Workin’ 9 to 5 (and how Monique changed careers)

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This is my sixth profile of individuals who have changed to a different line of work, in hopes to inspire others who are contemplating a change in their own professional lives.  Check out my prior interviews featuring Betsy, Abby, Rita, Jen and Rebecca.

When you’ve been in the business world for most of your career, your life is often focused on climbing the corporate ladder, leading teams and building products. And the thought of leaving that safety net to chase after a dream can be daunting. When I first met Monique, she was contemplating her next move after leaving her job of twenty years. A few months later, we caught up, and she had made the decision to dive into something completely new: real estate. With her amazing energy and personality, I know the sky’s the limit for her.

Here’s what Monique had to say about her journey…

What do you do for a living these days?
I’m a residential real estate broker in Portland, Oregon for Windermere Stellar.

What career were you in before this?
I spent nearly 20 years within the software industry as a technology marketer – generating and developing leads, launching new products, doing partner and customer outreach, and managing programs and teams.

What inspired you to make this transition?
I wanted to do something everyday that was more locally focused, and allowed me to spend more time connecting with people and being out in my community. I love Portland, after living and working in many different areas throughout the city. Being able to use my marketing and program management background to help people move easily through the buying or selling process and find their next home was very attractive.

What were your biggest challenges in changing careers?
After 20 years progressing in corporate marketing roles, it was a big leap to be open to a possibility that wasn’t clearly marked “Next” on a traditional corporate ladder. Listening to what I wanted to do versus what looked, at first glance, to be a logical next step took some time. Given my marketing, outreach and program management background, real estate is actually very logical. It just wasn’t the expected path.

What advice can you share with others thinking about moving into a new line of work?
The most important thing to do is to just get out and talk to people. Reach out to people who have taken career risks to understand their paths. Talk to those doing work that interests you. Don’t limit yourself to “logical” when first exploring. It’s really important to get outside of your usual circles and meet new people. New people will ignite new ideas for you.

Don’t be afraid to ask for time or introductions. People are very generous, especially with those they feel will pay it forward. When you get the time, make sure you’re in a good frame of mind to actively listen. Many people on my path each contributed an individual thought that eventually when linked together helped me make my decision. Listen, learn, and see where your path takes you.


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Happiness is the 30th anniversary of Literary Arts, featuring my favorite author Elizabeth Gilbert and humorist Calvin Trillin, kicked off by Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, and interspersed with amazing poets. Happy sigh :)

Happiness is attending the 30th anniversary celebration of Literary Arts that I attended with my friend Rachel, featuring the awesome Elizabeth Gilbert and hilarious Calvin Trillin, kicked off by Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, and interspersed with amazing poets. It spurred me, to put it lightly, to remember what I love most. Words. Happy sigh :)

While I’m out of pocket for a couple of weeks, here are some of the groovy eco things I collected over the week that I wanted to share with y’all…

* This is one super delish thing you can do with your ten billion cherry tomatoes on the vine that are now making you nuts!

* While we are at one of ‘em, check out these gorgeous “neo-vintage” national park posters.

* Early harvest like we had, and want to learn how to cure and store your pumpkins? This was great. Now we cross our fingers that they make it til October so we can share them with the neighborhood kiddos!

* How to prep your recyclables: Grist explains what needs to be washed, wiped out, or tossed in willy-nilly.

* With my recent salmon share coming in from Iliamna Fish’s great team here in Portland, my first order of business was to prepare road-trip-worthy salmon jerky. So I took Alton Brown’s recipe  for the insanely good molasses/soy marinade, then combined it with an oven baked recommendation I found online and baked them for 8 hours at 170 degrees – just tossed them in the oven at bedtime and took ‘em out when I got up. YUM.

* “Does the public trust doctrine that protects air, water, and endangered species apply to climate?” That’s the question asked in this Oregon Quarterly piece.

