Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I started worrying about our trip to Ohio in May when I booked the red-eye flight from Seattle to Columbus via Washington D.C. Despite some inclement weather the weekend before, all our prayers paid off and we arrived safely at CMH on Christmas Eve morning.

After brief naps and a remote work day, we celebrated the birth of Jesus at Lord of Life Lutheran Church. It was the first time we had been back since the wedding ceremony and the sanctuary was as beautiful as ever. It was strange to miss Pastor Jim, who is on a five month-long sabbatical, but we enjoyed seeing long-time family friends and worshiping as a family.

I knew that Christmas with the Zaengers would be very different from Dominic's experiences in the Monley family, but we had a wonderful Christmas day. We took my grandparents to Catholic Mass and then spent quality time visiting with family, exchanging gifts and eating. Exhausted, we collapsed into bed relatively early.

Bright and early on the 26th we got to celebrate another birthday -- Dominic's! Starting at 9 a.m., he was able to open a birthday card from a friend or family member every 30 minutes. The cards helped remind him just how special his day is and how, despite being away from others, he's remembered.

My Mom and Dad received a lobster gram for Christmas and generously shared with us for Dominic's birthday. Here he is reading a card and protecting his OSU t-shirt from clam chowder.

Dominic liked to tease: "Don't do anything special for my birthday. Knowing you, I'll end up with a petting zoo and a bouncy house." To prove him right, we took him to the Columbus Zoo. The animals were out and about, the carousel was spinning and the new LED lights were shinning bright. It was a fun visit.

Jill and Rachel generously hosted a pizza party and bowling night for Dominic. We aren't the best bowlers, but it was a great time.

Next year... bouncy house...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent Sabbath

There's a new Chipotle at 3rd and Pike and Dominic decided that today it was time we make our inaugural visit and celebrate the spirited Christmas decorations in downtown Seattle. 

We've been trying our very best to take the advice of a recent Bethany sermon series on remembering the sabbath and keeping it holy. After a nice advent worship service this morning and a warm day inside relaxing and writing Christmas cards, Dominic and I ventured downtown for dinner and Starbucks (hey, it's Seattle).

At the new Chipotle we made friends with Jacqueline, the restaurant's manager who hails from Cleveland. The bright-eyed employees showed us the new Chipotle salads (we'll see if I can branch out and sacrifice a burrito for the new menu item some other time) and chatted with us about how nice it was to have a downtown location. I couldn't agree more. 

We went out to the second-busiest Starbucks in the U.S. (second to Times Square) and got peppermint hot chocolates for our self-guided tour of lights. We enjoyed the Westlake center and then made our way to 6th and Union: The Sheraton Hotel.

The Sheraton has a gingerbread exhibit I had heard about at my work party last week. I thought it was an outdoor light display, but after one unsuccessful lap around the building we realized it was inside the hotel lobby. 

Here's Dominic with his favorite creation: a Muppet house. I liked Snoopy's dog house. There was a Charlie Brown christmas on a mini DVD player on the inside!

We hope you're enjoying the advent season as much as we are! 

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree

You try your darndest to get everything out and on the table before committing to that largest of commitments; the covenant of marriage. Truly. Children, Religion, expectations, living situations, shower schedules… we went over all of ‘em. Or so I thought. We tweaked our work schedules weekly to make room for pre-marriage counseling, read books, arranged and met with a mentor couple who had already waded through the vicissitudes inherent in the initial years of marriage. But you’re bound to miss something I suppose. It’s how you deal with those challenges that define the success of a budding marriage.

Frankly, I don’t know how we missed it. But when the subject of getting a Christmas tree for the holiday season came up Sarah stated off-handedly, “I’ve never had a real tree before.” I could have sworn I heard the Christ Child shudder in the crèche already laid out on our coffee table in expectation of advent. I knew Ohio was perhaps not the most verdant of the lower 48, but really….never a real tree?!

Luckily we live in Washington State where the state flower, bird and song are Norway Spruce, Balsam Fir and Colorado Pine respectively.

We headed up to the local mountain range-battery powered saws-all in hand-ready to conquer this marital obstacle with all the spit-and-vinegar of a young couple in love threatened.

