Off We Go in Search of Snow

Dear husband asked me what I would like for my birthday a few days ago. We already have too much stuff. We both prefer experiences. So I asked for snow.

Obviously, he couldn’t conjure up snow out of thin air, and hiring a snow machine seemed a little over the top, and wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as the real thing. Instead, we elected to do another one of my favorite things: ROAD TRIP!!!! So off we went, in search of snow.

Fortunately, the area in which we live, Seattle, doesn’t get much snow. It sees maybe 3 or 4 days of it a year, if that. That suits me. As an adult, snow is less about sledding and snow angels and snowball fights, and more about horrific commutes, shoveling, and outrageous heating bills. No thank you.

But another beautiful feature of this area is that there’s snow nearby. We headed for Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountain range, to the little town of Alpental. And as you’ll see from my photos, the trip there was breathtaking, with its snow covered trees, frozen waterfalls, and fog.

I was a little shocked, upon arrival, to see the logjam of cars on the road, waiting to park for the ski lifts. This area is known for both downhill skiing and cross country. We saw lots of sledding off the roadside, and snowboarding, and snowball fights, too. But not a single mask. We didn’t get out of the car. We didn’t even park. We love our lives too much.

I can’t believe how selfish people are. As long as they have fun, they don’t mind putting other people’s lives at risk. How clueless can you be? Wear a mask, folks!

But I did want to touch snow at least once, so we pulled over on a deserted back road, and I decided to have DH film me throwing a snowball at the car. I’m walking gingerly because the roadside was a sheet of ice. And this was about take number 4, because I kept missing the dang windshield. Hence, the chuckle at the end.

Anyway, happy winter to you!

Stay home where it’s safe and warm and read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Floating around the Rules

Check out these fascinating boats my coworker (Hi, Greg!) opened his drawbridge for the other day! Nothing like a change in routine to make life interesting. Yes, I know they look like houses being transported to an island somewhere, but actually they have a fascinating history.

It seems that the local rowing club here in Seattle needed some extra square footage, but all the land near the club was already occupied. The city would not let them build floating homes without paying heavy taxes. So the rowing club built these, and licensed them as boats. They have outboard motors on them. They are also equipped with a deck on the front with a mast and engine controls.

For the rowing club to float past the floating home rules, the city requires that they take them out on the lake four times a year to prove they are boats. They are actually maneuverable, but the wind sure does push them around, so tugs are always nearby. In this picture they are being assisted by the tugs because they’re going to Foss Marine to be dry docked for repairs.

Some rules are rather buoyant, indeed.

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Sticking the Landing

A dear friend of mine recently told me that for many years he had watched me tumbling through space, with my arms out, desperately and unsuccessfully clutching at anything in an attempt to gain stability. I’m sure it was almost as painful to watch as it was for me to experience. “But then,” he said, “you stuck the landing.”

I love that imagery. Like stepping out of an airplane, and clumsily flailing end over end in a dizzying freefall, and even, more than once, getting tangled up in my own parachute, only to find that I was still able to land safely, against all odds. That’s my life in a nutshell. I marvel at the fact that I survived.

I tried many things over the years. Colleges and trade schools in which I’d excel, academically, but ultimately those places got me nowhere. I bought a house, had to sell it during the crash, and then poorly invested what little money I gained from it. I got into a few relationships that made me even worse off, both financially and emotionally. For a while there, I was so nomadic that I barely bothered to unpack.

At some point I began to feel like I had nothing to lose, and I moved across the country to start over at age 49. I didn’t know anyone in Seattle. I knew nothing about Seattle except that the show Frasier was based here, and that there was rain. Lots and lots of rain.

It took me a few years to gain my footing in this foreign place, and I have to admit that there are still things about Seattle that I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. But I did stick the landing, indeed. I’m married, have a great job, and am living in a place worth unpacking for. Life is good.

Now to shake the feeling that I’m going to wake up to discover it was all an illusion and that I’ve actually broken every bone in my body. Call it imposter syndrome writ large. But hey, even in that scenario, the ground will be stable beneath me, right?

My late boyfriend Chuck used to say, “We’ll get it done. It may not be pretty, but we’ll definitely get there.” And so it has been.

