The Waste of a Perfectly Good Little Old Lady

If I make it to the age of 72, if I’m in relatively good health and if I have the good fortune to be able to retire, I hope I’m doing something with that amazing extra time. I hope I’m using myself as a force for good. I hope I’m volunteering for a few hours a week, and/or keeping up with my little free library and/or mentoring someone and/or cultivating a healthy organic garden. Something positive, no matter how small.

I believe that everyone makes some type of impact on this world. Only you can decide what kind of an impact you will make. There’s a wide spectrum that can range somewhere between dedicating every waking hour to some form of service, or, at the opposite extreme, being a completely toxic waste of space that everyone secretly wishes would hurry up and die already. (Harsh, but true.) I’d like to fall on the more positive end of that spectrum, but I doubt I’ll be too radical. I’m not Mother Teresa. Even in my 50’s I do cherish my spare time and my naps. But I hope that if I’m capable of acting at all, I’m able to be an asset, not act like a despicable liability.

Here’s what I will not do, under any circumstances. I will not cause my neighbors to fear for their lives, as Jan Myers, 72, of Shoreline, Washington has done. According to this article, she has been charged with one count of malicious harassment, but in essence she has made the life of one of her Vietnamese-American neighbors a living hell.

Apparently this toxic woman has been hurling racial slurs at her neighbor for years, but recently it escalated into actual threats. She started driving her car up and down the road, yelling for her neighbor to come out, calling her names, and saying that she (the neighbor) wasn’t going to live very long. Myers, of course, is denying everything, but that contradicts the multiple cell phone videos that her neighbor showed the police.

I feel so sorry for her neighbor. No one should be made to feel unsafe in one’s own home. It should be a sanctuary. It should be the one place where you can count on feeling secure, unjudged, and completely yourself.

I wish I knew who that neighbor was so that I could go over and befriend her, take her flowers or cookies or something, and let her know that not everyone feels the way Myers does. I’d exchange contact information with her, and tell her that if that evil old bat threatens her again, just call me and I’ll come over and stand by her side, and that my home would always be a safe place to come to as well. I hope that if her other neighbors see what is going on, they have done so. We all need to take care of one another.

If you haven’t learned how to be a decent human being by age 72, you are wasting your gift of longevity. If all you can do is hate, and make the people around you be afraid and miserable, you are doing nothing but taking up space in this world and making it a much worse place. Is that really the hill you want to die on? I wouldn’t want that to be my legacy at any time in life, but especially not in my later years. I want to make those years golden, not sh** brown.

Just sayin’.

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Seattle’s Weird Cold War Relic

58 years ago, the City of Seattle completed a project that is unique to this city, as so many things tend to be. It was a nuclear fallout shelter beneath Interstate 5 in the Ravenna neighborhood. It was pretty much obsolete from the minute it was finished, as people had by then realized that surviving a large scale nuclear attack was highly unlikely. Rather than let it sit empty and admit what a massive waste of money the shelter was, it became a Department of Licensing office from 1963-1977.

The room was 3000 square feet, and designed to hold 200 people. The bathrooms and decontamination showers had such narrow doors that only the most svelte of citizens could enter, and for such a large crowd there were only 3 toilets. The showers for that same crowd were serviced by one 40 gallon hot water tank. No kitchen was provided, and the instructions for the shelter suggested that people should warm canned food (which they were expected to provide themselves), in their armpits.

There were books, games and recreational equipment provided by the Red Cross. The space was also equipped with folding metal chairs, collapsible bunks and insulated paper blankets. In addition, there were escape hatches, an escape tunnel, a generator, and an air filtration system.

In case of emergency, the first 200 people to arrive would be allowed in. Everyone else would be locked out. (What could possibly go wrong?) There were additional plans, which would have been impossible to execute, to evacuate the rest of the residents of Seattle east of the Cascade Mountains.

After 1977, this place became a storage facility for WSDOT records and used furniture. Eventually it was all but abandoned except for the occasional homeless person. But even the homeless didn’t favor it, because the room is freezing cold most of the time. (Every Department of Licensing employee had to huddle around a space heater, which meant the electricity bills when it was an office were obscene.)

Check out this interesting article to see some oddly fascinating photos of this cold, lifeless, uncomfortable looking space, and reflect upon the fact that at one time in our history we were so completely terrified of utter annihilation that this silly plan seemed like a viable option.

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Mini-Comics about Drawbridges

One of the things I love most about the City of Seattle is that it sometimes has the courage to think outside the box. One example of this is that they occasionally have artists in residence at two of our drawbridges. This cycle, the genre was graphic art, and the artists in question were E.T. Russian at the University Bridge and Roger Fernandes at the Fremont Bridge.

