Sunday, December 23, 2012

Running in tutus and other epiphanies

I have hated to run since I learned how. I know a lot of people say they hate running, but I hate it so much that I’d rather do insane boot camp workouts and 90 minutes of Bikram yoga than attempt to jog a mile.

I was the least likely person to sign up for a 5K ever. But when my friend posted something on her Facebook page about The Color Run, I was intrigued. It was in Portland, where I have “people.” Running in a tutu getting sprayed by colors alongside my friends seemed a hell of a lot more fun than my current routine of running listlessly around the same block time after time on a freezing cold morning, gasping for air.

So, despite my many hesitations, I decided to do it. While it wasn’t as impressive as winning an Olympic medal or even running Spokane’s Bloomsday Race in your 50’s like my Grandma B. did, deciding at 30 to literally go from couch to 5K seemed like an admirable goal. I vowed to get into good enough shape to run the entire 3.1 miles. To a normal person that’s not very far. To a non-runner, it’s a marathon.

I signed up in April. The race was in September, leaving plenty of time for a normal person to get into shape. I took my usual Jessica approach: I found an eight week training program on The Color Run’s Facebook page. I diligently completed week one (running for one minute, walking for two), pounding the pavement to Eye of the Tiger. I moved onto weeks two and three, slowly dragging them out. I lost interest, thinking I had plenty of time. When I did try to run, I’d run for two or three minutes before needing to stop to catch my breath. I got mad at myself. Then it got cold. Then the damn 5K was in a week and I was more out of shape than I’d been in months.

Though our trip to Portland was going to consist of three days of awesome adventures with our friends, I was anxious as we made the drive. I was about to perform a physical activity with my two most active friends, one of which has been a runner for years and one who does absurd things like Cross Fit and the Tough Mudder. What in the hell was I thinking? I prepared for embarrassment and the likelihood of vomiting.

To make matters worse, Mr. W hit the wine a little too hard the night before the race when we were celebrating our friend V’s birthday. Having dubbed him the responsible one in the relationship years ago, I panicked and stayed up most of the night, terrified we’d sleep through our alarms and miss the run. I think I got a total of four hours of sleep, thus becoming a prime example of how not to train for an athletic event.

But when I woke up in the morning, I was excited and strangely energized. And when we located our friends last-minute and started our run together, I felt as if I’d had four Red Bulls chased by coffee (and just as dehydrated thanks to my own share of wine). I’d spent months telling Mr. W and the girls that I wasn’t a runner and they’d have to be patient with me. But as we passed the race milestones together, I realized I had no problems keeping up with them.

I ran the entire thing. It wasn’t a fast run… ok, it was more of a medium-paced jog. But I ran it. That’s something I never thought I would do. And not only did I do it, I loved it.

I have hated every single second I have been forced to run throughout my entire existence. And somehow between the friends, the colors, the tutus and the energy, I became a convert. Hating running had become such a part of who I was, I almost experienced an identity crisis.

I hadn’t forgotten that feeling months later when a local friend asked me to run The Jingle Bell Run with him and a few of our friends. I agreed right away. As the date got closer, though, I panicked again. What if that ability had been a one-time thing? What if I embarrassed myself in front of my friends? What if it really was the tutu that made it possible, as I’d suspected?

It wasn’t. Apparently, running with a crowd of people including good friends, and for a good cause, is what it takes for me to enjoy it. And I really do enjoy it. I can’t wait until the next one, which will probably be this amazing event that is pretty much made for me:

To say this was unlikely to happen to me is an understatement. I don’t think words can ever convey how much I hated running. Once my mind wrapped around the fact that I can change my mind about something so intense, it started to carry over into other areas in my life. I’ve started trying foods I always thought I’d hate and I end up loving them (for example, fresh oysters are effing delicious. Seriously).  I’ve started striving for goals I’d always told myself I’d never reach.

Change is hard. Trying new things is hard. But what is harder is staying the same because of your limited thinking. And once you realize that, you’ll be surprised at what you’re willing to change... like bad habits you’ve been carrying around that no longer serve you, or anything keeping you from being your best self.

My great epiphany came wrapped in a tutu and a rainbow of colors. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Still Thankful

I’m sure by now, over a week after the holiday and long after the last of the turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pies have been eaten, people are pretty much over the whole thankful thing. And that’s too bad, because I’ve been really busy over the last week, and now it’s my turn.

Morale has been a little low in certain parts of my life lately. Between that and all the divisive anger of election season, I’ve been feeling the negativity something fierce. I don’t know if it was the stress pile-up or Mercury in Retrograde or if all my serotonin was washed away in the insane amount of rain Seattle has had lately, but it got to the point where I just wanted to stay in my apartment and hide with my dog, who’s never negative as long as I’m around.

But as I woke up on Thanksgiving morning and went to turn my alarm off on my phone, I accidentally opened up my Facebook app. I was flooded with post after post of my friends expressing their gratitude. And instead of being cynical, I was touched.  Instead of rolling my eyes, I read every last one of them with a smile. And as I went about my day, packing up and heading to Yakima to see our family, I stayed happy.
And I started to feel pretty thankful myself… not just for family, that goes without saying, but for the eclectic group of friends I have spent the last decade compiling. The older I get, the more I realize that having good friends in your corner is just as important as having a good family. I am blessed beyond measure to have the family I do, but I am unbelievably thankful for my friends.

I’m thankful for my San Francisco sweetheart, a fairly new friend, who I’m convinced I knew in a past life because of our instant connection and the warm, welcome familiarity I feel when I’m around her. I’m thankful (as hell) that she missed me so badly after her move from Seattle that she flew me down to visit her and spent three days spoiling me. I was introduced to new scenery, new foods and amazing new experiences. San Francisco is wonderful and I can’t wait to go back. That trip awakened me out of a funk I didn’t even know I was in. I’m continually amazed that someone years younger than me can teach me so much.

I’m thankful for old friends that I ended up missing more than I ever realized I would. After Mr. W and I stuffed our faces with my aunt’s Thanksgiving delicacies that would make Martha Stewart jealous, we headed back to Spokane and Coeur d’alene to spend the weekend with old friends. Our trip began with visiting one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in real life, holding her gorgeous, happy, healthy baby girl. It doesn’t get better than that.

After having a delicious dinner at a place that opened after we moved (and finding the one progressive, liberal, well-traveled bartender in town), we resumed our tradition of going on the Holiday Light Cruise with our sexy friends M & M. Our little love G, who moved to Portland seven years ago, was in town visiting family and was able to come with us. The resort was decorated for Christmas, catapulting us into the holiday spirit. We had a nostalgic, hilarious, intoxicating evening. I will never regret my time in Idaho simply because of the people I met there, people I am incredibly lucky to know.

We were nearly asked to leave the Coeur d'alene Resort.

It was totally worth it.

I’m thankful that I got to be in town for my best friend Yennifer’s birthday celebration, and even more thankful that it turned out to be one of her best yet. We were treated to an open bar at her boyfriend’s nightclub, which could have been a truly tragic mistake on his part. Fortunately, our group has matured slightly over the years, and everyone cut themselves off before disaster ensued. I’m so thankful for Yennifer, who I have gotten to grow up with and intend to grow old (but never wrinkly) with. I miss our monthly Wine Wednesdays and living 40 minutes away from her, but it makes our time together that much more special.

Bring it on, 31.

