Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Going on Gut Instinct

My husband recently enjoyed a light read that he passed my way, a book by Chuck Norris (yes, that Check Norris) called "The Secret Power Within." I have only just started in on first 50 pages, but the chapters are written in digests that are quick love 'em and leave 'ems. Already I see some parallels in my actions to some of the things that hung up/enlightened Chuck. I dig it. There is hope yet!

When writing, I definitely get into a zen described in the book. It cannot be forced; it either is or it isn't going to flow, to flood even! This flow can apply to a strategic marketing plan for a hotel, or a whimsical blog like this, a thank-you note, or a media pitch. Basically an up-welling of focus and creativity draws me to the keyboard or notebook and I go into lock-down until things are all out on paper/screen. It is present-tense intensity.

August was a crazy-weird but crazy-good month. I tried out the YES theory: basically just saying YES to social invitations, swimming opportunities, and even yes to a job offer--a full-time job that was presented as a remote work situation for content writing. It was insanity because I had a ton of freelance work queued up already. The only catches were: this actually was NOT set up to be a remote work job, and the writing was technical in nature, PLUS 75% of the time was spent trying to chase down info/plan out a work list/schedule product experts/procure parts/video + edit. It was a new position and I don't think the team understood the reality of the job. Compounding this, David's wonderful dad, Joseph, passed away and David was gone the rest of the month in upstate NY.

Three weeks in, I tendered my resignation. The weekend prior to resigning, my fingertips got itchy to write out the nuances of this position and why it wasn't working. I spent the next five hours writing out a critical path to explain how the job could be better and more efficiently executed, the ideal scope, and how the company could thrive with a fully functional marketing team that interfaced with the R&D team. I also created a D-I-Y PR sub-folder with relevant media lists, a boiler plate, a mock press release and tucked in the marketing folder. As much as I adored the team, that job wasn't for me and I hoped that this dossier would give them pause before rehiring. It was attached to my resignation letter. The exit interview was quick but the word "devastated" was relayed by HR. Still, I felt firm in my conviction that relinquishing this job was 100% right for me. Well, my email was circulated to the entire leadership team and it resonated big time.

The following week, the founder of the company met me for lunch and basically said the door was wide open to come back, but in a much more relevant marketing/communications role. Now, I'd need to mull over my ideal job and present it (or NOT) and see what shakes out. I also met with another member of the team two days later who encouraged me to go for it, but not to compromise on my needs, creatively, financially and remotely. WHAT AWESOMENESS IS THIS?

So this week, I'm in my cave a bit and thinking through things. Meanwhile, more projects and work have flown in the door. Do you know how fortunate I feel? Bottom line is, look within, trust and act on your gut and move with that force. Maybe now is a good time to go finish that book!

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Thursday, September 06, 2018

Farewell, John

Today I lost a friend named John. He is in a better place, I believe.

He was in my life for the past 30 years (give or take!). The first few years he kind of drove me nuts and I told him so! For 14 of those years, he was my father-in-law, the grandfather who helped deliver my second-born son Zachary at Kapiolani Medical Center in 1998, and later a temporary stranger when I divorced his stepson in 2005. By 2012, after some years passed, I reached out to him and his then-wife in an effort to bridge the silence...to no avail, but I tried.  And the very next year, the shit hit the fan for him and his marriage, he said.

The next and last time time I saw John in person was in 2015, about 11 years since I lived in Honolulu. I came to swim the Waikiki Roughwater, but the surf was so high the director cancelled the race as we were in the water ready to go. So an early, long lunch with John and my fellow swimmy pal Anne it would be! Man did we have some catching up to do.

We toured around Kakaako, John's stomping grounds at that time. It was evident that he was in hard times, but he still carried humanity, warmth and empathy in his heart. About 2013, I had been told by my ex that John was acting weird and to ignore his attempts to communicate with me and the boys.

What I didn't know then I learned in 2015, at least his side of it. He told us he had a breakdown after discovering a series of deceptions and losing basically everything. The details did not surprise me; I only thought that for a 30-something, it's possible to come back from that. Not so much when you're in your late 60s.

The day of that visit, we drove around a little more and said our goodbyes at Diamond Head, but continued to keep in close contact for the next three years. I felt lucky to be in his inner circle of four he regularly emailed. He listened to my reggae podcasts weekly. At one point I briefly set him up in a co-working space to finish a web job (he'd collected an advance on to squeak by). He cheered me on during my big swim, pep-talked me just prior, even continued to give me dental advice decades after hanging up that career! He missed having contact with his grown daughter Rain Juli (Hayes), not knowing her kids. He was always tickled to hear about Alex and Zach's accomplishments, which buoyed his spirits. Just last month he recalled Zach's birth on Z's 20th birthday week. Pretty cool. I still have the video of Z's first few minutes of life, thanks to John.

One of the last emails he sent me in the later half of August was that he felt ready for "the next Astral Plane" and he knew he was going to go soon. Then nothing. Then a text from his lifelong friend followed by a nice long phone chat that it wasn't looking good.

I have hundreds of emails to look back at. Last month he'd given me express permission to publish any and all of his memoirs, not to say I will, but that was very sweet. When I hear songs by Marley, Third World, Tosh and Matisyahu I will think of him. When I see Molokai and Lanai, I think of him and our crossings on his beloved boat (he later regretfully sold). Godspeed, John.

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Monday, July 30, 2018

We successfully swam the English Channel!


We did it. Mission accomplished. Kate, Randy, Curtis and I swam the English Channel on a crazy spring tide that took us 42 miles on a magic tidal carpet ride from the white cliffs of Dover at morning, to a lonely shore somewhere south of Wissant/Calais, France in the black of midnight. We landed in the wee hours on July 13 after about 17.5 hours of collective swimming.