Sadly, I never got the opportunity to meet Roger, but I had many a pleasant chat with E.T. Even though this drawing below is actually of E.T. looking down from the south tower, I like to pretend that that’s me depicted in the north tower. It’s a page from their amazing mini-comic. I’m the only bridgetender who works at University regularly who has longish hair, so I am taking the opportunity to place myself in their world, just as they placed themselves in mine. I look at this picture and smile every time.

If you go to this page in the City of Seattle’s Art Beat Blog, you can learn more about the artists, and if you scroll down, you can see their completed work as artists in residence, scanned in page by page. They both did such an amazing job that it brings tears to my eyes.

Bridgetenders are easy to overlook. Many people don’t even realize that there’s a person operating these bridges. For the most part, we prefer it that way. But personally I’m proud that our bridges were included in these two wonderful works of art.

Thanks E.T. and Roger! Keep on adding beauty and perspective to the world!

Artwork by E.T. Russian. Copyright protected.

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Our Most Excellent Book Bombing Adventure

First of all, before you call the FBI, “book bombing” does NOT involve explosives or violence of any kind. If you are disappointed by that fact, then this is definitely not the blog for you. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Book bombing involves gathering up a bunch of boxes of books (preferably in excellent condition), picking an area that you’d like to explore, and then looking up that area on the maps page of littlefreelibrary.org to see where these delightful little libraries are located. Then you plot your route and visit them one by one, leaving books as you go. It’s great fun!

And while I do wish I could come up with a better name for this activity, currently “book bombing” is the phrase of choice. Some people have suggested “book blessing”, but I personally find this a bit too cheesy. I’m open to suggestions.

I can’t take credit for this idea. I first heard about this from Dan and Trina Wiswell, fellow library stewards, who have raised book bombing to an art form. They travel far and wide, spreading literacy as they go. They have become experts at obtaining books at little or no cost, and sharing the wealth with their fellow stewards. They’ve even visited my library. It was a pleasure meeting them and getting some desperately needed children’s books.

Since then, I’ve wound up with a surplus of books of my own, thanks to the local PTA of the nearest elementary school. Aside from my usual backlog, there are currently 8 large boxes of books in my garage. And I would much rather get those books in the hands of readers, instead of having them gather dust and take up space.

On the day in question, the math was rather simple, really:

Surplus books + the first really sunny day off in months = ROAD TRIP!!!!

We decided that we’d book bomb both Snoqualmie and Issaquah, Washington. That’s a beautiful area, but not so far away that we couldn’t do it in an afternoon. That, and it’s rural enough to where a new influx of books would most likely be greatly appreciated. So we enjoyed the scenery, and got onto a few little back country roads that we had never had the chance to enjoy before.

First on the agenda, though, was a lovely little side trip to Snoqualmie Falls. Not only are these falls beautiful, but they’re also extremely close to the parking lot, so it’s hard to resist stopping by whenever we’re in the neighborhood. And they look different from one season to the next, so it’s quite the treat.

After having satisfied our falls craving, we went to five little free libraries in Snoqualmie, and two more in Issaquah, before it became too dark to see what we were doing. And we moved a lot slower than the average book bomber would, because I was not only taking pictures for this blog post, but also nominating the ones in Snoqualmie to be Pokestops in the Pokemon Go application. (It’s every savvy steward’s dream to have their library become a Pokestop, because it draws children to the location. Sadly, I can only nominate so many at a time, so I’ll have to come back later to nominate the ones in Issaquah.)

We really enjoyed seeing the different neighborhoods. And it was fun to see different little free library designs and ideas. They had a lot of really good ones.

First of all, the little free libraries in Snoqualmie had gotten together to do a scavenger hunt in honor of National Day of Unplugging! They even provided little sleeping bags for one’s cell phone to get people into the spirit of things. What fun!

We encountered one that was designed like a little red caboose, and that complimented the actual, life-sized caboose in the people’s side yard. That was amazing. And when you opened this library, it was full of free slap bracelets. I had never thought of that. I’m going to have to look into those, because they can also double as bookmarks. (Many of the libraries included great bookmarks, either home made or purchased, too.)

I was delighted to see one library in front of the local elementary school. It was made by the local girl scout troop out of a repurposed newspaper dispenser. And all along the sides it was covered in children’s book titles. Two thumbs up for that one! The library was empty of books, so we filled it to overflowing!

Another one was made from an antique vegetable cupboard. Only small books could fit in that one, but it was very cute. And it had a yellow food pantry beside it, and a bench where people could sit and read. Another had a milk crate below so the little kids would have an easier time browsing.

My favorite of the day, though, was in the boonies of Issaquah. It had not only two little free libraries, but also a bridge over a ditch that led to a shed where you could get out of the weather, and that shed was full of puzzles! There was also a bench outside for nice weather. It was a wonderful literary world all its own. I longed to spend more time there, but it was getting dark. I’ll definitely be back.

All in all, it was a very satisfying afternoon. The time flew by, we saw some wonderful places and things, and we shared books with the wider world. It felt really good to have fun and do some good at the same time.

