Snow and lights

For the first time ever in my life, I watched a real live snowstorm last week.

When I moved to Seattle, I surely expected rain. I’d be an idiot not to. When I was looking for homes to buy in the Seattle area, I researched transportation routes for each option, and as a result, intimately got to know the King County transportation websites. This includes the snow schedule/routes. I knew that Snow Days happened, but from discussions with people from the area, or who’d lived there, snow was not the norm. In fact, Seattle when it snows equated to LA when it rains. Shit shuts down. People lose their shit, and suddenly can’t drive anymore. Luckily for LA and Seattle, rain and snow, respectively, don’t happen that frequently.

Yet, it snowed twice last week, on December 5 and 8, 2016, after I’d already commuted into work. Thank goodness, or I may not have made it in. Having 5+ knee surgeries under my belt, and a propensity for klutziness, I try to avoid snow at all costs. It’s not even winter yet, so snow within my first autumn in Seattle was wholly unexpected.

After obsessively checking weather apps, which kept altering their predictions for snow at 6pm, 7pm, then 8pm… I made it to and subsequently left my physical therapy appointment to head home via bus, praying to a God I may or may not believe in that the buses hadn’t already shut down. After the 12-year-old chiropractor rubbed out my knees, neck, back and tender feet, I shuffled to a CVS for some last minute decorations once the bus dropped me off closer to home.

Suddenly, around 9pm, the snow came. As a Californian, it was never a way of life. It was a commercial. It was on TV. It was the east coast, middle America, Mount Everest, Austria, everywhere and everyone but who I am. And yet, when the uniquely individual snowflakes congregated on the balcony handrail, on the patio furniture covers, as the snow flurried in the light from the street lamps, clung to windshields of parked cars, I felt oddly, and amazingly, at home. I missed my dad, who is no longer of this earth. I hugged my cat tight for at least 30 seconds, every one of those seconds he vacillated between despondent defeat and fervently trying to escape my cuddles. As he tried to break free, like any prisoner in the show Orange is the New Black who fled for a swim in the lake when the officers were nowhere to be found, I felt more… more. That’s all I can explain it as: more. I teared up. I cried for seemingly no reason and all the reasons, at once. I watched the trash pandas (raccoons) that I didn’t even know existed in my neighborhood frolic with a pit bull, ruining the blanket of fresh, white snow.

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I felt myself heavy, perhaps from all the lives I’m not living, yet content with the one I was. Scared about the future of my home and life under the regime of a man who has time for SNL and Twitter but not the President’s Daily Briefing. Most strongly of all, I missed my Dad, and just knowing he was a phone call away, should I pick up the phone. My heart broke and rebuilt, all in the same moment. It wasn’t my first Christmas spent away from California, but it was my first being back in the USA, but not as a California resident. I felt like a stranger to this city, and at the same time, someone who now knew it during the rare occasion of a snowstorm.

Music always makes me feel better, so I airplay mirrored my holiday playlist on my Apple TV (feeling very technologically proficient since my friends showed me how to do so at Thanksgiving,) and began decorating my tree I’d acquired earlier in the week. I bought it at a lot in Capitol Hill, the gayborhood of Seattle. The lot was run by Seattle Area Support Groups, who donates to various charities after they cover costs, including providing direct support to Washington gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and minority communities, as well as toward fighting HIV/AIDS and other STDs. I basically picked the first tree I saw, because every tree is lovely if you have enough alcohol and low standards (and a time limit to your Zipcar reservation.)

My dad and I always used to go cut down our Christmas tree together from a tree farm when I was growing up. I didn’t cut this one myself, but I think the missing him hit me like a tsunami because I was attempting a modified form of getting a live tree without him for the first time since he passed. I had a fake tree my first Christmas back in San Francisco after repatriating from Australia. I hadn’t crossed that bridge until last week.

I also had electricians by today to finally complete a much-anticipated project of mine on the condo: a halogen-to-LED fixture conversion project for a majority of the in-unit lighting. The bathrooms already have somewhat more modern fixtures, and they have smaller, more manageable halogen lights. However, all non-bathroom lights were halogen. They threw off a lot of heat, not appreciated at all in the summer months. Not only am I more energy efficient as a result of this project, but I’ll begin to (hopefully) see real savings in my electricity bills. It was a relatively inexpensive way to add value to my home, and a way to see instant savings in my own use and enjoyment of the lights.

