Friday, September 17, 2010

Seattle Storm for the Win!

For those of you who know anything about Seattle sports, you know that we're a loyal group of fans with a bunch of losing teams. Sure, the Mariners were hot for a few years around 2000, and the Seahawks went to the Superbowl in 2006, but neither team has ever won a championship. The Sonics won waaay back in 1979, and before that our only championship win was for a long-defunct hockey team who somehow managed to snag the Stanley Cup in... wait for it... 1917.

Which is why the Seattle Storm, our WNBA team, is so awesome. They won the championship in 2004 and again last night against Atlanta, making them by far our hottest team.
When the Sonics were (illegally!) sold to Oklahoma city in 2008, the Storm were scheduled to go with them. But a group of high-powered women got together and formed Force 10 Hoops, LLC in order to buy the Storm. Most people were much less sad to see the Sonics go once we knew we got to keep the Storm, our good basketball team.
My friend Joseph talked me into going to the home game on Tuesday. I've always wanted to go to a game and I'm glad he suggested in because it was a blast.

I hadn't been in the Key Arena in probably 15 years, but seeing it again reminded me that the demand for a new basketball arena by the Sonics owner really was just an excuse to relocate; the venue is in great condition, very user-friendly, comfortable, and modern.

Unbelievably and a little sadly, tickets were not even close to being sold out and we were able to get $28 nosebleeds which still had a great view. Here's a shot Joseph snapped before the game started:

Not being sold out notwithstanding, the fans that do come out for the Storm are dedicated, loving, and LOUD. I had my fingers in my ears for the better part of the second half because it was so overwhelming. Apparently the Storm is the most formidable team to have to play when they have home court advantage.

Although Tuesday's game was off to a rocky start with Sue Bird barely able to make a basket, they got themselves together for the second half and definitely deserved the win. The event itself had some fun elements, like a 12-year-old who rocked the Star Spangled Banner on his electric guitar; an all-kids dance troupe to perform at time outs; and a free-for-all Conga line during another such time out (I had forgotten how LONG basketball time outs are.) The mascot was pretty silly and they periodically played and performed the most ridiculous song called the Stank Legg, but I understand it's a family-oriented franchise and they definitely deliver on that point.

Another fun point was that several Seahawks players were at the game, including Matt Hasselbeck. After the Seahawks' dynamite win on Sunday it was fun to see them out supporting their city teammates and also reminded us that we just might have another good team on our hands.

I really got into the team and the game, and was especially taken by Lauren Jackson and Swin Cash. I will definitely follow the team more closely next year.

When I heard last night that the Storm had won the whole enchilada in Atlanta I was thrilled. Good for them, and good for Seattle. Maybe next year ticket sales will better reflect the fact that they are a winning team, deserving of a city of supportive fans.

(Last night's celebration photo borrowed from Getty images. Please don't sue me.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Normally I would avoid such a cliche and cheesy title but it's just too fitting to avoid. I keep referring to these ominous "changes" in my life. Although I tend to use this blog as a record of specific events, it seems like a reasonable way to disseminate personal information as well. So here goes.

Saturn is a powerful planet

For those of you familiar with (and who believe in) the Saturn return, you'll understand when I say that I expected this to be a transformative year in my life. I'm not sure when Saturn's effects are supposed to die down but it's certainly caused quite a stir in my 2010 thus far.

Staying power

The first big change started around the first of the year (also very near my birthday) when I came to the sudden and decisive realization that I was ready to live - and stay - in one place. Having lived abroad three times and constantly planning for more travels, many people doubted if I'd ever stop in one place for longer than a few months. But, my last bout of Argentina living was a clear sign that I was done casting about. The thought of living a portable life made me cringe; even now looking at my giant suitcase gives me a certain dread. So I resolved to come back to Seattle and Stay Put, which I did. I even bought a car.

Down and out...

But, after a few weeks all the heavy emotions attached to Seattle came back, and they were worse than ever. Why was I so unhappy? Why did I feel isolated in a city filled with family and friends? Would anything ever satisfy me? I decided to seek help in answering and hopefully resolving these issues and found it in the form of a truly incredible woman who works with the energy of emotions and aims to restore joy in people's lives.

... but not for long!

I was a healthy amount of skeptical but have long believed in the power of energy (not just ours but of all living things) and my skepticism vanished in the wake of feeling instantly better. Seattle now pulses with a welcoming energy and I feel better than I can ever remember. I won't go into more detail since it's a very personal experience and one that not everyone will necessarily believe in; I list it here because it is undeniably one of the many big changes I've undergone and which has helped facilitate other changes, all very positive in nature.

