Posted by: Tara Aarness | June 17, 2010

Unemployed Need Not Apply

This morning on CNNMoney.com (you can also find this on Yahoo! Finance) I read the article below, shocked by the clear statement it made. 

Out-of-work job applicants told unemployed need not apply

cnnmoney 

Chris Isidore, senior writer, On Wednesday June 16, 2010, 4:26 am EDT

The last thing someone who is unemployed needs to be told is that they shouldn’t even apply for the limited number of job openings that are available. But some companies and recruiters are doing just that.

Employment experts say they believe companies are increasingly interested only in applicants who already have a job.

“I think it is more prevalent than it used to be,” said Rich Thompson, vice president of learning and performance for Adecco Group North America, the world’s largest staffing firm. “I don’t have hard numbers, but three out of the last four conversations I’ve had about openings, this requirement was brought up.”

Some job postings include restrictions such as “unemployed candidates will not be considered” or “must be currently employed.” Those explicit limitations have occasionally been removed from listings when an employer or recruiter is questioned by the media though.

That’s what happened with numerous listings for grocery store managers throughout the Southeast posted by a South Carolina recruiter, Latro Consulting.

After CNNMoney called seeking comments on the listings last week, the restriction against unemployed candidates being considered came down. Latro Consulting refused to comment when contacted.

Sony Ericsson, a global phone manufacturer that was hiring for a new Georgia facility, also removed a similar restriction after local reporters wrote about it. According to reports, a Sony Ericsson spokesperson said that a mistake had been made.

But even if companies don’t spell out in a job listing that they won’t consider someone who currently doesn’t have a job, experts said that unemployed applicants are typically ruled out right off the bat.

“Most executive recruiters won’t look at a candidate unless they have a job, even if they don’t like to admit to it,” said Lisa Chenofsky Singer, a human resources consultant from Millburn, NJ, specializing in media and publishing jobs.

She said when she proposes candidates for openings, the first question she is often asked by a recruiter is if they currently have a job. If the answer is no, she’s typically told the unemployed candidate won’t be interviewed.

“They think you must have been laid off for performance issues,” she said, adding that this is a “myth” in a time of high unemployment.

It is not against the law for companies to exclude the unemployed when trying to fill positions, but Judy Conti, a lobbyist for the National Employment Law Project, said the practice is a bad one.

“Making that kind of automatic cut is senseless; you could be missing out on the best person of all,” she said. “There are millions of people who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer feels that the best qualified are the ones already working, they have no appreciation of the crisis we’re in right now.”

Conti added that firms that hire unemployed job seekers could also benefit from a recently-passed tax break that essentially exempts them from paying the 6.2% of the new hire’s wages in Social Security taxes for the rest of this year.

Thompson said he also thinks ruling out the unemployed is a bad idea. But he said that part of the problem is that recruiters and human resource departments are being overwhelmed with applications for any job opening that is posted. So they’re looking for any short-cuts to get the list of applicants to consider down to a more manageable size.

“It’s a tough process to determine which unemployed applicants were laid off even though they brought value to their company and which ones had performance issues,” he said. “I understand the notion. But there’s the top x percent of unemployed candidates who are very viable and very valuable. You just have to do the work to find them.”

Have you had trouble even applying for a job because you are out of work? If so e-mail us here to tell us your story.

http://money.cnn.com/2010/06/16/news/economy/unemployed_need_not_apply/index.htm

If you or someone you know is unemployed, please share your thoughts regarding this hot topic.

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Posted by: Tara Aarness | May 26, 2010

Volunteering to Help Build the Next A.R.K

Growing up I was always the shy one, never to volunteer for anything. I was what others commonly called ‘a wall flower.’ You may remember me – the girl in the back of the class that if you looked at me I might pee my pants? Yeah, that was me. But like many wall flowers before me, I had a desire deep within that blossomed over time and it wasn’t until someone recently forced me to acknowledge it that I realized just how good I have it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not one of these people who staggers around crying, ‘poor me, look at what (fill in the blank) did to me!’ and use that as an excuse and continue to cry and moan. Rather I’m the chick who calls herself to the mat when I screw up, try to learn from it, and move on, but I’m getting off point here.

This past week presented me with a unique opportunity to become an officer of the law, but not for humans, for animals. Already having well over 1,000 document volunteer hours at our local animal shelter, I felt confident I could take on such an opportunity and serve our county proudly. Ready to play ball with the big boys, I gave it all I had and struck out. But I’m not upset about not being offered the opportunity, as I’m friends with the two people they hired (truth be told, I’m married to one of them) and with their professional experience in this field, I’m very happy for them both.

