Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My First Fire Season

Just two weeks ago, I posted about signing up for a virtual race. After publishing that post, I immediately started planning my training runs so I could successfully run a 12k by October 18. That same week, I also connected with two women in the area and planned to meet each of them for outdoor, socially-distant get-togethers. I was branching out, facing fears, and making moves!

Then, these fires got out of control.

First of All, I'm Safe

Shortly after I moved to Seattle, a friend jokingly posted on about Facebook looking to move out of "Hell's armpit" (Florida) and taking suggestions for new places to live. I recommended Seattle, and was surprised to learn she had lived in Washington. In Spokane, in fact; she was not open to dealing with so much snow ever again!

I immediately had to do some research, because lack-of-snow was one reason we chose Seattle. It turns out, Spokane gets something like 45 inches a year, while Seattle only gets five. This was my first real lesson in how the mountains that separate east and west Washington really impact the weather.

Our studio is located in Eastlake Seattle, sitting (as the name suggests) on the eastern side of Lake Union. Close by and west of us, Lake Washington separates us from Bellevue, and about 100 miles east the Cascade Range separates us from Eastern Washington, where most of the Washington fires are smoldering.

Before our trip, I hadn't realized just how much of the spectrum Washington's terrain spans. My friend Emily, who lives in Fife, had told me she was excited for me to drive through Eastern Washington because it's so different from the west. She was right; the difference is startling. 

We drove through hours of flat, dry farmland, spotting dirt devils along the way, until we very suddenly found ourselves in the mountains when we finally reached Cle Elum and - more notably - Snoqualmie Pass.

Basically, we aren't in danger from fires where we are. While there are some fires south of us that wouldn't need to cross mountains and water to reach us, they're far away and fairly small. The majority of the big ones are out east, decimating crops and putting farm workers' lives in danger.

But the smoke...that's another story.

From Hurricane Season to Fire Season

I wouldn't say I didn't have any warning about fire season. I remember that last year was bad and we followed it in the news, but experiencing it has really been something else.

I've gotten used to hurricane season, although since Irma I've had some low-level PTSD whenever it comes around. I felt intense relief this spring when the first big rains came to SWFL; after selling our house, it felt liberating to not need to worry constantly about flooding and other concerns.

Living through an extremely damaging hurricane changed my perception of these storms, and living through fire season is doing the same. The option to go outdoors, our only reprieve from being shut-ins due to the pandemic, is off the table. Matt and I haven't been outside in over a week, other than quick runs to the pharmacy and the brief drive over to Scott and Robby's. We've completely cut off actual outdoor time.

Matt took this photo from Scott and Robby's apartment in the middle of the afternoon.
Needless to say, my race training plans came to a standstill before I even started.

Washington is seeing historically hazardous conditions. Right now, our air quality is second-worst in the world, only topped by Oregon, where fires are still raging out of control. We don't have air conditioning, but we've been forced to keep our windows shut. It hasn't been hot, though; the smoke is blocking the sun and has dropped temperatures down into the low 60s.

I can't speak for the people actually enduring the worst of this - those who live near the fires and are in a constant state of fear, those who are experiencing homelessness and have no way out of the smoke, those still harvesting crops despite the dangerous air quality - but I can attest to the antsy, frustrated, nervy restlessness of being cooped up inside for days on end.

The stories I've read out of California, Eastern Washington, and Oregon are heart-wrenching and horrific. The speed at which fires move, the uncertainty of their path, and their uncontrollable nature makes them, in some ways, more terrifying than hurricanes, which are fairly predictable and short-lived in comparison.

We are supposed to get rain Thursday or Friday. I hope it comes through.

The Big Picture

We've all seen the memes joking about 2020 and what will come next, but I think we're missing something important here.

I mean, they're funny. I couldn't pick just one!

Obviously, the year isn't to blame. 2020 is not cursed. But in a way, 2020 is proving to be a culmination of decades of issues we've swept under the rug and need to address. And, to top it off, it's an election year.

This year we've seen it all: The social unrest. The racial injustice. The effects wreaked by the destruction of our environment. The science denial. The corruption and lack of transparency in politics.