In a straight line, the distance from point to point is 21 miles. It is not swum that way. Humans are not ferries. We are as good as our swim speed, the tide chart, and the currents that carry or resist our mortal strength. I trained hard all year. I was ready. I swam strong and feel good about my contributions to our “special” relay, which is typically six people and not four.
Our final track. The big boat stops and then you follow a little Zodiac as you swim the final bit into France

Team Puget Sound Swimmers: Randy, Curtis, me and Kate, taken by AlanaTPhotography at Paradise Cove, Vashon.


What can I tell you?  I am writing this from the perspective of a swimmer who might consider doing a relay like this.
  • There are very specific relay rules under the CSA and CS&PF sanctioned swims, such as no wetsuit (just cap, goggles, suit with no neoprene or special insulation). Also you go in a sequence, predetermined, that does not deviate throughout. That means if someone gets tired, tough. We chose one-hour rotations in Kate, Randy, Heidi and Curtis order—we drew straws on the order, except for having Kate go first, since she was team capt. A note on the handoff: you swim a full hour, a horn sounds, your successor jumps in and you have five minutes to get yourself out--if you miss the time window or accidentally touch your fellow swimmer you can be DQ'd. My last leg I was not hearing the horn one bit. Kate's flailing arms off the side of the boat thankfully cued me (it was nearly 10p and now dark; Start of my 4th leg below; definitely not pool form, more wanna be Janet Evans combat style- video: Jon Miell.). 
  • Support your fellow swimmers on their turns. When you are feeling tired or queasy on deck, you should still peep over the rails to cheer on your fellow swimmers. It gets lonely in the water. Yes, there is an official observer making sure you aren’t going to die of hypothermia, counting your stroke rate and checking on your awareness, but it’s not the same as having your own crew egg you on. Irene, our observer was sweet also in giving double thumbs up and smiles of support.
  • The water was funky. The white linings in some of my swimsuits took 3-4 washes to get clean. Whether it was silt or oil or both I’ll never know. I also swam alongside the lee side of the escort boat (there is a boat with crew including a pilot, observer and three mates in addition to the swimmers, so it’s a full house on a 36-foot boat). Although you are more protected from oncoming wind and surface chop, you also deal with the taste of diesel from the motor—and I could not get that taste out of my mouth for a couple days. The water wasn’t particularly much saltier than Puget Sound, on the palate. Oh! I'm sure there is an official term for it, but your mouth gets pretty torn up inside and tongue bloated from the salt water. 
    I realize now this is about 9p looking from France back to Dover at sunset.

    Shakespeare Beach and the white cliffs of Dover back there.
  • Water is still cold. The boat tracker reported mostly 17c temps on the surface (that’s 62f), but any passing ship would stir up very cold water—feeling more like Puget Sound. The very last bit in France was a balmy 19c, and that was really nice. Even at 17c, you still get out and shiver after an hour of swimming. It’s just what happens.
  • My first leg was terrifying. Not because of the swimming itself, but because a yacht came directly for us under motor and would not change course. Horns sounded, more sounded, finally our pilot ran to the bow, arms flailing and he chewed out the pompous asshole. The offender came so, so close. Asking-for-Grey-Poupon-close. I could see his eyes from my in-the-water position and our boat had to stop to avoid collision. Yachtsman was reported for breaking maritime law and got some sort of reprimand as we heard over the radio shortly after. There was an earlier moment (in the first minutes of jumping in), when our own boat got directly behind me, throttled up, and I had to swim out fast from the bow in a perpendicular fashion. There are cameras on either side of the boat and behind (that feed to a monitor for the pilot), but someone at the helm definitely, briefly lost sight of me.
    First leg, swum in a two piece. Apparently the crew had bets on if I was going to lose my cap or bottoms first.
  • A relay has some psychological disadvantages. You repeatedly go through a shiver and re-warming process. Getting back in the water takes an internal pep talk. The good news is you are sharing the physical burden of crossing with teammates and chances of finishing the swim are greatly increased vs going solo.
  • You will be dinged up a little. And lord yes there are jellyfish. Fortunately the sting effects were not too bad and gone the next day. What stuck around were the bruises from climbing on and off the ladder at the back of the boat. Things are rocking and rolling and you don’t notice the impacts in the adrenaline of swimming and getting out fast (they don’t mess around getting you back on deck), but two days later I was covered in little black bruises here and there.
  • Seventeen hours actually quickly flew. We were still not fully adjusted to UK time, the all-night-raging seagulls in Folkestone did nothing to help our sleep and that was probably a good thing in some ways. We arrived to the boat on “fumes” and brought some light food and hydration for our swim legs—oatmeal, tea, biscuits, special workout potions (and bee bread for me from our bees). Our pattern was swim, then get dry and redress, shiver and try to drink tea, re-warm, eat before next swim, then help out the next teammate from the water to do the same, signal to the swimmer in the water and be ready to jump back in. The cycle goes super fast. We also had a little pantomime language to cue our in-the-water swimmers when they hit the 30 min, 15 min to go, and 5 mins to go marks. This was a tip shared from another channel relay team (Cheryl, Catherine, Christine, Deborah) and it was GREAT.
  • Take seasick meds in advance. Whether it’s a little dose of Dramamine or a Transderm Scop patch, if you aren’t fully sea-legged you’ll regret going without. I did the former and am so glad. It actually felt better to be in the water swimming than on deck, in my opinion. We had an overcast day, a rather extreme swinging spring tide and not perfect seas but not awful either.
  • Practice together in advance to motivate each other and keep everyone on their game(s)! We did work out together toward the end (and in the days we waited for the official go in Folkestone), but if possible, earlier is even better!
  • If you are allowed by your pilot to follow the last man/woman into France to touch land, DO IT!  Aside from a skinny dip in Greece last year under full moon (not my own moon!) I had never swum at night before. I didn’t care. I put on a light stick and jumped in for the last 400 meters in tow of finisher Randy, and watched and cried happy tears as he climbed onto a pitch black sandy beach. No regrets. We swam back to the boat together overjoyed. So cool!
    This was the torture: just 3-4 miles off France, but about 4.5 hours to go!
    Lots of live action happens before the very end. 