You’re waiting for the ‘but’ right now, aren’t ya? Well, there isn’t one. Instead, after composing my resume for this position, I’ve realized something rather important about myself. I’ve donated over 20,000 hours of my time toward helping others, regardless of day, night, or holidays and I couldn’t be happier; to show you what I mean, take a look at the resume I submitted (the non-padded, bare boned version).

                                                 Tara Aarness

                                                742 Evergreen Terrace

                                                Springfield, USA 123-ABC

                                                (KL5) 847-6300

Volunteer Background (total volunteer hours – over 20,000 hours)

  • King County Animal Care and Control: While following safety guidelines, routinely assisted Officers with feeding and medicating a range of animals, provided support via preparing food, laundry, cleaning supplies, as well as cleaning of adoptable cats and kittens to ensure their comfort; prepare enclosures and care for variety of livestock including, but not limited to, goats and confiscated fighting cocks. Fostered through KCACC; dogs, cats, rabbits, and fish, and have adopted and owned several dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, arthropods and small mammals. Donated over 1,000 hours to KCACC.

 

  • McGill Fire Department: Responded to many calls counting child gunshot victims, car accidents, forest fires, house fires, attempted suicides, used my CAP experience in responding to a plane crash, medical assists including heart attacks, treating our own member of the department, seizures, fielding countless other calls ranging though out the year, regardless of time or day.

 

  • White Pine County Sherriff’s Office: Participated in bi-yearly food drives by collecting donated canned goods and distributing said goods to the needy, while compiling a list of services people needed and contacting providers offering free services.  

 

  • Civil Air Patrol (CAP): Trained in first aid, safety, and responded to air plane crashes and/or difficulties; attended several search and rescue courses, having the opportunity to utilize my knowledge in the field; conducted Flood Assessment Damage, as well as searching for additional victims, relocating them to safer ground.

Writing and Volunteer Background

  • Writing: Developer, writer, editor and designer of a wide range of media, including magazine, newspaper, and online content. Noted for content and reliably meeting deadlines.

 

  • Editing: Contributing editor for local magazine of over 3,000 in circulation, freelance for various clients. Experienced in copyediting, content editing, and proofreading.

While a fire fighter, nothing put life into perspective better than responding to a call. Being able to walk away knowing that in someone’s hour of need, I was there to lend comfort made all of my silly problems seem, well silly. It’s not to say that I haven’t faced major life issues, quite on the contrary. I’ve faced having to say good-bye to family members, the realization that, at the ripe old age of 28, I had to have a hysterectomy just to save my life, thus never giving birth to a child of my own (a deep seeded dream), a (now ex) husband who relentlessly cheated on me while I was battling the disease that lead to the hysterectomy, a stalker who is just as relentless as was my ex, and there’s plenty more I could mention.

But in the face of all the lives that I’ve come into contact with in their hour of need, I’ve realized that we as human beings owe it to not just ourselves, but to others as well, and reach out to one another. You don’t have to volunteer at an animal shelter, a food bank, or fire station; it’s much simpler than that. All that’s necessary is to smile at the stranger on the street as you pass by, if you see a child lose his shoe and the mother doesn’t notice, pick it up and hand it back to the mom, let the person behind you who only has one or two items go ahead of you when you have a hundred. These simple Acts of Random Kindness (A.R.K – thanks goes out to the writers and producers of the movie, ‘Evan Almighty’ for coming up with that one) go further than any one of us can imagine and it’s easy to believe that you’ve just started a rather beautiful domino effect ending in global peace. Ok, so maybe that’s taking it a bit too far, but hey, we can try, can’t we?

Posted by: Tara Aarness | May 19, 2010

Living With STD’s

Ok, I’ll admit it; I have an HPV and am not afraid of letting the world know. STD’s are very common here in Washington, as it seems everyone has them nowadays. I am, of course, referring to Socially Transmitted Diseases and being proud of my Human Powered Vehicle – our little, green push mower.    

Good Things Come in Small Packages

 

With the environment and economy in the state they’re in, push mowers make sense, what with the fuel costs the way they are. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Not for me, thanks, too much work,’ but hear me out.    

  • Saving the environment from CO2 gases
  • Get a good workout while being productive
  • Budget friendly (won’t be buying expensive fuel or gym fees)
  • Won’t be depleting natural resources (doesn’t require oil)
  • No noise pollution (early Saturday mornings, you won’t annoy your neighbors)
  • Low upkeep/maintenance
  • Better for the lawn, making it the envy of your neighborhood (push mowers cut the lawn like scissors vs. gas powered mowers that cut away at the blade of grass. Think of it like having your hair cut with sharp scissors vs. very dull ones)

These are just a few of the benefits to be named. With our kids growing as fast as our lawns, it seems we have hardly enough time to fit everything into our already packed schedules and both end up suffering.    

