Looking Back on a Massive Change

Five years ago today, I arrived in Seattle, knowing no one. I’d never been here before. I knew nothing about the place. I may as well have landed on the moon. The very first thing I did was sit in a public park with my dogs. I felt very overwhelmed. I remember thinking, “Now what?” But I was also excited about the possibilities. Hanging on to that feeling is what saw me through the more challenging times.

I had spent the bulk of my life in the conservative South, where I always felt like a liberal turd in a republican punchbowl, so to say that Seattle was a culture shock was putting it mildly. I didn’t know my way around. I hadn’t even heard of the Seattle Freeze yet, so I had no idea about all the extra hurdles I’d have to jump through to make friends. (I must confess that I struggle with that to this day. I find many people out here to be flakey, unreliable, standoffish, and confusing. It takes a lot of effort to find the gems amongst the unyielding rocks, but that tends to enhance their value.)

At one point, an obnoxious distant relative accused me of running away. I wrote a furious blog post about that. Starting fresh is not always a massive avoidance scenario. Sometimes you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. But on that first day, I had no idea what the gains, if any, would be.

Every time I pass that park where I first sat, I wish I could go back and hug that girl and tell her everything will turn out okay. My, my, how time does fly. I can now say with complete confidence that moving here was the best decision I ever made. For the first time in my life, I’m relatively financially stable. More often than not, I love my job. I purchased a house. I’ve had a lot of adventures, the greatest of which was finding love and getting married. I’m exactly where I should be.

Sometimes you have to take a leap and hope the net will appear. That’s what I did. Thank goodness it turned out well. I could have just as easily landed with a massive, irreparable splat. So three cheers for nets!

Incidentally, if you’d like to read about my epic journey across the continent, start here. And if you’d like to read other posts about my transition, do a search within my categories section for My Jacksonville to Seattle Do Over. (That category includes the epic journey, but contains many other posts as well.)

me cross country

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A Celebration of Light

One of the things I’ll never get used to here in the Pacific Northwest is that there is nearly 8 hours less sunlight per day in the winter than there is in the summer. In Florida, the difference is only 4 hours. But that means that people here really appreciate the daylight when they have it. It can’t be taken for granted. There is a definite morale change from summer to winter, and with it comes a lifestyle change. People seem to hibernate here in the wintertime.

Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that Vancouver, Canada, our neighbor to the north, has a three day celebration of light each summer. The funny thing is, this celebration takes place at night. That’s because it is a fireworks competition.

Each year, three countries are chosen to put on a fireworks display over English Bay on three separate evenings. These displays are set to music, and they’re judged. They’re always spectacular. The event comes with food trucks, too, and usually draws about 400,000 people per night.

This year, India, Canada, and Croatia competed. Canada, the home team so to speak, won. Croatia won the people’s choice award. (Click on the country names to see full Youtube videos of the events. They’re incredible.)

I was lucky enough to experience Canada’s effort, and I must say that it was, without a doubt, the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen in my life. I saw at least 5 types of fireworks that I’d never seen bfore. They were wonderfully creative, surprising, and delightful.

If you’re ever in the Vancouver area in late July, early August, don’t miss the Celebration of Light. But please don’t bring your dog. If I lived in Vancouver, I’d probably take my dogs and leave town during this event. War veterans might want to give it a pass, too.

But everyone else… wow. Just wow. Three cheers for light!

Celebration of Light 2019

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The Death of America’s First Mall

Wow. I had no idea that when I first moved to the Seattle area, I was living not far from a piece of American history. According to this article, the Northgate Mall was the first shopping center in the country to be designated as a mall. I went there a few times, but only to go to the movies.

I hate malls now for the same reasons I loved them when I was a teenager. The crowds. The endless walking. The opportunities to spend your money on a whole host of stuff that you don’t really need. Malls suck the energy out of my fugal, lazy, introverted soul.

Nowadays, on the rare occasion that I visit an old-style indoor mall, it feels more like a ghost town. Instead of the crowds these places were made for, I’m often the only person walking the halls, and there’s this “I’ve given up on life” vibe that I find extremely depressing. Malls are now where retailers go to die.