I highly recommend book bombing, no matter what you might decide to call it. Below are photos of the amazing places we visited.

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The Invasion of the Ghost Forests

You’ve most likely been haunted by a ghost forest without even realizing it. According to an article entitled, “More Ghost Forests Are Rising Up, and That’s Not Good News”, due to sea level rise, and in some cases, land sinking or erosion, ghost forests are on the increase. Thanks, climate change.

When healthy forests are flooded with saltwater, the trees no longer have access to the fresh water they need to survive. These trees often remain standing, in whole or in part, long after they’re dead. They can occur along any coastline, but they’re particularly multiplying along the American Atlantic coast. It’s almost like a slow moving zombie invasion.

There was an earthquake on the West coast in the year 1700 that was 9.0 on the Richter scale, and it dropped an Oregon spruce forest into the flood plain. The saltwater rushed in and destroyed this forest, which had trees 150-200 feet high. You can still see their stumps, many of which are 2000 years old, during low tide near the town of Neskowin. Can’t get there yourself? Check out this gorgeous, haunting video. That same earthquake dropped the land down 6 feet near the Copalis River in Washington, causing another ghost forest.

When I traveled through Alaska, I saw groves of ghost forests, especially along the Seward Highway. That ground sank as much as 9 feet, after an earthquake in 1965, and the sea rushed in. Dams can cause ghost forests, too. But mostly it’s rising sea levels and eroding coastline that’s causing this destruction. Check out the video of this ghost forest on Boneyard Beach, Bulls Island, South Carolina.

I’ve seen several ghost forests. They are eerie places. I always feel overwhelmed by the feeling of death. Once there were thriving forests, teeming with wildlife, and now, only bleached out, twisted trunks remain. It’s really sad. It brings you face to face with your own impermanence.

Boneyard Beach is the perfect name for this place.

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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!

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Help Your Local Little Free Library!

There are things you can do that won’t cost a penny.

Everyone who curates a little free library has one thing in common: a desire to promote literacy and the love of reading. To do that, we are continually looking for ways to spread the word about our library’s existence. It’s a constant effort, but I have yet to find a steward who doesn’t look at it as a labor of love.

Many of us have Facebook groups for our libraries. We also make announcements on Nextdoor.com, and in community forums. We proudly place our location on the littlefreelibrary.org location map so people who are looking for ones located near them will find them.

But, if you talk to enough stewards, you quickly learn that the best way to spread the word about your library, the ne plus ultra of grapevines, is to have your library turned into a pokestop in the Pokemon Go app. Then, players of this popular game can see your library on the virtual horizon from blocks away. There might be a library within walking distance that you wouldn’t otherwise know about!

It takes some effort for pokestops to happen, though. You have to either reach level 38 in the game yourself, or know someone who has who is willing to come to your library and nominate it as a pokestop. If it were up to us stewards, all little free libraries would instantly become pokestops. Sadly, that’s not possible.

There is much envy on the little free library forums of the pokestop “haves” by the pokestop “have nots”. When I posted the great news that my library became one, one of the milder comments was “I’m so stinkin’ jealous!” So, once I became able to nominate libraries myself, I decided to add that to my goals to promote literacy.

On a recent day off, on a rare sunny winter day in the Pacific Northwest, I decided to look up libraries near me on the library map, and plot the shortest route from library to library. For the next several hours, I visited each location, and checked to see if they had pokestops or not. If they didn’t, I nominated them.

This takes a little work. It requires the taking of photographs and much typing. This sometimes drew attention. When I told the first steward what I was doing, I think he would have picked me up and spun me around out of pure joy if we weren’t in the midst of a pandemic. Such was his ecstasy. He was jumping up and down on his front porch. That definitely added to the fun.

Another fun part was visiting neighborhoods I’d never been in, and seeing the variety of libraries out there. Some double as food pantries. Some also give out painted rocks. Best of all, I got to imagine how many more children would find these books thanks to Pokemon Go. It was like a little free library scavenger hunt! It was a good day.

At the end of it, every registered library in Kent, Auburn and Covington, Washington was nominated. Below are pictures of some of the libraries I visited. There is no guarantee that my nominations will be accepted by the good folks at Pokemon Go, but it’s worth a shot. And if they are accepted, it could take anywhere from a few days to several months for it to show up in the game. But it’s worth it if it draws kids to those books.

Anyone can help spread the word about these libraries far and wide! If you don’t play Pokemon go, tell your friends on social media about little free libraries near you. And if you are a player who is high enough up in the game to nominate pokestops, won’t you help your local little free libraries promote literacy? Either way, go to https://littlefreelibrary.org/, click on the map, and look up the libraries in your area. Tell people about them, and/or nominate as many “un-pokestopped” libraries as you can. You just might turn a curious child into a reader, and that might make all the difference!

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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.

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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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