The Breakup

Note: This is not me breaking up with Jonathon. It’s Valentine’s Day. He’s a keeper.


Remember how I wrote about the magical properties of snow, just a few days ago? Remember that? How it was like your high school crush showing up at your door? Yeah. I think I’m over it. The snow continues to melt…slowly. The same insulating quality that makes snow great building material for igloos is the same quality that keeps it from melting, especially when it’s piled high.

Our neighbor called yesterday.

“Susan, did you know when the city plowed the main road, they threw up large berms of snow? They blocked both entrances to our access road.”

No, I didn’t know. Because I couldn’t get out of the driveway.

“Could you call them?” she asked. “I’ve called twice.”

I didn’t want to. I know the guys work around the clock to keep the main arterials safe, then the other roads in order of most used. But I did. I left a message for my old boss. He called right back.

“We’ll get you out of there before you go crazy,” he said.

“Too late,” I said.

He laughed.

And they came out a couple hours later and mowed down one of the egresses.

Now, we needed to do our part. Jonathon carved out a path for us to drive on. I helped a little. The top snow felt light and fluffy. Underneath, it had compacted and become like wet cement. Shoveling snow is not for wimps. Dakota shadowed us, diving into each shovelful as if searching for buried treasure.

Pepper car path.jpg

This morning, I tried throwing a ball to Dakota, staying on the cleared path. She lost it right away. I sighed. Another day without fetching tennis balls. I felt bad for her. We walked the half-plowed access road. The sidelined snow formed bizarre shapes, hardened in the freezing air, impromptu snow sculptures. The asphalt underneath my feet alternated between puddles, crunchy snow and ice. The air glowed, an early dawn reflected off the snow. Dakota trotted ahead of me, mostly sniffing for places to mark. I wondered what animals had braved the cold during the night.

When I came back inside, a voicemail greeted me. Must have been left yesterday.

“Susan, you rock! Look, they came down and did the lane! You are the hero for the day.” The neighbor said in her message.

She made me laugh. But we all know who the real heroes are. And they don’t need capes.



Work Anniversary

Today marks the one-year anniversary of when I started working for the city.


I’m surprised at how quickly time went by. I’d like to take a moment to pause and reflect on what I’ve learned this past year.

  • The front counter gal on the planning side makes a mean cup of coffee. Thank God.
  • And…I don’t ever want to do her job. She interacts with the public every day, yet keeps all the cogs of the planning and permitting department running. She’s a rock star.
  • It’s possible to get promoted twice in one year and never leave your cubicle.
  • Engineers don’t change:  no news is good news.
  • Everyone has a story. If you’re lucky, they’ll tell it to you.
  • Engineers still have the corniest sense of humor on the planet.
  • Even if you put meetings on an Outlook calendar, people might miss it.
  • Passion for excellence and doing it right inspires.
  • Shelton’s department directors accept walk-in appointments. They remain accessible.
  • Dressing up too much makes you look suspicious. See below…

Coworker, smiling: “You look really nice today.”
Me, smiling:  “Thanks!”
Coworker:  “Do you have a job interview or something?”
Me, stifling an inner sigh: “No, I only wanted to feel like a grownup today.

  • Everyone wears multiple hats and covers at least one other job. Don’t undervalue employees. Small cities create mighty workers.
  • Both kinds of milk containers are recyclable.
  • Just because someone says they know the winning Powerball numbers doesn’t mean they do.

Thank you, Shelton, for an opportunity that turned into a great adventure. Here’s to many more!

Necessary Heroes

It’s Monday again. It’s raining and 35 degrees. Out of the corner of my eye, on the floor below me, I can see several street staff trying to fix the cherry picker in the garage. They’re all wearing variations on the same shirt/sweatshirt,


which makes them look like they’re part of a special club. Which, I suppose, they are. No, I don’t feel left out, in case you’re wondering. They talk and point.  One hard-hatted guy wrenches down a screw on the bucket. No doubt they need to take out some broken tree limbs.

By the way, the garage’s floor space is nearly consumed by the street sweeper, sanding truck, paint machine, roller and vactor truck. Oh, and the mechanic’s truck tucked ‘way in the back.

We have a lot of equipment. Most if it lives on the lot. Pickups. Garbage trucks. Dump trucks. You name it.