Society praises wafer thin models and actresses, leaving the rest of us envious and self loathing, as we trudge off to the Zumba classes that hardly gets your pulse racing, just so we can feel marginally better about ourselves and be better parents. With the push mowers at our fingertips and a lawn that’s vying for your attention, your abs, arms, and legs will get a great workout and you can immediately spend the time and money you saved with your family, enjoying the fruits of your labor.    

My idea is simple and with no hidden cause or message. Push mowers, though difficult and not the easiest solution around, are one of the greatest tools a multitasked individual could ever ask for (easier is hardly ever better). Saving the planet, being a better parent, get a good workout, be a good neighbor, and in the end, quality time with your family. Sometimes all we need in life is a little push to get us started.

Posted by: Tara Aarness | May 17, 2010

Going Greek

Didn't Know Going Greek Could Be This Good!

Being not much of a foodie, seldom do I come across a dish that’s plate licking worthy and it’s even rarer that I come across one that is healthy, to boot. Getting in touch with my Greek roots (according to Ancestry.com, I have them…waaaaaay deep down); I cranked up ‘Zorba the Greek’ and any other Greek music I could find, preparing to whip up this simple, yet scrumptious salad.

With our kitchen nearly completed, I set up make shift counter space near our rabbit, Ms. Beatrix Potter (named after the author of Peter Rabbit), as it was the only available space. Chopping the veggies, she and I danced the Kalamatianos like Plato and Aristotle did, yet without nearly as much skill, let alone wisdom (although Ms. Potter was much better than I).

The Chopped Greek Salad with Chicken is loaded with vitamins, quick to make, and incredibly easy. Already Gordon Ramsay’s worst kitchen nightmare, though, I was skeptical on their claims and was very pleasantly surprised when even I, Captain Slow (yes, I just stole James May’s nickname), had dinner ready in just five minutes later than the claimed amount of time. Was even more surprised when it actually tasted like it should; no induced vomiting required! Hoorah, I have made something – from scratch – that’s edible! My husband, who happily eats anything I put in front of him (the man has an iron stomach and a heart of gold), loved this and it’s been placed on our regular menu.

If you’re like me and in a sassy mood, I suggest trying yours with a few cappers, artichoke hearts, and kalamata olives. Their zesty flavor wasn’t too much, as I had feared, and I reveled in the taste.

So, folks, if you’re up for something quick, easy, and oh so very tasty, try this and please let me know what you and your family think! And if you happen to have any recipes you’d like to share, please pass them this way. Kalí óreksi!

Chopped Greek Salad with Chicken (July/August, 2009 issue of Eating Well magazine)

4 servings, about 3 cups each

Active Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients
• 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
• 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
• 2 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken, (about 12 ounces; see Tip)
• 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
• 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
• 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
• 1/2 cup sliced ripe black olives
• 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preparation

1. Whisk vinegar, oil, dill (or oregano), garlic powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add lettuce, chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and feta; toss to coat.

Nutrition
Per serving: 343 calories; 18 g fat (5 g sat, 7 g mono); 89 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrates; 31 g protein; 3 g fiber; 618 mg sodium; 656 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (140% daily value), Vitamin C (45% dv), Folate (31% dv), Potassium (19% dv), Calcium (15% dv)

1 Carbohydrate Serving

Posted by: Tara Aarness | May 14, 2010

Simon Says ‘Go Wild’

Ah, the zoo; a fun filled family environment to bring your family to visit… your family. Just kidding about that last part, but the fact remains that many people do believe in evolution. My parents may read this and immediately become angry. However, it is not my intention to offend creationists or evolutionists alike. As Darwin provided evidence, life is comprised of many genetic mutations over the course of time evolving from the simplest life forms into where we are today. And that takes us back to the zoo and visiting relatives.

On a particularly nippy late spring day, my family and I headed north to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, one of our favorite haunts. Like so many other adults, I was raised in a strict religious home (in the past, some friends of mine have used the word ‘zealot’). We were taught that animals were put on this earth to entertain us, serving no other purpose. Not seeing the ‘value’ in going to the zoo very often, we only visited once or twice, never learning the importance of each species survival. Becoming globally aware of our planet and its inhabitants, my husband, Erik, and bonus son, Bjorn, and I make frequent trips to the zoo in an effort to learn all we can and to make ‘contact.’

Being mindful and respectful of other guests, we approach the divider and observe the animal, hopeful that the animal will in turn engage us. By ‘engage us’ I’m mainly referring to primates. Careful to not make eye contact (in primates, it’s seen as a sign of aggression and dominance); make quick glances to the primate, trying to mimic their actions and catch their eye. Studying primates has given me greater insight as to how closely we are related and it’s this realization that has fueled my desire to help protect the species.

