10.9.18

What I’ve been up to: 

TL;DR: I’ve been hella busy. This is a big one.

After mostly being home in July, supervising landscaping and doing my altMBA, August saw me escaping to the Olympic Peninsula with my Rainier Ravens women’s motorcycle group, then over to Victoria to visit a friend and see the Egyptian exhibit at the Royal BC Museum.

Then Matt and I broke out the dirt bikes and did a part of the WABDR – the Washington Back Country Adventure Route. Definitely looking forward to ramping up the dirt adventures next summer.

I threw all my clothes in the wash and swapped my motorcycle boots for Louboutins for Allyson’s bachelorette spa day and dinner, followed by her fairy tale wedding.

In between it all, both dogs have been taking obedience classes and I have been working like a fiend on a work project gone sideways and then upside down.

To celebrate coming out the other side, Matt took us to the beach.

What was beautiful:

All of the Egyptian artifacts at the museum, the many generations of Seattle

and the serene blues of twilight on the banks of the Pacific

What made me laugh: 

Can always count on the dogs and my sister!

 

Also this high AF sloth:

What I’m reading and listening to:

ON HAPPINESS –

The Surprising Science of Happiness

The Power of Positive People

How to Know what you Want

Dancing is the Best Way to Get Fit & Live Longer

Presence Over Productivity

ON PERSPECTIVE –

Lab Decoy

You’re Not Lazy

Freedom From Want. You Have Enough

Leap

ON PLACEBOS –

Placebos

ON RELATIONSHIPS –

The True Hard Work

How to Have a Happy Marriage

Why You Should Be Kind to People You Hate

A Wife Less Ordinary

ON SUNK COSTS –

The Wrong Bus

ON VULNERABILITY –

Brene Brown’s Ted Talk. Again and again.

“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four Cs. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” —Walt Disney

Scientists give Ecstasy to Octopuses

ON STORIES –

The technology of storytelling

Keep it Moving

ON WORK –

6 Signs it’s Time to Quit Your Job

How to deal with a Job You Hate

100 Ways to Boost Your Creativity

How to Use a Notebook to Reach Your Writing Goals

How to be a Good Writer with a Good Life  Writing, Reading, Ideation, Talking, Exercising, and Regrouping

  • write fiction
  • read fiction
  • make a list of ten ideas
  • talk to someone 
  • exercise
  • review my day and plan for tomorrow

ON GREED –

Why are we still chasing more money?

ON POWER –

Why Women Don’t Get to be Angry

American Democracy in Crisis

ON MONEY –

How Much You Need to Make to Own a Home in Vancouver

ON MAPS –

Finding Your Way with Maps

An excerpt from The Writer’s Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands

TylerMan Badoo Melty-face Walters

I am posting this for posterity, so that when I look back at this past winter and don’t look back and wonder why I wrote nothing about the best thing that happened all year – the addition of Mr. TylerMan Badoo Melty-face to the Walterses family.

We weren’t looking for a second dog but my friend was fostering Tyler and she was worried no one would adopt him because he was a big male pit bull who drooled a lot, but who was also a super love in spite of having been used as a bait dog and tortured.

At 65 lbs, he was quite a bit smaller than Riley (who also drools a lot), so we figured that those were problems we could handle and decided to take a look. Within a few minutes, it was pretty clear we were getting another dog.

Riley’s a pretty happy girl (except when she feels like she needs to protect me) but it’s been a while since we’d seen her that happy – rolling around in the grass with Tyler, sniffing each other’s butts, tug of war, finding sticks and all the good dog stuff. She made the decision for us.

We had a bit of an intro period into our home but now there’s no separating them. Best friends forever, for real.

Tyler is a melty-face because you have to laugh or you’ll cry your heart out – he was used as a bait dog and had acid poured in his mouth, I assume because he does not have an aggressive bone in his body. He loves EVERYONE except cats and squirrels (but he and Maceo are coming around). So much so that he climbs into our bamboo planter to try and go see the neighbors on their deck. And he cries on leash when he can’t go and see the other dogs.

