Grateful

dadandi

 

A few days ago, I forced myself to do something which I rather dislike. Not because the task was unpleasant, which it was in the sense that all things associated with death are, but because I was terrified of that look I would see in my father’s eyes. That look of mortality, of fleeting time, of disbelief, of instant heartache. For a friend of my dad’s had passed away quite unexpectedly and being the good daughter that I am, I bought a bottle of whiskey and drove over the mountain pass to commiserate at his house.

Once I arrived there however, my solidarity faltered as I remembered that summer day, not too many years ago, when I had spontaneously driven over that same mountain pass and up my Dad’s gravel driveway into a memory of sadness and shame. As I pulled up to a stop & jumped carelessly out of my car as only a young girl can do, my Dad lurched forward out of his office and onto the porch in a way which immediately told me something was wrong. At first I thought he was in the throes of a heart attack but as he choked out the words while I rushed towards him, I understood that it was my Uncle Brian who he was talking about, not himself. And in that moment I experienced my first sense of shame, because I was grateful it wasn’t him. Whether it was right or wrong, that emotion was the first thing I remember about my Uncle Brian’s death. As a world wholly new and painfully sharp sprang up around us that day, that day of sudden and young death, my first thoughts were still, at least it wasn’t you Dad. Thank God, it wasn’t you.

And that is why it took me a few hours after driving that mountain pass to finally muster up the courage to go and find my dad.  I stood there, alone, with the bottle of whiskey tucked under my arm, and braced myself.  I knew that same look was coming and that once again, I would feel that guilty sense of gratitude that it wasn’t him. For the thought of a world without my Dad breaks my heart, it’s something that I fear I simply could not bear. So when I look my father in the eyes, his grief makes me sad, sad because his friend was a good man and the world is a little less bright without him, sad because his own mortality is something I cannot stop. Yet he is still here, we still have time, and for that, I am unashamedly grateful.

Mercer Slough Nature Park

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Anyone who has ever driven over I-90 near Mercer Island has probably caught a glimmer of the Mercer Slough far below the tangled ribbons of concrete freeway. As motorized humanity hums above it, the Mercer Slough Nature Park meanders its’ way thru 320 green acres and serenely offers visitors a peaceful escape just mere steps away from the urban hub of Bellevue.  It always amazes me that places like this still exist in the march of constant urbanization, yet some still do and Mercer Slough is one of the better ones.

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With over seven miles of trails and a 2.4 mile long canoe route, the Slough is the largest of Lake Washington’s remaining fresh water wetlands.  There is also an Environmental Education Center that focuses primary on freshwater wetland ecology and which offers classes for both adults and children throughout the year.  On the day that my buddy Jillian and I went, we had the park pretty much to ourselves which was ideal since we had four wild children in tow.  Being a wetland, the trails traverse mostly flat terrain which makes it nice for those wobbling toddler legs and letting them run free without fear of a nearby cliff edge was an added bonus.

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After London and Lucia discovered an abandoned pump house leftover from the park’s bygone agricultural days, I attempted to convince them that we were indeed spending the night inside.  Seeing as they are observant little things, they quickly pointed out all the reasons that just wasn’t true from our lack of proper sleepover material to the two feet of algae covered sludge which carpeted the floor of the building.  I decided then that should I want to trick my children with a lie in the future, I had better bring my A game.

Leaving the floating pump house behind us, we stumbled into the Slough’s picturesque Blueberry Farm.  Established in the 1940’s, the farm is run by Bellevue Parks and provides an inexpensive & tasty place to pick local blueberries.  The children, of course, could not be contained and I am almost certain that they nearly ate their weight in berries.  Jillian and I cautiously looked around for lurking farm police, but none appeared and the kids joyously went on stuffing themselves.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, it turns out that the blueberry farm is actually currently closed due to the nearby sound transit construction, so all our harried, sideways glances were unneeded.

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Feeling buoyed by the fact that, should a natural disaster occur, our children would be excellent foragers, we headed back towards the car with full bellies and late summer tans.  The Mercer Slough had been explored, harvested and enjoyed & since it is so close to all things urban, I could still hit up Whole Foods on our way home.  Does a Seattle summer day get much better than that? I’d be hard pressed to say yes.

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Mercer Slough Nature Park

2102 Bellevue Way SE

Bellevue, WA 98005

425-452-6885

Open everyday 7am-4pm

 

Next Step Archery

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There was a brief time in my childhood where I was obsessed with the Kevin Costner Robinhood movie.  Actually obsessed might be putting it mildly; I literally watched it everyday, even if it was only for five minutes.  Sometimes it took me days to get thru the movie and my poor mother probably rued the day that that VHS ever made it into our house.  My cinematic choices aside, Robinhood was the ultimate badass.  He lived off the land, had a band of loyal friends and stuck it to the Man everyday.  He was the superhero I wanted to be.

His weapon of choice was of course the arrow, a sleek & slender apparatus which brought swift, whistling repercussions to those who crossed him.  Wielding a bow & arrow was sexy, skillful, wild & brave and so I thought; what better way to spice up a date night than with a few potentially lethal weapons and some healthy competition?

