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The Baby Plan

27 May

We’re 130 days in. Up 1.5 pounds [but somehow dropped 6 in the first trimester, so arguably up 7.5 pounds]. The belly has popped out, but the button maintains its “innie” character thus far. There are approximately 152 days to go, depending on when the little one makes his or her appearance. Number of individual-sized sour watermelon candy packages consumed: 3 (equaling a 300% increase over the past decade).  Percentage of time since February with ice cream in the freezer: 100%, usually with a spare (another feat previously unaccomplished in the past decade). Amount of time I’ve spent lamenting the fact that I can safely consume neither unheated prosciutto nor delicious red wine: too much to admit here. Amount of times J has asked me what he can to make me more comfortable or happier: countless, thankfully and with gratitude from me.

Truth be told, we planned this journey for many years.  In our college days, we agreed that our late 20s would be the right time for baby-making. We recently took our last-hurrah trip to Mexico to ring in the New Year, during which we engaged in much drinking/adventuring/relaxing/taking baby-inappropriate risks (such as eating delicious tacos from dirty street carts and navigating the Pacific Ocean via an over-packed dingy sans-life jackets in a gnarly rain storm). In accordance with our plan, our pregnancy officially commenced 2 weeks after we returned home from Mexico. The one negative pregnancy test we took was much harder on me than I expected it to be.  It made me more empathetic for the people who want it so badly and can’t make it happen on their preferred timeline. It also made me exceptionally grateful when our timeline somehow worked out precisely how we hoped it would. There was effort, without doubt, but there was also luck and happenstance and maybe some other force that I cannot articulate or understand.

It’s a strange thing to plan to make a baby, to have the plan come to fruition (!) and to know exactly what’s coming next (because, true to character, we’ve read every pregnancy book we can get our hands on), yet still feeling completely and utterly without control over the process. I suppose its good practice for having a demanding newborn, then rambunctious toddler, then precocious (I assume) kid, then awkward preteen, then hopefully not maladjusted teenager, then college wanderer and world explorer (I hope), then independent 20-something with a plan and a penchant for making the most of opportunities (I really hope)….and on and on. J and I have always had a plan and we probably always will. The funny thing with our latest plan—the baby plan—is now that it’s in action, we will have to learn to sit back and let the path make itself known. Wish us luck letting go of control.  We’ll need it!

Portlandia

23 Feb

I spent a weekend in Portland recently.  For half the time, I was in regular old Portland at an old fancy hotel with no sign of hipsters.  I drove the three hours to attend industry meetings in a windowless ballroom.  The meetings were about as exciting as you might expect.  Our client dinner in El Gaucho’s private room was just as fancy as you might expect.  Also, stuffy.  If it were on my personal tab, I probably would have regretted the $1,000 bill.  But it wasn’t, so I didn’t mind much.  I happily ate my steak and chose the wine.

In my few spare moments of free time, I snuck a peek into all the glory of Portlandia.  Seattle is not so far from Portlandia, both in distance and, in some neighborhoods, culturally.  But Portland takes it to a much higher level of hipsterness that I can’t even pretend to understand.  I drank an americano at Stumptown.  I watched girls (…and boys) in neon leggings paired with hand-knit oversized grandpa sweaters and majorly messy top-knots saunter to the barista, showing a complete lack of interest in life generally.  Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are from Seattle, but these Stumptown folks seemed to know all about popping tags at the thrift shop.  I snacked on a scone in my Lululemons, feeling utterly yuppie and out of place.  I strolled through Powell’s on my to lunch and got lost in the Rose room, mesmerized by the smell of old books and people a few days past their expiration date for showering.  It felt romantic.  And kind of grungy.

The Portlandia food (other than El Gaucho, honestly) was what got me.  I called J at every meal or texted him a photo to share the deliciousness.  Hipsters do some weird things, but one thing they do well is choosing the best restaurants.  I managed to follow their lead to some amazing places in Portlandia:

Brunch at Clyde Common in the Ace Hotel, aka Hipster Heaven.  Bacon steak.  Rosemary biscuits.  Communal seating, get to know yo’ neighbor.

