Monday, May 30, 2016

The Seattle Nieces and Nephew

I am lucky enough to be an aunt to six amazing people. I am unlucky enough, though, to live far away from them. This sucks. I miss out on a lot of things in their lives. I miss out on them growing up and seeing them change into the people they are currently.

I was lucky enough, however, to get to spend a little bit of time with the three that now live in Seattle before I started the adventure with my friends that had brought me to Seattle in the first place.

My being in Edmonds (the suburb of Seattle where they live) was kept a surprise between me and Joylynne. I love surprises. Ivy was the first to see me. She needed to be pick up from school, as her rehearsals for that day were rescheduled. She opened the back car door to get into the car and there I was, just hanging out in the back seat.

Mo was next. He came walking through the front door and there I was, just sitting in his living room. Then we all went to pick up Elliett from her walk home from school. I hid behind them all as she walked up then revealed myself.

I hugged them all and loved it. They showed me where they each went to school. They all showed me the art projects they had worked on, the papers they had written. Mo showed me his action figure collection and all the comic books he owns. Ivy did a reading of the play she was getting produced at her school. Elliett got to show off her softball skills when I attended her practice.

I didn't take enough photos, but here's one of us at the beach. They are getting so big!

 I love them. And I'm so glad I was able to have this little moment of time with them.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hashtag Heroes Take the PNW: Canada

I'm not sure how my friends and I got the name Hashtag Heroes. I seem to recall it forming just before I left Kansas, when Kate, Janae, Jessica and I had a sleepover at Kate's. I don't know what it means, or who coined it, but for whatever reason it has stuck.

Kate moved to Bellingham, WA last August, leaving just Jessica and Janae in Kansas. Since we like each other and like traveling, we started planning a trip to visit Kate probably in October. All the planning finally paid off last week when I boarded a train then a bus then another train then a plane then a train then a bus to arrive in Washington and spend four and a half fantastic days with them.

May 20, 2016 - Day One: Quarry Rock, Shannon Falls, Sea to Sky Gondola
We headed straight for Canada Friday morning, all of us semi-rested after arriving at Kate's home in Bellingham after midnight the previous night. We jammed to tunes as we crossed the border and arrived at our first destination - Quarry Rock for a simple hike. The view at the end was lovely. We had lunch at the park and then had donuts from Honey Donuts.


Our next stop was Shannon Falls. Janae loves waterfalls. With good reason, because they are quite lovely. We walked around and snapped some pics of the waterfall.

Then on to the Sea to Sky Gondola! The ride up was pretty spectacular, as every time we thought we near the end it kept going up and up. At the top is a fantastic suspension bridge that we walked across several times. I of course thought about Indiana Jones, even though this bridge was substantially more stable.  In the gift shop I talked with a guy about hockey and basketball, and he of course had to ask about the local political scene in America.

We arrived in Whistler to stay at a pretty fantastic Airbnb. We went to a local Italian restaurant and my ravioli was to die for. We went to the hot tub to relax before coming back to our room where I immediately fell asleep before any one else.

May 21, 2016 - Day Two: Joffre Lake, car troubles, Mexican food, Vancouver
Day two started out with a photo by the Olympic rings (we were staying in Whistler Village, home of the 2012 Winter Olympic Games). As we were driving up to our first destination Janae spotted a baby black bear off the side of the road. We quickly turned around and got out of the car to check it out. Another car did the same, and we talked with the girl and boy about the baby bear. They were from Germany and, before parting, Jessica asked if they would dance with us. See, we have this thing of recording us dancing in all sorts of places. They were a little surprised, but when we started recording they both broke out some very impressive dance moves.

We did a super simple hike at Joffre Lake. Seriously, the options are a 10 minute walk to one side of the lake, or a two-hour hike to a lake further up. We didn't have the time, so we headed back down the mountain.

Then the real adventure started. As we were starting down the mountain, Kate noticed her car was braking weird. We stopped at a pullout and the smell of burnt tire was strong. It was clear that the front driver side brake wasn't working, so when Kate braked it freaked out. We were in the middle of a mountain with very poor cell service. Our only option was to put the hazards on and go extremely slow down the mountain. We stopped at the pullouts to "rest" the non-functioning brake. 

We finally made it to the next town, Pemberton, and called around for a repair shop. Wouldn't you know it, everything was closed on a Saturday. Kate found a place in Squamish that was open, Ken's Auto, but it was over an hour away. He assured Kate she'd make it (after all, her brakes were working) and told her to down shift whenever she was going downhill. 

We made it to Squamish, blowing off our scheduled plans for the day, safely and arrived at Ken's Auto. Ken then arrived on his motorbike, and, before looking at Kate's car, started to tell us some stories. He started by asking if we believed in extra terrestials. Then he told a story about the Chief rock, how it looks like E.T., and some somewhat dubious claims about possible UFO sightings. He was, quite possibly, the most fantastic person we met on our trip. 
 See how the rock, called the Chief, looks like E.T?!

