Seattle - A City Rich in History, Tech, and Innovation - Day 1


The city of Seattle (named after the Suquamish and Duwamish Chief Si'ohl) is the only major U.S. city named after a Native American.  And while it has a colorful back story--prostitution, liquor, gambling, fire, railroads, lumber, gold--today, it has a cultural, outdoorsy, and innovative vibe--Starbucks Coffee, craft beer, grunge music, Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, the Seattle Great Wheel, Microsoft, and Amazon.

I'm not sure what first intrigued me about Seattle--was it Nirvanna, Pike Place Market, or the unique Space Needle?  Nevertheless, in my 20s (aka the 1990s), I made the decision that visiting Seattle was essential, and I was determined to see it.  Fast forward twenty-six years later, and now I was not only witnessing it for myself, but with Hubby and Little Lewie by my side, too.

To understand Seattle is to first understand its location and climate.  Named the Emerald City in 1982, it is considered the "jewel of the Northwest" because of its lush evergreen trees.  On the west side of Seattle is the Olympic Mountain Range and the salt waters of Puget Sound.  On the east side is the tall Cascades and the freshwater of Lake Washington.  The two mountain ranges help keep Seattle's climate temperate with cool summers and mild winters.  (The average high summer temp in Seattle is about 75 degrees, even though they recently had a record-breaking heatwave surpassing 100 degrees!)  The oceanic weather system from the Puget Sound also makes most days in Seattle overcast with some drizzle; therefore, while Seattle only "receives an average of 37 inches of precipitation each year," it is known for its cloudy days, for the city only gets about 60 completely sunny days each year!  (Our tour guide said that Seattle is known for its coffee shops and craft breweries because of these cloudy days, for its residents need a pick-me-up in the morning before work and then a relaxing social hour after work to get rid of the cloudy day blues.)

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As we left Olympic National Park from the west, we crossed over the Puget Sound to get to Seattle.  (Our hotel, located in Kirkland, a city of 90,000 people right outside of Seattle, was located to the East right on the shores of Lake Washington.  Interestingly, I chose the location because of its proximity to water sports on Lake Washington, and yet, very little of our time was actually spent in Kirkland.)

Here we took the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry.  We left from the Kingston side.

Our first of two days was spent at Pioneer Square where we went on a two-hour historical walking tour of the city, and our second day was spent first at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle and then with my Hubby's best friend John, who has lived in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle for the last 20 years.  

In all honestly, one cannot adequately visit Seattle in two days, as there is way too much to see.  There are ten different museums alone, not including the Woodland Park Zoo and the Seattle Aquarium.  Then, of course, there are the parks, restaurants, theaters, coffee shops, breweries, and other cultural places, both well-known and obscure, that can keep a traveler occupied for weeks.  So, in two days, we did our best to learn what we could, knowing that we were super lucky to have an "insider friend" that could drive us around to some unique points of interest as well.

On our first day, we went on a two-hour tour called Seattle 101 from the Seattle Free Walking Tour Company.   While many of Seattle's tours can get quite expensive, this tour allowed us to "pay what we feel," which is perfect for anyone on a budget.  To be honest, I started the tour thinking I would pay about $20 per person--$60 for the three of us, but in the end, I was so impressed with the tour guide's knowledge and delivery that I ended up paying more like $30 per person.

The tour started at the Pike Place Market, a 108 year-old farmer's market, which attracts close to 10 million people annually.  We bought ourselves a snack here before the tour, but the crowds of people and still looming worry of COVID kept us from staying long enough to visit the original Starbucks (which still boasts the original topless mermaid logo), try any of the famous foods, or watch the "fishmongers" toss fish around before wrapping them for their customers.  (I would have loved to see that!)

Pike Place Market

Our tour guide held a flag way up high, so we could follow him around the streets of Pioneer Square, the city's oldest neighborhood that was rebuilt in 1889 after a massive fire took out most of the city. The tour guide immediately led into the history. Early settlers to Seattle found work in the logging industry, shipping lumber to California.  Since lumber was so easy to come by, in the 1880's, all the city buildings were made of wood.  Also, because the land was below sea level, many buildings were built on stilts to accommodate floods.

My black and white photos are taken from our Muesum of History and Industy (MOHAI) visit.

In 1889, the entire city of Seattle (25 city blocks) burned down in one day because of one gentleman, a carpentry apprentice, that accidentally overturned a glue pot.  The fire quickly spread to other buildings, and the volunteer fire department with sparse access to hydrants was no match for the flames.   When the city rebuilt, the law now required all structures to be made of brick and stone, which are now the buildings visible today in Pioneer Square.  