As a side note to any of my friends considering a similar project at their home – let me know if you’ve any questions. I asked a lot of stupid questions of my electricity company, and they helped educate me quite a lot. In the end, I went with 3000K fixtures (that speaks to color temperature along a daylight/bright light/soft light/candle spectrum – here, if you’re curious, is more info on the spectrum. Some folks are leery of LED lighting because it can come off as too bright, even bluish in hue. LED lights have come a long way, and don’t have to look like bug lights anymore. So if you’re thinking about it, do it!

Now that I’ve decorated for the holiday, and added more fairy lights than I previously had year-round, home is quite homey, and ready for my mother and aunt to visit. It’ll be the closest to Christmases I used to have growing up I’ll have since my father passed away. My aunt would usually fly in and it would be just the four of us nearly every year.

It’s a new city for me this year, a new condo, the same cat with new asthma, and the nearly the same but never quite the same again family. It’s been a big year for me, in many positive ways. But I lost my cousin to aggressive brain cancer, and that loss reverberates this time of year. That’s partially why I invited family to visit me here. If I’m being honest, to go back east and face my broader family without him might just be too hard for me right now. But baby steps. We all have projects that need tackling, in our homes, and in our hearts/minds. All in good time.

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Summertime

I only just closed the purchase of my new condo in Seattle on February 29, 2016. Due to volatility in the markets after the United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union (commonly known as “Brexit”), I received a call this week from the lending agent for my mortgage. Turns out Brexit has brought mortgage rates to new lows since my financing was locked in. For no cost at all, he offered to help me refinance and reduce my monthly payment by $110. That represents a rate change from 4.5% to 4.125% interest on my loan. Not too shabby.

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I may have owned a home once previously before this one, but I’ve never gone through the refinancing process before. Now, I’m not entirely dumb at finance and money things. But the refinancing logistics left me with many questions, especially when I’ve been paying off principal on my home for nearly 6 months now, yet my new loan would be for $2,000 more than my original loan amount as if I’d not paid any principal. How the hell does that work?

So I swallowed any pride I might have and had my lending agent explain the ins and outs to a CPA like I was 4. It was humbling, but helpful. And I’d highly recommend that if you own your home, you look into whether refinancing post Brexit could help you reduce your monthly payments as well.

I have many projects I want to complete in my home: new floors, changing all light fixtures from energy wasting halogen to energy efficient LED, a new paint job throughout, additional landscaping on the patio, and a bit of a birthday for the bathroom and kitchen finishes. I’ll soon have an additional $110 a month to put aside for those upgrades. Thanks, United Kingdom.

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In other news, I spent last weekend in Denver, visiting a friend and a new town I’d never properly been to before. I’d only ever spent 1 or 2 hour layovers in Denver airport. I went to a Colorado Rockies game (they won), had a fabulous massage, ate some great food, and made it up into Arapaho National Forest to a little ski town comparable to Breckenridge, called Winter Park. The ski lift is used in the summertime to transport mountain bikes and people alike to the top of the mountain. They then did some extreme biking clad in elbow pads, knee pads, and helmets, back down the mountain. This allows ski retreat locations to function not just in the winter time. I took no part in the extreme sportsing; I much preferred to enjoy as a spectator, while I enjoyed the most amazing watermelon caprese salad.

It was a nice getaway, but I’m happy to be back home. Summer has settled on Seattle, with temps in high 70’s/low 80’s. This past week has seen some mid 80’s/low 90’s action even. It’s a little warmer than I’m used to and prefer, but I can’t complain. If it gets unbearable, I do have an air conditioner.

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I beta-tested my first batch of Jell-O shots since living in Sydney last night: watermelon Jell-O, made with Malibu Rum and Triple Sec, my own twist on the recipe. I plan to sit in the Adirondacks in the sunshine after the gym both days this weekend. I sprung for a house-cleaner to spend 3 hours on my place today, to give myself a break from chores. I get to come home to a clean house this afternoon. It’ll be delightful. Time to really enjoy my first summer in Washington, now that the warm weather has arrived. I’m gonna kick back and let my home work for me for a change. I hope you enjoy the last weekend of July and get your summer on.

