Extra Gratitude for Thanksgiving

One of the recurring themes in this blog is gratitude. I write about this topic so often because I genuinely believe that attitude is everything. I think that even in our darkest hours, there are things to appreciate if you look hard enough. Even bitter lessons are worthy of gratitude because they help you grow and survive.

There is so much in this world that we take for granted. Sometimes it’s worth stopping and taking a breath and appreciating the sun on your face and the wind in the trees. It’s such a gift to be alive and able to think and reason and exercise free will and create beauty and give and receive love.

I think the unhappiest people are those who focus on the negative in their lives. They may be unhappy because of their negative focus, or negative experiences may have made them unhappy, but either way, until that cycle is broken, nothing will change. It makes me sad to see people trapped in that way.

I’m not saying we should all wander around like Stepford Wives. And yes, bad things happen to us all. It’s just that the way you frame things matters. It takes practice. Some days will be a lot harder than others. But there’s good out there, if you only look.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and it’s fast approaching. I wish we didn’t need a holiday to remember to give thanks. I think gratitude should be part of our daily lives.

I feel so strongly about this topic that I published an anthology of my essays on gratitude. It’s called A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude. I’m really proud of it. I think it would make a great Thanksgiving gift, or, for that matter, a gift any time of the year for a loved one who could use a little positivity. And can’t we all use some of that? Think about it.

As always, I’m grateful that you take the time to read my blog. As a little bonus, below is one of the short and to the point essays that you can find in the book. This one was originally posted on this blog on November 29, 2015.

Gratitude

Ever since I moved to Seattle, I’ve sort of felt as if my heart has come to reside outside of my rib cage. Vulnerable. Exposed. Sensitive. It’s kind of a crazy feeling. I need to develop a thicker skin.

I’ve just been through so much in the past couple years. I’ve given up so much, sacrificed so much. I’ve taken some insane risks, some of which have paid off, and some of which have blown up in my face.

But on a positive note, this has caused me to appreciate all the good in life so much more deeply. When I think of my friends and loved ones, near and far and old and new, I often well up with tears of joy. A good sunrise can take my breath away. I can be walking down the street and suddenly it hits me how lucky I am to be where I am, and I have to stop dead in my tracks for a second and gather myself.

In essence, I’ve become a sentimental old fool. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

sun-gratitude

Just Me Trying to Get Published

I just sent an e-mail to the director of the University of Washington Press. I’m more nervous about it than I thought I would be, so I decided to blog about it, because all of you in Drawbridge Nation have always been a source of support and encouragement for me.

Whatever happens, I firmly believe that you can’t have great experiences without taking great risks. So wish me luck.

This is the body of the e-mail that I sent:

You don’t know me, but I’ve probably made you late to work on more than one occasion. I am a bridgetender for the City of Seattle. I operate the University Bridge on Roosevelt, but have operated 4 others in town as well. In fact, in my 17 ½ years as a bridgetender, I’ve worked on 9 different bridges in 3 different states, which is better statistics than any other bridge operator that I know of in this country. I’m rather proud of that, especially as a female in a male-dominated profession.

On my commute to work the other day, I was listening to NPR and I heard them do a book review of Life Between the Levees: America’s Riverboat Pilots. It occurred to me that there needs to be a book about drawbridges. People are fascinated by my job. I was even once asked for an autograph, to my shock and mortification.

After that book review, I rushed home to see who the publisher of the levee book was, and it turns out to be the University Press of Mississippi. Needless to say, my book probably wouldn’t be an ideal fit for them, but I think it would be for the University of Washington Press.

The good news is, the bulk of the material is already written. I’ve written a daily blog for more than 6 years. It’s called The View from a Drawbridge, which is “the random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.” I have more than 600 followers and I average 105 views a day.

Is this blog all about drawbridges? No. It really is as random as I claim. However, there is a drawbridge subcategory in there, and if you look at that, you’ll see that I have more than enough fascinating bridge stories to fill a book.

In addition, I’ve already self-published one anthology from the blog. A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude. It did not treat the subject of drawbridges, but it was number one on the Amazon best seller list for its subcategory for, oh, about three days.

One of my stories has also been featured in a StoryCorps anthology entitled Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work, which caused me to be on NPR’s Morning Edition, and in O Magazine and Parade Magazine.

I realize that this is probably a rather unorthodox way to submit a book proposal, but I’ve lived a rather unorthodox life. I hope you’ll consider my idea. I certainly look forward to hearing from you.

Risk

Epiloguing

When I come to the end of a really good book, I feel myself becoming slightly sad. A truly good story invites you in and makes you feel as though you’ve gotten to know the characters on a personal level. At the end of that experience, it’s understandable to go through a period of mourning. You’re saying goodbye to friends, and odds are good that you’re never going to see them again. (Even Sue Grafton’s alphabet series ended at Y.)

It’s the same way I feel at the end of a trip. There’s too much to see in this world for me to repeat my outings, so if I’ve had a wonderful time, I gaze at the landscape knowing it’s not going to be part of my world anymore. I’m very grateful that I had a chance to be there, but life is short, and I have miles to go before I sleep.

This is why “epilogue” is one of my least favorite words. While I appreciate an author’s instinct to wrap things up and kind of send the reader one last postcard, that word is the moment when I can no longer deny that this particular journey is coming to an end.

Nooooooo! Don’t leave me! But at the same time, it was wonderful to meet you, and I’m excited to meet the next character in the next book.

