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 raise 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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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Messy, mucky, massive (delicious)

When the tides get extreme, that's when delicious things are easier to pluck from the shore. We ate like kings for a week on a variety of clams. We enjoyed sashimi, sushi, fritters and of course, chowder. Lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest!


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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Alexander commences

With his laser focus and determination, and the financial support of me, reinforcements from my father, and books and gifts respectively from stepgrands Farah and Lucas, and godparents Sue and Jim, Alexander blazed through college in three very concentrated years. He also spent a chunk of his last academic year in China and came back with a nice command of Mandarin. I'm so proud of him!

This young man has poise, diplomacy, discipline and discretion. To his own admission, he also played and partied as any college student would. I'm glad he struck a balance. I'm also glad he attended the school he truly wanted (Evergreen), one that allowed him to build his own curriculum and jump into deep studies in a seminar style.

I'm not glad for the one dorm mate (who didn't matriculate) that kept eating all of Alex's food using poverty as his defense, or the final flaky "Fiona" wake-n-baker that compelled him to move abruptly (because she intended to move). How you cope with that adversity shows character; he handled all with grace.

At first, in 2014, Alex didn't think he'd have the means to go to a 4-year school. I cashed in a retirement fund to get him started, did a payment plan for tuition, dorm, meal plan...then of course later switched from dorm to paying his rent and making grocery runs (or sending $), handled travel, etc..and it was worth every penny. Alex will cover any future graduate education on his own. For now, he's looking at an English teaching stint back in China and over summer is working near Olympia on an orchard.

To congratulate him,  I deposited the remainder of the cash I'd saved for his last quarter and just about fell over when I saw my dad's gift to him. My hope is the rest of his extended family really went big on congratulatory gifts since they were not involved in putting him through school. Alex, you rocked it like the star you are. Congratulations.


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Friday, March 31, 2017

Dancehall Reggae Lovah

Since the end of January, I've been volunteering at our island radio station, Voice of Vashon, with a reggae and reggae-hybrid format. Borderlines can be heard via live broadcast on 101.9fm if you're on the island, or voiceofvashon.org anywhere in the world from 1-3p every Thursday!

And if you love reggae, don't miss Clinton Fearon playing live on April 21 (Fri) at the Red Bike at 9p. Get your tickets ($10) here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2897611

Clinton visited the studio this month and did a fun interview on the show. Check it out! If you can't make the show, head to iTunes and get his new album This Morning. It's full of bittersweet yet uplifting songs and you won't be sorry to own it.



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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Robert E Kelly, you're one of us.

Dude, we've all been there (all work-at-home/telecommuting parents, that is). You just happened to hit the mother lode on an international newscast.

Look on the bright side, you're now THE go-to commentator on Korean political affairs, and lookie there, you're HUMAN. Shit happens. It's okay. Your kids are fabulous and your wife deserves a medal or recruitment to a baseball team with that slide into the safe zone!

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Pool in the Plastic Bubble

Vashon, bring it on! Work it out, refine the plan, and vote the mother in!

We can use the extra aquatic year-round resource. I'm all in. Thanks VPD, for your consideration to get the county pool operating continuously. Not just for the swim team, but for all of us. My hope is a beautiful and fair compromise can be talked through to make this happen.


If you don't get the photo, it's because I'm old and you're not. ;)

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

International Women's Day: On Sexual Abuse

Today I won't be silenced. I won't be shamed by another, and I won't FEEL ASHAMED. The last time I blogged about this I was quickly "guilted" into taking the blog down, sparing the feelings of someone close to an offender of mine, sadly one of many. That sense of guilt brought back the same shameful feelings of concealment as when I was hiding abuse. It's an awful feeling that twists my gut and hurts as it runs through me.

Women and girls put up with a lot of shit. A LOT OF SHIT. Today (and everyday, really) is a day to speak out in protection of women and women-to-be. It's a day to lift up those around us. It's a day to share and shake demons. It's a day for me when I say "enough," and unearth some really sad events I have refused to allow to define me. Instead, these events instilled a fire from which I draw to right wrongs, compete harder, earn more, and walk away from situations I recognize as destructive or toxic.

I hardly know where to start. Maybe it's with these hands that are typing. My right hand and wrist are adorned with several two-, three- and four-inch scars I've had since the age of 14. My left hand is responsible for these scars. At that point, I'd already been sexually abused by three different people for half my young life!

