Tuesday, November 17, 2009

First Stop - Athens, Greece

On the trip to Greece, the first stop was Athens. We had already decided that we were going to take the Metro Train from the airport to our hotel. We knew from our research that a cab from the airport would be 25-35 Euros and the Metro train was only 6 Euros. We had mapped this out before hand and it seemed like a simple process. Get off the plane, find the Metro Station, purchase tickets, get tickets validated (we read this was very important as Metro officials randomly check tickets for validation and you could get fined 65 Euro!), get on the train to Syntagma Square (which is where our hotel reservation was) and walk to the hotel. The hotel we had booked was "within walking distance" to the Metro Station as well as the Acropolis. Easy enough, right?

We got off the plane and got right through customs. We exchanged some money into Euros. We inquired at a help desk about the location of the Metro and headed in that direction. We found the ticket booth and purchased our tickets. It was here that we realized just how hard it would be to communicate. After some lengthy discussion/interpretation, the ticket seller said to go downstairs to the train (but neglected to tell us where/how to validate our tickets. Would there be a turnstile to go through that validated tickets? Do we look for a person validating tickets? Is that something they do on the train?) We headed down the stairs with our luggage and soon realized that we had already passed by the validation station. It turned out to be just a simple machine at the top of the stairs that you pass your ticket through to get a date stamp. We would have missed it if we were not specifically looking for it. OK, check. Now… which train to board? There were a few different signs with names on them, and some color coded maps, but nothing was making sense, based on the area map we had been studying. Well, the train was leaving so it was time to just get on a hope for the best! We placed our luggage into some racks and we were lucky enough to find seats. Trust me you want a seat because it is a long ride and very crowded. Standing room only! Even luckier, we met an American (Chicago) who was seated near us. He was in Greece for business and had been a few times before so he could confirm that we were on the right train. Whew! He was also getting of at Syntagma Square so we were able to follow his lead off the train and up the stairs. Oh wow, so crowded! Getting off the train was crazy. Everyone seemed to get off at the same stop, moving, but not going anywhere very fast. Did I mention that we have luggage? Picture three Americans with rolling luggage caught up in a moving crowd, trudging up stairs, and not quite sure where to go. Thankfully our handsome American friend was nice enough to wait for us and lead us out. Once we were out in the sunshine, he said good luck and good-bye. Left alone, we realized we had no idea how to get to the hotel. The hotel directions said “follow the road past Syntagma Square and it will lead you to Dioneias Street”. Wait a minute; we just got dropped of in the middle of a square. Which road? Which direction? We tried to ask several people if they had heard of the Cypria Hotel. No one in the square, no one at the close-by hotels, not even the foreboding policeman knew this place! We rolled our luggage around a couple of blocks sneaking through busy traffic and ducking around all the people, stopping to look at street signs that were not there, and consult our map. It was at this point I felt like we were on The Amazing Race. Exhausted from a 24 hour flight, in a different country with a different language, can’t make heads or tails of the map, and crazy-busy streets and sidewalks! Sigh, so close yet so far. Finally, we just camped on the street corner for a minute to catch our breath and really look around. We noticed some other hotel names and found them on the map, then were able to see that the street names change slightly from map to reality, and we were on our way. Whew!

So, after we checked in to our tiny room (just big enough to fit 4 toddler sized beds) and freshened up a little in our tiny bathroom, we headed down the tiny elevator (it could fit two of us at a time) and out to find some Greek food! By this time we were pretty much starving having not had any food for hours. It was about lunch time so we walked around the neighborhood and found a cute outdoor restaurant where we ordered Gyros and Greek beer. Yamas! That is “cheers” in Greek!

Next on the agenda: the Acropolis. Now some people take a tram to the top of the Acropolis, but not us! No, we walked up the entire cliff to get there! This was partly due to being directionally-challenged, partly due to ignorance. We didn’t intend to walk up the entire way, but that is what ended up happening. Oh well, we got more exercise than we wanted on vacation, but the end result was amazing. We saw the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Olympiad Zeus, Athena Nike, Hadrian’s Arch, and the Temple of Poseidon. Some of the Acropolis was under renovation at the time so we had to look past the scaffolding to see the ancient beauty. But it was amazing to see the centuries old marble columns and statues and wonder at how they built it all without heavy machinery. Being at the top of the Acropolis was also a fantastic view of Athens. Wow. I did not expect it to be such a large city! Tall white buildings, crammed together, as far as the eye could see. You don’t see houses, you don’t see lots, you don’t see vegetation aside from a few parks and/or historical preserved areas. You also don’t see tall skyscrapers, just white buildings that look very similar, all seemingly to be no more than 10 stories tall. This explains the maddening traffic and busy streets below. Population: 10,722,816 (July 2008 EST.) Compare that to Seattle with a population of 598,541 (also 2008 data as researched by Google!) I wish I would have taken a picture of traffic. Greek drivers are crazy. The busy streets are about 8 lanes across. Everyone either drives a VERY small car, or some sort of delivery or passenger van. Regardless of the type of vehicle, everything is made by BMW! There are millions of scooters on the streets as well. Scooters are apparently able to drive in-between the car lanes so they constantly weave in and out of different lanes all racing for pole position at the lights. The sides of streets are lined with hundreds of pedestrians either walking or waiting for busses. The bus stops are surrounded by hoards of people. I’ve only seen this kind of crowd in Seattle – after a Seahawks game and all the fans funnel through the parking lot heading to the train or bus tunnel.

