Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Space Needle

It's probably the most iconic element of the Seattle skyline, so our trip to Seattle would not be complete without a visit to the Space Needle.  This was not my first trip to Seattle, nor my first visit to the Space Needle, but we went because I wanted my husband to have this experience. The weather on the day of our visit was fantastic and allowed for some spectacular views from the top of the Space Needle. 

 While not the greatest photograph, it does share with you how the majestic Mt. Rainier appeared to us on this sunny Seattle day. As I type this, it does seem like a bit of an oxymoron to say sunny and Seattle in the same sentence!

I won't kid, the tickets to go to the top of the Space Needle are not inexpensive, but we had decided in advance that this was a stop that we wanted to make and included it in our budget. (On a side-note, we were able to keep our total Seattle trip expenditures including gas, hotel, food, and adventures to less than $300!) As you can see, Bryan was excited to be at the top of the icon of the skyline!

The Space Needle has included a few photo opportunities to the experience that are included in the price of admission. The first is a photo prior to boarding the elevator. These photos are shot in front of a green screen and you have the option of selecting a background when you reach the top of the Space Needle at one of the photo kiosks.

Bryan earned points with the photographer (and me!) for this pose during the photo! The second is a selfie station on the Space Needle balcony.

There is no charge for either of these photos! Be sure to stop at the photo kiosk and have these jpg files emailed to you.

A few other tips from our time at Seattle Center. We enjoyed the play area between the Space Needle and the EMP.  We especially enjoyed playing with these chimes.

Bryan was also grateful that I knew the secret of the Seattle Monorail. We boarded the Monorail at Westlake and took the $2.25 ride to Seattle Center. Another element of the World Fair campus, this provided an efficient travel method and saved a few miles from our feet. (Something Bryan was especially thankful for as we logged more than 12 miles by foot this day!)

The EMP is also part of the Seattle Center. While we did not get to explore the museum on this trip, we look forward to exploring on a future trip. We did enjoy the unique architecture from the exterior intended to represent Jimi Hendrix smashing a guitar. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015


We have seen several of these stacks of stones on our hikes. It was only recently that I learned the name for the creations, cairn. On our recent hike to Franklin Falls we spotted this cairn at the base of the falls. As we looked downstream we spotted several more playful creations. Perhaps we will add one on our next trek.  

Friday, June 12, 2015

Franklin Falls

Or, the importance of owning and wearing hiking pants

Sound interesting? I will get to that part later. 

Since our relocation to the Inland Northwest, I've started hiking again. When I lived in Dubuque, I would often spend afternoons hiking around the Mines of Spain. The hiking habit did not stay with me during my decade in Amarillo. Now, surrounded by the beauty of the Northwest, it seems like a good reason to hike again. 

I have learned it is easier to convince my husband to join me on a hike if there is something special on the trail. Our current fascination and motivation for hiking are waterfalls.

There are many websites that have helped with my trail planning, but this one seemed especially appropriate to choose a hike that would be fun for Bryan and me. 

Here are the basics to know about the trail: 

Franklin Falls Trail
Length: 2.0 miles, round trip
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Visit the WTA website for map and additional trail details. 

A Northwest Forest pass is required. I purchased a day pass online

After reading several trail reports, we made plans to stop at the Denny Creek trail head on our way to Seattle. We arrived at the trail head a little before 9 a.m. on a weekday. We were the first car in the small parking lot. I would recommend hiking this trail during off-peak times as it is popular and has a tendency to become crowded. We returned from the hike to an overflowing park lot. 

Several of the trail reports indicated that there was a very large cedar near the beginning of the trail. We saw this old growth cedar and thought this was it. It is an impressive specimen, but it was not the largest old growth cedar on the trail. 

Further down the trail we found this impressive cedar. The base of this tree was more than 10 feet across. It's worth a stop on the trail for a photo or two. 

Shortly after passing the cedar, we caught this glimpse of a small falls along the stream. (I think Bryan thought this was THE falls and that we could turn back!) 

And then, at the one mile mark, we caught our first glimpse of Franklin Falls. 

The official trail ends here. However, you can continue along a narrow pathway that is carved into the rock. These rocks are slippery, so proceed with caution! The trek is worthwhile, as at the bottom you can enter the pool. 

About this time, we were joined by a small group of hikers. We took photos for each other at the base of the falls.  Hikers are a friendly bunch!

The path looked clear, so we decided to brave a water crossing to the other side of pool. I'm glad we did, as we were greeted with spectacular views of the falls.

We made the crossing once, so a second time should not have been difficult, right? Famous last words. This is Bryan making the crossing successfully.

A few moments later I would personally own the knowledge as to why one should never hike in cotton clothes (aka denim) and the true value of hiking pants.

Another lesson learned, water really does wick up. Needless to say, the hike back was an entertaining one for Bryan and I.

Even the views from the beginning of the trail are impressive to this new girl. Perhaps it's because I spent the past decade in the high desert of West Texas - water like this is truly a beautiful sight!

If someone told me that you could see an impressive water fall with a short hike off of a major interstate, I would be doubtful. I would be even more doubtful if you told me that the interstate would be right next to the falls!