Joy Is Watching

One such change is what I like to call "Operation: Choose Joy." If you've been looking closely enough at pictures of me you'll notice that I've put on some weight in the last few years, mostly because I felt happy enough and was lazy enough to keep eating and behaving the way I had been without enacting any sort of plan to get to a more healthy place. But choosing joy means making positive and deliberate choices, which I started doing slowly and carefully about 2 months ago to find what works best without getting frustrated or giving up like I have done so many times in the past.

In the last few weeks I've started a full-fledged campaign, not just to lose weight but to feel GOOD, physically and emotionally. This time I know it will stick because I finally have the resolve, the resources, and the support to make it work and to make the changes lasting. So, look for a March 5 post (the 6 month anniversary of my first "weigh in") at which time I'll reveal my progress and future goals. For right now I want you all to know that I feel freaking FANTASTIC. I wake up every morning with a smile, and although it's been hard some days not eating certain foods, I was pleasantly surprised to open a menu the other day to a page of deep-fried appetizers and feel a little queasy looking at them.

Some things never change

I've been with the same company for over 6 years - yes, even when I was living abroad - and even though my job is awesome, meaningful, creative, all that good stuff, I was getting restless with doing the same work year after year. But I really love the company and want to continue doing great work with the organization, plus we're growing like gangbusters and it's a good place to be. So, I applied for and was offered a job in the marketing department, which I officially start on September 20. I will be responsible for most of the customer-facing writing as well as a lot of project management and who knows what else. It's a fairly undefined job with a tremendous opportunity for growth and I'm scared but excited to start. I am sacrificing some of the conveniences of my other job - no more working from home and I have to keep a fairly normal 9-5 schedule - but the chance to work in collaboration with our VPs and CEO, some of the most intelligent people I've ever known, is more than worth the adjustment.

Movin' on up

To help with this adjustment, and also since it seems like a natural and forward-moving decision at this new junction in life, I'm moving to an apartment that is much closer to the office. It was a bittersweet decision since living with K, M, and baby J (now toddler J, he can really move!) has been a treasured experience for me. Being part of their family has been immensely beneficial, for all of us, but it's time for me to grow up and forge my own life. For the first time since I sold everything in 2005 at a garage sale, I'll own furniture. My name will appear on utility bills. There will be no built-in alarm clock!

But it's a change that I get more and more excited about every day. I always loved living alone and furnishing a space is fun, not to mention having a home all to oneself. If the kitchen is messy it's because it's my mess, and if I clean it no one else will mess it up. Plus, I won't have a garden so I'll still help cultivate theirs. I'm pushing for chickens and bees next year...

I'll be on Capitol hill and the prospect of being a 12 minute walk from the office and living in a dense urban environment surrounded by everything a happening 'hood has to offer makes my toes tingle. I love the area and the building is one of those great 1920s brick affairs. I'm on the top floor, have hardwoods, built-ins, and a giant tub, as well as a dedicated remote-control access garage space (this is a serious score in a neighborhood infamous for horrid parking). The move happens October 1 if anyone feels like lending a helping hand...

Single white female

I mention this last not because it's the most important but because it is another change that bears mentioning - especially since I announced him to the world not long ago - but isn't as impactful as other things going on. Suffice to say that I am single once again. It was neither dramatic nor traumatic, and I'm grateful for the experience as a bridge from being lonely yet emotionally unavailable (though ironically it was not me who was unavailable this time - karma, you get us every time) to being a woman who makes her own happiness and will bring that joy to a healthy, mutually committed relationship.

What's next?

I've joined a gym and am getting back into swimming. I'm also going to start playing tennis with my sister Anne (if the weather will ever cooperate). I am starting meditation classes tomorrow, and I'm going to (finally!) start baritone ukulele lessons again at the end of October. I'm looking for a place on Capitol hill to volunteer and I'm in the midst of planning two vacations in the upcoming months, now that I get paid vacation time again. I'm anticipating a very full and meaningful remainder of 2010!

Are you freaked out yet?

When I started talking about some of this with my friend Meagan she had this to say: "You are freaking me out. What have you done with Elizabeth Archer?" Never fear! I'm still me. I still scowl at people who make out in public, curse at bad drivers, sleep with a teddy bear, shower infrequently, and eat (some) high-fat foods. I'm just a happier, more fully realized version of me.

