A lush green forest with a trail and a tree growing out of a rock covered in moss

In the valley of the silent Potassium

When I get angry or sad, I shut up.

I shove it all deep inside me and I make myself small, watching the world from behind my eyes, the windows of my self-imposed prison.

We don’t really need to get into the why — maybe it’s that I tell myself that a person who looks like me is much more desirable if I am happy, smiley and agreeable, that it’s not socially acceptable for a person like me to express the rage that boils inside of me — or the how.

All I can say is that it’s been the case for my whole life, and that recently, it’s become the all-encompassing state that I live in. At first, it was just a happy, agreeable mask that I wore. But then it shifted. I stopped being able to talk around certain groups of people. Instead of being my gregarious, flappy self, I saw my brain consumed with a whirlwind of thoughts that left me powerless to speak as I sifted through all of them trying to figure out what they meant, what, if anything, was worth sharing, what to do with all of them.

Then, with the murder of George Floyd, COVID-19 and all of the drama, I just stopped talking all together. Instead I spent my weeks draining my energy trying to appear competent and thoughtful at work and on the ice rink and I spent my weekends falling into a severe depression because I had no more energy left to do anything else.

I tried so many things to help myself. I stayed off social media, especially on the weekends. I couldn’t handle the photos of people’s seemingly perfect lives, as if nothing was going on, as if they were unaffected by everything that has led to so much trauma for me. I couldn’t handle the rage other people were displaying, even though I agreed with most of it. I couldn’t handle what people were saying, and how they were saying it. It all just made me retreat further into my brain.

Working with my hands has always helped me not really forget how I’m feeling, but at least divert some of the energy stuck inside of me into something else.

  • I made stuffed whales — at first for a friend’s new baby, but now I have a growing pod on my desk.
  • I made up a pattern from scratch for stuffed sharks in the style of the whales, and now the best ones sit behind me in all of my Zoom/Teams calls every day.
  • I learned how to make matcha souffle pancakes, practicing the recipe each Saturday morning until I was happy with it.
  • I set to work perfecting the best buttermilk biscuit recipe, and once I did that, I started working on a variety of biscuit toppings. The newest one is a peach and rosemary concoction topped with homemade whipped cream.
  • I bought five pounds of clams and turned them into a decadent and creamy clam pasta sauce.
  • I took photos of things in the sky, both comets and birds.
  • I designed a figure skating step sequence that forces me to think about how the steps tie together, what it really means to be “on an edge” and what’s physically possible when you tie steps together.
  • The list goes on.
three stuffed sharks, two are blue with purple bellies and one is orange with a cat on its belly. The orange one is upside down on top of the other two, which are right side up.
A shiver of stuffed sharks posing for my iPhone camera.

It’s all great. The stuffed animals are soft and huggable, even the early shark attempts, which I have deemed “shark blobs.” The food is tasty. My photos are neat. The figure skating is challenging (in a good way) and I’m stronger than ever. But it all still feels like grasping at straws. At the end of the day, I don’t really feel any better. Still lost. Still afraid. Still lonely. Still broken-hearted. Still disappointed in everything. Still angry. Still silent, because I don’t know what to say about all of it, and to whom.

Yesterday, we went for a hike through part of what is called the Valley of the Silent Men. It was a trek to get there and suddenly we were on a tiny, twisty, easily lost trail in the middle of a huge forest. Everything was covered in a layer of moss. Trees somehow sprouted from the tops of giant rocks. And it was silent, hauntingly so. How could a place so obviously teaming with life be so quiet?

And I recognized myself in this forest, buzzing under the surface of nothing.

Please don’t use this post as an excuse to connect to me if we haven’t talked in a while or as a place to provide me with advice or cheering. This isn’t a cry for help, and it’s not even really for you. This is my attempt to break the silence, to free myself a little. Even though I know it won’t change the situation I’m in — that we’re all in whether we admit it or not — I want to be able to talk about it.

Even toys like spring

It’s starting to feel a lot like spring here! The birds are singing in the mornings, the sun is looking less winter-y and the trees are getting buds on them. Yesterday, Cobalt and I went for a walk and I didn’t have to wear a jacket! To show off the lovely spring weather we’re getting, I thought I would post some silly pictures of inanimate objects enjoying the sun. The picture up there shows off a horse I found on our walk. PS – If anyone is missing their plastic purple horse, I found it.