  • The pilot and crew deserve credit. People see the swooping S-course and ask “what the hell is the matter with the pilot?” Nothing! These guys are navigating the busiest shipping lanes in the world while triangulating incredibly swift currents, a spring tide with extreme highs and lows, surface winds, dodging assholes like the yachtsman on my first leg, then dealing with pointing us swimmers with the boat direction, factoring in our varying swim speeds and plotting with sophisticated tools and charts where to land us in France…in the black of night. The only thing we could see after midnight was the silhouette flash of hills as a lighthouse light spun round from Cap Gris Nez. No lights from any homes. Only a mag light off the pilot’s motorized raft guided us the last 400m into shore. These guys (and gal) are amazing!
  • We raised money for People for Puget Sound, supporting clean local waters. Give! Link is here: https://wecprotects.org/fund/puget-sound-swimmers/
My teammate highlights IMHO: watching a tanker divert for Curtis to keep on his swim track, watching Kate crush her fifth leg--the nasty, combat-like "backwater," the inshore waters of France coming round the point, and watching Randy swim to France. So cool!

I am grateful to my terrific husband, David, for being such a wonderful support of this pursuit, for always being there, and putting up with my crazy training schedule.

More gratitude: The Dilworth mermaids, The LAKE GIRLS, Allen Nakano- master swim coach at VAC/Rockfins, Josh Thorn- CrossFit personal training at Vashon Strong, Dayna and Scott for my first few years of swimming, the Notorious Alki Swimmers (my Sat open water group) for the cold water “skin” hazing this year—that was really hard. Thanks to islander Wally Wood, who heroically re-filled and FedExed my lost-in-transit hypothyroid meds (and I was spinning out fast!). Also, I was floored to look at Facebook in these two weeks following the swim to read all the comments and outpouring of support from family, friends, community and swim peers! THANK YOU, EVERYONE.

Right now I’m chilling out—intense workouts are not on the docket and neither is a full workload. Kate and I caught a nasty upper respiratory virus (Curtis had it first and swam with it!) that two weeks later is just clearing out. We are already planning 2020 relays, one around the UK channel island of Jersey, and another across the English Channel (perhaps a kinder, gentler neap tide this time, and maybe six people so we can make excellent time). We didn’t make it easy on ourselves this round, but it sure felt great to finish.
Feeling strong on my swims. Training pays off. Photo: Jon Miell

The final course. Done!





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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

When cat femurs break: recovery and rehabilitation

A week ago last Sunday was a bad day for Bug, our sweet ginger boy kitty. That afternoon I heard a loud cat yelp out back, but at the time didn't see which of our three cats it was. The next morning, Bug was curled up in a little open box near me, while I worked for several hours at my desk. When I saw him get up to shift in the box, he yelped and collapsed back down. It was then I called the vet to figure out why his back left leg was dangling and the extent of his injury.

Bug suffered a distal physeal femoral fracture, which occurs in 25% of cat bone breaks. His femur was clean broken off from the knee and the rest, leaving a dangling appearance and no weight bearing at all. It happens mostly to young cats from trauma (a bad landing from a jump, which was presumed in this case), and it sucks. No cast, only surgery can fix this with internal pinning and/or plating. Bug was referred to a Seattle surgical center and operated on the next day, pinned to perfection. By Weds, he was home--doped up and imprisoned where he is currently serving a six-week "sentence" in physical recovery - also wearing a cone (e-collar) for a total of two weeks while his stitches are in (he has four on the inner leg and two outside).

I'm frustrated by the lack of recovery information out there, because I contend this is the hardest part. Rather than use a large crate or kennel (which seems inhumane but is recommended), we have him in a smallish room, but no bed or tables to jump on, just a floor mattress. David and I take turns overnighting with him to combat his loneliness. We've brought in lots of little toys for him. I downloaded this awesome app to the iPad that runs 24/7 called Games for Cats with a mouse touch game that he fleetingly adores and plays with (win! worth the $3). I have a little old floor scratch pad for him. All the comforts.

We tried a gate set up which he escaped a couple times, only to limp-saunter into the kitchen like he owned the joint, which was hilarious and frustrating because that means he scaled a flight of stairs and it's a little soon for that activity, but David has added some reinforcements and it's better fortressed. As least this way Bug can see into the lower level family room. Bug is also on kitty pain killers 2x day for a few more days. He still hurts but wants to be invincible. He sleeps a ton, more than normal cat sleeping, but I think his body needs it for healing--I suspect this is a natural process.

His whole leg is shaved and I learned that'll be another 10-12 weeks before the fur grows back. I just don't want him to get depressed spending 5 more weeks in here (yes- I'm working and writing from Kitty Folsom, because I want to support the little dude). So far, this first week has been an overall success story. What an ordeal. By the way, the surgery, plus initial Vashon exam, followup and meds was $4,000. He is worth it for the joy he brings.




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Monday, April 02, 2018

Blood, sweat and tears

T-Minus three months until I'm England bound with my three friends and fellow Puget Sound Swimmers (team name) to experience an iconic swim from the white cliffs of Dover, England across the channel to Calais, France. Our window is July 11-19, and the boat pilot is Mike Oram, who has guided hundreds of swimmers safely across the channel.

Fun and exciting as it may be, I take the training seriously. That's why the blog has been a tad quiet. I'm chugging through water in the Sound and in a pool at least 4x per week, and I've added added private cross training at Vashon Strong to the mix once per week. The latter is definitely the most challenging, ache-inducing facet, and it's because these drills are activating muscles I don't use to the degree CrossFit demands. Holy hell I hurt.