Mom and stepfather sent me to a psychiatrist when they finally noticed the cuts, but the psych certainly wasn't interested in why I was cutting and only asked me about life at school, in a new city. I was a strong student so school was fine. He filled out insurance forms every visit, never looking at me or REALLY talking with me, and he wasted no time prescribing me psychoactive drugs...right after the first visit, come to think of it. I put them in my mom's medicine cabinet and let them be. Later, in a blue spell when I felt I needed them, I discovered my stepfather had taken them, leaving only an empty bottle. He told me my mom didn't need to know about that. I have heard that before. The psych never learned why I cut. I was a crypt where secrets were safe and peace was kept.

When I was six, I was asked to conceal our babysitter's husband beating my little brother  (note: my mom was a single working mom until I was 10). Vicky was the evil witch's name. When the beatings continued, I had to say something. We ended up with a new babysitter and soon after I was the one being abused.

At age seven, a neighbor babysitter, the daughter of a prominent Coronado family counselor, corralled me, my brother and another boy (family friend) to perform lewd acts on her. On more than one occasion, she would enter our bedroom after we'd gone to bed (bunk beds). She was usually drunk and typically had boys over at our house, but once they left, she did that. She was my mom's "date night" babysitter.

That replacement babysitter mom had us stay with for after-school care was a lady who had a litter of her own mostly-grown kids. There were Jesus figurines and crucifixes all over her home, including the bedroom of her son Rich (19? 20? at the time) who lured me in, shut the door and blocked me from exiting. Threats. Whispers. Lewd acts. Reciprocation. I kept looking at the crystal doorknob from his bed, wanting out. Then, as if my stomach hadn't turned enough, he finally opens the door to let me out, puts a few coins in my hand and whispers "buy yourself some candy." I played outside with the sitter's neighbor kids pretty much every day after that for the next couple years.

By age nine, my mom started dating a new guy. She was happy. He started to stay more and more. When she was gone one day, had me undress completely on the living room floor. His hands went everywhere. I stayed perfectly still and silent. I knew it was wrong. My mom was in love. She wanted to marry this guy. She struggled to put food on the table. Brion and I both sometimes stole candy and snacks to eat; that was after once running up a school lunch account and getting busted. He would provide for her. And us. I said nothing.

I was furious when she came back married to him one extended weekend (we were babysat that particular weekend by a junkie who shot up for three straight days), but feigned happiness for her. For her, it meant love and security. For us, not so much (read: three schools, three cities, four years). We were uprooted from Coronado after a couple years and moved too much. Many inappropriate incidents followed in the years to come, coincidentally (not!) on those rare occasions my mom traveled to see family.

While living in Walnut Creek, mom had left town for a visit, my close brother at a sleepover and the baby bro asleep, and my stepfather announced we were going to play a drinking game: one shot of beer each minute, versus all 100 pounds of me at the time. Within the hour I was vomiting in the bathroom. I woke up late the next morning in my bed--without clothes--and no recollection after puking. Then in Boise there was the shower incident. I had a talk with mom about that one; she went crazy. But then I had to deal with confrontations from him. Pretty soon I just stayed nights with my boyfriend instead of coming home.

I had enough credits to graduate HS early. I also had a full-ride textiles scholarship in Idaho (Vandals!), but I'd be damned to stay there. I was ready to go home to CA, see my dad, friends, and start my own life, one in which I had complete control. I also decided it was time to share everything with my mom. I wrote a letter and hid it in the attic bedroom and instructed her to find it. She left my stepfather the next year. She had him documented as a sex offender in Idaho on her way out.

A few years later, while living back in CA, I received a letter from the x-step, asking for forgiveness. My skin crawled when I thought of his hands manipulating the pen and and touching the very paper I was holding. I couldn't reply. Never did. I was still filled with rage. I wanted him punished. I wanted him destitute. Scot-free.

"Familial" inappropriateness aside, I took some more external knocks coming through those years. At 16, I was date-raped by someone I really liked (but I wasn't ready to have sex with him). I blamed myself until years later when people actually started to talk about date rape. It happened again when I was 20 by someone else. Lesson: don't go to HIS place unless you intend to be penetrated. I wish I was kidding. What's worse, someone I with whom I was in a steady relationship in between decided to take liberties one night while he was wired on speed - I've written about that not too long ago. And you know what? That's just as icky as being date-raped.