And, most of all, my trip made me thankful for every day I have in this world. During my visit “home”, I was heartbroken to learn someone I used to know died over the summer of a rare cancer. She was 24. A year ago this girl went to the doctor and had all her dreams of the future crushed, just like that. I am so thankful that I knew her. And while I’m heartbroken that I didn’t find out in time to reach out to her, I’m thankful that she clearly had an enormous support system… a family, a serious boyfriend and numerous friends who loved her. She was able to take one final trip to Hawaii before she passed, and I’m thankful for every last person who made that possible.

Of course, as I’ve said thousands of times, I’m also thankful that we call Seattle home. As we headed back to Capitol Hill last Sunday, I remarked to Mr. W that not only can I not imagine not knowing all the friends we’d left behind, I now can’t imagine not knowing the people we’ve met here. They’ve become such an integral part of my every day I can’t fathom not having them around.

And now I find myself in a strange but good place. I need to make some changes, again, and they’re going to take a lot of hard work, again. But thanks to the things I have learned and my own wonderful support system of friends, old and new, I know they’re possible. I don’t know where I’d be without them, but I wouldn’t be me. The further I get on my journey through life, the more I realize that it’s not all about the experiences you make, but the people you meet while you’re making them.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Election night, Seattle style

Confession: I wasted next to no energy on the Presidential election this year. Without really “going there,” all I have to say is that neither of the two main candidates really represented me. I also knew that my vote didn’t really count. Throw every slogan about rocking the effing vote in the world at me. I know how the Electoral College works and I know what my West Coast status means.

So, rather than get looped into all the negativity and bullshit, I chose to focus on something I wanted to see happen rather than what I didn’t want. I chose to focus on something local and positive. For me that issue was a no-brainer: Referendum 74.

People say that social issues like gay rights should be second tier to issues like the economy and balancing the deficit. Those people are right. But the thing is, I personally can’t do anything about our deficit. But what I can do… and what I did do… is vow to help right one wrong in our society. It might seem like a small issue to some, but for a gay person in a long-term relationship who desperately wants the same right for his or her partner as we get for ours, it’s huge.

It’s like that analogy with all the starfish that have washed up onto the shore, and that dude is throwing them back, one at a time, and the other dude tells him it won’t make a difference, and he insists, “It made a difference to that one!”

In 2012, the gays were my starfish.

Referendum 74 was something I could focus on, a way I could make a difference. And I did. I donated. I went to Wicked on the night when ticket proceeds went to the cause. I convinced people to register to vote locally. I broke my “no political talk on Facebook” rule and championed for the cause because to me, it wasn’t politics… it was human rights. I even wrote a very difficult letter to my parents, who I know are of the “it’s a sin” mentality, and begged them to consider voting yes. That was hard as hell.

Admittedly, I was also extremely curious about I 502. Anyone who has done the most minuscule amount of research knows that it’s absolutely asinine that marijuana is illegal (seriously, the facts speak for themselves). But I also knew the bill was flawed enough (the DUI policy is absurd) that people might not vote for it. But to me, any legalization step is a step in the right direction.

When Tuesday arrived, Mr. W and I agreed that we should be out on the hill, aka Seattle’s gay Mecca, to hear the results. We didn’t have a set plan, we just figured we’d head down the hill after dinner and find a bar to hang out in. I had just gotten home from work and had a quick dinner when it was announced that Obama had won Ohio, securing his re-election.

“Let’s get out there, now, before they start reading the local results!” I said, slipping on my flats and throwing on a coat and scarf. We rushed down Pine. It was packed.

“Whoo, Obama!” a girl shouted at me as I passed her.

“Yes, we are aware of Obama,” I said back. “But what do we know about the gays and the weed?”

We went to R Place, a prominent gay bar on the hill that was filled to the brim with happy people. We rushed from bar to bar, finding nothing but crowds. I always imagined Capitol Hill would be a magical place to be on election night. This is true, until you try to get a drink there.

At last we settled on Neighbors, where we stayed long enough to see that Referendum 74 had a narrow lead and I 502 was leading by a lot. Eventually someone got on the mic and announced that Maine had passed a marriage equality bill into law. We cheered. I looked up at the TV and saw that Referendum 74’s lead was growing by the minute.

“Holy shit,” I told Mr. W. “I think we’re actually going to make history. Twice.”

The Capitol Hill Blog had mentioned a dance party at 10th and Pike. We wanted in on that. We made a quick pit stop at a store for little airplane bottles of vodka, which we chugged in the parking lot next to a news station’s camera crew since seriously, you could not get a damn drink anywhere. It was a rather unforgettable election night memory, to say the least.

The dance party was just getting started when we showed up at 10 PM, but it was already lively. People were passing around bottles of champagne and the sweet smell of victory joints permeated the air. Two young gay men performed a topless victory dance on a pillar. Electronic music played, and people danced freely. Everyone was smiling. No one was giving the cops, who looked bored, or each other one bit of trouble. It was the epitome of a right wing nightmare.

We met up with our awesome friend Erica and her adorable roommate Jared. We heard they’d declared I 502 an official victory and that Referendum 74 was all but in the bag. I looked around at the dance party and saw so many happy same sex couples. I smiled, trying to imagine what it must feel like to finally have their love be recognized as real and valid. I thought I might cry. After all, for the first time in my life, I truly felt that I had made a difference on an issue that really mattered to me.

We headed to Barca for celebratory tequila shots, where I un-quit tequila for at least the 4th time this year. In the background, Obama’s speech played. When he got to the part about “gay or straight,” everyone in the bar erupted into a cheer and our little posse formed a tequila-infused group hug. Again, I thought I might cry, but all I could do was smile.

Then we realized we all had to work the next morning and went home. It was a whirlwind of epic moments and I am so grateful to have been a part of it.

It was only the next morning, when I was finishing my pre-work coffee, that I finally got emotional. I hadn’t planned on asking my parents how they voted on Referendum 74.  I became so passionate about the issue that I was afraid of how I’d react if they told me they voted no. So when my Dad texted me to tell me he voted yes, I promptly burst into tears and sat on my kitchen floor crying and smiling at the same time.

I do care about the big issues that face our country today. But more than anything else, I want everyone to feel welcome here. I want everyone to be able to have the choice to live as they see fit, whether that means going to a Catholic church on Sunday morning or smoking a Sunday morning joint in bed. And I am so happy and so proud to live in a state that, for the most part, seems to agree.

The country has a lot to figure out. But here in my beloved Emerald City, we seem to be doing just fine. 

Photo by Jay Clark

These are some great photos from election night.

This will make me laugh and laugh forever and ever, amen.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Same sex marriage: it's more than sex

Living in a city that embraces most of your overall values is refreshing, wonderful and generally awesome. But recently I realized it has made me complacent.  

I literally live in the gayest neighborhood in Seattle. In a gay friendly city, it’s the gay welcoming committee. People who date people of the same sex are such an integral part of my daily life, seeing them together is as natural to me as seeing the rain fall.

Here in Seattle, the “battle” has already been won. It’s a tolerant city.  So it has been easy for me to forget that there are many other places that aren’t. I realize that it has only been a year and a half since I left the most intolerant part of the Northwest, but being immersed in such a gay accepting culture makes it that much easier to forget that not only are there bigots everywhere, there are ignorant bigots.

In fact, I have a man from Spokane to thank for my wake-up call. During my recent visit, a friend of a friend reminded me of just how far most people have to go. Normally I’d never discuss sensitive issues with people I barely know, but someone was asking me about Seattle and Capitol Hill’s gay friendly nature. The guy (who I will call “Red” because he had a red shirt on and a sunburn) listened to me talk before he opened his big red mouth.

“Being gay is a choice,” Red declared.