Somehow, it's all come to a head. We are seeing more than ever how systematic racism, transphobia, and other prejudices have endangered lives in our country. We are seeing how global warming - exacerbated by humankind's dismissal of actionable change - is destroying lives and livelihoods. We are seeing how weak and selfish politicians have overloaded our already weakened healthcare system, leading to nearly 200-thousand (and rising) painful, preventable deaths by ignoring science and letting this virus run rampant through our country.

If we let this go unchecked, it will be to our detriment. Hell, it will be to our demise.

Hindsight is 2020, right? This year has brought things into focus that maybe you were able to ignore in the past. Maybe this is your wake-up call. We can't let things go the way they have been, unchecked and dismissed, for another four years.

So yeah, this is all to say...We need to get out and vote November 3 and we need to dedicate ourselves to making a change that will last long term. Any improvement will be monumental and life-saving at this point; we can worry about political purity tests when the world isn't literally on fire. For now, let's do what we can with what we have and where we are.

Vote accordingly.


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

What Comes Next?

When I started posting publicly about our move, I got a lot of questions from people who aren't exactly in my inner-circle. Those that knew me knew my plans - they understood why Matt and I were moving and why we'd chosen Seattle. More than that, they were at least aware that I was playing with the idea of leaving education.
Why Seattle? Basically this.
The questions weren't altogether welcome. My answer to "What will you be doing in Seattle?" was "Having an adventure!" I just wasn't ready to talk about the rest of it with the general public, and I felt like people were asking for answers at a time when I didn't have them. I was coming to terms with something life-changing and scary.

I get that people are curious; there has been so much interest in this move as people live vicariously through a journey they will probably never undertake themselves. But I needed time to make the decision, move, settle in, and reflect on what I wanted for my life, without outside voices getting in the way, so I've played it pretty close to the chest.

I guess now it's time to open up.
Leaving Education

This is not a "why I left education" post, but it is a "what comes next" post, so I guess I need to address this.

I loved teaching, and I loved my job as a CRT. For a long time, I couldn't imagine anything more rewarding than seeing the "lightbulb" moment, or building relationships with my students. I thrived off the sense of accomplishment I felt when I helped a teacher solve a problem or handle a difficult parent. In short, I really did love my job. But moving across the country gave me an opportunity to explore something new, especially because school and teaching looks so different this fall due to COVID.
I'll never forget the pure joy of getting my first name-tag and my own classroom.
The bottom line is that I was ready for a change, and I had been for awhile.

When I first started thinking of leaving education, I felt pretty lost. I got into teaching in part because I didn't know what else to do, what else was out there for me. I knew I loved to read and write and talk about reading and writing. I knew I was good at teaching because of my experience in my Canterbury Tales course. If I hadn't found teaching, I'm not sure what path I would have chosen.

Years later, I still didn't know. I sought out a coach who could guide me through the steps of discovering my passions and interests, develop my resume, and concisely explain the vast skillset I had developed while in education. That course was helpful, and I finished it and the school year with a mindset that I wanted to get into technical writing.

If I had gone into technical writing in 2008, when I graduated from Stetson with my Bachelor's, I think I would have done well. But these days, it seems most technical writing jobs require some knowledge of coding, and after a few weeks of exploring that option, I decided that wasn't for me.

Then copywriting fell in my lap.
The Right Fit

A friend of mine who works in marketing and was aware of my new career goals tapped me for a project writing copy for an email campaign, and the rest is history. I discovered very quickly that I enjoyed copywriting, that I was good at it, and that it was fulfilling in a way I thought was exclusive to teaching. I realized, in fact, that a lot of my work as a teacher and CRT involved copywriting, and I had spent years honing this skill without realizing it.

When I first saw my writing published on a website that isn't this blog, I felt a sense of joy and professional accomplishment I hadn't felt in awhile.

Teaching and coaching have taught me how to hear what people have to say. I can decipher their needs, challenges, and desired outcomes, even when they can't fully articulate them themselves. This skill, along with my genuine love and talent for writing, makes me an ideal copywriter. I can't believe it took me this long to figure that out!

