Powering into 2018

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How are we already two weeks into January? So far the theme of 2018 has been “Oh crap, how am I so far behind schedule?” I’ve been ruminating about the whole start of the year “fresh start phenomenon” and was planning to write a post about it much earlier than now, but hey, better late than never, right?

I LOVE the concept of a fresh start. When I was a kid, I always liked the first day of school because I believed that this would be the year that it all would be different – I’d finally be that good student/popular girl/”insert ephemeral and impossible to attain goal here”. Needless to say, that never seemed to happen and I would remain the same person. (Shocking, I know.)

Fast forward to New Year’s Resolutions. Same idea, but sadder because I should have caught a clue from the earlier lessons. Nope! “I’m going to go to the gym every day!” “I’m going to lose xx pounds!” You name it, I’ve probably resolved it. I think this is why the phrase “New Year, New You” makes me so ragey. Or maybe it’s just because that phrase is so. stupid.

But I can’t help it, I still love that fresh start feeling of January 1. This year, I came across a new (to me) idea that I really love: picking a power word. When I first read about it, I was intrigued and immediately overwhelmed. How could I sum up what I want to accomplish in only one word?

At first, I approached it from a logical standpoint. What are my goals? What do I want to accomplish this year? But that felt a lot like the resolutions and the words that were coming to mind just weren’t resonating. So, I tried to delve deeper – what was underneath all of those goals? And I realized that what I truly want is to not be swallowed by the darkness around me, I want to be happy and healthy and pursue the things that have meaning to me without getting bogged down in the bullshit and distractions that are all around us. And the first image that came to mind was a night sky with a few lonely stars shining bravely.

So, my power word for 2018 is shine. I like it for the above reasons and from the concept of Shine Theory from one of my favorite podcasts. I love the idea that you can elevate others while still trying to be your best self. And it’s funny, since I picked that word it’s been easier to get out for my workouts, make better food choices and, most importantly, to not beat myself up when I fail to do either of those things. I know there will be days where it will by harder, so I’m just going to focus on nurturing that flame inside me and giving it what it needs to burn brightly out into the darkness.

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Farewell, big dog

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So, one of the last actions of the asshole year 2017 was to take our beloved big dog Wally from us. Wally was 12, so we’d been steeling ourselves for his passing, but you’re never really prepared for them to go. I am grateful that if he had to die, it was at least in one of his favorite places – his “grandma” Susan’s house.

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Wally was a very special dog and just about everyone who spent any amount of time with him probably has a story. He was mischievous, shockingly stealthy when it came to stealing food off the counter, but a genuinely sweet and gentle dog. He loved to snuggle close to you and one of his true joys was sleeping on the bed. He always felt like he had to ask permission, which usually came from resting his chin at the foot of the bed and staring at you with his sad eyes.

Susan rescued Wally after he turned up on her friends’ property outside of Salem. When we later met these friends, they said it took them a few days to get Wally to come to them. Given how friendly Wally is, this spoke volumes of how scared he must have been. We were living in Portland at the time and had been considering getting a second dog to keep Smokey Joe company. Susan called us to tell us she had a “fat lab” for us to come meet. (It turns out that Susan meant giant dog, because Wally was definitely not fat – just ginormous.)

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Our early years with Wally were… challenging. The first year we had him, I wanted to give him back on numerous occasions. He was boisterous and out of control and none of the training techniques that had worked so well on people-pleasing Smokey Joe seemed to work.

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One of my favorite “early Wally” stories was when a friend came to visit us. Somehow, Wally had gotten upstairs and shaken her suitcase all over the landing (and broken the zipper on it). Then, the morning when she had to leave for an early flight, Todd had prepped coffee for her. She told us later that while she was drinking said coffee, she looked over and there was Wally – happily chewing on her toothbrush between his two front paws. This pretty much sums up what we were dealing with.

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Another favorite story from those early days was from a camping trip we took in 2007. We’d had him for not quite a year and we’d met up with a group of friends at a campground that had a special section for tents. We had the two campsites on the lower level and a family had one of the sites on the upper level. They had a few kids in the mix, two girls probably 11 or 12 and a younger boy, maybe 5 or 6. The girls had been super into the dogs, so as we were loading up the car, the dogs were tied up and the girls were petting and fussing over them, with the little boy hanging back a little unsure. On my next trip to the car, there’s my rambunctious big dog, sitting patiently, while the little boy is giving him a full body hug. I’ll never forget it, it was so sweet. Wally clearly had kids in his previous life.

