Seattle: My Top Five

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While the bus system works very well here, hopping on and hopping off is a relatively painless experience.  Today was not one of those days.  It just seemed like the bus couldn’t have been going any slower.  Typically, I had somewhere to be and luckily I didn’t miss the appointment.  Surprising really considering I got lost in the maze like corridors of the hospital.  As it became a race for time I transformed into Usain Bolt sprinting from the East to West Wing riding the elevator to the wrong floors (far more than was necessary) much to the distain of the smurf coloured staff.

After eventually leaving the rabbit warren having unintentionally visited the café, the laundry, radiology, an operating theatre, gift shop, pharmacy and accounts department trying to find the exit, I opted to walk.  The bus smugly drove by as I was wandering down 3rd Ave; however, I got the better deal as it was such a pleasant day.  I embraced the coolness of fall but savoured the sunshine bestowed upon me as a contrast to the warmth.

As I continued to pootle back, I observed many elements which make the city my home.  There, my blog was created, five things I love about Seattle.

  1. The cafes. After moving here I did a café crawl to acquaint myself with the city.  I inhabited cafes in different areas for hours on end as I ferociously typed away.  Who knew that tea could be something that you could make terribly, it’s just milk, water and a bag, right? No, it is not, there is good tea and bad tea.  My research has proved that Starbucks are in the lead, my favourite location being on the fortieth floor in the tallest building in Seattle which hosts the most magnificent view.  Another aspect of the coffee shop joys is striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know and sharing smiles over a common denominator.

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  1. The water. Here in Seattle we are lucky enough to have two bodies of water.  The city is located in between the Puget Sound (an inlet to the Pacific Ocean) and Lake Washington.  The second body of water I am referring to is in the area of South Lake Union.  The summer gone by has seen the lake as a magnet for children, families, animals and the elderly.  They walk, swim, dive off the bridge, picnic, read in the shade with their transportable chairs, play boule and feed the ducks. The water planes launch and alight amidst the sail boats which bob up and down.  I so often stop to sit down to watch the world go by and make myself part of the view, undertaking my variation of the same theme.

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3.The warmth of the people. Everyone has their own experience of a city and its people, but Seattle evokes a feeling of home for me.  Perhaps it’s because I am British and have an accent which the residents seem to be particularly fond of.  I find it to be a conversation starter.  It is then that I experience the warmth of the ‘Seattleites’ through their curiosity and interest despite the circumstances from which they originate.  Smiles and conversation are started and heart-warming smiles exchanged leaving you no option but to subtly beam as you go on your way.

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  1. The $5 flowers. My.Goodness.Me.  Pike Place Market is forever busy.  Even in the weekdays when people return to work it is still filled to the brim with tourists.  The skill of ducking and diving is required and mine has drastically improved since I moved here!  Lucky for me and many others the flower stall is immediately to the right.  With bunch after bunch in varying colours, varieties and sizes, the fragrance of mother-nature is thick in the air making you pleasantly heady.  My favourite feature when the challenging task of choosing a bouquet presents itself is seeing the bees busily collecting pollen and loving the flowers just as much as me.

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  1. Our home. Our home is very special.  Filled with love from the little family that lives there we go about our daily business and return to the place that offers safety, security and complete relaxation.  Our balcony is my favourite place at night. There’s the clear view of the space needle exquisitely lit with the navy blue sky as its backdrop.  Depending on the weather there may even be stars peeping out in between the clouds.  The most majestic for me however, is the Seattle skyline.  All the buildings standing so strong and masculine provide yet a vulnerable beauty.  Red lights blinking from the cranes on the construction sites only enhance this view, surprisingly enough.

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So there you have it, my city.  An insight into the elements I love and knowing the city loves me back just as much because it doesn’t pretend to be anything else but itself.

9/11 – My Memories & Paying Homage

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In Happier Times (July 2001)

It is near impossible not to remember where you were when those harrowing images appeared of the twin towers slowly disintegrating on every television screen.  Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of the tragedy that had the whole world stunned.

I was a mere twenty years old when it occurred.  I’d had the most incredible summer working in Wisconsin at a summer camp.  I’d been looking after two little bundles of joy aged three and one.  I had made many friends, basked in the sunshine, taught art, got my tattoo, ate far too much ice cream, climbed over the fence to return into camp grounds after curfew, been a tourist, had numerous crushes and was caught under-age drinking, (not one of my finest moments to say the least).  It had been another summer of adventure (this was my third) and as usual, life was absolutely perfect (aside from the conveniently forgotten phone calls home in tears due to homesickness!).