So when I read the above-mentioned article and learned of Northgate’s demise, I wasn’t particularly surprised. But I am also not waxing nostalgic for it as many people on social media seem to be. I won’t miss malls any more than I’ll miss that desperate search for a payphone when my car broke down in the pouring rain in the 80’s. It’s the end of an era, and it’s not how I live my life anymore. I wouldn’t want to turn back the clock. Not everything in the past is worth clinging to.

Northgate Mall will be turned into business offices, residential units, and an NHL training center by 2021. Until then, you can watch the few remaining stores disappear one by one, after desperately trying to sell everything that they have, even the mannequins, at insanely low prices.

In no time, nothing will be left except the echoes of the past.

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Reclaiming the Day

Have you ever had one of those days? A day of traffic snarls, annoying errands, clerical stupidity, unwanted expenditures, stupid people and disappointing friends. I was tired, hungry, I had to pee, and I was annoyed at the world. That’s never a good feeling. Even while it’s happening, I realize that that is not a headspace for making major life decisions.

When I’m in that state of mind, I have awful thoughts. People suck. Why on earth did I move out here? I don’t belong in Seattle. I don’t understand people out here. Nobody likes me. They don’t give a sh** about me. I hated Florida with its horrible politics and its oppressive heat, but at least there things made sense, and people could be counted on. There are too many people here. I feel like I’m suffocating. I want to go home.

I felt like crying.

Instead, I text-vented to a good friend in Florida, who had the sense to just listen and not try to talk me out of it. He knew I already knew I needed to pee, eat, and be around the one person I can count on out here: dear husband.

And sure enough, Hubby was on his way. And he had some idea what he was driving into. Storm clouds on my horizon.

There’s a reason I chose Always Look on the Bright Side of Life as his ring tone. That man could put a positive slant on the four horses of the apocalypse. And he does it in such a charming and sincere way that you can’t even get annoyed. He also does that “I’m a guy, so I’m supposed to solve stuff” thing. Which must be upsetting from his perspective, because not everything can be solved.

But in this case, he handled my mood with aplomb. He drove up, wearing a bright, sunny, yellow shirt, and had my favorite Jason Mraz album playing on the radio. “Hey there, Sunshine!” He said. “Let’s find you a bathroom.”

After accomplishing that mission, he took me out for seafood. He made me feel special. He made me feel heard.

I could see what an effort he was making to be positive, and that naturally made me want to be positive, too. So I started saying things like, “What lovely weather we’re having,” and “Look at those beautiful flowers.” All while grumbling inside. But I was trying.

Your attitude impacts your outlook. If I had continued in “people suck” mode, the evening would have gone completely down the drain. Instead, I decided to follow his positive lead, rather than make his day as awful as mine had been up to his arrival.

After that, we went to see Wings Over Washington, which was so much fun it got a blog post of its own. And then we went home, watched Handmaid’s Tale, hugged the dogs, and went to sleep smiling.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we resurrected the day. And that made me realize that looking at days as a solid unit can be a mistake. A day doesn’t have to be all bad, from beginning to end. It’s possible to live in the moment. It’s possible to turn things around.

I hope I remember that. If I don’t, I have someone walking beside me who will remind me by example. And that’s pretty darned amazing.

Moon Phoenix

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Wings Over Washington

It can be a lot of fun to be a tourist in your own town, especially when you’ve only lived there for 5 years and still kind of feel like a baby fawn just learning to walk. So it was when dear husband took me to the Seattle waterfront to experience Wings Over Washington.

You can’t really miss the place. It’s right by the Seattle Great Wheel. Tickets for this ride cost 17 dollars plus tax for adults, and it’s worth it. It’s great fun. It kind of made me nostalgic for Disney World.

The first room you enter reminded me of Disney’s Country Bear Jamboree with its animatronic bears. In this case, though, it’s animatronic Pacific Northwest totems that you experience. It was kind of corny, but it made me smile.

The next room is the ride itself. Try to sit in the back row. And if you’re afraid of heights, brace yourself. The floor will drop out beneath you, and the huge screen with Washington state footage on it, with all its peaks and valleys and waterfalls, will leave you convinced that you’re hundreds of feet in the air. It’s quite an adventure.