CEO’s of many zoos cannot stress enough the importance of having visitors engage with the animals, as it not only provides a greater experience, but develops a deeper responsibility toward our environment.

Reaching the Siamang enclosure, we discovered a break in the wave of people and took this unique opportunity to simply enjoy the captivated nature. On a prior visit, Erik took an amazing photo of the male Siamang, Simon, and it sits just below my computer screen. Often, I gaze into his eyes and realize that we are truly very much alike. As Bjorn bent to tie his shoe, I crouched down near the glass and looked for a familiar face. Within a minute, Simon came up to where I sat. Surprised, I smiled (careful not to show teeth) and began taking notes, but was quickly interrupted as I heard a sharp voice coming from behind.

Startled, I turned to see a docent standing before me, with her hands on her hips, a deeply etched scowl upon her face, and scolding me as if I were a wayward two year old. Even though all I had done was crouch down, notebook visible, and smile, she berated and belittled me for ‘interfering with the mating process.’ Nothing gathers a crowd a faster than one primate verbally bashing another and by now, the area was packed.

Apparently, the zoo was taking great measures to encourage Simon mate with a much younger female and any outside distraction was disrupting their hopeful success. And needless to say, at that moment, I was the source of Simon’s distraction. What can I say? I just have this irresistible, animalistic nature that primates just can’t resist.  Speechless and mortified, I stood there and took her verbal assault. As she stalked away, the three of us looked in vain for any indication that the Siamangs were off exhibit, but found none. With our spirits dampened, we decided to call it a day, despite the early hour.  

Days had passed and the more I thought of what happened, the angrier I became. Deciding to address the situation, I composed a professional letter to the head of the zoo, explaining the events, my feelings, as well as providing the evidence of why it is so important for visitors to be engaged with the animals on exhibit. I promptly received a reply that was, to be honest, shocking.

Along with apologizing profusely, they promised to address the situation with the docent immediately, as well as all of the staff, and we were given a full year paid membership to the zoo. If that weren’t enough already, they offered us deal we couldn’t refuse – a behind the scenes tour of the elephants and giraffes, feeding included. We assumed the ‘feeding’ would entail us feeding the animals, rather than us being the main course; there are other ways of dealing with blabber mouths like me. Astonished, I thanked them for their incredible generosity and stated that we truly did not expect such grand gestures, but I merely wanted them to be aware of the situation.

The date of our tour arrived and we were greeted by Anne Knapp, one of the loveliest ladies I’ve ever met. Her warm smile, enthusiasm and passion for the animals at the zoo, as well as the visitors, were evident. Ensuring that we had our camera ready, we set off toward our first enclosure, the elephants.

Introductions were made and we followed the keepers into the back of the Holding Barn, a view we’d seen many times prior, but from the other side.  An enclosed, open area viewable to the public, it serves many purposes, but this morning it was for bathing, which doubles as a routine examination.

Co-workers on break

Having been introduced to Watoto, a female African elephant born between 1969 and 1970 in Kenya, the keepers began their task, discussing the importance of the species they love so much, and answering the plethora of questions we threw at them.

Many cultures believe the elephant is the symbol of wisdom, given their intelligence mimicking humans. With a life span of 50 to 70 years, and gestation of 22 months, their continued existence is critical. Standing between nine to ten feet in height and weighing around an average of 7,700 pounds, the African elephants environmental destruction maintain the survival of an unfathomable amount of species. To put it simply, they plow the land owned by the community, enabling others members (such as giraffes, dikdik’s, and Impala’s) to feed upon the younger Acacia trees that would have died if the elephants hadn’t knocked down the older, taller trees, shadowing the younger.

The Thompson’s Gazelle, cheetah’s, leopards, and lions all benefit from the vast openness of the Savannah that the elephants ‘gardening’ and ‘pruning’ of trees that would grow to detrimental heights, thus starving the giraffes, too. By keeping the flora in check, the elephants stabilize an ecosystem that would crumble and set a domino effect in motion that would affect you and me, on the other side of the planet.

Spending time with Watoto, feeding her treats and learning of her environment and wisdom, it is easy to acquire the sense of protection needed before her wild family vanishes. Taking our newfound knowledge, we continued along the same path toward the giraffes to finish our tour.