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Wally stole all manner of food off the counter – steaks, bread dough, entire sticks of butter. For a dog as big as he was, it was shocking how quietly he could jump onto the counter – once literally right behind me. We visited a friends cabin (who had good dogs) and he broke into countless bags of treats and food. We had to come up with various protocols of closed doors, baby gates and childproof locks on cabinets to keep him out of the garbage, right up to the end.

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Wally generally wasn’t great with other dogs. I don’t think he’d ever lived with other dogs before because he was completely clueless about reading dog body language. He and Smokey Joe would get into various skirmishes because of it. So, when we wanted to adopt Austin, we were really worried that he wouldn’t accept the new arrival. But upon Austin’s initial tail wagging greeting, I think he genuinely enjoyed his new brother. The two of them lived together for three years with no fights and even ate out of food dishes side by side. It makes me happy that he was finally able to have a buddy.

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It’s pretty amazing how much you can miss a big quiet dog who spent the majority of his time sleeping, but we really do. I’m so grateful for the years we had with him and I’m glad we stuck it out. RIP, Sir Wallace. You are loved.

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It’s complicated

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On one hand, 2017 was a real trash heap of a year. I’m typically pretty good at managing my media intake so that I don’t become overwhelmed with current events and political rhetoric, but that was pretty much impossible. The stakes are too high and the current administration’s strategy seems to be to carpet bomb the populace with terribleness, so that we can’t possibly keep up. UGH!

Not to mention, it seemed like everyone I knew was having terrible things happen. Beloved pets died (more on this in a bit… ), job losses, family member illnesses, and just random terrible things happening to people I care about, etc. Perhaps it’s confirmation bias due to the aforementioned political situation, but it sure seemed to be everywhere.

But I also had some really great moments in 2017. I tried to start writing a post on this blog so many times, but it just seemed so frivolous and dumb in the wake of all that was going on. So, I’m just going to say fuck you 2017, you can’t take all of my joy. Here’s a list of some of my personal highlights from this year:

Finally got back to triathlon
In April, I did the sprint distance at HITS Napa, which was freezing cold (like, for real, not just by my wussy California standards… ) I couldn’t feel my feet until mile 2 of the three mile run. But I ran every step and finished with a smile on my face:

I also joined a tri club and toed the line of the Oakland Triathlon Olympic distance. I was way undertrained, but it was so much fun to race in my city with a bunch of new friends (plus one of my rad Seattle book group ladies!) Definitely looking forward to coming back next year with some actual consistent training!

Celebrated 20(!!!) years of marriage
Since I still feel like I’m in my 20’s… maybe early 30’s, this was a crazy milestone. But we went to New Orleans to celebrate and had the best time. We stayed in a gorgeous bed and breakfast, ate and drank ALL OF THE THINGS and generally just fully enjoyed our first, but hopefully not last, time visiting that wonderful city.

Went to freakin’ Japan!!!

I need to write some retroactive posts for this trip because it was AMAZING. Seriously, find a way to go visit because it is worth it. We joined up with Erik and Nerissa for this trip, which made it even more fun.

Got to see Hamilton

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Christmas present from Erik & Nerissa. It was fantastic. See it if you can.

A few random travel adventures
A Las Vegas trip with Erik & Todd, work trips to Boston and Napa (I know, rough life!) Plus, we got up to Oregon to celebrate my parents 50th anniversary and down to visit Heidi and the fam in LA. So many fun excursions, so little time…

And more!
Plus, as I scrolled through my Instagram to remind myself of what else happened this year, there were so many great photos of culinary excursions, wine tastings and general life awesomeness. Even though two good local friends moved away, one went to her dream job and the other to a pretty perfect fit for her hobbies and well-being. I look forward to adding both of them to the random travel adventures category in the near future.

So, let’s all cross our fingers that 2018 is all of the good stuff for the majority of the population and let all of the bad stuff rain down on a certain administration.

Fun in the sun with Susan

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Susan came down for her first visit to our new digs. Austin was pretty excited about it:

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Susan is one of those rare houseguests that doesn’t disrupt your routine all that much. She actually doesn’t want to be entertained. She wants to hang out and play with the dogs, but still appreciates the occasional outing. Like wine tasting on a Thursday.