Next stop: Paros!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Greece, baby!

Well, I finally did it! I went on my first European vacation! Greece has always been at the top of my list of places to go. So when a couple of my girlfriends said they were doing it, I happily jumped on board. They had already booked their flights, so the time frame was set and I was able to book seats on the their flights. Whew, that is one big decision already made!

In the weeks before the trip we had a couple planning meetings to discuss the itinerary and strategize over things we wanted to do and see. Usually a planning sessions involved getting some Greek take-out from a local Seattle spot, or going to a Greek restaurant to get some "atmosphere". One of the restaurants we loved was Taki's Mad Greek in Ballard (15th and 85th). Such a fun place! We went on a Saturday night and so there was dancing, singing and a belly dancer! http://www.takismadgreek.com/ We even met the owner, Kiki, who gave us a lot of good info and lots of (free) wine! Kiki's husband Taki is the main chef there, and one of the entertainers too. It's a real family place!

In the planning sessions we basically decided which islands we wanted to visit, how many days to stay on each, and what means of transportation to use to get there. We had heard from friends and travel books that you didn't necessarily need to book any reservations on the islands. Hotel representatives would actually meet the ferries with brochures to sway you to stay at their places. Being a Professional Organizer this concept was a little hard for me to grasp. Go to Europe and not have reservations... what?! But "winging it" allows you full freedom to choose accommodations on-the-fly and negotiate rates with hotels to get rock bottom deals. So each of us 4 girls decided to pick one destination on the itinerary and research it more on our own. This way, at least one person in the group had an idea of the best areas to stay, what rates were considered "normal" and what kind of amenities we would require. (We did pre-book a hotel in Athens for our first night as we didn't want to get off the plane after 24 hours of travel and not have any idea of where we were going to stay. This proved to be a great idea because Athens is such a large city and soooo busy! It was literally like an episode of the "Amazing Race" trying to get out of the airport and into the city to find our hotel! I'll tell you more about that in a later post….)

It was true! When we would arrive on each island, we would be bombarded by hotel reps waving their brochures in our faces and shouting out their amenities. We asked questions about where they were located, how far from "town", and we negotiated some pretty great rates. Then they would put us into a van a take us to our accommodations. We definitely learned to ask more specific questions as the trip went on, and our accommodations got better and better with each stop! What an amazing trip! Our travel itinerary - and my final costs are below (not including food, drink, shopping, etc.). I will talk about each destination in a later post!

Day 1: Leave Seattle on a 6:15AM flight to NY. Leave NY on a 3:50PM flight to Athens.
Day 2: Arrive Athens at 8:55AM. (Greece is 10 hours ahead of Seattle). $1350 round trip airfare. Take Metro Train to Syntagma Square. 6 Euros ($9). Athens Cypria Hotel. 4 bed hotel room $215 (0r $53.75 each). Visit Acropolis 12 Euros ($18).
Day 3: Ferry to Mykonos. Blue Star Ferries @ 8AM. 21 Euro ($30).
Day 4: Mykonos Town. Studio Eleni. 15 Euro each x 2 nights ($45). http://www.studioeleni.com/
Day 5: Ferry to Paros. GA Ferries @ 10AM. 19 Euro ($25).
Day 6: Naoussa, Paros. Captain Dounas Hotel. 15 Euro each x 2 nights ($45). http://www.dounas.com/
Day 7: Ferry to Santorini. Blue Star Ferries @ 11:55AM. 19 Euro ($25).
Day 8: Fira Town, Santorini. Hotel Golden Star. 25 Euro each x 3 nights ($112). http://www.hotelgoldenstar.gr/
Day 9: Fira Town, Santorini. Car rental 1 day. (Can’t remember how much we paid?)
Day 10: Fly to Athens. Aegean Air @ 12:15) 79 Euro ($106). Athens Cypria Hotel. 4 bed hotel room $215 (0r $53.75 each). Visit NEW Acropolis Museum 1 Euro ($1.50).
Day 11: Cab to Athens airport 35 Euro ($52). Leave Athens on 11AM flight to NY. Leave NY on 5:10PM flight to Seattle. Arrive Seattle at 9PM…. or more likely 11PM due to flight delays getting out of NY!

Flight: $1350.00
Travel Transfers: $250.00
Hotels: $310.00
Total expenses: $1910.00

More about the trip to come! Check back!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Inspiration

It's been a couple weeks since my last post. I started to write this one weeks ago but it turned out harder than I thought. After coming back to it several times, I finally have this to say.....

I get my emails on my blackberry. In January, I got one from a friend in the early morning who's message started with the words "this is the hardest email I've ever had to write". I knew right away it was going to be a tough one to read on my phone. So I logged in to email and steeled myself for the oncoming bad news. My friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Shock. Disbelief. Unfair. Worried. Sad. Angry. These are some of the words that described how I felt that morning. Shock... because she spent a lifetime working hard to keep herself fit and healthy. Disbelief... because she is my age and that hits REAL close to home. Unfair... because she has already had to deal with so many negative "life" issues already - and this was to be a year of big HAPPY events (wedding, exotic honeymoon, baby-making, etc.) Worried... about how she would deal with it all (treatment, family, career, finances, etc). Sad and angry... for all of the above! It is a feeling of helplessness when a friend calls you with bad news that you CANNOT fix. All you can hope to do is listen, be supportive and hopefully encouraging.