He even loves going back to the surgery center where he had 2 operations and a bunch of physical therapy!

When we got him he also add some ear infections, a skin rash from a wheat allergy, and a torn ligament in his knee, which our vet told us would likely lead to a tear in the other one. Yes it did! Only a few weeks later. So we spent the winter walking around the house and then around the block and then repeating it with the other leg, all the while going to puppy PT (which I renamed PB after seeing how much peanut butter was involved). Luckily I worked from home for most of it and when I was laid up with my injury, both dogs stuck very close by…like usually on top of me.

We got a larger couch when we moved into this house, which is great because there are now regularly 180 lbs of dog on it (not to mention the dog hair) and Tyler loves sleeping.

It’s not enough for him to be on the couch, he also has to gather all of the pillows together and then he wants a blanket or two as well.

I mean, he really loves sleeping.

He also loves his toys.

Stick!!

A post shared by Matt Walters (@mattfwalters) on

And I’m pretty sure he loves his new home too.

Austin

Austin
One of the great things I love about our temporary US home is how diverse it is. Last fall we went on a road trip through pelting rain and evergreens, forests of yellow and green Aspens, geothermic landscapes, the view from 11,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains, red sandstone for days, ancient Pueblos, more than one amazing canyon (and one Grand one), the suburbs of Las Vegas, from 230 feet below sea water to the hot desert heights of Death Valley, the cool granite and forested landscapes of Yosemite and finally back to the rain and evergreens. We saw moose, a Grizzly, a herd of Pronghorn antelope, a whole lot of Elk, deer, chipmunks, Bison, and met a lot of cool people. And that was only in the west. With my birthday coming up I wanted to do a quick city break with my sister and we narrowed it down to Savannah, Denver again, or Austin.

Since Savannah was a bit too far for a weekend and I had just been to Denver, we were soon on our way to Texas (which you already know, based on the title of this post).

Austin
Austin is adorable and so fun. I knew it from Slacker and SXSW and from my friend Mel who lives there now, but America has a thing that Canada does not, which is a relatively even spread of people and culture across the country, and inhabitants that move around between cities. So even a college town can seem larger than life when in fact it is about the same size as Ottawa. In a matter of hours we had seen the lake (actually a river), the grassy knoll that rises above the town, the party district and well, I don’t really remember anything after that.

If someone asked me what there was to do in Austin, I would have to be honest and say “drink” with maybe some eating thrown in for good measure. We did walk up to the Capitol building one day and Mel suggested stand up paddle-boarding on the lake but from the time we got in to the time we left, we were basically going from dinner to cocktail bar to another cocktail bar to jazz club to late night food truck to bed to boozy brunch… If Austin had a theme it would be “cocktails and music” which are basically two of my favourite things and it kind of blows my mind that what I consider real jobs seem like an afterthought here. We had an AMAZING time but this was definitely a case of needing home for a rest.

Austin
Our weekend started off in East Austin with dinner at Qui. We were late because our taxi driver didn’t speak French and so took us to Key Bar, a raucous divey looking thing on the party street. My sister looked alarmed and the taxi driver asked me if I was sure when I said we weren’t in the right place but soon we were speeding off in the other direction and sitting down to an amazing dinner. I would go back to Austin just to go to Qui but from there we walked back to the hotel through cocktail bars and food trucks, ended up at the East Side Show Lounge where a trio featuring an incredible vocalist was playing. I adore live music and I know that Seattle has a lot of it but there is something about just stumbling upon it happening that makes it even greater.

