2017 Christmas Letter

Greetings Family and Friends,

I started writing a yearly Christmas Letter some years back. As I have mentioned in the past, it is a “highlights reel” of the year, which of course doesn’t mean that my life is one rosy picture. It is, however, a reminder (to myself) that at the end of the day (and year), it is important to focus on the good with gratitude and thankfulness. When it comes down to it, in the overall scheme of life, I am blessed

When 2017 began, I had one main goal (outside of traveling) for the year. That was to finish the anthology, which is called The Outpouring. It was completed, and we had a book launch party for it in February. I am very proud of it. I learned a lot after Illuminations was published, and I think The Outpouring reflects it. Both are available on Amazon or through me. I am very thankful to those friends and family who took the time to support me and the other writers.

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For my yearly “big” trip, I went to New Zealand (Christchurch and Queenstown, plus some day trips around the areas) and Australia (Perth and some day trips around the area). I was in New Zealand for nine nights and Perth for six nights. The weather was super nice in both places, though warmer in Australia. I loved the beauty of New Zealand. The further south I went, the more enchanting it was. For a small country, there is so much to see. What I saw is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to read about my trip, it is in my blog. In case you missed it, here is the first entry.

Trip Highlights (in order of appearance – sort of):

  • The best part of any trip is the wonderful people you encounter along the way. And even if I never see them again, they are a vivid speck in my memory bank.
  • I stayed at an Airbnb in Christchurch and enjoyed meeting my host, Miliana, and my housemate, Johannes. Both very good people.
  • I enjoyed reluctantly hiking to Taylor’s Mistake and then purposefully hiking Godley Head.
  • I spent a lovely day driving to Akaroa and back with Johannes. We stopped for many pictures on the way there and back. It was just so beautiful. It was hard to take a bad picture. I enjoyed walking around Akaroa with Johannes complete with a nice picnic lunch.
  • I had a surprisingly lovely time walking around Mona Vale, a garden in Christchurch. I also enjoyed Riccarton Bush because it felt like I was in a forest.
  • Queenstown was absolutely beautiful as well. Despite it being busier, I still felt relaxed while I was there. Water and mountains. How could you go wrong?
  • Milford Sound is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been, period. The boat ride to the mouth of the Tasman Sea was too perfect for words.
  • It was awesome to visit Gabriela in Perth and have conversations with her about life and relationships. I enjoyed our walks and our dinners. I was also inspired to make some moves when I got back that I normally would not have done.
  • Spending the day in Freemantle with Gabriela, her sister Carla and Carla’s family was awesome. I thought Freemantle had a great heartbeat. I thoroughly enjoyed the home cooked meal Carla prepared for us and meeting her family. I loved the market there and met someone who is selling his art, which inspired me.
  • Seeing a humpback whale on the boat ride to Rottnest Island and seeing the Port of Freemantle up close and personal on the boat ride to and from this island.
  • I loved the central location of where I stayed in the cities I visited. It made it so easy to get around.
  • Each trip has a song that connects to it. This trip the song is a toss-up between “The Misty Mountains Cold” and “Song of the Lonely Mountain.” from the Hobbit. Because, let’s face it, I was in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit country.
  • And of course just walking around each city is always fun. You never know what is around the corner, and it is always fun to chat up other tourists.

I remain grateful for the gift of travel. It is a reminder that regardless of race, politics, religion, etc. the majority of people pretty much want the same thing.

 

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For more pictures, visit my Shutterfly page.

Password is: italia

I did a few smaller trips as well. In March, I took a quick trip to Long Beach for my job. I got to see my buddies from other port cities, so it is a very enjoyable business trip. Long days and exhausting but fun and a great time to catch up with some of the amazing people I have met in the port industry. I also had a chance to hang out with Samarah and Mary for a minute.

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I was able to go to Victoria to see Alice over Memorial Day Weekend and again in August. I am glad to have her back in North America, though I would love to visit her in Hong Kong again. Alas, I discovered Legos while visiting her. I have yet to take the plunge, but they are calling me. Victoria is just a great place to go for a quick weekend getaway.

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I was able to go to Los Angeles during Labor Day weekend and that was super fun. I had not been to Los Angeles in a long time. I was able to stay with Samarah and had a chance to visit with Mary and her family. I saw Mary three times this year. Twice in Southern Cal and once here. I particularly enjoyed visiting Venice Beach and the flea market in Melrose. It was inspiring to see people pursuing their passion. I made the goal of getting out more in Seattle. So far I have done two First Thursdays and a First Wednesday. I also want to hit up some markets when the weather gets better.

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I even did a day trip to Leavenworth.