My friend was amazingly strong from the very beginning. She had done her research and knew her path to beat it. Through it all, she has remained incredibly strong, rational and fiercely independent. It's been over 8 months now and her news is good! She had surgery right away to remove a breast and affected tissues, she has gone through months of chemo and radiation, and she has gotten the "all clear" from her doctors. She recently celebrated her success at kicking cancer by having her friends join her to "Ride The Duck". What a fun way to get a group of friends together, be out in the beautiful weather and really see Seattle in a fresh new light. It was fantastic to see her in a fresh new light as well - not just the new hair do ;-) but smiling, laughing, strong, confident and amazing! She also just participated in the Breast Cancer 3-day. 60 miles of unrelentless stomping cancer to the ground. So proud of her!

I guess this post is my little way of saying thank you to her! Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey. Whether it was a walk around Greenlake, lunch at our favorite sushi spot, or a trip to your hospital - thank you for sharing your honest emotions with me. Thank you for being so open and educating me. Thank you for fighting! You ROCK Sheila!

Friends, I cannot tell you her story as well as she can, nor can I summarize the whole ordeal as she can. She is a writer and I am not. So I encourage you to read her blog (http://stompthis.blogspot.com/) to get the story. In her blog you will hear her story, read notes of encouragement from her friends, and most importantly get educated about breast cancer. She has done a great job of documenting the research, the DR visits, the treatments, the emotional roller coaster, the recovery, and the healthy things YOU can do to ward off cancer in your life. Check it out!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Longest Beach in WA!

I spent last weekend in Long Beach, WA. It is so aptly named for being the "longest beach" in Washington. It has also been named the "Best Beach in Western Washington" by King 5 TV's Evening Magazine. My friends think so too. We've been going there as a group for years and years! This year we happened to be there on the same weekend as Kite Festival. The sky was littered with kites of all sizes and colors - so pretty! It's really a great place to get away with friends, family, kids and dogs! There is sun, beach, volleyball, bonfire, eating and shopping!

In other years past we've been there for the Sandsations Festival which features a huge sand castle building contest. We actually entered the contest one year on a whim, none of us having any experience in building large sand castles. We found our plot (right next to some "competitive" sand castle builders no less), and started working! We actually won the "Judges Choice Award" for our South Park themed sand sculptures! Can you believe it? It was a surprising yet amazing feeling to have hundreds of people surrounding you as created in the sand (and not just our own heckling friends)... The simultaneous "ooohs" and "aahhhs" as things came together (or fell apart) was something to be remembered! I will have to dig out some old photos so you all can see!

If you are interested in going to Long Beach, check out this website for a calendar of events - and book early!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A kitty update.

I have had my new kitty for a little over a week now. I think she is feeling pretty comfortable here because she is definitely exploring everything. She is getting into all kinds of trouble too! I guess this is a direct result of me not being home during the day? She obviously sleeps all day thereby storing up bounds of energy for evening! She follows me into every room, trying to trip me or attack my feet. I am not sure she would find it funny any longer if I were to fall on her! She is super interested in anything I eat, watch, read, or talk into. She watches all with great concern. I have a feeling that her ulterior motive is to see how it's used properly - so she can then mess it up for me later when I am not looking. For this very reason I have a new basket on my coffee table (with a lid) that holds all the remotes. I don't really want to spend another couple hours trying to figure out how to get the sound back on the TV!

After some evening playtime, she will finally start to rest around 8PM. This is when she will snuggle up to me on the couch. If I am on the computer, she will curl up behind me (making it impossible for me to lean back). Keep in mind, she is not really a lap cat, but if I am sitting on the couch in any way, she will lay on my feet or right beside me with her head on my leg. Regardless of my position, or her position, she must be touching me in some way. Of course I think "aw, that is so cute". Until about an half hour later and I realize I am now trapped in that position, a prisoner on my own couch! If rigamortis hasn't set in yet, by 11 PM I am ready to head downstairs to brush my teeth and get ready for bed. I try to slide away from the cat as gently as possible so as not to wake her. But she wakes... and it is at this time that Keeta decides it is playtime again?! I foolishly thought this was OK because it seemed she didn't really need to play with me. Most nights she has been hanging out upstairs and playing by herself, or sleeping where ever. The fact that she has NOT been trying to hog my bed is awesome! HOWEVER, last night I was brutally woken up at midnight to a horrible crash. I thought someone had thrown a lawn jockey through my kitchen window! As I ran up the stairs to see what happened, Keeta came scampering down the stairs like a flash! It turns out that Keeta was "playing" on my antique buffet and knocked down all three things: a ceramic planter with plant (broken to bits), an antique framed mirror that I got from an estate sale (shattered to smithereens) and my grandma's china platter which was on a plate stand. In the aftermath of glass shards, dirt and broken ceramic, surprisingly my Grandma's platter didn't even get a chip! (That is one heavy duty piece of Noritake!) I did check the cat for any visible signs of injury and when I didn't see any - I gave her a good scolding! Bad kitty! An hour later, after I swept, vacuumed and mopped the kitchen floor (one nice new gouge in the wood floor) I am back in bed. Keeta is under the bed and keeping her distance. Smart kitty!

Tonight we are going to play things differently. I am not going to let her sleep in the evening. I will keep her awake until 11PM so that she is tired enough to sleep all night!

