Seattle Highlight Reel

IMG_9927Yes, yes, yes!! The stars have aligned to grant me a few hours of energy before bedtime, so…time for a bunch of photos and meandering thoughts about our trip to Seattle. We had been planning this trip since before Micah was born–it was for a work conference for Eric, so we had lots of notice. Since it was a full week, I imagined I wouldn’t want to be on my own with Micah that long at home, but also, even more than that, I hoped that I would still be able to find a way to do one of my favorite things–travel–as a mom and with my family. In those early newborn days, I couldn’t imagine going to the grocery store, much less Seattle, but it really DOES get easier, and soon I was looking forward to the trip. Micah and I would go to the aquarium! And walk around Pike Place Market! And, more importantly, drink ALL the coffee and eat ALL the fish (well, those last two apply to me only). I admit to being a little nervous about the airport, but I could pretty easily talk myself down because Burbank, beloved Burbank, is the tiniest and easiest airport. And then…right after Christmas Eric got sick. And then Micah got sick. And then I got sick. And for several days I was considering the awfulness of spending a week in Seattle with a baby within the confines of a hotel room. A sick baby. And a sick me. Thankfully, we all more or less recovered before our departure date, just carrying enough sniffles with us to keep anyone from getting too close. (Also, Micah lost his voice. Poor sweet angel. There is nothing sadder than the sound of a hoarse baby crying). Anyway! Enough prelude! On to the main course.

IMG_5552How did he do on the flight? Kind of amazing! We brought chocolates and earplugs for the people seated near us, and some people took them, but others said they wouldn’t mind. The flight was just over two hours, and he did his usual baby things: ate, slept, shook his rattly toys, protested when he got bored and wanted to be walked around, and threw zero fits. Huzzah! When we got to Seattle, we had to ride the airport train to get to a cab, and I think that was his favorite part of all. The look on his face pretty much said, “Mom! Can we come here every day?”

We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but we did our best to be prepared. The most excellent decision we made in this regard was to stay at a Homewood Suites. It was actually closer to the conference center than the conference hotel, and, for a lower rate, we got a suite with a full kitchen and a separate bedroom, complete with closing door (very useful when putting a baby to bed to have two separate spaces!), a REAL hot breakfast, and FREE DINNER Monday through Friday. What?! I had never even heard of that last one, but it was so awesome to just be able to go downstairs and eat without having to get everyone bundled up. The dinners were actually really good too! They always had a salad, and on bratwurst night I wanted to eat about 80 of those things. Yum!

IMG_5555Another point of nervousness: Micah has never been a HUGE fan of the stroller. He loves looking around, but he gets annoyed after a while and wants to be held. At this point, he is too big and squirmy for me to hold him and push the stroller at the same time, so…woe be to any pedestrians between the point of dissatisfaction and home. Whenever I tell my mom about my worries about how something will go with the baby, she says, “He may just surprise you.” And, thankfully, she is so often right. We bought Micah a bear suit (technically it’s a bunting, but it has little ears, so I feel justified in calling it a bear suit!) and got a waterproof cover for the stroller, and then we hoped for the best. And it was better than we could have imagined. He not only happily assented to be pushed around in the stroller all day, but even took naps in there. Long naps. And then he’d wake up and look at me like, “Oh, hey, you took me to another museum! Cool! How ’bout you pick me up and I’ll give you some adorable smiles?” It was kind of heavenly. We were so grateful. (I don’t usually post pictures of Micah here, but this is too cute not to share. Also, now you all know what a bear suit looks like. The ears are the same gray as the carseat cover, so they might be a little hard to see, but they are there!)

IMG_9856Another wonderful surprise was how kind and accommodating everyone was to our little tiger. I think we hit a world record of how many restaurants cheerfully made space for the stroller in one week. And Micah surprised us by sleeping through plenty of meals, or at least being very content to be passed from parent to parent, based on who was eating.