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Oven and Shaker.  In the Pearl District, this little spot made me swoon at lunch with its perfectly concocted pizza pie.  You can buy the kitchen a 6-pack; it’s on the menu.  It’s also across the street from Jonathan Adler’s store, a feast for my color-loving eyes.

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I also went to The Parish, a Cajun/Creole gem that served me a delicious soft-shell crab sandwich and the southern fried chicken to my colleagues, I enjoyed a mini-cupcake from Cupcake Jones and had the best mini chocolate chip cookies with sea salt of. my. life from Two Tarts Bakery on 23rd.  Oh, and don’t forget the food trucks.  I visited those, too.  To sum up, I mostly sat in windowless ballrooms, walked, ate, observed hipsters doing various decidedly cool activities, and ate some more. 

Mexico!

16 Feb

The day after Christmas, J and I woke up at approximately 3am to board a plane to Mexico.  In short, we had the time of our lives.

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We landed in Puerto Vallarta and met our friends in the airport, who had waited an inordinate amount of time while we trudged through customs; in the meantime, they snagged cheap cab info (across the street from the airport) by using our gent friend’s trusty Spanish skills.  We hopped into the slightly rusty beater, windows down, sun setting, ready for adventure.  We got to Sayulita when it was dark.  We heard the ocean waves crashing across the street.  The next morning, once the sun rose, we saw our rental house (above) in all its ocean-view glory and pinched ourselves to see if our luck was real.  It was.  For the record, this fancy-pants crash pad cost $140/night.  Total.  Split amongst 4 people.  Good deals exist.

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This little stairway to heaven led us to our open-air yoga class overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  If you find yourself in Sayulita, walk past Villa Amor, through the archway to the (shockingly colorful and beautiful) cemetery.  Across the way is a set of stairs.  Ascend into workout heaven.

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See?  Heaven.  Not that it was completely perfect.  There may have been strange critters stretching their limbs along with the humankind on the smooth cement ground.  But they came in peace.  And humanity-loving yogis gently pushed the critters along their creepy-crawly way.  Namaste.

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We hiked through a mini-jungle (forest?) to find an incredible stretch of beach with less than 10 humans in sight.  Brilliant.  We climbed through an abandoned home that had fallen down the cliff.  Maybe not brilliant.  Saylita was lovely. 

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After Sayulita, we took a bus to Puerto Vallarta and a water taxi to Yelapa.  Our water taxi carried tourists, sacks of limes, onions, avocados, a captain and his toddler son clinging to his back and 1 mate.  The ride took about an hour and featured jumping dolphins and lots of giddy laughter.  Magic. 

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Rounding into the cove that houses Yelapa is an experience that must be had on a sunny day.  The sapphire and teal water sparkled.  The buoyed yachts lazed about.  The perfectly-hued sand and umbrella-lined beach was a set for a Corona commercial.  We jumped off the boat, into the ocean, waded to the beach, threw on our huge backpacks, and walked barefoot to our beachfront hotel.  The magic continued when we opened the door to our thatched-roof palapa.  The only thing separating us from the jungle and beach was a piece of linen hanging on a rope.  Rustic meet romance.  But be sure to zip your bags and check your sheets every.single.time.  We never saw a scorpion, but our friends killed one in their room.  Not very yogi of them, but I would’ve done the same.  Obviously.

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We had to wade through the river that connects to the ocean to get into town.  This made things interesting, but ultimately uneventful, on New Year’s Eve.

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We rang in the New Year at the most amazing outdoor “Yacht Club” (below) with seemingly every person aged 1/2 to 100 who was planning to sleep in town that night.  And every person in town was planning to stay that night, since Yelapa ingress and egress is strictly limited to water taxi during daylight hours.  There was fireworks, good luck lanterns, and enthusiastic dancers galore, some of whom clearly left the U.S. in the 1960’s and likely haven’t been back since.  Well after midnight struck, we said goodnight to the donkeys tied up outside, the primary means of transportation other than on foot, and waded back to our hotel room.  And then, the rain started.