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We took her to one of our favorite wineries (and picked up our club shipment.) They recommended another little winery nearby, so we decided to check it out. They not only let us taste outside…

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But it was freakin’ poolside! (Apparently, they have a house on the property that they rent out, which includes use of the pool area in the evening when the winery is closed.) I sense a future group outing…

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But the rest of the view wasn’t too shabby either…

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Mixed in with awesome outings, Susan did a ton of yard work:

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Spring has definitely sprung in our little yard! I took the opportunity to take a photo of our gorgeous roses, before they got pruned:

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We took Susan out for her 66th birthday to Greens restaurant:

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And there was plenty of dog time. Here’s Blue getting groomed:

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After:

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Austin did not like when Susan would take Wally for a walk. (Even though he would always go for a walk right after… )

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We took a trip into San Francisco for some tourist fun. We visited the Nespresso store, then walked through Chinatown to check out Coit Tower

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Despite the various years we’ve lived here, I’ve never actually gone inside. It was really cool. There are a bunch of murals from the 30’s in the lobby:

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And the top of the tower is pretty cool in it’s own right.

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But the views of the city are the star of the show. Here’s Alcatraz:

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The Transamerica tower and downtown SF:

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And home sweet home, Oakland:

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And that was basically our visit. It was so much fun to hang out with Susan but I’m pretty sure it’s going to take Wally a few days to recover…

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One year later…

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A year ago, I wrote a lengthy blog post and detonated the remains of a really important relationship in my life. I’ve thought often about what might have been different if I’d known we’d be moving in six months. Could I have been patient? Would she have actually talked to me? Or was the feeling that she was ghosting out of our friendship correct? Who knows…

Healing is a funny thing. It has helped tremendously to be in a totally new environment. (Especially one in which I didn’t know her when I lived here before.) And for the most part, I’ve made my peace with the situation, but I find myself wishing I could text her about super random things. Like when the guy in front of me is buying a bag full of lemons. Or my mother-in-law goes to an impromptu Jazzercize class down the street. And those are the times that I miss her the most.

And while I am tremendously sorry that my blog post hurt her, and there are definitely things I would have phrased differently if I hadn’t been in such a messed up place myself, I can’t say that I’m sorry that I wrote it. I learned exactly how universal and strange losing a close female friend is and had some amazing conversations with people about it that I never would have otherwise. It definitely helped the healing process.

I still wish that she’d reach out, but I’m not counting on it. Whatever happens, I hope that life is treating her well and that she’s happy. I’m grateful for the parts of our friendship that were awesome and for the lessons learned from the less-awesome parts. I guess that’s all we can really hope for, isn’t it?

Island style

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The rest of our trip was a delightful mixture of beach time, pool time, delicious food, adult beverages and random adventures. And, of course, plenty of entertainment from this little nugget:

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We went to Lydgate Beach Park with Jenn, Bryan and The Bird while Erin & David were diving. It was a perfect chilling out beach, with a protected area for Amalie (and yours truly) to splash around in:

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I know it looks like Jenn is getting ready to backhand her child, but I swear she’s just putting on sunscreen:

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T chilling on the beach near the “cluck clucks” as Amalie calls them. (Naturally that was their name for the rest of the trip.)

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We left the beach just as dark clouds were rolling in and missed the sudden rainstorm. Instead, we hit up a ridiculously good fish market for poke and ate it on the collection of plastic lawn chairs that they call a bus stop, in between rain showers. It was glorious.

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There was a day spent checking out waterfalls and failing to find a place to hike nearby, so we opted to go for lunch in town, where we saw this super cute little gecko.

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Kind of hard to argue with this motto…

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We rented snorkeling equipment and I attempted snorkeling in this lovely spot:

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But I chickened out and came out earlier than everyone else. We ended up going over to the baby beach near our condo afterward, which was much more successful. A big sea turtle swam right under T, so that was pretty cool. We celebrated with happy hour at a place that had little tiny pineapples in their window boxes:

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Happy hour crew:

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Our last full day at the condo, we went for a morning beach walk and checked out tide pools.

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And said good-bye to our friend the monk seal…

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Then later went to look at Spouting Horn, a cool little blowhole that has a second hole that makes crazy cool sounds. (To go with the exclamations of excitement from the crowd of tourists. OOOOHHH! AAAAAHHHH! It was hilarious.)

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And of course, a last Hawaiian ice. Delicious…

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David took this fantastic shot of the sunset through his spyglass. It sums up our final night well. (And looks like an OP shirt from the 80’s… )

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There are no words for how much I’m going to miss these ladies. We need to put another trip on the books soon!