Uh oh, she is asleep right now under my desk, head on my foot..... Aw, that is so cute....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Bengal kitty - Keeta

Yes, I have finally done it! I got a cat. I know I have said in the past that I didn't want a cat. Mostly because they get hair all over the place, claw up your furniture, and there is the dreaded litter box smell! Also, there is the lack of sleep. I've had roommates in the past who had cats, and inevitably their furry friends would end up on MY bed interrupting MY sleep. So I already know what to expect there! Basically, I've always considered myself a dog (big dogs) person so if given the choice of a pet, a dog would be 1st. Unfortunately I live in a condo in Seattle and I've never felt it was right to keep a big dog in the city where there is no yard. City dogs need a LOT of attention. You have to take them out all the time, clean up their stuff and take them to special parks where they can run. You also have to groom them, train them, and keep them from barking. You can't leave them for more than a couple hours so you can't just head out to Happy Hour after work... you have to go home to let the dog out! Ay yi yi, the responsibility! So, based on my work schedule and "active" social lifestyle, I figured a dog wouldn't be the best pet for me at this point in my life.
What made me cave? Well, this cat is different. She is a registered Bengal kitty and they say these are the "dogs" of the cat world. They are independent, don't need a lot of attention, and like to play fetch! Plus, she has the softest (short) hair which doesn't seem to shed much. I met her when I went to the breeders home (Teresa from Traipse Exotics) and hung out with her for an evening. She was cute and cool. She stared into my eyes and I fell in love. I named her Akeeta (after my friend's Akita dog).

Like a good new pet owner (and Professional Organizer), I went to Petco and bought the staple supplies to prepare for her arrival. I made sure to have her litter box, scratching post and food ready for her when she came through the door. You really don't want a new kitty to have to search out the litter box in a new environment! In case you are interested in getting a kitty, here are some things to think about.

Petco receipt:
Tunnel Tower/scratching post $60
Large Hooded Litter Box $30
Plastic Cat carrier $27
Cat Donut (pillow for inside cat carrier) $9
Cardboard cat scratcher $13
Litter scoop $2.50
Misc cat toys $14

Total $170.00! And that didn't even include food or litter. I had to go to Mud Bay to get a special kitten food recommended by her breeder (http://www.royalcanin.us/default.aspx), kitty treats and a really good odor absorbing litter. I still have to get her a brush, collar and license tags too. Not to mention her shots and stuff.

So far, it's all worth it! I like her even more now that she is home and I can see her habits. On the first night she slept on the floor underneath my bed. Hooray! When she eats, she eats gently and carefully. She has not tossed one single spec of cat food out of her dish! I love that! The hooded litter box is a god send as Bengal cats are known to kick their litter around a lot. She has been really good at kicking it towards the back of the box and not out the front hole! So far so good - I think she's a keeper! ;-)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Weekend Camping

I just got back from a fabulous weekend camping in the San Juan Islands (WA). Friends of mine got married (in Hawaii) and were having a huge wedding reception where they live on Friday Harbor. About 20 of us stayed at their beautiful home by tent camping on their panoramic property. This is my kind of camping! You sleep in a tent BUT have all the amenities of a house nearby for cooking, eating, showering and anything needing electricity! This house was built for entertaining too! A large great room with high ceilings, poured cement floor, wall-to-wall sliding glass doors, which open onto an expansive patio with grill and fire pit. The center of the great room is the amazing kitchen with a 3-sided granite counter top which seated 15 leather high-backed stools. Off to one side of the great room was the living area, complete with 3 leather couches for maximum seating. The other side of the room housed the dining room table which was large enough for a big group to eat... or play cards, dominoes, do puzzles, etc.

Our friends who live there also prepared the yard for our tents by mowing out circles and marking them with cute little camp site markers. There was a little road in between and a golf cart was made handy for us to get back and forth to the house. SO ORGANIZED! The golf cart also served as a babysitter for the kids. They loved driving around on that thing and it kept them entertained for HOURS! Who knew?!

One of the coolest things was the outdoor shower built by my friends husband. It started out as a pallet with a tall wood frame around three sides of it. Then the wood frame was covered in some black tarp and wrapped with bamboo. The pallet floor got tiled with ceramic tile, a shower curtain was hung, and a shelf for shampoo was added. Lastly, a shower head was installed and hooked up to the outside house spigots (hot and cold!) for an amazing outdoor shower! The most amazing thing was that it was built in just a couple hours while the rest of us sat around the fire pit relaxing in our comfy chairs and watching it all happen!