I wrote this for everyone out there who feels as if they are flailing. Don’t give up. Keep trying. As long as you draw breath, it’s still possible to stick that landing.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Public Transit Beautification

It’s no fun taking the bus. These days, it could even be deadly. But what I love about King County Metro, here in the Seattle area, is that they’re trying to make it as pleasant as possible.

Many of the bus stops in this area are quite nice, as far as bus stops go. A lot of them are sheltered on three sides from the wind and weather, and they include a bench. The upper half of the shelter is Plexiglas with a mountain and ocean abstract design that makes these stops easily identifiable from a distance, and they are really symbolic of this area.

But my favorite part is that many of them have art on the bottom half that is unique to that stop. You never know what delightful design you’ll come across. Some are photographs. Others are paintings. Each is a delight. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Any community that promotes public art is infinitely more desirable than one that does not.

Sadly, some people can’t resist vandalizing these bus stops, so often I have to resort to looking at them through my Pokemon Go app to see what the art used to be. What follows are some of the bus stops I’ve come across in my wanderings throughout the county. Enjoy!

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The Great Western Ramble

I had two weeks of vacation to use or lose. But what to do, where to go, in the time of COVID-19? Our trip to Italy got cancelled in May, and this country is handling this pandemic so irresponsibly that most countries don’t welcome Americans anymore. Heck, you can’t even go to Hawaii unless you quarantine for two weeks first. And I certainly don’t want to marinate in a flying metal tube of contaminated air for hours, even for a domestic flight. This narrowed down our choices immensely.

But in truth, I have long believed that those of us infected with the travel bug have a tendency to neglect our own countries. Why is that? If you’re going to see someplace new, why is it somehow less desirable if it doesn’t require a passport?

With this in mind, my husband and I set about exploring this amazing country of ours by car. We were gone for 13 days, visited five states besides our own, and, when all was said and done, we put 4,200 miles on the rental car. I am fairly certain that this was the longest road trip I’ve ever taken.

What an adventure!

We chose to rent a car rather than use our own because we consulted a wear and tear calculator on the web, and determined that we’d actually save about a thousand bucks by renting. I’m so glad we did. We put some hard miles on that car. During the course of the journey, we went from almost 10,000 feet of altitude to 280 feet below sea level, and that was by no means a smooth incline or decline. I would hazard a guess that we went around at least 1,000 hairpin turns. We avoided interstates as much as we could. Thank goodness my husband likes to drive.

I’m also grateful that our friend Herb likes to dog and house sit, and actually enjoys the company of my cranky dachshund. Apparently they had quite the bromance going on, to the point where Quagmire bit me when we came back home. I’ll try not to take it personally, because I love the little sh**, but jeez.

So away we go!

On day one, we drove 11 hours from just outside Seattle, Washington via the Northeastern corner of Oregon to Sun Valley, Idaho. What a beautiful country we live in. I said that pretty much daily on this journey. You don’t realize how massive it is, and how much of it is devoid of humans, and how much of it is farm and ranch land, until you drive around the West. It’s stunning.

We passed numerous solar and wind farms along the way. Given the vast open country, and our need to stop being slaves to fossil fuel if we want our children to have any decent quality of life at all, I was kind of shocked we didn’t see more of these farms. We’ve got the room. We’ve got the knowhow. And people certainly could use the work.

We also enjoyed the fall colors. It’s not like the gorgeous autumn one experiences on much of the East coast, with its oranges and maroons and reds. But it’ll do nicely. The golds and yellows reminded me why this is my favorite season. And it was awesome to put off experiencing the crappy, rainy winter weather that besets Seattle in October. We got two weeks less of that, and it was a treat.

We listened to a lot of podcasts along the way. I got to introduce my husband to Welcome to Night Vale, and now he’s as hooked as I am. We also listened to the Moth Radio Hour, which is a storytelling podcast, as well as NPR’s Radiolab, and two podcasts from the History Channel that were a lot more fascinating than I expected. The first one was Blind Spot: The road to 9/11. The second was Timber Wars. Those podcasts made the miles pass by quickly.

Our goal was to reduce human contact as much as we could, due to the pandemic. We tried to only eat restaurant food once a day, if that. We brought a lot of picnic food along. (More about that in a future post.)

We passed the nerve gas dump in Umatilla, which was kind of creepy and deserves a post all its own. (Bear with me!) And I also got to see Boise for the first time. Let’s just say that that box is officially ticked. But we did have some amazing Chinese takeout there, so there’s that.