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The fitness journey I began in January 2014 continues. I am at the point where I am trying to maintain. I was able to get off of blood pressure meds last year and that has been sustained. I did three 5Ks in 2017. In February, I did my first Mardi Gras 5K with Erica. In March, I did my sixth St. Patrick’s Day Dash, which is a 5K, with Kim and Katherine. In April, I did my first Brunch Run 5K, with Kim and Katherine. Let me say that is the best race ever! In June, I walked my fifth half-marathon (the Rock N Roll Seattle), and in November, I walked my sixth (the Seattle Marathon). The route for the Seattle was changed, and I am still complaining loudly about it. Too hilly. I would still love to do the Rock N Roll in Lisbon, Madrid, Dublin or Las Vegas.

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I also went on my first hike at Rattlesnake Ledge.

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It’s hard to believe my church newsletter is entering its 17th year! Where did the time go? As I mentioned before, I am so excited that the second anthology was published. Writing is something I need to do more of. Writing has always helped me focus. It is something I am passionate about, and it is something that I have been gifted in. The time is there, I just need to use it. It just seems like there is always something there to distract me. I need to focus. I have more writing goals for 2018.

I continue to try to fight the power through words. I am not impressed by what I see happening in Washington. I am very troubled by what I consider to be the silence of “friends” on issues.

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/the-importance-of-international-trade/

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/reflections-from-a-free-lunch-kid/

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/the-state-of-union/

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/the-importance-of-international-trade-act-two/

I general, my prayer for 2018 is that I spend less time thinking about/talking about what I am going to do or want to do and spend more time just doing.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, and I wish you a Happy New Year!

love. hug. xoxo.

ltb

 

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Leavenworth

Having grown up in Eastern Washington, it is a mystery to me as why I only just now visited Leavenworth for the first time. If at some point in my life I have been there, I have absolutely no memory of it.

 

The Victoria Clipper has a bus service that goes there, and in case we have not met, I don’t drive in the snow (I barely like driving in the sun), so I was excited to see that option. The bus departs at 9:00 in the morning from the downtown waterfront and there is another bus that departs from Northgate.

 

The package includes a breakfast bag, which included a couple of mandarins, yogurt, a muffin and a bottle of water. It was the right amount.

 

I am going to give the Clipper the benefit of a doubt and say it was an off bus day. When we first started the journey, the heat was blasting. I was about to start taking off layers, when the driver pulled over and opened up the bus hatches, explaining it was a system problem. That was fine for a short while before it became too cold. So I never felt the right temperature. The bus was swapped out for the journey home, but that bus was a little on the cold side to me as well.

 

We arrived at Leavenworth around 11:30. I walked around and wandered around for a bit. Most of the main area was either food or merchandise. I did go to a few craft fairs, and I picked up some lovely lavender/avocado body butter from Stormy Mountain Soaps.

 

https://stormysoap.com/

 

One of the churches was offering free use of their bathroom as well as cookies and coffee. Another church was offering soup and sandwiches for a donation. They also had a craft fair. I ended up going in this hall to charge my phone, which was quickly running out of juice. Sometime between my entering the hall and my leaving house, the number of people multiplied…a lot.

 

With technology, I was able to meet up with Des and her family, but I got to tell you it was too crowded. We ended up going onto a side street to get some relief. The lines to everything/where were hell of long, which I did hear about before getting there. I am not sure how the town is outside of tree lighting, but take the advice to book ahead for restaurants to heart.

 

We ended up toward the back to see the tree lighting. Again, there were just so many people there. There was a malfunction, so the lights came on in a few spots. Were turned off and came back on in a few more spots before everything came together. Oh, and they said 4:30 for the lighting, but it was well after that.

 

Then, I had to rush back to catch my bus. I was trying to get pictures, but alas, I was fighting the crowds. I was one of the last people to return to the bus in my attempt to get some pictures, but I was not the very last. We were able to leave in good order, and we got back at 8:00 ahead of the listed 8:45 scheduled time. We got another bottle of water and a snack from Macrina for the way back. We watched White Christmas. It was my first time seeing it.

 

If I were to do it again, I would probably find a company that stayed a little after the tree lighting service was over (if one exists). The crowds were clearing out as people were leaving directly after the lighting. Another option would be to stay overnight and enjoy the lights after the day trippers were gone. It reminded me of being in Venice and having the cruisers descend into the city. Then the city was calm and moveable after they left.

Pictures can be found here. Password: italia.

https://latonjab.shutterfly.com/

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There and Back Again…a LTB Tale

On Thursday, I slept in. After waking up, I got up and got my suitcase organized for the flight on Friday.

 

I went back to Kings Park and found a nice bench to read. I think I may have mentioned that I downloaded a bunch of books on my Kindle. I had only cracked it open once. After reading for a while, I walked around the garden before heading back to the CBD. I went back to London Court before doing some shopping on Hay Street. Gaby and I went out for a meal for my last night there.

I really enjoyed Perth and part of the reason of course was visiting Gaby.