Even in college, a professor pursued me, showing up several times at my work (a public place); it deeply offended him when I refused his little gifts. I dreaded having to go to his office for the required lab time with him, alone. He was never talking academics, just flirting and being disgusting. Compared to what I'd been through, this was easy. I talked to the dean and the prof's female assistant, who had also been harassed by him. In those days, there wasn't a campus advocate to get shit done. I was granted a class change to a new professor, but that didn't protect the next poor girl to get his class, right?

Women and girls have to ask for help. And they also need to be educated early on that THIS SHIT IS NOT OKAY, and it's not their fault, and to take action to get out of the situation. We need protection and enforcement. I didn't have that. Without advocacy it's easy to fall into the background, or end up in a rotten relationship you don't know how to leave. How do you know what unacceptable is if the bar has been set so low in your upbringing, or you lack self-esteem to can rise above a pile of poo?!

Relationships with name-calling, belittling, bullying, threats, financial abuse and physical intimidation are just as serious problems as sexual abuse in my book. I have seen firsthand the lives changed through the work of the Dove Project on Vashon. If there is one place you want to make a donation today, put it there!

Through it all, I'm okay. I know my sense of justice is a perpetual chip on my shoulder from these experiences. These scars on my arm have softened and flattened over time; the hurt is long gone, but they'll always be there, like a rough road traveled to get to the open highway.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Special Agent H

First trip of 2017: San Diego, pictured with childhood Coronado classmates at Sean & Michele's wedding!

As much as I've posted on this blog, I tend NOT to post a lot about what's happening in this work world. Part of that is because many of the projects I take on are accompanied by NDAs (where I cannot talk about them because they are things/brands/products/restaurants in development).

First, let's back up. What the heck do I do to make a living? I write. I sell. I shape. I also cut out words or messages for people/brands that don't need to be part of the "sale" or the "pitch." Oh yeah, sometimes I also pitch media. Mostly, I write.

When I was 8, I remember writing and illustrating stories, mostly when visiting my dad every other weekend. These were little stapled-together pages I called -books- entitled, "Frog and Rabbit make friends..." and then came a whole series of spin-off adventures. Reading and writing came early and easily for me. I noticed my younger son, Zachary, also picked these skills up very early.

By eighth grade, relocated from Coronado to Salt Lake City with my mom, two brothers and a stepfather, I remember a new stern English teacher instructing my class to spend 25 minutes writing short business letters from the topics listed in a book. I didn't understand we were only supposed to write just ONE letter (she said letters, plural!). I raced the clock with total focus to write out all six in the textbook and succeeded. When it was time to pass in the work, the teacher was shocked in a tickled way. Ms. Hull, I remember you! I still didn't realize this aptitude could pay the bills one day.

After studying everything from journalism to telecom to communication theory at UH, and getting an FCC license for a radio show, running the campus student film and video club for a year, and interning as a casting assistant for TV commercials (everyone wants to film in Hawaii), being an on-set PA,and before that working in CA as an intern at the PolyGram Group Distribution (A&M for me) promo office, this vast umbrella of comm exposure served me well. After graduation there was ad agency work, then features/newspaper writing, to freelance copywriting, Gannett, to PR agency work, to corporate (wnie) communications, And now I'm basically Special Agent H.

Today, I'm doing food, wine, hotel, lifestyle and restaurant work--some with digital or pr firms, some direct work from repeat clients. And it's so fun! Precept Wine, The Pink Door, Ivar's, Tini Bigs/Hula Hula spot projects, a new Hyatt, more legacy restaurants, and agency brand strategy have kept me buzzing from one project to the next.

I am grateful for the opportunities that come through hard work and relationships. I am learning to keep an awesome work-life balance (swim/exercise, volunteer, take a trip or four!).

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Back in the Saddle

Reunited, and it feels so good! Welcome back to the homestead,VW New Beetle.

It was 10 years ago, almost to the day, that I parted with my beloved white 2002 new beetle. She was a lease, then a purchase which I flipped to buy a Toyota Rav4 for practicality (with two growing boys, athletics and skiing). Minivan: never. Chick SUV: sure. But now, with the kids grown and doing their things, I really missed that little car. So I looked around. Despite a winter of crappy health, I worked my ass off and tucked away some dollahs...then spent them when I found this:
Behold, A 2010 VW New Beetle convertible! This was the last (most recent) year they made the bubble front design before introducing the new-new beetle with the squishier nose. I don't like it as much. This gently used car came from one owner, with no accidents, was obsessively maintained and only has 40k miles on it. And she's now in my driveway, covered from the pine needles, pitch and pollen.