We were shocked by the major differences in gas prices along our route. Anywhere from $2.10 at a Costco somewhere or other, to $4.50 a gallon in California. Yikes. And I’ll never get used to the fact that you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon. What is this, 1950?

We also saw a lot of fire devastation on the entire trip. On this day, it was the Evans Creek Fire in Ellensburg, and the mountains were all charred near Yakima. It was heartbreaking to witness.

On every day of the trip, my husband, who is a realtor, worked anywhere from 1 to 4 hours. Isn’t technology awesome? I think he was surprised that this didn’t irritate me. But it’s nice to see someone doing something that they absolutely love, and I might seem biased, but I truly believe he’s really good at it, too, in case you’re ever looking to buy or sell a home in Western Washington. It was impressive to witness.

We drove up something called the Pendleton Grade, where the mountains looked like they were covered in greenish brown felt and seemed like they would be soft, even though you knew instinctively that they weren’t, really. We also went through the Blue Mountains.

We reached Sun Valley well after dark, so I had no real idea how gorgeous it is until the next day, but I had to wait for the next “episode”, and so will you. I will say, though, that just as we were about to put the key in the lock of our first timeshare, all the lights went out in the entire valley, and were not to turn back on again until 6 a.m. This is not typical. We just were lucky enough to be there on the day they were doing some sort of trunk line repairs.

I’ve never gone to sleep in a place without having any idea of what it looked like before. We used our cell phones as flashlights, but that doesn’t give you a true sense of place. It’s rather surreal. But all that darkness meant we got to stand outside and see about a million stars, including the Milky Way, so every power outage has its silver lining, and all’s well that ends well.

What follows are some of the pictures we took on this day’s journey. Enjoy!

There are a lot more tales to tell about this trip, but I’ll try not to post them daily, so as not to put off those who aren’t interested in travel blogs. So brace yourself for a good month of every other day adventures! I’ll try to link them together, so that you can start at the beginning (this one) if you find yourself in the middle and want to read the whole saga. And here’s a link to the next day’s adventure!

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Drawbridge Artists in Residence

One of the things I love most about the City of Seattle is its ability to think outside the box. For example, two of our drawbridges, Fremont Bridge and University Bridge (the one I work on most frequently) occasionally host artists in residence for a three month stretch. (Check out a blog post I wrote about a previous artist in residence here.)

We are in the midst of an artist in residence cycle now. I love it when I see the artist E.T. Russian’s car in the parking space. It makes me realize that something creative and exciting is going on in the other tower. That makes me smile. Normally that tower is vacant. What a waste of a wonderful space with a gorgeous view!

Both artists in residence this cycle are graphic artists, and I cannot wait to see what they come up with. I encourage you to check out this article in Crosscut entitled, “Meet the artists making comics in Seattle’s historic drawbridges”. There you can learn more about E.T., and their Fremont counterpart, Roger Fernandes. Also, check out their websites by clicking on their names.

I think if this idea was floated past the Florida Department of Transportation, to be implemented on one of the Florida Drawbridges I worked on, it would have been laughed down. What a pity. But it makes me even more certain that relocating to open-minded Seattle was the best possible fit for me.

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Peaceful Protesters Aren’t Rioters

There’s definitely a lot to protest about these days. Personally, I’m emotionally drained by it all. My whole life, I’ve never been more horrified by what’s going on in this country than I am at this moment. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks with your own set of horrors. That’s the worst part about it. The list is endless.

The truth is that I’m glad people are protesting. It’s the only way that our voices will be heard. I’ve participated in a few protests myself. And every single one has been peaceful and nondestructive.

I get so frustrated when people equate all forms of protest with riots, looters, and vandals. Those things are a sickening side note that has nothing to do with the protests themselves. When a riot breaks out at a sporting event, as so often happens, do you blame everyone who attended the sporting event for that? When looters come in after a hurricane, do you blame the evacuees or the hurricane for that? When vandals tag a blank wall, do you blame the architect or the construction workers or the building for that? No? Then why are you blaming peaceful protesters? Is it because you really think it’s their fault, or because you want to add additional pressure to shut them up because you don’t agree with them?