Another interesting fact about Pioneer Square is its series of underground passageways.  Shortly after the fire, the city decided to raise its streets by 12 feet to 30 feet to protect it from high tides and flooding.  Since most of the buildings were already erected or being erected, this meant that the ground level would become the basement level, and the next level would become the new ground floor.  After the new sidewalks were complete, "pedestrians continued to use the underground sidewalks lit by pavement lights embedded in the grade-level sidewalk above."  (Our tourguide showed us these types of "skylights" built into the sidewalk to bring sunlight down below.  He also explained how the underground eventually became an area that often attracted illicit behavior--places for illegal flophouses, gambling halls, bars, and opium dens.)  Today, there is a Seattle Underground Tour that takes visitors to a section of the underground sidewalk area that's been restored.  (If we had more time, I would have loved to go on this tour, too.)

An example of the skylights built into the sidewalk to help light the underground passage.

Our tour guide showing us how this building had two entrances--one to accommodate the "underground passage" and another to accommodate the new sidewalk. 
This road here was never raised, so the new door above was never used.

In the 1860's, before the fire, Seattle was mostly populated by men since few women were interested in making the dangerous trip to the Northwest corner of the U.S.   A college graduate named Asa Merser received private funding to make a trip to the Northeast with the sole purpose of brigning back young ladies to Seattle to become wives and school teachers.  Over a series of trips, he brought back 45+ women, which became known as the "Mercer Girls."

Perhaps the most interesting part of the tour was learning about how Seattle grew and prospered during the Klondike Gold Rush.  In 1896, gold was found near the Klondike River in Canada's Yukon Territory, which sparked a frantic gold rush.  The Klondike Gold Rush website says, "Almost a year later, news ignited the outside world.  A wave of gold seekers bought supplies and boarded ships in Seattle and other west coast port cities.  They headed north thinking they would strike it rich."  The site further explains, "Seattle merchants quickly exploited their port status.  Advertisements far and wide declared Seattle as the 'Gateway to the Gold Fields'--the place where all one's Klondike needs, from food and warm clothing to tents and trasportation--could easily be fulfilled."  The advertisements brought an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 miners to Seattle.

We learned a wealth of information during our walking tour.  Other points of interest (that I can remember) were "the Sinking Ship" parking garage, the "Chief-of-All-Women" totem pole," and the "Hammering Man" monument located outside of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM).  

Our tour ended in front of the Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57 (called Miners Landing), which is only a few yards away from the Seattle Aquarium.

While Olympic National Park taught us about the natural world, Seattle taught us about the storied past of civilization.  It was interesting to see how the three of us responded to this part of the trip.  For Lewie, the best part of visiting Seattle was climbing aboard the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry, as he really has a thing for big boats.  Plus, before leaving, we both had a chance to enjoy a delicious chocolate-strawberry crepe that we bought at the Kingston port.  Lewie DID NOT like the walking tour.  For one, there were many homeless people sleeping in tents and on park benches around much of the district. He also disliked the crowds, traffic pollution, and construction.  That day, I learned real quick that Lewie is not a fan of big cities, and when the tour ended, he wanted OUT!

For me, I love history and enjoyed learning about Seattle's checkered past.  While I wouldn't want to live in Seattle, I could have easily spent the whole day walking around various neighborhoods.  Thankfully, I knew Lew's friend John was going to give us another tour the next day (more to come).

For Lew, Seattle was about trying the beer.  Oh, he loves history, too, but a two-hour walking tour wasn't kind on his back and knees.  Ending the day with a cold one from the Seattle Beer Company was just what he needed.

Hello 2022. It's Nice to Meet You.


Hello 2022.  It's nice to meet you.  Since we've only had a day to get to know each other, let me fill you in on my life.  

My walk on New Year's Day, 2022.

2021 started out rather peaceful and quiet, but as restrictions from the pandemic lifted, I found myself simultaneously excited and distraught--excited because we could resume travel and Lewie could be with his friends in person once more but distraught because the pressures of work and returning "to normal" would mean that the security blanket would be lifted.  As expected, as our lives became busier in late July, our time for family or even "me time" disappeared.  

Evidently, my feelings of sadness and remorse for saying goodbye to a simpler life were not an anomaly.  Tons of people were feeling this same way, only they were showing it through road-rage, quitting their jobs (the great resignation), or seeking therapy.  "Mental-health" became the new buzzword inside schools, colleges, and even places of employment, but then the holidays came with the new Omicron Variant, and there was no time to think about "mental-health."  People either hunkered down once more, or they visited with friends and family anyway, only to hope this new variant would be less potent than the ones before.