I left Wings Over Washington feeling proud that I live in such a gorgeous state. It also made me want to take a lot more road trips. I’ll be bringing all my out of state visitors here, if they’re up for the challenge.

Now, if you don’t think you’ll ever find yourself in Seattle (poor you), or if you’re financially unable to partake of this ride, or if you’re too afraid of heights, here’s a little cheat for you: You are not supposed to video this ride, but someone did. This link takes you two minutes into the bootleg video, because the first minutes are a blurry, messy, waste of time. But the rest gives you an idea of what you’d see. Only, it’s just a small idea. The ride is 1000 times better. You have to be there, with the big screen and the moving seats, to really feel like you’re flying.

Bottom line: Wings Over Washington—highly recommended!

Wings Over Washington

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The Ice Cream Paradox

Coffee ice cream is my kryptonite. If it’s in my house, I will eat it. In fact, that’s probably all I will eat. Even if it’s breakfast time.

Because of that, I try not to have it in the house very often. Dear husband knows not to bring any home unless I ask for it. Because the post-coffee-ice-cream guilt and depression is no fun at all.

Once upon a time, though, I was in a very unhealthy relationship, and he started bringing home pints of ice cream for me every single day. I never asked for them. It wasn’t a household habit. In fact, I begged him to stop. And yet the ice cream kept coming. It made no sense.

I did eat a lot of ice cream for a time there, and then one day I figured out what was going on. I don’t know if this was a conscious thought process on his part, or just his default passive-aggressive coping mechanism at play, but the fact was, we were in a bad place, and one twisted way to keep me in the relationship was to destroy my self-esteem by getting me to become fatter and fatter and fatter. If I was depressed and miserable, I wouldn’t have the energy to change my life, and I certainly wouldn’t find someone else.

At some point, I gave up trying to convince him to stop bringing home the ice cream. The crux of our problem was that he never listened to anything I said. So I was forced to take matters into my own hands. I’d just wait until he left the house, and then I’d take the lid off the ice cream and turn it over in the sink and let it melt down the drain.

Eventually, there were just too many examples of how he did not support my dreams and goals, and did not have my best interests at heart. He did not want good things for me. He just wanted me to stay right where I was and never change, so he could have the unambitious, never-changing life that he craved, and in fact still lives.

When I look back at that period of my life, I get really angry at myself for having stayed as long as I did. Now I know that one of the most important things to do in life is to surround yourself with people who want to lift you up, not hold you down. Those people who encourage you to educate yourself and push past your boundaries and experience the world are the keepers. I should have been taught this in childhood. But no.

I’m really happy to say that I’m in that beautiful place now, a place where I’m encouraged to fly. I’ll make a point to never find myself elsewhere, ever again.

Coffee ice cream

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Fremont Solstice 2019

This will be the third year running that I’ve written about an amazing Seattle tradition. (Here’s last year’s post.) I can think of no better way to celebrate the advent of summer than the Fremont Solstice Parade. There’s such a feeling of joy that comes from this event.

In true Fremont style, everyone who participates in the parade does so in his/her/their own unique way. There are, for the most part, no politics involved. Signage is discouraged. There’s certainly no advertising. It’s just a two-hour-long orgy of self expression.

To me, this parade is the epitome of Seattle. I bear witness not only to celebrate summer, but also to celebrate the fact that I’m here, now, in this place. And I can’t imagine any place I’d rather be.

I try to picture such a freewheeling event happening in hyper-conservative, stodgy, judgmental Jacksonville, Florida, where I used to live, and I have to laugh. There’s no way on earth that would ever come to pass. So this is also a celebration of the fact that I’m no longer in a place that tried to make my choices for me, tried to squash my opinions, tried to tell me how to live my life. No, I’m now in a place where once a year, people come together and ride through the streets wearing nothing but smiles and body paint, and the whole city turns out to cheer.

I go to Fremont Solstice Parade every year to remind myself that I am finally free.

Happy Solstice, everybody!

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