Turns out Kate's car was fine. It was a rather stressful situation, and Kate handled it remarkably well. It was an unplanned adventure and it was probably my favorite part of the trip. It also lead us to Mag's 99, which Ken recommended to us. It a fried chicken and Mexican food restaurant. We all got the chimichanga loco, which Ken said is what he gets, and we were most definitely not disappointed. 

We made it into Vancouver, which is lovely. Seriously. I need to go back and spend real time in Vancouver, because what little I saw I was very impressed by. We walked along the trail at Stanley Park and watched the sun set. Oh, we also got poutine before heading back to America. Eh. Canada was amazing!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wednesday Night Music

The night is getting late, and I should be going to bed. I have to get up early to catch a train to catch a plane. I'm heading to the Pacific Northwest to visit my fabulous friend Kate, along with my other fabulous friends Janae and Jessica who are still in Kansas. We are going to have a most excellent extended weekend.

But first I need to go to sleep. Tonight, though, is Wednesday. And every Wednesday night Harvest House has a "house" band that plays. Every. Wednesday. Night. It's loud enough that I can hear the music perfectly even with my windows closed.

I have sort of gotten used to this. I know that every Wednesday night I will have to attempt to fall asleep to the sound of jazz music. This is actually one of the reasons I decided to buy a home. While I love being downtown and close to work and tacos and ice cream, I also really want a place where I don't have to listen to music all the time.

So eventually I will fall asleep, and get a few hours before I have to be up to walk to the train station.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Fur Cut

Biscuit had her fur cut a week ago. Her fur was in that loose stage where it just got everywhere. It was ridiculous and annoying. Last year I had her shaved at the end of May. This year I'm going to try to get in two shavings over the summer.

Last time Biscuit was super good and didn't have to be sedated. This year, though, they got about half way done and she started getting angry. Biscuit is not an angry cat, but somtimes when placed in strange situations we all do things we wouldn't normally do. After being sent a photo of her half-shaved, I went ahead and told them to sedate her to finish the job. It costs extra if the cat has to be sedated, and she looked slightly strange only halfway done.

Poor Biscuit was not herself after being sedated. When I got her home that evening she was very "lost". She barely ate dinner. She would walk around from room to room and just sit and stare into nothing. She wouldn't lay down. She couldn't jump up on my bed.

I didn't sleep well that night because I was concerned about her.

She slowly got out of it though and became her normal self later the next day. She's kind of adorable with her "lion cut" - it's like she has cat legging.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Doppelganger

The other day I thought for sure a person I had dated in Kansas was here in Denton. Which made absolutely no sense. There would be no reason for him to be in Denton, sitting at Oak Street Drafthouse on a Wednesday evening.
And logically I knew that. I knew that when I first saw this person sitting there. He was wearing glasses, and a blue and white soccer jersey, and had a beard just like this person. That didn't mean it was him, though, just someone who looked an awful lot like him. But then I saw that he was wearing a KC Royals hat. Combined with all the other things, I was convinced that this person I had dated in Kansas was now in Denton.

This was strange.

After some frantic text messages to a friend (who knows all the details of this past relationship), another friend rode by on her bicycle as I was standing awkwardly, out of site, at the side of my building. This gave me the chance to stand, in site, and talk to my friend while getting to the bottom of the situation.

The gentleman in question finally got up and walked toward us to get another drink. This was clearly not the person I had dated. It was his doppelganger.

And everything made sense in the world.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Adventures in Transit

I needed to be in Dallas today for a workshop. I have a car but for various reasons chose to take transit to get there instead. I checked the route last night and knew what time I needed to be at the train station to make it there on time.

This morning I walked down to the DCTA Downtown Denton Transit Center, jazzed about the upcoming trip. Yes, I like riding the train. I hate driving in traffic. As I walked to the ticket booth a DCTA employee informed me that the DART Green Line wasn't running from Trinity Mills to Bachmann, but that buses would be available to shuttle riders in between. I was already there and just rolled with it; while on the train I emailed the event organizers and told them I'd be late.

I read my book and generally enjoyed my trip in to Dallas. Along the way I learned that in the early morning storm lightning had hit one of the rails, effectively disarming it. I hoped it would be fixed by the time I was heading home.

It was not. Which I didn't realize until I was standing at the train station downtown. But I rolled with it again, since my morning trip was only delayed about 25 minutes.

However, evening traffic was heavier, and buses don't maneuver well. The whole operation also seemed less organized than it was in the morning. And at the end of the day your more anxious to get home than you are to get to work. And it was hot.

I'm also not super familiar with the DART system. I don't go to Dallas very often so I haven't needed to get intimately acquainted with the routes and stops and names like I did with UTA and MTA. This, unfortunately, caused me to get off one stop past where I needed. I then had to go back to the previous station so I could catch the train to Denton.