Twin peaks

Recently, a quote happened upon my path which summed up my struggle for many years past:

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For so long, I worked in a role I simply didn’t care about. I saw it as a stepping stone, a means to an end. It caused unnecessary amounts of stress. I was a mixed bag of emotions when I left San Francisco and my previous place of employment – there was sadness, yes. There was fear of the unknown, uncomfortability with change after the same role for almost 12 years…

Now, stress at work seems a thing of the past. While what I’m doing and the skills I’m using have not drastically changed, I look at work a lot differently now. When there is a lot of work to get through, it’s all manageable, and it all has purpose now. Even if, in the grand scheme of things, my tasks are not that important, I feel infinitely more valued at a smaller firm. The things I do, however menial, have impact. I’m in an industry in which I’ve studied and practiced my whole life. This is passion, now.

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I feel like I’m living so much closer to my truth. I’m genuinely happy, and have very little about which to complain. I mean, my garbage disposal is broken, my neighbor has been flicking cigarette butts on my patio, and construction is still ever-present at a nearby apartment complex, but on the whole, life is better. I feel myself wanting to write more blog posts, but having less to say. What I mistook for passion before was simply perhaps just a bug under my skin. I had more to write about, when I had more to complain about. I could write about horrible venture capital companies ultimately being to blame for my shitty living situation. I could write about my cat and the adventures in small apartment living with him… Now that I don’t have half as many things to complain about, perhaps it means less stress? Or perhaps I have it backwards: I have less stress, so I see the world with different eyes, and can complain about much much less. It’s an argument similar to which came first, the chicken or the egg… which came first for me, the stress or the stuff about which to write blogs… they are both twin peaks in the same mountain range, I suppose…

I’d even possibly go so far as to say, I might actually be slowing down too much as I grow some roots here… I’m quite content after work going to the gym, or going home to spend quality time playing with Cheddar, Netflixing, and relaxing.

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In some of my downtime, I recently watched the series I seemed to have missed when it first came out, Twin Peaks. It was filmed about 45 mins outside of Seattle, as the falls in the opening credits and the lodge are in Snoqualmie Falls at the Salish Lodge. Shots of the main character’s room were filmed in nearby Woodinville as well, about 20 minutes outside of Seattle. Now, if you haven’t seen that series yet, grab a bowl of popcorn and the Cliff’s notes, cause you’re gonna need them. Just like when I watched Mulholland Drive, I needed help to figure out what the HELL I was watching.

There’s this guy, who apparently dances in the world between worlds, speaking garbled words:

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And of course, the ever-wise log lady:

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Mine does too, lady, mine does too.

But it’s required viewing if you live in Seattle, especially seeing as how I’ve been to the falls twice now with guests from out of town. Here are a couple of photos I took at the falls for your own personal viewing pleasure:

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They’re just far enough away to take in the mountain and tree-filled scenery along the way, and feel like you’ve left the city far behind you. Even cell phone reception is sketchy at the falls, so you know you’re in the sticks.

So overall, life is so good, I really can’t complain… Until the next thing pops up to complain about.

A year ago to now

A year ago, I was experiencing the joys of a relaxing day at the Blue Lagoon, outside Reykjavik, Iceland. I had a silica mask, then an algae mask regime, as I soaked in warm waters heated naturally by geothermal energy. I was wrapping up two months of travel throughout 10 countries in Europe, and really living my life to its very fullest. I was experiencing nature in all its glory, sans work, as I was on a much-needed sabbatical. Those were the days.

Fast forward to today, and no, I’m not anywhere glorious like Iceland. I’m not inside the magma chamber of a dormant volcano, repelling against the rocks, and modelling a hard hat. I’m not hiking to the top of and behind seemingly unreal, yet still very real, waterfalls. I’m not treading upon a quickly-melting glacier in a much too thin jacket.

I am in a new city (for me), in a new condo, with a new kitty, and a new job, though. I didn’t realize so much had changed from a year ago until I typed that, and reread it. Seattle has been a great move for me, but it’s just everyday life now. My condo is a work in progress, but it’s in a state where I’m able to live comfortably and happily every day. My kitty cat sleeps with me most nights, and while he isn’t the best at grooming, and sometimes just wants to play with all the toys at once when all I want to do is veg and burrito myself on the couch, he’s wonderful. I love that little fucker so much.