Here was my packing list for camping:
Tarp (for under the tent, or over the tent, you never know when you might need it!)
Tent (duh!)
Tent poles, tent stakes (seriously, don't forget these!)
Hammer (to get the stakes in...)
Air mattress (yes, I am a princess....)
Sleeping bag (or sheets and blankets which is what I prefer...)
Ear plugs
Flashlight (for finding your way around at night!)
Camping chair
Warm clothes for nighttime (don't forget socks!)
Lots of water
Disposable plates, cups, cutlery
Napkins, toilet paper, garbage bags
Towel, washcloth, toiletries (dryer sheets, bug spray & sunscreen!)
Dominoes, cards, book to read.
Obviously if you don't have a house next to your campsite, this list would be a lot longer. But as it was, I didn't need to bring a lot of other stuff - like firewood, matches, food, cooking pans, etc.
Tips for car camping: Keep tent zipped up to keep bees out (but open the screened air vents for maximum air flow). Wipe dryer sheets on the tent keep the mosquitoes away. Bring quarters for public pay showers. Do not keep your car keys in the car! Find a safe place to stash them outside of the car because sometimes automatic locks can flip and you are locked out of the car. Bring lots of layers as the tent gets COLD at night but HOT in the morning! If you can, park your car on the East side of your tent to shade you from the morning sun. You might get an extra hour of sleep!
Tips for Friday Harbor ferry: If you can, park your car and walk onto the ferry. This could save you hours in the car ferry lines. Overnight parking was around $25-$30 for 72 hours. If you are taking a car across the ferry, pack your patience! On the Anacortes side, plan to get into the ferry line 2 hours before the boat sails. This is a good time to take scenic photos, read a book and use the restroom. Besides getting a coffee and a treat at the one coffee stand, there is not much else to do there. Ferry fares are $51.25 for car and driver. Each additional passenger is another $13.15. The good news is... it's free to come back! From the Friday Harbor side it's a little easier. You still need to arrive at the terminal 2 hours before your sailing time. However, you can park your car in line, and then go explore the quaint town of Friday Harbor. There are lots of shops and restaurants to visit!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bad week.

Something is wrong with the Universe this week. I've talked to several friends about this and we all agree.... stars are not in alignment, it's too hot, people are cranky and going crazy? It's been a bad week. This week started off with the headline news of two women in the South Park (Seattle) neighborhood that were attacked in their home by an intruder on Sunday July 19th. Both women were stabbed, one died and one has to live with the memory of this tragedy. While I didn't personally know either woman, they were friends of a friend, so that brings it real close to home. In fact, both were coming to my friends birthday party this week so I would have met them there. Their Evite reply of "Yes: Teresa and I would love to be there!" is a haunting reminder that their plans changed in a tragic and unfair way.

The story has been all over the news this week and it has put fear into us all. (See story at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2009511055_webstabfolo21m.html). It's been hot in Seattle, but we are reminded by news journalists to keep our doors and windows closed and locked. You tend to look at strangers more closely, wondering if they are "good" or "bad". I lay awake at night wondering what I would do if an intruder came to my home. How would I defend myself? What weapon would I use? What would be my escape route? Where would I run to? Or would I be able to defend myself? What if I didn't? What if I just curled up and let whatever happen happen?? These are the hardest questions to answer because you just don't know what you would do in that situation - unless you have been through that situation. You hope and pray that you never have to experience something like that.

I think the worst part for the survivor would be that it was a "random act of violence", with no real explanation, no real motive. How will she re-cover from that unfairness? How will she get over the fear of being brutally attacked in her home while sleeping? How do you feel safe again?? How will she adjust to living a normal life without sad memories constantly flooding her thoughts? How will she learn to accept, forgive and show mercy to the person who stole her best friend and life partner from her? Do you forgive the person who ruined your life?? I don't know if I could. Depending on the circumstance or crime, I wonder to what length could I forgive? Forget?? I know I would want justice for any crime committed against me - but maybe I'd want revenge too? What level of "payback" is appropriate? It's so hard to know how you would react in certain situations. The news last night said they have arrested the suspect so hopefully this will be the start of the healing process for her friends and family? (See story at http://www.fox2now.com/ktvi-seattle-stabbing-stlouis-woman-072309,0,3056246.story).

Coincidentally, I just read "The Shack" by William P. Young for my book club and it really touches on all these internal head/heart questions. The main character suffers a random act of violence and the book touches on his years of emotional suffering because of it. Guilt, sadness, loss of life joys. Then he goes back to the scene of the tragedy and gets an opportunity to talk to God and work through his sadness, bitterness and loss of spirituality. It's an amazing story of relationships, spiritual education and openness (without regard for any one particular religion or sect). In the end he comes to a place of understanding and forgiveness for the perpetrator, which then leads to finding actual closure on the tragedy. After reading this book you can't help but have a new (or re-newed) opinion of spirituality but getting to that point means really questioning yourself. I'll certainly be questioning myself, my thoughts, my actions, my life... more in the future. Hopefully it can help me achieve the never-ending struggle to be a better person?

Later in the week I received more bad news. My Dad was rushed to the VA (Veterans Administration) Hospital emergency room on Thursday. They couldn't do a Cat Scan there because their machine broke (huh?), so he was transferred to Swedish around 2AM. After initial testing, it turns out that he passed a blood clot from his heart to his brain and he suffered a small stroke. This is in the aftermath of last weeks hernia surgery where he was advised to go off his blood thinning medication (Coumadin). Going off the blood thinners probably triggered the clot and hopefully going back onto the medication should prevent future issues. The bleeding in his brain has stopped but his vision is affected. He could read the card I got him but it was very difficult as he is seeing bright flashes of light and spinning (yet blurry) colors in the peripheral. If you know my Dad, he actually likes shiny, trippy color bursts so this could make him very happy?? His favorite color is MYLAR for crying out loud! I am obviously kidding though, because not being able to read, watch TV, or drive would seriously hinder his lifestyle so we are hoping the blurry vision is not permanent. We have to wait and see. Last night he was transferred back to the VA and is expected to be released today. He'll need to come back this week for follow up on his hernia surgery as well as get the MRI and EKG that he was supposed to get at Swedish? Why this was not done yesterday, I am not sure. But he seems to be in good spirits, says he feels fine and has remained surprisingly calm during the whole episode (and if you know my dad, patience and calmness are NOT adjectives that normally describe him!)

