Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Deck

Dear Mark

We just finished the deck project at the house. I'm so excited that it is done. What an improvement. As you know, Lavinia and I have been talking, dreaming and planning what this deck would be like for many years.

We started off thinking that the upper deck was a stairway to the backyard, but realized quickly that stairs are hard and cost a lot of money. So we scaled back and just thought about what we would use the deck for. The deck, as you know, is off of our living room and dining room. We spend 90% of our time in these two rooms and having an extension to the outdoors was highly desirable. You may recall that Lavinia is from Panama where you can live outside like all the time. So being able to have dinner on the deck, relax in a chair and enjoy yourself was a big plus.

Dad designed the deck and even got me the permit. It was very helpful to have some one who has navigated those waters before helping. Mom has often wondered what people do with computer questions if their kids are not tech savy. I now wonder the same about anyone aspiring to complete a home remodel who doesn't have a Dad like we do.

Bob build the deck for us. Let me tell you that the deck has 16 foot rafters that are treated 2x12s. He was able to lift them all in place by himself. The guy is strong as an ox and it's family put together. His attention to detail is even stronger. At the end of the day you could probably park our Xterra on the deck.

Here's a quick slide show of the deck as it progressed. We are pretty stoked!

I still owe you a few letters about Disneyland and my bicycle trip around Washington. Check out the Zenfolio site because I've uploaded new photos there about both.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer Time

Dear Mark

It's after July 5th here in Seattle and that means that summer has arrived. It still means our days start gray, but it warms up and blows out the clouds in time for us to have an uncomfortable sleep. We have been busy and I owe you some letters on what we've done. The week of July 4th we visited Disneyland. It was an awesome trip, probably our best family trip to date. I'll write about it soon. The week after that I went on a bicycle camping trip with Jason around the Washington peninsula. Funny enough we never saw the sun on the Washington coast. We covered 360 miles with 30 pounds of gear on our bikes.

On top of all this our new deck project is underway. Can't wait to show some pictures. All in all I owe you some letters, but seeing how you hardly write I don't feel too bit (Oh snap! no he didn't!)

The picture below of Jack I think sums up how summer has been and how I hope it will transpire.


Friday, June 1, 2012

15 Years

Dear Mark

I earned my 15 year service award from Adobe Systems today. I knew it was coming. Every 5 years Adobe grants us extra time to take a sabbatical. I've been thinking about sabbatical for some time. Even with it on my mind the day snuck up on me. I've been married to Lavinia for 16 years, together for 20 years. I had my 20 year high school reunion. I've know Jason, Rod and the gang for 24 years. Some how though, actual "doing" something for 15 years just sounds so massive. 

As you know, in 1997 I was working at the Seattle School District in the IT Dept. I was working Support and Training of in-house systems. It was a good job. Just one year out of college with a degree in History that I had no clue what I would do with, the job was good. I was finding a skill in support. After working at it for a bit of time I realized I needed to move beyond the School District. I still had no clue where, or doing what, but I knew I was never going to grow very fast professionally or financially at that job. 

I'd like to convince you that I selected where I was going to apply by researching the company, networking, getting in the door and all that cool career advancement advice you see touted. The truth is that I didn't look very far. Essentially the length of my arm as I picked up my water bottle on a bike ride. It was my 1996 Bike To Work Day water bottle. There were 3 big sponsors of the event, WRQ, Visio and Adobe. I told myself, "I want to work for a company that invests in employees and supports cycling locally. How cool would that be." How cool indeed. I basically made my decision and sat on their job/career sites and applied for anything that came open. Adobe I will say immodestly, won the lottery by being the first to have a job I could apply for. I tell this story every year at Bike To Work Day to remind my co-workers that we work for a great company. A company that is big and has politics but does still continue to invest and support us and our interests. Adobe has continued to support Bike To Work Day since then. By my calculations it's over 17 years of support and it makes us the longest running sponsor that I know. If I have my way we'll continue that every year I'm here. 

Being hired at Adobe was a little surreal for me. Coming from a work place that didn't provide a shower so I had to wash up in a sink after riding my bike, not to mention securing my bike in the furnace room everyday. To be hired by a company that had a secure bike cage, financial incentives to ride your bike every month, showers and locker rooms, bagels every friday, free soda, computers that worked… well I had finally hit the jackpot. That first day a few individuals and I were sitting in a room getting our new hire orientation. Little did we know that the lady providing it was one of the best people we'd ever want as our HR lead. Little did I know that a few of those individuals and I are celebrating 15 years together and that many of us are very close friends. Even those that  have moved on to other things outside of Adobe. You recall that I met Joey that day and still see him every week today. 

I recall being informed that I would be working on the Acrobat Technical Support team. I had barely heard of Acrobat, which was probably why I was chosen because no one had really heard of Acrobat. I was one of the first Adobe TS individuals not to support Pagemaker first, then move on to other products. Acrobat was little more than a percentage of the "Other" part of the Adobe revenue pie. I kept thinking "I'm on the wrong product." Now Acrobat is one of Adobe's best products and makes a lot of money. I've been working on teams that "Acrobat" in the title some where for 15 years now. I guess it all worked out for me. 