“We are the inheritors of a wonderful world, a beautiful world, full of life and mystery, goodness and pain. But likewise are we the children of an indifferent universe. We break our own hearts imposing our moral order on what is, by nature, a wide web of chaos.”
― Colin Meloy, Wildwood

Workin’ 9 to 5 (and how brogrammer culture is affecting diversity)

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Hi everyone! This week I’m thrilled to have technology leader Rian Schmidt guest blogging. While I’ve known him for a few years in the software engineering community, most recently I’ve been absolutely diggin’ his articles on LinkedIn – also posted here on his blog. He has killer insights and the career street cred to back it up, so I asked if he’d share with me his perspective as a man in the tech world having experienced both the Silicon Valley and Silicon Forest. I see not only women turning away from tech careers, but also men who don’t fit in the stereotypical brogrammer“persona. Hiring managers are turning down amazing candidates and the trends have become clear: the concept of “fit” is all too often being used to avoid diversity and create cultures where it’s less about creating a truly great product and more similar to fitting into a high school clique. Yikes. So, here are Rian’s thoughts on where things have gone off course and what is needed to fix it…

I’m not your bro, bro.

I was at a company recently where, for fun, they had “Brogrammer Day”. The problem was that, if you’d just walked in, you’d have had a hard time noticing anything different from any other day. Sure, there were more popped collars (who does that anymore?), but otherwise, the same muscle shirts, loud voices, and Nerf battles filled the room.

The computer world has changed a lot in the past decade. When I was a young geek, our focus on technology was seen by the general public as associated with physical weakness and a predisposition to nose-picking. No one knew what a computer could do that would be of any interest to a normal person. We had to have some kind of psychological issue that led us to shy away from sexual activity and to tape, rather than replace, our glasses. We were lumped into a group called geeks.

In truth, I got into computer technology as a kid because my brother did, and we connected via our shared interest. When you found someone else interested in the field, you had a genuinely unique connection to another person. Working with this emerging field challenged me and gave me a thrill with the possibilities that I could see from the start. There were nothing but bugs and limited resources. Every beeping, flashing accomplishment was an act of creativity and imagination.

Now, decades later, the tide has turned. Tech is mainstream, and advances in technology and education have made it accessible to many more people. What once was the domain of people so entranced with the possibilities that we snuck into computer labs, coded on punch cards, and built our computers out of parts is now so common as to blow entire city real estate markets out of rationality.

Today, if you’re cool, you’re an tech entrepreneur. You say things like “kick ass”, “gotta be hungry”, and “do whatever it takes.” You make six figures out of college and spend that money on designer sunglasses and protein supplements. The spikey-haired jocks are now the engineers, and they’re not going to put up with soft, squishy babies on the field.

There are millions of developers, and my mom knows how to retouch her pictures in Photoshop. The pre-existing gender disparity and bias in STEM education has been continued into the computer science and engineering fields as the absolute numbers have increased dramatically. Demand has increased to the point where even college degrees are no longer necessary, and a decent github portfolio or 12-week cram course can get you a high-paying job without the pesky necessity of a university education. Why just eliminate liberal arts education when you can eliminate college completely?

The result has been a flood of (sometimes, very) young males info the field and growing into positions of leadership. Still testosterone-charged, in their early 20s, making more money than they know what to do with, they swagger into the workplace and set the tone of an entire industry.

So where does that leave the introverted, women, or others of more diverse temperaments and backgrounds? Unfortunately, it has the self-perpetuating effect of excluding those who don’t care to feel like they’re going to work at a frat house— walk into a typical software development office, and there are kegs, ping-pong tables, and push-up contests. The Alpha Betas have taken over the office. You know who that leads to? More bros.

Without the maturity and understanding of history that a more diverse workforce brings, there is often a pervasive attitude that the racism, sexism, and ageism that’s overtly joked about at the office is a cute caricature from a by-gone era. But it’s not.

Put these guys in suits and give them cigarettes, and this would be Mad Men. Women have to fight to be taken seriously. Soft-spoken employees are trampled by the bros and their opinions ignored. Older employees are marginalized, even when they are more experienced and better positioned to make prudent decisions. And should you ask for respect or equitable treatment, you’re seen as whining or wielding political correctness to get your way. You have to go along to get along.

The answer, I think, is to actively defend the promotion of diversity in the workplace. Companies must accept the responsibility of distinguishing a “fun workplace” from a frat house. Change the perception of diversity from an obligation to a business-enhancing strategy because that’s what it is. Good business decisions require the input of multiple viewpoints, and winning in the market requires good decisions.