The summer was divided into two sessions and the second session found me being wooed by a rather handsome New Yorker.  He was there for two weeks and we quickly became enamoured with each other.  After he left I was plied with flowers and cards through the mail as well as a promise to stay in New York once my working summer was over.

As I organized travel dates, flights and destinations, I was nearly ready to go.  Three other friends were making their way to New York so we rented a car and drove there.  With all our belongings crammed in, the four of us bundled inside and began our road trip.  On arrival we would depart and go our separate ways.

The eventful trip included pulling over onto a street in the Bronx where our car was surrounded and shaken by a number of residents then further on in Queens we stopped at a gas station where our tire was deliberately punctured.  Other than that we arrived safely, if not a little shaken!  With butterflies of anticipation, I looked out to see if Adam was there to greet me.  As I saw his face the void that had been filled with such longing vanished and was replaced by pure elation.

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The time spent together was precious but as it continued I had a nagging need to move on to the next leg of my journey. This feeling became increasingly urgent and I wanted to leave New York to travel to Chicago as soon as possible.  I rearranged my flight and flew on the tenth rather than the eleventh of September.  With a heavy heart I said goodbye and traveled on.

Upon returning to England there were many friends to catch up with.  The very day I landed I went to visit the store I had worked in prior to leaving for the summer.  As I walked into the mall the window of an electronics store was lined with televisions in various shapes and sizes.  Their screens boasted picture clarity to entice the passers-by.  Today was different.  I was frozen to the spot as I saw the harrowing images of people finding themselves in a death/death situation.  It was utterly shocking to see people jumping from the burning buildings which eventually collapsed.

Tears flowed down my cheeks not only for the atrocity itself but for the surreal circumstances of having visited just a few days before.  Emotions arose for the safety of both Adam and other friends who were there and for the miracle that had somehow removed me from the possibility of being involved in such a horrific incident.

I did eventually manage to contact Adam who was safe and well.  His experience of it was upon entering the subway station the towers were there and when he alighted they had simply disappeared.

We all have our versions of where we were and this is mine.   Like many others I had an uncanny escape. Changing plans eliminated a situation of which the consequences don’t bear thinking about.  I forever count my blessings.  My need to remember all those who lost their lives on a personal level is even more necessary because of my own mortality.

I didn’t realize how emotional it would be to write this and it’s has been my respectful account where I have paid homage to those that were not as fortunate.  Nothing will erase the colossal amount of lives lost that day and I hope the families of those who passed have somehow attained a form of peace.  This blog is dedicated to each and every one of those people who lost their lives and to the families who are reminded every day of that loss.

They may be gone but they will never ever be forgotten.

The Joys Of Fall

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Today feels like the very first day of fall.  Fall is my favourite season.  The sun shines giving you a false sense of security but as soon as you get into the fresh air, fresh is exactly what it is.  It has an edge to it, slightly cutting but not so much that it whips and slices your face.  It’s just enough to let you know that it’s time for your wardrobe to reinvent itself.

It unknowingly plants the seeds of boots, woollies, jackets and maybe even scarves.  Today is a long pants day for me.  With additional layering, my body desperately tries to cling to the warmth of summer.  My feet obstinately continue to wear flip flops. This, needless to say is much to the dismay of the rest of my body which is trying to keep the nerves in my toes active for fear of imminent frostbite.  After a brief bus ride, perhaps not so suitably attired some might say I have landed at an undiscovered coffee shop and here I find myself tip tapping away with thoughts of fall, crunchy leaves, woolly scarves, hats, warm tea and comfort.

Part of the pleasure of this season is that as soon as September hits the duration through till New Year is the time I love more than any other.  Christmas decorations are in the shops early in the month, (I know, I know it’s depressing and unnecessary!) but it brings excitement knowing that Christmas is on its way.  My birthday also creeps up at the end of the month which is icing on the autumnal cake.  October and November follow suit, heightening the Christmas excitement as the time to gift hunt rolls around. I begin to scrutinize the stores putting oodles of thought into who would like what.

I am a fan of combining bought and creatively made Christmas gifts.  I always like to put my stamp on some of the presents.  Athough love is contained in both bought and made, I like to apply my personal stamp to the handmade.  The process of present buying and making expresses the active thought of deciding what someone might appreciate and it is the element I treasure.

I have never been a last minute buyer.  The early preparation, a trait which extends through many areas of my life, packing a suitcase being one, allows me to exhale with relief and avoid my OCD tendencies!  In addition to that I can never do all the buying in one month because of finances.  My family are spread out all over the world and the postal service demands that I have everything wrapped, custom formed up and sealed.  It is only then that they can begin their long journeys to the diverse worldwide destinations.

