A retrospective on yesterday’s election

I worked the election drop box in Edmonds, WA yesterday for the Snohomish County elections. In Snohomish, we don’t have polling places. People fill out their ballots in the privacy of their own homes and drop them, postage free, in the mail or bring them to local drop boxes. If you know me, you know that I am not very politically active. I rarely express political opinions on social media or really even in person. While I’m skeptical that our votes really matter in the bigger elections, I do believe that our voice makes a difference in local elections. I don’t believe that you have the right to complain about things in your community if you don’t vote. I have voted in every election since I was 18 when I excitedly stepped up to the polling place for the first time. I spend hours poring over the ballot and make informed decisions where I can – weighing the pros and cons and reading opinions from both sides of any issue.

On election day, Snohomish County feels it’s important that the boxes be manned (or womanned) so that it shows that our County cares; so that there is someone there to answer procedural questions; so that someone can hand out stickers and celebrate the democratic process. This year, at least in Edmonds, I was one of those two people.

I didn’t know what to expect. As we drove up, with our bright orange vests and official county badges, we had to search a little for the drop box next to the library. We found it under a tree and next to the bike racks. There was no one around and we braced ourselves for a long 7 hours, hoping we’d get at least a few voters. We pulled out our check list and made sure we had all the things we needed – keys, a phone for checking in, little yellow numbered zip ties for securing the boxes of ballots and the dropbox itself, scissors, pens, “I voted” stickers…

Before we were done setting up, the people started coming. One after another, with ballot clenched in hand they approached. We saw young people, 18 and excited to cast their first ballot, eager to tell us how carefully they made their choices and thrilled to get the little sticker that proclaimed their status as a voter. We saw older people who asked questions, who wanted to put the ballot in the box themselves despite the painstakingly slow progress as they approached us and the burled and story-filled look of their hands as they worked to get the ballot in the box – and equally eager to get the sticker, often asking quietly if they could have one for their wife or husband who voted too. We saw families with young children holding hands, in arms and in strollers, where mom or dad held them up to put the ballots in. They clapped for glee when they got a sticker and one young man even whipped around and put a cupcake sticker on me as a thank you. We saw community minded people who had gone and collected the sealed ballots from neighbors and put them in so that they would be sure to get a say. We saw a so many people out with their dogs, getting exercise and voting along the way. I saw red hair and green hair and blue hair and purple hair, no hair, brown, short, long, and coifed white hair. We saw tattoos and piercings. People came in their jammies, their coveralls, ties, jackets, workout gear. We saw smiles and hope and excitement and a feeling of being a part of something bigger than themselves. We heard many thank yous, saw eyes light up young and old when they got a voting sticker, cheers when we said that the voting had been non-stop and that we had to clear the box 3 times that day because it was full, people running to make sure their votes were in on time even though the box wouldn’t close for an hour.

We found out today that our box was the fourth busiest in the county with 2625 ballots coming in that afternoon alone.

My general experience of discussing politics is of people grumpy and opinionated. This was not my experience yesterday. Very few people talked about their views. It was far more about the process – about the fact that, despite whether their view was the same or different than ours, all of our voices mattered.

I got complimented several times on my beautiful smile. Because yes, I smiled a lot yesterday. It was invigorating in a way that I didn’t expect it to be. It restored a little hope and a lot of faith in our humanity to get us through a rocky period of our history. If our little county is at all representative of our nation, we are not as far gone as news and conjecture would have us believe.

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10151329_10156274953290094_8925943656513512626_nFor those of you who know me, you know that Thanksgiving is my day – and not just for the food (for which I am also grateful) – gratitude is important to me. Every day, at the end of the day, I compile a list of about 10 things that I’m grateful for that day. I send that list to my family and a few friends who have asked to be on the list. At first, it kept me accountable. Now it just is what I do. My gratefuls can run from “running my fingers through the softness of Hef’s fur” to “getting a new client for my consulting business” to “getting married”. The idea is to be in the moment and realize that there are so many things to be grateful for in each day. For me, Thanksgiving is a day where the whole nation gets to participate something that provides me daily joy and grounding.

I have been doing this for over 10 years. I started this as a Lenten exercise to bring more positivity into my life and to my family’s perception of my life. My family is very much a “pray for me because…” type of family. That is not a bad thing. We all benefit from the support that prayer can offer. What I realized, though, was that this always focused on challenges in our lives and never highlighted the joys. So, the impression I was getting of other family members was that their lives were joyless and filled with troubles that we needed to pray for. I wanted to provide for myself and for my family, a glimpse of the joys in my life. My gratefuls highlight things that are important to me.