IMG_9874Eric had a free day to spend with us before the conference started, which was super fun. We went down to Pike Place Market, where Micah slept for two and a half hours in the stroller. Bonanza!! The market was decidedly less fun in the winter just because the flowers and produce are less impressive, and there aren’t any outdoor booths. Oh well. Still pretty cool. After we fed Micah, we headed over to Pioneer Square, where we ate giant sandwiches and wandered around in the rain. On the way back up to the hotel, I suggested that we stop by the Seattle Library, which was designed by Rem Koolhaus and is really fantastically interesting and beautiful. My brother took me there ten years ago on our way from Berkeley to Vancouver (ah, youth!) It was a hilariously steep climb up to get there, but it was worth it.

IMG_9888Monday through Thursday Micah and I were exploring solo, and we were lucky enough to be in a very walkable neighborhood (First Hill). On Monday we stopped at the Honeyhole for a quick lunch before heading down to the aquarium. I walked right in to a storm cloud of incense and Led Zeppelin blaring, and I instantly felt sixteen again. It was kind of amazing. Micah was mesmerized by the red walls, which made it easy for me to eat.

IMG_9903I had been really excited about taking Micah to the aquarium because I knew he’d like to look at everything, but also because…I have discovered that secret goldmine of being a parent: you get to be a kid again! Micah was asleep for the first hour while I ogled the sea anemones (my favorite!) and starfish and seahorses. When he woke up, he looked right at the sea otters and said, “Oooooh, ooooh.” Precious.

IMG_9907He fell asleep again on the way up the hill, so I went another block further than our hotel to have a cappuccino at Victrola. Mmmm.

IMG_9932For the rest of the week, we explored the neighborhood, headed down to the water almost every day, rode the monorail to the Space Needle, and generally put jillions of steps on Mommy’s Fitbit, steps which were periodically punctuated by cappuccinos. It was awesome. I don’t have pictures from my two favorite places we went, but they both get gold stars. Any place that offered indoor sanctuary, restrooms, places to sit and feed Micah, and required no admission fee would already be heel-click-worthy. But these two really were the creme de la creme.

IMG_9947The first was the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. Eric had read that it was pretty cool (and freeeeee!), so Micah and I trekked on over. It’s actually more of a museum, but it’s part of the national park system, so it was manned by park rangers. The nicest, most welcoming park rangers ever. I asked them about the start times for the short films they show, and they said, “Oh, we can just start one for you anytime you like.” Awesome. Micah and I watched a whole bunch of them, and we spent a good couple of hours learning about the crazy history of this Alaskan gold rush. Seattle was the main departure point, and it was such a harrowing journey that it still gives me chills. That evening at the hotel, I said to Eric, “Hey, how would you like to spend several months on an overcrowded boat to Alaska in 1897, and then spent another couple of months hiking north through the snow, including making 40 trips up and down 1500 stairs carved into a mountain of ice in order to get your 2,000 pounds of required food and supplies up to the top? I forgot to mention that there are thousands of other people there, so there’s a long line and you can only make one trip a day. And then how would you like to spend the winter in a makeshift tent while waiting for the river to thaw, and bide your time by trying to build a boat out of whatever wood you can find? And then how would you like to almost die in the rapids of that river, only to arrive at your final destination and find that there’s no gold left?” That’s pretty much how it went. I am amazed that people made this journey and lived to tell the tale. And the museum does such a great job of presenting individual stories of that experience. After several hours of happily history-ing it up, we hit the gift shop, only to discover that they had National Park passports, so, naturally, I had to get one for Micah and collect his first stamp for him. Awesome!