Sorry today's post has been kind of morose. It's been one of those weeks. Hopefully it turns around today. I am going to meet some friends for the Ballard Seafood fest so should be a good time!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Bite of Seattle

Yesterday, I went to the annual Bite of Seattle at the Seattle Center for the first time in years! While it's traditionally a fun time (bands, beer gardens, FOOD!) I usually can't stand the crowds so I stopped going for a while. But yesterday was one of those great summer days in Seattle and I really wanted to be outside enjoying it. As per usual, parking was difficult (and expensive!) around the Seattle Center. Again, with the bus theme, this is a perfect example of why you should take the bus. We didn't take the bus and it cost us $10 to park and about a half hour of frustration while looking for parking! Once inside the Seattle Center grounds, there were huge lines to get anything - whether it was food booths, beer gardens, bathrooms, or events. The good part is, that everywhere you are, there is lots of music and tons of great people watching. Kids playing in the Fountain. People dancing in the sun. My best tips for the day: pack your patience, wear sunscreen, keep your cash and ID handy, and bring your own water! It was about 80 degrees yesterday which is pretty hot for Seattle. If you haven't experienced it, you should do it! It's free admission. There is one more day of it this weekend! http://www.biteofseattle.com/. Photos courtesy of my friend Pam (Renegade Studios).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More thoughts on Riding the Metro

So it's been two weeks that I've been without a car and had to utilize the bus system in Seattle. I know I sounded all giddy with excitement before... at the "great opportunity" to learn the bus system around town. I must admit that my attitude has changed a bit now... and riding the bus is more of a frustration most days. Mapping out the bus routes and trying to make connections takes some time and planning. Even though the Metro Trip Planner (http://tripplanner.kingcounty.gov/) helps make it easier, I have found a few faults. For example, I was sitting next to a young girl and she was asking me about the bus route we were on. She had used the Trip Planner to make her way from Wedgewood/Sand Point to North Seattle Community College. The Trip Planner had actually taken her all the way downtown, then she had to transfer, to get onto the bus we were on. Her total trip time was pushing two hours! It was ridiculous. I told her I was pretty sure she could get the 75 bus from Lake City to NSCC directly. Or take any bus to the Northgate Transfer Station and then hop on the 345 over to NSCC. (Internally I was kind of surprised at myself for sounding like such a seasoned bus rider! She, on the other hand, probably thought I was drunk since I had just come from the dentist where I got a filling and my mouth was still numb. I knew I was slurring, but didn't realize I was also drooling until after she got off the bus. Ooops....) Basically, I learned you can't always trust the Trip Planner. The Trip Planner lets you choose the "fastest" routes, the "least amount of walking" routes, and the "least amount of transfers" routes. Sometimes choosing one or the other gets you a completely different trip. Today, I am heading to the airport for a work trip. I used the Trip Planner and I got completely different routes each time I did it. None of which were very convenient considering 3 transfers, and having to walk & wait around with luggage and a laptop. New tip for riding the bus: If the ride is longer than 1.5 hours and makes you transfer three times.... take a cab instead!

I've also learned that it's not that fun to be on the bus when it's hot. Even with the windows open, you can only get a breeze when the bus is in motion. Last Friday I took the bus downtown to meet some friends for drinks. There was an accident on the Aurora bridge so we sat there for what seemed like forever before all the traffic could be diverted into one lane and get past this wreck. When the bus is not moving, there is no air flow, and that means everyone gets hot, sticky, sweaty. Which is NOT how you want to feel before meeting friends in a trendy Belltown establishment! Don't even get me started on the dude who smelled like manure. I am not trying to be politically correct by saying "manure". If he smelled like poop, I would say poop. But he smelled like manure... cow manure. Trust me, this girl is from Ellensburg, so I know what manure smells like. Put it on a hot bus with no air flow, and now I want to vomit. New tip for riding the bus: bring Kleenex, Purell, and something to fan your self with.

Can I also vent about bus etiquette for a minute? If someone doesn't give you eye contact, they don't want to chat. If that same someone is avoiding eye contact AND highly engrossed in a book, they really don't want to chat. If that same person has to put down her book, look you in the eye and TELL YOU they don't want to chat about your get-rich-quick real estate ideas, then they don't want to chat. And if that same person says NO I AM NOT GIVING YOU MY PHONE NUMBER, that means they don't want to chat with you now, or ever! Geez, what is so hard to understand. Look, I try to be nice and polite as much as possible but it can only last so long when dealing with idiots. Especially if your unwanted conversation starts like this... "So, you are pregnant, right?" (Seriously don't ever ask a woman if she is pregnant if you are not 100% sure.....)!

Update on my car. Still in the shop. Won't be ready until the 27th. Police still haven't found the driver who hit me so don't know if they have insurance or not. This means two more weeks of riding the bus. Neat!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Daily Om - Walking Thru

The below is from my favorite daily inspirational message that gets emailed to me. This one reminds me of several dear friends who have recently moved away from Seattle to persue other endeavors. While I miss you, I applaud you for taking the chances you have taken! Enjoy!