I laughed. I thought he was kidding. After all, people don’t really think that anymore, do they? Everyone knows by now that homosexuality is found in nearly all species of animals and some people are just born gay, right? Surely people know that before you can form an opinion on something you have to get the facts?
It turns out that, no, not everyone knows. Red used completely asinine logic in his defense, likening people’s human born attraction to personal preference.

“It’s a choice, you know,” he said. “Because, like, I would rather sleep with you than a 300 pound woman. That’s a choice. Like gay sex.”


Of course, I could have shut down his argument in approximately four minute using things like facts, logic and science. I wouldn’t have even had to try. But I lived in that filthy cesspool of backwards thinking for six years. I know better. Besides, I was pretty drunk and I wouldn’t have fought fair. Instead,  we just agreed that others’ homosexuality had nothing to do with us personally, and we left it at that.

Here in Washington, we’ll have a chance to make history in a few weeks. Referendum 74’s passing will legalize same sex unions once and for all. It has been backed by numerous businesses, church pastors, Republicans and other brave souls who have dared to go against what society expects.

I have never been “against” homosexuality… even as a teenager, sitting in the church pews and listening to pastors spew to love the sinner, hate the sin, I knew in my heart that the well-meaning pastors, not me, were misguided and there’s nothing “sinful” about love in any form. Love is pure, after all. So I have never needed convincing on this. But I do understand how difficult it is to vote for something you might personally be against. I do it nearly every time I vote, as every candidate out there represents issues that I strongly disapprove of. But I don’t vote because of the way I personally live my life. And neither should you.

The fact is, every single argument against gay marriage can be destroyed with logic. This amazing lawyer does it here.

Any religious argument is, of course, completely invalid due to that pesky thing called “separation of church and state.” It’s also highly illogical and downright hypocritical. People have the right to believe what they want to believe and love who they want to love. It’s that simple.

So why isn’t it that simple? I have been shocked at some of the things I’ve heard. People are so misinformed, and I don’t know where they’re getting their information or why they’d want to ignore the cold hard facts.

To set the record straight: legalizing same sex marriage will not legalize incest. It will not lead to people marrying animals. It will not “re-invent” marriage, nor will it in any way harm straight marriage. No church will be forced to perform same sex marriage, and believing that they will be is asinine. That’s illegal. I personally can’t get married in a Catholic church or a Mormon temple. That’s the church’s right.

What legalizing same sex marriage will do is grant every couple the rights they deserve and, no, cannot be given through a simple domestic partnership. It will allow the partners to do things only spouses can, like inherit estates and make medical decisions (and if you think domestic partnerships allow this, think again). It will literally bring families together. Some of these couples have children. Some people are all about "family values” and promote marriage, yet overlook the fact that they’re denying children the stability they claim is so important for their development.

But all that aside, legalizing same sex marriage is the right thing to do because it is what is morally, ethically and logically right. We simply do not have the authority or the right to tell two people who genuinely love each other that they cannot get married. Denying them this right is literally making them second class citizens, implying their love is not genuine.

And since I do live in this gloriously gay-friendly city and have witnessed it firsthand throughout my life, I can attest to it being genuine. I have stopped saying things like “what people do in their own bedrooms behind closed doors is none of my business” because I feel that it reduces homosexuality to just sex. It’s so much more. It’s pure, passionate, and beautiful. It’s just as real as any other love, and it deserves to be recognized as a part of our society.

I am blurring their faces here because I did not ask their permission to post it, but this picture represents one of the sweetest love stories I have ever seen unfold. I have watched these two women fall in love from a distance, and even from a distance, it is so amazing and powerful. They are best friends who support each other and mean the world to each other. I see the way one makes excuses to walk by the other’s desk at work just so she can catch a glimpse the other. I see the way they look at each other. I have heard them sing the most adorable duets that would melt the heart of the world’s biggest homophobe. And when I hear people say unkind things about their kind of love, it breaks my heart, because these people have no idea how amazing it is and no clue how ignorant they are.

If I seem like this is personal to me… well, it is. And no, I am not going to leave my Mr. W and go running off with one of my ladies (though no one who has met my friends would blame me). In 2009, I got ordained online so that I could marry my best friend to her wonderful husband. I have since performed two more weddings for people I love dearly. And this year, two lovely ladies who are in my large adopted family asked me to marry them next summer. They have been together for seven years and I have loved watching their relationship grow.

I think these two ladies will have a great marriage, and it would be an absolute honor to perform the ceremony and have it be legally recognized. Our parents (or grandparents) fought for interracial marriage, and it’s now considered asinine that it was ever illegal. Let’s do the same thing for same sex marriage. Let’s show the next generation we stood up to an injustice.

You don’t have to rush out and marry a person of the same sex. You don’t even have to personally agree with it. But what every single straight person needs to do is realize that it doesn’t affect them, and they do not have the right to encourage society to remain stagnant in its progress.  

 I’m not complacent anymore. I am asking my Washington friends to please vote Yes on Ref  74. Even you, Red.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How acting in a porn saved my marriage

Working a job in the creative field has its perks… mainly, my department is filled with wonderful left-brained types with awesome personalities. I spend many hours of my work day laughing, and I never know what those crazy writers are going to say next.

So when my amazing and hilarious co-worker E returned from a long road trip to Glacier and announced, “I wrote a script during the trip!” I was not surprised. But she did manage to surprise me when she added, “It’s for the Hump Festival.”

“The what?”  I asked. “Hump? Like, porn?!?”

“Yeah,” she said casually. “And I need actors, so take a look at it and tell me if you can help me out. It’s not an actual porn. It’s for the humor section,” she added for reassurance.

“I… don’t… know,” I said, imagining that somewhere, somehow, my mother had just been flooded with disappointment and had no idea why. But I was intrigued. I read the script, and it was hilarious. So I shrugged, and picked out the only two characters that had no nudity or sex-related lines whatsoever. Then I went home and told Mr. W we would be acting in a non-porn porn parody. He was on board.

Then the week of filming arrived, and Dexter chose that very week to get a terrible and lingering case of diarrhea. A call to the vet re-assured us that his symptoms (which I will refrain from repeating) indicated that it was nothing to worry about, and to treat it with home remedies and wait it out.  So we did.

Mr. W and I both underestimated just how disheartening it would be to come home night after night to piles of liquid poo (carefully squirted AROUND all the newspapers we’d laid down), all over our brand new carpet….then to clean and clean and clean, only to be woken up in the morning to more liquid poo. For four days straight, this was our lives…wake up, gag, clean, go to work, come home, gag, clean, and pass out. There was no fun and no productivity. Needless to say, it took a toll on our moods and even started to put a damper on our relationship.

I almost asked E if we could reschedule. I was exhausted, frustrated, worried and wanted to kill my husband… not ideal for non-porn porn making. But I saw how hard she was working and with the submission deadline looming, I sucked it up and put my vegan face on:

E’s script was funny, but the actual scenes are downright hilarious. As soon as we got to her apartment I was shown footage that will both haunt me and make me burst out laughing for years to come. Mr. W and I filmed a quick scene there, then headed back to our place to wrap up. By the grace of God, Dexter had chosen that day to get his gastrointestinal act together and the filming crew and our lovely director were not treated to any poo piles.

Unfortunately for Dexter, our scene involved cooking mass quantities of bacon, and other than small bits of pumpkin puree, we’d had to starve him for 24 hours to ensure whatever bug he had was out of his system. So our starving and now fully recovered dog had to smell and see bacon all night long without getting any for himself. I now consider us even for all the pain he inflicted on me.