Stand back and take a look at your team. Are the bros dominating the discussion? Do they confuse passion with aggression? Does your company stress working long hours without providing childcare? Is the physical space welcoming to all employees or is it littered with sports, alcohol, and Star Trek. Does your company make an effort to recruit through channels that might reach people of different backgrounds or just stick with the mainstream. Do your benefits appeal to young single people more than older families?

Real change will not be easy, but it’s good business to preserve the differences in our teams rather than even hiring for diversity and then forcing everyone to act like a bro to succeed. Only then can we benefit from the various perspectives of the people on our team as well as allowing us to retain them because they appreciate being able to contribute as themselves.

Forest for the Trees

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“don’t follow your passion, follow your curiosity.”
~ elizabeth gilbert

Maybe that’s what it is. So many look and look while refusing to see. That’s what stifles me, what frustrates me, what causes the cursing and sends me straight to the garden to sit on the earth until I am quiet again. Do I return, do I quit, do I carve my niche out in this place that has led me to apathy, do I simply write until the cows come home?

One told us about her inkstained heart. I looked at the empty page and knew I wasn’t giving enough. Another said that perfectionism was the high end version of fear and that I am entitled to create and I must make space for fear and plow ahead. Invite it on the road trip but never let it drive. It’s there for a reason. Fearlessness is for sociopaths and wild three year olds.

I told you that I didn’t know, I asked you to tell me what you saw. You told me there was a reason to stay if only for the words, to be out more among people and to be making that difference. Whenever I ask for perspective I always get to know more about that person – not just their thoughts on me but what they think as logical, important in their own worlds. What’s scalable, you said.

What if scalable is not a priority. What if I just want to pay the bills and walk on forest trails and raise a family? What if I just want to write books and close my eyes when I sit on the grass and love and eat and sleep and dream?

Inbetweenland is where I sit and wonder and inbetweenland is where I know and don’t know all at the same time. The woman, she writes. But is she a writer?

I have had a callous on the inside of my right middle finger from serious pen and pencil work, gained at a young age and kept my whole life. Write is not an option it is the breath that comes out of me. When you walk you see words drift by and when you feel the wind or see the sun there are things that must be said, even if not allowed.

Those around me in the profession, they often miss the forest for the trees. Do I want to keep trying to point out how the cedar and pine and maple and oak are all of one? Do I want to keep trying to shake them alive, do I want them to change or do I simply want to walk away? I’m tired, and I’m awake. I’m inbetweenish and yet all at the same time I know exactly what it is.

The words. They hold me. I owe them more.

I promise more now. Now.


Birthday Getaway: Oregon Wine Country


“The best birthday of my adult life” my husband called the surprise overnight getaway to Oregon Wine Country I put together for him this week. With a Zipcar and a change of clothes, we were off to Dundee, Dayton, Newberg, and St Paul to explore a few wineries, eat good food, and most of all, just enjoy the peace and quiet of the beautiful vineyard-filled countryside…


Oregon grapes in all their lusciousness…


view of the vineyards in Dundee


roses growing along the side of the road


One of the resident chooks at the B&B


Checking out the grapes in Dayton

sampling olive oils and vinegars at Red Ridge Farms - yum!!

sampling olive oils and vinegars at Red Ridge Farms – the balsamic was amazing!!

French oak barrels at Lady Hill Winery

French oak barrels at Lady Hill Winery

Wine tasting at Torii Mor, the most peaceful of our stops (and had a gorgeous syrah port we took home!)

Wine tasting at Torii Mor, the most peaceful of our stops (and a gorgeous syrah port!)



rose hips

rose hips

Happy winos :)

Happy winos :)

View from the front porch at Dundee Manor, the B&B we stayed at.

The lovely view from Dundee Manor, the B&B we stayed at. The owners were very nice but the walls were paper thin, the bed was uncomfortable, and we quickly realized in the morning that we aren’t B&B folks (nothing like awkward silences to put me into recruiter-conversation mode over shared meals).

View from Red can dream, right?

View from Red Ridge…one can dream, right?

Love the patterns in wine country landscapes...