I don't know when these changes will stop or at least slow down, but I have to think it's soon. I mean how much more can a girl handle in a single calendar year? Saturn, can we call truce?

(Me with a - what is that? - outside the gaming convention in Seattle over Labor Day weekend. Robyn and I couldn't resist stopping for a photo op on our urban hike that day.)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Day Trip to Mount Rainier

(Disclaimer: I cannot take credit for any of these photos! Thanks to Ray, Jen, and Morgan for letting me pilfer theirs.)

As you may remember, back in July when I visited Mt Rainier for the first time in my life I immediately made plans to return in August. That trip came and went two weeks ago and although the plan was modified about a dozen times it ended up being a really great experience.

I had reserved two campsites on the A loop at Ohanapecosh for the 8 people who initially said they wanted to go. Through a variety of events in many of our lives, this number was whittled down to just a few campers but a lot of people who wanted to go for the day. Eventually we decided to caravan in two cars and make it a long day trip.

The day started, as all great day trips do, at a greasy spoon on Rainier Avenue (appropriate, no?) called the Silver Fork. The 8 am rendezvous time was more or less observed and we made great time in ordering (a hard feat considering the large and tempting menu), eating, and getting the hell out of dodge.

Sufficiently sated, we split into two groups - one to grocery shop and one to forge ahead to make sure we got to the campsite by noon. I cancelled one reservation and got a refund but kept the other so we could have a place to hang out. But, if we didn't make it by noon, they had no obligation to keep it for us.

Here I am with Ray after a quick and successful shop. Jen pointed out that we kind of match:
Once on the road it was easy sailing, though Jacob's car was not exactly pleased with the elevation gain. We made it to Ohanapecosh at about 12:15 after a minor detour (I was convinced we were making the same navigation mistake we made the first time but it turned out I jumped the gun). Luckily it gave us a chance to snap this photo of the mountain with a puff:

Fortunately the advance car made it at 11:59 (turns out they'd had some detours of their own) and the site was ours, all ours. The weather was cooperative and while it was chilly in the shade it was quite warm in the sun. Here are Morgan and Jacob after the car ride:

We needed firewood so a group was sent to nearby Packwood while the rest of us went down to check out the river.

What a difference a season makes! Six weeks earlier the river had been dangerously high and fast; the roar could be heard from the entire campsite. In late August it was lazy, low, meandering. I took some time to sit atop a rock (which was underwater last time) and contemplate life (there's been a lot to contemplate lately) and feel generally grateful, as I always do in such circumstances, for my blessed life.

Once the firewood was at hand we built a real clothes-ripper as my Mom would call it (because it's so hot you have to rip off your clothes... get it?). While building up to sausage-roasting temperatures, Ray took the opportunity to jump over things, like the picnic table and skeptically willing people seated in camp chairs. (If you ever need a surefire way to find out 1) if someone trusts you and/or 2) if someone is really your friend... ask to jump over them.)

Before, during, and after jumpfest, we feasted on potato chips and hummus, tabouleh salad, and sausages roasted on forest-foraged sticks. Here's Nick with his stick:

There was a throwback to college as we played a favorite card game called 13, and then the real campfire highlight... s'mores! I still had fixins left over from Mt. Rainier camping trip #1 and was determined to get them eaten. I am a s'more aficionado and take pride in the patience and skill necessary to cultivate the perfect golden brown marshmallow. Since this trip I have started "watching what I eat" and "making good choices" like "exercising." Writing about s'mores makes me want to smear roasted marshmallow and melted chocolate all over my face since then I don't technically have to list it in today's food journal... right?

I digress... after some more campfire downtime, another trip to the river, and a tour of the visitor's center, we headed to Sunrise at about 4 pm for the actual, intended purpose of the original trip: wildflowers! We really only had time for one of the two main spots and decided against Paradise since, if given the choice, I'll avoid crowds. I had also gotten a great vibe from Sunrise the first time around and was eager to see what it looked like without the snow.

Up we went through the curvy roads and stunning views, stopping at the panoramic vista about a mile below Sunrise proper to snap this self-group portrait:
The nice part about going so late in the day was that most people were already headed back to their campsites or home for the night. (This was, incidentally, also the nice part about being at the campsite during the day: everyone else was at Paradise or Sunrise or hiking somewhere and it was empty!) So we had the trails mostly to ourselves. (Though we were curious about the fact that, as we were leaving toward dusk and with nary a soul in sight, the parking lot was still full of cars - where were all of these people?? The Wonderland trail perhaps?)