Before we knew it, the scenes were over and we were alone. Mr. W made himself a BLT (when life hands you lemons…) and we laughed and joked about various little things. I soon realized it was the first time in a week we’d been lighthearted with each other and not grumpy and short. It took something as silly as a non-porn porno to make us realize that we really needed to lighten up.

The next day happened to be the nine year anniversary of the day Mr. W proposed to me. And due to a series of strange events, he and I found ourselves dressed up and sipping champagne at the gorgeous ColumbiaTower Club, admiring the waterfront from 74 stories from the ground. It was surreal to think that 24 hours before I’d been in a “Fur is Murder” tank top and he’d been in a leather vest.

“Nine years ago when you got on one knee, did you ever imagine our lives would be like this?” I asked him.

“Actually, yes,” he said with no hesitation. “I learned a long time ago that you never know what to expect with you.”

He’s right. And I feel the same about him… along with this big, bold, beautiful city full of colorful characters I grow fonder of by the minute.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Punks Are Writing Love Songs...and I'm getting braver.

I wish that, every now and then, I could put on some magical glasses and see the world through the eyes of a poet.

I want to look at something small and see something profound. I want to turn a moment into something monumental. And damn it, I want to do it with using just a few words. But that’s not who I am. My voice is that of a story-teller. If anything, I use too many words. My truth spills from me like champagne out of a bottle that’s been dropped down a flight of stairs. A poet knows how to cut right to the heart of something using imagery and powerful statements. I’m a writer, yes, but I’m no poet.

Elissa Ball has been a poet as long as I’ve known her, which dates back to at least junior high but possibly elementary school (you never know in a small town like Yakima). She’s also been into things like the vegan lifestyle and astrology and Tarot long before any of it went mainstream and before anyone in our hometown even knew what any of those terms meant.

Of course people thought she was weird in high school (everyone thought everyone was weird, and quite frankly I was too hung up on my own insecurities to even notice what anyone said about her). But Elissa didn’t give a shit, at least from what I could tell. She just did her thing and lived her life. We wrote for the newspaper together for a year or two before I headed off to WSU.

I didn’t hear anything about her until ten years later when I received a Facebook invitation to her book launch party. Not only do I do all I can to support anyone who dares to enter this treacherous field, but the event was happening six blocks from my apartment. So when the day arrived, I rushed home from work and met a fellow high school alum for happy hour before the big reading. The happy occasion took place at The Richard Hugo House, which I was thrilled to discover existed (and served wine).

I bought a copy of The Punks Are Writing Love Songs and skimmed through it briefly before she took the stage. All I could think was, Holy shit. This is gonna be good.

It was. The girl got up there and owned her words, and I drank them in like my glass of Syrah. I was blown away not only by the words she read, but the powerful way in which she read them. Reading Elissa’s poetry is like looking at the most beautiful picture of the most spectacular sunset you’ve ever seen, but hearing her read it is like being there and feeling the warmth on your face.

Until that evening, I’d been struggling with writing the memoir from the road trip we took two years ago. I was worried about being too honest, revealing too much. After all, my family will read it, and my mom is already horrified enough about the content of my blog. But watching Elissa read sex poetry in front of her father really put my worry into perspective. I’m going to be as honest as I need to be to tell the story. My mom can always go to therapy or something, but I will never get to tell this story again.

On that note, I hope one day I get the courage to write something as powerful and amazing as the statement “Do me like good weed on a bad night.”

Weeks after the reading I found myself on the beach at Madison Park, sunning myself with a mimosa and reading The Punks Are Writing Love Songs. I was feeling self conscious about recently once again losing my endless battle with those stubborn ten pounds, especially next to my svelte sexy co-worker. I opened right up to a poem called “Beach Bodies.”

“The wild hairs that comma your inner thighs have held council and agree: you are perfect,” it read, encouraging me to “take off your shirt. Live a little.” I did. And as I kept reading, I kept relating to what she had to say. And even though these poems were 100% Elissa, I kept finding things that I could relate to. And seriously, if you can’t find something you relate to in her book, you’re probably not being honest with yourself.

The Punks Are Writing Love Songs can be purchased here (through Blue Begonia Press, which belongs in part to our amazing former AP English teacher), and I highly recommend clicking that link and getting a copy. From the opening “How Did You Change” to the heartbreaking “Burn Barrel” to my absolute favorite “This Heart,” you’ll be grinning and nodding… as soon as you close your dropped jaw.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

And THAT, my friend, is what they call CLOSURE

I can sum up my time living in the Spokane/Coeur d'alene area to being like the stages in any long-term relationship that goes bad.

There was the initial courtship and falling head over heels in love. There were ups and downs, followed by the relationship going stale. There was that horrible, lonely moment when I realized it was over. There was heartache, anger and a painful break-up. Then there was a final moment comparable to that part of a split where the worst times are over and you're tired and out of hateful things to say, and you just want to move forward and heal.

And then, there's this…. where I finally come back for a visit after a year and a half, and shocked at how I'm able to let go of everything I don't like and just embrace the beauty and all there is to love. I guess this would be what I'd consider closure, and what beautiful closure it has been.

Though I've been so excited to visit "home" that I listened to my road trip playlist on Spotify all last week, I was dreading the drive. The drive from Seattle to Spokane is monotonous and dull. But on Saturday morning, I looked at every wheat field, hill and acre of crops with a new appreciation. It's not familiar to me anymore. And it made me realize there really is no ugly part of Washington State. 

That's how the rest of the trip went. I spent time with the people who made my time there worth it. I enjoyed every moment. I caught up on their lives and learned juicy gossip, crazy stories and heartbreaking things. I got to hang out by Lake Coeur d'alene, which I still think is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I drank too much peach vodka and sang karaoke and laughed until my face hurt. And I've been flooded with the most wonderful memories. Everywhere I went, there was a memory.

By the time I left that area, it had sucked the life out of me. But last weekend, it brought me back to life and recharged me. I needed to go back to see how far I've come, but also to realize that no matter how much I change, my past made me who I am and who I will be. And those friends and I are able to reminisce about a lot of growing pains we went through together. They're memories I'll never have with anyone else. I'm able to appreciate that on a whole new level now.

The one thing I was not able to do was drive past the old house. I gave it some thought, and decided I just can't. I can't drive by the place where we slept, ate, loved, entertained, laughed, cried, fought, experimented with who we were, and lived and see someone else's things in the window. I can't try and peer in at the walls we painted in colors we chose together and see that they replaced it.

I love my life now and I wouldn't change it. But the fact is, had we stuck to our original "life plan" we'd still be living in that house with a child. I wouldn't know about half of my current social circle. That's weird. The decision to buy that place also caused a lot of drama and regret in our lives. And it's still too fresh, too painful, too whatever to re-live. 

But truly, my trip was perfect. The weather was scorching hot, which this girl from the desert needs now and then (no offense, Seattle). The food was delicious and the drinks did not stop flowing.

So I guess this is the part of the relationship where we run into each other after a lot of time has passed, and we tell each other sincerely that we both look great, and we greet each other warmly and forgive each other for the hurt. And while we don't feel the love we once did, we are able to realize why we felt it in the first place. We're able to heal and really move forward.