The thing is, I could care less that it's a convertible. In some ways that is a pain in the butt. Low miles was the compelling part for me. I love this little car! And because I could, I did.

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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Ode to my Vashon Athletic Club homies

In December, a virus decided to crawl into my brain and make my world spin...to the point that I was hurling non stop in week one, everything spun quickly to the right--making it next to impossible to read or concentrate at a computer (read: forced break!), I was unable to drive for a month, and am still left sensitive to bright light and quick motion. Vestibular Neuritis, you can suck it. Striking 1 in 200,000 people each year, the good news is there's a 95% chance I'll never have it again in my life.

Another good thing is right here on the island is a physical therapist with expertise in working with vertigo patients: Lonnie Shiosaki (VCCC). With her help, I've been able to hasten the healing process. Basically you retrain your brain after the inflammation effects subside. She has strategies. The other bit is slowly forcing yourself into the light bit by bit (taking breaks), into focusing, and into movement...something I sorely missed being hyper as I am! So I'm back at VAC and doing short open water swims until I'm 100% again. Grocery stores exhaust me quickly, like superman to Kryptonite.

Being back at -Da Club- has cracked me up. There is relatively new ownership and it's being kept very clean and well-attended. I will say, however, that enforcement of workout apparel (or shoes) is lax. My past four visits sum up the view of outfits/offenses, seen from the balcony elliptical:

  • Lady in jeans (with rivets), a macrame-looking belt and Birkenstocks using the weight machines
  • Man with NO SHOES running on the treadmill. GROSS! And no, he didn't wipe the base where his feet were, once done.
  • Woman in all black (she's always in all black) reading a fine print novel at the weight machines. She sat at one machine and read page after page while people did a circuit around her, skipping that machine in anticipation.  
  • Man in cargo pants with a metal belt and brown leather loafers; he looked office-ready.
  • Surf trunks man in brown leather oxfords with a large duffel he towed along to every machine. At least in surf trunks you get good flexibility and ventilation. 
  • Woman in strappy, tan, open sandals in the weight room, wearing poly slacks.
  • Woman with WAY TOO MUCH PERFUME, which gasses up the upper level the second she walks in. Stop wearing this crap to the gym. Deodorant - sure. Perfume - nope.
That said, at least these good people dragged themselves to the gym in good faith, in the interest of health and wellness. Respect to all for that! But whatever happened to sweats/shorts/leggings, a t/tank, socks and tennis shoes/xtrainers? It's not a difficult dress code!

My hope is that VAC might post up an info-graphic behind the glass depicting the very apparel details that were in our membership packets oh so long ago, as a refresher. Do it for your safety (injury prevention), do it for communal cleanliness, and do it for your best possible comfort when working out!

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Heidi, Meet Hemorrhoid.

I've been scolded before for oversharing, but this post is called for and in short supply as blog entry topics go. It's needed in sympathy to all the poor suckers before me who've lived a similar agony; it's needed because people might feel sheepish to share. Today, I say "to hell with it!" We're going in. Behold, the topic of the hemorrhoid.

Maybe it's because I naturally gave birth to two hefty baby boys long ago, combined with a recent, aggressive workout regimen that quite literally saw me shaking to my core a week ago Friday at the club doing super planks (one minute at full extension in repeat succession, sprinkled with full extension side planks), or maybe, as the surgeon speculated, it was just plain lousy luck.

Last Sunday I woke up with an uncomfortable poke. Meh, nothing Prep H can't handle, right? Wrong. By Tuesday, I had a full-blown external thrombosed hemorrhoid (I couldn't even properly spell hemorrhoid until learning about them fully this week!). Rather than use the resources of the ER and run up a huge bill no thanks to my crappy overpriced insurance, I called Virginia Mason to get a legit appointment. I luck out, but still suffer 24 hours for the appt, hobble into the hospital and find that the lady doctor has called in sick. I beg and the receptionist finds me someone else, hearing my plight. This time a dude. He takes one look, tells me to get dressed and informs me he's referring me to surgery...which will have to wait yet another day. I was really hoping for immediate relief.