It’s really a great process here in Washington. You merely stop by a ranger station and pay $10 dollars for the license. They then direct you to a fire road and you drive until you feel like you’ve reached the ideal altitude. It is then up to you to locate the perfectly shaped tree of ideal height, cut it down and haul it out. Unfortunately the aforementioned well-shaped trees of ideal height do not really exist out in the wild. We settled for a Charlie Brown-esque shabby looking thing with branches protruding from 180 degrees of the trunk (it was growing on a hill.) But just as a young starry-eyed couple can go to the pound, pick out the mangiest mutt in the place and love it sincerely, we can’t sing the praises of our tree enough. Because it lacks branches on half of itself, it pushes nicely up against the wall, saving us valuable space in our otherwise cramped apartment. The challenge of our shortage of Christmas ornaments was rendered insignificant as, in all honesty, the tree only has about 10 to 12 branches from which to hang anything. But it’s enough. And we love it.

The smell that greets us every day when we come home gives the requisite boost to our mood that the realization that it is once again the Christmas season rightfully brings. Nothin’ better.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quilting Lessons

Ta da! Started in October when Dominic's mother, Peg, came to visit and here before your very eyes today: My first complete picnic quilt!

Peg came up to Seattle by car -- which was a good idea because it would be hard to carry a sewing machine and folding table on a flight from California. I sure am glad she did because it gave us the excellent opportunity to experience what she warmly referred to as "intense relationship building". She taught me the basics, how to sew (and unfortunately rip), how to cut with my new special for-quilting-use-only scissors, and how to measure accurate squares (that's a skill I'll need to perfect over time).

Quilting is an amazing process and one that I've taken for granted. I have a dear Aunt (Carlene) who quilts by hand. Among many others, she has the gifts of patience and attention-to-detail. Here's the quilt she gave us at my bridal shower:

I'm not sure if the intricate stiches show up here, but trust me, this is a masterpiece.

Peg is also an artist. She has a special talent of dreaming up creative designs, patterns and color-schemes that become functional works of art. For my Sacramento bridal shower she gave us the quilt below:

In the upper right hand corner there are two hearts on a map of Armenia.

Peg is a teacher by trade, so of course she was patient with me as I fumbled with the new tools and instructions. She was great to show me the skills I could use to make a quilt on my own (even without a sewing machine). One of my favorite parts, pictured below, is the corner-tying. Not only does this keep my stuffing from sliding around in between the front and the back, it helps cover up any aligning mistakes I may have made. How handy!

This was a late night. We even managed to pull Dom into the tying fun while we all watched TV on our laptop.

We had to celebrate my accomplishment, so Sunday night I made Aunt Kathleen's Chinese Chicken Salad (one of my favorites) and we had a picnic in the living room.

(Don't mind the poor basil plant in the background, I have high hopes it will make it through the gray winter).

Thank you to all the awesome women in my life who teach me such great life skills. Watch out, you just might get a home-made meal on the floor the next time you visit!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dangerous Health Care Reform

Bear with me, it's Sarah and I'm going to get a little political. Well, not me personally, but I wanted to use this forum to highlight an article I just finished by the editor of The American Journal of Health Promotion.

The article, "The Danger and Opportunity of Health Care Reform Providing a Huge Influx of Funds for Health Promotion... and how to Avert Danger", is written by Dr. Michael O'Donnell and highlights just how important it is to protect the work of existing health promotion vendors. Since I happen to make my living through one such vendor, I was immediately drawn to his statement.

As someone who tends to appreciate all things free and discounted, I normally would have agreed with his scenario that "The best way to persuade employers, hospitals, insurance companies and other organizations to implement health promotion programs would be to provide free program materials and consulting services". The reality that Dr. O'Donnell highlights, however, is that this scenario in real life would cut revenues of health promotion providers leading to layoffs, threats to innovation, and potential bankruptcy for health promotion businesses. My perspective changed.

Dr. O'Donnell argues that, in general, federal funds should be used to do what private businesses cannot do on their own. Hello, hello, government representatives, we're doing health promotion on our own! And, we're doing a great job!

Thank goodness he provides four solutions for avoiding the dangers described above:

1. Develop core technologies that could be entered into the public domain and used as the foundation for new products and services developed by entrepreneurs.

2. Support program evaluation and research as well as information synthesis and dissemination so that the most effective methods are widely known.