Three hours from leaving downtown Dallas I walked into my apartment. It was long and tiring, and I definitely started getting cranky at the end. I had to remind myself that these people were working hard and it wasn't their fault that lightning had struck and caused chaos, so don't get mad at them. Everyone really was pleasant and helpful, especially when I nearly broke into tears when I realized my error (see, traffic makes me cranky AND emotional).

I still love transit so much. I definitely love that I live so close to work and can walk there easily. I can't imagine having to deal with traffic every day. But a part of me misses a commute on the bus or train. It's where I did most of my reading.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Occupational Hazard

When I'm in meetings for work, I very often have people come up to me afterward to tell me about a something they saw a person on their bike doing. It generally involves something illegal or crazy or stupid. "You know, I was driving the other day and there was a cyclist riding the wrong way on a one-way street." "Yesterday I was driving and this cyclist didn't stop at a stop sign and I nearly hit them."

I'm never quite sure how to respond to these statements. It feels like I'm being held personally responsible for all the people who ride bikes in Denton, but especially for those who make poor choices. Acceptance of my job and what I'm doing is still difficult sometimes. So when people make these statements it feels like they are trying to discredit my work and all that I do. That feeling sucks. I don't have a thick skin so I take this very personally.

Sometimes I respond in a way that I hope will get them thinking - "Yeah, you know, sometimes people in cars also don't follow the rules and do crazy things." They don't really have a response for that. Most times, though, I just look at them and say, "Yeah, that's crazy." I'm not sure what they expect me to say. Are they looking for validation? Or to invalidate me and all bicyclists?

No one tells me stories about seeing a person on their bike following all the rules! "Hey Julie, yesterday I was behind this cyclist and they acted just like a car. Stopped at stop signs and everything. Way to go!"

I'm sure this happens to people in other professions, too. Nurses and doctors getting asked about ailments. Finance people getting asked about financial stuff. Here's a tip - people are more than their jobs. Ask them about other things. And don't demean someone else's work just because you don't "get it".

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

Somehow Captain America became my favorite superhero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When I first saw his origin movie I fell asleep during it. Even after enjoying him in his (smaller) role in The Avengers, I still wasn't anticipating his second solo outing, Captain America: Winter Soldier.

And now here we are in Phase 3 of Marvel's plan, and Captain America is easily the best, most interesting and fleshed out of the Avengers. Because of that, or perhaps it is the other way around, his films are the best of the solo outings. By far.

While I don't think Civil War is as good as Winter Soldier (my favorite of the Avengers films, although none are likely more fun than Guardians of the Galaxy), it's still a decent film that gets the most out of the franchise's characters (despite there being about a billion of them now). We've been with these characters for a long time now, so when sides are chosen we understand each of the superheros' reasons for choosing the way they do.

Cap and Tony Stark are the leaders of the two sides, something that isn't surprising as these two have been slightly antagonistic since they met (I agree with Entertainment Weekly's assessment in their review that these two have the best solo outings). They are two sides of the same coin, wanting the same things but each going about it in different ways. They also respect one another, which is why I appreciate their reconciliation when Stark realizes he is wrong.

However, I don't quite buy Stark's then issue with Cap and Bucky after learning the truth about how his parents died. Revenge as a reaction after the death of a loved one is my absolute least favorite tropes. I never buy it (I could write an entire post on this...). And not from Stark, who is smart enough to realize that Bucky is not really responsible for the deaths. It's at least a gray area and Stark's reaction is black and white.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting so big now that it's hard to remember all that happened in the last films. I really just have generalized memories, like being disappointed with Age of Ultron, enjoying Guardians of the Galaxy, surprisingly liking Iron Man 3, not caring for Thor: The Dark World. I didn't even bother to see Ant Man. I kept trying to piece together what had happened previously and why a character was acting a certain way. Which is why the earlier films are my favorite - everything was simpler then and the cast was smaller.

Speaking of cast, there are A LOT of superheroes in this film. We have our well-known Avengers, but also get Black Panther, Vision, Wanda and Spiderman. Yes, Sony finally gave permission for Spiderman to join the Universe and he is fantastic! Lots of promise there.

Also, can we talk about how there's no way Howard Stark is Tony's father and Peggy Carter is Sharon's aunt; they should at least be grandfather or great-aunt. If we assume Howard Stark is 30 when he's introduced in The First Avenger, that would make him 80 in 1991 when he dies. There's also no way he has a son who is 20ish in 1991. And, if Bucky/Winter Soldier was unthawed in 1991, shouldn't he have aged and been much older in 2016??

Anyway, I fear there will soon be superhero fatigue. The Universe keeps expanding and adding more characters, that at some point I just won't care anymore. This article sums up my concerns perfectly.


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