Standing atop an elevated platform, we were greeted by the curious faces of these elegant and graceful mammals. The keepers were lovely, too. A giraffe’s average height is between 15 and 18 feet tall and we immediately understood why elephants are so very important. Being picky eaters, favoring mainly acacia trees and only occasionally consuming other various trees or shrubs, we comprehend the need for selective pruning, all the while reseeding, with a rather large shot of, uh, fertilizer. In the Savannah, it seems nothing goes to waste. While giraffes aren’t in any danger of becoming threatened, they are like us, depending upon other species for survival and it is this link that bonds each species together.

With our tour completed and our minds opened to the world around us, we walked away, set to explore the rest of the planet located on 92 acres. Stopping briefly to say hello to Simon, we each said thanks in our own way for the opportunity he brought us to help save the planet. And I said a special thanks to the docent who, in her own uniqueness, reminded me that the survival of every animal, great and small, is crucial, before the human race becomes extinct.

Posted by: Tara Aarness | May 11, 2010

Weeding Through the Wedding Chaos

Mother’s Day served dual duty this year as my husband, Erik, and I celebrated our first year of marriage. Like so many other couples, we faced many challenges while planning our wedding; some routine, some not so routine.

While working as an Animal Control Officer, Erik had to be conscientious of his fellow co-workers shifts and already scheduled time off. My future bonus-son, Bjorn, was the best man and we needed to choose a date accordingly with the parenting plan. The only date that fit within everyone’s schedule was May 9th, the day prior to Mother’s Day and the location was where we went on our first date – the Grays Harbor Lighthouse in Westport, Washington.

At the beginning of the year, I put my career on hold to assist my future mother-in-law, Judy, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Between doctor visits, she and I spent time discussing and planning the nuptials. She requested that we marry quickly, so she may join in the celebration, even if it was from her bed. Out of respect for her, we did what we then thought was right and asked my family not to come. They had moved to Florida just three years prior, but frequent emails and phone calls closed the gap as we cyberly shopped for my wedding attire.

With Judy’s health declining, she asked us to move into her home and prepare it for her to spend her remaining days there, with her family and hospice nurse beside her. Working long hours, many from dawn ’til well after dusk, we had the majority of her home organized, as well as much of our wedding details taken care of. Sadly, though, Judy died five weeks prior to our wedding and she is still deeply missed. Just days prior to her death, she requested that Erik, her only child, and I still move into her home, as she was concerned of it sitting empty and becoming a target for vandalism. Keeping our word, we moved into her home, comforted by the memories of her life and Erik’s childhood.

Two weeks to go before the big day and I was moving the last of the boxes. We had yet to sleep in the house, not quite ready to bring ourselves to sleep in his deceased parent’s bedroom and with the adage of April showers bringing May flowers prevalent, especially in Seattle, it was tricky to move our mattress without it becoming soaking wet. Or maybe that was just an excuse to delay the inevitable. Unable to procrastinate any longer, and seizing the brief glimpse of dry weather, I loaded the mattress on to the top of our Jeep, tightening the last strap down, just as the wind kicked up. Literally seconds later, the sky opened up and a deluge of rain soaked the mattress, and my spirits.

Standing out in the pouring rain, I found myself sobbing for the loss of a friend and mother-in-law, the absence of my family, and the sheer stress of life. It was at that moment when my maid of honor, Annette, Erik’s half sister on his dad’s side, called to see if I needed any help. Apparently my incoherent babbling caused a bit of concern and she decided to stage an immediate intervention with coffee, her truck, and her incredible personality. She’s one of these stick thin women that can immediately make you smile, all the while tackle the most heinous of projects without ever breaking a sweat; a trait she shares with her half brother, except for being stick thin, as he inherited the height and Norwegian build from their father.

After some girl talk, laughter, and good coffee, we loaded the vehicles with the last of our belongings and I said goodbye to the home I’d shared with my fiancé for almost a decade. Arriving at our new home and soon life together, we unloaded the remaining boxes and tackled the dripping wet mattress. Hoping against hope, we propped it against a wall under the heater vent and prayed it’d dry out prior to our wedding night.

Convinced I was sane again, or at least saner, Annette left to check on our flowers and take care of a few other wedding details, while I called my parents. Erik and I had always felt rather badly about not inviting them to come, however Judy was hurt that she wasn’t going to be able to attend and, at the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. Explaining this to my folks, I told them how sorry we were and that we knew we couldn’t change the past, but how much it would mean to us both if my dad would walk me down the aisle. We offered to pay for the round-trip airfare from Florida to Seattle, room and board, provide them with their own transportation, and even tried sweetening the deal by offering them some spending money. But they refused to come stating it was too much of a financial burden upon them and that they didn’t want to miss my sister’s weekly Saturday night dinner held at her house. In the month following, I would learn just how much I hurt them by originally asking them not to come and that their refusal to be a part of our wedding was their way of ‘punishing me,’ as my sister told me.