Another benefit? The calories are burning off my hypothyroid weight and muscle definition is slowly chiseling its way into my core, shoulders and butt. Thank you, exercise.

Vashon Athletic Club each Saturday has also been a lot of fun at Rockfins masters. I lament waking up at 6a on Saturday but the interval training tests one's speed and endurance, for me pushing limits that surpass my expectations. This is making me a much faster swimmer after just a couple of months! In the scheme of competition swimming it's a long way to go, but for me I'm very happy to hear coach tell me I swam a 100 in 1:24, or I'm doing a mile at 1:35/100y nonstop. Those are victories that are going to make my relay rotations much easier.

The newest challenge is cold water tolerance without a wetsuit. It was 48f at Alki on Sat. I entered in a bikini and held out swimming (not just standing there!) for 20 minutes. Next week, right after masters I'll head for the ferry to West Seattle to join the NAS group as usual. I'll try for 22 minutes (even though the forecast calls for rain - yuck!). The idea is that once I jump into the English Channel, the 58-60f water won't be as shocking to tolerate with this training behind me.

My physical and blood work were stellar - best yet at 49.
Next is our 2-hr cold-water qualifier and we are good to do this thing. Getting closer to reality each week, and I'm committed to being a productive teammate on this channel relay!

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas-Birthday 2017

What a beautiful Christmas 2017! Dad flew in Christmas Eve, we hung ornaments on the tree, David went off to work (his side gig) at Bramble House so Dad and I showed up and enjoyed a special tasting menu. We sat at the counter in front of the kitchen and it was great fun. Best part? Snow falling that afternoon into the night for a WHITE CHRISTMAS. Such a great gift! Another of David's feasts followed on Christmas day.


We played tourist, traipsing through Pike Place Market - buying fresh salmon at the priciest place (But totally worth the fanfare, and that fish is fantastic), lunching at Cafe Campagne (a wonderful, former PR client), walking the Bill Spiedel Underground Tour (first and last time- cute but could've been told in 10 minutes, and too much of a cattle walk), showing Dad WA State's proliferation of recreational pot shops on our drive down First Ave toward home.



An attempt to spot whales at Pt. Robinson instead brought us a Steller Sea Lion and plenty of sea birds, I made my first FABULOUS chevre (rookie success!), and we ventured to Ezell's for Dad's fried chicken fix, enjoyed overlooking Lake Washington. We briefly popped over to the Washington Arboretum and found a few things in bloom before I had to take pops back to the airport. 

Although we couldn't have all of our family together, nothing diminishes our love for all. There were tears. There were big belly laughs, too. I treasured this visit. I think of our mortality and the stone cold FACT that any one of us could have "our time" come and be done on this earth tomorrow, maybe even today. When that day comes for me or others, I'll have zero regrets. 

Oh yeah, I turned 49! Thank you for all the well wishes and to the friends who sent sweet texts. Rounding out this final year of my fab forties, I will be the fittest version of myself as I train for the big team swim a few oceans away (in July). This past year already put me in gear: faster race finishes, a week of swimming with friends in Greece, a few skin swims in cold water, plus a few setbacks just toughened me up more (rehab for vertigo, working through psoas strain, then stupid end-of-year viruses + middle ear infection)! The reader magnifiers keep creeping to greater intensities...but my blood pressure is awesome, I'm cancer-free and I am strong (in more ways than one). Thank you, God. Life is good.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The early morning dance movement: Daybreaker

My wonderful pal Diana is not only an awesome swimmer, she is a fun, skilled dancer. She invited all of us swimmers to a global -thang- that pops up in various cities that promotes sober, early morning club-style dance (and optional yoga preceding it). I was all in! She and I were the only ones who went from our swim buddies. It was so fun! The theme was winter white, and we did our best. I'd go again. Not sure how I feel about the live musicians playing over the disco, but the rest was really cool! Photos taken by A.J. Apuya photography.

Quick side note for Vashon readers: my white silk tunic was sweaty and smudged by club soot, and I had it dry cleaned via dropping it at the Country Store. It cleaned up like new. Thumbs up!

Finale: Diana and I are by those raised arms fronting the DJ.

Yes, there was a human sweating his ass off in a Panda suit.

Still a spaz on the dance floor.

Diana leading the conga here!

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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Reconnecting with Friends of Heidi Past


This was yesterday morning in Santa Cruz, CA.
A cleansing dip is good for the soul. Nice to be able to take trips like these!

There was an entire 18 years of my young adult life that I rarely had the privilege of traveling (even regionally), connecting with my childhood friends, or just heading off with girlfriends for coffee, a mall crawl, or dancing...without first being heaped a load of name-calling, accusations or insecurity-driven grief. That changed in 2005 when I figured out that this was not normal relational behavior with the help of a counselor, and I made some big changes for the better.

Any future relationship of mine would come with established boundaries: nobody was going to tell me when or where or with whom I could hang out. Nobody was going to make me feel badly for wanting to see a bit of the world, to hang out with my parents/grands as much as I wanted, or just be by myself. I am so fortunate to now have someone who would never question those things to start.

Time passed but I managed to keep all the old friendships that ever mattered. This past month, I've seen a handful of people I haven't seen in more than 25 years! Over the weekend I went to Santa Cruz with my pal Anne and we visited with my friend originally from Boise and another from Coronado. A few weeks ago I met another longtime Boise friend for coffee at Alki. Then at Nordstrom I reconnected with another San Diego friend! There are several more bridges rebuilt lately.