The pain is immense and focused. Basically, rather than the run-of-the-mill mushy/puffy version of an external hemmy, I'm dealing with the equivalent of a thumb top-size dense blood clot throbbing nonstop, in the worst possible place. Can't sleep, hurts to move, don't even THINK about laughing or coughing or sneezing, and it was nearly impossible to concentrate (yet I had to attend meetings the whole week and smile and speak)...I just wanted to soak and curl up in the fetal position, but, obligations.

Thursday comes. Surgery doesn't call by noon so I call them. Things don't look good, when suddenly I get a call back and if I'm on the next ferry they can see me for surgery. I get a 20-year-practicing surgeon, an older dude, which makes me really glad. Only when I check in, the senior doc's super Bollywood-like hunky resident strolls into the room with a bright smile on his face to talk about what's next and my only thought is, "great, this guy is going to see my lady and butt parts; he'll be scarred for life." And it gets more comical when he leads me to the procedure room and there are a total of four people ready to laser focus in on my bulls-eye.

Instructed to glove up and pull up my left butt cheek and hold it that way the entire procedure (while lying on my right side), my heart was racing so fast with nervousness and I trembled from trying to stay in that weird position so I wouldn't be sliced apart! All in it was about 15 minutes that included brief but excruciating shots of local anesthetic, getting sliced open for the blood clot removal, then zapping--some vessel cauterization and packing with gauze. At the very start, the doc gave me an -out- to be admitted as an inpatient and go under general anesthesia if I couldn't handle it, but that would mean more wait time. I was just ready to buck up and deal. The team was awesome and I had such relief. Dr. also said that these types of hemmies do self-resolve EVENTUALLY but they are known for being moderately (at best) to severely painful. (Something about grown men crying...no tears here!).

The after-care instructions were not exactly relevant. And when I asked about resuming to sex, the lady resident said "no anal sex for 4-6 weeks," to which I retorted, "No, I mean vaginal sex..." and the answer was pretty much whenever things start healing.  No swimming for two weeks OR core exercise. Not fair! So much for my December of intense workouts (well, until Dec. 23, anyway which I'm already signed up for a 10k swim fundraiser. Without practice for two weeks prior, that is going to be interesting!).

There are so many more terrible, chronic things people live with every day for the rest of their lives. Terminal things. Sexually transmitted diseases that never leave. Paralysis. Brain damage. Not necessarily in that order.

Them hems is minor. And so common. I bow down to anyone who deals with these very humbling things more than once in their lives. Or even ONCE in a lifetime. May your pain in the ass be brief and fleeting!

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

We made merry

Shout out to my highly sociable, fit, bright-eyed husband...who willingly comes to holiday parties, never begrudges outings and can sharply dress himself. I bow down! This is from a tiny filmstrip of pix, so it's a tad blown out. You get the idea!

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Friday, December 02, 2016

Farewell, Polychronis

This morning I was greeted by news of two losses: one a young man on the island who was a classmate of the boys and in our ski school group; the other a sweet soul in Greece who was our swim guide in 2014, Polychronis. My heart goes out to both families. This is a tough day.

I was thinking about Poly just yesterday and remembering our chat in August, that he was hoping to see us on the Sfakia swim next year. He is gone now. Much too young. He had a chronic terminal illness that still baffles me; this was an athlete in the prime of his life. I was old enough to be his teen mom! I don't get it.

Poly was an accomplished Greek marathon swimmer in his own right. When we met him, he had a confidence and elegance about him that was almost regal, as in, what the heck are you doing as a swim guide? When all the swimmers were video taped and grouped by speed, he expressed his disappointment that I wasn't in his group, the fastest of the bunch. He called me Phoebe instead of Heidi because of my Lisa Kudrow-ness. I also remember how badly one woman swimmer felt when he evaluated her and called her stroke "aggressive and strained." She was a sourpuss for the rest of the trip and scowled and complained to his boss (to no avail, of course, he was just being honest).

On the boat each day, Poly was a joker and very affable. His English was perfect. Anne and I really adored the guides and begged them to come see us in Seattle and we'd take them to Alpine lakes and pine-lined swimscapes. Poly revealed to Anne that he'd been going through debilitating chemo treatments- this man in his 20s. It changed his body, his skin, his energy. And still, there he was, living life to his fullest and being a prankster and slaying this shit for as long as he could.