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My new job is lovely. I love going to work. There used to be days when I wouldn’t leave my apartment for days at a time, except to go to the gym or get food. Once, I didn’t bother going into the office for 3 whole weeks. It’s not like anyone missed me. I just worked from home. The stress of living and working in San Francisco was too much for a post-Australia me. Seattle is just right. It’s had some foggy days of late here, and it feels like San Francisco, but without all the shit that made it awful.

My coworkers are smart, funny people, and I enjoy being part of a great team. I’m finally feeling more comfortable in my role, now that I’ve been here for nearly 5 months. The hardest part of my role, which I was specifically hired to oversee, the audits, finalized yesterday for the last few funds for the 2015 reporting year. There were some definite table-flipping, chair-throwing moments of intense stress, but I survived and handled those moments with as much grace as I could muster.

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There’s still a matter of other business duties that goes along with operating hedge funds, like capital calls, distributions, annual investor statements, performance releases, management fees, month-end and quarter-end responsibilities, other review functions, and a slew of other lesser issues popping up. It’s all manageable, though. And interesting, since I didn’t really ever get to see this side of things, being in the auditor role for the last 12 years of my career.

I haven’t had much of a desire to travel, after depleting my savings to make a down payment on said condo. I feel good about my decision to purchase a home when I did though, as that meant selling out of all my long positions in the stock market before this Brexit market nonsense happened. And before the Seattle housing market begins to cool. I would say I’ve definitely enjoyed some appreciation on my home, just for taking the plunge on a purchase sooner rather than later. Crazy what a difference a few months can make. I’ve nested at home as well, not wanting to take any long trips or be away from Cheddar for an extended period of time. I didn’t have the money anyway, as I was furnishing a home three times the size of my place in San Francisco. I’m currently paying off those credit cards, and once I’m back at flat ground again, financially, I think I’d like to start looking into another international trip. It may not be two months long, but I’d like it to be longer than a week, with a couple destinations included.

I find myself getting that old familiar travel bug again: the desire to see new places, experience new things, gain new perspective, and push the limits of my comfort zone. I’ve built a strong comfort zone in my new home, and soon it will be time to leave it again.

Until then, though, this will be my spirit animal, resting in its comfort zone:

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The Orlando response

Ever since the events in Orlando unfolded this weekend, I’ve been processing, very much internally. I gauge the appropriateness of my own response, and responses of those who surround me. True, it’s very judgmental and I’m not usually so judgmental. That’s a whole other issue.

A friend on Facebook posted, “Are straight people just numb to mass shootings or do they just not care that it happened to us?” Comments further in the feed suggest us to look at our friends’ pages, and see how they’d rather mourn and stand in solidarity with France than us. More comments say no one puts a Syrian or a Lebanese flag on their profile picture when mass killings happen elsewhere every day. You have to be white, from a western country, and straight if you want people to mourn for you. I’m not saying I agree or disagree with these, but the viewpoints afforded got me thinking.

This posting resonated deeply with me. To be fair, there were vigils nearly everywhere throughout the US on Sunday night, attended by the LGBT community and allies alike. I didn’t go. So I didn’t see firsthand how people were coping. Vigils just aren’t my thing.

On Sunday, I personally went to the gym and vented all my rage and frustration via my muscles. I can barely walk and lift my arms today, 3 days later, but that is beside the point. I got teary but I didn’t let out a full cry. It’s still in there bottled up, and may present itself at the most inopportune of times, cause that’s how I roll.

The day it happened, a coworker texted me, “People have so much hate in their heart and it’s disgusting. Wanted to send a hug your way.” She just couldn’t eat all day, and she even offered to come over if I needed a friend. She looked into donating blood here. She went to say how sad and pathetic it is when the acts of a few extremists define an entire race and religion. We both agreed that at times like this, more love in the world is the cure. As an afterthought, she is an Indian Muslim, not that it matters. She, her husband, and their 3 kids were going to the vigil, and she checked a website for a local mosque, and many in the Muslim community planned to attend the vigil in Seattle.

But it also sort of does matter that she reached out first, and has been the only (from my place of employment) since. The only person to speak to me since it happened at my place of employment was a Muslim. She expressed more love than most.

