Archive | May 2020

COVID Diaries: Day 73

It’s the weekend!  Which often in the Pacific Northwest means rain, and today is no different.  We did have thunder and lightning to go with the downpour though, a rarity for us!

I can’t complain too much – we had sunny gorgeous weather for the last several days, and I did have a chance to sit on the deck with a book a couple of times, as well as to go on some long evening walks in the sun.  I guess that just means that I need to work on some indoor things today.

Our Governor finally loosened the restrictions on case count that will allow my county to move into Phase 2 of reopening.  County officials still have to submit the application and be approved by the state, but we now meet the criteria.  Some non-essential businesses will be allowed to re-open with strict protocols in place.  It is a start.  My own work is phasing back into having more people on site, but it will still be a while before I’m in the office with any regularity.  Cora appreciates that I will still be home most of the time!

And!  Some camping will be reopening!  There may be hope for some summer recreation and travel yet!  Being stuck at home for the last two and a half months is taking its toll, so I’m so happy that we will finally be able to get out more.

How is COVID in your area?



Book Review: Never Caught

Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

You probably knew that George and Martha Washington owned slaves.  But did you know that at least of one their slaves ran away and was never recaptured? That’s right, Ona Judge was a female slave owned by Martha Washington; she ran away in May 1796 and lived the rest of her life as a free woman. What is most interesting is that the Washingtons knew where she was, and even tried to get her to willingly return to slavery – she said no.

Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

Ona Judge was by law a dower slave; she was owned by Martha Washington and her first husband; per his will, when Martha died the slaves remained a part of the estate to be divided among their heirs. So even though George Washington is not innocent in this whole story, he didn’t actually have the legal authority to free any of Martha’s dower slaves.

In the late 1700s, Philadelphia was moving toward gradual emancipation of its slaves.  They passed a law that allowed someone newly arrived in Pennsylvania to hold their slaves for a period of six months; after that they had to free them, or leave the colony.  The Washingtons knew this, so when George Washington was elected president and traveled to Philadelphia to serve, he brought several slaves with him, but concocted an elaborate plan to rotate his slaves back down to Virginia at six month intervals.  He believed that each time a slave left the Pennsylvania colony, that reset the six month period.

Ona Judge had been rotating back and forth between Philadelphia and the Washingtons’ Mount Vernon plantation in Virginia over a period of several years during his Presidency.  In 1796, Ona Judge learned she was to be a part of a wedding gift to Martha’s granddaughter, a young woman known for her fiery temper.  It is believed that this is what made her decide to run away.

Despite repeated attempts to get her back, the Washingtons never did.  The book examines the historical record, including letters, runaway advertisements, census records and two interviews that Ona Judge did late in life.  The author tells the story of Ona Judge’s life, both during her period as a slave to the Washington family, as well as her life as a free woman.

There is much that is not known, and my only frustration with the book is that author draws it out with a lot of unnecessary repetition.  It probably would have been a more concise work of non-fiction had she not speculated over and over as to the mindset and feelings of Judge and others portrayed.  But otherwise I thought it was well researched and well-written, and enjoyed learning about this fascinating woman and the little known part she played in American history.

3 stars.

COVID Diaries: Day 68

The weather here is typical for Memorial Day, as in, it is raining.  It is a moderate yet persistent rainfall, with no breeze, so it is likely to stick around for awhile.  The forecast says it will start to dry up around 3 pm.

It’s been a mostly quiet weekend around here.  I watched a couple of movies: Dark Victory – a classic 1939 film with Bette Davis, which was excellent, but not at all what I was expecting from the title, and Cold Mountain, a Civil War love story that I have seen before, but it has been years.  I’m getting pretty close to finishing my latest puzzle.  I washed the windows on the first floor (at least the ones I can reach).

Saturday morning I went hiking; a new to me hike along the Mount Baker Highway called Horseshoe Bend.  It is a moderate hike for such beautiful rewards, snaking along the Nooksack River and offering stunning views of the river, and the raging rapids in several spots.  One day I want to visit the ‘real’ Horseshoe Bend in the Southwest, but for now, this works.


I also checked out out the mountain.  There’s still a lot of snow there, and a small slide was blocking the road, thus ending my exploration.

Mount Shuksan

Sunday I did a long walk at the lake and met some new friends.