Gratefuls, for me, are not about a PollyAnna approach to life but a realistic approach that says that, while I may be having a “bad” day, not everything in the day is bad and I can pull myself out of that and focus on what is good. For example, I know that coming up in the future I will have to make a very hard decision for my dog, Borrego, and probably another for my cat, Tobee. Those days will hurt and they will be sad and there will be little that is joyous in them. However, there will be things I can be grateful for – hopefully the kindness of my vet, the release from suffering for my pets, the support of friends. These “gratefuls” will provide a pillow for my pain.

Gratitude is a way of life for me now. It used to be a conscious effort, a “task” to be completed. If I was having a “bad” day, I’d think, “crap, I have to come up with 10 things to be grateful for. I’d better go do things that I can write down”. So I’d go out and watch a sunset, or cuddle my pets, or savor a piece of chocolate. Now those things are automatic. I’ve since learned that this is called mindfulness – living in the moment. It helps my life be so much more full. I write gratefuls in a Google doc (which I can access on my phone, laptop, computer, kindle) throughout the day, as I experience the gratitude. This helps me stay in the moment and helps me not to have to rely on an aging memory bank.

If you want to live a life of gratitude too, I strongly encourage you to keep a journal or do an email even to just one person. I rarely actually look back on mine but I know that, if I need to (on particularly low days) I could look at past gratefuls to remind myself of how rich my life really is.  You can also join my gratitude group on Facebook to simply gain inspiration from other people’s gratitude or to share your own joys.

I am grateful for YOU.interactional_thanks


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Breathe in productivity – Breathe out procrastination >> A Guide to Productive Meditation

RelaxationMeditation can help you focus, relax, and create clarity. Practitioners claim that it can enhance creativity and help us become more aware of our core selves. I’ve always wanted to be able to meditate but really, up until recently, about the only thing I’ve liked about meditation is that it often led to a nap.

Most articles on meditation that I’ve read start with the phrase “Get in a comfortable position, close your eyes and focus on your breath”. Well my comfortable position is nap position, so that’s easy. Focusing on my breath seems a little more vague to me. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been breathing pretty much my whole life without thinking about it. Usually, after about 5 seconds of focusing, my brain gets bored and wanders off on its own tangents – what am I going to have for lunch, did I to call for that dental appointment, what is that sound is outside, I could really use a nap and I’m already in position… Continue reading

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5 Tips for Non-Profit Social Media Outreach

PhotoaDay_012113Your organization has made the decision to dip their toe in social media or to ramp up current efforts.  Social media in its various platforms is a wonderful way to connect with your supporters and to participate in the conversation around your mission.  To follow are a few things to keep in mind as you start to consider your strategy.

1. Social Media is at its heart, SOCIAL.
Think of social media (whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+) as a digital version of an in-person networking event. Most people wander about, drink in hand, looking to find an interesting conversation, to connect with people they may not have seen for a while.  They are looking for person to person contact, not person to business contact.  The largest amount of time is spent engaging in small talk and catching up.  Typically, there is only a smattering of business sprinkled in. People tend to move away from a person that is there to market himself and not to participate in shared conversations. The person who is perceived as the most engaged is often the person who speaks the least, who occasionally offers a question to keep the conversation going. Continue reading

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My post one year from now…

Green!I believe very strongly in visualization as a path to realization.  To follow is the post that I will make one year from now.  I know you’ll be on the edge of your seat at this time next year to see how many of these things happen.  Me too!

It’s still amazing to me that both Michael and I got job offers the week after I lost my job and that both were in the same area of Washington. The stipend towards our move was unexpected but helped so that all our savings could go towards buying our new place!