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Next Step Archery is the real deal and they take their job of teaching you proper archery skills pretty seriously.  Walking in, I had a bit of a leg up on Edgar due to my long ago camp days where I had rained as archery queen but even so I gained a few pointers on basic posture and bow selection.  Our class lasted about an hour and when we eventually sauntered out, I left with 3 bullseye shots and a new-found sense of gloating; Edgar hadn’t gotten a single bullseye.

 

Puffed up with my date night victory win and feeling like I could survive in the remote Alaskan wilderness with only my trusty bow by my side; we vowed to sign up for more lessons and perfect our ass-kicking skills.  After all, it’s not everyday one gets to relieve a childhood fantasy and knock a husband’s ego down a notch or two.  Two birds with one arrow; now that’s a superhero move.

 

Next Step Archery

22313 70th Ave West   20180603_184717

Suite U1A

Mountalke Terrace, WA 98043

425-977-2770

Hours:

Monday-9am-5pm

Tuesday-Thursday 9am-9pm

Saturday-9am-9pm

Sunday-11am-6pm

*Closed Fridays*

 

 

 

Jaded

PICT2742A few years ago, while I was living smack in the middle of Hollywood, I came home from work for a brief bite of something before rushing off again to go catch those LA dreams.  I most likely changed my clothes, since working with coffee all day tended to permeate everything with its blackened aroma and I know I watched a little TV.  During that limited time, that brief half hour lapse, someone or something was shanked, stabbed or seriously maimed right underneath my living room window. I did not realize this however, till I went to leave and found a rather large pool of fresh, sticky blood soaking into the sidewalk. I didn’t hear a scuffle, a yell, a shriek, or even a murmur. Nothing.

And as shocking as it was to emerge from my idyllic apartment and stumble into a potential crime scene; having already been properly jaded by city life, I tiptoed my way around the blood stained sidewalk & wearily peered into the bushes for a corpse. I made it to my car and drove off. I called my sister to warn her about the biohazard at the foot of our stairs and that was about it.

I did wonder how someone could lose that much blood so quietly and then simply vanish into the summer night even more stealthily. Yet it wasn’t until months later, when the great blood stain was brought up during a conversation with our downstairs neighbor, that I realized that maybe I should get out of the city for a bit. Apparently, he had recently been regaling his sister back in Wisconsin with hard-edged LA stories and had mentioned the giant puddle of blood. “What did the police say?” she had shrieked and I looked at my neighbor knowingly.  Cause he knew what I knew and that was this; that neither of us had bothered to call the police.  In fact, it hadn’t even occurred to us. For we were city dwellers, in one of the biggest centers of humanity on the planet and well, people bled every day down here.

Emory’s

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One of the disadvantages of living in suburbia is the belief in the perpetual myth that there are no good restaurants outside of the urban center.  Sure there are miles and miles of Applebee’s & Olive Gardens and even an occasional mom & pop cafe that has somehow managed to withstand the onslaught of competition from the plethora of Starbucks stores which surround it.  But good food? Inventive food? A place worthy of first dates and silver anniversaries alike? A place like that is rare my friends, whether inside big city limits or out.  Hence one of the many reasons why I love Emory’s; it’s all of those things and more and the best part? It’s right in my backyard.

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Edgar and I went there recently for a rare grown-up date night out and I had almost forgotten what it felt like to sit and enjoy my meal without someone doing gymnastics on my lap or being used as a human napkin.  It felt nice and once I had that prosecco in hand, even nicer.  Edgar ordered some foo-foo concoction covered in toasted coconut and lime wedges and I could tell that the food runner was a bit confused as to which one of us ordered which drink but I shrugged and said “it’s the Latin in him I guess” and the Pina colada was gingerly set down in front of him.  He declared it delicious, and we plowed through battered green beans ordered off the secret bar menu and a fresh & tasty wedge salad.

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By the time out entrees came, we were, in all honesty, stuffed to the gills but we didn’t let that hold us back, though Edgar did eventually take most of his lamb shank home.  I had ordered parmesan crested cod and I was not to be so easily deterred for that dish was the crowning glory in an already delicious meal and besides, who takes home fish? It just never reheats the way other food does and unlike pizza and Chinese food, leftover fish is never half as good as it is fresh.  So yah, I was eating it whether my pants liked it or not.

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Once we rolled ourselves out of there, it was just a leisurely stroll across the parking lot to the car; no meters, no parking garages and no questionable dark alleys to contend with.  We were home in a flash, PJ’s on, Netflix primed and the satisfactory feeling of having done something very adult like.  I guess living in surburbia does have it’s perks.                                                                                                                                                         

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Emory’s

11830 19th Ave SE

Everett, WA 98208

Hours: 2pm-Close Daily

Saturday & Sunday Brunch 10am-2pm

425-337-7772

 

Stellar Kids Dentistry

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The only thing I remember about going to the dentist as a child is the vague threat of braces and the horrible taste of bubblegum fluoride.  Thankfully the braces never materialized, but the taste of that fluoride still haunts me today which is why I was determined to find a kids dentist worth going too.