Food trucks
The next day we went for brunch and I tried to untangle the local vernacular for bodies of water (lake, river, swimming holes, etc.) over a Caesar and then a series of patio bars for the afternoon. Our dinner plans at Wink turned into a whole evening affair when the sky opened up and a thunderstorm took out the power. We were one or two tiny courses into a tasting menu so we finished our wine…and then a second bottle and I don’t remember much about the rest of the evening except that it involved dessert I didn’t like, hanging out with a staggette party at Peche, dancing at the Handlebar and giving my number to someone who was going to invite us to a party at the power plant. This is why it’s important to eat a good dinner, kids.

Austin
Sunday we spent on Rainey Street at the recommendation of one of the barmen. It’s a street of converted houses where each house has a different theme – one is a sports bar, one is a cocktail bar, one has a crazy amount of sausages, one has hammocks to chill out in…many have live music. It’s a great place to spend a day and Austin was a great place to spend a weekend – especially as I don’t get to see my sister nearly enough these days and spending days listening to music and drinking cocktails was the perfect way to catch up.

Degan and Stacie
Next trip we’re talking about going to Nashville. I can’t wait.

New Mexico Redux

New Mexico
My mom had airline tickets to Albuquerque and I had points so we set off after Christmas for a few days. Matt and I had been to New Mexico for the first time on our road trip last October, travelling through Taos Pueblo, Farmington and Chaco Cultural Centre to see the ancient pueblos. We were mesmerized by the landscape and the history so I was excited to see what Albuquerque and Santa Fe were like.

New Mexico
The short answer is cold. We looked out the window and saw the sunny courtyard so walked out in sweaters…then promptly headed back to the hotel for jackets, toques and gloves. The sunshine was nice but at -4 degrees it was significantly warmer in Seattle! But Historic Albuquerque is beautiful and was still all decked out for Christmas with wreathes and ribbons and a creche at the church. And the red chiles hanging everywhere are surely not seasonal but if you want a mix of red and green on your enchiladas you ask for “Christmas”.

New Mexico
We took the train to Santa Fe and that was a beautiful ride through the state and up to 7,000 feet elevation. Needless to say it did not get any warmer and the plaza in the Old Town district was still covered in snow – beautiful against the sandstone pueblo architecture. We walked everywhere, ducking into art galleries and boutiques, finding little cafes to warm up in and eventually sitting down to a beautiful lunch at the historic La Fonda hotel. We saw the Georgia O’Keeffe gallery but there’s not much there; we were more impressed with the light and the landscape, the architecture and the Puebloan craft markets. It’s easy to see why so many artists have found themselves here, and how so many beautiful things have come out of this area.

New Mexico
Here are some photos from the trip.

New Mexico

New Mexico

New Mexico

New Mexico

Gratitude & Grace

Home

Today is Thanksgiving in America. “Yanksgiving” as we’ve taken to calling it in order to differentiate from regular Thanksgiving that happened back in October. I am volunteering at SAM tonight and tomorrow we are going up to Whistler to join some friends for a ski weekend. So we have no real eating plans, and no bird in the oven. It feels strange, but then it also feels strange to have Thanksgiving while it’s snowing out. We’ll deal. But while I’m alright with passing on turkey, I can’t let the occasion slip by without thanks.

Riley

I listened to the first episode of the Good Life Project podcast yesterday, during which they asked Brené Brown what it takes to live a good life. Her response, without hesitation, was gratitude. It’s important. She then went on to say, “I think for me, a good life happens when you stop and are grateful for the ordinary moments that so many of us just steamroll over to try to find those extraordinary moments. So my good life is soccer practice and carpool line and tuck-ins and date night…and knowing that it’s good.”

Friends

I haven’t been very good at that lately. I’ve been trying to grow and change things in literally ever aspect of my life and it’s so hard. I am struggling a lot and getting frustrated with my lack of progress. The gap between where I am and where I want to be seems so huge and while I do make a daily note on things I am grateful for, they are usually small or specific. Coffee, someone backing up in a crosswalk to let me walk through, a good book to pass the time. The kinds of things that are so easy to miss when you’re bogged down in other things, life.