Love the patterns in wine country landscapes…

Dan's birthday highlight? Getting a private tour from the wine consultant at Lady Hill, from tasting the grapes to seeing where they get fermented to the barrels they go into, and a trip to the tiny awesome tasting room. 3 more bottles? Yessirree!

Dan’s highlight? Getting a private tour from the wine consultant at Lady Hill, a five-generation winery, from tasting the grapes to seeing where they get fermented to the barrels they go into, and a trip to the tiny awesome tasting room. 3 more bottles? Yessirree!


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Curing our small (yet huge) crop of pumpkins. Rather than a bunch of small French cooking pumpkins, we got these four big ones including the 28 pounder on the left! Whew!

Curing our small (yet huge) crop of pumpkins in the back yard, hoping they will last til somewhat closer to Halloween. Rather than a bunch of small French cooking pumpkins (planted from last year’s seeds), we got these including the 28.5 lb “it’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” one on the left! Whew!

Really? 90 degrees today? I want autumn!! Well at least in the evenings it’s cool :)  So glad to be in the month of September, and looking forward to wearing SLEEVES! Can you tell I’m not a hot weather gal?

Anyhow, here are a few bits and pieces gathered this week I thought were interesting…

* So excited to be picking up my annual salmon share from the good folks at Iliamna Fish Company tomorrow – 20 lbs of individually, fresh-caught wild Alaskan sockeye salmon that is SO tasty!!

* Just learned about Ruby Hill Farm and how they are raising their pigs and other farm creatures. Coolness.

* Contemplating taking on the project of filling our 10 year old leather sofa’s cushions rather than donating it and spending money on a new or vintage one. Problem for us? The cushions are sewn to the sofa, so the task is not simple. Or so we thought! I found this article on How to Fill Leather Sofa Cushions Sewn to Frame. Now that is awesome.

* Does canning make you sweat just at the thought of those pots of boiling water? Check out 10 Ways to Preserve Summer Fruits and Vegetables Without Canning.

* And finally, unrelated to eco stuff, we found this video hilarious (and empathized for the folks in the video!):

Vacation Day: Silver Falls

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Sitting behind a waterfall is pretty awesome. We got a Zipcar for the day last week and scooted down past Silverton to Silver Falls State Park, where we hiked a bit, sat on a bunch of rocks behind South Falls at Silver Falls State Park and had a picnic, and hiked some more. Suh-weet.


The hubby diggin’ the lovely creek along the trail.


Lower South Falls – can you tell it’s summer? Definitely not like the pictures we’ve seen!


It was great to get out and hike amongst the trees on such a warm day! We only went a few miles as we didn’t bring much water, but it was still great and a killer on the legs on the last climb!


Workin’ 9 to 5 (and the big question to remember when interviewing)

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After you’ve been speaking for 90 seconds without interruption, the interviewer is barely listening at all.”
~ from Don’t Talk Too Much


This week, three people have told me that during interviews, they have a tendency to ramble. It’s not coincidence – talking to “fill up the space” during an interview, or to provide detail beyond what is truly necessary, is an all too common mistake made by nervous candidates.

Most of us have been guilty of it, including myself, so the number one piece of advice I give? Answer in two to three sentences, then ask this:

“Would you like me to elaborate?”

This one question is incredibly powerful.  Why?

  • It forces you to get to the most important points upfront.
  • It encourages interaction with the interviewer (they can ask follow up questions), and
  • It shows you respect their time. Remember, they have more than one question they want to ask!

There are a ton of articles that will tell you to practice your answers, and yes, that is important too. But you have to remember to ask this question at the end of your response!

And why exactly are long-winded answers dangerous?

“Rambling during an interview could be a sign that you aren’t really that confident about your skills and qualifications, or about your ability to articulate what you bring to the organization…When you have provided an answer to the question and continue talking, the listener is likely to tune out the remainder of your soliloquy…If you can’t demonstrate your ability to conserve time and produce answers that meet the interviewer’s requirements, it’s questionable whether you can manage your responsibilities and tasks if you were to be hired.”
~ from What Happens If You Ramble During An Interview?