Maybe we exchange some flirty banter. Hell, maybe we even get drunk and dance a little too close on the dance floor. But at the end, I happily return to my new, true love, the healthy and passionate adult  relationship I am meant to be in. And Idaho will keep doing its thing and making people who are not me happy, and that's great. Because instead of sitting around wishing things were different, I made the change and found a place that was different. And no amount of sunshine or flavored vodka can make me wish I hadn't.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Portland, Hippies, Firefighters and Lots of Nudity

So I had these beautiful, blissful few months where I thought I had mastered my metabolism. And as someone who has struggled to remain in a normal weight range since before puberty, the feeling was better than all the riches in the world. I thought maybe I was one of those rare freaks of nature whose metabolisms shoot up, rather than plummet, when they turn 30. In reality, I owed my brief ability to eat like a sumo wrestler to the hot yoga room I was spending 4.5 hours a week in.  I was also walking absurd lengths to reach all the delicious things I was eating. So while I thought I had beaten the game, in reality, I was just playing it right.

Then I got the flu, moved by myself, had to be a single dog mom for awhile while Mr. W was on the road, and lost my motivation to move. The weight flew back on in unsightly bulges and robbed me of the one thing I’d managed to master through my body struggles: my confidence. And by God, after everything I put my poor self-esteem through, I felt I deserved it. I just had to find a minute to get off my ass.

And then my confidence was shocked back into me, against my will, in a matter of 48 hours. And I owe it all to Portland.

I had a rigid plan for the day of my departure to Portland to visit my sister wife and G:  wake up early, finish packing, get to work at 9 instead of 10, work at the speed of light, come collect the dog, and be on the road by 6 PM.  But I was so excited to see my girls, I took too much Melatonin on Thursday night and I slept until 9, thus single-handedly destroying my entire plan. I saw my phone, immediately texted my boss that I was running late, and started the mad dash to get ready.

As I ran around, fire alarms from various parts of the building went off left and right, scaring poor neurotic Dexter. I knew the fire department would be around that day testing the alarms and would be entering my apartment later, so I made a new plan: pack at lightning speed, take Dexter to the doggie daycare a mile from work, collect him and head straight for the freeway.

“Pack at lightning speed” means multi-task. So, after my shower, I stood at my laptop wearing nothing but jeans, clicking away on my laptop looking up directions to G’s new place as I rubbed my Jergens Natural Glow all over my upper body in an attempt to fake a tan.

And it was that precise moment in time that two firefighters burst into my apartment after a brief half-assed “knock” on the door. I was literally standing in front of them topless rubbing lotion on myself. It was too much for my brain to bear. I froze, losing the ability to speak or move. They apologized repeatedly and slammed the door.

“Just a minute,” I whimpered weakly.

As I was leaving for work minutes later (fully dressed), I took the elevator down with Dexter’s leash and my suitcase handle in one hand and a smelly bag of garbage in the other. The elevator stopped on the 4th floor. In marched the two firefighters who’d seen the goods, along with two more. The two who hadn’t seen me took one look at me and grinned at the other two. It was clear that, not only had word spread of the incident, they knew I was the flasher. I tried to blend into the wall, but my smelly garbage gave me away…as did my dog who chose that time to sniff one of the men’s crotch.

Luckily, Portland has the ability to erase a lot of stress from my soul because of the two wonderful women I visit there. And the next afternoon, G and I were laughing at my misfortune over happy hour in the sun. She then informed me that she had a surprise for me before ordering me a second round. I’d already had a glass of wine while she foiled my hair earlier, so I was feeling mighty fine. My accidental flash was a world away.

 G wouldn’t tell me what the surprise was, but she’d told me to pack a swimsuit. We pulled up in front of an old brick building. opened the door and were flooded with the smell of incense. A middle aged hippie guy greeted us warmly, and G checked us in.

“We have appointments for massages,” she said. I barely had time to tell her she shouldn’t have before we were on our way back to check the place out.

“It’s a spa, but they have this amazing outdoor soaking tub,” she said. “It sounded so great, I couldn’t resist.”

“You’re an angel,” I said, reaching for the swimsuit in my bag. Then the middle-aged hippie barged into the dressing room, which surprised us, because of the obvious gender differences. He asked if he could give us a tour of the place. Confused, we agreed.

He led us out to the soaking tub, and it was then we realized this “spa” was actually a nudist establishment. Several middle aged men lay sprawled out in lounge chairs, letting it all hang out and soaking up the sun. A single old lady relaxed in the giant hot tub, naked as the day she was born.

I looked at G. Her eyes were huge. Middle Aged Hippie left us to change… into nothing.

“I’m so sorry,” G whispered. “It said the pool was clothing optional, but I didn’t think there would be dudes out there.”

We realized that if we put our swimsuits on, we’d look like jackasses. I didn’t know what to do. Here I was, the least confident I’d ever been about my body, expected to parade it around in front of strangers. We hashed it out and decided, at last, to go topless.

I covered up with a towel until the last possible moment. I set it down in a chair, sucked in my stomach, and walked across the patio to the soaking tub, avoiding eye contact with everyone. G and I relaxed and chatted for a few minutes, then lifted ourselves out of the tub to cool off. I leaned back, trying to make myself look skinnier. Then I looked around and realized that nobody gave a shit. No one was even looking at me, much less making horrified faces. I stopped giving a shit, too, and just enjoyed the feeling of the sun on my bare skin in places it had never seen. It was freeing, awesome, and yes… straight out of Portlandia.

My massage therapist was an even older hippie, and he was wonderful. He didn’t even say a word when the three glasses of wine caught up to me and I dozed off and drooled on his foot. And afterward, I felt amazing in more ways than one. There’s nothing quite like two instances of unexpected nudity to force you to get over your body hang-ups. I’m far from perfect, but damn it, nobody threw up. In fact, those firefighters looked pretty pleased, after they got over their shock.

I’m now moderating my junk food and back in the hot yoga room. If this is what gets thrown at me when I let ten pounds creep on and let my confidence suffer, I'm not about to tempt fate by really letting myself go.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Seven years, zero dull moments

It’s late in the evening of my 7th wedding anniversary. I’m sitting alone at my dining room table eating pasta and salad and half-listening to something on The Discovery Channel. It was supposed to be a beautiful, sunny 73 degree day. We were supposed to sip a bottle of champagne on our rooftop while watching the sun set and grilling our dinner.

Instead, my husband of the better part of a decade (WOW) is asleep on the couch suffering from an awful case of tonsillitis. I’m fighting it off myself. I feel fatigued and achy. But so far my body is winning its battle and I am in far better shape than he is.

I should be depressed. Maybe disappointed. After all, this day is pretty legendary. One year ago I was sitting inside the Can Can with my love and two of our best friends in the world on an incredible night out. Two years ago I was sipping overpriced champagne in Las Vegas, leaving a glitter trail down the strip with my husband that I’d just married again in a vow renewal ceremony. And seven years ago I was at my wedding reception, feeling overwhelmed at the feeling of having almost everyone I loved in the same room.

But I’m not depressed or disappointed. All I am is happy. Because my husband might be sick as a dog today and incapable of taking me on a fancy date or even taking the dog outside, but he’s here. He’s with me, and we’re together. And over the last six months, I’ve realized exactly how special that really is. He’s here, we still enjoy being married to each other and we still genuinely love each other. I know that’s rare. I’m not taking it for granted.

Our relationship is so wonderfully weird and so suited to us both. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damned awesome because we want it to be and we put the effort in to make it that way. And no matter what it holds, I am so much better for having known him. I know how special that is, too.

I know him pretty well by now. I know that in a couple of days when the antibiotics do their thing and he’s back to being himself, he’s actually going to apologize for this. He’ll think that somehow he let me down, because that’s the kind of man he is. Every time he struggles in life or things are less than perfect, he feels like he’s disappointing me. He loves me so much that he wants to be a better man… for me.