Three days prior to our wedding and the reality of our move was beginning to sink in, replacing the sorrow with anticipation of a new beginning. During the move, we experienced colder than usual temperatures and discovered the heat in the house hardly worked. With a new heating system installed and fresh optimism, we tackled the next project – running water beyond just a trickle. We were aware of some of the issues while Judy was still with us; however no one knew just how much work needed to be done on this old house. Hot water was unheard of and the kitchen had a few weak spots in the flooring to the point where the kitchen sink literally fell through the floor, leaving an eight foot by six foot opening to the crawl space; which was great for when we were going to replace the non-existent insulation and plumbing, but hell for wanting to use the kitchen. In addition, neither the stove nor oven worked, and the refrigerator had interesting smells that refused to vacate, even after vigorous cleaning. Clearly, the kitchen was completely useless.

The night before our wedding, though, Erik and Bjorn repaired the plumbing to where we not only had running water, but it was hot, as well. Hot showers for all had me in high spirits and my guys are the geniuses who made it all possible. While they were working their magic, I packed the Jeep with the flowers, cake, clothing for the guys, and my dress as to save time in the morning, then happily cuddled up with my remarkable fiancé on our air mattress for one last night of unbridled passion before he made ‘an honest woman out of me’ the following morning.

Late night nookie led to oversleeping and a hurried frenzy to get everyone out the door quickly; we still had a 2 ½ hour drive to the lighthouse and we were already a twenty minutes behind schedule. Driving just a touch over the speed limit, we discussed breakfast and the possibility of skipping it. A dark look from both Erik and Bjorn let me know that wasn’t an option, so, against my protests, we stopped at Denny’s and ate quickly. Our delay worked for us, though, as Annette and her husband, Mark, (who was also our photographer), were running a bit behind, as well as our minister. Seems everyone had one thing or another go on the night before.

We were the last to arrive, but as Erik reminded me, they couldn’t start without us, and we had the foresight to book extra time, which definitely came in handy. The Grays Harbor Lighthouse stands at 107 feet and was built by C.W. Leick, who considers it to be his masterpiece. 135 steps takes you to the top, also known as the ‘Wedding Cake,’ aptly named after the unique design of the top of the lighthouse, where you have an outstanding 360 degree, unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean, the soft, sandy beaches, and quaint, picturesque town. You would think climbing or descending 135 stairs in a gown and heels would be challenging, but the steps were surprisingly heel friendly and the location and price were unbeatable.

Before beginning our procession, everyone took a moment to truly admire the sheer beauty and stark contrast of the crisp white lighthouse against the vibrant, clear blue sky. On the way up to the ‘Lens room,’ as it’s also called, everyone joked about not needing to exercise after that and once reaching the top, there was a collective ‘awe’ as we each took in the view.

Bjorn, the night before nervously practicing what he was going to say as he gave me away, confidently responded to the ministers questions and when the time was right, handed his dad the ring with all the look of love in his eyes. Erik, looking deeply into mine, proclaimed his love to me and I felt every word, knowing that this love is eternal. And as I said my vows, I made a special one to Bjorn, promising to be the best bonus mom, rather than the wicked ones tv and movies so like to portray, and to love him honestly and truly like my own. We were then pronounced as family, by the court of law, and it was time to party.

Reaching the bottom, we discovered my maid of honor and her husband had a surprise in store for us, and we were greeted with sparkling cider for all. The picnic table was ideally located, and as we sat, drank, and laughed, we signed the marriage certificate, officially legally binding us and I don’t think any of us could have been happier.

We had enough time to take several photos throughout the lighthouse and grounds before they officially reopened the lighthouse to tourists. A few snuck down the long drive; however, they were very respectful and even offered their heartfelt congratulations. As we prepared to leave for the reception, which was held less than a mile away at The Islander Restaurant, Erik noticed that our wedding cake had received some damage. Luckily for us, The Islander is equipped with a very skilled staff that effortlessly reassembled the cake for us, at no extra charge. After our meal of fresh caught seafood, the reception continued out on the beach where everyone collected sea shells as
souvenirs and splashed in the still chilly water.

One year has passed and we’ve celebrated the anniversaries of not just our wedding, but the life of a mother and friend, the move to a new home and the new life that brought with it. Every wedding brings new challenges to overcome and new opportunities to compromise, generally in the form of the bride or groom suffering an insufferable hangover from the ‘last night of freedom.’ I’ve learned that these challenges are only a taste of what married life has to offer and it is how you deal with these challenges that will ultimately either make or break your marriage. With some of the bad already behind us, I’m confident that our marriage can survive whatever life has in store for us, just as I’m certain yours will stand the test of time.