Of course, it isn’t always the kiss of death, but the risks can be high that you won’t get a call back for another interview if your answers end up monopolizing the conversation. When I schedule interviews, I always tell candidates how long I expect it to last. So when the first “give me an overview of your background” question kicks off for a 30 minute interview, and the candidate is still talking away 10 minutes into it? I get the impression that the candidate thinks what they have to say is much more important than what I’m going to ask and/or share with them during the conversation. If I try to interrupt and ask them to wrap up their answer, but don’t (and let me tell you, it’s happened too much), that almost always makes it an automatic “no”. Why? I don’t know an office in the world where the hiring team wants someone who is going to disregard them during the interview (or in the workplace).

Catch yourself rambling and want to recover? Admit you rambled and apologize! I always respect someone who catches an error then rectifies it right then – it shows me they can course correct not just in communications, but in the workplace as a whole. In other words, maturity.

If it doesn’t sink in til you get home that you might have commandeered the interview by talking too much? Here are a few additional tips to potentially swing the pendulum back in your favor.

So remember, y’all, it is absolutely possible to communicate who you are..without sharing every single tidbit that’s in your brain. Keep it concise, and remember to ask that question at the end of your thought.

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
~ Thomas Jefferson


Slow Living Essentials – August 2014


“The end-of-summer winds make people restless.”
~ Sebastian Faulks, Engleby

And another month has gone by! Looking at the start of September, I am amazed that we are in the last month of summer. Here is my contribution to the group of good folks sharing a peek at each of their respective worlds on Slow Living Essentials





This month we’ve been trying a ton of new recipes, and with the August heat, it meant making good use of our smoothie maker! With my fairly strong intolerance to dairy acquired after an elimination diet in the spring of 2013 made my body say, “okay lady you’ve had enough milk and cheese to last a lifetime, now stop!”, I am always looking for ways to veganize recipes in ways that retain the yummy while pleasing the tummy. The Cucumber Basil Smoothie and the Mango Lassi recipes turned out awesome!




With harvesting at mock speed due to an early summer, it meant our preservation was bumped ahead as well. From a variety of bread & butter pickles to my Giada-inspired marinara (I left out the carrots and celery this year and it’s still scrumptious) to my longtime favorite serrano pepper jelly, to these incredibly easy pickled red onions, and the start of sweet pepper (capsicums, for you Aussies out there!) harvesting, it’s been busy to say the least. Yet still we (yes, we – husband very much likes doing the preserving with me, yay!) managed to try a new recipe for crystallized ginger (pictured above) from Karen Solomon’s awesome Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It cookbook. If you don’t have her series I highly recommend it. I have about 10 cookbooks and hers are very well-loved (read: in sticky condition as I’ve got drippings and other messes all over from using so much hahaha!). The hubby is inhaling it, so much that I’ve jarred it up and hidden some for our upcoming honeymoon road trip so that there are snacks for the drive :)



I must say, while the majority of my income is derived from my work as a recruiter, the most rewarding part of my business is the career coaching I do. This past month, I was engaged by a number of career coaching clients who work in the sustainability and/or environmental sectors. So while my current recruiting is with clients who pay little attention to green business practices or how they could more positively impact the social and environmental crises in our world (yes, another post about that is forthcoming), these coaching clients are making a difference in the community and with businesses, from natural habitats to education to recycling and more. It reminds me of how much more there is to be done and how much I need to step back and reassess where I want to go with my business moving forward. How can I do more? Where do I want to veer off and make some changes? What am I willing to let go of in order to do this?

I think the term "giant" for this sunflower is an understatement, don't you? Dang!!



Along with all the veggies that we grow, our sunflowers did a marvelous job this year, always seeming to try and break the prior year’s record for height and, well, hugeness like the one that is leaning over next to my husband. They’ve all since been attacked by squirrels and birds into a graveyard of shells splattered everywhere (they get the munchies in the middle of the night and the next morning? “Looks like a dog’s breakfast” the hubby says, heehee). Fortunately we were able to get one set aside and save a bunch of seeds for next year along with the red ones. Sunflowers never cease to amaze me in how fast they grow, their beauty, and the complete adoration the bees have for them.




After last month’s painting projects, we realized we have been accumulating lots of small bits of paint – great for touch-ups in the future, yes, but we thought, wouldn’t it be nice to actually use some of it up and at the same time add some color to our basement? So with that, the husband suggested we pay homage to the brick wall of the Telstra building in St Kilda, using our existing paints along with donated paints from our neighbors (EVERYONE has leftover paint, I tell ya!) that we asked for via a Nextdoor posting.