It hasn't been all awesome here at Adobe. I've had disgruntling times and frustrations that exist in all jobs. Adobe has laid off some very good people and friends. They've laid Lavinia off twice. I've had incentives provided that didn't pan out after a vesting period. Benefits have been shuffled and new policies questioned. Stock prices go up and down and never when you want either to occur. At the end of the day all that is just what big companies go through. I like to think I'm a better employee for learning to weather tough times and learning from, well lets just say experience. The pros far out weigh any of the cons by a wide margin. 

Over the years I've had a couple really good mangers that have steered me in the right direction. Adobe even helped pay for some of my MBA tuition as well. My Manager at the time certainly gave me the support and opportunity. Things like this are common at Adobe. Again, I feel so lucky, 

After 15 years I still like working for Adobe. I still think I work with the best people. I still believe my company cares and that we make a difference. Adobe makes amazing products that the world uses and talks about. I've grown a lot since being hired at the age of 25. I like to believe that Adobe and I have matured together. I like that after 15 years one of my biggest work provided problems is trying to think of what I'm going to do with a 6 week sabbatical. A good problem to have. 

To the guy that hired me, thank you
To the teams and co-workers that have supported me, thank you
To individuals who have reported to me and helped me become a better Manger, thank you
To my Adobe Seattle co-workers who've created a great place to work, thank you
To John & Chuck who founded this company and created our culture, thank you 

All right. I should probably get back to work now. (grin)


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Stevens Pass Climb

Dear Mark

I mentioned that I'm training for RAMROD (Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day #boom!) this year. The ride falls in July and you have to prep for this one. I've ridden it a few times already, once in 2004 and once in 2007. Both times the ride was hard. It's just difficult to train for a ride that has several 6+ mile ascents of 2,000 feet at a time.

This past weekend I rode up Stevens Pass with my friend Bridie. The total milage was not much (31 miles) but the 8 mile climb up the highway is always my favorite choice for training. The day was cold and the rain was soon to arrive. The climb up had has climbing along snow pack on the side of the road. It made me feel like I was in a climb from the Giro. Here's a few pics from the ride.

Just check out the snow pack around us. It was a chilly descent down the highway and traffic was heavier than we would have preferred. Still it was good to get some climbing in.

Here is the Garmin Edge 500 info from the ride


Friday, May 18, 2012

Bike To Work Day 2012

Dear Mark

Bike To Work Day arrived today. My National holiday celebrating those that chose to leave their cars at home and for the simplicity of the bicycle is always a ton of fun. Once again I helped organize a lot of fun here at work. Adobe Seattle has been sponsoring our local BTWD for 17 years by my estimation. That is simply awesome.

It reminds me actually of how I came to work at Adobe Systems. As a younger man I knew that I wanted to make a switch of employers. I liked that I had happened into technology and I seemed to have had a knack for Tech Support. As I was riding my bike I reached down for my water bottle. I noticed that my 1995 Bike To Work Day water bottle had 3 big sponsors, WRQ, Visio and Adobe. All three were companies whose products I knew and liked. I could apply there. How cool would it be to work for a company who also supported cycling efforts in my community? Right?!

That was pretty much the decision making process right there. I hunted job postings and finally applied at Adobe. 15 years later we are still supporting BTWD and supporting our employees who chose to commute by bike. I really feel lucky  to work for such a great company.

This month Jack and I have been riding a lot. I've been posting photos to the zenfolio site. Today we rode through a few commuter stations and met some friends on the ride in. Here's a picture from today at the Nickerson St station. Jack was asked to pose for 2 more photos and, as you would expect, he hammed it up.

On your left,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

Dear Mark,

Just a quick letter about Mother's Day this year. Jack being 4 he seems to get that this is an important day and that Mama is special. This year I decided to try and make it a whole weekend of relaxation for Lavi. It seemed to work. Lavi was quite relaxed and I was fetching her drinks while she read her book and sat in the sun. She did let me sneak for a bike ride early Saturday morning though. After which we went and saw Avengers while Jack had time with Gram and Grandpa. That night we had them over for dinner, which for the most part I took care of (with good guidance from Lavi though).

Sunday morning Jack and I rose earlier than Lavi and I tackled making Migas from a Rachel Ray recipe. It came out pretty well and we had breakfast in bed with Mama. Later Jack and I took off for a bike ride, after we all spent time in the garden, and gave Mama some quiet time. Later that night Ben came by for dinner, which I again managed to pull off. I think I used all my cooking luck in one weekend.

During the day I received the most amazing picture of you and Fiona. It was priceless. While I know it was Siobhan's day I hope you were giving her a break by letting Fi crash on you.

I snapped a few of Lavi and Jack, but Siobhan wins for snapping the best picture for sure. 

We hope your weekend went well too. 


Friday, May 11, 2012

Camping, NW Style

Dear Mark

We took Jack on his very first camping trip this week. Jack's school was closed for 2 in-service days so Lavi and I took the days off and planned a trip to Deception Pass on Whidbey Island. Now planning camping trips in late May is risky in the NW, and planning them in April for the first week of May is, well lets just say it is a bit of a crap-shoot. The forecast didn't help at all. The days before and after our trip looked promising but the days of the trip looked down right wet. As you can see from the image below, Thur-Fri were wet.

