Monday, June 20, 2011

Why I Love Seattle/Bellevue

My parents recently drove to the Northwest for my daughter’s graduation. Though Mom had visited Seattle several times, this was Dad’s first trip to this part of the country. After introducing Dad to all I love about this area, I can more easily articulate some of the things I’ll miss by leaving. Here’s a sample:

• Driving across the floating bridge with waves and white caps on one side and pure calm on the other.
• Walking up and down hills in downtown Seattle and understanding why one inch of snow paralyzes this steep city. (People continue to insist that we are wimps compared to drivers in such flat cities as Denver and Chicago.)
• Viewing the bubblegum wall in Post Alley. I can’t imagine such a place in staid, stuffy Washington, DC.
• Watching the ferries. I don’t take the ferries very often because I don’t have a real need to reach the Kitsap or Olympic Peninsulas (or any of the many islands in between). I do enjoy watching the peaceful behemoths sail across Puget Sound. When I am on a ferry, I truly love the views of Seattle that I am always treated to.
• Knowing that we not only have many sidewalks and paths but knowing that they are well used.
• Living within a 10-15 minute walk of the post office, bank, grocery, restaurants, parks, schools, and a community-centered shopping center.
• Knowing how rain may bug us in extremely cloudy years like this one, but it doesn’t paralyze us. We still go out and play baseball and other sports, shop, and participate in outdoor activities.
• Believing that people here are far less inclined to be concerned about “what the neighbors think.” They are more concerned about their neighbors. This is a very outward-focused community.
• Living in a diverse community. Bellevue Schools host children with over 80 different first languages. My kids are friends with lots and lots of other kids who were either born in another country or whose parents were born in another country. People around here don’t think in terms of color or ethnicity. Everyone is accepted.
• Serving in our community. Unlike some churches who focus inward and sustain their own, our church focuses outward to help sustain and enhance the community through many different organizations. It doesn’t proselytize or condemn; it loves. I love that.
• Receiving care at Group Health. We’ve been part of this HMO our entire time here, and I don’t have a single regret. After two births, 8 collective surgeries, 12 collective broken bones (11 to one individual), and numerous other visits, I have rarely had a poor experience. When I left DC, I was only too happy to leave my previous health care provider behind.
• Shopping at Pike Place Market. Dad asked me in advance why I love it. All I could think of was how can’t I? The sights, the smells, the local artisans, the flavors, the views all excite me. If I could afford the parking, I would go there all the time.
• Getting through the downtown core. Bellevue is more accessible and pedestrian friendly than any East Coast city I know of. We have parks and shops and businesses all together in a relaxed atmosphere. Dad compared downtown Bellevue to Tysons Corner, VA, but Tysons raises my blood pressure every time I consider navigating through it.
• Teaching our kids. Bellevue schools are consistently ranked among the top in the nation. I’ve been active in the education community here for many years. I don’t know that my interest would be well-received in Southern Maryland.
• Reading the news. In Seattle, our news has a lot of local flavor. DC news was all political. International news was also local news because everything that happens in DC affects the whole world. Around here, the local issues and events make the headlines when WTO stays away.
• Riding public transportation. Our high schoolers take the Metro bus instead of school busses. It allows them to learn how to use public transportation, and it frees them to use it when it is convenient for them. The bus drives by Interlake every 30 minutes. Other routes are also close by. A transit station is a ½ mile from the school.
• Standing next to Bill Gates. Okay, this only happened once while standing in line for tickets at a movie theater. My point is that you can easily stand next to some super rich person and not even realize it. People here aren’t pretentious and often don’t want to be known as anyone special. The ones I know are among the nicest and most sincere people I have had the pleasure to meet.
• Smelling the flowers. Sure, everywhere has flowers, but ours are bigger, brighter, and smellier. It’s all the rain that does it. No rhododendron in Charlotte Hall is so big that it gets confused with a tree.
• Seeing the mountains. True, we don’t get to see them very often. When they do appear, however, it’s beautiful beyond my inarticulate tongue. I often see the Olympics to the west when the clouds break just before sunset. The Cascades are just east of us with a sentry of peaks from the Canadian border to the Oregon border and beyond. From Bellevue and Seattle, we can see Mount Rainier looming large when the clouds break. On a really special day, we can see Mount Baker standing guard at the Canadian border. Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens appear as we drive south on I-5 heading toward Portland. My name is Lyrel, and I’m addicted to mountains.