3. [My favorite] Contract with existing health promotion vendors to develop and provide new products and services, rather than hiring new government employees to develop them internally.

4. When free or discounted services are needed for small businesses or other specific under served population groups, pay vendors to provide these services rather than having the government provide these services directly.

What do you think of Dr. O'Donnell's position? Are businesses threatened when government provides an agency to offer free services?

What about the U.S. Postal Service? Could our industry thrive the same way DHL, UPS and FedEx have?

I'd love to hear other examples you've seen where a private business is forced to compete with a government agency that uses tax payers' money to develop products and deliver services and then gives them away for free.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


The time has come. Dominic and I have been married for three months today and we've decided to take the plunge and share this blog with you as a team.

It will mean more we's and less me's and hopefully will introduce you to why we 'compliment' one another so well.



Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat

Is is just Queen Anne? The Northwest? 2009? The joy of door-to-door neighborhood trick-or-treating has disappeared from our lives.

This neighborhood has a lot of fun in our 'suburban downtown' community event. People bring their kids (and decked-out dogs) to the shops and restaurants where they can collect candy and small toys. They really get into the occasion-- a tradition Dominic passionately describes as: "the most wholesome thing I've ever been a part of."

We were invited into the heart of the upper-Queen Anne neighborhood to celebrate a friend's birthday and Halloween together. The house was fully prepared with costumed party-goers, decorations, finger-foods and, of course, plenty of candy to pass out to the trick-or-treaters...except they were few and far between. I'll admit, around 7 p.m. we got one or two kids and then closer to 9 p.m. some middle-schoolers came with their pillowcases opened wide, but the crowds certainly weren't storming the streets. What is the excuse for the poor showing? I thought it was well-known that poisoned candy is an urban myth.

In discussing the low turnout, someone at the party mentioned that where she's from in Oregon everyone goes to their churches for trick-or-treat. In the parking lots parents create a big circle with their cars where kids can run around and collect candy in a safe environment. Something like this only with car trunks (which makes sense in Oregon):I boasted that the Midwest still understands true trick-or-treating-- the kind where kids scope out the streets with the biggest, nicest houses (you know, where they give you the full-sized Hershey bar). Or where you run around as fast as possible praying you'll be the first to the unattended bowl of candy on the front porch labeled "please take one". I like to believe we are holding down American tradition in the heartland... but then again, I haven't been there in years. Is my memory accurate today?

Here are some of my favorite dog costumes. Oh Seattle...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Loving the Locks

Locks of Love, a non-profit in Florida, that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. On Monday I decided I had loved my 10-inch locks long enough and chopped them all off.

Chopped isn't the right verb, I actually went to a super fancy, very expert salon in Pacific Place Mall called 7 where a highly trained expert shaped my hair to match the bone structure in my face (which I learned is rectangular). I found it online by searching for locks of love + salons + Seattle. For those who might not know, most upscale salons will offer complimentary cuts if you plan to donate the ponytail afterward.

The salon 7 has a concierge who offers you a robe, beverage (which is generously made by the in-house barista) and a 70% dark coco chocolate bar. I could barely contain myself! Here I am with my 7 freebies (I just chose water, I already had enough energy without sipping on a latte at 6 p.m.):
This is also my 'before shot'...

I sat back and let Tonya work her magic as she determined the bob was for me (and then proceeded to assure me that the bob was 'in style' for fall).

Little by little Tonya and I got to know one another. We chatted about her training, my job, her boyfriend, Locks of Love and then much to my surprise she asked about my church.

Nervously, I started to describe Bethany Presbyterian. It's not that I don't like talking about my faith, it's that I didn't want her to feel uncomfortable doing her job. I described the Wednesday Night Dinner outreach, the strong leadership, and the sense of community we had found there. Much to my surprise she started telling me about her church and her faith. It was amazing! She described the difficulty she faced in balancing a job that required her to work Sundays and the desire she felt to serve others. She told me about the prayers she has for her co-workers and how she'd even taken one or two with her to worship. I sat there in awe of this person who spoke so boldly about her faith and had an excellent opportunity for ministry by interacting with others constantly at work.

Many of my thoughts have been on work since Labor Day as we've been in a mini sermon series on what Labor means to the Lord and how work is really fulfillment of our lives in Christ. The thought to "do good work" regardless of what it is we're doing has resonated in my daily routine.