But it makes sense because we have a lot to take care of. Streets. Drains. Sewer connections. Sidewalks. Stoplights. Pump stations and how they intersect with creeks. Some parking lots. The structures onsite. Not to mention water monitoring, metering and all the accoutrements with it.

I just want to give a shout out to these guys. The fact that Shelton keeps running testifies to their dedication and care. Most grew up here and have worked for the City all their lives. They serve in the worst weather. They clear drains. They come in to work early on days when everyone else opts to stay home. They pick up roadkill. They come in on holidays and weekends and nights.

Makes me think of the scripture that talks about the parts of the body. It says in 1 Corinthians 12:22:  In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. In our bodies, that might be our livers or hearts. Hearts and livers stay tucked deep inside the body, yet remain vulnerable. You can’t live without either. We don’t give them a second thought until we feel a stabbing pain or a blood test reveals high cholesterol.

Likewise, nobody considers the soundness of infrastructure until it fails. A bridge collapses into the bay or a sinkhole opens up. Until then, the road holds and carries us, getting us where we need to go. When it disintegrates, life gets upended, sometimes literally. People traffic ceases. The flow of commodities, both in and out, breaks down. We face food shortages and loss of wages.

These men are everyday heroes. Perhaps not as glamorous or well-known as a certain red-booted someone who soars in the sky, cape flapping behind him in the wind. But so necessary.




Chasing Chickens

The clock said 3:30 p.m. I thought about taking a break. A drizzly and cold Tuesday in January needed a little something, I mused.

“Hey, Susan. What are you doing right now?”

My coworker, the city’s code enforcer, stood at the entrance to my cube. He had his coat on.

“Nothing much,” I said. The last project of the day consisted of a compiling task of epic proportions. Loathe to dive in due to all the minutiae involved, I’d waited until the end of the day to tackle it. It had no set due date.

“Good,” he said. “You can help me round up some chickens.”


I’d ridden with him before, learning the neighborhoods. Every house held a story. The writer in me thrilled to the (mostly) true stories.

“I’m surprised this house still stands. The wife tried to stab her husband,” he would say as we rolled past a dirty little pink abode.

Or, “See that garage, with the roof caving in? Seven people live there.”

My favorite:  “I saved a dog out of that house. Almost starved, locked out on the deck when his owner died. He was skin and bones, but a good boy. I carried him out. He was covered in fleas and urine. The local vet doctored him up and found him a new home. I see him from time to time.”

We checked out buildings tagged with gang graffiti. He took pictures of places filled with cats and squatters. He showed me a tired old white house with a sagging porch. We looked in the window.

“People cooked oysters in the living room. Built a fire right on the floor.” He pointed out the shells, a sharp-edged carpet.

So this time, I knew I was in for a treat. Did I mention that I love my job?

We got into the pickup and cruised up the road.

“I keep getting these calls about this dental center and some free-range chickens around the place. I’ve been out once already, hunting them up. None of the receptionists have a clue what I’m talking about,” he said, shaking his head. He found no poultry or evidence thereof. One wonders exactly how obnoxious these chickens were.

This time he had a new strategy.

“But I’m hoping with you there, we can chase them. They move as a group. When chickens run, they run to their home.  You know, where they roost at night. We can discover their dwelling.”

Sounded good to me. I guess this encompasses “other duties as assigned”. I know next to nothing about chickens, except they’re good for eating. Some are even pretty.

blue chicken

We drove up to the dental center. We parked. We did a 360-degree scope of the parking lot. No chickens in sight. We stealth-walked the clinic’s perimeter. I peeked in the windows, hoping nobody would ask us what we were up to.  I pretended we were crack detectives on a case. I found myself thankful for the boots I wore. No poop. No feathers. The muddy ground, still holding traces of yesterday’s snow, yielded nothing.

However, in the area, my driver found plenty to catalog. Cars parked on the sidewalk. Trash piled in yards. Abandoned buildings with newly broken windows where homeless now gathered.

Alas, no chickens. The mystery caller never leaves an address or phone number. The code enforcer does his best to put the pieces together.Did the chickens move inside or…does Shelton have ghost chickens?

*The City of Shelton allows homeowners up to 6 chickens within the city limits. They must be cooped, and kept in a clean, dry environment. Oh, and no roosters.