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We cut our trip to Yelapa short since it was raining in our room and the rain was pooling on our floor.  The entire draw to Yelapa is to sit outside and do nothing but stare at the beach or take a long hike through the forest, so frankly it was fairly useless to us during the storm.  That may sound harsh, but we’re Seattleites and we didn’t travel to Mexico in January to see the rain.  It’s not supposed to rain like that in January, they claimed.  But rain it did.  So flee we did.  And it was terrifying.  A boat already far over capacity, with far too few life jackets, that was stuffed to the brim with locals and their luggage covered in plastic garbage bags, which ran out of gas as soon as we “boarded,” led by the fearless captain and entirely frightened mate that were maybe 35 years old between the two of them; this is how it started.  After about 30 seconds in the open-air water taxi that had been glorious 2 days prior, we realized we were soaking wet, our backpacks were imminently close to bouncing overboard, the look on the mate’s face suggested he had already soiled his pants in fear, and everything I knew about maritime law was exceptionally unhelpful as I knew we would not travel beyond the 3-mile boundary to international waters and I know zero about Mexican maritime law.  But I did tell J that that the Death on the High Seas Act precludes recovery for pain and suffering.  So that was one helpful tidbit of information in case we went overboard and the sharks slowly ate us to death.

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Needless to say, we survived.  We showed up to our all-inclusive resort dripping wet.  Actual droplets were falling from our shirts, pants and shoes.  The Barcelo felt like nirvana.  The drinks came free and often, the tacos were never-ending, and our super-spacious, bug-free, mosquito-net-free room had TWO televisions with access to CNN.  And Keeping Up with the Kardishians, if I’m being honest.

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We spent the next four days laying next the pool, eating, drinking, and trying to muster enough energy to eat and drink again.  We never made it to the nightly shows because we were busy trying the fancy restaurants that are only open for dinner.  Somehow, we managed to entertain ourselves for 4 days with a swimming pool and swim-up bar, several novels, and bottomless tacos.  When it was time to head home, we left the resort at least 10 pounds heavier and happy as clams.

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Mexico was exactly what we needed.  And we felt about 1 billion times less guilty for our amazing trip when we found Runaway Stella (who is back to her happy, opinionated, sweet self) a few days after arriving in Seattle.

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Stella.

12 Jan

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Stella, you taught us great lessons about loss and love.  We returned from our trip to Mexico and couldn’t wait to see you.  We talked about you while we were on the beach, hoping you were behaving yourself and being a good houseguest for my parents.  We hoped you were having fun running around at the lake house.

I opened the door to my parent’s knock, looked down to greet you, and saw nothing but hallway carpet.  I looked up and the pain in their eyes said it all.  You were gone.  J was at work that Sunday morning, preparing for trial, so it was only me who knew for a few hours.  They said you were walking in the woods, heard a loud noise, and ran.  They searched for hours, for days.  They put up signs and offered a reward.  They did everything to find you.  But you weren’t findable.

My tears came quickly, but not as quickly as my sadness in knowing how much your loss would hurt J.  Then came the scenarios that played over and over like a movie reel that wouldn’t—despite how hard I tried—turn off.  The lake property is surrounded by woods that house coyotes.  I know this because I’ve slept in a tent and I’ve slept in the house and both ways you hear the screaming coyotes throughout the night.  You ran away after it had snowed.  You weigh no more than 25 pounds.  Heartbreaking.  Awful.  Tragic.  Your end must have been shrouded in terror and viciousness or freezing loneliness.  Whatever way it happened, it was unbearable.

We learned about your plight 11 days after it began.  There was no hope that you, a condo dog, feisty as you were, had survived 11 days and nights in the winter woods.  All that Sunday, we tried to make our peace by crying and holding each other and crying and staring at your empty bed and crying and grocery shopping with swollen eyes and crying and sadly watching the Seahawks’ big win and crying when the dryer buzzed and you didn’t bark and finally climbing into bed at 9 p.m. because there was nothing better to do. 

You were our family.  The three of us made a life together right after J and I graduated college, first in Fremont (a perfect post-college years neighborhood), then to Mercer Island (none of us much approved), followed by South Lake Union (that was more like it), a stint with me in Boise (you sure loved those sunrise hikes in the hills), and finally to our longest-term family home in Eastlake.  You loved watching the boats and barking at the dogs across the street and saying hello to our neighbors.  We, a family of three for over seven years, were suddenly a family of two.