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We went to an amazing Japanese restaurant before dropping Erin & David off for their red eye flight. (Which was the same flight as Jenn & Bryan, but they opted to keep Amalie’s routine as normal as possible, in the hopes that she’d sleep better on the plane.) It was this crazy big place with all these different sections in it. But it was great people watching and we gorged ourselves on good, reasonably priced sushi and a green tea mudpie for dessert. Then it was back to the strangely empty condo and off to bed before our early morning flight home.

So much has changed since that first trip two years ago, but the fun of these group trips has definitely remained the same. I hope they continue for many, many years. Aloha!

Adventures in Waimea Canyon

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After some nice lazy days, we were up for a little group adventure. So, we decided to check out Waimea Canyon – aka “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” There was a fair bit of driving on some very winding roads, but our first viewpoint was pretty spectacular:

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A nice lady offered to take our picture, so we have proof that we were there:

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There was a guy dressed in traditional native garb, talking about various local traditions and lore. But he was dramatically upstaged by the baby pig that he brought with him for some reason. I mean, I took this picture:

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But this is what made it onto Instagram:

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We stopped in at the visitor center to look up a good hike. The lady who worked there recommended a good route, but also that we should continue up the mountain to the other viewpoints, since it was still clear. She was right, it was glorious:

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Clouds were just starting to obscure the view at the next viewpoint up, so we headed back down to start our hike. We’d chosen a nice trail to a waterfall, described as a moderate 1.5–2 mile hike. It started innocently enough…

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We walked through primordial forests and eventually came out next to the canyon. The textures and colors were mesmerizing:

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The trail turned to volcanic rock that was kind of steep and a little bit scary, given that you basically can just go sliding down into the canyon if you aren’t careful:

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But we all made it down safely and were rewarded with a very pretty waterfall view at the turnaround point:

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Not pictured, the legions of crazy people who thought it would be fun to swim in the freezing cold water. It turns out, that’s not super fun. But watching them learn that definitely is. We had some snacks and headed back.

As we approached the volcanic rock part of the trail, we encountered a fairly large man, with one side covered in red dirt and scrapes with his knee wrapped in a bandana, very clearly in pain. His name was Ron (which would quickly become Big Ron) and he was with two younger men who turned out to be his sons. It was clear that they needed help, and trail karma is a thing, so we stepped up. The menfolk worked with his sons to help get him up the steep trail, while Jenn, Erin and I tried to warn people to get out of their way. It was slow going and stressful, plus Jenn had The Bird on her back in a pack. So, we opted to move further up the trail and figure out a plan.

For context, here’s where we met up with Big Ron, approximately a mile away from the road, over some fairly challenging terrain:

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Erin had cell reception, so she called 911. We decided that the best plan was to get Amalie back to the car before she went into full-scale meltdown mode and then direct whatever paramedics/forest rangers were coming our way. Erin was still on the phone and not confident her signal would hold, so Jenn and I made our way back. Amalie was incredible, largely due to Jenn’s ability to keep a calm-voiced monologue going while hiking at a brisk pace up a hill with a fairly heavy weight on her back.

We made it back to the road. Amalie had fallen asleep on the way back, so we sat in some shade and waited for Erin. She showed up much faster than we were expecting and we discussed what to do next and whether we should drive one of the rental cars down the dirt road and get them closer to the trailhead. I was dubious that either car would make it down there, but thankfully, we heard sirens in the distance before we had to find out.

The sirens belonged to a giant red paramedics pick-up trip, loaded with rescue gear and four ridiculously hunky firefighters and their captain. (Seriously, it was like something out of central casting… ) The captain rolled the window down and asked “Which one of you is Erin?” At which point, Erin went over and gave them the lowdown on the situation. (Which might have included the quote “You guys look MUCH stronger than our middle-aged husbands… ” Amazing.) They headed down the dirt road to the trailhead and we loaded Amalie into her carseat and headed to the nearest town to get some lunch and wait for the boys to text us.

We found a surprisingly tasty taco spot (with glacially slow service) and had some lunch while we waited. Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before they texted and we were treated to a play-by-play of the rescue of Big Ron. It turned out that they were there for his other son’s wedding and (as we’d later learn when Jenn & Bryan ran into him at the airport while waiting for their flight home) he’d snapped his MCL and would need surgery.

He may not have been able to buy us drinks, as we’d often lament over the next few days, but he did give us a pretty fantastic story to tell, so god bless you Big Ron, wherever you are…