I feel like the silence of the straight people around me is deafening. Part of it may be that they support us, but they don’t know how to react, or how to be an ally when something this pervasive and horrible happens. Part of it may be that Orlando is so far away from Seattle, literally diagonally across this great nation. It’s far away from home and perhaps they think there are no impacts around here. Part of it may be that they’ve never experienced fear of their family disowning them just for being who they really are, fear of holding hands with someone they love walking down the street, fear that someone seeing them kissing their partner could ignite a shooting rampage just like this one.

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Who has reacted, and in a typical disappointing fashion, are those who skew the events, or view them through narrow lenses, to forward their own agendas on, say, the radical Islamic movement, or gun control, or alcohol and drugs in the scene. That continues to disgust me to the point of filtering which news I read to weed that kind of response out.

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I looked for the positives, and the helpers. I chose to see those who queued up to donate blood. One of the greatest injustices in this whole fiasco are the antiquated blood donation restrictions on sexually active gay men. They had just seen 100 members of their community gunned down in cold blood, and they were rendered powerless to do anything to help. Blood is tested on site at the donation center, yet they were still turned away.

If it is a plague of numbness to shocking events, due to sheer volume of occurrences like this, that is horrifying in and of itself. While it can be hard to articulate a response, and any words one can come up with feel inadequate, I’d argue the LGBT community needs to hear them. We need to hear something. They may not be the right words, but let us know somehow they’re coming from a good place, and we’re safe with you. That you care. While we’ve come a long way, many members of the LGBT community are at different points in their journey. Some still walk through this world more afraid to be themselves than anything else.

I hope our straight allies are grieving too, and maybe they’re just at a loss for how to show it, like I am. Some people don’t or can’t react until it hits close to home for them – their family, their town, their demographic.

I have no idea if my own response is right or wrong, and some people may judge me just as harshly for not attending vigils or being more vocal. But that is also not my style. I find myself, as always, grieving in my own, very personal, way.

If any allies out there want a good read on how to support us, check this out: To my heterosexual friends

It’s ok to be speechless, but I do ask that each and every one of you just put more love into the world. Before you speak, before you act, think. Save your prayers. Save your political rhetoric. Be empathetic. Don’t assume someone feels a certain way. Ask. Talk to us. Reach out across the silence, even though it may be comfortable to stay silent. Let us know it registered on your radar. Don’t pretend it didn’t exist or happen at all. That’s worse.

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California girl at heart

So I just had the pleasure (do you smell the sarcasm already?) of visiting Seattle’s driver licensing office (equivalent to the DMV) to get my first non-California driver’s license. I felt a little sad, going in, as I’ve always had a California license. I’m a California girl, born, bred, and raised. Even though I strayed to other continents and called them home temporarily, I still call California my original home.

My experience at the DMV was interesting… it started originally when I moved here back in February. I read online that I legally had 1 month after moving to change my address and to get a new driver’s license. However, one of the documents one must bring is proof of residency, via a homeowner’s insurance policy bill, or a utility bill (not cable or internet though, as that’s not considered permanent enough.) So I ended up having to wait over 2 months for my first utility bill from Seattle City Light, since they only send customer invoices on a quarterly basis. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone I broke that law. It’s been over 3 months since I moved here, and I’ve only just gotten my license today. Woops.

The Washington DMV works a little differently than the shitshow that is the California DMV. California at least acknowledges it’s a shitshow, and that people who show up and wait in line before the office opens in the morning may not even get to be seen the same day. So, you can book an appointment with the DMV to minimize wait times. Those appointments were super handy, as they minimized wait times to maybe only a couple of hours, instead of the whole damn day. Washington’s DMV system offers no such appointments. There is a tracker on their website which provides up to date wait times, but as I learned today, that can be, and usually is, wildly inaccurate. Half an hour in, this was me:

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I left my office when the tracker said the wait time was 0 minutes… and when I arrived to the poorly marked entrance downtown, the line was out the door. Bugger. That line was just to see the greeter, who then sorts everyone and gives them a number. I looked down at my receipt with the number F21 on it. I truly felt like Beetlejuice with the biggest possible number away, and they were only serving F8 when I glanced at the screen. Sigh.