In all honesty, the Facebook post was meant to inform our friends and family that our beloved pup was gone more than it was meant as a true request for help in finding you.  11 days in the freezing woods is not a fair match for a little guy like you.  But, post we did, because we didn’t know what else to do.

But, to our extreme shock and pure giddy joy, the Facebook magic touch worked like a charm.  Enter: the snowball effect and friends of friends of friends caring and the goodness of humanity coming together for a 25-pound common purpose.  Three days after you were reported to us as forever gone, suddenly you were looking into my eyes, freshly bathed and fed, curled up in your cozy bed.  No major injuries.  No illness.  No rabies.  A miracle.  Your story of what exactly transpired during your excellent adventure will forever remain your secret.  What we know is you were likely in the woods for 4 days and 3 nights before a nice family found you walking along the road like you owned it.  4 days.  3 nights.  Freezing temperatures close to the Olympic Mountains.  Coyotes and countless other creatures large and small.  You survived, essentially unscathed.

Thanks to humanity for showing us your love.  And thanks to Stella’s excellent adventure for teaching us what she really means to us.  And thanks to Stella for being the Winningest Wiener, as our dear friend deemed her.  She’s our fave and we’re so happy she’s home where she belongs.

Drama unfurls and retracts.

21 Nov

Seattle’s skies were dramatic this week.  From my office, I saw all of the beauty below in a matter of three hours.  The fog started us off, cloaking the shipyards in a dense blanket.  The fog was followed by heavy dark clouds and thick, fast, intense rain that swirled and danced between the top floors of the office buildings.  Then, as she is apt to do, our cloudy Seattle skies opened up and let a peek of her pretty blue show through.  The sparkling sun blinded me as it bounced from the waters of Puget Sound; it really was quite a show that I felt privileged to witness from my perch in the office.

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Transition.

28 Oct

I stepped off the plane after spending 11 days in Alaska, where the fall colors made their final brilliant showing against the barren mountains, followed by a light blanket of snow that painted the Sleeping Lady’s hair white.  I watched the frost set in, dusting Bristol Bay with a light sparkle of ice that, I suspect, will remain stubbornly in place until spring.  It felt like a real privilege to witness the changing of Alaska’s seasons.  Upon returning to Seattle’s first weeks of truly fall weather, the air felt downright tropical at 56 degrees.  Thirty six hours after my plane landed, I was in the car with J and a very good friend headed to Leavenworth to celebrate at the last weekend of Oktoberfest.  We had snacks and party pants packed, ready for a wedding 10 years in the making. 

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We had great fun at the wedding.  Partly because the couple we were celebrating is comprised of two incredible people.  Partly because we stayed in a big, beautiful log cabin with some of our closest friends.  It was cozy and easy and just really lovely.  After a big, long, exhausting, on at. all. times. because you never know who might be a potential client or important business contact trip to Alaska, it was so nice to just be with people we love and who love us back.  It was pretty simple, really.  The backdrop of bursting orange, red, yellow and green only made it lovelier. 

I am embracing the opportunity to slow down a bit, wear wool socks and create a Sunday schedule that includes nothing more than relaxing in coffee shops (hot apple cider with cinnamon whipped cream!), strolling with J through a few stores, grocery shopping, and pumpkin carving.

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Aang!

19 Oct

Aang (welcome, hello, and so much more)!  Much of my trip to Alaska was spent learning about the people and culture I grew up referring to as Aleut.  During my time in Alaska, I learned that the Aleut people don’t even have a word for “Aleut” in their native languages, two of which are currently surviving.  They refer to themselves and their way of life as Unangan.  There is a clear blend of modern and traditional in the 2012 way of life for Unangan people.  The folks I met were individually humble, capable, and proud of their people and heritage.  Many of them also had incredible talent in skills that relate to a subsistence way of life.  For a point of reference, below you will see a photo of a tiny woven basket in a master weaver’s hands—that basket, much smaller than a thimble, took 2-3 hours to weave.  The baskets that are of a useful size take a master weaver 50-60 hours (!) to create. 

Throughout my 11 days in Anchorage and King Salmon, I mostly focused on sitting still with open ears and an open heart.

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Seen in Alaska.