This past weekend, Cobalt and I were visiting our friends in Boulder. The weather was pretty much the same as in eastern Washington except slightly more dry. We celebrated the spring weather there by playing on slides with our 19-month-old friend, going on walks with our older friends, eating lots of tasty food, going to see an amazing play and taking my stuffed taco on a trip to Chautauqua. :D

Do you have spring weather yet?

To the snow!

Athletes aren’t the only ones into winter sports. Cobalt and I are pretty excited about them too. And as much as we’ve enjoyed watching curling and figure skating, we really wanted to get outside.

But there’s a problem. We haven’t had much winter here. So this weekend, we and some of our friends went on a mission to 1) find snow and 2) go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing through it.

1) Check

SO MUCH SNOW! And it was such a beautiful day to be outside. Also we loved the moss in the trees. That’s how you can tell you’re in Washington. ;)

2) Check

Our friends Q and J went skiing with me while everyone else went snowshoeing.

Cobalt and I, plus six of our friends and their three dogs, headed to White Pass, Washington where we skied/snowshoed on and around the Pacific Crest Trail. Cobalt went snowshoeing with four of the friends and all three dogs, and I skied with Q and J.

The Pacific Crest Trail was pretty narrow and it went straight uphill, so we were worried that we were going to have a rough time going down on skis. But that turned out to be the best part of the whole day! We cruised (and fell a lot) down the trail and came out the other side smiling. And then we went up and did it again.

Q and J! And my ski poles.
Thanks J for this sweet pic of Q and me looking like rockin’ skiers next to this frozen lake. SO BEAUTIFUL!

And then we all went out for beer and pizza afterwards. Yum. Good day. :)

Short post today because there’s lots of other stuff going on. But I’ll see you guys next week! Same time, same place! Meanwhile, anyone else have some winter sporting activities they want to share?

It’s the little things

Helloooo! How is it the last week of January?! How did this happen? So confusing.

Today I am gonna talk about Cobalt’s and my weekend adventure to Palouse Falls. So this is crazy: in the middle of eastern Washington farms, there are these amazingly epic falls. These falls were formed by ice age floods that carved out the landscape across eastern Washington thousands of years ago. Apparently these falls are the only ice-age-flood-formed waterfalls that flow all year round! So pretty. So intense.

So anyway, this past weekend Cobalt and I went to Palouse Falls after our friend L showed us pictures. The falls are spectacular and super easy to see, even if you don’t like hiking. From the parking area, there’s a viewpoint that looks out over them. But Cobalt and I wanted to explore a little more. So we followed a series of trails that led us back behind the falls and down to the river.

From there, we were surrounded by towering cliffs, rushing water, and soft moss and other friendly plants. Then we left the slippery, mossy rocks behind and got back on a trail surrounded by green and yellow grasses blowing gently in the wind. Creeping along the cliff wall, we followed the river back around to the waterfall. Then we rounded the corner of the cliff and stepped out next to the top of the waterfall. Huge gusts of wind blew mist up in our faces where it coated our glasses. Cobalt and I grinned at each other and then picked our way to the waterfall and then the surrounding areas. It was incredible! From the top of the falls, we could see how the floods had carved out a canyon below the waterfall. Here are some pictures.

Such interesting patterns in these cliffs…
These rocks stood right next to the top of the waterfall. I loved them because they were so tall but sooooo skinny. I couldn’t figure out the best way to show them off. But then I saw Cobalt standing there watching the river, and I was inspired!

Eventually, we had to go back to the car. So we picked our way back over the trail on the other side of the waterfall. On the way back, I got distracted by the green plants. They were so green and so detailed. I wished I had a macro lens for my DSLR so I could take some crazy up-close and pictures to show off just how intricate each plant was. But alas, all I had was my portrait lens and my iPhone. The portrait lens wouldn’t let me get as close to the plants as I wanted, so it was up to the iPhone camera! It did a pretty good job I think. I really like the spiky patterns in these plants. I find them mesmerizing. I also like that the bigger leaves look like hearts.

<3

It was so fascinating to see such bright green plants here in eastern Washington. I’m used to seeing them in wet western Washington, but not so much here. We live in what’s called a “Shrub steppe,” which is sort of a desert but with small bushes and shrubs (think: tumbleweeds) everywhere. No small green guys. So it made me happy to see them again.