Monday, April 13, 2015

I hope you get fired someday

After I wrote my last post, I stumbled on this article. It matched my experience well.


The day you wake up and realize you are happier and healthier today than you have been in a long time.

Then you realize, a major life change has contributed to this new state of health and well being.


Yes, being unemployed leaves you feeling better than your previous career path.

Time to wake-up. Yes, change happens for a reason, and maybe, just maybe this was a parachute out of a reality that was less than ideal.

So, now the new fear, if the future is not to hold what your past held, what path does one need to take?

One answer leads to more questions.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Charting a new course

A little over a month ago I lost my job. A new job. A job that I had moved my husband and I across the country to begin. And, begin was all I was able to do.

After a month, I think I am finally making my peace with the situation.

I've moved past the anger. And yes, there was a lot of anger in those first few days.

I'm learning how to do nothing. After working for 12 years and never taking a real vacation, it seems like this phase of unemployment is about learning how to relax. Maybe this was a funny way to learn the lesson. I know now that I enjoy time just spending moments with my husband. I'm reminded daily of why we (while some thought it was an unlikely pairing) are together. 

In this peace, I can know tackle the question, what do I really want to be when I grow up? 

In the meantime, we have also learned that there is a great reason to be in this state as opposed to where we were - the 2nd highest unemployment benefit in the nation. 

I guess it's the small things, right? 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

A minor surgical procedure

Today I had a minor outpatient surgery. It's something I should have done before my insurance expired, but I was not able to get it scheduled.

Another one of the joys of unemployment is being without health insurance. This is the first time in a long time that I have been without medical insurance.

Today's procedure was not my source of thought today, it was the reaction of those at the clinic that surprised me.

When I arrived at my appointment, I explained that the insurance on my account was no longer valid and that for today's procedure I would be paying cash.

There was a genuine look of surprise on the registrar's face and she didn't know how to process the transaction. She called over a supervisor and received some guidance. The supervisor again looked surprised and had me called back to speak to a nurse before they would proceed.

In the procedure room...

"Are you aware of how much this procedure will cost? I want you to understand, because I'm afraid once you hear, you will not want the procedure and you will have wasted our time."

"Please tell me the cost."

"Are you sure? It's a lot of money."

"How much is it?"

"Well, honestly, I'm not even sure - I'll have to go look it up. I just couldn't imagine that you would want to pay for it cash today."

A few minutes later she returns.

"The cost for the procedure is $404 + the additional tests we discussed."

Is there a discount for paying today?, I asked.

"Yes, 44% if you pay cash today".

So, the actual cost of the procedure if I pay for it without insurance is $226.24. Is that correct?

"Yes, $226.24 if you are uninsured and pay for the procedure today".

Needless to say, I went ahead with the procedure. I'm sure there are some that would not have gone forward with that expense.

However, I must think about the ridiculous nature of the pricing strategy. Had I been covered by my insurance today, the cost billed to the insurance company would have been $404. However, I had not yet met my $4,000 deductible for the plan. So, if I had claimed the procedure on my insurance, I would have actually been out of pocket the full $404.

Would the registrar and the nurse have questioned moving forward with the procedure if I had been insured? Probably not. Most don't think about the realities of today's health insurance product. Is a plan with a $4,000 deductible really a health insurance plan? Yes, it provides catastrophic coverage. But, how many ever really reach that sort of deductible? And, what happens to the extra funds the clinic receives for those that are insured, but not yet reaching deductible?

Is there not a pricing strategy for health care that could be more beneficial to all?  If the clinic was prepared to offer a 44% discount for paying today, why not pass the same charge to the insurance company? Reasonable prices for healthcare procedures would help keep the cost of health insurance manageable for more.

Yes, I do have the option to COBRA my previous health insurance plan, and that is something I did consider. However, how does it make good financial sense to pay $1,000 a month to continue a plan with a $4,000 deductible and still be out of pocket the cost of the needed health procedures? I offer up that it does not make financial sense to do this, especially when one is unemployed and not currently receiving a salary.

Yes, I will make sure that my husband and I receive health insurance coverage of some sort in the next 30 days. However, I know that it will not be a COBRA of my previous coverage and will likely need to be a plan that essentially covers a catastrophic illness and little other assistance. The state we currently live in does have a healthcare exchange and I have been evaluating our options. But, the solution is not a perfect one.

This is the reality of our current health care crisis.

I still hold on to the belief that someone can rise to a position of leadership and help bring about the change that is needed. Progress has been made, but the work is not yet complete.

Regarding the procedure, it was a simple one and recovery is swift.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

3 Required Job Search Activities per Week

In order to claim unemployment in this state, one must complete a minimum of three job search activities per week.

I find this highly amusing. To complete three job search activities a week, presupposes that one actually knows what one wants to  do in the next career pursuit.

I'll be honest. I have not a clue what I want to do next.

Maybe it is a crisis of confidence? Maybe it is a mid-life crisis? (I did have a milestone birthday this year that my husband considers a mid-life point.)

In the meantime, I'll oblige the unemployment requirements and apply for a minimum of three jobs a week (or complete other job search activities).

And maybe, some day, I'll figure out what I want to do when I grow up.