I hope I can spend the next seven years or so showing him that the opposite is true. All I see is how far he’s come and how much he does to try and make me happy. I have the best friends I could ever ask for and an incredibly wonderful family, but no one has ever shown me the level of kindness that he has. And for that, I can never be disappointed in him. But I can give him my heart and my love, always.

But in the meantime, I am going to sit here alone as he sleeps and I am going to eat a shit ton of cookies. Because if there was ever an excuse to go on a sugar bender, this is it— and I am not taking that for granted either.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Moving, influenza, and Daniel Bedingfield

When I told strangers I was moving to Seattle, I heard “Why?” and “I’m sorry” more than once. It didn’t bother me. These comments were made in places like Sandpoint, Idaho and Ellensburg, Washington, where people who love the city do not tend to live. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s letting go of the opinions of people who don’t matter to me.

With those who do matter, though, it’s not so simple. So when the best friend I have in Seattle (who bugged me to move here for a decade) and my husband told me in the same week that this city might not be the place for me, I took notice.

The bad luck could’ve happened anywhere. First, I got my butt kicked by The Worst Flu Ever… not a little tummy ache and fever I called the flu, an actual strain of influenza so bad that when I finally dragged myself through the door of Urgent Care a nurse rushed over and handed me a mask and helped me to my seat. It rendered me useless for over a week. I couldn’t pack a thing.

After that week, four days before the move (when I had packed approximately four boxes) Mr. W broke the news that there was no possible way he could be home to help me due to a work conflict. A tornado in Kansas led to me having to move completely on my own for the first time in my life. I thought it would be no problem since we hired movers and I took two days off work.

I was wrong. And listing all the things that fell apart would not only turn into a 5,000 word essay, it would be stupidly negative and depressing. At the end of it all I laid in a sleeping bag on my mattress, sleep deprived, stinky and unshowered because I couldn’t find my soap, closer to broke than I thought I could ever be as a grown up, due at work in a few hours, crying, with no husband to console me and one of my dearest friends driving a moving van to San Francisco. I know, right? WAH!

But that night, I stopped crying the moment my head hit the pillow and I realized I could see the skyline and Space Needle from my bed. Because holy shit, I always wanted that but never thought I would actually have it. And now I do, and I’m so grateful. I love it here.

So that’s why I was so bummed when two people I love suggested this might not be the place for me. And it was weighing on my mind on the Saturday afternoon when I finally quit procrastinating and started unpacking boxes. Mr. W and I agreed that we still have entirely too much stuff and I noticed our gigantic collection of CD’s we never listened to because things like Pandora and Spotify exist.

“How does one get rid of a CD?” I asked Mr. W. “We can keep some of these, but are we really going to miss Daniel Bedingfield’s ‘Gotta Get Thru This?’”

“We might,” He joked.

Then I remembered there was a Half Price Books eight blocks away and it was a gorgeous day. I scooped up the collection of CD’s that didn’t make the cut, threw them in a paper bag and headed out. Sunshine is like Prozac to Seattle residents. Everyone grinned at each other as I walked down Pine Street, a song from the Daniel Bedingfield CD stuck in my head. I started humming it softly to myself. When I stepped down a side street behind a building and found myself alone, I couldn’t resist belting out some lyrics….

I don’t want to run away, but I can’t take it, I don’t understand
If I’m not made for you, then why does my heart tell me that I am?

Of course, I turned the corner and almost smashed directly into two young women walking together, staring at me.

“This is why I love the hill,” one of them said to the other. “People aren’t afraid to be weird.”

I wasn’t even embarrassed. It’s the truth.

I found Half Price Books, which bought every CD except that of a country singer who had one mediocre hit in 2002 and called it quits. I stopped on my way home for two slices of delicious pizza and a bottle of wine (because I walk almost everywhere now and must be burning 12,000 calories a day). Then I sat on my teeny tiny balcony with my dinner and glass of Cab, feet propped up, watching the most beautiful sunset I’d seen all year. My day had been close to perfect.

And I realized that even people you love can be wrong. Because if Seattle isn’t right for me, why in the hell am I so unbelievably happy here, despite everything life has thrown at me since?

Awesome photo by this guy 

If I’m not made for you, than why does my heart tell me that I am?

I think I am. I think good and bad things happen, and sometimes you’re lucky enough to be surrounded with enough good to handle the bad.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mother's Day, Mothers

Feelings have a shady way of sneaking up on you unexpectedly.

My somewhat recent 30th birthday wasn't quite the epic life-changing terror I imagined it being. My first Mother's Day as a 30-year-old woman who is married and childless, however, is turning out to be surprisingly emotional.

I've never regretted my decision to wait to have kids… in fact, Mr. W and I took our sweet time deciding if we even wanted them.  Once we decided we did, we devised a secret plan. But like most of the plans Mr. W and I have made since meeting, it changed. And I'm glad it did, because the last two years of our lives have been an insane roller coaster ride a baby would've had no place on. In fact, even now as I sit here not getting any younger, I don't feel any sense of urgency. I'd go drink my face off at the wine bar up the street right now if I didn't have so much unpacking to do.

But I always thought with the waiting would come knowledge. I figured by the time I was 29 or 30 I'd have my life together. I would be that mom who had a killer career with a fat salary and time for a lengthy maternity leave, a perfect body, a focused mind, and a stock portfolio or something. But now that I'm there and nothing is as I thought it would be, I think I understand why people tell me you're never really ready to be a parent.

Then I think of my own mother. My mother, the one who went to a responsible college, got a responsible degree and a responsible and respected adult job at the ripe old age of 22. My mother, who settled down in the town where she attended high school and focused on her job, marriage and family. My mother, who worried about every single thing I did, who once pulled me into the cab of a truck through a tiny back window when she spotted a bear a mile away (and running away from us to boot).

I chose a different path, marrying young but not settling down, and not returning to my hometown after college (which still remains one of my worst nightmares). I worked for tips, then for commission, for myself and then finally for something related to my degree. I've traveled. I've socialized. I've enjoyed the man that I love without worrying about babysitters and diapers and late night feedings.

I used to think I was the brave one. I'm the one who once got lost in the ghettos of Mazatlan and just grinned, made eye contact, spoke Spanglish and strutted my way to safety like I owned the place even though I was peeing my pants on the inside. I'm the one who has taken personal and professional risks. I'm the one who has chosen a passion that's about as easy to master as winning the Powerball.

In fact, my mom recently told me she's proud of how strong I am. And I wore those words like a badge of honor. Because the more I think about it, it's my overly concerned, ferociously paranoid, anxiety-ridden "safety first" mother who is the strong one.

My mom took on this job of parenthood, the one I've been avoiding my entire adult life, willingly when she was only 23 years old. I can't even fathom doing something that ballsy.

And not only did she take it on, she excelled at it. My mom is one of the most stressed out people on the planet, to the point where she has one glass of wine and she pretty much falls head first into a coma. But when I was little, she was patient with my incessant babbling and 90 million questions about everything and my bullshit stories that made no sense. 

 And do you know how I remember that my mom was that patient? Because she did everything she could to make sure my brain developed properly. I was fed mostly healthy foods, even telling the doctor that my favorite food was broccoli when I was four. I've made nutrition a hobby as an adult, and now I know my mom's knowledge was advanced far beyond her time because she researched and she cared. My TV time was also limited, but my access to books wasn't.

