Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Captain Campbell turned 100!

Lynn aboard the newly launched Shearwater in 1950
Captain Lynn Campbell, the founder of Seattle Harbor Tours (now Argosy Cruises) turned 100 years old on October 9th celebrating with family and friends at his waterfront home on Bainbridge Island. Lynn greatly enjoyed the proceedings as he was seated comfortably in a chair in his living room surrounded by not only his beloved family, which included many great grandchildren, but also friends from all over whose lives he had touched throughout the decades. Everyone had gathered to help celebrate his life WITH him and that is a remarkable moment in itself. At his 95thbirthday, many in attendance probably thought that the next time that they would be seeing each other would be at his memorial service. Instead there he was managing smile after smile, handshake after handshake and whenever possible, giving kisses to all the "pretty girls". He may not have been as clear on everyone’s names as he would have liked but he knew he was in the presence of people who loved him. 
There was one moment in particular that I've been thinking about ever since. As he sat in his chair next to the living room doors that were open out onto the veranda his guests, on cue, suddenly parted, clearing a path for his line of sight to reveal the 115 foot Spirit of Seattle (that Lynn built in 1987). The Spirit had made the trip out from Seattle just to honor him. Because of a very high tide and excellent boat handling from the captain the Spirit was able to approach very close to shore. Lynn then noticed longtime captains Don, Kenny, Ralph and Mike along with other old friends from Seattle Harbor Tours days holding a special  happy birthday banner which included photographs of him on it and signatures of many well-wishers. People sang "Happy Birthday" with a true sense of awe in their voices after which the Spirit sounded its horn numerous times. Lynn's eyes welled up with tears as he clasped his hands together.

He then raised a toast of champagne to salute the Spirit of Seattle and to everyone else. He didn't say a word but we all heard him loud and clear. The eyes of the Old Salt said it all. 
Thanking and toasting wonderful family and friends

His eyes spoke a thousand words that day
A few months ago I visited and took him a slideshow of the glory days of Seattle Harbor Tours in the 1980's and 90's. Afterwords Lynn grabbed my hand and said, "If I live to be 100 I'll never forget those days." I responded, "Well you're gonna be 100 in a couple of months so I sure hope you remember them until then". When I was saying goodbye to him on his 100th birthday it was my turn to grab his hand and I said, "Do you remember those fun days at Seattle Harbor Tours cruising all over Puget Sound?" He replied, "Nope." I said, "Really?" Knowing that he was kidding. He looked at me with a sly little smile and said, "I do remember this one guy who would jump off the boats all the time." (referring to me) He then smiled broadly. I said, "I knew you were a man of your word. You said a while back that if you lived to be 100 you'd never forget those days, and now here you are 100 years old today and you DO still remember. You are amazing." He then squeezed my hand tight, pulling me closer, and said softly but with more conviction that I have ever heard in his voice, "If I live to be 10,000 I'll never forget those days." I said, "Well you got the first 100 out of the way so you've only got 9,900 to go." He said very frankly, "Well I probably have a few more months at least." I then told him that I was so thankful for the experience of knowing him and that he had made a huge impact on my life and on so many other people.
I told him that he was deeply loved. And on this day especially, that fact was obvious.

Lynn with guests and famous barker and personality Rudy Becker

Lynn narrated more harbor tours than anyone in history

(passing Todd Shipyards back in the day...) "There's nothing more disorganized looking than a shipyard, but everything has it's place and it's purpose."

Giving Governor Ronald Reagan a turn at the wheel in 1974

Lynn and Alyce in 1987 with freshly welded together Spirit of Seattle in the background

Camp Sealth trip 1989

Lynn last year on his 99th birthday

Holding his daughter Charlotte's hand on his 100th birthday

Charlotte with her daddy

A kiss from granddaughter Chieko

When I first met these two, Lynn was 64 and Chieko was 6
Great granddaughter Whitney was also there (guess who her mom is?) :)

Lynn with long time Seattle Harbor Tours co-worker, office mate and all around amazing person Susie Starrfield

John Blackman stopped by to say hi.

Miles enjoyed his brief visit with Lynn

One of Lynn's longtime caregivers even jumped out of a cake and sand "Happy Birthday" with a Marilyn Monroe-esque tone

Lynn listening to grandson Hanz sing along with fellow performer Kathryn

Hanz is amazing (

A kiss from his grandson
Hands of the Old Salt

Lynn's hands were once strong enough to bring me to my knees during a handshake. His voice once powerful enough to command attention in any room or boat. His laugh once loud enough to envelope anyone within ear shot. And still to this day his heart is big enough to reflect upon, remember, appreciate and love the multitude of people and experiences that have woven themselves into this incredible life of his. He is comforted by the wonderful memories of a life well lived and the affection of family and friends whose lives he has become a special part of. He is fully aware that he soon will be sailing off into the sunset and all he has asked for is to be remembered in the prayers of those have come to know and love him..