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There were 6 service windows, with only 2 really in operation at any given time. Then the screen began announcing numbers nowhere between F8 and F21. E905. R319. Fuck me. Now they were just making up numbers on purpose to delay my intentions of painless, efficient service. I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. There was no music, no TV, and I somehow could not find solace in my phone as I waited. I could pretend I was meditating peacefully, but let’s be honest. I was seething on the inside, imagining channeling a raging bitch letting loose on the system to the sound of resounding cheers from other citizens and DMV employees alike. Instead, I tried my best to be patient, calm, and not act on the outside how I felt on the inside: annoyed. I listened to everything happening around me. The family of 3 from China whose visas expired 4 days ago, but who successfully obtained driver’s licenses anyway. Or the woman in her twenties who didn’t know her learner’s permit actually expires and had been driving with it for the last year. The woman on the phone hopelessly explaining that something could be found on top of the microwave when it was very apparent the person on the other end of that call didn’t see it anywhere.

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Eventually, what felt like 15 screaming babies later, F21 flashed on the screen, and before the second flash of it could start, my butt was at station #3 to get this whole experience the f**k over with. I pulled out my Seattle City Light bill, only to have the attendant tell me it wasn’t necessary. Wait, what?!?! Your website said it was. No, it’s not. Well, shit.

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So as of today, my California driver’s license has a hole punched in the photo, invalidating it. But it doesn’t invalidate me. I’ll always be a California girl. I’m just a Washington resident, which apparently anyone can be, even if your Visa is expired or your learner’s permit expired a year ago. Welcome to Washington, people. Stay a while, buy some legal marijuana, go on some hikes.

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200

I published my last post, about my cousin with aggressive brain cancer, on April 2. He passed away on April 8. It’s been a hard couple of weeks, just wrapping my head around how quickly the cancer spread and took over. He hardly got a chance to fight the cancer… it was more like a bloody massacre. 3 days after having surgery to remove the two largest tumors, it had regrown to the same size.

I wanted to head east to be with family during this difficult time, but it ended up not coming to fruition that way, for many reasons. Not being with my family on the east coast during this difficult time does not mean I care any less. I just have to be resourceful and do my mourning on my own. I found a great way to say that in a photo meme recently, so here it is as I pass that wisdom on to you.

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It also happens to be my busiest time at work. Literally, all the things came at me this week, demanding attention before Friday. So I didn’t feel like I could take adequate time to mourn anyway. I took Monday off, but it wasn’t enough. People asked me why I was out Monday on Tuesday when I returned, and being the honest person I am, I told them, not mincing words.

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People I work with at my new place of employment are incredibly smart, funny, empathetic people. I really enjoy working with them and they provided the right mix of what I needed to help get past recent events. Distraction has been a great tactic for dealing with grief this time around, and when you have people around you who keep you laughing, it’s even better. Yesterday, I tackled everything that had piled up and shoved all that poop onto other people’s desks, effectively removing it from my own. It was fantastic.

My taxes were done a couple of weeks ago, and refunds have already been deposited. All the furniture I’ve needed in my new place is here, with the exception of a couple handmade Adirondack chairs I ordered back in March that take two months to custom make for each order. Those will undoubtedly be worth the wait. Life at home is coming together, though I do have a few small repairs I need to tackle. (Yes, “a few small repairs,” are lyrics from the Shawn Colvin song “Sunny Came Home,” and I did that on purpose.)

Overall, I’m taking it one day at a time, and trying to find joy and happiness everywhere I can. Moving to Seattle was absolutely the right move for me. I’ve made a couple good friends, and those can be hard to come by. There is a phenomenon called the “Seattle freeze,” I think I’ve experienced the tip of that iceberg (pun intended.) I don’t have quite as many friends here, or people I keep in touch with on a daily basis, so it can get a little lonely. People here don’t seem to want or need that kind of contact. Especially when mourning the loss of a loved one, I don’t need anyone to be my rock or take care of me, but a little extra care would be nice.

I’m actually proud of myself, as I think back to my many dances with grief. I’ve written past posts on the matter (see Grief and Recovery), and I’m probably the least graceful person at letting go. But I look at myself now, and I’m impressed that I’ve been able to grow each time I’ve encountered grief to be able to be on my own, on the other side of the country from my family, without much of a friend/support network, and be OK. I didn’t know it was happening, but I’ve been growing. I’m strong. It feels pretty good.

In other news, this is my 200th post to my blog. I started my blog in June of 2014, after moving back to San Francisco from Australia. I look back to my many posts and can’t believe I have something incredible to show as a diary of sorts over the last two years. I guess you could say I’m in a brief period of reflection, and I like what I see (said in my best Australian accent of Kath from Kath & Kim, the Australian TV series.)