Now I sit at home during the last day of Christmas vacation wondering, is it safe to go back to work again?  Is it safe for Lewie to return to school?  The positivity rate here in Connecticut hit 20%, not to mention that because we've all come out of our bubbles, we are seeing regular cases of the common cold and the flu again.  We've all been tested, relieved to know that our coughs, sore throats, headaches, and runny noses are nothing more than a cold--a cold we managed to avoid last year since we were able to work from home.

2021 had some bright spots.  In the winter, we went snow tubing several times and managed to squeeze in a wonderful snowmobiling trip to Vermont.  In the spring/summer, Lewie had full access to see his friends again, and he did everything imaginable, from going to the movies with them, to amusement parks, pool parties, sleepovers, and random get-togethers.  In July, we were also able to pull off a dream vacation to the Pacific Northwest, a goal of mine since I was a teenager.  For two amazing weeks, we explored Olympic National Park, Seattle, Portland, and Sunriver, OR.  (The trip was so extensive that I've only written about the first five days so far...)  I was also able to take my mom on some varied day trips, which although they were not far from home, did provide some special mother-daughter time that I  find myself needing, especially since she's had some health concerns.

2021, of course, has not been perfect.  Besides my own tumultuous relationship with the pandemic and getting used to returning to the "office," our family has had a number of unusual health concerns.  My mom started 2021 with a broken bone in her foot.  In March, she started undergoing tests to find out why she was having stomach pains all the time--tests that ruled out Cancer but were still inconclusive.  In May, the weekend after Mother's Day, she fell, breaking her right wrist, a vertebra in her back, and injuring her right shoulder.  (Her mobility hasn't been the same since, and she still struggles with pain.)

My husband started improving his health by signing up for Medi-Weightloss.  At his peak, he lost over 40 lbs and was converting lots of fat into muscle, particularly because he had developed his own exercise routine--practicing breakdancing moves such as popping and locking.  (One day I'm going to post his talent on my blog.)  During our two-week trip, he struggled to find comfortable places to sleep and so his back pain returned with a vengeance.  In November, the stress of worrying about his ill sister sent him over the edge.  What started out as high blood pressure and neck pain soon moved to radiating pain down his left arm, hand, and then chest.  For weeks, we were worried he was going to have a heart attack until tests proved his heart is in good condition.  Now, the focus into the new year is getting an MRI on his neck, which is more than likely the origin of his pain.

His sister, who is living with us at the moment, will be undergoing treatments for Breast Cancer.  In her lifetime, she has had too many ailments to count, and my mother-in-law (deceased in 2020) was more or less her caretaker for a good portion of her life.  Unfortunately, none of us here have the lifestyle nor physical well-being/energy to take care of her (especially at this moment), and so we are hoping a convalescent home or assisted living facility will take her in, particularly while she is undergoing treatment.  It's a tough hill to climb because although my sister-in-law is disabled, she is only 54. (Most facilities will not even consider her unless she is 55+, and even then, they want money--lots of it.)  

So, 2022, it's nice to meet you.  I've actually been waiting for your arrival for quite some time.  You see, last year has been tough, and we still have so many unanswered questions.  Will we find a place for my sister-in-law?  Will we find the origin of my husband's pain and help him get back on the road to recovery?  Will my own heavy heart be healed?  You see, through all of this, I've been struggling with my own mental-health.  (Yes, here's that word again.)  

I'm grateful for so much in my life and yet, I find myself craving one that will help me feel passionate, whole, and alive again.  I made one move in the right direction; I bought an electric car again.  (I haven't had one since 2016.)  During the quiet times of solitude during the pandemic, I found myself consumed in reading articles about the environment and wanting to do more to preserve and protect our national and international treasures.  A warmer planet has brought so much destruction to the lives of so many, and in some cases, even famine.  It's hard to pretend climate change doesn't exist when taking a National Park trip--evidence, such as the charred trees from forest fires, the disappearing glaciers in the mountains, or the hazy skiies beyond the canyons, is everywhere.  Yellowstone just sent out their annual newsletter, where they talk about shorter winters, less snow, and the impact it's having on their ecosystem, including the bears, wolves, and wildlife in general.

We "talk" about creating a sustainable future, which includes higher seawalls and stronger structures to withstand storms, but what about the things we can do now to halt or even reverse the effects of climate change?  2022, I hope you will help bring me answers.  If my passion is for the environment, am I meant to just spend my years visiting National Parks, or am I meant to do more?  If I'm meant to do more, what do I do?  What am I qualified to do?  How can I make a difference?  And, if I can make a difference, can I do it by being happy and positive instead of depressed and a "Debbie Downer"?