I’ll stop here, though I could continue on and on. For balance, I will post another blog soon with all the reasons why I’ll enjoy moving to Charlotte Hall.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Smooth Move

So how does one go about moving across country? In our case, v e r y slowly. Since we plan to maintain a presence in Bellevue, our move is not as simple as packing everything we own into a few hundred boxes and then simply vacating the city. And since our house in Maryland is already furnished, albeit with a lot of other people’s cast offs, we don’t have the pressure to fill it with our own cast offs.

Our older daughter just graduated and our younger daughter graduates in about a year. As the older one moves off to college, we will begin the process of fixing up our house to put it on the market about the time our younger one graduates. Much of that time, we’ll only have two people in the house, so the process should be fairly smooth. The hitch is that there will still be times when all five of us will be in Bellevue together, so we can’t move too much too quickly eg. beds, kitchen tables. Among those items that must not move yet are our vast collection of VHS/DVDs and our two cats.

We have lived in this house for 16 years. We aren’t pack rats, but we have still accumulated too much stuff! I’ve been going through drawers and cabinets trying to determine what and how much we have. I’m going to try to consume all the consumables and give away much of the forgotten wares.

We have measured every piece of furniture that we own in Bellevue, and we are working on a plan to determine where it will all go. Our favorite sectional sofa won’t fit in Maryland, so it goes to the unpurchased condo. Our old desk is not needed in Maryland, so it will go on Craigslist. Our old china cabinet that is an antique family heirloom will find a new home in my brother’s house near St. Louis. Our daughter is going to college in Massachusetts, but we haven’t determined where her stuff will go. And on and on it goes.

We still have to figure out how to physically get everything that’s moving from here to there. I looked at movable containers. We load them, they ship them, we unload them at the other end. We are also considering buying a new truck then renting a trailer to move our own containers across country. It will take several trips, but it allows us to move items as we are ready and when we have the time. If we get a cellular internet card, we might even be able to work while we move. And since I have three brothers who live between here and there, we can even vary our route each time to see family along the way.

First things first, though. Sort, pitch, sell, save, decide. There is no easy way to do this other than to jump in and start doing it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's Time for a Lesson

This morning I was woken up by Peter's buzzing phone at 5:15 from an East Coast caller. His call was an honest mistake because he thought he was calling Peter in Maryland. It brought to mind, however, how many calls we have received at early hours from people who either can’t figure out the time difference or don’t care. I have heard people tell me time and again that they can never remember if the West Coast is ahead by three hours or behind by three hours. Answer: we are BEHIND by three hours.
East Coast - 3 = West Coast. Always.

Even the most academically challenged student can tell you that the sun rises in the east. That means that when it peaks into your window on the East Coast, we on the West Coast are still in darkness. I, for one, am still asleep. I also don’t take well to being woken up at 4 am by someone who is calling early even for the East Coast. And then, when the time difference is recognized, the caller continues to chat. So let’s learn a few things here.

The sun appears to be coming to the East Coast from Europe or the Atlantic. It will visit us later because we are a little behind. That’s why time zones were invented. Not everyone can be in the sun at the same time. Countries like China may think they make things easier by only having one time zone, but think of the consequences of a very early or very late sunrise/sunset. Time zones are a good thing. And before you start whining about how difficult it is, be thankful that we don’t have ½ hour or ¼ hour time zones like some places in the world.

Do what you need to do to keep it straight. Here are a few ideas: the East Coast was settled first and gets the sun first, the left coast is the last coast, and, if all else fails, I’m sure there’s an app for that. To help you get started, go to

If you’re still in doubt, wait until a time of day where adding or subtracting three hours won’t make much difference and then call.