I liked Tonya and wish I could afford to go back to her again. She offers a great haircut and uplifting conversation. I guess I'll just have to start growing out these short locks again...

Tonya and I

Monday, September 07, 2009

Just camping in the rain

Happy Labor Day!

We worked hard last week and put in some long days at the office so that Friday afternoon we could beat the I-5 traffic out of town. We probably should have known why we were able to fly out of Seattle and through Tacoma--the rain was rolling in.

When it comes to camping Dom and I learn as we go. The first time I ever took him out into the woods (Hiking Hills,
OH) I forgot to pack water. This time we had water in abundance and were trying to keep it away.

Dominic's good friends from high school, Ames and Frank, and their wives Brooke and Lisa joined us at Battleground Lake. With a little effort the guys covered a large portion of the campsite with a tarp and Brooke sewed the hole in the middle shut with twine. It was a brilliant response to the inclement weather.

We spent Saturday at Mt. St. Helen's national park enjoying the view, the museums and a short trail around Coldwater Creek Lake. The men got to fish and we all enjoyed smores by the fire.

Dominic and I look forward to many more weekend get-a-ways in the NW, but we have a lot to learn about packing. What about you? Is there anything you don't leave home without?

Mt. St. Helen's: I recommend the visitors center(s). They're informative, fascinating and have plenty of knowledgeable naturalists just waiting to share their passion for volcanoes.

Battleground Lake at our campsite. The few minutes we had sun.
Mt. St. Helen's National Park: Plenty to see and do.

Thanks for a nice weekend all!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Wedding planning: Done. Wedding: Done and Done!

For those of you who read this blog but don't speak to me personally, I went and got married. It's true, now the experiential learning will be shared.

It's amazing how great life can be when you're surrounded by those who love you so much they'd sacrifice time, money and travel to be by your side and show their support. We experienced this the week leading up to, and the day of our wedding August 1st. Thank you to all who made it to Columbus for the day.

Dominic and I are getting settled in our new home by unpacking beautiful new gifts, perusing the IKEA catalog, and diligently studying my new Rachael Ray cooking magazines. I'll admit, everything's easier when you have the right kitchen tools. I'm rather proud of my ability to make fresh pesto in our food processor (thank you again Mr. & Mrs. Salvamini) and chop with our fancy knives. I'm more of a 'put together' cook than a 'preparation' cook in that I like throwing ingredients into one place (i.e. salads, crock pots) and seeing what we get more than measuring out ingredients for sauces and mixes. You're still welcome to come and eat with us--just keep an open mind when you sit down at the dinner table.

Truly, our cup overfloweth. Thank you for your kind congratulations, generous gifts and unwavering support. We can't wait to host you in our home- please come visit.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I'll be traveling to Ohio on my birthday this year so Dominic decided to plan a birthday celebration one week early. I was OK with this so long as I could keep celebrating for the duration of the week. Having been born on December 26th, he's not much for creating a big to-do over birthdays, but I'm hoping to change this in him the longer we're together.

He came over early yesterday and brought Cranberry Almond Crunch (the best cereal ever) with him. We had some breakfast and then he surprised me with a new (to me) older bicycle. This would be our mode of transportation for our "Seeing Seattle" themed day.

The seeing began with a trip down the hill to a nearby neighborhood, Fremont. Each year this community throws a big festival for the summer solstice. We enjoyed looking at a collection of decorated cars, riding the European Super Slide and watching a solstice parade.

The Fremont Solstice parade only has three rules: 1. No printed words or logos, 2. No motor vehicles, 3. No animals. You can imagine (and I'll show you below) what we saw.

The parade, as interesting as it is, had a new addition this year. Just before the costumed dancers, musicians and stilt-walkers emerge there's a large parade of people on their bicycles. People riding bikes alone may not seem like much, but very few of these bikers wear more than their helmets. Don't worry, there's decorative paint. For the record, Dominic and I did not bike in this portion of the parade.

That's a lot of dentures!

The European Super Slide--It's really fast!

There were probably ten women dressed up in these elaborate costumes. Something related to ice... They were beautiful.

Dominic...under the parade... can you see him?