 

 


 


 


 

 

 

 


 

Posted by: Tara Aarness | March 14, 2010

Damn Right It’s A Beautiful Day

36,500 days in your life, if you live to 100 years of age. When you think about the sum of that number, it’s not a lot. Putting it into financial terms, you could buy a decent car or truck for that much, it’s a down payment on a house (albeit a small down payment), it could pay for a year of college at a higher end university.

Yet, with this limited time, we spend most of it allowing the challenges we each face daily to override the beauty that this life offers. All too frequently we ignore, or fail to notice, the sheer simplicity of the birds singing, the blooms on the trees, shrubs, and flowers, the purity of a child’s laugh, the unconditional love our pets bestow upon us, and the love from those closest to us. Each day we are given a precious gift of waking up in the morning and deciding what your path will be that day.

People have told me that it’s impossible for one person to change the world, but I’m taking a page from Alice in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and attempting to accomplish the impossible. Together or singularly, we can change the world, one small act at a time, as each positive act is like a ripple; it grows bigger and bigger, creating a wave. I’ve said this a million times and I realize I’m like a broken record (I, myself, have trouble following my own advice, by the way), but I’m going to keep reminding everyone (myself included) until each person in this beautiful world realizes what we’ve got before it’s gone.

As you wake up tomorrow morning, I encourage you to find the beauty that greets you, even if it’s liquid sunshine (for hose of you not privileged enough to live in Seattle, liquid sunshine is my term for rain), because as The Eels once said in their song ‘Mr. E‘s Beautiful Blues‘, ‘Goddamn right it’s a beautiful day, ahah…’

The Love of My Life

Posted by: Tara Aarness | March 8, 2010

The Beauty of Life

Driving along my city streets, a brilliant array of pinks, greens, with splashes of yellow greet me and remind me that, like our ancestors before us, we have survived winters cold grasp.

Wonderfully Early Spring

The salmon pink of Japanese Quince shrubs standout amongst their stark, chocolate brown stems. Not to be outdone, Cherry trees burst with soft pinks, while fresh green leaves burst forth competing to be noticed. Yellow daffodil flowers in full glory are held high by their deep, lush green stems are clustered between tulips, which are awaiting their recognition.

Japanese Quince

And every morning, I am awakened by the light that filters through our curtains that the love of my life draws back before returning to the warmth of our bed. As my eyes begin to clear, he whispers, as he’s done for nearly the past ten years, ‘I love you,’ and I smile, curling up with him. Gazing out our window toward the Ornamental Flowering Plum trees that seemly bloomed overnight, the sunlight dapples through the petals of their delicate pink flowers and this is how I start each day.

Our Ornamental Flowering Plum

Troubles are undoubtedly a part of life, yet the beauty that greets me daily, regardless of type of sun Seattle has to offer, reminds me to simply enjoy each moment and be grateful, because today is a great day to be alive.

Posted by: Tara Aarness | February 25, 2010

Leprechauns, Pagans, and Others Related to St. Patrick’s Day

Spring is nearly upon us bringing not only warmer temperatures, lush, green stems and buds teasing to open early, but the arrival of a much loved, but little known holiday. Yes folks, I’m referring to St. Patrick’s Day. The Celt’s (pronounced with a hard ‘C’) are responsible for the Chicago River being dyed green every year, Guinness’ beer sales skyrocketing, and every man, woman and child dressed in green out of fear of being pinched.

There is great controversy as to when St. Patrick was born, however it is widely accepted that he lived in the fourth century. When he was sixteen, he was enslaved by the Irish Raiders for six years before returning to his family home in Roman Britain where, like his father and grandfather before him, he devoted his life to the Church becoming a deacon and bishop. He then returned to Ireland as a missionary where it has been said that he drove the snakes from Ireland and this is where our story begins. Up until this point, Ireland had been a predominately Pagan country. They worshiped Athene, the goddess of wisdom and her symbol was in the form a snake or serpent, if you will to the point of embedding serpents into their coins. In an effort to explain the Holy Trinity to the Pagans, St. Patrick introduced a three leafed clover or the shamrock as an example and since then, has been considered a symbol of good luck and embedded image of Ireland.

As St. Patrick converted more and more Pagans to Christianity, it became a popular belief that he ‘drove the snakes from Ireland.’ History has proven that Ireland, being an island, never had any snakes residing among the countrymen and therefore, St. Patrick was simply teaching Christianity. So if you’re a fan of ‘The Simpson’s,’ this might help explain the episode titled, ‘Whacking Day.’ Physically driving the snakes from the town of Springfield, just as metaphorically in Ireland, the episode also relates to the tradition from the early 1900’s to demean the Irish immigrants.

