Tag Archives: Seattle

The Lights Are Turned Way (WAY) Down Low…

I wonder if I’m the only one watching the torrential snowstorm in New York City, the one where all transportation has ceased, cars are 90% buried and snowflake-churning wind is accosting overly-bundled walkers, and thinking “I’m jealous.”

Perhaps I have this feeling because as I sat around the Christmas tree with my family and unwrapped presents two days ago, the only weather gracing the landscape out the window were raindrops. 

Raindrops in spring, yes.  Raindrops on roses, yes.  Raindrops on Christmas morning, no.

Despite having spent the last 13 years in Seattle Christmases, my first 13 were spent in mostly pristine white on the East Coast.  And once you’ve had it, it’s hard for anything else to satisfy.

I’ll admit, it’s nice being able to head home after Christmas dinner and not have to attach tire chains.  But it’s even nicer getting snowed in and not being able to go home.  In my opinion, anyway.

Maybe this is all the more irritating because our Christmas two years ago was a virtual snow heaven.  Giant white cottonballs fell from the sky all day that Christmas, so much so that our power went out.  Being the careful Northwesterners that my parents are, they had a generator for backup.  However, this generator only kept certain things running, like heat, and a few appliances.  The one appliance not included?  The oven.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that no oven meant no Christmas prime rib.  We called our neighbors who had invested in the Generator 10X 3000 (I’m inventing this name, but it may as well have been), which had enough power to light the Space Needle.  They generously decided they could spare some wattage to cook us a Christmas meal.

That meal proved so enjoyable, a delight born of a near-disaster, that we have continued the tradition with them every year since (minus the power-outage; no need to reenact exact details).

Thanks to La Nina, this year is of a decidedly different climate.  I don’t think it’s dropped below 45 degrees in weeks. 

Which is why it didn’t take long for us to say “yes” when our dear friend, Laura, and her parents invited us to their condo in Whistler for New Year’s.  Guaranteed snowflakes that fall on my nose and eyelashes!

It’s possible that no amount of snow this year could compare with our Olympic trip to Whistler last year, but who cares?  In fact, this year will be so much sweeter in different ways because we won’t be racing around to events and trying to catch medal ceremonies.  This year we can just walk through the Village, sip hot cocoa in woodsy lodges, and soak in the hottub after a day on the slopes.

In other words, enjoy walking in a winter wonderland.

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Filed under One WORD (Current Events)

Don’t Wear Gortex to Dinner in D.C.

I am excited to announce the publication of my first guest piece on an etiquette blog, Clise Etiquette!

The author of the blog, Arden Clise, is the well-known Seattle authority on business etiquette.  As the founder of Clise Etiquette, Arden works as an etiquette consultant, speaker and business etiquette columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal. 

Arden and I share a passion for all matters of decorum, from table manners to thank-you notes, so when she asked me to write about navigating the differences between East Coast and West Coast etiquette, I didn’t hesitate. 

Special thanks to Arden for this privilege.

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Filed under Good WORD (Etiquette)

&$%*@# Renton!

I confirmed two things yesterday:

1.  My redheaded temper is still in top form.
2.  I have fully inherited my father, Warren’s, road rage (sorry, Pops!).

It all began innocently enough.  Mike and I agreed to house-sit in Kennydale (north of Renton), and so we drove there after work.  Correction: “we” didn’t drive there together.  Mike had to drop a friend at the airport first, so I suggested he go straight to Kennydale afterward.

That was my first mistake.

I didn’t do the math to realize that would leave me without a carpool buddy going south on I-405 at 4:45PM.  Was I delusional?  On bad drugs?  Had I just returned from the funny farm?

So there I sat in the parking lot of I-405, inching past Bellevue at a pace that would make a sloth bang his head against the wheel.

I’ll be the first to admit that about half the time I am in this scenario I take the carpool even though it is illegal.  My theory on this is that everyone wins:  I am flying down the freeway, and everyone in the slow lanes has one fewer car to sit behind.  See?  Winners!

But yesterday I didn’t have the cojones necessary for breaking the law, so I just sat in my slow lane.  I was mildly annoyed, but I wasn’t going insane about the traffic because at least I had AC, I told myself.

Then, about seven miles from my destination, my gas light turned on.  I am notorious for waiting until my gas light goes on before I get gas.  It aligns perfectly with my thriftiness; why spend money now when I can spend it later as my car forces me to?  To this day I’ve never run out.