My dad's job took him out of town sometimes, leaving my mom to juggle two kids and a demanding full-time job for weeks or months at a time. And she did it. That's braver than anything I can imagine. Mr. W's latest job has left me doing it all on my own at times recently. I barely manage, and all I have to worry about is a neurotic dog with separation anxiety. Two neurotic children who constantly beat the crap out of each other? I can't even imagine.

I am sitting here tonight in my nice new apartment in one of the most coveted neighborhoods in the city of my dreams. But I am sitting here alone. And my mom is at our house, no doubt frantically preparing for the end of her school year, with pictures of her grown children and a lifetime of memories. Our life paths diverted early on, and the results are showing.

 Instead of wondering who has had the better life, who made the better choice, I'm thinking that we've both been very blessed and pretty damn fulfilled in our different adventures. And while my mom never flew to Vegas and did over-priced tequila shots before dancing at a swanky nightclub in uncomfortable heels in her twenties, the fact is, there's a chance I may never experience motherhood which seems to be quite an adventure. I think she and I would both agree that we've had a pretty sweet go at life without dwelling on what could have been.

Though I admit, it's something I do hope life has in store for me. The other day I was on a bus and looked over to see the most beautiful baby girl staring at me with giant hazel eyes. She looked out the window with so much curiosity and every time I smiled at her, she smiled. I want that, I thought. Then another mom boarded the bus with a bratty three-year-old boy who just would not shut up. There was a fit, followed my tears. The mom looked exhausted.

"Let me off this bus, mother!" he shrieked. "You've hurt my arm and I have to poop!"

I laughed. I could live with that too, I thought.

Happy Mother's Day, mothers. You are all so much braver and luckier than you know.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Capitol Hill. Population: Me

Last Saturday I stood in my friend's father's ultra-modern-chic kitchen, cooking my famous spaghetti sauce and praising her recent decision to pack up her things, leave her job and her vintage studio apartment on Capitol Hill and move to San Francisco to be with a boy she didn't even know a year ago. To others, it may seem impractical, but to me, it's the exact kind of bold "fuck it" move I wish I'd been adventurous enough to make in my twenties.

"I mean, I graduated college and I moved to Idaho and I bought a house there because I thought I was going to live there forever," I managed to spit out through my laughter. It's funny to me now because it's so ludicrous. I can see now that I'm just not the type of person who will ever want to stay in one place forever—at least, not in the foreseeable future.

My own impending move is proof of this. Just over a year ago I moved to Alki Beach and fell crazy in love, vowing never to part from its laid back atmosphere and unbelievable beauty. I was, and still am, enamored with that beauty. I've seen quite a bit of this great country and I believe nothing compares to where I live. Whenever I was having a bad day or suffered one of 2011's many emotional setbacks, I could take a short walk and see so many beautiful things I couldn't feel sorry for myself anymore.

And this is what I see when I cross the West Seattle bridge, my favorite view in the world that pics don't do justice:

I will miss you most of all.

I loved that it was fairly quiet, a little beachy oasis mere minutes from the city. I loved that I could be downtown in fifteen minutes but come home to my little piece of paradise. I loved everything about it.

But reality has set in. Yes, I'm close to downtown, but the commute is a bitch. I work a few miles from home, but I never know how long it will take me to get there because the West Seattle Bridge can be a nightmare. Then there are the trains in SoDo that fuck my world up on a regular basis, including one I have to beat every single night or sit there fuming for twenty minutes while it gets loaded. And when the viaduct is closed for some huge construction project that's going until seemingly the end of time, I can forget about going anywhere in a timely manner.

If I want to go downtown and have drinks (which, let's face it, I do often—I may as well take advantage of the fact that I am 30 and childless) I have to spend $60 in taxi fare just to get anywhere. Frankly, it's bullshit. That, and a variety of other factors, led to a decision to let our beachside apartment go. It was a tough decision, but as soon as it was made, I felt the overwhelming sense of relief I do when I know something is right.

West Seattle was an incredible place to spend our first year in the city. It was a great way to slowly immerse ourselves into city life and, quite frankly, it was a fabulous place to be broke. Running along the beach is always free, as is sitting in the grass with a good book on a sunny day.

 But we're not new here anymore, and we still have a lot of exploring left to do. There are restaurants I want to try, bars I want to drink in, coffee I have to sample and bookstores I need to browse. So I set out to find the impossible: an affordable living space on Capitol Hill (Seattle's most populated neighborhood) with all the amenities my spoiled ass is accustomed to, like a dishwasher.

I found the apartment complex doing a random search for "Seattle rentals." I was instantly enamored with the close proximity to a Trader Joe's, there's an Anytime Fitness on site, pets are allowed, and it's just far enough back on Capitol Hill to be a few blocks away from all the ruckus….but still close enough to walk to all the ruckus. In fact, I could walk pretty much anywhere. Better yet, the rent prices seemed to be in a range that wouldn't make us pee our pants.

I fired off an email with the subject line "I would like to live here, please." The apartment manager replied right away to tell me that, sorry, all she had were studios. She also told me that the rent prices listed on the website were incorrect (and not in my favor). My hopes of a spacious two bedroom were dashed. I looked at other places, but wasn't having much luck.

Just when I'd resigned myself to living in a hole-in-the-wall and hauling my clothes to a Laundromat, I got an email from the manager. Someone was moving out of a one bedroom with den unit, which is apparently a very rare occurrence. The rent, while still a lot higher than our current rate, was just low enough to get me to show up for a building tour. I was enamored, both with the building and the apartment manager who's a burlesque dancer on the weekends and more hip than I could ever hope to be. I was really sold when I saw the view from the rooftop deck:

OMG, you guys

It's a fabulous apartment. At last I will have two bathrooms again to store the ten million towels I own. I will have a lovely balcony view, a place to put guests (I thought no one would want to stay with us once we downsized from a house to an apartment…how wrong I was), and a walk in closet.  I mean, just, yes.

But this time, I am older and wiser. I am not going to declare that "this is it." I know I will not want to live on Capitol Hill forever. I know there will come a day where I grow tired of the hipsters, tired of the endless crowds, the lack of parking, the noise and the constant commotion. But that doesn't diminish my excitement. It just makes me excited to appreciate every single day that I will be immersed in the depths of the city I love so dearly, taking it all in.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

In Defense of Starbucks

I've been a fan of Starbucks since they opened a store in my hometown of Yakima, WA many years ago. A more youthful, more robust, less bothered by the presence of calories and sugar version of myself was pumped to learn the coffee shop would blend my beloved Frappuccinos, making them more like a milkshake rather than the watery substance I'd been purchasing at the grocery store.

Yakima is rather devoid of culture. When a chain restaurant opens there, the locals treat it as a momentous occasion and cram its doors until the novelty wears off and they realize the Applebee's they were so excited about is just another mediocre menu with entrees crammed full of sodium and they'd be much better off going to local gem Miner's for a burger.

So, needless to say, I received no flack for my love of Starbucks while living in Yakima. In fact, it may have been the only thing that earned me any cool points at all. When I left, however, I started getting different reactions to the infamous Mermaid cup in my hand.

"Ugh, their coffee tastes terrible." "Those drinks are so overpriced." "You should really support local coffee shops instead."

Well, guess what? Now I live in Seattle, and Starbucks is our local coffee shop. The very first store opened a few miles from where I live. And while I've got plenty of delicious mom and pop shops here to select from (and I admit that I prefer some of them to Starbucks), I still spend plenty of time and cash on Mermaid cups. And I always will. And here's what I have to say to the nay-sayers' comments:

1)      Starbucks coffee tastes terrible. This is a matter of personal tastes, of course. And I admit that, while I brew a delicious pot of Sumatra roast at home, sometimes their in-store brew isn't awesome. But I happen to think their Americanos, lattes and frappuccinos are fantastic. And even better than that, they're consistent. No offense to local coffee shops, but I have yet to find one that will give me the same exact damn mocha every time. I like to know that my beverage I am spending $5 on will be a tasty one.
Disclaimer: It's true that Starbucks tends to taste better in Washington State and the further you get from Washington, the more risk you take with your beverage. I'm looking at you, Florida.