Kids dentistry has come a long way since back then & no place does it better than Stellar Kids Dentistry.  From a hobbit sized entrance just for the kids to ceiling mounted DVD players; perfect for watching while laying on one’s back, Stellar is designed specifically with kids in mind.

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Maybe because it’s true that a great smile will get you places and great teeth take work to stay that way, but I worry about my kid’s dentist appointments more than practically anything else in their lives.  Like a brown-nosing teacher’s pet, I wait for those two precious words; “cavity free” with bated breath, and when it’s finally uttered my way, it is all I can do not to jump up & high-five myself…and the dentist too of course.  Not only have I succeeded in keeping the children alive, but I have threatened & harassed them enough to actually brush their teeth and stave off the dreaded cavities! I can see their bright & shiny smiling futures swimming before my eyes; a Harvard alum speech, chairman of the board, a Grammy in hand-all thanks to that mouthful of bright-white, cavity free pearly whites.  After all, it’s a Mom’s job to dream, right?

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Stellar Dentistry is captained by Dr. Lamba who is terrific and just like her office, bright & cheerful.  Even when London, to my horror, chomped down on her hand like a rabid beast during an exam a few years back, she smiled right thru it and simply stated that it was a hazard of the job.  Anyone who has ever been bitten by those razor-sharp daggers that some people call “baby teeth” can tell you that smiling thru that (and not immediately launching the offending child across the room out of pure animalistic instinct) is a real skill indeed.

Bottom line, teeth are important and though going to the dentist may not be the highlight of anyone’s week, Stellar makes it a little more fun, and for kids, that’s always a good thing.

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Stellar Kids Dentistry

~Mukilteo Office~

425-290-5500

4420 106th Street SW

Mukilteo, WA 98275

Open Monday-Thursday 8am-5pm and Fridays 8am-4pm

Closed Saturdays and Sundays

 

Dagobaz

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In the spring of 2005, my sisters presented me with an angry little ball of fluff which I lovingly christened Dagobaz, named after a battle victorious war-horse in an M.M.Kaye novel.  Dagobaz means trickster and the name was aptly picked for though he looked fluffy and dignified in his tuxedo of black & white fur, he was in fact, ornery as hell.  Nearly every house visitor was scratched by him at least once and his love was closely guarded & doled out sparingly to only a select few; and luckily I was one of those people-most of the time.

He grudgingly moved from Washington to Los Angeles with me, where his beloved green yard was replaced with a stuffy and sweltering Hollywood apartment.  No longer did he have the freedom to roam the outside world at his leisure and in my guilt of cloistering his wild animal nature, a cat leash was bought.  To say that was an epic failure of an idea would be a gross understatement.  My arms bore testament to his feelings about being leash bound and he escaped from its coils almost as soon as I had heroically wrestled him into it.  But then we moved again and Aubrey & Zelda joined us in a bigger, less stifling place so he once again had room to roam about…at least a little.  Our plantain covered balcony became he & Zelda’s lair where they would lay, catatonically on the stucco wall and soak up the endless LA summer days.

Then Edgar came and the two of them eyed each other warily and when it was clear that neither of them planned on leaving, a mostly peaceful and, at times, amicable bond developed.  They tolerated each other, simply put, though I suspect that a thread of love may have developed over the years or at least a sense of muted affection.

To soon it seems, we were headed North again, leaving Aubrey & Zelda behind-a crime which Zelda has never forgiven any of us for.  We were back in the land of green fields & evergreens and perhaps inspired by this change of scenery, Dagobaz took up midlife hunting, bringing in an array of both deceased and very much alive animals.  From roof rats to moles and even a baby opossum, it seemed that no prey was immune to his claws including us,  his human family.  Once London arrived and then Huck, this became a bit of a worry as we never knew when his ornery nature would emerge and possibly scar one of them for life.  In truth, he did scratch them both at least once though he quickly learned the error of his ways as Edgar put the Fear upon him & locked him out of the house for a day or two.

The boys too, learned to love or at least appreciate his cantankerous self.  Huck especially sought out his love no matter how many hisses Dago sent his way.  Never a cuddly animal; I could probably count on my hands the number of times I heard him purr, he became our token guard dog-chasing away actual dogs from in front of our gate and joining us on evening walks around the neighborhood.  He would lead the way up & down the block, dodging in and out of bushes, proudly & stealthily showing us the way.

For 13 years, Dago sauntered by my side doling out his aloof but hard-earned love when I needed it and scratching me just enough to keep me on my toes.  He was wild & dapper, as regal as a cat could be and my world won’t be quite the same without him.  He saw me at my worst and at my very best and through it all, he remained lovingly impassive.  He never demanded much from me, aside from the requisite food & water and I appreciated his fierce independence all the more as my life became busier & busier.  Yet he always remained my loyal companion, feisty & ornery till the end, and I will always love him for it.