17 Oct

Baby moose!  For the record, I was with a (new-found) friend in a convertible BMW (yes, in ANCHORAGE in OCTOBER) with the top down when we happened upon this creature.  He did not jump in our car and his mama moose did not show her face.  We sat for awhile and admired him (her?).  Did you know all moose have light legs and a dark body?  Me neither.  Also, I’m not sure if that’s true.  But that’s what my friend told me.

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Girdwood, they said.  Take a 45 minute drive to Girdwood.  You’ll be impressed.  We were.  The colors.  The water.  The nature.  The Alaska license plate proudly supporting Obama (in an H3, of course…we can only win so many battles).  Apparently there is more to Girdwood than a gas station with a few attached “restaurants.”  We missed the “more to Girdwood” when we failed to continue driving beyond the gas station, but J and I thoroughly enjoyed our 1/4 pizza pie each.  One slice for $6.  What’s the name of said pizzeria?  Hell if I know.  But I guarantee there is only one pizzeria on the way to Girdwood from Anchorage.  That pizza slice made my day (I was at the epitome of hangry—so hungry I might have started to get angry).  J and I both looooooved that pizza slice.  Maybe for different reasons.

Let me introduce you to Chugach National Forest.  I promise you she’s pretty, even if we only saw her breathtaking, raw edges.

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Then I went to the furthest point I’ve ever been in western America.  Let me introduce you to my new favorite salty SOB (that’s Grandpa speak and it fits perfectly here) villages, King Salmon and Naknek.  It’s where some of our nation’s fisheries are situated, where fisherman roam and work hard/play hard (but apparently not in mid-October) and where the sporty types go to hunt their game and reel in their fish.  I’m neither a hunter nor a fisher, but I gained invaluable insight into a culture that is new-to-me.  I nearly pulled it off with my hunter orange Eddie Bauer flannel and grey fleece purchased 12 hours before my 30-person flight to the edge of the world.  But it turns out that my white pashmina scarf gave me away.  Out in these parts, white is a color reserved for the snow.  People don’t wear white.  It’s 100% impractical.  Lesson learned.  The game/fish guides still hanging around after the season ended, with their scruffy beards and smoky smells and Carharts and non-ironic trucker hats and stories bigger than life, knew I didn’t belong.  But they seemed willing enough to chat.

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The coast is more barren than I anticipated.  Maybe made more so with the fresh snow.  It’s flat in Bristol Bay.  Hardly any rolling hills, definitely no mountains.  There are shrubs and there are rivers.  One called Eskimo Creek!  There was blue sky, mixed with a healthy dose of grey clouds.  There were a lot of collected (read: abandoned) cars, trucks, and buses dotting yards/acres/lots of land surrounding homes/shacks/converted trailers (so it seemed to the potentially undiscerning city folk among us).  There were colorful buildings painted every color of the rainbow, which I sort of adored.  There was a restaurant on the second floor of the Naknek hotel called the D&D.  It was not for the faint of heart with its smoke-filled entryway and menu filled with fried goodness intended to stick to the guts of fisheries folks working long days in shit conditions in their Xtratufs.

Also.  There appeared to be dried blood surrounding the D&D door handle.  Can you tell the difference between human blood and fish or game blood?  Me neither.  I left it to my colleague to open the door and hoped for the best for him.  He seemed unscathed by the experience.

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And then there is this:

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The sunsets last forever here in King Salmon, I was told.  The sun angles down, making the colors linger in the twilight sky.  Likewise, my first trip to Alaska will linger for a long while.

Flapping my wings, flapping my wings.

6 Oct

I went to lunch with a partner at my firm to hear advice on how to best market myself and the firm on an upcoming business trip.  He had a lot to say, but most of it was rooted in one of his oft-used idioms: everything you need to know is what you learned in kindergarten.  Be nice.  Be genuine.  Be polite.  Be smart.  Listen.  Use good judgment.  The rest will take care of itself.

He said I am at the stage in my career where I have been working very hard to get some air under my wings and I need to keep flapping until I’m flying high.  Then, it’s maintenance.  Continue to be ethical.  Follow up.  Take care of the details.  We ended our quick lunch and he reminded me to keep flapping my wings.

What he couldn’t possibly have know, and what I didn’t realize until 5am this morning when I was tossing and turning in bed despite the fact that I desperately wanted to be asleep and catch up on my lack of rest from the exhausting week before, is just how poignant and meaningful his advice is during this chapter in my life.