Washington State is still mostly locked down, but it is apparent that people are growing restless with the government’s decisions, regardless of the politics that you associate with.  When the data being presented at the federal level does not match the data being presented at the state level, you start to wonder what the motivations are.  I could go down a long, winding rabbit hole, here, but I’ll refrain…  Government officials are on record here consistently saying that testing needs to increase in order to more fully open; however, testing has declined each week over the past several weeks in Washington, and our county health department is saying it isn’t worth the cost of doing more widespread testing on people who don’t have COVID symptoms.  It is no longer an issue of a lack of supplies.  So which is it?

I see more and more that people are just done with strict social distancing, and are starting to hang out with small groups or individuals, safely, by staying outside and not touching and hugging.  Regardless of your opinion, people are going to do what they want.

Happy Memorial Day!  My prayers and blessings to all those who served, and all those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Circus Trip 2018: Fallingwater

Day 39 & 40, Thursday & Friday, August 23 & 24, 2018

Rockwood & Mill Run, Pennsylvania

Thursday was a rest day.  It had been a little while since I had a day just spent at the campground, but there was another reason too.  My former employer was being sued, and I was being deposed as a witness in the lawsuit.  I have to admit that it was an odd experience, laying in my car bed with my laptop at the ready (part of the deposition was answering questions about exhibit documents), answering the attorney’s questions under oath.  It is not an unheard of experience in my career, but it was the first time I’ve ever been deposed while hanging out in a campground in Pennsylvania!  I’m just glad I didn’t have to fly home for the deposition!

The rest of the day, I relaxed, took some walks, and wrote.  The Hickory Hollow Campground in Rockwood was mostly set up for RVs, and I had the tent area all to myself!  Unfortunately, the Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania was quite cool during my visit, so I didn’t have an opportunity to check out the pool at the campground.


Friday I was back at it, and ready to see a highlight of the trip.  The architect Frank Lloyd Wright is fascinating to me.  I have enjoyed visiting the homes he has designed and seeing how he incorporates nature (and styles representing nature) into his designs.  So it is no surprise that I was excited to visit Fallingwater!

Fallingwater is considered to be Wright’s masterpiece.  It was built in 1935 for Liliane Kaufmann and her husband Edgar, owners of the Pittsburgh based Kaufmann’s department store.  The Pittsburgh wealthy had long been building homes in the Laurel Highlands area outside of Pittsburgh, and the Kaufmanns were no exception.  What is unique, however, is the home.  Fallingwater is built directly over a waterfall on Bear Run, and incorporates the waterfall and the stream into the design of the home.

It is incredible!  There are stairs from the living room of the home to access the water below.  There are 4 bedrooms and six bathrooms in the home.  Fallingwater has several sections that are cantilevered, meaning they are only supported at one end, including the living room and the outdoor balconies. The home is constructed with concrete and locally quarried Pottsville sandstone, and a series of cantilevered “trays” make up the home over the waterfall.  Wright called his style organic architecture, where stone floors continue inside and out, corner windows blur the lines between interior and exterior, and glass is used in abundance to bring the outdoors in.

Wright wanted the design to be in harmony with nature, and he did not want to have unnecessary braces or structural support.  Wright also insisted that he design the furniture on most of the homes he designed, and Fallingwater contains the original furniture that came with the home.  The Kaufmanns were permitted to display some of their own knick-knacks and artwork; Wright liked to control every detail of the homes he designed.

Unfortunately, there were some disagreements between Wright and the contractors, and the owners of the house.  The Kaufmanns were concerned about whether Wright had enough experience working with concrete and structural engineers recommended much more structural bracing than Wright wanted; the owners had the additional bracing added in spite of Wright’s protests.  Even with this additional structural support added, a study done several years ago showed that the cantilevers were still in danger, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has had to add additional support in recent years.


The tour was very interesting and gave a lot of information about the Kaufmanns and their prized home.  Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside, and there were far too many people on the tour to sneak any, but I did wander the grounds and I made sure to get the iconic shot of the home and the Bear Run waterfall.  Fallingwater is certainly worth a visit if you have the chance!


COVID Diaries: Day 65

It’s the weekend!  I have a four-day weekend this weekend, due to my work schedule, which is awesome, but the staying at home part is not as awesome.  Originally, in life-before-COVID days, I was supposed to be taking a long weekend trip, but I guess you folks will just have to put up with me instead.