One of my favorite movies is Serendipity, (who doesn’t love John Cusack?!) and at the very beginning everyone is diving to grab last minute gifts on Christmas Eve.  It may only be a movie, but every time it never fails to create enough anxiety so that I have to be cajoled from behind the cushions of my sofa.

Returning to my love of fall I am reminded of a time in 2009 when I was living in the Camphill Community.  It’s always fun there as all the major holidays are celebrated and Halloween is no exception.  The co-workers organized a big party for the residents with games, music, dancing and snacks.  One of the things I really loved was that everyone made a real effort to dress up with the materials available and enthusiasm was in abundance to complete the outfit.

Trying to be as creative as possible, I’d been racking my brains to try and figure out what my costume would be.  I had an idea but it was a little far-fetched and I wasn’t even sure if it was feasible, plus it would take an immense amount of time to create.  It would require a vast number of large leaves which we weren’t short of throughout the woodland and so I decided to accept the mission of becoming fall.

I spent hours pinning leaves to a clear garbage bag.  This was neither a quick nor easy process! After many nights of dedication my costume was complete.  As a finishing touch I created a crown of leaves.  Needless to say once complete, this costume was an absolute success.  I was so proud of it and that it was so original.

So as I near the end of sharing my love of fall with you in its many forms the time to locate socks is long overdue.  My tea is now cold and my blog written so till the next time dear friends, I must leave to catch my bus which will deliver me to the warmth of my delightfully snuggy apartment.

 

 

Have You Counted Your Blessings?

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This week just passed plus a few days, has been made up of countless simple pleasures.  I want to share these as it shows that an appreciation for simplicity will bring a richness to life which otherwise is tricky to obtain.   All the events of this past week have been so wonderful they have made my heart sing.

On Thursday my beau and I drove to Vancouver.  We met briefly with my long-time friend and beau’s sister for dinner.  She introduced us to one of the best Indian restaurants I have been to in North America. For us Brits Indian food is our national dish and there are standards!  However, British Indian food and North American Indian food are very different let me tell you, but this restaurant was a winner.  Although the get together was short and sweet, the hugs and smiles were priceless.  So, with our bellies full we hopped in the car for the next leg of the journey.  To the ferry.

With night drawing in and autumn in the air we put on our hoodies and went for a wander.  I love the lateness when there are few people around and the night sky performs its ceremony of twinkling stars and if you’re fortunate, an enchanting softly lit moon.  On the ferry and out of the car we wandered upstairs.  I managed to nab a hot tea before everything closed and I sat down and read.  There were few people still milling about and the available seats looked longingly at the passengers walking by hoping it was them that would be chosen.

As I looked out the window faced with complete darkness and only my reflection for company, I warmed up and read my book.  Having arrived at our destination it was a quick hello, hug and off to bed for me.

The following days were particularly special as they offered me time to acquaint myself better with our friends.  With a large house in a peaceful location a veranda wrapped itself around the house surrounded by lush foliage in every shade of green.  Comfy seats, tables and a bbq gave way to plenty of time sitting and talking as the rain came down.  I love kids and probably a little too broodily I sat playing with their daughter. It never ceases to amaze me how much entertainment can be gleaned from playing with kitchenware, who knew Pyrex was so much fun?! Our time there was spent playing board games, walking, sitting on the beach eating fish and chips as we listened to music, talking, playing 20 (a cross between basketball and netball), cooking good food and enjoying being together.  But all too soon it was time to leave and off we went making our way home.

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Labor Day saw me waking up a complete grump.  I was surprised as my beau hadn’t even noticed when I apologized.  I’m wondering if that’s a compliment or not, did he think this was no change from normal?!  The morning continued as it had started, bundled up on the elephant (our couch if you remember!) catching up on recorded TV shows that were piling up.  Eventually reality set in and the time came for us to pull ourselves out of our chasm of relaxation and my beau went into the wild, being rugged and hunting to find some unsuspecting ingredient for dinner.  Well actually, he went to Wholefoods but even so he was still getting food for dinner just not quite as dramatically!

On his return, I was presented with a beautiful bunch of flowers.  It’s those considerate thoughts which fleetingly pass through someone’s mind the impact of which means the world to the receiver. Perhaps even more than the intention of giving.