I saw a Chevron sign on exit six, but decided to get off at my exit and then drive around until I found a station.  This was perfectly logical because my exit had an abundance of stores and marketplaces.  Surely there would be a gas station.

I got off at my exit and began driving through the town looking for a gas station.  I rounded the major mall area — nothing.  I headed straight into downtown — nothing.  I drove a little outside of town — nothing.  I felt the heat in my face start to rise as I went down what I like to call, “The Warren Trail of Logic.”  It goes as such: “Who would design a city off of a major interstate highway and not include a gas station within a five-mile radius?  What kind of idiots at the Shell Station looked at this city and said, ‘no, thanks, we’ll pass’?”

The trick about the Warren Trail of Logic is that it fills the user with such intellectual superiority that it becomes impossible not to be filled with an indignant rage at everyone else’s incompetency.

I couldn’t deny that none of this would normally bother me if it hadn’t taken me 40 minutes to go 15 miles.

At this point I decided someone else should be in misery with me.  You have one guess as to who received a phone call with an opening line like this:

“I need you to do WHATEVER it takes to find me a freaking gas station IN RENTON.”  Remember: Renton is the enemy.

Poor Mike scrambled to pull up a map on his phone, but alas, no signal.  Renton strikes again.

I looked at the gas light.  I looked at the stop light that hadn’t changed in three minutes.  I began mentally composing a scathing letter to the Renton city planners.

It occurred to me that I didn’t actually have anywhere to be, so why the anger?  But then I remembered the Warren Trail of Logic.  It shouldn’t matter that I am not on a schedule.  The gas station should still be there.

Mike advised me to cruise along the road parallel to the freeway, because that’s where most gas stations reside.  This sounded perfectly Logical, so I took his advice.

Except that I failed to remember:  if one is already employing the Trail of Logic and adds more logic to an illogical situation, disaster is sure to follow.

Or maybe just rage.  But usually disaster (see: Warren putting together falsely logical Christmas gifts).

There were no gas stations along the freeway.  Not for miles.  At this point it’s occurring to me how absurd it is that I don’t swear.  I really believe swearing is the most banal form of expression, but sitting in a car shouting “darn it” and “frickin'” just doesn’t have the same catharsis as…well, you know.

I decided for the sake of my blood pressure to concede, get back on the freeway and go back to the exit with the clearly marked Chevron sign.  But I didn’t go quietly (see previous paragraph, and use your imagination).

I called Mike to let him know his hysterical wife was still hysterical.  In the blur of road rage I managed to spit out, “I know it’s my fault for not filling it sooner, but HONESTLY this is AMERICA.  Where is the GAS?!”

I think I concluded by saying, “I just want to punch someone in the face and then drink myself to sleep!”  I told you that disaster was imminent.

To be fair, I didn’t find out I had cancer, I didn’t get in a fatal car accident, and I didn’t go blind.  In the scheme of things, this was not a bad day.  But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY — ALL I WANTED WAS FUEL.

And thanks to the Warren Trail of Logic and a kind hubby, I got some.  Lesson learned.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)

I’m Searching for the Word that means “Honored AND Embarrassed.”

This was Monday night at a ceremony honoring my mom as Bellevue’s Volunteer of the Year.  She had no idea anyone knew about the event, so when 25 of her nearest and dearest showed up, she was totally pissed (in a good way).

I’m pretty sure the city council meeting hasn’t seen this much action in, well, its existence.  I’m also pretty sure it was unprecedented when all of us virtually emptied the room after her item on the agenda concluded.  There was audible laughter as we all scampered out of the room before the mayor could begin the discussion on traffic congestion on 4th Avenue.

We high-tailed it to John Howie Steak House to raise a glass to a woman who quietly works to improve the lives of the disadvantaged.  Let’s emphasize the “quietly;” she was mortified to be recognized.  And she’ll be just as mortified that I mentioned her here.

Sorry, Mom, but you ARE the Volunteer of the Year.  The cat’s officially out of the bag anyway.

In case you’re interested in the speech that was read to introduce her:

The City of Bellevue Volunteer of the Year Award is designed to recognize volunteers who have not only made a significant contribution to the community or to an individual, but have also gone above and beyond the call of duty, shown leadership, innovation, creativity, collaboration and partnering.