To me it is incredibly validating, and anchoring, to keep open (or reopen) those lines of communication. It enriches life. It's so cool to see the paths in life these people have laid out. Nearly ALL of my friends have grown up to be highly creative, productive, successful, civic and left-leaning, outdoors-loving, musical/artistic people. They walk their talks.

So Mark, Rachel, Christy, Robert, Mika, Cheri, Melina and more...what a month it's been!

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Welcome to the North End; wanna get away?

We have had what feels like months of utility work on 103rd Ave. Just as one utility was wrapping up, along comes a love note from PSE headlined with something euphemistic like "Making Improvements for You," which basically meant, "ALL HELL'S GONNA BREAK LOOSE AGAIN ON YOUR BLOCK, BABY!" This time, Asplundh tree service will trim entangled branches and then new lines will be put in where needed...this is what we gathered from the courtesy letter. This in an effort to thwart outages, of which we've had a couple lately.

Welcome to North End life this fall/winter. You're not missing anything.

Whether it's the existing project or the new one with PSE is anyone's guess, but this entire week, engines and equipment have run ALL DAY LONG with very few moments of ever cutting engines, and it's all just outside our driveway. This while flaggers poised a few hundred yards up and down our road literally govern our comings and goings. Crews start early and sometimes go into the dark. We've seen welding, excavating and -big truck- tow trucks out front. It is a shit show now, hopefully for the greater good!

I suspect just based on the changing of the flaggers that this is the PSE project. Living close to the ferry has a GREAT advantage, but there's also this infrastructure stuff that needs attending. I pay my taxes and am grateful...it's just super lame to work at home with all this NOISE!

Impact Hub in P-Square is where I hold a part-time co-working space; looks like I'll be there a little more in the next few weeks! #serenitynow

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lip sync battle royale

Happy 3rd birthday Voice of Vashon. We came, we costumed, we lip sync-battled for a cause!

I channeled my mom to be the 60s go-go diva (white boots and all) and lip sync "Have love will travel" by Seattle garage band of the 60s, the Sonics. And I'd do it again!

So much creativity with this crew. I'm so lucky to be a part of this community.

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Thursday, November 09, 2017

Move-mber: my FUPA prevention program

Anyone else deeply affected by the seasons? November is a tough month for me, living in the Northwest. Colds and flus are spreading around (already got over one!), it's chilly, it's grey, it's dark early and late...just hole-up weather in general. This makes getting outside to swim, or just getting OUT much more of an effort than any other time of the year. I have committed to work out every day of this month, whether it's a swim, gym circuit, hike or dancing. I'm on day 9 and it's been so fun!

So far in the mix: walking five miles, an ecstatic dance session, and multiple pool and gym sessions. Rather than make excuses, I'm burning it up! I'm not willing to "diet" beyond eating sensibly, and we really do eat well. I'm not a snacker, not a binger and refuse to make this month MOO-vember. So alas, MOVE-mber!

My friend recently put the fear of God in me by mentioning her observations of the dreaded FUPA on people. Just the notion of developing a FUPA by being sedentary appalls me. What, you ask, is a FUPA? I don't make this stuff up, folks! Urban Dictionary has a harsher definition, that one really cuts deep. It's basically hanging-out-the-front fat over your pubis. It's usually completely preventable with a little self-control, holding upright posture and regular exercise. My fear is compounded by having a totally non functioning thyroid and being reliant on a moving target dose of levothyroxine to make my organs work and body metabolize as it should.

Vashon Athletic Club has made many improvements and I'm impressed with the changes. Check it out. Move with me. Catch you in motion!

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Monday, November 06, 2017

Chanterelle La-la-la!

When the inclination to forage tugs on your shoestrings, you get those boots on and hit the forest floor! It was one of those mornings when the sun peeked out, it was brisk but tolerable, and the fungi had sprung from the earth at our favorite secret spot.

Seventeen pounds of white chanterelles, all from our fair little island. When they're still $20/lb at our market, it feels pretty good to haul in more than $300 worth for the price of getting dirty. Score!
chanterelles on vashon

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Friday, November 03, 2017

Slayer

Since he discovered the cat door and came of age (six months) to venture out, our little Bug kitty has become a mouse avenger!

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My second big, fat Greek swim holiday

When you have the opportunity to pile into a boat with 13 other kindred spirits...halfway around the world...do it! I'm so tired of hearing people make excuses for why they don't GO DO EPIC SHIT. Last December I saved up and bought myself this swim trip to Crete via The Big Blue Swim, and lucky for me a handful of friends and THEIR friends...and a couple UK swim friends all signed on to go. We just had to wait nine months until it was time to swim.
Cheryl, Christine, Martha, Colleen, me, Sara and Susan - Hidden Beach Mermaids Represent!
I brought along my New Wave Swim Buoy, which was great for a group to sight on.
The rash guard was probably the smartest thing I brought to prevent sunburn!

Sfakia is a lovely port town on the SW coast of Crete. Unlike other parts of Greece, the hills look barren and austere by comparison. In reality, plenty grows there and many goats roam free. Known for its wild thyme honey, culinary Sfakian pie, local island cheeses and wine and a fantastic bakery...we ate like royalty for very modest prices. Loutro, Marmara and another spot called Akrogiali were favorite villages where we swam to/from and enjoyed.

The Big Blue Swim (www.thebigblueswim.com) expanded its swim excursions to Crete last year. In 2014 I took its Lefkada trip with my pal Anne. How it works is the fee covers the boat/snacks aboard/breakfast/hotel and your swim guide + swim analysis (video'd and reviewed 1:1). I think from British pounds to US it was something like $900 US for six nights - which is awesome. The airfare wasn't that much more. From London there are many charter flights or British Airways into Chania (say Hawn-Yah). Our esteemed guide was a fellow named Noa; we loved him. All the guides were great and they watch over specific speed groups. This trip I was in the fastest "pink" group which is relative to your company on the trip of course!
Three Vashon Islanders on the other side of the world:
me, Martha and Dana in the front row...we swam to this ancient temple.