In fact, according to this article, there is growing evidence that the trouble makers at these protests hold views directly opposite to those of the protestors. They’re trying to give them a bad name, when in fact it’s the right wing militia/domestic terrorists who should be accused. It’s horrific.

A lot of people are really angry right now. And unfortunately, some of those people are choosing to express that anger in very violent and destructive ways. That does not further their cause. In fact, it causes a lot of people to get hurt, tensions to ratchet up, and our tax dollars to be stretched even thinner to clean up after them, which depletes our ability to provide social services that might have prevented these problems in the first place.

But I genuinely don’t think looting, riots and vandalism have anything to do with the protests themselves. These destructive people are not trying to urge others to see their point of view. They’re just having a public tantrum, and using a protest as an excuse to get away with things that they normally couldn’t get away with.

I strongly encourage people to peacefully protest, and I genuinely believe that the vast majority of protests are, indeed, peaceful. There’s no need or excuse for things to escalate into violence or destruction. That would play right into the hands of those whom you are protesting against. Protesters know that. Please don’t lump them into the same pile with the destructive forces of this world. If anything, protesters care very deeply about this country and want to see it change for the better. Destruction doesn’t achieve that end.

What follows is the aftermath of some vandalism that happened at South Park Bridge in Seattle the other day. It’s a beautiful bridge, or at least it was. This does not win people over to your point of view, but I doubt that was the agenda in this instance.

As a bridgetender, I realize that I’m biased. I always hate to see a bridge damaged. It feels like a violation. It makes me sad.

Just a Leisurely Swim in the Shipping Lane

The drawbridge I work on is the University Bridge in Seattle, Washington. It’s located between Lake Union and Portage Bay. There are a lot of houseboats in the area, as well as people who live aboard their boats. It’s also a heavily trafficked waterway, used by sailboats, pleasure craft, research vessels, cruise ships, Coastguard cutters, and the daily transit of a 3000 gross ton gravel barge.

So imagine my shock when I looked out the window to see something I’ve never seen before in the 6 years I’ve worked here. There was a woman doing a leisurely backstroke in the shipping lane. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, where to begin.

I immediately jumped on the marine radio to warn a very large research vessel that was headed my way. He was grateful for the head’s up. But not all vessels monitor their radios, as stupid as that may sound.

As a matter of fact, a very inattentive motorboat was aimed straight at her, and she was too busy enjoying her swim to notice. I tried calling the boat. No response. I tried blowing my horn. No reaction. I tried shouting out the window. Nothing. They missed caving in her head by about 12 inches. She behaved as if this was business as usual.

I called 911, but by the time the Harbor Patrol arrived, she had already swum back to her boat. She did a few pull ups on her ladder for good measure, then calmly toweled off, and entered the cabin. I told the Harbor Patrol which vessel it was, and they approached it, but she either refused to come out or miraculously didn’t hear them.

I am stunned that there are so many people in this world who don’t think of the consequences of their actions. Get yourself killed through your own stupidity all you want, but don’t do it at the mental and emotional expense of the person who accidentally kills you or those of us who have to bear witness. That’s just not right.

If anyone knows the woman on the blue-hulled vessel called the Jenny II here in Seattle, please tell her, for me, that she’s a selfish fool who is very lucky to be alive.

Jenny II, the home of the errant bather.

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My Most Memorable Year

On my way to work the other day, I was thinking about the fact that, ten years from now, if people are asked what their most memorable year has been, a good percentage of them are going to say 2020. That’s heartbreaking, because this year SUCKS. I’m sure most of the memories from this year won’t be happy ones. I’ll be happy to get past this year and move on, no matter what that looks like. I think that’s the scariest bit. We have no idea what the world is going to be like after this year.

Fortunately, 2020 is not my most memorable year to date. If I had to pick one, it would be 2014, because it was overflowing with the really, really bad, but ended up really, really good. It was the most pivotal year of my life.

For starters, in 2014 I went to visit my favorite aunt, Betty, in Connecticut. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the last time I saw her face to face. I wish you could have known her. She was amazing.

Unfortunately, while I was there, I got a phone call from the Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff’s Office telling me that they found my boyfriend dead in his truck, still clutching his asthma inhaler, in the pharmacy parking lot a few short blocks from my apartment. Upon hearing that, I instantly came down with the flu, and couldn’t hear a thing for three days, which made flying home in tears quite fun. It felt like I was ground zero at a nuclear blast, such was the devastation this caused in my life.