Tonight we are honoring the City of Bellevue Community Volunteer of the Year, Alyson McMurtry, who serves at the Jubilee REACH Center.

The Jubilee REACH Center provides community based programs to meet the needs of the diverse and underserved Lake Hills Community of Bellevue, Washington. All services at the JRC are offered free of charge and rely heavily on volunteer support. The Jubilee REACH Center serves families and individuals in the Lake Hills community regardless of age, gender, religion or ethnicity.

Alyson started a no-cost English-as-Second-Language Program (ESL) with 5 adult students in a church Sunday school basement room.  The program has grown to 186 students, 53 volunteers and operates 4 days a week in 7 classrooms.

Building close relationships with their students, Alyson and her volunteers saw deeper needs and connected students to support services at Jubilee REACH Center.  As a result of her efforts, her  ESL students received free dental and medical care, counseling, legal assistance, Christmas gifts, rent and utility assistance, eye glasses, computer classes and computers, before school childcare, after school care, job search help, parenting classes, exercise classes and winter coats.

Furthermore, Alyson has given untold hours as an active volunteer at First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue and throughout the Bellevue community. Among other accomplishments she has:

  • coordinated preparation and serving of annual Thanksgiving Dinner for 450 neighbors for 10 years;
  • served on the Hunger Ministry, feeding hungry Bellevue neighbors;
  • coordinated the Alternative Gift Market, raising money for local underserved families and the poorest people of the world; and
  • taught English at Hopelink for 5 years.

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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Barely There

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you want some decent people watching, look no further than the Seattle Symphony.

Last Sunday my in-loves took us to Benaroya Hall to celebrate my sister-in-love’s birthday.  Shortly after arriving, I was absent-mindedly sipping my champagne while silently eyeballing every outfit in the room.  Outfit?  That’s too generous a term; some of these women were in capris and Tevas.

I saw two young women (the only other people under 30, we noticed) in super-short dresses, bare legs and high heels.  I immediately recoiled at the display of flesh.  It’s 2PM, I thought; where are their nylons?

I was in a gray sweater dress with brown boots to the knee, and had worn nude nylons so I wouldn’t be flashing my thighs to the over-60 crowd on a Sunday afternoon.  I didn’t even think twice about it.  So as soon as I saw these women sans-pantyhose, I expressed my surprise.

The birthday girl quickly pointed out to me that not everybody wears pantyhose; in fact, she confirmed that she didn’t think she even owned any. 

This nonchalance provoked the obvious question:  are nylons necessary?  Is it just my East Coast upbringing that forces me into such propriety?

In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t think of many times I had seen people my age in nylons.  The recent exception being last fall’s trend of dark black tights with any type of boot, bootie, or pump.  Aside from that, who wears them?  Am I being modest, or just 150 years old?

Before Rachel and I could discuss further, her husband interrupted us to tell us to stop saying “hose.”  “It sounds like you’re saying ho’s,” he said, looking around the room, “and you shouldn’t say ho’s at the symphony.”

Fair point — after all, the vast number of words for this sheer, leg-hugging fabric is mind-boggling.  Nylons/pantyhose/stockings/tights/leggings…and I’m sure they’re not interchangeable at all, but we toss them around like the underwear they are, regardless of accurate terminology.

As far back as I can remember, my mom insisted on tights for every occasion, for something as regular as church to formal family holidays.  They were always uncomfortable, always protested by me, and always required by her.  “Don’t you want to dress like a lady?” she’d ask.

Even when I was a teenager living on the West Coast, she would stare, horrified, as I left for the Homecoming dance in an above-the-knee dress without stockings.  But no one in Seattle ever wore nylons, so why would I? 

And yet here I am at 26-years-old pulling on my nylons to go to the symphony.  Apparently the stodgy East Coast formality stuck.

But midway through the show I got a run.  A huge run.  I leaned over to Rachel and informed her that my nylons were running so fast they could win a race.

Suddenly it occurred to me that getting a run takes all of the modesty and tastefulness I associate with nylons and rips them in two faster than the fabric itself.  Could anything look less classy? 

The run started at mid-thigh but by intermission was straight through my knee and headed for my ankle.  Mike looked at me like, seriously?  Don’t you carry a spare?

No.  No, I do not.  Instead I stood like a child preventing an accident:  one leg tucked behind the other out of desperation.