So here’s to you, and here’s to me, and if we should ever disagree, fuck you, and here’s to me. Cheers, mates. Thanks for being on this journey with me, even if only as an extra, sipping coffee in the background.

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Força

Yesterday, as I left work to begin my commute home, the song coming through my earbuds was pure ear candy and perfect for the moment: “Força” by Nelly Furtado. I’m going to put the lyrics as I sing them to myself, and not how they actually are, because we all know our song lyrics we sing are almost always better than the real lyrics.

“It is the passion flowing right on through your veins
And it’s the feeling like you’re oh so glad you came
And it’s the moment you remember you’re alive
It is the air you breathe, the element, the fire.”

I first heard this song at a small Peruvian bar around the corner from my apartment in San Francisco, Pisco Latin Lounge. I was up to my eyeballs in a salad (translation: cucumber martini) and the video came on. My blurry vision miraculously cleared, and what I saw brought me to alcohol-induced tears. It was a moving video, shot in South America where soccer is a way of life, and it showed all people coming together to raise one child up, to get his soccer ball. Perhaps it was a not-so-subliminal ad for FIFA? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

There was a spring in my step yesterday, not just because I was leaving work to head home and see Cheddar.

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The spring in my step, which took me a moment to recognize it, came from sheer happiness. Lightness. Freedom. Passion. Life. Gratitude. From being appreciated and valued in my new role at work. From being in a new city, exploring and being in my basic human element. The sun was shining, which has been a rarity in Seattle since I moved here. The air on my face as I walked to the bus stop was crisp and cold. I was awake; I was alive. I’m back.

I was in a place I did not want to be for a long time, trying so hard and finding doors closed. It’s so liberating and invigorating to know that you can control your life and happiness, to some extent, and to finally be on the other side of that, feeling all the good feels. You can make changes to make it better. You can be a success story, and more importantly than success, you can be happy when you might thought you never might be again. When you eradicate the things from your life which wear you out and down, you get so much closer to the sky, you think you might actually be able to fly. Everything conspires to lift you up. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Acclimating nicely

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks since you last heard from me, so much so that I haven’t prioritized updating my blog. Sometimes life just takes precedence.

The biggest news by far is that the acquisition of my condo closed on February 29, 2016, after a fair amount of escrow and lending agent drama. I’m no longer living in temporary accommodation in Capitol Hill, but rather in my new home in Lower Queen Anne. New neighborhood, more exploring. Then, there was drama with the lack of customer service from my moving company. However, I wrote a scathing Yelp review after leaving the moving company unreturned voicemails, and within half an hour after posting, I had movers calling me to schedule my delivery. Shocking. That’s all it took? While I never think a business should provide customer service as a primarily reactive response to reviews, the squeaky wheel clearly got the oil in this case. The customer service manager called me 3 times on the day my goods were delivered to try to get me to change the review. All I could think was:

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My bank accounts are empty, but my home is full. All that investing, saving, reallocating of my portfolio, and now I’ve reallocated to real estate in an active and growing market. It’s a new strategy for me, one of which I’m excited to enjoy the benefits. The primary motivator for getting this place was to make sure my kitty, Cheddar, could run up and down the halls, and have all the space he wanted to be a frisky kitten. This past weekend, I heard the pitter patter of the pads of his paws up and down the cork floor hallways and smiled to myself. Home. I had my first home cooked meal in 2 months over the weekend, and have purchased household necessities and groceries (yes, most of it was wine) for day-to-day life.

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I’m still lacking a lot of furniture, but that will all come with time. I did manage to prioritize acquiring outdoor furniture – namely two finished cedar Adirondack chairs and an outdoor dining table, chairs and bench set up, along with covers for all that beautiful wood furniture. Without covers, none of that investment stands a chance in all this rain we’ve been having.