So there is a story behind the ingredients which I shall divulge. A few days before, I was presented with a menu.  Noted down were three options for an appetizer, entrée and dessert.  He decided that he wanted to cook a gourmet meal and got right on it. Being prepared was BBQ Cajun shrimp, red wine braised lamb loin with spinach and rice followed by a palate cleansing lemon sorbet.  My friends, it was to DIE for. Paired with a glass of wine, probably should have been red but I’m more of a white girl myself, a delectable meal had been created and the company that I’m at my happiest in was sat beside me.

My blessings aren’t complete just yet.  Friends and family grace us this weekend, occasions which are rare yet precious.  It is often in the ‘now’ that blessings can truly be appreciated.  Although we are by no means perfect, whether at the time or in hindsight it is those blessings which build special memories that later conjure gratitude and love.  This week my blessings have been well and truly counted, have you counted yours?

 

 

H2O – The Debate

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Tom CruisePatrick Stewart

The symbol of Libra is the scales which lucky for me is my astrological sign.  Some of the more well-known qualities are balance and harmony which at times is a blessing and a curse.  “How wonderful to have such attributes” I hear you say and I would reply, “it certainly is”.  However, on the flip side of that coin when there are discussions or arguments I so often get caught up as I see both points of view. This supports (my excuse perhaps!) why my debating skills aren’t what they potentially could be.  If someone puts forward a solid point of view with evidence my thoughts are often, ‘actually, you know what, that makes perfect sense’! Consequently, I find myself jumping off my own bandwagon and on to someone else’s which is traveling in completely the opposite direction.  Very helpful as I’m sure you can imagine.

It seems recently that there is quite the debate in both social media and even the newspapers about the ice bucket challenge.  What started off as a lowkey positive charity fundraiser has spread and escalated worldwide and it finds itself the center in a sea of controversy.  With people chucking ice cold water over their heads, much to the entertainment of friends and voyeur’s I’ve read articles and viewed comments criticizing this in relation to the effect it is having on the water shortage.

I still maintain the view that this challenge is nothing short of phenomenal.  ALS has topped an immense $100 million in donations since it began on July 29.  For that duration of time in 2013 it raised only $2.3 million

 http://time.com/topic/als-ice-bucket-challenge-2/

I don’t dispute that the water shortage is an extremely valid concern but come on, for a charity to generate such a colossal amount for a cause whose awareness is so minimal, the goodness of the human heart cannot be criticized.

It is funny, when these shenanigans began to escalate I hadn’t considered the idea of the water shortage.  I was so charity focused (definitely not a bad thing), and being frank, I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed about it.  I think it’s all about balance.  There are countless environmental issues which need to be attended to that aren’t.  How many of us compost food?  Many of us jet off to warmer climates for our vacations without a second thought for the poor old ozone layer whose hole is just growing.  What about recycling?  If you’re brutally honest with yourself I bet there are occasions when you don’t put something recyclable in your bin but think, oh it won’t hurt just this once, I do recycle everything else.  I’m sure the answer is yes.  How long do you take in the shower?  Do you stop the shower when you stick your head out to shampoo your lovely long locks?  I’m taking a wild guess that the answer is no.  I am by no means preaching I’m just airing a few thoughts as I do in my blog.  These have flown through my mind in the ever, I-can-see-both-sides-of-the-story-and-can’t-really-make-up-my-mind-which-side-to-stick-to.  Darn you Libra!

I think my snowballing water concerns are occurring because it seems everywhere I look water issues seem to be staring me in the face. This makes me feel terribly guilty which in some aspects is no bad thing.  It is the next book by Rachel Devenish Ford (which has me completely riveted no less) that opened my eyes to the reality of water usage.  She and her family live in India and I read so often how they are without water.  Laundry is on hold, dishes; even drinking is problematic because much of the water out there isn’t drinkable.  It is something which we take for granted because it flows delightfully from our faucets.  However, they seem to manage just fine with their situation although at times of course it can be tricky.  But life goes on and they manage because they have to.  She always writes about it in such a way that makes it appear humorous when realistically it may not be so.

Through my H2O research, I’ve found it alarming that in Canada the water rates are so low in comparison to other countries. It leaves Canada and North America in general as one of the biggest water users in the world leaving it as the number one offender.  The website I found below contains useful information regarding water usage and easy ways that you can conserve water in the home.

https://www.ec.gc.ca/eau-water/default.asp?lang=En&n=F25C70EC-1#bottomline

So while this precious liquid continues to be a major concern, the ALS Association has received $100 million in donations.  My belief is that it should not be criticized and condemned as an unworthy cause.  Research will thrive and lives will hopefully be saved further down the line and to think, it all started as a small challenge by a few friends.

http://www.bustle.com/articles/36363-how-did-the-ice-bucket-challenge-start-it-didnt-always-involve-ice