As soon as the performance concluded and we had been seated at The Brooklyn for happy hour, I dashed to the ladies room (the irony!) and dumped my nylons in the garbage. 

I am totally convinced that God had a hearty laugh at my expense as the woman who judged naked legs at Benaroya ended up sitting at a bar with bare thighs at The Brooklyn.

Update 7/26/11:  I rest my case.  Hosiery is back.

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Filed under Good WORD (Etiquette)

A Closetoscopy

Seattle’s rainy Memorial Day weekend had its benefits.

I realize no one appreciated not being able to picnic, nor BBQ, nor lay in the sun to jump-start a summer tan.  I also realize some Seattleites have already closed this web page out of pure fury that I would tip my hat to a rainy holiday weekend in any way.

But the benefits of such a weekend are practical: I got so much done.

I ran tons of errands, had indoor drinks with girlfriends, read hundreds of pages of the book I’m reading, learned how to ride my bike in the rain, did household chores.  Plus I saw a movie (Sex and the City 2) without feeling guilty.  OK maybe I felt a little guilty that I was seeing SATC 2, but that’s an issue for another day.

But the best, most glorious task  that I completed this weekend:  I reorganized our storage unit.

Whew!  Back up!  I did not just blow your mind with something as insanely exciting as reorganization!  I’m just moments away from skydiving and lighting my hair on fire!  Somebody stop me!

If there is one hobby in my life that gives me goosebumps of pleasure, it is organization.  Look no further than here to further understand this compulsion.

And what better outlet for this organization fetish than a storage unit?  Ours is just down the hall from our condo, and is already heated, well-lit and painted a cheery yellow.  In fact Mike already bought sturdy five-level stand-alone shelves so that nothing is clustered on the floor.

But it still wasn’t good enough.  It still made me hyperventilate upon entry.  Allow me to show you why:

Do you see the cardboard boxes?  Do you see the chaos?  Do you have hives yet?

Maybe that’s just me.

Given the absence of BBQs and picnics, I had copious time to visit my favorite place on Earth:  The Container Store.

I am being completely honest when I say that if I were to win the lottery my first stop would not be Neiman Marcus, it would be this organizational mother-ship.  Of course I would be organizing our mansion in Madison Park, but we can discuss the details of my fantasy real estate another time.

I bought one large clear bin and two tall square bins, as well as two no-lid bins for things that are tall.  I also bought things for our bedroom closet, but posting a picture of our closet feels not unlike posting a picture of my delicates drawer.  Too personal.

Then I went to work.  This was 8:30PM Sunday night, and it took me three hours, so I’m not sure my neighbors were pleased.  But they never complained, so I never stopped.

I pulled almost everything out, sorted through it, and put it back in the new bins.  I also threw tons of things away.  In the end I eliminated six cardboard boxes.  YES.

Here is the result:

Paint and wallpaper supplies are gathered together and shelved on top due to their awkward shape.

Christmas items are stored together.

Bins are labeled.

My sister Sam asked me if I had a label-maker and I felt like someone asked me if I had a personal assistant.  Like, I didn’t know I could have one, but now that you’ve mentioned it I don’t think I can live without one.  And it was only after she mentioned this that I wanted to hide my homemade signs behind my back.

I can breathe again.  I can find things we need.  I don’t need the cello, but it’s important to Mike, so what can I do?

Maybe I could label it.

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

As the World Turns…Around the East Coast

I am one of many long-suffering West Coast residents who has to deal with the inconvenient and at times infuriating East Coast bias that plagues our great nation.

Usually I handle this with a calm demeanor befitting a Victorian socialite attending afternoon tea.  This week, however, I am handling it with the anger and bitterness of a scorned lover who just found out her ex won the lottery.

What brought this fury to the surface?  The Olympics, of course.

Instead of watching the Opening Ceremonies in real time, in my time zone where they’re taking place, I have to be on nytimes.com getting the play-by-play from commentators watching it in New York.  Yes, the ceremony is actually occurring 141 miles north of my city, yet I’m forced to wait three hours so people 3,000 miles away can watch it first.

Here is a helpful visual to explain the situation:

Of course, many would say that in the age of DVRs these issues are irrelevant.  To those scoffers, I offer this: DVRs were invented to record something that was on earlier that you want to watch later.  A DVR isn’t going to help much when the show doesn’t come on for three more hours.