There was a huge family conflict over whether or not I should attend his memorial service (thank God I ignored them and went), and the taking of all his possessions (and a few of mine) by his adult children. Other than that, I really don’t remember much about those next few months, except a lot of tears, forgetting to eat, and a constant ringing in my ears. I did go to work, though. I had to. Fortunately, there can be tears in bridgetending.

Not long after that, my landlord, who lived in the other half of the house, figured out that I’d probably not be able to make the rent without my boyfriend’s assistance, and she kicked me and my two dogs out of my apartment with no notice at all. I was too devastated at the time to fight it.

Fortunately I had a place to store my stuff, but I got to experience a brief stint of homelessness there. Nothing quite like sleeping with two dogs in a crapped out Buick LeSabre to make you appreciate all the comforts of home. Then I did a bit of couch surfing and realized who my friends really were.

Finally, I found a place to rent that I could just barely afford. I hunkered down in anticipation of an existence in which I would be all alone, working a dead end job, and living paycheck to paycheck. I was resigned to my fate.

I was talking to a coworker about just that when he mentioned that there was a job opening for a bridge operator in the City of Seattle. I had never been to Seattle. I had never even been to the state of Washington in my life. I didn’t know anyone there. But man, was I ever due for a do-over. My life was going nowhere fast and I was miserable. So what the hell, I applied. What did I have to lose?

And, what the hell? They hired me. Sight unseen. Over the phone. Just like that.

Now I had to figure out how I was going to move across the continent. Fortunately, my sister and my husband not only loaned me money, but they gave me a more viable van. And for the rest, I dipped into what little savings I had, and also did a crowdfunding campaign.

That campaign was amazing and humbling. Not only did friends from decades ago come out of the woodwork, but also total strangers gave me money. Without all that generosity, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Because of that, I do my best to pay it forward every chance I get.

House hunting from a distance is not at all fun, but somehow everything fell into place (including the breaking of a lease I had only signed 2 months before) and the next thing I knew, I was driving across the country with two dogs and entirely too much stuff.

The cross country trip was amazing. (Read more about it here.) You have no idea how vast this nation is until you drive 3100 miles across it. It’s magical. I will never forget that experience.

And then, on this very day (August 24th) in 2014, I arrived in Seattle. I was scared half to death, and second guessing myself the entire time, but I was also extremely excited for this fresh start. And my life has been, despite a few false starts, an ever-increasing high ever since.

Because I came here, I’m actually making a living wage for the first time in my life. Because I came here, I published my first book. Because I came here, I bought a wonderful little house. Because I came here, I met my amazing husband-to-be and was married for the first (and only) time ever.

No one at my wedding had known me more than a year or two. That kind of smarted. But, as a dear friend says, onward and upward and into the future!

I’ve met some wonderful people here and have had too many exciting experiences to list. (You may want to check out the archives of my blog for that.) And I’m happy to say that I feel as though I’ve made an excellent life for myself.

So, yeah, 2014 beats 2020 all to hell. And because of that, life is ever so good, and I am exactly where I want to be. You just never know what’s in store for you. Truly, what a ride…

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

 

Mid-Month Marvels: Young Women Empowered

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

When I read the first line on the “our story” page of the Young Women Empowered website, it gave me pause. It says, “Research shows that girls’ self-confidence peaks at age nine, then drops as they advance through high school.”

It gave me pause because, instinctively, I knew that this was true. I know it because I lived it. And I’ve seen so many other women and girls live it. We are taught to be our own worst critics. If it’s not body shaming, it’s assuming that we’re inferior in a whole host of other ways. And it has to stop.

Enter Y-WE (Young Women Empowered). I’m so proud that this Seattle-based non-profit exists and is celebrating its 10th year. It is a safe space for all young women, including people of color, trans, and nonbinary individuals. It’s a place where, to hear one participant describe it, you can “feel heard and loved and valid and smart and worthy 100% of the time.”

Y-WE is a leadership program that helps build confidence and self-esteem through a variety of activities, including camping, coding, artistic pursuits, performance, health and wellness, creative writing, and social justice. It currently serves 845 young women a year.

I hope you’ll join me in supporting this amazing organization! Please donate here.

YWE

Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5