All in all, it was a good day full of adventure and marveling at this crazy earth we live on. So beautiful.

PS: I took the top picture with my DSLR, not my iPhone.
PPS: It’s scarily warm here for this time of year. :-/

Going outside

Man how can you top last week’s whale post? I don’t even know. But it’s Tuesday so here we go!

Guys… it’s getting closer to winter. The sun comes up as I’m driving to work and it sets before I get home. It’s causing kind of a panicked situation for me because I spent the whole summer running and hiking outside! Now I have to leave work early, go outside, and then telework to get my hours in if I want any non-dark outdoors time on the weekdays. I’m a little stressed out about it (first world problem for sure).

So this weekend, when we woke up and it was a beautiful sunny (and not too cold) day, I dragged Cobalt out for a run. We went to my new favorite trail, which, after half a mile of uphill, winds around the side of a mountain hill and is in direct sunlight pretty much all day in the winter. Lovely. I could feel the layers of stress floating away from me as the sun warmed my skin. Happy Potassium.

Cobalt running
Go Cobalt, go! I love that this trail is cut into the side of the mountain/hill.

Then on Sunday afternoon, we headed back to hike the front of the mountain hill. We got there as the sun was starting to go down, and this epic gold color washed across the whole trail. Cobalt and I kept stopping to try to capture it on our phones. We had some success, as you can see from the that top photo this week. At least you could tell the lighting was epic. But really, I think you had to be there. The color was fantastic. Maybe I’ll post that pic again.

I swear this picture wasn’t photoshopped.

Then on our way back down to the car, the sun gave us this gorgeous wave goodbye.

Such beautiful colors… Sounds like the sunset was equally as beautiful in Colorado on Sunday night!

Winter is often hard for me – I am not great at being cold (though I had a sock epiphany recently so my feet are happier) and I like to go play outside whenever I want. I think this year, I’m going to have to come up with more of a strategy to keep me happy and healthy throughout this season.

What do you do? Does it involve treadmills? I feel so reluctant about them.

PS: Today is my friend S’s bday! Yaaaaaaay! Happy day, friend! I know it’s a big one so I hope you celebrate in a crazily amazing way. :D

If you give a girl a microscope

Be prepared for some crazy photos.

OK so I may be in science communication now but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about my microscopy roots. Sitting in front of a microscope and looking at cool biology is pretty much the main thing I miss about doing bench work. So when I found out that Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (where I am currently working) made a microscope for your smart phone, I knew I needed it.

You just download the pattern from PNNL’s website, 3D print the holder and put a bead on it to use as a lens. Voila. Microscope. And the baseline version magnifies things 100x!

Sign. Me. Up.

One of my coworkers is super into 3D printing right now. So on Friday I told him about my need for one of these microscopes. He left and came back with an already completed microscope that he found in his desk! :D

I put it on my phone and immediately started looking for things to inspect in closer detail. Like this stuffed shark eye (obviously I have stuffed sharks on my desk).

I like that you can see all the fur around his eye.

The lighting in my cubicle is not great for microscoping, however. Just like most things with lenses (cameras, microscopes, etc.), the more zoom or magnification you have, the more light you need. I packed up the microscope to save it for more adventures over the weekend.

Now it’s fun times for you. Below I’ve posted a variety of things that I imaged around my house. You should try to guess what they are. The answers may or may not be at the bottom (don’t cheat!).

Ready?

3

2

1

    1. Whatever it is, it looks dirty. But I like the grid…
    2. I think this one is my favorite. It’s so artsy. Also hint: this one is the same object as what’s in the photo above it.
    3. “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

1

2

3

Answers!
1. Camping chair, 2. Potassium’s arm, 3. Living room carpet, 4. Kitty fur, 5. Also kitty fur, 6. Kitty ear (poor kitty), 7. Potassium’s shirt, 8. Shark towel, 9. Cobalt’s ear

I love all these pictures because they make science fun and artsy. I think that’s one reason I like microscopes in general. They give you a chance to marvel at how beautiful the world is, especially part of the world that you can’t normally see. Did you have a favorite image above? What would you want to look at up close? I think next I want to try some plants…

What did you do this weekend? Can you believe it’s almost October? I really need to get started on my Halloween costume. In other October news, I’m thinking about doing Inktober again on my Twitter account. I’d have to draw something every day of October. Could be fun…

Stay glassy, Seattle

This weekend, Cobalt’s sis and her kiddos (actually teenagers … !!!!) came to visit, and we went on a family trip to Seattle! We even met up with my sister so it was epic family time. Great fun. We went to the Space Needle, Pike Place, the Seattle Aquarium, and… the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum.