When we said goodbye, it was with the full intent of seeing him again. Before heading to the airport in the morning I leaped into his lap, backpack and all, and gave him a great big hug. I know Poly will be there when we swim with TBB next year, in spirit. You'll be in Sfakia no matter what.





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Thursday, December 01, 2016

We live and swim in nature

If I posted photos from all the open water swims I did, or took photos of all the swims from my OW groups, I wouldn't have time to go swim!

So, Dilworth Mermaids aka Whulgers, Notorious Alki Swimmers, Hidden Beach crew and Pine Lake Meetup pals of yore...thank you for making such fun aquatic adventures with me!

Next Sept, a group of 10 swimmers from the Seattle area will be traveling to Crete as part of the Big Blue Swim! Many of these are first-timers but it will be Anne and my second TBB swim vacation to Greece. I'll need to get some serious distance in if I'm going to keep up with these awesome athletes. We'll celebrate Christine's 50th birthday halfway around the world.

Meanwhile, back on Vashon, here are scenes from a gray Tuesday, with bald eagle and sea lion encounters to boot. Getting cold out there in the drink.













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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Twain nailed it.

"The secret source of humor itself is not joy, but sorrow."
-Mark Twain

This statement is so profoundly true. When you've come through a lot, you understand how to laugh, how to find peace, how to appreciate peace, and put things in perspective. There's something also very liberating in just getting out the pain. I'm not alone or unique here. That's a fact.

There will be experiences shared here that are not always easy for others to read. But the writing will not stop, and the truths and emotions that flow out do not end until I do. Sorry not sorry.

And girrrrrrl, do I have some laughs for YOU to come.

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Training TRX stylee

This month I started personal training at CoreCentric on the island. As in, I'm a disciple getting my ass handed to me in the kindest way by the nicest trainer in the world. Our first day was a get-to-know and evaluation on camera in which I threw myself into a series of lunges on command...which would be felt for two days after! The full training that has followed hit other muscle groups.

What's really cool about this training is that if you have shredded knees, like those I inherited, this is low impact strength and balance work that isn't going to hurt in the joints. As a later-in-life athlete doing a lot of open water swimming, it's important to mix up the muscle groups worked and also stretch; this accomplishes that in spades. Not only am I getting a ton of core work and glute-slaying, my coach is big on body balance and alignment.  Being blind on my left side since birth and having spinal cord deficits led to habits on my posture/weight distribution/lean of which I'm now being made vigilant.

Two years of one-on-one training previously done at Seattle Athletic Club was great a couple years ago, but the drill was much more traditional grunt style, where you're running stairs, jumping up on boxes, tethering feet/ankles with resistance bands to do torture squats across the floor. My knees screamed silently each session, although the over all results were amazing after several months. In this new program at CoreCentric, I'm convinced that over the winter I'll see the same benefits but with less of the knee agony. It's nice getting back to "dryland" training. Let the planks recommence!

So let's see what this 47-year-old can do. Get stronger, more flexible, cut another minute or two off my swim mile, learn butterfly stroke, and swim a 10k (which is on the docket for Dec 23!). Between year-round open water swimming, random weekly Vashon Athletic Club visits (joined the Rockfins for my 2017 race season!), getting in a bike ride, and weekly training sessions at CoreCentric, it feels good to get moving, especially during these dark winter days. See you out there!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dilworth to Glen Acres


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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Friends don't let friends....

...post videos of others in the throes getting high, or even appearing to get high. It's been both disappointing and affirming all at once to spot these posts.

VARSA just circulated its annual community attitudes survey. I would LOVE to see the full findings, line by line for this year. There are so many great kids on this island, yet so many are just lost. These kids become adults, party hosts to the next round of young adults. Many of these in-limbo young adults dwell at home or couch-surf at the families of their friends. The tolerance level of parents on this island, according to past surveys, is pretty high. I'd add another large chunk are parents in complete and total denial that their kids drink, get high, or experiment with other drugs.

Obviously medical marijuana has been in WA for some time, and now recreationally legal for 21+, but now access seems easier for youth as pot shops abound.

