Seattle is approximately 2500 miles away from Pittsburgh, which works out to about half a day of flying when you take into account drives to and from airports, connections and time zone changes–a long ways away! And a really long ways away if you consider the path I took to get there. Even after I found out that I was one of the UC Success Grand Prize winners, I didn’t get excited about the 4-day, 3-night trip to Seattle that was part of the prize package because I was still sick post-hospital. Traveling? Errrr no thanks. The 3-mile Take Steps walk? I hadn’t collectively walked 3 miles in 2 months. Meals and schedules and a photo shoot and sightseeing? When you’re sick, these things=stress, anxiety, difficulty. I barely cracked the AAA books on Seattle, didn’t do the extensive research I usually do on new cities, because I knew I could only make the decision to go to Seattle at all, a day or so before leaving, if that. Am I well enough? But I think the more important question was, how utterly devastated am I going to be if I can’t go on this trip in particular–a contest I won because of my bad health, a trip I can’t take because of my bad health? I am rarely one to pull out the “it’s so unfair,” because that’s not how I think about all of this, but I may have belted out a lot of sobbing “it’s so unfair”‘s if I didn’t go.

I don’t know if I was well enough–the ill traveling was no picnic–but I went. It’s hard to describe how it felt to make it to Seattle after everything that has happened, these past few months and also these past five years. Surreal and unbelievable and shiver-inducing. I met the four other winners, from all over the country and all inspiring by the sheer fact that they too persevered and made it to Seattle. Although I had read their essays and short bios, my knowledge of their lives with or without this disease was miniscule, and yet, even though our experiences being ill vary, there’s a sense of, I know exactly what you’re going through. Now through the exchange of stories, with laughter interspersed, I can see that it was a long way to Seattle for them too.

The Westin Hotel was our home base for the four days. We were greeted with goodie bags and an itinerary that included: a photo shoot at Kerry Park, which is where the top picture was taken, a recognition dinner at the immaculate Canlis (salmon! unlimited dirty martinis!), and more recognition festivities at the Take Steps walk the following day, in Magnuson Park. Again, it’s hard to describe what it meant to take part in every activity, feeling accomplished for merely standing there–it hasn’t completely sunk in that any of it happened. Well, except that my legs still hurt from walking…

Macaron Love. I met Jessie Oleson of CakeSpy (Capitol Hill, Seattle) and she bought me a surprise macaron and I crocheted her a surprise macaron! She painted a macaron watercolor that we talked about over email the week prior.

My parents and I did a fair amount of sightseeing: ferry ride to Alki Beach, Space Needle, Monorail, Pike Place Market, original Starbucks. In addition, I hit some Alicia-must-sees: Schmancy, where the Plush You show is held every fall (I couldn’t go last year because of the usual suspects, health and money, or lack thereof), Jessie Oleson’s irresistible Cakespy, and also a quilt shop and a yarn shop. I successfully spent all of my prize money on our meals, which included a lot of seafood (yum!) and Molly Moon ice cream. And maybe maybe maybe my advanced copy of Witch Craft made some new friends. :)

(More pics here)

Despite the long, jam-packed days, the trip flew by and I didn’t want to leave. Luckily, health permitting, I will return in October to see my crochet babies in the Plush You show and cross some Seattle to-dos off my list (I never had coffee! Nor did I made it to a bookstore). Back in Pittsburgh, when we were riding in the car service from the airport, the driver asked what we were doing in Seattle. Here we go…. I’ve learned that you can’t get away with “I won a writing contest” without going into further detail, because people are curious. “What did you write about?” “Um…having a chronic disease and crocheting.” And of course I got the “but you look so happy and healthy” that I’m used to. But, only after a few minutes of talking, I also got this: “You have a strong will. All you can do is keep fighting, right? It’s the easiest thing in the world to give up.” Indeed.