I usually spend my New Year's blog posts making a list of resolutions--eat less, exercise more; spend less, save more; worry less, laugh more, etc. etc.  This year my resolution is to find me.  To make time to find me.  I feel a calling to do something different, and yet, I don't know what it is...  Of course, my family will always come first--their happiness, especially the happiness of Little Lewie, gives me happiness.  But this year, I hope to take a step (or maybe a few steps) closer to my purpose.   

I have faith that I will find the way... Even this photo from yesterday, 1/1/22, shows a foggy path with a clear arrow pointing ahead.  I will follow that arrow with faith, hope, trust, and love.

Here's to a "GREEN" New Year.  My actions may be small, but they fill my heart with peace.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas


 This year, the lyrics to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" keep looping in my head...

        Have yourself a merry little Christmas
        Let your heart be light
        From now on
        Your troubles will be out of sight
        Have yourself a merry little Christmas
        Make the Yule-tide gay
        From now on
        Your troubles will be miles away
Our holiday this year felt like extremes...Hopeful then worrisome, Peaceful then crazy, Laughter then tears, Abundance then scarcity...  However, in the end, our Christmas was beautiful, and I will only let hope, peace, laughter, and abundance be our North Star.
After Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law moved in with us.  It was the right thing to do considering the circumstances.  (The inexpensive Airbnb housing we found for her was nothing more than a bed and a shared bathroom with two strange men living upstairs.)  She brought what little belongings she had into our home and has been sleeping on our couch since.  Our house isn't optimal.  For one, she has a hard time navigating our stairs to use the shower, and two, staying in our living room gives her no privacy.  This week she was supposed to begin her first round of chemo (she has breast cancer), but now it appears that in-between her doctor visits or us bringing germs into the house, she has come down with a terrible cold.  (We are hoping it is not COVID, but we haven't been able to secure a home test kit to check.  She is too sick to wait in line, and there are no appointments available at nearby pharmacies well into the New Year.)
While taking care of her, my husband started exhibiting troubling symptoms of his own.  He went to the emergency room twice complaining of high blood pressure and chest pains.  Then he scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist who performed a number of tests, including cardiac catheterization. Last Tuesday, after the catheterization, we learned that he had no blockages (good news) but that his chest and arm pains are likely due to some disc issues in his neck.  Now that Christmas is over, he is hoping to follow up with a spine and disc doctor; however, knowing the cause, unfortunately, didn't make his pain any less during the holiday.
In the midst of the worry, craziness, and fear, Little Lewie continued to be my source of light.  I was committed to making Christmas special for him, and so our traditions persisted.  We got dressed up in our Halloween costumes to take photos at JCPenney's Portrait Studio for our Christmas cards.  We bought a live Christmas tree from our Beacon Falls Fire Station, which was delivered to our home by a fire truck.  We dressed up in our best to attend Lewie's Christmas Concert.  (This year he did a trumpet duet with a friend, and he performed in the middle school concert and jazz band.)  And, we decorated the living room with lots of festive lights, hoping the lights would bring cheer not just to us but also to Daddy and his sister that had been and continue to be so ill, sad, worried, and fearful.
Yes, among the worry, there was also beauty, and these are some of my favorite photos from December.  First, there was the Christmas card photoshoot:
The picture on the front of our Christmas Card that read..."Joy to the World."

Then there was the Christmas Concert (the first one since fifth grade back in 2019):

Then there was Christmas morning:

On Christmas morning, everyone, including my sister-in-law, had presents under the tree.  (Our pup Bruce had a few gifts, too!)  Big "family" presents included tickets to see the comedian Jim Gaffigan and a portable drive-in movie theater (for nights when Lewie and his friends want to camp out in the backyard).  I bought tickets for my mom and me to see Riverdance, and hubby bought me an awesome gift card to get a relaxing massage.
The Children's Christmas Mass was canceled this year due to COVID concerns, and then Lewie received news that he had a COVID exposure earlier in the week, which means that we are all home quarantining even though Lewie is experiencing no symptoms.
Yes, the spirit of Christmas cannot be broken.  We've had (are having) a few challenges at the moment, but Christmas was saved, and hope, faith, and love will persist into the New Year.   I know it.
        Through the years
        We'll always be together
        If the Fates allow
        Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
        So have yourself a merry little Christmas
        Have yourself a merry little Christmas
        So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.