Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens: Majesty of my Youth

The eruption

I was 13 years old on May 18th, 1980, when Mount. St. Helens erupted. I was at church, and when we came out to leave there were funny looking clouds in the sky. They looked a bit like storm clouds, but were different, darker and much more concentrated. Many of us stopped and stared at those strange clouds in wonder.

My mom said to my dad, “Look, I bet Mt. St. Helens just blew”.

“Don’t be ridiculous”, was his response. Turns out, it wasn’t ridiculous at all.  Mt. St. Helens had indeed erupted, and she took the lives of 57 people with her. For days and weeks after the eruption, ash fell from the sky. Our little town of Vancouver, Washington, only got a few inches total, while places like Yakima were covered for weeks in ash and ran out of places to put it. She blew almost 3,000 feet off the top of what once was an almost perfectly round dome, changing the landscape of our lives forever.

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Clam digging on the Washington pennisula

The Joy of Razor Clam Digging on The Washington State Peninsula

Razor Clam digging is a way of life on the Washington State peninsula. Many families have been razor clam digging for generations. They anxiously watch the Washington Fish and Game website for announcements of upcoming digs, they track the tides, clean their gear and plan their clam eating feasts. They look forward to the first time they can take their kids, or grand kids, out on their first dig, and when they do, pictures are proudly posted and joyous new memories are made.

I first went clam digging in 2005 in Ocean Park, Washington, which is just outside of the town of Long Beach. I had so much that I made an offer on a beach cabin that weekend, closed on it, and have been clam digging ever since! I’ve had the joy of introducing all kinds of friends to the experience and their reaction is always the same. They love it!

 

The gear

Razor clamming isn’t really all that hard. It only takes a few attempts to figure it out and each time you go you get a little better at it. The old timers will limit out much faster than the beginners, but there is always someone around to help you spot them and encourage you to keep at it. “Here’s one”, I’ve had a number of strangers call out to me, as they point to a divot down in the sand. It’s a time that the whole community comes together and new friends are made.

Sunken Garden at Buchart

Awaken Your Senses at Beautiful Buchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C

Butchart Gardens will always hold a special place in my heart. It had been 13 years since I was there last, and it was with my mother, just a couple of months before she passed away from cancer. Needless to say, I had stayed away too long. Within moments of stepping inside of Butchart Gardens, I was reminded of how truly spectacular it is! As I walked through the front gate, the delightful aroma from the blooming hyacinth hit me. It smelled heavenly, like a perfect Spring day. Butchart Gardens is situated on a bay, so when the breeze blows you can also get a hint of sea air. The two smells combined awakened my senses and made my spirit dance.

Pet Friendly

The gardens are also pet friendly, so I was delighted to be able to take Ozzie in with me. Visitors from around the globe bent down to show him some love and visit with me. There’s just no way you can be in a bad mood at Butchart.  The hardest part about going there is deciding which garden to visit first!

Kahneeta Resort

Food, Fun & Spirits on “Distilled Weekend” at Kahneeta Resort

Looking down from the balcony of our room, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beautiful view and tranquility of the valley below. Kahneeta Resort is situated on the Warm Springs Native American Reservation and is surrounded by expansive grassy fields, red rock formations, and the crystal waters of the Deschutes River. If you’re looking for a place to get away from it all and yet still have a lot of fun activities for the entire family, Kahneeta is the place for you.

 

Distilled weekend was one of their special events, put together by their Sales and Marketing Manager, Cruz Bocanegra, who was our host for the special weekend. The event highlighted the delicious spirits of New Basin Distilling and the tasty ice cream of Sub Zero Ice Cream and Yogurt. Those partners, along with Kahneeta’s executive chef, Mike Pyell, provided us a fun filled and entertaining weekend I won’t soon forget. It also just happened to coincide with my birthday, so I, and two dear girlfriends celebrated in style and shared a lot of laughs.

Hiking in India

Damn, I’m 50. What an Extraordinary Trip It’s Been

Frankly, I can’t believe I’ve lived this long. For those of you that don’t know me personally, I have lived a pretty extraordinary life. I’m a preacher’s kid, and as a result of having conservative beliefs forced upon me, was a very rebellious teenager. At one point in my life I shot up drugs, ran away from home, and lived on the streets of Portland. I came dangerously close to ending my life. Yet here I am turning 50 years old. I am healthier and happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I am blessed to be living the life of my dreams, but the journey, from there to here, has been rough.

 

It’s funny what a person thinks about at such big milestones, like turning 50. I think about childhood friends, my mother who passed away from cancer in 2004. I think about mistakes I’ve made and the people who have had such a profound impact on my life. People like my brother, Brent, my business mentor and dear friend, Susan, and my editor, Sonya. These people, and many others, have reached out to me in my darkest hours when times were so tough I couldn’t manage on my own. I am so grateful for the love and kindness that has been gifted to me throughout my lifetime so far. Yes, when I look in the mirror I see inevitable signs of aging that I struggle to accept, new grey hairs, more wrinkles, spots…what’s up with the damn spots?  But I am blessed to be celebrating this milestone. Many people don’t make it this this far. I have two nephews that died in early childhood. So, for them, and for everyone who loves me, these are the reasons I’m glad I’m 50 years old.

Puerto Vallerta, Mexico

My Best Vacation Ever in Beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I was reclining on a lounger in the sand, watching the waves roll in, drinking a Pina Colada, and trying on jewelry when it occurred to me. It was my best vacation ever! Where else can you drink, eat, and shop, while lying in the sun by the beach without even getting off your butt? This is just one of the many things I love about beautiful Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Here are some other things to see and do while you are there.