IMG_9935The second awesome place was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Visitors’ Center. I had seen a brief mention of it somewhere, and it sounded cool. I wasn’t planning to do any of the other Seattle Center attractions, so I thought we would check it out. As soon as we walked in, we were ever so kindly greeted by a man who led us to the stroller ramp and showed us where the restrooms were for when we needed them. Such kindness. But even that immense kindness was quickly surpassed by all the amazing things the foundation is doing. My mind was kind of blown by all of their projects both in the US and abroad, and the huge range of issues they tackle: homelessness, sanitation, access to clean water, education, disease prevention, women’s health, the list went on and on. Whoa. I was seriously impressed by their dedication to finding innovative solutions for tackling age-old problems such as poverty and access to healthcare. Instead of just throwing money at these problems, they do things like hold design contests for more efficient toilets and work to create drought-resistant plants for the driest climates most in danger of famine. The spirit of creativity was easy to find in the visitors’ center, which had tons of interactive opportunities for kids (and adults!) to brainstorm about how to do the most good with a fixed amount of resources, and about how to look at old problems in new ways.

There were so many things that deeply impressed me. Quite frankly, the Gates Foundation made me feel proud to be a human being. I was tremendously moved by their simple, powerful vision, that every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life. I love that they invest in organizations already in place here and abroad, often giving quietly and without fanfare, so that the people who work for and are helped by these organizations often have no idea that Gates is involved. I was in tears so many, many times when confronted with how easy my life is, compared to how difficult so many others have it. I came away with a much greater awareness of global and local issues and a greater determination to see the needs of the people around me (and those far away) and respond to them with love. I came right on home determined to donate some money to the foundation. Bill Gates is a smart dude, and I would feel so good about how he and his team would spend whatever little bit I could give them. And then I looked it up and realized that it’s a foundation. Which means that Bill Gates does not need my money. However, they list all of the organizations they partner with, so it would be very easy to give to those organizations individually. I am really happy to have that as a resource. Whew, this paragraph has kind of turned into a novella. But here’s the point: I walked into the center grateful for a warm place to spend a cold afternoon, and I walked out shaken to my core. I couldn’t stop asking myself how I should have so much and others so little, and what I could do to bridge that gap. Although that inequality is heart-rending and overwhelming, I came out with so much hope and assurance that it starts with doing what you can and giving what you can. I can’t do what Bill Gates is doing, but I can do what I am able to do. And just as fantastic foundations like this one overlap in meeting the needs of people all over the world, so our small actions are brought together, like tiny pieces in a huge puzzle, to bring what’s needed to where it’s needed most.

There are more Seattle stories to tell, but they’ll have to wait for another post because the hour grows late, and really, I think that’s the best note I could possibly end on. In the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to keep carrying with me what I found there, to keep giving all that I can give.

My One Little Word for 2015: Savor

IMG_0060Before I say anything else, let me give a huge thank you to Hillary, who engraved this key with my word and some sweet little design elements. She is the best! This is going to make the loveliest necklace (worn under my shirt, of course, to keep it from baby hands)!

So! This is my fourth year choosing a word (the others are here: 2012 grateful, 2013 open, 2014 nurture). How do I come up with them? Well, it’s sort of more of a feeling than a decision. Somewhere around November or so, I start to ask myself what I really want for the year to come, how I would be most happy to see myself living. There’s a distinction for me between action-based words (rah, rah, accomplish things!) and experience-based words (take a deep breath). I wrestled with it a little bit this year because I just don’t know what this year holds (besides a lot of baby smiles and kisses). Micah is changing so fast that I don’t know what to expect a few weeks from now, to say nothing of a few months from now. For instance, for a long time he has only taken seriously short naps. But maybe soon he will take longer ones? (Please?) Right now he does a little bit of independent play, but he will do more as he grows. On the other hand, when he’s mobile, things will change again! There are some things I’d really like to accomplish personally and professionally this year, but I just don’t know how much time I can realistically commit to them. So…action? Or experience?

It turns out that my wrestling was more or less for naught. When I asked myself what I really wanted for this year, the answer came right away. I want to really live. I want to really enjoy everything that comes my way, whatever it might be. I want to be present in every moment, whether it’s a triumphant one or a tired one. I want to enjoy all the things I accomplish, whether it’s booking speaking gigs or getting my baby to laugh. And so I thought of this word savor, which encapsulates it all, bypassing the question of action vs. experience. The answer is not either/or, but yes/and. I think that’s a pretty exciting way to start a year.