I really love my job more than I ever thought it was possible to love something called work. I thought I adored my job at the Foundation but this is just incredible. It’s still crazy to me that this just fell into my lap. I wish I had trusted more that it would happen and not worried so much at this time last year. But how was I to know that someone would approach me with a job description so perfect that I could never have invented myself. I wouldn’t have believed that someone would pay me more than was making before to do all the things I love? Animals, photography, graphics, story-telling, social media! Not only that, but there is nothing better than being able to work from home most of the time. Especially in this dream home that we have. Continue reading

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I learned a lot from Mocha

mocha_97I lined up patiently with the other 9 puppy owners in the empty parking lot behind the Sizzler. We all chatted excitedly about our young pups and the high hopes we had for them in these training classes. My Mocha was going to be a superstar. I was going to teach her how to be a great dog. How naive I was to think that she would be the only one learning. Mocha was my first dog I was able to have as an adult and I wanted to do everything right with her. I didn’t realize that “right” was not a single set of rules. I learned that sit only meant sit if I really cared about making her do it. Otherwise, sit meant slam your butt down really quickly, spring up to get the treat and then carry on with whatever you were doing before the treat and that word appeared. I learned patience and consistency. If “sit” was what I wanted then “sit sit sit sit” or “sit down” or “c’mon don’t you want to sit for mommy” probably shouldn’t be what I say to her. I learned to pay attention or the leash that was dangling lightly in my hand as I chatted with the gal next to me might be trailing behind Mocha as she chased an errant squirrel in the next moment. I learned to be calm – that a dog who is running the other direction after an exciting squirrel will not be eager to come back to a screaming mimi. However a mommy lightly jogging the opposite direction despite all senses wanting to run towards her could be more interesting.

Continue reading

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Musings on An Empty Cage

wynkenBuddy stares into the empty cage  and sees the hole that Wynken left in my heart. A little over a week has gone by since Wynken passed and not a day goes by where I don’t look at that cage and wish he was still there.

When I eat my banana in the morning there is no wriggling nose waiting for their ‘nanners.  When I’m winding down in the evening, there is no tiny being nestled into my chest and kissing my chin with his teeny soft tongue.  When I get home from work I even miss cleaning out his cage to find those pieces of food that he didn’t like shoved under his blankie and hidden in the corners of his space.

He laid claim to a piece of my heart the day I adopted him, and he took that little piece with him when he moved on to heaven. Continue reading

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TPO Surgery

When I was looking into whether or not to get TPO surgery for Borrego, I looked high and low for a normal person’s account of what the process would be like.  All I found was a gazillion doctor perspectives.  I initially published this “diary” in another venue, which is about to be archived but find that this information may still be useful to someone out there.  It’s been 11 years since I had the TPO surgery done for Borrego and, to this day, I do not regret having done it.  While she is now approaching 12 years old and is a little stiff, I shudder to think of how much pain she might be in now had I not made the decision to do it.  To follow, please find my account from 2003 of our experience of this process.

June 10, 2003
Borrego was diagnosed with hip dysplasia in her left hip a couple of weeks ago and things are progressing very quickly. The surgeon said that both hips have abnormalities but that her right hip could grow into normal. She goes in today for surgery on her left hip.

The surgery is called Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (TPO). Basically they will cut her hip bones in three places, reposition them and then put them all back together with a few screws and metal plates. The idea is that she is still growing, so her body will accept this as normal and incorporate it much more naturally into herself. Continue reading

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A Tiny White Feather

featherI found a tiny white feather today.  It sparkled on the black pavement in front of me and compelled me to pick it up.  It makes me very sad.

Let me explain.  In late 2010, I was driving to work when, all of a sudden, I heard a thud and saw a white explosion of feathers on the front of my car.  Shaking, I came to a stop and leaped out to look at the front of my car.  No bird, no blood, but a lot of feathers that confirmed my suspicion.  “I am soooo sorry little bird”, I whispered between tears.  I took one of the feathers and said a silent prayer for the poor bird before continuing to the office.  Once at work, I positioned the feather on my desk, determined to honor the soul of the bird whose death I had caused.  The feather moved around, probably in the chaos that is my daily work life. Ultimately, it was always found and repositioned in places of honor.

Good bye my sweet Spirit Continue reading

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How One Homeless Dog Becomes Eleven

Champagnes 10 PuppiesChampagne wasn’t much more than a puppy herself when she was dumped by an anonymous person at our local shelter. She ducked low as a leash was looped over her head and, sadly, seemed used to being led into a cement kennel with limited amenities. She moved uncomfortably and, before they even had time to do a basic medical evaluation, she gave birth to 10 squiggling little puppies. What was previously only one life that needed saving, quickly became 11 lives that needed saving. While puppies are always cute, the shelter staff’s hearts sank at the sight.

Continue reading

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