Other than that, I’ll just be reading, writing, cleaning, organizing, doing yard work and hopefully doing a hike or two.  I have been watching the Channel Islands National Park, Georgia Aquarium and Monterey Bay Aquarium live cams when I need a little relaxation.  I swear when this is all over, I’m going to travel every weekend for weeks and never get tired of it!

I put on jeans this week. The kind of denim that isn’t super-stretchy even, and I was so excited that they aren’t tight!  I have felt like I’ve been doing pretty well staying in shape, because I have been taking long walks most evenings and being really good about getting my steps in, but jeans were a test.  I passed!  It was literally the first time I have worn real pants since March 23.

Yesterday after work my friend Shelley and I went for a long walk on a different route than we normally take.  We checked out the old Georgia Pacific property in town; it is finally being redeveloped.  The Port purchased the property in January 2005, and some of GP’s operations there continued until 2007, when GP finally closed for good.  Political infighting left the redevelopment languishing for years after that.  In the last three years or so, it has finally gotten moving, with old buildings being demolished, and roads, a bike pump track and a park being built.  One old building has been redeveloped, but is currently closed due to COVID.  In the years to come, additional mixed use buildings will be built and old GP buildings converted, a combination of light industrial, retail and residential space.  I love that they have saved some of the old industrial features of the site, and they stand proudly as architectural salvage and a reminder of the history of our city.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and remember those who fought and died for our freedoms.


Book Review: Dare to Lead

I chose to read, Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations.  Whole Hearts., as a result of the name recognition I had for the author.  I first heard of Brené Brown from her TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability.  She is a professor with degrees in social work, and a best selling author and keynote speaker.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

She speaks about a number of topics in this work, but there is one over-arching theme.  What one must do in order to become not only a good, but a great leader.  She talks about embracing vulnerability, learning to let go of what others think of you, and owning mistakes and moving on.  She speaks to the requirement to develop courage.  The book goes through the steps needed to develop courage, lean into vulnerability and lead with empathy and compassion, while maintaining accountability.  She speaks to the the body of research that has informed her work, and the successes she has achieved, as well as her failures.

She emphasizes over and over again that in order to get there; you have to do the work.  It is uncomfortable and awkward, and there will be times when you choose the easy road.  There are several salient points to be found in her book.  I found her method of communication to be a bit hokey at times, like an unending conversation with a therapist.  But her points are good, even if the delivery sometimes seems a bit scripted.

3 stars


COVID Diaries: Day 60

The weekend had some ups and downs.

Friday morning I received some very sad news and it has been weighing heavily on me.  So when I got a call from Lelani asking me over for a patio dinner, I accepted.  We sat outside and enjoyed a sunny spring evening, talking and catching up in a way that is always impossible with a device.  We talked about all the places we will go once the world reopens.  We talked about road-tripping, and a vacation to Europe, and a trip to Kauai.  We will have to see which comes first!  I also really want to do an outdoor painting for my deck like the ones she and her daughter did!

Saturday morning I went hiking on the Chanterelle Trail in town, despite the threatening rain.  The sprinkles went largely unnoticed underneath the tree canopy, and I got my workout in with a 4.8 mile hike with a 1,000 foot elevation gain and a pretty view of the lake.  The switchbacks make the elevation gain manageable, and it felt great to be back out on the trail.  It was my first hike since COVID began, and it was sorely needed.  I even wore the new hiking pants I got a few months ago and hadn’t had an opportunity to try out yet.

The rest of Saturday was pretty lazy, but I made progress on my puzzle!  And read my book.  Cora has been “helping” with my puzzle, which basically means laying on strategic parts of it so I have to work somewhere else.  And then grabbing pieces to play with.  It isn’t as if she gets no attention!  Since I took the photos below, I have done quite a bit more!

Today was supposed to rain all day, but surprisingly the early morning showers cleared up for a nice, sunny afternoon.  I mowed the lawn and did a bit of yard work – the grass grows quickly this time of year!