Matt

Even today, a day of thanks, I’ve been stressed out trying to write a good sample for my grad school application and not being grateful that Matt made me a nice breakfast and took the dog for a walk – nevermind that he helped me with the work as well.

Maceo

Lately though, some of the things have been huge and specific – people I have just met offering up their entire contact list to help with my job search, people that I don’t know at all befriending us and making us feel welcome, coworkers and clients I haven’t talked to in ages giving giving me recommendations, friends coming to visit and making sure we’re settled in ok. The enormity of the gifts and the impossibility of never being able to give it all back feels a bit overwhelming but the simple grace of being grateful and expressing gratitude helps lighten the load.

Family

And still we haven’t gotten to the stuff you take for granted, the dinner table items; health, family, friends, clean water. I’ve had so many of the extraordinary experiences that Brené Brown talks about and I am so grateful for them, for this life. But I like the reminder and the opportunity – the grace – to bring that thanks front and centre and try to live it in every moment.

Sea

Adventure Time!

Grins

Most of July was spent on unpacking and setting up our place in Seattle and hanging art and preserving fruit because the farmers market is only a block away and I can’t seem to help myself. But I have picked up the Washington State Visitors guide and made all kinds of notes in it in preparation for visitors and exploring on my own in August. So it was kind of funny that my sister came down and right off the bat suggested we go to Oregon to ride dune buggies.

Oregon Coast

I was thinking that we would tour around the Woodinville wineries, maybe go for a bike ride and check out a new neighbourhood but I am always down for both a road trip and an adventure and both together is just not something that I need to be convinced of.

My friends, knowing that I love adventure, took me snowmobiling for my staggette and I’d been ATVing before (and of course I ride my motorcycle on a regular basis) but neither of us had been in a dune buggy or on a sand dune and Ally hadn’t even been to Oregon!

Oregon Coast

We took Highway 101 for maximum coastal scenery, through such funny little towns as Centralia, Pe Ell and Lebam, past a hundred antique shops and drive-through espresso booths, and stopping at every third pull out so that I could take a photo.

Cannon Beach

Of course we stopped at Cannon Beach for a photo as well as a walk and I was agog at the size of it. I had visited about 10 years ago – long enough ago that I was not surprised to see how much the town had grown – but I was surprised that I had so drastically mis-remembered the size of the beach. It’s the kind of beach that makes you want to play; do giant leaps across the sand or twirl or fly a kite just to try and consume a little bit of it. When I was last there it was winter and no one was on the beach but my boyfriend and I bough toy airplanes anyways and ran around throwing them until they were destroyed and we were freezing.

Cannon Beach

The other thing that surprised me is that it’s not even close to the most beautiful part of the coastline. I guess the last time I was there we just got back on the I-5 and didn’t think of it but there is a Long Beach in each province and state on the Pacific Coast and with few exceptions, it’s really just one long beach from Canada to Mexico, twisting and rolling through amazing pockets of scenery that can only be described as spectacular. I am definitely going to have to go back and do it again on my motorcycle.

Newport

We crashed in a beachside hotel in Newport and woke up in a cloud – there were people on the beach but I could barely see them. Even so, it was wonderfully peaceful and the kind of thing I used to dream about when we lived in the city. Sitting outside drinking my coffee and listening to the waves would have made the trip amazing for me all on its own but we were only an hour away from the dunes so the day just kept getting better!

Oregon Coast

Oregon Sand Dunes

I probably don’t have to tell you that the Oregon Sand Dunes are ridiculously fun. We were a little dismayed that they wouldn’t rent us a dune buggy (too expensive for them to maintain as rentals) so we hired a professional driver who took us out on the dunes for an awesome ride and then we rented an ATV and went back and did the whole thing over again ourselves. I’m glad we did both and I’m also glad that they didn’t rent us a dune buggy. We told them we wanted to go fast and so they let us take their sole high-powered machine (and I suddenly had flashbacks of the high-powered snowmobile ending up in a ditch) and we still managed to almost fly over a sand cliff AND got it stuck. I think when the operators give their fast machine to two women they assume it’s going to be babied. Not in this family!