July 9, 2009
Walking Through
When Doors Open

When a door opens, walk through it. Trust that the door has opened for a reason and you have been guided to it. Sometimes we have a tendency to overanalyze or agonize over the decision, but it is quicker to simply go through the door and discover what's there as that's the only way to know. Even if it doesn't seem right at first, opening this door may lead to another door that will take us where we need to go. Doors open when the time is right for us to enter a new space, metaphorically speaking, and we can have faith that walking through is the right thing to do. Sometimes we linger in the threshold because we are afraid of leaving our old life for a life we know nothing about. We may have voices inside of our heads that try to hold us back or people in our lives saying discouraging things. These voices, internal and external, are known as threshold spirits, and they express all the fears and doubts that arise at the beginning of a new life. Nevertheless, none of these voices can hold us back, and they will fall silent as soon as we cross the threshold. There are many doors that open in the course of our lives, leading us into new relationships, jobs, friendships, and creative inspirations. Our lives up to this point are the result of all the doors we have walked through, and our continued growth depends on our willingness to keep moving into new spaces. Every time we walk through an open door, we create a sense memory that encourages us to move into the new fearlessly. When we enter the new space, we almost always feel a thrill and a new feeling of confidence, in ourselves and in the universe. We have stepped across the threshold into a new life.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Car-less in Seattle

Since getting my car smashed in by a hit and run driver on Wednesday, I have had a good opportunity to take the Metro Bus around town. I am actually getting to feel like a pro! Seattle has a pretty good bus system so once you figure out the routes, you can get anywhere! It's cheaper than parking - and less frustrating. I don't think I'll ever attempt to drive and park for any sporting event again, now that I know I can get a stress free ride to the front door of any stadium - for $2.00! In case you are thinking of also "going green" and riding the bus, I decided to list some of the tips I've learned for becoming a "seasoned" bus rider in Seattle. Maybe it will help you?

1. Use the King County Metro website "Trip Planner". http://tripplanner.kingcounty.gov/cgi-bin/itin_page.pl?resptype=U. Just plug in your address and your destination and it will tell you which bus(es) to take!
2. Have correct change handy (or buy a bus pass, it saves you money and you don't have to constantly hunt for correct change)! It's $1.50 - $2.00 depending on time of day.
3. Wear comfortable shoes, you have no idea when you might have to "run for it"!
4. Bring a book, this helps to avoid "eye contact" of people who want to sit with you and/or strike up an unwanted conversation. And of course, reading is fundamental... you might learn something?!
5. People will stink... so get used to it. Learn that it is OK to change seats or move away.
6. Buses start and stop... a LOT! So you may find yourself sliding around on the seat a LOT. Until you get your "sea legs" try sitting next to the window as there is a foot rest under the seat that will help you hold your position better.
7. Re-think your accessories. If you are like me and you have a purse, laptop and possibly a gym bag and/or grocery bag... it can start to get a little cumbersome. Combine: Find a good laptop bag with a long, durable shoulder strap that has enough room to hold your wallet and other personal items. Wear this over the shoulder and across the chest for maximum comfort (and safety from would be purse snatchers). I happened to find a great messenger bag at a thrift store - designer label, red and black leather, lined, with great pockets for keeping personal items organized!

I am sure I will think of more tips as the days go by. My car is in the shop and will probably be there for another two weeks! Almost $7,000 in damages on top of that - yikes! Hopefully the police were able to track the driver down (a witness got the license plate) and hopefully he has insurance! I have to get a copy of the incident report to find out - which is another "process" altogether. I am sure I'll blog about that exercise in frustration as soon as I go thru it!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 4th Weekend

Fourth of July fell on a Saturday this year so like most, I had Friday off. In order to start the holiday weekend, I decided to have a small-ish July 3rd party. Most of my girlfriends showed up as per usual, but we were seriously lacking in male ratio so it kind of ended up being a "Girl Party". My friend Tina arrived from San Jose late in the evening so had to be subjected to our alcohol induced conversations on men and sex. She was surprised to find that all of us were still single - being the fabulous, professional, emotionally & financially stable women that we are! Tina thinks we have enough material to do our own Sex In The City type show! Sex In Seattle? No Sex in Seattle? How To Get Sex? Hmmmm. Will have to think about that.

On Saturday, we walked around Greenlake to get a little exercise. It was a great day in Seattle. Beautiful weather and lots of people out enjoying it! Later in the afternoon we headed over to my friends place on Lake Union, the Neptune Building. Her building has a great 4th of July party on the rooftop and we knew that would be a great place to view the fireworks show over Lake Union. Plus... the party was only $7 for all the food and drink. An amazing deal any way you look at it! The party was great, highly organized and you know how I love that! There were several outdoor grills with burgers and dogs. There was a station for pulled pork and some other amazing simmering meats. Corn on the cob, pasta salad, cole slaw, fruit and veggies. Yum! There were several kegs with an assortment of beer and a DJ spinning tunes all night. We danced, met some new people, had a great view of the city and an amazing fireworks show!

On Sunday, Tina and I headed over to Mae's Phinney Ridge Cafe for breakfast. One of my favorite haunts for weekend grub! As we were eating, I got a text from some other friends who were going to brunch at Campagne in Post Alley of Pike Place Market. We decided to join them for the champagne (hold the brunch, we already ate!) and had a nice time visiting and re-capping our weekend stories. Tina and I then walked thru the Pike Place Market to see what was going on there. I don't really go there except when visitors are in town so it's nice to walk thru every once in a while and feel like part of the tourism. Today was particularly busy! Streets were closed to vehicle traffic and extra booths lined the market. I think I got some good photos of the market and its offerings. Again, a beautiful day in Seattle. Sunny and hot - like summer should be!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

One of THOSE days!