Happy Birthday you "Old Knucklehead" and thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything. Forgetting you will be impossible. Remembering you will be easy and will bring great joy to me for the rest of my life. Why, if I live to be 100 years old, I'll never forget all the good times!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Counting our blessings

At 2am yesterday morning Alex called from her friends house saying that she had gotten sick. Heidi and I quickly got ourselves out of bed and hopped in the car to go pick her up. It was definitely a two person job for reasons that I will spare you. :) We got her home and comfortably into her own bed and proceeded to wake up hourly to see to her needs. All day yesterday she was feeling absolutely terrible. It was the first time she had been this sick since she was about 2 years old.

Seeing her laying on the couch yesterday I instantly thought of the parents that I have known over the years that have had to struggle with chronic devastating health issues with their children. Even in just one day I felt helpless to comfort Alex. She couldn't get comfortable, was in constant pain and we could do little to ease that suffering. But today...a new girl. The sickness worked its way through her body and luckily she has bounced back remarkebly. She already batted her eye lashes at me enough to get me to order her a new case for her iPod Touch and who knows what she'll have up her sleeve next. We had to run back to her friends house to pick up some of her stuff but before we did we paused for a couple of minutes to take these photos. It's hard to believe that this is the same girl who was so completely miserable yesterday.

I am very thankful that she is feeling so much better now and by looking at the photographs, yesterday's sickness seems like forever ago. Every day of good health is a true blessing and is something to be enjoyed, celebrated and memorized, NOT taken for granted.

My heart goes out more than ever to families where good health is not a reality but instead something that they are simply hoping and praying for.

Feelin' stronger today!!

Monday, October 3, 2011


I had the Today Show on this morning and in between the news of the day there was a big segment on the rumors surrounding the marriage of actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. They had "experts" and commentators on discussing this "breaking news". I have no idea what they were saying because the volume was turned off thankfully. I am continually stunned that there is an audience for this type of thing. I don't know any value that is gained from learning random details about Ashton and Demi's marriage (yeah, we're on a first name basis because I know them so well). Until they hire me to go photograph their next wedding, divorce or birthday party and I have the chance to get to know them, I have no interest whatsocompletelytotallyincrediblyyeahgimmeabreak-ever in details that may or may not be true about their personal lives.

There are stories out there screaming for our attention. There are people out there that are yelling for help. There are people that if you had the chance to get to know they would change your life for the better. They would inspire you and just by meeting them even once they would make you want to live each day with more purpose. Demi? Ashton? Maybe. I'll probably never know. There IS someone though that I do know would have this affect on you.

His name is Tyler.

I first met Tyler years ago when he started attending Camp Goodtimes. It seems like I've known him forever. He's been such a fixture at camp and entertained kids and staff alike with his unique sense of humor and inquisitive nature. This year he did not attend because his camper days are behind him now that he has turned 18. Despite setbacks that are mind boggling and recoveries that are almost as astounding, Tyler graduated with his high school class ON TIME.

Quite simply, Tyler is one of the strongest people that I know, AND patient. He's actually been a very patient patient. He's endured 38 surgeries. Whenever he has his head shaved for surgery and before it grows back in again his noggin looks like a topographic map of Nevada. To treat his condition and relieve his severe headaches he has had numerous shunts installed, then repaired, removed or replaced. Right now he's back in the hospital recovering from surgery #38 and anticipating yet another later this week. I had a wonderful visit with him last week and he was alert and smiling and recovering nicely from #38. He had a laser level pointed at the side of his head so that his excess fluid could drain from his head. Precise placement of the drain was vital because as he told me, "If I'm not perfectly level, excess fluid can drain out and I could die." That statement shocked me. What do you say to that besides, "Well then for Pete's sake, STAY LEVEL!" I should actually say, "...for Pete, Vera and Niki's sake", his parents and sister.

Here's an 18 year old kid who has to be stuck in the hospital and he knows that if he doesn't remain level in his hospital bed or his chair, that he could die. Nurses clamp the drain whenever he has to move, even if he is just repositioning himself in his chair. After he gets settled, they turn on the laser level and get him situated just right and then reopen the valve. This goes on 24-7.

His attitude is so matter of fact. I don't hear him complain. I just hear him talk bluntly about his treatment and then excitedly about other things, like attending the Starlight Prom in the spring, or about fun memories from camp. He told me that when he gets older he wants to get a tattoo on both arms that will say, "Cancer Sucks!". Yes it does, big time.

I'm just so sorry that Tyler has to go through all of this. He's gentle and kind hearted and he's always interested in what other people are doing. His is just such a genuine young man and I'm hoping and praying that his condition is stabilized soon so he can get on to enjoying his life. I wish for him that his worries can be the regular ones that an average 18 year old worries about and NOT about the crappy ones that confront him every single day at the moment.

He's strong, NINJA strong, and he has grown up and learned how to fight. His instructor has been Cancer itself. Soon I am confident that this student will defeat his teacher.

Striking our favorite NINJA pose at the Camp Goodtimes reunion party last spring.