Ready to rock

More photos from the trip here.

Diving

We were barely back in town when it was time to go on the next adventure – a combination camping, diving and crabbing trip. I have been bugging Matt to go camping with me and Riley for a year now and I’ve been trying to go crab diving for way longer than that.

Shine Tidelands 1

We drove down to a place outside of Sheldon in Hood Canal – about 2.5 hours south of here and camped in a state park and it was pretty fun – Riley LOVED the tent – but we were literally closer to our neighbours than if we had camped in our backyard. I thought that was pretty funny. And then we drove up the peninsula to Shine Tidelands State park to meet some divers and get some crab.

Crab

I managed to catch some females and too small crabs but came back empty handed for the barbecue. Luckily others had better luck and we had a wonderful feast of crab, clams, mussels, foraged blackberries and cold beer. Ah, summertime!

Crab

Up next: Mount St. Helen’s, a loop around Olympic park, some more visitors, sailing, then Japan.

Sunlight on the Water

Sunlight on the water

Today it has been 10 years since my mom died. It feels like a big day and I want to spend it doing something big to commemorate her. My sister and I talked about going back to Venice where we scattered her ashes, but over this years that plan has faded and instead I got back from the Bahamas late last night on a completely unrelated trip. In past years, on her birthday and mother’s day and the anniversary of her death, I’ve looked through photo albums or bought flowers and carried them around with me or threw them in the ocean, not entirely sure what to do. Usually I make a point of wearing the locket she gave me and end up at the beach – a place that was special to both of us – in contemplative silence, worrying the cool weight of the silver…but what I really want is to talk about her.

A lot of time has passed and while the grief has faded like everyone said it would, her death changed my life. Before she died I thought nothing bad would ever happen, or at least I imagined bad things happening in kind of a benign, abstract way. Life was golden. So it seems fitting that when I remember her, I remember sunlight. She was an incredibly warm person and she radiated that light in photographs and in person; when she smiled (which was often), when she fell over sideways from laughing (also frequently), when she was waving to me from the table in the restaurant where we met for wine on Fridays (I was always late so she was always there) or when she opened the door with a flourish of excitement when I came for dinner. Helen is Greek for “shining light” and it seems to me that she was always smiling. I know that can’t be true – no one smiles all the time, but when I think about her, I still feel warm. That hasn’t faded.

helen

Many other details have. I am losing the hard edges of memory and they details are overlapping on themselves as they disintegrate with time, like sunlight dancing on water. At one moment you see your reflection and then it’s gone in a glint of light or maybe the flash of a fish just below the surface.

It gets a bit complicated because while I do conisider her very much my mom, I’m adopted and she was my birth mother so I also have an adopted mom who I love with much. It matters because I met Helen as an adult and I only knew a couple of her friends well. Most of them I’ve completely lost contact with and very few of the friends I had then are still around. Stupidly I never introduced her to my adoptive family. So when I want to talk about her I have to rely on myself. I am frustrated with myself for forgetting but I haven’t been telling stories. There has been too many years of not talking about her and so I will start now with what I have left – her smile and her light.

When I was connected with her through the adoption agency, I wasn’t sure who she would be or what I was getting myself into but I did know that I did not need another adult to judge and criticize me. I agonized over that letter (possibly even more than I did over this blog post) but finally decided that I had nothing to lose and wrote everything out in detail. I tried to tell the whole story of who I was with my whole heart and when she wrote back full of warmth and love, I finally felt understood. I felt like I had come home. We met at the boulder on White Rock Beach and sat there talking until it was dark and cold – then we went to a cafe and talked until it closed. Matt is the only other person in my life that I’ve felt this close and connected to. I miss her so much.