I’m still working on my book, I swear!



This month again had me full speed ahead with my clients, with community service unfortunately minimized, but again I continue to give a portion of my monthly income to my favorite nonprofits, with August’s donation going to Living Yoga, who “exists to support youth and adults in prison, in drug and alcohol recovery programs and in community transitional services. We use Yoga, with its proven ability to heal trauma, to help people improve their path in life, moving from convicts and addicts, to neighbors, coworkers and friends.” I learned about them in last year’s GiveGuide and knew they had to be one of my twelve beneficiaries!


We had a great time learning about growing and pruning cane fruits (raspberries, etc.) at Garden Fever’s class taught by local garden legend Glen Andresen.



This August had many highlights, but one of the biggest was having a long (car-free, of course) weekend in San Francisco (car-free, of course) where we met up with friends as well as Dan’s sister and her family visiting the States from Melbourne. It was way cool! The photo above is our niece at the top of Strawberry Hill at Golden Gate Park, paying tribute to the photo I have of Dan hugging a tree and an older one his stepmom sent to us of his (recently deceased) father in an identical type of picture. I feel so blessed to have this new family and cannot wait to create new memories and stronger ties with them as the years go on. Happy happy joy joy :)

Having a place to go — is a home. Having someone to love — is a family. Having both — is a blessing.”
~ Donna Hedges


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Beginning the long weekend with a Zipcar trip out to Silver Falls, an hour or so out of Portland.

Began the long weekend with a Zipcar trip out to hike at Silver Falls, an hour outside Portland.

Wow – September is almost upon us and while the weather is still warm, we can tell that things are getting ready to change. Tomatoes are done as are the cukes (well the latter I’ve made an executive decision on after a very plentiful year!), and just enjoying watching our twenty five or so pepper plants soak up the heat. Perfect timing with our (intentionally belated) honeymoon just around the corner!

Here’s some of the groovy green stuff I learned about this week…

* Three articles on family stuff have been bookmarked for the hubby and I as we think about how we want our 2015 pregnancy and everything that comes afterwards to possibly look: From Doula to Diapers: Bringing Up a Green Baby, a great overview without being all product-marketing, Financing a Homebirth vs Hospital Birth awesome to read to truly understand the costs when we may be very underinsured depending on where Dan lands empoyment-wise (due to the crazy expenses of buying your own insurance, as $300/mo with $2500 deductible is what we’re dealing with as the “best” deal), and finally, Surviving Pregnancy When Life Gets Busy by over on The Art of Simple keeps the focus on – you guessed it – paring down and focusing on what really matters. It’s always a giggle talking to moms and the tremendous variety of suggestions and experiences they’ve had – and yes, the advice. I’m listening, but always following my gut.

* Whoa, a 3,300 foot crack in the Mexican desert. As real as it gets on what’s happening in our environment, people.

* Those who are connected to me on LinkedIn might have seen this article I posted, and I wanted to share it with my blog readers as well. Throwing Cold Water on Ice Bucket Philanthropy finally put into words what was bothering me about the “look at me”, minimally education-focused side of charity. I could never understand all the ice bucket videos since that was stated to be for those who DON’T donate to ALS charities, and all the videos yet no one actually talking about what ALS is or who the money (if they donate at all) goes to? It’s like Movember to me – so much more focused on drawing attention to oneself rather than actually taking truly meaningful action to educate and work towards improvement. There, I’ve said my piece (for today).

* Handlebars that double as a U-lock? Rad. Check out this ultimate urban utility bike.

* Pleasantly impressed with Nextdoor, an online community for neighbors that for the most part is nothing at all like Facebook, and a great place for us to post classified ads, find and give away free stuff, learn about what’s going on in the neighborhood, etc. All with no parade of family photos or finding out what people ate for lunch or what game they are playing. Hubby is also working on several gardening and painting jobs because of the contacts made in here – yay!

* Awesome – check out this article on LilyPad, which helps clean up stormwater pollution. Now that’s product development that is worth investing in!

Weather means more when you have a garden. There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.”
~Marcelene Cox