Trying a moment of Synchro: why not?!

Our group for a week! So much fun. All abilities.

The rhythm of the trip was like this: wake up, pack a swim bag, sunscreen up, chow down brekky, board the sailboat, motor off to somewhere gorgeous, jump off the sailboat, swim 2-3k on the coast (poke into some caves), get back on boat in the deep, motor to a taverna in a village - no booze during lunch of course, get back on boat, do another 2-3k swim, board boat again, go back to the hotel, happy hour (optional), clean up, dine on the waters edge and go sleep like a baby (if you like REALLY STIFF mattresses, that is).

Christos (in red), Adonis (white tshirt), and Noa (2nd to far right) were our guides.
Just gotta say that the food in Crete is second to none. It's wholesome, satisfying, healthy and flavorful! I loved the Boureki (a veggie gratin) so much I replicated the recipe at home and it will become a regular dish for me. Squid, octopus, grilled sardines, spanikopita, dolmadakia, and roast chicken with potatoes just totally dazzled. Even at night our group tended to dine together, alternating the love to different family tavernas (our hotel each night was the same; Xenia Hotel in Sfakia).




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Monday, September 25, 2017

Alcratraz Swim #4 - done!

We swam Alcatraz...I did it in a bikini and it was FUN! Although I didn't race like normal, I had a fine time at 43 minutes across and kind of wonder what my time had been if I went full throttle! Next year provides that opportunity, I suppose!
Thank you for our kits and sponsorship, New Wave Swim Buoy!

Feeling strong and grateful for health and fitness in our late 40s!
(The guy could be our son!)

Diana, Rose, me and Kate

Kate, Diana and Rose are all amazing, strong women and we have a blast swimming together. This trip was extra special because I was able to share the weekend with my mom, son Alex, and my "auntie" Dorothy! We'll be back!

I've committed to Kate to join her on her English Channel 2018 relay, so the training continues!

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Alcatraz weekend approaches!

Tomorrow I get on a plane and, once landed, all my worlds collide: me as daughter, mom, friend and swimmer roll into one fabulous, fun-packed weekend with the people and activities I love in San Francisco.

The South End Rowing Club's Alcatraz Swim will be interesting for me. It's my fourth time doing an Alacatraz swim but my very first time doing so with NO WETSUIT...and technically my fourth race this season swimming with a deep core injury (docs are calling this a case of iliopsoas strain) that has been giving me fitful sleep since June 30 and limiting my ability to walk--or even turn in bed, get out of bed, raise my right leg, etc. PT has not helped--maybe I started too soon or I just need to be patient. I tapered my swimming workouts down a lot this month to help heal up.

Fortunately, swimming only hurts when I really get going and then it stabs under my diaphragm when I grab a breath--that's typically on mile two of my swim workouts. My goal in this, like Waikiki, is to just finish. My past two Alcatraz times have been 45 and 43 minutes, wearing a wetsuit, so if I can do this swim in 50 minutes "in skin" I'll be pretty happy. We shall see! After the shock of cold shakes off I plan to tune out, dig deep and get this done. I visualize completion and celebration.
This is what it looks like from the boat. Notice all the wetsuits!
When we get out of the water is when the real fun begins. My mom and son Alex are both in town for the weekend, and we'll all head to the Arlequin Cafe, pop bubbles and eat like fiends with swimmy pals (to get back those expended calories and rehash our high and low points of the race). Another pal Llorie, I've only seen in 2005 on a work trip, and before that when I was pregnant in Hawaii with Alex, is going to see him for the very first time as a 21-year-old!

Then we sigh, relax, and visit more Sunday. Really looking forward to a fun weekend!

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Thursday, September 07, 2017

From Vashon Island to Oahu

This past weekend my husband David and I took a short trip to Waikiki. The timing was right: he had the week off work, we had a companion fare deal on AK Airlines and there was the famous Waikiki Roughwater Swim on Labor Day this year!

The humidity hangs thick like a velvet curtain when you first land on Oahu. It's easy to forget about, being so far from it. We took a (total ripoff) taxi ride into Waikiki and decided to Uber the rest of the trip. Good decision. We stayed at Hyatt Centric Waikiki, which is a fun boutique hotel in the middle of everything. David remarked that Waikiki reminded him of Vegas, in its built out, luxury retail, commodified way. After living on quiet Vashon for so long, I'm incredibly sensitive to sound at night. The untz-untz of a nearby nightclub and street noise awakened me a lot (even being 12 stories up). David never heard a thing.


This man is an awesome athlete.

David, Brion, me


This is Becky. Met her at the start.
We finished a minute apart.


My brother Brion lives there and has since 1994. He works in construction living a simple life he loves. Same apartment for two decades. Steady as it gets. We had nice visits with him and David surfed Diamond Head with him one day while I chilled out in the sun. The surf was UP on the south shore, which doesn't bode well for the swim. That means the little keyhole channels between the deep water and the shore where you're swimming into are sucking out....which means you are fighting like hell to get back in. Great for getting into the deep, bad getting back. To my delight, David decided to enter the swim as well. One of our Notorious Alki Swimmer friends Randy was in town too, signed up and ready to go! We all met up with the Waikiki Swim Club on a channel practice swim the day before the race (nice people). I pointed out to David the apartment I once lived in (1992-3) at the Hilton long before they became timeshares. So trippy seeing it again. I never took living there for granted, and always hit the beach, and its little gym and pool! On this day, on that beach, strong whitewash took my goggles and cap off a few times. Big surf!