2)      Starbucks is overpriced. The expression "you get what you pay for" applies here. Most frilly fancy coffee drinks are expensive, and Starbucks is no exception. And it's true that CEO Howard Schultz is an ultra mega billionaire who rakes in the profits off his coffee beans. BUT. Guess where else your money goes? To the employees. They're paid more than minimum wage, they're treated well (for an example of a company that treats employees like shit, Google all the dirt on Forever XXI), and they're given health insurance benefits if they work 30 or more hours per week. In fact, Starbucks spends $300 million a year on health benefits. I'll happily pay an extra 50 cents for my Americano for that, thank you very much.

3)      Local coffee shops should be supported. Starbucks is local to me now. But even when it wasn't, they were still my first choice. Why? Let's be honest. Most little espresso stands on the side of the road do not have employees who were carefully trained on how to properly make a shot of espresso (it's an art, people). The result is a drink that tastes like moldy ass. I'd really rather not gamble with my coffee. I take my caffeine seriously. Everyone has a choice on what they drink. I will choose Starbucks.

Now, I realize that Starbucks is a corporation and the entire coffee business is far from ethical, about one step above blood diamonds, and needs to be reformed. But I don't think this company is even close to the worst offender. Here are other reasons why I think Starbucks is getting it right:

Their baristas are friendly. Since moving here a year ago, I have not once walked into the Starbucks by my home or work and not been greeted with a seemingly sincere smile. Not once have I been given an attitude for asking a question or received anything short of stellar service. Even if they're having a bad day and secretly want to punch me, they don't show it.

They go above and beyond. One of my Facebook friends recently said the people at the local coffee shop he's frequented for years still don't know or care who the hell he is, while he can walk into Starbucks on any given day and be greeted by name with his drink started. Recently, my building lost power and all 398734875 of us had to stand outside in the pouring rain while maintenance tried to figure it out. The Starbucks employees across the street rushed out right away with free coffee (with cream and sugar) and pastries for us. Are you kidding me? I dare you to find any other business that would do that.

In 2008, when Howard Schultz returned at the Starbucks CEO, he recognized the problems the company was having as the economy was tanking. He took an enormous profit loss, shut down every single store for half a day, and re-trained every single employee. He also lost more millions when he flew every single store manager out to a conference to give them a pep talk, where he shed tears. There's not a lot of love for Schultz here in Seattle because of the way the Sonics deal was handled. I respect that. But I also respect Schultz. I've had the pleasure of seeing him speak when he came to our company one day to give us an amazing Q&A, and I truly believe he's doing a lot right.

No high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils are used in their products. Now, have enough frappuccinos and scones and you'll be an unhealthy fatty. Sugar and fat are no bueno. But knowing that my occasional white chocolate Americano won't give me a heart attack on the spot is kind of nice.

So go ahead, fling your Starbucks hatred at me and preach to me about locals and values and what constitutes crappy coffee. I'll hold up my Mermaid cup with my delicious brew and toast my local coffee shop, Starbucks.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Snowflakes in Seattle

On March 17, 2011, I sat inside the house I thought I'd live in forever but has just signed off to new owners. All of my worldly possessions had been packed, sold or given away. I had a new apartment awaiting me in The Emerald City, but no job and no prospects. My savings account had less money in it than when I was in high school and Wells Fargo had just ripped me off of money I desperately needed.

To say the least, I was terrified. I knew the move to Seattle was the right choice, and it was something I'd wanted for most of my life. But to say I was about to leap out of my comfort zone was an understatement. I sat on my couch, staring out my beautiful bay window at the ugly Wal Mart across the street. When my couch was given away to the neighbor, I sat on the floor and did the same thing.

Early in the afternoon big, fat snowflakes began to fall. They dropped from the clouds and plop onto my car, the yard and the street. They didn't stick, but it sent off a whole new string of worries about the conditions of the pass and maneuvering the moving truck.

Great, I thought, watching the flakes  fall through a scowl. I don't know where we'll be next year, what our lives will be like or how much of this mess we'll still be in, but at least there won't be snow. At least these bullshit winters will be over.

I got excited then, despite my fear. I longed for a fresh start and decided to make a fresh start when it came to who I was as well. I'd been struggling with some traits I didn't like and some bad habits I wanted to change. I set an intention to change certain things about myself and maybe meet new people who reflected the positive qualities I wanted for myself. Moving at the cusp of spring made it even more beautiful… new city, new jobs, new life, new me. No snow.

Exactly one year later, I woke up in my cute little apartment on Alki Beach in the heart of my new life. I managed to drag myself to a morning hot yoga class up the street. I'm no stranger to hot yoga, but I'd never been to this studio. They offered a free class for first timers, something I wasn't about to pass up.

The class was intense. The little room was heated to 95 degrees and the male instructor showed no mercy. It was power yoga and we powered through it. I started sweating almost immediately and was dripping wet within 15 minutes. I love this part of class. It feels like I'm shedding more than water weight. It feels like I'm ridding myself of bad food choices, toxins and even bad habits. Each class is like a mini fresh start.

Halfway through class, I tilted at the waist and lifted my arm toward the sky in a perfect Triangle pose. I looked toward the sky and saw I was positioned exactly below the room's only skylight. And I almost fell over when I saw the big, fat snowflakes falling from the sky. Snow isn't unheard of in Seattle, but it's not common. And it's definitely not common to see big, giant fat flakes on St. Patrick's Day in the city.

"Is it snowing?" asked the woman next to me.

I smiled. "It sure is."

"I've lived in Seattle most of my life, and I've never seen snow like this so late in the year! This is crazy!" remarked our instructor.

Sorry, I thought. Apparently it followed me after all. The irony, the symbolism and the beauty of that moment did not escape me.

The flakes continued to fall, dusting the city in a beautiful white coating before disappearing as quickly as they came. I caught the final few moments of it as I stepped out of the studio, and the flakes felt remarkably refreshing against my skin after being in that scorching room for 90 minutes. I tilted my head to the sky and caught the flakes on my face instead of scowling at them through the window. Instead of wishing them away, I enjoyed them.

Later that afternoon, the sun began to shine beautifully and I walked with my friend down Alki toward our destination of happy hour at a seafood restaurant. As we talked, I took a good look at her (which isn't hard, she's a beautiful girl) and realized she's exactly the kind of person I was hoping to meet. She's got the good qualities I have been trying to cultivate in myself. And some of her "bad habits" are also ones that I share. But, as it turns out, those qualities are not things I am ready to give up like I thought I was last year. And put in perspective, they aren't "bad" at all. Instead of desiring to change them, I've learned to embrace them, just as she has.

We were later joined by other friends I've met this year, from work and life, whom I feel the exact same way about. We celebrated St. Patrick's Day at a Mexican bar together as if we were best friends who hung out every weekend. If I could have looked a year ahead as I sat in my empty house the year before, I know I would have been both pleased and relieved.

Life changes when you move locations. But who you are as a person stays with you. You can't run from problems, and you can't run from who you really are. But that's not a bad thing. It's a blessing. Because odds are, who you are is who you should embrace being. 
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