Do you ever have "one of those days" where nothing goes as planned? I am having such a day! First of all I was woken up at 6AM by my doorbell. My neighbor says to me "You need to come see your car". As I dressed I thought about what I would find outside. A broken window? Graffiti? No. It was a smashed in back end. The car was not only bashed in but had moved all the way into another parking spot! Someone had apparently tried to turn around in our parking lot and smashed into my car plus two others. The other two neighbors that were affected gathered around and did the usual thing: took pictures, called the police, and discussed at great length what we thought might have happened. A high speed car chase? A drunk driver? Fortunately for us a dog walker guy came over from across the parking lot. He said he heard the crash and saw the car that hit us. He even had a license plate number for us. Yeah! When the police officer finally showed up, we had some EVIDENCE! The officer took all our info and then was off to locate the suspect car. The last update I heard was that the car (no driver) was located several blocks away. Parked in front of the registered owners apartment! Uh, WTF? Apparently our suspect was even more stupid than we thought. Seems like he drove home and parked? We don't know yet if the driver was the registered owner. Still waiting to hear if the driver was located. Hopefully he has insurance because he is going to need it!

After that excitement, I came to find out that my friend who was going to be flying into Seattle for the weekend, was sick. So under DR's orders, the trip is cancelled. I am bummed as I had some fun plans for us this weekend. It couldn't be helped but it was Bummer #2 for the morning and it was only 7AM!

I spent the morning dealing with insurance and police all the while trying to work. It was an unusually busy day at work so that was unexpected. I had to forge through it as best I could. By about 2PM I was hungry and decided to stop to make some lunch. I decided to cook some corn on the cob and had a large pot boiling on the stove when another of my neighbors stopped by to inquire about the smashed up car. As I was talking to her, a small gust of wind slammed my front door shut, locking me outside without keys, shoes or my phone. Bummer #3! I knew that my upstairs deck door was unlocked so my neighbor helped me locate a ladder and we tried to get to the deck from that. Doing this entailed a barefoot walk across some really HOT blacktop, through the prickly brush and dried grass and over some very small, sharp rockery! Unfortunately my fear of heights kicked in (or maybe my fear of rickety, lightweight ladders!) and I couldn't get up the ladder far enough to haul my butt over the railing. Yikes - what to do! In the end, my other neighbor (who is also the President of the HOA) came to my rescue. He actually had a spare key from the last owner of my condo. So I was able to get in and save my kitchen from imminent cooking disaster!

What a frustrating day. I am ready for it to be over! As a Professional Organizer I am very scheduled. I make to-do lists and I make plans. None of this was on the calendar today! So what did I learn? I am going to have to think about that and get back to you!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Goodbye Billy Mays

I find it ironic that I used the last drop of OxiClean in this morning's laundry - the same morning I find out that famous pitch-man for OxiClean has died. Billy Mays was the sensational marketing guru for as-seen-on-tv products such as OxiClean, OrangeGlo, KaBoom and the Quick Chop. I must admit I have used AND loved them all - with the exception of the Shammy (ShamWow?) - I never did get that one? If you are like me and LOVE infomercials and gadgets then you know who I am talking about and you know that infomercials will probably never be the same. Rest in Peace, Billy Mays.

Daily Om - Clearing A Space For Change

The below is from my favorite daily inspirational message that gets emailed to me. This one is great for anyone who is thinking about getting organized: whether with career, home, closet, heart....

Jan 15, 2009
Clearing a Space for Change
The Weight of Objects

In life, we tend to have an easier time acquiring possessions than we do getting rid of them. Just as we harbor emotional baggage that is difficult to let go of, our lives can tend to be filled with material objects that we may feel compelled to hold on to. Most people are not conscious of how much they own and how many of their possessions are no longer adding value to their life. They fiercely hold on to material objects because this makes them feel secure or comfortable. While it’s true that the ownership of “stuff” can make you feel good for awhile, it seldom satisfies the deep inner longings that nearly everyone has for fulfillment and satisfaction. It is only when we are ready to let go of our baggage and be vulnerable that it becomes possible to recognize the emotional hold that our possessions can have on us. It’s not uncommon to hold on to material objects because we are attached to them or fear the empty spaces that will remain if we get rid of them. Giving away the souvenirs from a beloved voyage may feel like we are erasing the memory of that time in our life. We may also worry that our loved ones will feel hurt if we don’t keep the gifts they’ve given us. It’s easy to convince ourselves that unused possessions might come in handy someday or that parting with them will cause you emotional pain. However, when your personal space is filled with objects, there is no room for anything new to enter and stay in your life. Your collection of belongings may “protect” you from the uncertainties of an unknown future while keeping you stuck in the past. Holding on to unnecessary possessions often goes hand in hand with holding on to pain, anger, and resentment, and letting go of your material possessions may help you release emotional baggage. When you make a conscious decision to fill your personal space with only the objects that you need or bring you joy, your energy level will soar. Clearing your personal space can lead to mental clarity and an improved memory. As you learn to have a more practical and temporary relationship to objects, positive changes will happen, and you’ll have space to create the life that you desire.