on the 25th...maybe this will turn out better.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ahi Tuna

Yesterday I was a mock juror for an upcoming trial and I learned more about tuna than I think I wanted to know…

Do you know why the Ahi in the picture has deep, cherry-red flesh? It has most likely been treated with carbon monoxide (in one form or another.) Does that knowledge affect your desire for a nice “fresh” Ahi steak or sushi??

I can’t disclose any details about the case, but 17 other mock jurors and I sure learned a lot about how tuna is processed. And advertised. I had never been a mock juror – heck, I haven’t even ever been a real juror – but now I know how it works. An attorney from the plaintiff’s law firm presented parts of his case, including exhibits and witnesses (some live, some on videotaped depositions) to the mock jurors. This was followed by another attorney from the same firm who was role-playing the part of the defense attorney from the opposing law firm.

There was a lot of information to process and even though we had 2 ten-minute breaks and a half hour lunch break, I felt confusion taking over by 4:00. At around 4:30 the mock jurors broke into 2 groups and deliberated in order to make a decision. I was selected as my group’s Jury Foreperson and I liked that because I like to talk!

After we made our decisions, we reviewed the information with all of the attorneys until 6:00. They asked specific questions about tiny details that some of us forgot OR never really heard. It was a very interesting process and the firm will use our feedback to refine their case, coach their witnesses, change the exhibits – whatever will help them win their case.

I enjoyed the process, even though it got kinda boring. Luckily, my landlady’s son-in-law, Jack, was also a mock juror and we had fun whispering about the case during our breaks. Thanks for going with me, Jack!

Now, who wants to go out for Ahi steaks tonight???

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pup in a Tub, Salem, OR

Sitka has not had a bath since last July when I tried washing her down in our shower in Guaymas. So yesterday Mike and I took her to Pup in a Tub here in Salem. It is a self-serve dog wash! You put your dog in a tub, spray her down, suds her up and rinse her off. (Easier said than done.)

Then you move her over to the drying/grooming station and blow her dry before combing and combing and combing her fur. Sitka is shedding right now and I got tons of her undercoat out and fluffed her up.

After all that trauma we got her home and onto her bed to finish drying in front of the fireplace. And now she smells so nice and fresh!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Job Hunting in Salem, Oregon

Now that Mike has had his initial Social Security and doctor appointments in Salem, I am ready to work! (Not that I haven’t been ready since we arrived in Salem in late January…but I really wanted to accompany Mike to those appointments.)

In the interim, I submitted a multitude of online applications/resumes, and although I have been notified that I am in the “qualified” pool for some of the positions, I haven’t received any other feedback that indicated I might be hired. Whaaaa

Nevertheless, in the past I was laid off twice (both from AT&T Wireless/Cingular Wireless!) and I turned to temporary employment agencies. I found that to be a very successful road to permanent employment. (And sometimes weird and always challenging…imagine some stranger [me, the temp] sitting at your desk for a day or two!)

So last week I submitted online applications to several temporary employment agencies. This week I followed up with visits to the agencies and actually had two interviews (which included TESTS – I love the TESTS!)

And I am happy to report that I have my first temp assignment next Tuesday! I will be a member of a mock jury. I don’t exactly know what that entails (I’ll get more info on Monday), but I presume I’ll be “acting” as a jury member, listening to counsel’s arguments and such. Is that really work? Hehe

In addition to that one day assignment I have an interview scheduled with a law firm on Thursday. The firm specializes in bankruptcies (gulp) and they are looking for a temporary paralegal to help with the abundance of work coming into the firm. It is actually a “temp to hire” position and if they are happy with the paralegal and the paralegal is happy with the firm it could turn into a permanent position. I am one of three temp paralegals interviewing with the firm. I selected the first available time slot for my interview – I believe going first has advantages – so next Thursday at 11:00 Pacific I need you to root for me!!!

If any readers have stories about temping, please leave a comment and tell us about it!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Mom and Breast Cancer

Today my mom would have been 80 years old. But 8 years ago she died of complications from breast cancer. I wrote a short post about her last year and even though Mike and I returned to the US after living in Mexico, I still have that adventurous spirit I inherited from my mom and I thank her for that. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Another adventurer is a woman I have never met in person and her name is Teresa. Teresa and I “met” via my blog and we have been emailing each other for the past year or so. Teresa was a volunteer English teacher in Chacala the past 2 years and she keeps up with many of the same Mexican blogs that I read. Teresa is also a substitute teacher that lives in Lake Stevens, north of Seattle. Later this month she is coming to Oregon to visit friends and finally meet Steve Cotton and myself.

Teresa has friends who have dealt with cancer and that was another connection we had in common. That said, please read the following email from Teresa:

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, last summer I had my hair shaven off in support of my friend Brenda Dykgraaf when she lost hers to chemo. Brenda is a 2nd grade teacher at Mt. Pilchuck and has been a close friend for 13 years. She is finished with her treatment, and thank God, is doing very well.

A few weeks ago, she asked me if I would join her on the Breast Cancer 3 Day Walk and of course I said yes. I did the walk 4 1/2 years ago in memory of another teacher, Connie Wescott, and it was a wonderful experience. The walk is a total of 60 miles over a 3 day period, so it takes a lot of time and energy to train. However, the most difficult part for me is asking people for money. You see, this is a fundraiser for breast cancer research through the Susan G. Komen Foundation and I need to raise $2,300.00. The walk is not till September but I am very excited about participating in it and so I decided to go ahead and start raising the money now. I'm therefore asking you for your support in this endeavor. Any amount that you can donate will be greatly appreciated.

There are 2 ways to make your donations:

1. Make an online donation by going to my web page at:
Click on donate at the upper right hand corner, type in my name, click where it says donate to Teresa Freeburn and choose or write in an amount.
After that you will be asked to fill in your billing information.

2. Write a check to the Breast Cancer 3 Day and mail it to me at:
1901 125th Ave. N.E. Apt. 211
Lake Stevens, Wa. 98258

Thank you for any help you can give me with this. If you have any family, friends or colleagues whom you feel would be willing to make a contribution to this great cause, please feel free to forward this e-mail to them. You may e-mail me or call me at 425-299-4399 if you have any questions.

Teresa Freeburn

I fully support Teresa’s effort and if anyone needs any further information about the walk, please let me know. Below are pictures of Brenda and Teresa – with and without hair.