Adieu, adieu… epiloguing is so bittersweet.

Books

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Book Review: Lab Girl

I consider myself a strong, intelligent woman who is equally left- and right-brained. By this I mean that I’m analytical and fascinated by all things scientific, but I’m also creative and love to write. So it was gratifying to come across the book Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, because she can be described in the exact same way.

Hope is a professor of geobiology at the University of Oslo. Science is her passion as well as her bread and butter. Because of that, you’d think that any book she wrote about her life and career would be dry and pedantic. But no.

This book is a work of art. Read it. Seriously. You’ll be glad you did.

This is not just a book about plants, although if you read it you’ll learn all sorts of amazing things about them, and you’ll never look at a tree in the same way again. For me, though, what it is about, more than anything, is friendship.

Woven throughout this book is her relationship with her senior research laboratory manager, Bill. They have worked together in various labs around the world for 25 years. Theirs is not a romance. It’s something better. It’s unconditional, platonic love and respect. It’s dedication. It’s mutual support. It’s the kind of relationship that all of us aspire to, and most of us only dream about.

The book also talks about being a woman who chooses a career in a male-dominated field, which is something to which I can definitely relate. It’s also about mental health, and finding your place in this world, and never quite feeling like you fit in. It’s about being misunderstood by many, except for the most important people in your life. And in the end, that’s all that matters.

And it is amazingly well written. I keep a quote book where I save passages from books that really resonate with me. Here are some of the ones I plan to save from Lab Girl.

“He (her father) taught me that there is no shame in breaking something, only in not being able to fix it.”

“Each beginning is the end of a waiting.”

“In Georgia, when someone walks up to you wearing overalls with no shirt underneath them, it is unlikely that something good is about to happen.”

“A cactus doesn’t live in the desert because it likes the desert; it lives there because the desert hasn’t killed it yet.”

“Being paid to wonder seems like a heavy responsibility at times.”

Because of this author, I went out and planted ten trees. How many people have gotten you to do that? And hey, she has inspired me to write a future posts about Stuckie the Mummified Dog and about Anomalocaris, “a segmented marine insect the size of a Labrador retriever” that, thanks be to God, no longer exists. Now if that doesn’t intrigue you, nothing will.

Lab Girl

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When Did I Stop Looking Around?

I have been missing the luxurious act of cuddling up with a good book. I think doing this is important for my mental health. So instead of waiting for an opportune time, I decided to make time. And as with potato chips, I couldn’t stop. That first day I read for about 5 straight hours. It was wonderful. (For those bibliophiles out there, I’m reading The Feather Thief, by Kirk Wallace Johnson. Highly recommended!)

It was wonderful, that is, until the eye strain kicked in. Ugh, what a miserable feeling. I finally had to stop and rest my eyes for several hours. I wouldn’t have had this problem if I had bothered to look at something in the distance every once in a while. But I was too busy book-binging to even consider that.

You’d think my eyes would be used to this brutal treatment. I’m constantly staring at a computer screen or at my phone. Looking up and away every now and again should come naturally. It used to. In fact, I started writing this blog based on the things I would see while gazing out the window at work.

When did I stop looking around? When did my world become so compact? What have I been missing, just a few yards away from the end of my nose?

More and more, we all walk past each other, our tiny little horizons barely intersecting. There’s so much out there that we no longer see. Our world has shrunk, and yet we are under the illusion that it has expanded as we zoom through cyberspace. But when’s the last time you fed a bird? How many rainbows have you missed?

Look up, dear reader, look up! (Well, finish checking out my blog first. But then, look up!)

Look up

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Musings on Gratitude

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s my favorite holiday. No gift buying. Just good food and good people. It’s a time when we all focus on what we are thankful for. What’s not to love about that?

I have long maintained that an attitude of gratitude is what we need to get along, And I think that attitude should be maintained all year round, not just on Thanksgiving day. There’s much in this life that we can be thankful for.

I’ve written a great deal about gratitude. So much, in fact, that I’ve published an anthology entitled, A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude. It’s available on Amazon, and I guarantee you that I’ll be grateful if you purchase it! It would make a great gift for the ones you are most grateful for. (Especially if you do want to give someone a gift for cooking all that great food for you on the big day.)

Having said that, check out one of my favorite posts from the book, entitled Congratulations, You’re Alive! and know that I’m grateful for you, dear reader, every single day.

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No Owl Should Ask Its Name: Crawford Hoarding

The alarm woke me out of REM sleep again. I hate when that happens. It takes me forever to shake the fog out of my head.

But it also allows me to take a peek into my subconscious, because I’m often still in a dream, and can actually hear what’s going through my mind for a split second. That was the case this morning, and it was so surreal I immediately wrote it down.

What the voice in my head was saying was, “No owl should ask its name: Crawford Hoarding”.

Um…What am I supposed to do with that? Who, or what, is Crawford Hoarding?

It almost sounds like the name of a mansion in one of those fascinating places where people name their mansions. If so, I suspect the place is jam packed with stuff. “Welcome to Crawford Hoarding! Please watch your step.”

And why shouldn’t an owl inquire about the place? (Or person. Or thing.) What would the consequences be for said owl? And since when can owls talk, anyway? Where were we? Narnia?

I think this would make a great book title. I should suggest it to J. K. Rowling. She could work her magic on it. And I could get a free ticket to the premier of the movie version.

Until then, warn any owls that you might encounter to mind their own business. Just in case.

owl

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