Leprechauns are yet another delight associated with St. Patrick’s Day. Legends of these mischievous, two foot tall, Irish faeries are as important to St. Paddy’s Day as St. Patrick himself. Often found to be intoxicated by their own home brew, they are not only guards of great wealth, but enjoy playing tricks on poor unsuspecting humans, almost as much as they enjoy their drink.

So my friends as you celebrate this St. Paddy’s Day, be sure to drink a toast to the man himself who followed his beliefs, aided the poor, refused gifts offered by kings for baptizing their sons, and escaped execution for taking no payment. And if you happen to go in search of a lucky shamrock, be sure to be on the look out for the impish leprechauns, as you may just stumble upon their pot of gold.

Posted by: Tara Aarness | February 20, 2010

A Life Worth Exploring

With the exceptions of truly inadvisable weather and illness, my family and I regularly take opportunities to enjoy life to the fullest, as most of us are aware, we only get one shot at this rather short life. Our normal interests take us out into the wilds of Washington, and with today’s brilliant early Spring warmth, we headed into a different sort of wild. Downtown Seattle.

The canyon of concrete pointing the way to the Sound

Driving northbound, we noticed the magnolias with their variance of either just blooming or in full bloom, the Japanese Cherry bursting with soft, sweet pink petals, camellias showing off their vibrant, dark pink blossoms against their evergreen leaves, and the sweet scent of Spring filled our senses.

Reaching the heart of Seattle, the scents changed from the life of gardens to the life of the city. Various restaurants emitting tantalizing smells from the world over mingled with the freshly cut flowers vendors offered, and occasionally, Seattle’s signature scent of the Puget Sound marine air that is truly indescribable, kissed our cheeks briefly in welcoming us back to the city of our birth.

One of the many great buildings our city has to offer

Awestruck with the sheer magnitude of beauty that Seattle offers, we popped into our local haunt for a bite to eat and enjoyed the incredible food, as well as unbeatable ambiance. This little well known place truly offers the best of everything Seattle has to offer at a reasonable price. Often busy, we were delighted to find ourselves amidst the rarity of between waves of diners. Just after we ate, we joined other passer byes in the celebration of two people giving their nuptials near this iconic establishment.

The bright sunlight played upon the buildings, casting irregular shadows that even seasoned Seattleites couldn’t resist noticing, and we made our way toward another famous icon – the Pike Place Market. Making our way down the cobblestone streets, we passed people from literally all over the world, as well as many locals. Every nationality, every age range intermingled and conversed while in queue at Le Panier, or while waiting to pass the overly congested streets or halls. Established in 1983 when a Frenchman living in the US was home sick for decent croissants’ and baguettes, he opened Le Panier, the only pastry shop in Seattle where you can get a genuine taste of France.

The iconic Pike Place Market

After exiting the shop with my brown bag full of carbs (at a very low price, I might add), I noticed two young boys of roughly seven or eight years of age, walking toward me, cups of Seattle’s Best Coffee (locally known as Seattle’s Best) in hand. They each complained about the amount of people in the Market and how closely one of them came to spilling their coffee. Only in Seattle, it seems, would this seem natural.

Standing on the street corner waiting for the light to change, my husband nodded to the couple next to us and said, ‘Beautiful day.’ The man replied, ‘Yes, The Mountain’s out and you can see the Olympics. Hope this lasts, but hear rain’s coming.’ Ah, locals.

The Olympic Mountains across the Puget Sound


The Pike Place Market with the Olympics in the Distance

Walking up the hills, away from ‘the Sound,’ as it’s known here, we catch whiffs of it’s purity and it never ceases to amaze me at how this city can smell so clean! Reaching Benaroya Hall where music has filled the soul for years, we bump into an old friend of my husbands from a good decade ago and exchange information; listening to their banter I think of how often this happens. Geez, I just can’t take him anywhere.

Heading south toward home, Mt. Rainier in all of her majestic glory, stands tall and proud, guiding us toward more of our country home, ‘out in the sticks,’ as some have called it, leaving a city filled with anything your mind can create, behind (for the time being, of course).

Mt. Rainier - through a dirty lense

With the warmer weather licking at our heels, our weekends will be filled with searching our rainforest for Bigfoot, flying kites or clam digging at one of our magnificent beaches that play in the Pacific Ocean, kayaking the Sound where we‘re protected from the harsh ocean winds, camping in the desert among the various lizards or snakes, hiking throughout the Cascade Mountains, riding on one of the worlds largest fleets of ferries, or visiting the many museums the city has to offer. For as long as I live, though, I will never be able to see or experience all that Washington has to offer.

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