I went to college in Washington so I am well aware of Chihuly glass. One of the buildings at my school even had some of his artwork hanging in one of the windows! It looks a little like the glass in my photo on top. It’s always fun to see Chihuly glass out of the Pacific Northwest ā€” once we found it on display in an Oklahoma airport! But I was excited to see what Seattle had to offer since Chihuly is actually from Washington (Tacoma, actually). So I went on a mission for some of Chihuly’s artwork that looked different from what I was used to. I was successful in my quest.

Inside the museum, there were some beautiful glass sculptures that looked like baskets, really nice eel and octopus sculptures, and other interesting creations. I really liked the way the art was staged and lit. It made for fun colors and reflections.

Eeeee Octopus!
I like this egg shape, though those yellow things are venturing into the usual Chihuly territory. I like their reflections a lot though.
I couldn’t really see into any of these so I stood on my tiptoes to take a picture of the inside.

Then we headed out into the garden part and I had fun playing with reflections! This museum sits right next to the Space Needle so you could see it reflected in the art. Fun times!

Double Space Needle…..
Let’s end on a romantic self portrait with the Space Needle in the background. <3

That’s all for today. Is there an artist from your state that you can recognize anywhere? How do you feel about the artwork?

The great Spokane ramen-off!

Hellooooo everyone! I hope you are all doing well, especially people affected by Harvey, Irma, or fires. You are all in my thoughts right now. Tell me how I can help!

Today’s post is about ramen. First of all, I love noodles in almost every form but I have an ridiculous amount of affection for noodles in broth, like udon or ramen. Then Cobalt and I watched Tampopo, a Japanese western movie about ramen (yes you read that right), and now we are on a mission to eat as much ramen as possible.

We even made our own ramen to eat while we watched Tampopo! It was okay. We still have much to learn….

Moving on!

So the other weekend, when we were driving to Glacier National Park, we had to drive through Spokane, Washington. It was around lunch time when we hit the city so we decided to stop and grab some food. Two ramen places popped up on Yelp: NUDO Ramen House and King of Ramen. Who knew Spokane had such tasty ramen options? Because we were going to drive back through Spokane in a few days later, we decided to try one ramen place on the way there and the other ramen place on the way back. Then we could compare the two places and I could practice my on-the-go (read: with an iPhone, not a DSLR) food photography.

Conclusion: Though both places were pretty delicious, it appears that King of Ramen really is King, at least with this current dataset (once a scientist, always a scientist).

The breakdown:

We started with King of Ramen (photo up there!).
This one felt more like an authentic ramen shop. It had all these small pots for the noodles in the kitchen, which was separated from the restaurant with cute curtains and a bar. They had a variety of tasty ramen and curry options on the menu. Cobalt ended up ordering something spicy while I went with the vegetarian option. We also got some fried tofu and I got an iced green tea. The tofu was fried to perfection: crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. It was tasty on its own or as an addition to our ramen. Also my tea was yummy too. But the ramen itself felt like something was lacking in the broth and/or my soup was missing a key ingredient. Not sure what though. We’ll have to come back and try it again!

Oh and also we have to go back so I can try the curry because IĀ love Japanese curry.


On the way back, we stopped at NUDO.

If you’re wondering why the colors of this photo are a little more dull than the King of Ramen photo, it’s because it was 110% more smoky outside when we came back through Spokane. Booooo fires… :(

This restaurant is definitely more “hipster-y.” It had ramen-themed pop art on the walls and it just had a cool, sleek interior that seemed to be catering to the millennial crowd (as a millennial, I think I’m allowed to say this). Even the bathrooms were fancy – they had weird sinks.

Okay okay the ramen, Potassium, the ramen. So this time we both ordered a beef ramen and also got spring rolls. The beef ramen was good – the meat was tender and the broth was really flavorful. Plus I liked the bok choy in my soup! The noodles weren’t as good as King of Ramen’s noodles. And there was no egg in my ramen, which was sad because eggs in ramen are the best.