We started up a "nature trail" and it took me a few minutes to realize that, even though I came back exactly when the park rangers told me to, the wildflowers were not quite as wondrous as had been advertised. Sure, they were pretty and abundant, but had either peaked, hadn't quite reached their peak, or were at their peak but just not as glorious as most years due to an inclement summer. Check out the meadow in this one taken on our trip:
Compared to this one which I borrowed from America's Best Idea:

Despite the lackluster meadows, I wasn't disappointed. There were still plenty of flowers and there was one in especial abunance which was odd and awesome and I loved it. I would call it a mop-head alien flower, but its actual name is "Western Anemone," which is almost as cool.
The weather was still on our side and the views during our hike were stunning. I love this shot:
Once we got to the top of the nature trail (about a mile), a few of us decided to trek further up to a peak (another mile and a half) while the rest did an extended nature walk. It was no easy climb - we were at a pretty significant elevation and it was all uphill - but it was worth it once we reached the top. What a glorious sensation, feeling almost even with Mount Rainier! (Of course we were nowhere near its 14,000 foot elevation, but perspective is a funny thing.) It was cold and windy but sunny and we took a few minutes to bask in our surroundings and take some photos before heading back down.

Jen got this great shot by balancing the camera on my backpack on a rock:
Ray took a series of panoramic shots that he has promised to put together and share with us. Here's Jen trying to get out of the way of one:

In a lot of ways I think any hike down is worse than up - it's certainly more impact on the body and by that time you're tired and potentially getting a bit stiff. But, we made it in good time and when I looked back up at the peak we'd just summited I smiled in gratitude at the weather's cooperation; just 30 minutes after we'd been up there enjoying stunning views, it was covered in a dark, mean cloud.

Here's a shot of our descent:

We were tired but satisfied and climbed back into the cars for our return home. We stopped in Enumclaw for some hot beverages which were oddly difficult to procure (I broke into a Safeway Starbucks to get Morgan some hot water) and then it was back to Seattle without event.

I walked into a disbanded party scene and gratefully ate the leftovers my roommates had yet to put away, then made an overnight waffle batter to enjoy the next morning with our houseguests.

It was the very definition of a Red Letter Day. I hope to make Rainier an annual event... until we meet again, Mountain.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Lake Coeur d'Alene (man that's hard to spell)

I am embarrassed by how long it has been since I last posted. As much as I love keeping a blog and knowing that it's a record that I'll have forever, sometimes life gets in the way of updating said record. It has been an eventful - nay, transformative - few weeks, dear readers. I promise that I'll make quick work of updating it, starting with a long weekend in Idaho 3 weeks ago.

My friends Robyn and Paul own and manage a marina on Lake Coeur d'Alene (CDA to locals) in Idaho on the southern part of the lake. Saturday, August 21 was the marina's 100 year anniversary party, and I volunteered to help them pull it off. It was great for them since I'm a useful person to have around at events, and it was great for me since it was a long weekend on a beautiful lake in which I got to indulge in two of my favorite things: delicious diner-esque food, and free stuff. There is nothing like knowing the tab is on the house! Of course, I tried not to abuse the freebies.

The lake is gorgeous. Here is a view of the marina and the lake from the cabin porch where we stayed: (look closely for the nearly-full moon!)

We left Thursday afternoon and unfortunately got stuck in some random brush-fire-related traffic, so a 5-hour drive turned into about 8. By the time we got there we had just enough energy to make our beds and have a quick "manager's meeting" since the brothers who run the marina generally sleep there during the busy days. I loved being included, so maybe I should admit that I got to partake in THREE things I love, the third being having some authority/power. Again, I tried not to abuse it, though I definitely pulled rank over the 16-year-old helpers when I felt like driving a golf cart.

My friends wake up EARLY. We were up and at 'em by 7 am and that was sleeping in for them. This was Friday, the day before the big bash. This way was spent in running errands to the city of Coeur d'Alene about a half hour away including picking up the sno cone machine and 6 sheet cakes from Costco, making signage, coordinating with the staff, and a late afternoon swim with Robyn's dad. The water is dark but extremely clear and it is populated with big, bold fish that were not afraid to swim with us.