J and I have been through a lot this year.  I’m not quite “there” yet in terms of processing everything good and bad and in between, but I know this much: we’ve worked as a team, we’ve relied on each other (sometimes rather heavily) and we continue to turn to each other for support every. single. day. 

During our trip to New York in the spring, we experienced a lot of sadness.  But we tried to make the most of it  and enjoy our time together in a city that we both love.  During one of the lighter moments, we strolled through Central Park, stopping to lay in the grass and watch the few puffs of clouds in the big blue sky.  It was exactly the release that we needed from grieving and high stress levels.  That Central Park moment was one of my favorites all year.  I’m certain it was one of J’s too, even though he’s never expressly said as much.  There was a small butterfly that kept flittering around us, leaving for only a few seconds before it inevitably returned to hang out.  Ever since that moment, when we spontaneously made up the butterfly song (“I’m just a butterfly, flapping my wings, flapping my wings”), we sing the silly verse to each other in tense situations to lighten the mood.  Sometimes arm-flapping is involved, which is simultaneously embarrassing and awesome.  I think it’s an important reminder to each other that even in dark times, there is lightness and love to be found if you look close enough.

Our butterfly song often pops into my head when I feel stress.  It’s ridiculous, that song, but it’s helped me remember to take a deep breath and move forward many, many times over the past several months. 

Work has been very, very good.  Spectacular, the managing partner told me as I helped him prepare for trial.  It’s also been very, very stressful.  I suppose the spectacular and the stressful go hand-in-hand when things are good in the legal profession.  Luckily, that combination suits me. 

Personally and professionally, my plan is simple.  I’m going to keep flapping my wings, flapping my wings.

Granite Mountain

22 Sep

Sweaty forehead, sweaty back, sweaty feet, sweaty chest.  Dirty calves.  Aching legs, aching back, aching hips.  Dirty hands.  Dirty everything.  Sweat and dirt build a layer like clay.

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Drive from Seattle toward Snoqualmie Pass.  Sixty minutes, or far less, if your friend is speedy.  Pack your picnic and snacks for along the way.  Prepare properly for the hard (but you don’t have any idea how hard) work that’s to come.  Set out merrily with anticipation on a pretty, friendly trail.  Note the avalanche mess ahead, gingerly climb over, under and around the felled trees.  Stare in awe at the massive power of nature.  Wonder where exactly that mess started and very briefly ponder if that’s where you’re headed.  One foot in front of the other, over and over and over and over again.  Steeper, harder, steeper, harder through the woods.  And then.  You stop for a moment to catch your breath and you turn around to look out at the vista and you lose your breath entirely, but not because you’re tired (even though you are very, very tired) but your breath disappeared from your body because of the awesomeness before you.  The view is awesome and awe-inspiring and you might have goosebumps.  Your expert hiking friend tells you there is lots more where that came from.  Onward.

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The trees clear, you’re above them.  The meadows start and you are treated with wildflowers you’ve never seen in colors you truly adore.  Purple, orange, pink and coral dot the landscape that is green for miles and miles.  But the blue is what gets you.  Washington and her massive, perfect blue skies.  She saves it for special occasions like this hike, you think.  It’s been several hours and you try to keep a good attitude despite your aching bones because you are the luckiest person in the world to be experiencing this mountain on this sunny July day.  But it hurts.  And you just learned that the plan will require you to propel your body all the way to the tippy-top of the mountain where the lookout building perches.  Up, up and more up.  The crusty leftover snow appears and you know you’ve come a long way up this mountain.  But the rocks ahead remain to be scrambled.  Intimidating.  Heart-racing.  You get close and see the crevices are deep.  The boulders not all stable.  Some much larger than you.

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We scrambled, using hands and feet and hops and jumps.  We scrambled all the way to the top.  And then we found a cozy perch to spread out our picnic.  We toasted our hard work with a glass of wine.  A chipmunk joined us, clearly hopeful to partake in our baguette and brie and salami.  9 hours it took us to get up and down.  I ran for the last few hundred feet.

The past several months have felt much like our hike did: hard, sweaty work with huge payoff.  I like that.  In fact, I thrive on it.

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