Friday, I started the long journey home. The flight to Auckland was around 5.5 hours and the flight to San Francisco was 11.5 hours. The line to clear Customs was long, but I made it to my gate about 20 minutes before boarding was supposed to start to discover the flight had been delayed 30 minutes. I am not sure how long it ended up being late, but we were number 30 in line for the runway. Yes. Number 30. It took forever. By the time we reached Seattle, I think we were very late. Then in Seattle, we had to wait for a gate. It had been snowing in Seattle that day.

 

I went from high 70’s/low 80’s to 30 something degrees. Sigh.

 

On the way home, I stopped by Safeway to get some food. Then I got home and began unpacking. I did laundry. It was about 11:00 before I went to bed. I woke up around 12:30. I meant to get up earlier, but what had happened was…

 

I got up and am beginning to settle myself back into the routine at home. I am glad we get to “fall back” tomorrow.

 

I posted my pictures. Unlike previous trips, I did note delete duplicates as I went. So there are a lot. Password is “italia”.

https://latonjab.shutterfly.com/

 

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Rottnest Island

Today I got up bright and early to take the 8:30 ferry over to Rottnest Island. It was a place that was recommended by locals as well as travel guides. I was lucky enough to be given a coupon from an Entertainment book that gave me 25% off the fare. I will note that in looking at some of the local brochures, some of them had coupons ranging from 10% to 20% of various excursion, so they could be worth checking out.

 

I caught the ferry in Perth and there was also a stop in Fremantle. I was excited because I was able to get some shots of the port from the water. There was another CMA CGM vessel (I assume it is different than the one I saw on Sunday, otherwise they have very slow productivity) and there was also a China Shipping vessel at berth.

 

On the way there, we saw a humpback whale. I was so excited. There was a period when I dreamed about seeing whales all the time. This is my second time seeing a whale outside of dream land. The first time was a few years back.

 

It was a nice boat ride over. The weather was very nice. On the way there, I sat on the top level in the back. On the way back, I sat on the top level toward the front. The people in the first row on the left, got soaked . Especially the person in the first seat.

 

In terms of wildlife, I saw a two lizards and tons of quokkas, which were not too interested in humans. I read that Rottnest is one of the few places quokkas can be found in the wild. They reminded me of huge rats, and they have a funny gait.

 

I walked to one of the lighthouses and to Oliver Hill. If I had planned better, I would have worn other shoes. Otherwise, I could have walked in the trails and seen more. I would recommend bringing a backpack filled with snacks, plenty of water and sunscreen. I didn’t pack sunscreen this trip, and my skin is paying for it. The sun in this hemisphere is different than at home.

 

I met Gaby at the quay, and we went out for a belated birthday dinner for her. The weather was nice, so we were able to sit outside. We went Isle of Voyage. The food was okay and the service was bad. Luckily the company was good.

 

Excuse any typos. I will edit when I get home.

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Mandurah/Cottesloe Beach

When I got up this morning, I wasn’t sure how I was going to spend the day.

 

After doing a quick search on things to do around Perth, I decided to catch the train to Mandurah. The town is about 45–50 minutes from Perth by train. I ended up getting an all-day pass for $12.60. The one-way to Mandurah is $10.20, so financially it made sense. The all-day pass also allowed me to ride the buses in Mandurah.

 

While I am glad I went, I was a little underwhelmed by Mandurah. Possibly because I kept comparing it to Fremantle. At the train station, I knew I was looking for either the 588 or the 589 to take me to the center. I took the 589 to the foreshore. I started off at the various quays and walked to the town beach. It was okay. There was one surfer. I did a little of their “coastal walk.” I then headed into town and walked around. There is a church called, Christs Church that I wanted to visit. The church was closed, but I saw a woman priest and she let me in.

 

It was at that moment that I realized why I was in Mandurah. I guess I will call it a divine appointment, but I found myself opening up about some of the thoughts I was having about life. We talked for around ten minutes, but I was very encouraged after our conversation.

 

I made my way back to Perth. Since I had the all-day pass, I decided to transfer to the Fremantle line to go to Cottesloe Beach, and it was worth the trip. From the train station, I walked to the beach. I read it was about a 15-minute walk, but I think it was more like ten. During the summer months, they have a free CAT bus that goes between the train station and the beach. The beach was very nice and since the weather was gorgeous, there were people in the water, sunbathing or just hanging around. There was also a lone surfer.

 

I then made my way back to Gaby’s who was in school today.

Perth

I spent today wandering around Perth with Gaby.

 

We started in Kings Park. The park was original named Perth Park but was changed to King’s Park to celebrate Edward VII becoming king. Then the apostrophe was dropped. The garden is huge, over 1,000 acres, so I got a taste of it. It’s the largest inner-city park in the world. We walked, talked and had a picnic lunch. I have some assignments to do when I return home. Hee hee. There is also a botanical garden. It was a nice park and worth the visit. I may go there again before I leave.