 

Patience Is A Virtue

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Patience  Patience by Debi Hubbs

Friends.  I touched on this subject in a blog a number of months ago (The True Meaning of Friendship April 30 2014).  One of the points I omitted to mention was specific events in life, you know, those hard times that push you to your limits.  This is when you rely on your friends and family to support you, love you and walk alongside you while you stumble, cry, fall, get up, and take a few steps forward then a few back finally deciding that actually you don’t want to move at all.  The offers of advice, wisdom and friendship come flooding in.  They really get to see you in all your glory.  No make-up, or if there is (for the ladies), it’ll be a mascara streaked face with your hair looking like you’ve just put your finger in a socket with a decent helping of grease to boot.  None of that matters because they love you, period.  That is the point at which the true colors emitting from your friendship network shine through.

For me this is a situation that is currently present in my life but that hasn’t always been the case.

I remember an occasion when I was at my first high school when I met what was a really good friend.  You know when you meet someone and you just click but you’re not sure why?  Well, that was us.  We both had health issues me with epilepsy and she had alopecia so we were quite the pair!  Our friendship increasingly got stronger and we were always together; sleep overs, visiting town at the weekends, dinner after school, the list was endless.  Even when I changed schools to major in dance at the performing arts school, she too had applied to the school and was accepted to major in media studies.  Sadly, this friendship ended suddenly.

Meeting up one weekend we were discussing our health conditions. I’d been having a few problems at the time with seizures but was feeling upbeat.  Knowing me I was probably articulating how grateful I was to have working legs or some such thing!  I remember her spitefully telling me I couldn’t possibly be happy and positive all the time as life doesn’t work like that.  I apparently also needed to take my rose tinted glasses off.   That told me!!  I guess that’s when I learned that as productive as positivity is not everyone views it in the same light.

So to return to the present.  From that above mentioned blog, I also wrote about how difficult it has been to meet people but since posting, I’ve continued to meet more truly special people.  Over the last couple of months they have shown just what goodness they have within.  Offers of help as well as to stay with me post-surgery, making meals and bringing me get well cards and gifts.  Some traveled all the way from Vancouver to offer care, others worked their schedules so that they could stop by to say hello for which I can say both I and my beau are so very grateful.

Prior to moving to Vancouver I had seen the movie, ‘Eat, Love, Pray’ which evoked a great deal of inspiration (I have yet to read the book).  Feeling moved by the character of Ketut and deciding I wanted to find my very own Ketut, I went on a search to learn more about that spiritual part of life.  I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed as I was hoping Vancouver would be ‘the place’ where it would all happen.  Unsurprisingly guru’s don’t tend to fall out of trees and certainly not the ones in Vancouver, so patience was required.

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Since moving to Seattle I had the good fortune of meeting someone who has become an immensely dear friend.  She moved from India and is one of the wisest people I know.  I discovered this through our spending increasing amounts of time together.  Sharing many of the same previous life events and interests, spirituality included, we immediately hit it off.  Her knowledge of spirituality is immense.  It is not just a singular entity there are so many different sub sections which intertwine that I had never considered.  I’m sure if you asked her she would be very modest and probably not agree but I think due to the culture it is simply a second nature.

She was there for me continuously throughout my recovery despite my frequent grumbling.  There are certain people who support you unconditionally and she is one of those treasures whose beauty and true colors radiate.  I secretly think of her as my guru (not so secret anymore!).  She has shown me that despite the trials of relocating and beginning these new adventures, friends (and guru’s) materialize but it is simply that patience is a virtue.

 

 

 

The Ice Bucket Challenge!

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Epilepsy isn’t the only condition which is under funded and misunderstood.  There are many which aren’t in the limelight, a factor that is essential in order to raise awareness and generate the funds which will enable the vital research to take place. ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is one of those conditions.

I first heard of this disease when I was recommended to read Tuesdays with Morrie.  It was an incredibly inspiring book about a man who had touched the lives of many and who was slowly disintegrating from this awful disease.  The meetings once a week between him and his former pupil are heartwarming and full of wisdom all the way to the end.

The ice bucket challenge on Facebook has raised an enormous $41.8 million for ALS since July 29, providing positivity and hope for other conditions’ fundraising.  This particular challenge is for ALS but it just goes to show there are creative ways to raise money, it’s just a matter of finding them.

So, it’s Friday morning, I had just got out of bed and decided to undertake my nominated challenge, what a way to wake myself up!

For more information on ALS visit the ALS Association http://www.alsa.org/about-als/what-is-als.html