Shopping

I spent about $150 on a bunch of amazing silver jewelry that I didn’t need. I Bought an enormous opal ring for about $15 USD. I then proceeded to buy matching earrings, a toe ring and bracelet. It would have cost 5 times as much in the U.S.  Local vendors, selling everything from t-shirts to wood carving to jewelry, wander by all day long. But don’t worry, if you don’t want to buy anything they will leave you and your cocktail to relax in the sun.

Sunrise

My Transition Home and Alarming New Observations About America

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been adjusting to life back in the USA for a while. Surprisingly, it has been every bit as difficult as my first few weeks in India. My time in India changed me, in every way possible. In fact, I’m writing a book about it. I’m not the same person that left here feeling anxious and lost a year and half ago.  I’ve grown tremendously, and as a result, I’m noticing things that I didn’t before. Here are some things that I’ve observed about Americans since I’ve gotten back, and they are some of the things that have made my transition feel a bit unsettling.

Americans are too damn busy

I came home with an extensive list of things to do because I had been gone for a long time. I had deferred maintenance stuff to take care of on my house. I had to file my taxes, get new eye glasses, go to the dentist, visit friends, etc.  But what has fascinated me most is that all my friends and family are even busier than I am. I’ve already been home almost a month, and there are many friends I still haven’t seen because they haven’t been able to squeeze me into their busy schedules. Americans are all on a hamster wheel, running around in circles checking things off their massive To-Do list. Rarely, do we just sit and enjoy each other’s company. In other cultures, people often start the day with tea or coffee and just visit with strangers.

We have become a bunch of human doings, not human beings.

In America, I don’t see many people just being in the moment, relaxed and enjoying the present. Instead, Americans are too busy thinking about what they need to do next. I find it alarming now. It causes stress and anxiety. It isolates us from one another. It’s the reason that I’ve decided to break the chains of corporate greed and work for myself again. It’s why I’ve decided to travel so much. When I travel, I feel like I am enjoying the present moment and engaging in this day, these people and this place. I’m not preoccupied with bills to pay and errands to run.

Killer Whale off San Juan Island

Beauty, Fun and Tranquility on San Juan Island

I’ve been visiting San Juan Island in Puget Sound for the last fifteen years, but every time I do I find something new to enjoy. There is a little something for everyone and I guarantee you, by the time you leave, you will never forget the beauty, fun and tranquility of San Juan Island.

The ferry ride

The journey begins on the ferry ride from Anacortes. You can now make reservations ahead of time, and I strongly recommend it. You can do it easily on line with just a few clicks. The ferry ride over is beautiful, so try to make it during daylight hours. If you get very lucky you might see some orcas.

Downtown Friday Harbor

There are many fun things to do in downtown Friday Harbor. Restaurants offer some of the best seafood in the Pacific Northwest. I especially like the clam chowder at Diggers and the delicious fish and chips at Cask and Schooner Pub across the street.

Signing the guest log

The Annoying Indian Phrase that Drove Me Crazy

Doing business in Indian takes some getting used to. Indians have their own style of customer service and it’s quite different from western standards. In America, most companies will do anything to keep their customers happy. They even pride themselves, and often share stories, of going to absolute extremes to win a customer for life. We believe in leaving them with a sense of “wow”. Indian workers take a much different approach. They left me with a sense of “wow” many times, but it was the wrong kind of “wow”, as in “wow” how do they stay in business?  Perhaps it’s because of their overpopulation, and that they try to provide jobs for everyone, that leads to their “it’s not my job” type of philosophy. For example, they have bathroom attendants and people whose only responsibility is to make coffee for the office. When I got my hair styled in a salon, one person held the hair dryer and another held the hair brush. So, quite often in India, if I asked someone to do something outside of their usual job duties, the response was generally the same. “Not possible”. The only exception I saw was at 5 star hotels and some other high-end resorts that catered to westerners.

Airport security guard staring at me

Safety Considerations for Female Solo Travel in Asia

He called out to me in the dark of night. “Madame come,” he said, from about 20 minutes away. There was no way in hell I was going over there. I didn’t know the guy. I couldn’t even make out his face in the darkness. I picked up my pace and headed in the opposite direction.

I’ve spent the last year and half traveling around Asia and living in India. I never had any real problems, but I was also acutely aware of my surroundings and very cautious. If you are a woman traveling around on your own in Asia, here are my recommendations for safety. Of course these precautions probably would apply to anywhere, but in a country where you might not understand the culture or speak the language, you must be extra careful.

Lie

I hate having to suggest this. It goes against every principal of my being. Why should we have to lie for our own safety? The feminist in me hates it!  We shouldn’t have to lie, but in certain circumstances it’s justified. Let me give you an example. I was in a taxi in Thailand driving through a fairly remote area at night. My taxi driver asked me if I was traveling alone. “No,” I said, “my husband is waiting for me at the hotel. He has some work to do.”  About 15 minutes later the driver continued to ask me uncomfortable questions, like where did I live and how long were we there?  I realize it’s possible he was just being friendly, but my instincts told me to be very careful. I picked up my cell phone and acted like I was dialing and talking to my husband until we arrived at my destination.  Many times I have had strange men hurry up to catch up with me and then ask me if I have a boyfriend or husband. I learned the hard way to say yes. If you don’t they will continue to follow you and try to make conversation.