We saw Moina, a resident swim friend, and enjoyed a quick chat riding across town with her to get our race packets squared away. Traffic has really gotten worse in town. Town is also so built out along Ala Moana. Nuts. We had an AMAZING dinner in Kaimuki at 12th Ave. Grill. The food is modern American with some island fare thrown in, and lots of local produce and meats. Service was top notch, too. We could have come back again and again. Carbed up, we got to bed early.

Race day was partly cloudy and the surf died down a little. About 700 swimmers from all over the world gathered to race. About half were not from the islands. There were lots of D1 collegiates and world class athletes in the mix. I signed on to the D group, to avoid being trampled, and hopefully to stick with David. That lasted about 300 yards. With feet and arms all in your face in a mass wave of 150+ others, all you see are bubbles and the toes in front of you. Later I swam alongside someone I thought was David, only to realize it was someone else. I noticed a lot of tidal resistance after the first turn buoy, but the very hardest part was the final leg back into the channel. In between that 1.5 mile stretch of ocean, you really do spread out and it gets damn lonely. I followed the buoys in a line on the sea shelf, although a lot of swimmers stayed 100-200 yards parallel, inside towards shore. I joked with some of the volunteers in the deep, asking for my Pina Colada, before putting my head back down.


Whoops, my Garmin was off until I flipped it on at the first turn buoy.
Started from shore at Kaimana Beach.
I can't make a muscle. 

The very last leg was an all-out swim to inch forward (and right) against the current. It was also tugging left, which unchecked, would drag you right over coral shelves. It was then the swimmers began to converge again in pursuit of the keyhole channel to finish (safely). Once out (2 hrs, 5 minutes..not breaking any records on that swim people. HA!), I was overjoyed and overheated, hyperventilating! Straight to the medic tent, got my breath back, and David finished just minutes behind me. Seattle folks did great. There were many more from Puget Sound in that race. About 620 finished the race. I'd do it again.

Because of being centered in Waikiki and car-less this time, we didn't get too social. There are several friends we'll go back and see with a car next time, and there will definitely be a next time!

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Another Birthday Boy

Alex is 21 years old. Wow that happened quickly.
Alexander is 21 today. What I've always loved about Alex is his willingness to speak the truth, despite if it was something we wanted to hear. When he was off to college, he was very open about the things he had tried with peers. He just put it all out there and didn't try to be something he wasn't.

Now graduated from college and working on a return contract, this time to work in China teaching English, he is ready to take on a new challenge while building his mastery of Mandarin (which seems pretty awesome already--from the outside looking in, anyway). From the time he could walk, he would pace the very house he took his first steps. As language followed I would ask him, "Alex, what are you doing?" He'd reply, "I'm thinking...about everything." And he really did. I think the rug had a worn-in trail from his afternoon paces. :)

One of his signature moments was the day he wore a wild, African tribal print button-up shirt to middle school--8th grade. It was a cast-off from my father-in-law and David wasn't interested in it. Ever. But Alex took a shine to it. I was fearful he'd get teased in such a garish garment, but Alex came back from school one day wearing it and said, "Kids made comments on my shirt, but I just smiled and told them I was wearing was the shirt of my people." I howled. Only Alex could think of that. And give no shits. Through his giving no shits he truly defined his own brand of cool. By high school he had a wide and diverse swath of friends.

Happy birthday to my 21-year-old...that sounds so crazy still! But still glad I had those boys in my 20s! I needed the youth to keep up with them. Love you, Alex.


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Monday, August 14, 2017

Birthday Boy

This is NOT a missing person (missed, yes; missing, no). 
Zachary is 19 today. I love this young man more than words can properly convey. It makes me happy to see him working, learning a trade, in love and growing up.

As he matures, things will start to make sense. The parental guardrails that were in place: basic expectations, the consequences for certain actions, and the many rewards and privileges...they were all there for a reason.

What do we want for our kids? For them to have better lives than we did. To realize their full potential. To dare greatly, even if that means failing at first. But, by all means, try.

August is the month we see off-to-college, back-to-school, and first-day-of-school posts on social media. I always think of Zach. He was the social butterfly from preschool on, always wanting to please his peers (and teachers); this was a little human that operated solely on pathos, almost never logos. He loved big and his smile melted hearts. When he didn't get his way, though, watch out; Leo roars. A certain photo of his sit-in protest at the Coronado skateboard shop almost exactly 10 years ago, the oil painting by Heather Morris of his famous sulk, and the apology notes he wrote me in elementary school give me a chuckle from time to time. They are a testament to his passionate soul.

At 19, there will be soaring love, satisfaction from self-discovery, and pain from separation of those you love most. There will be restlessness, a longing to explore, and plans hatching for the next move. Zachary, as you pave your way toward independence, don't forget that your parents--all four of them--love you so very much.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Festival Weekend

Vashon Island's population triples in size on the weekend of its annual Strawberry Festival. That statistic comes from crews roughly measuring the poop out of the rented honey buckets used during the fest, and I'm not joking. So, yeah.

Bettie Edwards was running a good campaign for Vashon's unofficial mayor, and her cause was the Vashon Community Care Center, where she volunteers. In the end another candidate "won" (votes are counted in dollars for each respective cause), but she raised 10K for VCCC. This is the same place where I had rehab for a long lapse of severe vertigo, so when Bettie called last minute to ask if we could roll through the parade in my convertible with the VCCC king and queen in back, I didn't hesitate to jump in.



I also got in a nice visit with my oldest son, some longtime friends, met more of my fellow VOV deejays and its board members, and learned how to get scratches and scuff marks off the bumper of my shiny white car (since some jack-hole left the scene of their crime in the IGA lot). Of course no note. That would be too civil. So, thanks to youtube, a microfiber cloth and some gritty toothpaste, I have mastered what every used car salesman already knows--buff it out, keep going, be patient, and you might just get things back to pristine!