Eight Months

Today is August 13.  As I suck down my blue-green smoothie (don’t judge) and somnambulant from Ruby’s nocturnal visit, I consider the days.  Eight months ago today, I started working at the city.  I had no idea how many boxes I’d look through.  Some had screened dried poop in plastic bags.  No lie.  When you build a wastewater treatment plant, tests are part of the gig.  I’ve sneezed a lot, poring over old maps of Mason County species habitats.  How could I forget these guys?

Mazama pocket gopher.

Mazama pocket gopher. Someone needs a dentist, pronto.

Which begs the question:  are there backpack gophers?  Tabletop gophers?  Anyone?

In my other role, I’ve processed dozens of invoices. I’ve learned about BARS codes, a very little. I’ve covered the front desk and picked up the building inspection process.  I’ve drafted documentation policies.  I’ve issued contracts. I’ve attended trainings off site. Along the way, I’ve met great people, serving the city with their amazing skills and abilities.

I’m grateful to my coworkers, for easing me into working full-time again after nearly 10 years of short-term part-time jobs and full-time mommying.  I’m thankful to God for this position, to grow and have opportunities to try new things.

What will I learn in the next 8 months?  I look forward to finding out.

Filing Warning

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I found out today that one of my coworkers has been talking about me to the higher ups.

“He said you were just throwing stuff away,” my boss informed me. She waved her arm towards the ceiling, indicating a general dispersion of documents on the wind.


“I’m gonna kill him,” I muttered.

She defended me, of course, because she knows what I’ve been doing. And she’s awesome.

“No, no,” she told them.  “Susan is throwing out old indecipherable work product. Most of it can’t even be searched, it’s so random. Anything questionable she’s holding onto.”

So there.

This yipping person is not even in my department. I would never criticize what he does, not that I truly know it anyway. He’s a great guy,. He’s worked for the city a long time. He helped me out on occasion when I’ve needed it, directing me to the right person or department. He’s funny and kind.

Now I’m rethinking all of that.

Why would he talk smack about me?  I guess I should come with a warning label:  “Filing Clerk. Beware! Highly organized. Tendency to trash any and all documents within her reach.”

Sometimes, fear gets the best of us. Without exception, everyone I’ve spoken to about the Washington state retention schedules displays this trait, at least at first. They pale at the possibility of losing a precious record.They don’t think the 3-year, 6-year or 10-year-plus-the-life-of-the-building time line is long enough.  What if they get hit by a bus? What if we need to know what the building used to be? What if there’s a nuclear war, or the Apocalypse occurs on a Monday morning at 11:11 a.m.?

I heard he likes ginger snaps.  I happen to have a smashing recipe.  Enough already. I’m going to kill this with kindness instead.

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you. – Proverbs 5:21-22

Thursday Theories

This morning, the cold air made me gasp.  I took another breath and drove up to the gym.  I got reacquainted with the silent pre-dawn gym crew and put in 2 miles on the treadmill.  I would have liked to have done more, but these workouts before breakfast are no joke. Still, it seems they might burn more calories than those post-breakfast.  Anyone else experienced this?

I also realized just how awesome my husband is. I mean, he’s working full time and taking care of the house AND he hacks into my blog just to say that he thinks I am beautiful and capable and fun to be around and thoughtful and reliable and beautiful and Godly and thoughtful and beautiful.

Did he also say I was beautiful? Yes…yes he did..

Uh.  So…

I’ve learned some important things this week.

  • I’ve noticed drinking the 8 glasses of water a day helps me not get so weary, as well as cutting out the processed food.  I feel like I’ve been given the keys to a wonderful kingdom of feeling good every day.
  • Coffee is my friend.  Okay, I already knew that.  But let’s just say our bond is stronger now.
  • My position as file clerk is a union one.  Customer Service Representatives, unite!  Oh, and I’m officially in the international association of machinists and aerospace workers.  Makes sense.
  • My desk drawer revealed a small box with a tortoiseshell hair comb and a gold Mardi Gras necklace. Also an ancient fortune cookie still in its wrapper.
  • The CDBG project is finally, finally finished.  Hallelujah!
  • I belong here, with the good folks at the city.  I’m blessed to have this job.