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Nothing was broken in the move, except for something I dropped as I was putting away. My bad. The unpacking process is painful, as I wasn’t the most organized packer (so unlike me, I know.) Learning how to use my Jenn-Air touchpad stove was a feat in and of itself. I was hungover Sunday morning and trying to fry some breakfast sausage, to alleviate the pounding head I was suffering from mixing drinks while out with new friends the night before (rookie move, I know.) Eventually I had to take out the instruction manual and figured it out. It should be easier; this is the twenty-teens. We’re in the future and it should be idiot proof. *drops mic*

Work is still going well, as I’ve been thrown into the deep end on a multitude of projects. I’ve had check-ins with my boss and she thinks I’m picking things up quickly and wouldn’t change anything, so I’ll take that as positive feedback to keep doing what I’m doing. My days are long, arriving by around 6:30am, and leaving after 4:30pm, but that’s mostly by choice. I have time to work out when I want to, and if I’m not motivated, I don’t get too down on myself. It’s a lot different coming home to a 1352 square foot apartment and walking around unpacking, versus coming home to a 419 square foot apartment and planting myself on the couch, immobile. There are also hills in my neighborhood, including 5 stories of steps from one bus stop up to my street up a sharp embankment. But hey, that’s why I have a pseudo view. Here’s to having a fantastic ass within 3 months’ time?

Interactions with neighbors thus far leave much to be desired. So far, I’ve only met the girl next door very briefly (couldn’t remember her name now if you paid me), and another one down the hall who is apparently president of the HOA. I have some passive aggressive neighbor (probably the HOA president) who left me an unsigned note taped to my door when my movers left some boxes with my mailing address on them in the wrong spot near our garbage/recycling, and left the boxes back by my door (so they had time to go get scotch tape after or during dragging the boxes back). Thanks, Seattle. I’m used to having a middle class of scavengers in San Francisco who pick through garbage and achieve the role of a finer filter for recycling, to collect the cash value on cans and bottles, so I blame my privileged San Francisco existence. I also sighted the neighbor above me, an elderly woman, sucking on a cigarette as if her lungs depended on it. So there will likely be friction over cigarette smoke wafting into my condo in summer months. But I figure I’ll save that for when it’s relevant.

All said and done, I’m no longer in the state of flux I was coming to abhor. I’m not fully settled, but I’m getting there. I’m acclimating nicely. Passive aggressive neighbors aside. There’s wine for that – I made sure of it.

My first week

I’ve managed to survive a full week in Seattle, now. It’s honestly not that hard. I’m not murdered yet.

I even managed to run into a celebrity at happy hour last night, but I didn’t know she was, except from watching the reactions of all the lesbians around me, falling all over themselves.

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Megan Rapinoe, from the Seattle Reign women’s soccer team, who was also on the 2011 Women’s National soccer team, showed up to a third-Friday lesbian happy hour networking event last night.

I’ve managed early starts at work all week, and am loving my new role and new employer. It’s so refreshing to start fresh, move to a new city, and focus solely on doing a good job. Cheddar has adapted surprisingly well, becoming less aggressive when we play, and more affectionate over all.

I’m ever closer to closing on my condo later this month, and have not yet hit any snags with financing. My final paycheck from my former employer finally found its way into my hands, tremendously relieving the tight cash flow I’ve been living on. I can take a deep breath now, and not have to pinch all the pennies to get by.

At some point, I’ll begin shopping around for a new car, but for now, a Zipcar membership will suffice. I’m not in spend mode, despite having a new condo triple the size of my old apartment to furnish. I want to take it slow, choose timeless pieces, and really do it properly. If I can avoid IKEA furniture, I’d like to, but to be practical, it would make a lot of sense to use some pieces from there.

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I joined a real, grown-up gym this week, too. I’ve always been a member of 24 Hour Fitness, or its equivalent in Australia, Fitness First. This time around, I’ve joined the Washington Athletic Club. They have groups and activities for members in their 20’s and 30’s to mix and mingle, a golf club, wine tasting club, not to mention a full service discounted spa for members to get massages and have other treatments. If wine tasting is done through the gym, it’s healthy. *pinky up* There are multiple floors of facilities including a pool, men’s workout floor, women’s workout floor, a co-ed floor, racquetball and basketball courts, and tons of classes. I’m really looking forward to taking weekly yoga classes, which have super-convenient times, too. I’m very excited to begin a more regimented workout routine again, without the crazy hours public accounting threw into the mix.

I’ve even managed to make a couple new friends in my new city. And avoid the crazies as much as possible.

There’s so much good stuff in my life right now, and none of the bad stuff I was trying to get away from.

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In a good way, of course.