I am not doing any kind of formal class with my word this year, but I did look it up to get a richer sense of its meanings. It’s about the senses, of course–tasting and smelling–which I love in a metaphorical sense as well as a literal one; I do love good food and am becoming increasingly appreciative of a scented candle. The secondary definition is “to enjoy with appreciation, to dwell on with delight.” Another dictionary offers a more explicitly temporal element: “to enjoy the taste or smell of something for as long as possible, to enjoy something for a long time.” I love that so much, especially since things change so fast with a little one. The thesaurus entries are even more awesome: “appreciate, bask in, delight in, enjoy, enjoy being alive, relish, revel in.” Yes. Yes to all of this.

So that’s what I’ll be doing this year–savoring my sacred cup of coffee in the morning, savoring every little baby giggle, savoring every moment I have to spend on work and art, savoring even the hard days, knowing that soon they’ll be slipping away from me into the realm of memory.

I am pretty excited about it. Happy new year to all!

2015 Thus Far: Sickness, Seattle, and a Restart Button

IMG_9876Well, this is going to be a hodgepodge of a post, but I kind of like those! The end of the year is one of my favorite times because I love to look back and look forward (Janus, you are the coolest of the ancient gods). I always plan lots of posts for December/January and love reading everyone else’s. I was particularly excited this year because we had a week between Christmas and New Years when Eric would be home from work. All kinds of reflecting and planning would be done! The budget would be balanced! Work and writing plans would be discussed! I would sit down and get to all the year-end posts I wanted to write! And then…Eric got sick right after Christmas. And then…Micah got sick. And then…I got sick. Ugh! I spent a few days feeling really disappointed that we weren’t going to have the week we had planned, and then…I was too sick to have any emotions other than sad sad sad. I haven’t been sick like that since I was in my first trimester, and boy howdy, was I unhappy to go back there. I really think the worst part of illness is emotional, but feeling terrible and taking care of a sick baby is also…terrible.

Lest this turn into a retrospective sobfest, we are all better! Hallelujah! And I have to share this one sweet moment. On one of my worst days, I was lonely and bored and so I got out of bed to go see the boys (it should go without saying that Eric is a saint and picked up the slack for me when I was at my worst). Eric and I were talking about accepting that we were in survival mode, and I suggested that we sit across the room from each other while he held Micah, and we just drove his wheeled toys back and forth between us. Micah loved it, and we played some silly songs on YouTube, and Eric said we would probably look back fondly on this time, even though we wouldn’t have chosen it. And then I teared up. Because that husband of mine, he is made of gold.

IMG_9924Anyway! The whole reason why we hoped to accomplish so much in that in-between week is because we’re in Seattle for the first week of January. Woohoo! I love to travel, and I love Seattle, so I was happy as a clam to invite myself and Micah on Eric’s work trip. And also nervous. But now we have Micah’s first flight behind us, and it went totally fine. He’s also been a real champ as I’ve tromped all over the city with him. I feel like a boss going up and down all these hills with the stroller, and hopefully all this walking is counteracting the millions of cookies I’ve been eating.

IMG_9934I want to write a lot more about Seattle, and I hope I will, but I think I will head to bed soon and want to get to the last point in the title’s little trinity. I love new beginnings and fresh goals, but sometimes you just have to hit the reset button. January 1 isn’t going to be until sometime next week for me, and that’s okay. Life happens. I got this really cool goal calendar that helps you track your progress in doing one thing every day for a year…and nary a day is checked off yet. But that’s okay. I’ll get there, whether my 2015 starts in January or July. For now I am enjoying the hills and the ocean view and my unofficial cappuccino tour of the city. All those fresh starts will be waiting for me when I get home.

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