All in all it started pretty well. Jack was up for the adventure. At one point in the week prior I asked him about it and he admitted he was a "little nervous." I asked him to explain why he was nervous. He responded saying that he was scared a bee would sting him. I answered that it was still pretty cold for bees to be out and that we'd make sure they stayed away. He was quiet for a moment then said he was a little scared to sleep in the tent. I asked him if he thought he would be sleeping alone, or if he thought Mama and Dadna would be there. He paused and said we'd be there. A moment later his voice picked up and he said "Dadna, I'm really excited to go camping" to which I answered, "me too champ, me too."

I was excited to go camping. We had pulled out all our stuff to see what we had. Lavi and I had not used our gear in a few years. It's always fun for me to do this because a few items in our camping pack were on our wedding registry at REI. It always tickles me to remember we registered there. How very NW of us indeed. After sifting through it all and figuring out what we had, we packed up and were ready to roll in a few days.

During these few days the rain came and stayed. It was starting to darken the mood of excitement. Luckily Jack was oblivious to the fact. We opted for a late start and it sprinkled on us the whole drive north. We arrived at Deception Pass campground and it had let up. The campsite was pretty damp but it had stopped raining. That was until I started putting the tent up, of course. So we get the tent up and realize that our other table shelter is just not going to work. We opted for driving back to a nearby town to a k-mart to get a shelter, which we know we'll use for other purposes surely. Then back to the campground.

The rain let up and Lavi started cooking a beef stew for dinner. It was delicious. After which we made s'mores and quickly realized it was 9:45 and way past Jack's bed time. So into the tent to get ready. Jammies, teeth brushing, lots of blankets and a night-light on we all three crashed out and started a good sleep.

Then it started raining again. Lavi informed me it started at 1:30. I thought it was much later. It was dumping. It rained so hard that our rainfly was sagging and starting to drip through on us. At 6:30am Lavi and I were awake, Jack was still out and sleeping under a sleeping bag and blanket. We discussed it and decided to pack it up. A full day of this rain was just going to be too much. Outside everything was muddy or swampy and the thought of 3 wet people in a tent you are trying to keep dry, well we waved the white towel.

So pack up we did. We headed home after stopping for breakfast. Upon arriving at home we opened our tent and all our wet stuff to dry out in the garage. We grilled some dinner that night, hung out as a family, read books, watched a fun movie and had a great day. Sure we were not camping in my beautiful NW backyard but we were together and that was the most fun of all.

Here's a few pictures I took (still need to add Lavinia's)

Oh and by the way, during the whole trip Jack wore his special superhero camp. Pretty awesome.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

NW Child Development Center

Dear Mark

As you are becoming aware, daycare is a pretty important thing. Lavinia and I have been very lucky that Jack attends a tremendously awesome daycare. As you know he is at Northwest Child Development Center. NW Center helps kids with development needs and, of course like with Jack, kids without development needs are enrolled as well. The level of care that the school provides because they meet the very high requirements for children with special needs is a benefit to all the children in the school. 

Jack has learned so much while he's been here and the Teachers have been great partners. Some times I think they have taught us as much as they've taught Jack. Jack has one more year at NW Center. Because he is a late September birthday Seattle Schools will not enroll him this coming year. We are very okay with that because it means one more year with NW Center. 

One super awesome thing for me is the location. Being located on the North side of Queen Anne hill means I can easily pick up and drop off every day. I can even walk there from work. Jack and I have taken the bus home for fun. We some times stop at the coffee shop in the morning to get a treat. I think though the most fun is when we ride the bicycle to school/work. The hill to the school is very steep but we have a ton of fun riding. Here is a pic of him recently on the bike, yes he's wearing a cape and a mask (he is Robin). 

Here is a photo from the school that they will use for media and marketing efforts. I'm told this will play on our local PBS station. Jack is in the photo and Lavinia and I are really happy Jack can help promote NW Center. 

Over the years we snapped a few photos of Jack at school. I can only show the ones of just him, but we have so many more of Jack playing with his friends. He even still talks about many of his friends who are no longer there any more. 

All in all we are very happy with our experience at NW Center. I hope your daycare is giving you the same warm fuzzy feelings.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bike To Work Month 2012

Dear Mark

Bike to Work Month is here. Every year in the Month of May we start bike to work month. A grand time for those that use 2 wheels. Again this year I've joined a corporate team. We will record our trips per week and hopefully really destroy my fellow corporate teams in the competition.

I started a new photo gallery that I hope to dump photos into:

This month is really all about getting back on the bike. I have a RAMROD ticket for July. Jack and I plan to ride all month. It should be fun.

Oh, and the Giro d'Italia starts this month!

On your left,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A day in the snow

Dear Mark, 

We don't get much snow, but today was the exception. Much more to report than I have time to do so. Here's a quick one of Jack and me ripping up the 2% driveway decline!