If someone would have made me judge over the parade, this group would have won my award for most creative costume/messaging combination. Their outfits were made out of plastic bags and they were chanting something about reduce, reuse recycle so that bags don't end up in the ocean. There was a man dressed up like a big fish somewhere towards the back of the pack.

It's a bull, and smoke blows out of its nostrils!

This man (a tree) was my favorite stilt walker.

From Fremont we biked to the base of the space needle and, much to my surprise, boarded the most thrilling form of tourism that exists: The Ducks! For those who live or work on the Duck route, I apologize. I'm sure it's a quite a nuisance to have to listen to a car/boat load of people singing the YMCA and shrieking at every Starbucks they pass, but for those inside the Duck it's a blast. I learned all kinds of interesting facts about the city like: The space needle was originally orange, where the Sleepless in Seattle house is located on Lake Union and how much the owners tried to sell it for last year (more than $2 million), how many times a day the Fremont bridge goes up and down (35) and that Seattle is the largest ferry system in the U.S. It was so exciting my face hurt from smiling all day long.

We returned to Queen Anne for a little rest and then took a picnic dinner to my favorite park in the whole city: The SAM sculpture park.

I crawled, exhausted, in to bed-- loving this city and my dear fiance for letting me see it with him.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Wellness Coordination

I hadn’t realized I was such a sucker for wellness information. As if my new job weren’t fascinating enough, StayWell is letting me attend a WELCOA Workplace Wellness Webinar for certification. It’s an awesome opportunity!

I was doing some reading on data analysis today and came across fascinating smoking information. This, coupled with an article I read yesterday about the employer who refuses to hire (and fires) smokers, has my head spinning.

The following quote is from Dr. Steve Aldana a professor of Lifestyle Medicine in the Department of Exercise Sciences at Brigham Young University. He is also an adjunct faculty member of the University of Illinois School of Medicine. Since he has spent his career researching and teaching about the impact of lifestyle on disease and quality of life I figure he’s a good person to reference.

“First, it’s important to understand that approximately 23% of the population uses tobacco. If you’re a female and you’re 24 years of age and you’re a smoker, it’s going to cost $106,000 for you over your lifetime to treat the diseases that you get from tobacco use. That’s everything. That’s private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid; it’s going to cost $106,000 to treat you. If you’re a man, and you’re a tobacco user at age 24 and you use tobacco your whole life, it’s going to cost $220,000. This equates to about $40 in healthcare costs for every pack of cigarettes you smoke.

So if you spent $4.25 for a pack of smokes, the real cost of that purchase is about $44.25—$40 of which will be paid for by someone else.”

What do we do with this? How can my work help people quit?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Ride

The weather has been unbelievable in Seattle since the middle of May, so we took advantage of the long weekend by borrowing some bikes for a long ride on Memorial Day. We rode from Dominic's house all the way downtown and across the sound in the West Seattle Water Taxi (which is almost the same price as the Metro bus) for a day along Alki beach and Lincoln Park.

Look at that view! It only takes about 15 minutes to get to West Seattle on the water.

Once it arrives, the taxi is by far the most enjoyable route across town. Talk about a great commute!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Expectations vs. Expectancy

I recently finished reading The Shack by William P. Young. I was caught by an excerpt on expectancy and expectations:

"...if you and I are friends, there is an expectancy that exists within our relationship. When we see each other or are apart, there is expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that 'expectancy' to an 'expectation' - spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and me, but about what friends are supposed to do, or the responsibilities of a good friend."

In the novel, God uses this dynamic when describing the main character's relationship in faith.

I find myself living with a lot of expectations. This week I started a new job and this summer I plan to get married. Expectancy is empowering, motivating, inspirational. Expectation is strict, unimaginative, limited. Is expectancy sustainable in societal institutions and long term relationships?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Tulips originate from mountainous areas with temperate climates and need a period of cool dormancy. They do best in climates with long cool springs and early summers. Fortunately, Skagit Valley, about an hour and a half north of Seattle, is just a perfect.

Saturday afternoon Dominic and I drove up to La Conner and enjoyed walking through the immense tulip and daffodil fields in bloom.

La Conner

Tulip Fields

Garmir, Kapuit, Tsiranaguin!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lesson learned

Today I joined Dominic on a South Lake Union pier for lunch in the sunshine. I learned that as difficult as underemployment can be, it provides opportunities to enjoy the people and places that are so often taken for granted.