Obviously, breaking into a new career is difficult. It's especially difficult when you're in a new place and in the middle of a pandemic! But I don't feel anxious. Right now, all I feel is excited. I knew leaving Florida would mean closing a chapter in my life, but I wasn't sure what the next chapter would bring. Now that I know, I can't wait to get started.
There are still things to iron out. Right now, I'm working as a freelancer, but I'm weighing the pros and cons of seeking out full-time, in-house jobs. I originally thought freelancing wouldn't be for me - I'm used to having a set salary and set hours - but I've actually been surprised to realize I enjoy the freedom. For now, at least, this suits me. The nice thing is that I don't have to decide right away. 

I've learned something important over the last month or so: I can take my time. 

I went from high school to college to grad school to a job without any breaks; I've never had time to decompress and just think about things. Now I do.

I can explore this new path and decide what I want and what works for me.

I can truly embark on some self-discovery while I figure things out.

I finally have time.
Launching ABK Writing Services

As I work on getting my new career off the ground, I could use your help. Everyone has been so supportive of this move, and I'm hoping that support extends beyond the road trip and challenges of downsizing. 
  • If I've ever written an email for you, edited an essay, or proofread a proposal, please consider writing a testimonial for my website. (You can email me or DM me if you'd like to do this and aren't sure how.)
  • Follow my professional Instagram, which I plan to use for all things writing related, including updates on my personal writing and my path to publication. Someday. Hopefully.
  • I'm learning how to use my network to my advantage, so if you know anyone who works in advertising/marketing, I'd love if you could help me make a connection with them.
  • And finally, please consider me if you or anyone you know is in the market for a copywriter. Maybe they're launching a small business, need to spruce up their webpage copy, or are looking for a blogger for their existing platform. Whatever it may be, I can help!
At the moment, I'm focusing mostly on webpage copy and emails, but I have experience writing and editing articles, brochures, slide decks, FAQ, applications, speeches, and, obviously, blog posts. You can peruse my portfolio (which I update frequently with each new project) here:
I can't explain how it feels to be on the brink of something that feels so right after I've felt so lost. It's been a long time since I was this excited about the future. 

So many things about this are new and scary and different and HUGE...but I finally feel like I'm on the right path, and that is priceless.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

Big News & My Next Race

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me share some exciting news from Skirt Sports. After fifteen years, founder and CEO Nicole DeBoom decided it was time for her to move on to something new. She was ready to sell Skirt but wanted to ensure the company's mission and values were respected by whoever the new owner would be.

Skirt has always been about empowering women, no matter their background, history, size, shape, orientation, color, age...Skirt is about inclusivity and supporting women, period.
A week or so back, Nicole made the official announcement: Sarah Ratzlaff, the owner of Zooma Women's Races, bought Skirt and the two companies have merged!

What originally was looking like a "finish line" for Skirt turned, with the passing of a bright pink baton, into a transition zone instead.
Click to watch the announcement.
I. Am. Stoked.

Seriously, what better handoff could there have been? A race series dedicated to empowering women merging with an athletic clothing company dedicated to the very same thing? It's honestly perfect.
I had been resigned to Skirt Sports closing and stocked up on my favorite skirts, tops, bras, and tights over the last few months. Now, I know more clothes are coming. I know the mission and values of a company I've represented for years are in good hands. I know Nicole's legacy will carry on and continue to change lives.

To celebrate, I signed up for my first race since February. The Zooma Amelia Island half marathon has always been on my bucket list; having left Florida, I don't foresee a chance to do this race in person anytime soon, but I did sign up for the virtual option. I'm doing the 12k because at this point I don't feel motivated to train for a half, but I'm excited to have something to work toward again. It's been a hot minute.
Admittedly, the swag and medal had something to do with my decision.
When I signed up, I used Sweet16 (in celebration of Skirt's 16th birthday!) at checkout to save $10.

This feels like the perfect way to celebrate Zooma and Skirt Sports coming together, and the perfect way to get some focus now that I'm all settled in in Seattle. This will (ironically) be my first West Coast race.

And, honestly, I'm kind of excited to have a reason to blog about running again. It's time to break out my calendar and put together some sort of training plan! Maybe you'll join me!