The next morning - party day - started even earlier at about 6 am. We wasted no time in getting right down to business hanging historical photos, twisting and draping streamers, blowing up balloons, setting up chairs and tables and taping down tablecloths, and on and on. There was plenty to do and it's a wonder I found time for free breakfast in there (but if you were worried, never fear; I did).

Probably hardest working of all were Robyn and her dad, affectionately nicknamed "White Stag" (it's a great story). Check out their awesome t-shirts; we all wore them but Robyn and I styled ours up by cutting off the sleeves and tying ribbons around each shoulder to create a 'boat neck,' for which we received many compliments.

I was tasked with manning the sno cone machine, which was set up next to the free airbrush tattoo lady on the lawn across from the restaurant. The day got off to a slow start but by mid-afternoon things were in full swing. We had normal sno cone flavors and also an 'adult' version which could be any flavor plus a shot of vodka or rum. Although we did sell quite a few of these, the majority of the consumption was by "upper management." Just because we were working does not mean we weren't enjoying the party.

Here I am at the antiquated hunk of metal churning out some shaved ice. Notice the sweet syrup bottles - I made them the day before and was proud of my handiwork

After a good long stint as the sno cone operator I took a break to eat some barbecue and watch the kids' games on the other lawn. I preceded these games by making a loud announcement via the DJ's microphone to all in earshot - that is, everyone on land and dock - about the various games and prizes. I believe at this point I was as buzzed as I was going to get that day, which I'm proud to say was hovering around what we liked to call in college "essentially sober."

The kids' games were really fun to watch and I got to run the video camera for a few of them. Here is a shot of one of the potato sack races:

Then there was adult tug-of-war whose prize was supposed to be a Derailer (and through some bad communication ended up being SIX of them). Imagine, if you will, a Mai Tai in a bucket with 6 straws. That, my friends, is a Derailer. It is a sight to behold.

The final game event was another tug-of-war, this time between the marina staff and "upper management," or Robyn and Paul plus their friends who they had talked into helping them. Of course everyone wanted the staff to win, and win they did, in a big way. I will never forget Robyn's dad screaming, "Pull! Pull dammit, PULL!" Robyn was so into it she got a giant rope burn on her arm from being dragged across the sand, refusing to give up.

A few of us went swimming afterward to wash off the dirt and the shame of loss, at which point I observed Robyn do the most amazing thing I have ever seen: a silent karaoke (in which the singer is listening to the song on headphones) of "Baby Got Back." She knew every word and danced her booty off for the entire 4 minutes. This most amazing record was broken mere ours later when Robyn and the same instigator of the silent karaoke did the Gator on the dance floor. Words are not enough... Note that in the video, it's just one dude; in real life it's supposed to be six dudes doing that same movement while hopping over a seventh dude on the floor. I can't imagine why this dance went out of style...

At various points during the day I decided I wanted to drive the golf cart. There were some teenagers helping out with the carts, ushering people from a far-away parking lot to the marina and back. So, a few times I pulled rank, booted one of the sulking teens, and drove to my heart's content. I even drove at night, holding a Mag light up as a headlight through the pitch-black back-woods Idaho roads. Good times. It was during one of these night shuttles that a 10-year-old boy gave me a $5 tip that his dad had given him to give to me. I thought about protesting but took the cash and tipped with it at breakfast the next morning - the only $5 I spent the entire weekend.
Let me take this opportunity to say that people in Idaho like to PARTY. This crowd was not messing around. There was a daytime DJ, then a popular local band that played from 6 to 10 to which people were dancing like crazy (and during which an overly intoxicated man - he'd gotten his fair share of the Derailer prize - with no warning just fell forward, striking the bridge of his nose on the stage. Yikes.) Then there was a late-night DJ and people were STILL dancing, even though most of them had been partying since about noon.
The festivities finally started to wind down at about midnight and we all fell into bed, exhausted after a 18-hour day.

We lucked out on the weather since Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day and Sunday was the first day of rain they'd had in weeks. We packed up the car, drove back to CDA to drop off the sno cone machine and take a tour of CDA since Paul insisted I should see it, and then started the long drive back. The highlight was pizza in Ellensburg. The lowlight was crappy traffic directly outside Ellensburg until Snoqualmie. Overall I had a great weekend and now I can say I've been to Idaho instead of just having driven through it.

Upcoming blogs to pique your interest: "Day Trip to Mount Rainier" and "Ch-ch-ch-changes: is this my life?"