An amazing young man!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Weekend of Hope

This weekend has been busy and fun but it's last weekend that I just can't get out of my head. It was the last weekend in September and September was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month which went by way too fast. An official month? That's all it gets? I think it should just be changed to Childhood Cancer Awareness Century and then we'll reassess the state of things in the year 2100. Hopefully by then the world will be celebrating the 88th anniversary of the year they found a cure for cancer.

My hopeful weekend started on Saturday the 24th when I was the emcee and auctioneer for the Childhood Cancer Care Line's annual auction. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many people that cared enough to join in the celebration by parting with their money to support kids and families struggling with a cancer diagnosis. The highlight of the evening for me was just prior to the paddle raise when Misti Bell and her 14 year old daughter Caity got up and addressed all the guests with remarks straight from the heart. Misti came up first and shared what Caity's cancer journey, and her entire family's cancer journey, has been like for them. The fear, the anxiousness, the trepidation, the triumphs, the setbacks and the constant shadow of the unknown has been relentless for them. But still, Misti was able to express herself wonderfully as she thanked an organization whose only reason for existence is to help families like hers. Misti struggled at times to get through her speech but she persevered and the result was a standing ovation from the crowd.

If that wasn't amazing enough, then up walks Caity (aka: Supergirl). I hadn't seen Caity since she shaved her head to raise money for cancer research last spring. Her hair is growing back in beautifully and at 14 years of age, this young lady has been through a lot. The last part of that sentence bears repeating...she has been through a lot. Oh my God, a cancer diagnosis at age 7, treatments, relapse, treatments, billions of doctor's appointments, more treatments, uncertainty, fear, remission, relapse, treatments. Seriously? How could you ever be happy again if you lived your life as a kid with a 16 ton weight on you that you just couldn't get rid of. It's an enormous struggle for anyone but somehow Caity manages that famous smile. She waltzed right up to the podium that night and read three poems that she had written about her life over the last few years. Her poise in that moment is what struck me most. Most 14 year old's would have been quaking in their boots. Not Caity. I think she just realized how important it was to get her message across and I guarantee you that she was heard loud and clear.

The event was a huge success and I had a great time extracting as much money as I could from the guests as the evening's auctioneer. I left that night feeling hopeful and comforted knowing that a substantial amount of money was raised to directly help families in need.

At 8:30am the next morning I was already at Seward Park in Seattle to MC for the 3rd time the 3rd annual Run of Hope to benefit pediatric brain tumor research at Children's Hospital. The event has grown every year. This year there were 30 more teams than there were in 2010. One of those was Team NINJA!! which I formed with some friends only 5 days prior. I was lame and didn't start the team sooner but we did assemble ourselves and in those 5 days raised almost $1500. Not bad for a fledgling team on short notice. Next year my goal is to have the Ninjas out in force. You are ALL invited to join Team NINJA!! for next year's Run of Hope (a 5K run or a 3K walk). The event was started by the president of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Guild at Children's Hospital, Erin Cordry. Erin's started the guild in honor of her son Max's struggle with a brain tumor. Max, thankfully and joyfully for the world, is a survivor. He is doing great and just lights up a room when he walks in. Or in this case, lit up a park filled with almost 2,000 people. Erin's dedication blows my mind and you can see her sincerity in her eyes so obviously and completely. When she speaks, she means every single word. She knows this journey so well and she carries the hopes of many with her as she continues to strive to make a difference in the world and help fund research that will one day find a cure for cancer. 

Over 60 teams joined Erin on a blustery Sunday morning. Many teams were walking or running in honor of a loved one who has since passed away. This year I hugged three mom's who have all lost a child within the last couple of years. These women are incredible human beings. They have all been through and are still going through hell but here they were, fighting back. I am in awe of their strength. One was standing at the finish line, high fiving the runners completing the race. All together that morning, over $240,000 was raised. Incredible! Even though Erin is already a member of Team Max, to me, she is a NINJA. In it's purest modern form (in my world anyway!) a NINJA is drawn to action and fights for what he or she believes in with every socially acceptable weapon at their disposal (plus they are a little goofy). My goal is to grow more ninja-esque every year of my life. Erin is a passionate, driven, give it your all, lay your heart on the line and give 200% Ninja. I don't just want her on my team. I want her to be on everyone's team and really, she is.

As I drove away that day I just kept thinking about all the faces. These faces belonged to people that were dedicated to making a difference in the tragic world that is childhood cancer. To me, these were the Faces of Hope. Here are some of them;

Erin addressing the media

Erin talking to 2,000 people

Dr. Jim Olson, genius. The Run of Hope supports his team's research.

Erin and her nutbar son Max!

Ann Marie and Laura, Team NINJA!! members

Michael Hirschler, co-event chair representing Four Seasons Hotels. He did an amazing job also.

Erin's husband Eric jumping for joy when hearing the fundraising total.
Team NINJA!! on the course.
Erin Cordry, honorary Ninja.

What a great weekend!