As a teenager I experimented the smallest bit - and was that kid who got terrific grades. I tried weed once in high school, LSD over one boring summer in Boise at age 17, and speed in early college days - and I hated the way it made me feel, so there were NEVER drug habits. Mom's dad, my grandpa, was a doctor and pill samples were always around. When I awakened one night (I was 19) to my then-boyfriend sexually assaulting me, he excused his behavior to being wired and horny, so he just decided to help himself. Disgusting. Wrong. Meth.  I come from a long line of drug and alcohol dependent family members and watched carefully as my sons came into adolescence for the signs I'd seen in people close to me.  There is so much I could say on this topic. Tests are cheap, people, buy them for your kids--and keep the door cracked open when you give them, making sure your kids are empty-handed on the way into the loo. There are hacks for everything,  and unfortunately the only other way is in a doc's office and those are much pricier.

In some ways I'm glad kids are shamelessly putting their party footage out on the net, because it lifts the veil on widespread parental denial that their kids are doing "so great" while others called it.

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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Before the rains, the roof!


Can I tell you how nice it is to have talented hands on this house? Thank you to my super husband, David, for his work on our roof! The Pacific Northwest is about to get pounded with a nasty wind and rainstorm this weekend and timing is everything. The long decrepit, moss covered and shingle-thinned roof of yore is now off and a new 30-year roof is on!

Big thanks to Anj and Mai who served as crew and we got it done. Now for new gutters...we're in line with all the other patient souls this month.

Each year we pick a house project and this was definitely the biggie! House, cottage and garage are now good go to. No thank you to the angry wasp nests that were displaced in the process.

Today is also the happy birthday of David and my dear late grandfather, Dr. Heinz. Cheers!

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Friday, October 07, 2016

To the Alki Lighthouse

"When that clarity is removed I get nervous. I imagine things. Sharks, the slippery sides of large fish, shaggy pieces of sunken frigates, dark corroded iron, currents. I can swim along the shore, my usual stroke rolled and tipped by the waves, the ribbed sandy bottom wiggling beneath me, but eventually I get spooked by the open-ended horizon, the cloudy blue thought of that sheer drop-the continental shelf.” 
― Leanne ShaptonSwimming Studies


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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Alexander abroad

So many great stories. So much to share. He's kicking ass. That is all for now.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

San Diego bound again

This month I will have spent more time in California than in Washington State. That doesn't preclude me from being a productive freelancer (have internet, will work!). What it means is that I'm damn lucky to have time and latitude to help out both of my parents when they need me the most. Earlier this month (Aug. 30, actually) my pops had heart surgery that will hopefully keep his ticker from clotting and provoking stroke (again), It's been good to help sort through a medical system's bureaucracy for him/with him. Much squawking is needed lest you be ignored.

My mom, who has been hobbling around the better part of this summer with a fractured knee and torn meniscus (no thanks to her neighborhood grocery store that didn't keep its floors free of chicken grease in the deli) finally has reduced swelling enough to get her knee surgery, so I'm back down again this week to be her runner/helper. She hates missing any work even though she is forced to extremely limited duty with her injuries. I wish she didn't have to work at all, given the painful circumstances she's in, but that's how she affords San Diego. She's not the sugar daddy-seeking type and never would sacrifice her independence for a roof over her head. Gotta work!

It's also bittersweet farewell this year as the house that has been the family Coronado pad goes up for sale...as was the instruction of the estate my grandpa set up so long ago. It's officially on the market now. If I had the money to buy it I certainly would--although I don't think family members are allowed to buy it even if I DID have funds like that hanging around. Lotto fantasies would have me remodeling it, putting a garden in the back and making sure it never turned into a hideous mega house or townhouse like so much of the island became over the last few decades. I'll be in the old house for what may be my very last stay there if it sells soon...and in Hillcrest. After that, no shame in hotels!

There's something magical about the beaches in San Diego, but there is NO LOVE for the wasteland mentality that has washed over So Cal. Without conservation and environmentalism, this zone is going to hell in a hand basket...and fast.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Alcratraz conquered again!

Swimming to the City from Alcatraz never gets old. It's a different swim each time and even though this year looked calm the currents were just as tough as always. I think of the currents like the old Atari game of Frogger; for a time it sweeps east to west, then the opposite, then you push like hell to get into the "needle eye" of aquatic park. This year was much colder than last, and I don't even try to swim it without a wet suit. I was 90 seconds behind my finish time last year, still crossing in the top third overall (m/f) and the top 25% of women. 45 minutes and 16 seconds. Very solid time!  Our Lake WA swim gang made another fun trip together and it did not disappoint. I have much gratitude to swim and socialize with such a smart, funny, healthy and adventurous group. Here's to more!




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