When it suits them, the media moguls curse us with the opposite problem.  Consider the awards ceremonies: the Oscars, Emmy’s and Golden Globes all take place in L.A., yet start at 5PM PST — so that the East Coast can watch at the more appropriate 8PM hour.  While we’re racing to get through Sunday dinner or afternoon plans, East Coasters are settled in on their couches with popcorn ready to take in the show.

Another illustrative slide:

I can’t place all of the blame on the the men at NBC, CBS and ABC.  I’m happy to bring ESPN into the conversation.  How about a little coverage of our teams, gentlemen?  Does the word “Mariner” or “Seahawk” ring any bells with you?  The only reason anyone in Pittsburgh has heard of Seattle is because they remember paying refs to throw our Superbowl game.  And while East Coasters may bemoan Angels games starting at their 10PM, at least they aren’t sitting in church while the Yankee games start at 10AM.

This bias is pervasive enough to be found outside of programming.  My brother-in-law’s former clients are all in Alabama, and they used to insist he be available from the moment they arrive in the office.  So he would show up every day for work at 6AM and leave at 3PM to accommodate them.  My company headquarters is located in New Jersey, and while not required, I feel the same pressure.

To be fair, the population comparison isn’t even close.  There are approximately 111 million people in the states lining the Atlantic, and only about 46 million on the three states lining the Pacific.  But still.

A less obvious bias occurs in the collegiate arena.  The Ivy League is clustered in the Northeast, and it would seem anywhere outside of that region is irrelevant.  I went to the University of Washington, and I can imagine the laughs I would get applying for jobs in Boston.  Despite my school being ranked 16th in the world, it’s as if we don’t exist.

Speaking of schools, consider this bone-chilling encounter from junior high.  In 8th grade, when I found out I was moving from Pennsylvania to Seattle (the “other” Washington, according to East Coasters), a student in my class came up to me and said, “Seattle.  Hmm.  That’s just west of Chicago, right?”

Maintain composure.  Channel the Victorian tea lady.

“Yes, tech…ni…cal…ly, it is west of Chicago,” I replied, attempting to be kind.  “About 2,000 miles west,” I added under my breath.

In case you’re tempted to blame that tiny error on youth, consider the exchange I had with a fellow junior in college I met in Washington, D.C. while I was in town for a leadership conference.  In what I can only assume was a mild attempt at flirting with me, he said, “Oh, I meant to tell you I’ll be in San Francisco in a couple of months!”

“Great!” I replied, not understanding why he was sharing this information.

“We could do lunch!” he exclaimed.  “I’d love to get together again, and you live in Seattle so we could meet up for a meal.”

I stood there debating which would be more painful — taking a cheese grater to my face or explaining to this person that San Francisco and Seattle are not one but TWO states apart, separated by more than 800 miles.  I wanted to scream, “Would you tell a friend in Philadelphia to meet you for lunch in Jacksonville?!”  Instead I stared at him blankly until a friend listening in (thank you, Annie!) yanked me out of the conversation.

Is it obvious yet that I’m a former East Coaster?  Friends tell me I’m like a child who’s been spoiled; having lived in the center of the US universe, I’m sour now about orbiting my former planet.  Any armchair psychologist can see that all of my sputtering really means that I miss it.  I miss being in the eye of the hurricane, I miss feeling like I could pop into NYC at a moment’s notice (even if I rarely did).  I miss the what-does-your-daddy do elitism, the four-generations-and-we’ve-never-left-town families.  While living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania or Washington, D.C. I loved knowing I was in the historical heart of our country.

Now, 12.5 years into living in Seattle, I can say that I was blind to how good I had it — but I wouldn’t trade where I am for where I was.

Please don’t mistake my missing the East Coast as preferring to live there.  What that coast has in history, numbers of people, and bustling cities, this coast has in geographic splendor.  It’s no mystery why the Winter Olympics weren’t held on that side of North America: where would they find respectable mountains?  Skiing in the Appalachians?  Please.  New Hampshire? Those aren’t mountains;  they’re hillsWhistler and Blackcomb belly laugh and high five each other when they make jokes about the slopes in Maine.

So this week as you West Coasters nestle into the couch to watch the women’s slalom, and you look at your watch and it’s 12:30AM, you’ll know exactly which region of the country to blame.

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Filed under One WORD (Current Events)