NUDO had one other problem: our waitress pretty much completely ignored us. Not like I need to be entertained by my waitstaff, but it’s nice when someone refills your water. Or at least brings you a carafe so you can refill your own water. I just wanted water! Plus she was so engrossed in a conversation with the only other patrons of the restaurant, that she didn’t even bring us our check. Some other server had to bring it to us. And then he asked us if we wanted to pay together or separate, which we thought was weird, considering it was only the two of us, and not a group. Is it weird? Discuss below.

One last thing. It was insanely smoky here last week (you can even tell that the light is off in that NUDO picture). The smoke was so thick that it felt more like we were eating the air instead of just breathing it in. Not great. But it’s cleared up a little and I even managed to catch a pic of Sunday night’s sunset. I’ll end this post with that.

One rainy Yosemite adventure

This past weekend, Cobalt and I embarked on an epic day trip to Yosemite National Park. Over the past year, we’ve been to five other national parks and monuments and we thought we could sneak one more in before 2016 ends. Plus my family and I used to go to Yosemite National Park every summer when I was growing up and I was itching to get back.

Having spent at least a week in Yosemite when I went with my family, I had to do some careful planning for our short day trip. It helped that a lot of the stuff that I enjoyed seeing in the summer (Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, etc.) is not open in the winter so I had a shorter list of things to choose from.

It’s about a 3.5 hour drive from here so we left at 7:30 a.m. to make sure we would have time to spend in the park. Our first stop: Yosemite Valley. It’s often super overcrowded in the summer but there’s a good reason for it. It’s simply spectacular to be surrounded on all sides by huge slabs of rock, rushing water, and impressive waterfalls. Cobalt is not one for crowds so I figured that by going to the valley in December, he’d still get to see the awesomeness without being surrounded by people. It was kind of a dreary day ā€” rainy and cold ā€” but there were still quite a few people in the valley. We headed to the Happy Isles trail head to go see Vernal Falls. You can’t drive to the trail head so we had to park the car and hike in. We got a little lost of our way to the trail head and wandered around the Happy Isles for a bit but it paid off because we saw a deer family! Here is a picture of the buck. I think this might be the best deer picture I have ever taken. Enjoy:

I love how regal he looks…

We eventually found the trail head and wandered up the short trail to the footbridge below Vernal Falls. It’s a nice trail, with amazing views of the river crashing around below and waterfalls sneaking down the walls of the valley. In the summer, I enjoy hiking past the footbridge via the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Falls but it is closed in the winter (mist = ice = slippery!) and we had a lot of other stuff to see! So we headed back down the trail to the car where we had a quick lunch before heading back to see the rest of the valley.

The rain was starting to come down harder by this point but that didn’t stop our fellow tourists from having fun on the valley floor. We had to stop to take pictures of the Yosemite Falls because I loved seeing the people playing in the snow through the mist. There was so much going on! People were taking Christmas pictures in Santa hats or throwing snowballs at each other. Some people were even getting out sleds to slide around the icy snow.

The upper Yosemite fall sits above the mist on the valley floor.

After touring the rest of the valley mostly by car, we set off towards Wawona, which is on the southern edge of the park. To get there, you head up out of the Valley through a long tunnel. Right before you leave the valley, there is a “Tunnel View” parking area where you can get one last glimpse of the entire valley. It was a family tradition to stop and take a picture so Cobalt and I stopped and asked a family to take our picture.

The mist covered up the valley minutes after this picture was taken.

It was pouring and starting to get dark by the time we reached Wawona but I had one required stop left. My family used to stay in Wawona when we visited Yosemite and we loved hiking the Chilnualna Falls trail. It’s about a 10 minute hike to the lower fall so we parked at the trail head and ran up the trail. It was incredible! We usually go in August, which is when the water is at a pretty low point but the fall was just gushing this weekend. Forget the rain, Cobalt and I got majorly misted as we scuttled down toward the fall. It was so great to see an old family favorite again. Can’t wait to come back here with my whole family one day (hopefully soon!).

Let’s get some humans in that photo.

How are you? What are you up to? This week, I have to report at the American Geophysical Union’s national conference. Should be fun but also scary!