I hopped a plane that same night to San Diego for another celebration, to see my uncle play in the 50th anniversary of his Coronado band, West Coast Iron Works. This visit meant a lot to my mom. We saw our family friend Dorothy who lives in SF, I had breakfast with my dad, I jumped in freakishly warm ocean water and body-surfed a bit (while lots of tourists got sting ray assaults, apparently), had a Heinz family lunch, popped into a couple boutiques, saw my Kassie, and before you know I was back home for work late Tues.

You never know when or if today's the last day you'll ever live. I'm packing now through early Oct with lots of activities, living life to its fullest. The garden is growing, this incredible community has galvanized our place here and of course, the water keeps calling. Honolulu, SF (for another race from Alcatraz), London, Crete...I'm coming for ya soon!

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fat Salmon 2017 complete!

Each July in Lake Washington, more than 300 swimmers race a 5k point-to-point course that starts at I-90 under the Day Street Boat Ramp and ends just shy of the 520 at Madison Park Beach. It's a USMS zoned NW championship race that draws out the elite athletes, rounded out by fitness swimmers like me, just trying to edge up on my 2015 time!

The water was warm. It was probably too warm for the wetsuit division for which I registered, but I stuck to it. My new sleeveless chafed the heck outta my underarm and shoulders. Hip flexors still ache from kicking, but I shaved 8 minutes off my finish time.

It sucks when swimmers get pulled for not being fast enough at the 2.5-mile mark. Volunteers swoop in on boards and kayaks and nudge people out. In the case of our swim friend Alison, she was having none of that! She was swimming for two at nearly nine months prego and she kept swimming until she finished. Flanked by friends and fellow swimmers, she did it.

Me, Alison and her swim baby, and Waymon


Wendy V. from the island took first in her age group finishing in 1hr 26 min. Nineteen minutes later, I came ashore! The first finisher was 1:05 and the last finisher was 2:20 or so. It felt good to check this race off the list for the year. Next up is Alcatraz unless I find a killer deal to do the Waikiki Rough Water Swim. Meanwhile on Vashon, the jellyfish are back in droves on our shores and they're huge--egg yolks and lion's mane. Lakes sound pretty good right now!

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Home Alone

The nest is totally and officially empty as of this week. Don’t ask me to predict if things will stay this way, but for now, we’re home alone! And it’s peaceful. Healthy. Liberating.

When you share your home, you realize all the quirks of your housemates and vice versa. Some things you don’t want to know: Like how voraciously one eats, or uses enough toilet paper or feminine products to single-handedly kill a rainforest, or accumulates (food/paper/clothing) beyond rational thought, or just talks while chewing food... or doesn’t close their mouth when chewing.

I work at home and my office is in an open space—occupying one of three living rooms, and when I’m at the computer that is a cue to all to keep on walking through (do not take a seat and sigh away the day, throw your things down on the futon or engage me while I’m in the zone!).

It amused me when simple items we bought for ourselves were cannibalized upon move-out by our last roommate, from canned staples (and you bet our pantry was full to start…and gazed upon in admiration by the new resident), to that one, on-hand box of mini pads (I just needed my one full-but-opened box, for when it mattered). The car I let her use she totaled within 8 weeks of driving it...the one I obsessively maintained for 10 years, that was going to last me many more years. Poof. Its replacement is a joke—and the joke is on me and my wallet. Lesson: By extending yourself and your things, the poof can happen.

Then there was the gesture in Dec 2015 to wire that same friend pocket money to her then-resident North Africa via Western Union. The money was never redeemed and I eventually got it back, but some creep got his hands on my WU account and just this week tried to wire cash to Morocco. I have heard about enough smarmy deeds by French Maghreb-type mafiosos to last me forever, but I didn’t think I would also be filing an ID theft case report for myself on top of everything else.

Is it worth it, to share? Absolutely. Would I be less generous moving forward? Doubt it. Through the past six years, this home has been a launch pad for my mom (through grief and knee surgery), an unpredictable uncle, a girlfriend awaiting her partner to move west, and the last, the friend in a rough spot starting life over in her 40s. Yay, space.

In time, we’ll downsize, like all empty-nesters do. We’re exploring a hop over to the cottage in which we’d fix the big house up enough to rent out. For now, we are enjoying a peaceful, predictable, roommate-free living space once again.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Older and faster

In the seven years that I've taken on open water swimming, the race events always have me in awe of the older women (60+) who are absolutely like lightning in the water. They are so inspiring! Last week David and I were in Coronado to celebrate with childhood classmates in what would be our 30th year CHS reunion (I moved, but D graduated there). In addition to lots of events around town and nice family visits, there was a (59th annual) July 4 rough water swim right on Center Beach! I had to be part of it.

I knew two other ladies racing: Brooke, who is the local master's coach, and Phoenix, a long-boarder and swimmer who fears no body of water. I was comforted to have David with me at the start, and to run into both of these women in a sea of 300-ish swimmers. Many were wearing team parkas or under collegiate tents. I was swimming with some serious, humbling competition.

Apprehensions for me: swimming in skin (without the comfort of my wetsuit like in the sound), and racing in the ocean, where the swell bobs gave me a sense of the vertigo I'd just finally shaken after all these months.

Me, Brooke, Rae and another swimmer


Phoenix and me

Phoenix is up front here in the blue top.

You can see the surf.

Done! Seaweed still in the bathing suit top.


One woman who was 68, Tracy, and in town for her 50th high school reunion was the top finisher in her age group and one of the first women in over all. A total bad ass off to compete in Worlds next! To my delight, I swam the course in 29:35 (mile); and yet, I was in the last 25% of finishers- ha! Meaning, what is typically a fine finish time was, with this crowd of D1 (and ex-D1) athletes, just meh. My friends were out just ahead of me by one and two minutes, so I feel super accomplished!


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