Back to work tomorrow!  I even need to go into work for real too; my Surface has been having some trouble with freezing up, so our fantastic IT folks have configured a new one for me.  It will be a brief visit, but it will be the first time I have purchased gas since March…


Book Review: The Japanese Lover

Alma is a young Polish girl, sent to San Francisco by her family to live with a distant and wealthy aunt and uncle after the Nazis take over Poland in 1939.  She meets and befriends Ichimei, the Japanese-American son of the family gardener.  They are drawn together in a friendship that reveals the different worlds from which they have come.  So begins a love story that lasts their lifetimes.

The Japanese Lover

Alma grows, up goes to college, and lives an entire rich, full life.  Her path crosses with Ichimei’s time and time again, even though she possesses wealth and privilege that he does not.

Allende also introduces Irina, a poor girl with a trouble past who becomes the now-elderly Alma’s caregiver.  Irina tries to discover the secrets of Alma’s past, while trying to keep her own.  Irina enlists Alma’s grandson Seth in her attempts to uncover what Alma is hiding, and they discover they have more in common than just an odd, old woman.

Allende is an incredible writer, and she weaves a timeless story of love into the complexity of life, exploring themes of race, class, the Holocaust, and prejudice against Japanese-Americans during World War II.  It is very different than her other works, as it does not employ the suspension of disbelief that is a theme in her other novels.  However, as always, her character development is second to none, and each character has their own struggles and motivations.  You find yourself cheering for their successes, and mourning their losses, and gain a deeper understanding of the power of love.

4 stars

Circus Trip 2018: Flight 93 National Memorial

Day 38, Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Stoystown, Pennsylvania

I was in graduate school when the planes hit the Twin Towers.  I was still asleep, as I didn’t have class until afternoon, and got a phone call letting me know I should turn on the TV.  Seeing that second plane crash on live TV was something I’m sure none of us who saw it will ever forget. Then seeing that another plane hit the Pentagon, and finally a fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.


Seeing the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania was a powerful and emotional experience.  The Visitor’s Center is perched on top of a hill overlooking the crash site; a new, modern building with exhibits that really hit home.  You know it is going to be emotional when you see that they have boxes of Kleenex parked all over the place – take some; you will need them.

You see, the thing about Flight 93 is that it was the last plane to crash that morning.  By then, the passengers and crew knew what had happened to those three other planes.  They knew they were going to die, so they made the heroic decision to fight against their hijackers.  By fighting back, they could at least prevent them from crashing that plane into another occupied building – it wasn’t until later that authorities learned that the likely target was the U.S. Capitol.

The Visitor’s Center has news footage playing of that morning.  You learn that the flights weren’t chosen at random. The hijackers chose long haul flights (more jet fuel to explode) with few passengers (fewer people to interfere with their plans).  The exhibits also include recordings of some of the last phone calls that the passengers made to their loved ones.  You can hear the fear, and the emotion of those goodbyes.  If you are anything like me, you will bawl your eyes out…

One of the exhibits is a note on Best Western Hotel stationary.  It reads, “I was in DC, across from the White House, on the top floor of the tallest building nearby.  The way I figure it, you all gave your life for me.  I won’t waste it.  I promise.  -CH”

You can drive or walk down to the site – I chose to drive since it was getting to be late in the afternoon, and there were only a couple other people there.  I walked out along the path, watching a large, sandstone boulder that has been placed at the impact site and the final resting place of the passengers and crew.  Rays of sun shone down on that stone that afternoon like a message from God.

There were 40 passengers and crew on board that day, along with the 4 hijackers.  The names of those 40 people who lost their lives that day are engraved on a white marble wall; the wall lines up with the final flight path of the plane.  It is a somber tribute to these souls; simple and beautiful.

It may be easier to not confront the pain that this place represents for so many people.  However, it is important to experience, and to never forget.




COVID Diaries: Day 56

While many of us are languishing under the continuing stay at home order – trying to perfect sourdough starter, gaining the COVID 15, tiring of Zoom meetings, and getting more and more sad that we may never be able to use all those accrued air miles, it is important to remember that not everyone is disappointed that we are all stuck at home.

Cora is ecstatic that her mama is around all day everyday, and is doing her utmost to ensure that dinner arrives early each day.  She has some interesting tactics…  She is gradually rolling back her perception of when dinner should be served…  Today she began bugging me at 2:34 pm!

Please enjoy this montage of photos of Cora begging for a meal…