 

Oh. I love the bus ride-free zone that is in the central business district. It reminded me of back in the day when Seattle had a ride-free zone. There are also some CAT buses that are free and go to areas around the downtown area. It’s a huge money saver.

 

After that, we were walking to the Northbridge area, which Gaby describes as being similar to Capitol Hill. When we passed by the Art Gallery, it had signage about a free exhibit about the life and photos of Heath Ledger. We dropped in to see it. I had no idea that Heath Ledger was from Perth. The showcase had video, props, his awards (included the Oscar and Golden Globe) and photos he had taken. He had a really good eye. I never heard he speak with an accent (I guess I have never seen him give an interview), but I was able to see some clips with his “real voice.” It was a good exhibit, and like I said, he had some nice photographs.

 

We did a stroll through Northbridge and then went to the library followed by St. George’s Cathedral, which was built between 1879 and 1888. It was quite lovely. There was some lovely stained-glass windows.

 

We went to Victoria Gardens, which was nice. I liked the neighborhood surrounded the park. Though it was close to the Central Business District, it felt faraway. It is also served by the free yellow CAT bus. It would be a great place to live if you worked in the CBD.

 

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Perth, Fremantle

It is currently early Monday morning, 6:39 a.m. Since I last wrote, I have made my way to Perth, Australia.

 

Saturday morning, I checked out of my hotel in Queenstown. I left my luggage, and I went for a final stroll of the city for this trip. I had not been to the Queenstown Garden, so I walked through that enjoying the nice weather. I sat along the waterfront and reflected on the beauty that is Queenstown.

 

I made me way to the airport, and I settled in waiting for boarding.

 

The flight from Queenstown to Auckland was short. The flight from Auckland to Perth was seven hours. I spent the time watching the first seven episodes of the Handmaiden’s Tale, which is quite good. I will note that the seven-hour flight on Air New Zealand (international) did not include a complimentary meal. You had to pay for it. Air New Zealand, you can do better than that. Come on. It’s a long flight and international.

 

I arrived in Perth, and I was met by Gaby and her sister Carla. We made our way to Gaby’s place, and I settled in and ate a late dinner with Gaby and caught up. Perth is five hours behind Queenstown, so my body was a bit confused. I had a great night’s sleep.

 

Yesterday, I was up early catching up on everything but blogging.

 

Gaby and I went to Queen’s Garden. I loved all of the lily pads in the ponds and the roses were in full-bloom and smelled quite lovely. The park was named for Queen Victoria for her diamond jubilee. It is a great place for a wedding. In fact, when we entered the park, a soon-to-be bride was timing her processional with music.

 

The next stop was Langley Park as we made our way to Elizabeth Quay. The park runs along the Swan River. On a nice Sunday morning, there were plenty of runners, walkers and bikers enjoying the day. The quay opened in 2016 and is a nice open space with a promenade, restaurants and art. There is still plans to do more.

 

We walked along Hay Street and its pedestrian area and along Murray Street, which had market vendors. We also walked up London Court.

 

We took the train to Fremantle. On the train ride, I was able to see the port. There always seems to be a CMA CGM ship whenever I randomly see a port. There were also some autos stored on the yard. Fremantle is definitely a port city with a vibrate working waterfront. There were also fishing vessels moored further down. In fact, the area was teeming. Partly because of the fabulous market and partly because the day we went was the blessing of the fishing fleet.

 

Gaby and I made our way up “Cappuccino Strip” to the market. The market was a live with people and there were vendors selling everything from food to clothes to popcorn to candles to tea. I came across an artist doing what looked like photo transfer. So I asked him, and that is what he was doing. He was transferring photos on to wood. His name is Rupert, and had been a journalist for 15 years before settling over to his passion. We chatted with him for a while. It was awesome.

 

We walked along the water and through the Esplanade park. The fishing vessels that are about to go out were being blessed. The city has an Italian influence and there were a lot of food vendors for Little Italy by the Sea. We walked to the Roundhouse Prison and sat by the water. The prison had two volunteers who were very knowledgeable about the prison and obviously were passionate about the subject.

 

We were then joined by Carla and her awesome family, and we did some more walking around and talking. There was a processional for the blessing of the fleet and there were fireworks.

We went to Carla’s house, and we chatted. The kids gave me a tour of their garden and showed me a Star Wars X-box game. Carla prepared a delicious meal for us complete with lovely homemade dessert. It was a very lovely day with an awesome family. I didn’t want the time to end.

 

After returning to Gaby’s, I headed straight to bed.

 

I have to say I loved Fremantle. It had a very strong heartbeat and vibe. The weather was lovely and there were a lot of families out enjoying the market, blessing of the fleet and the waterfront activities.

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