Island Paradise

January 6, 2010

As someone who has lived my entire life on one coast or another, it is hard for me to imagine life without water.  And life without water would mean life without islands.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a plethora, a bounty of islands.  I grew up on an island, which was not all that special, but we do have a special family house on Lopez.  My good friend Jen is extra lucky in that she lives and owns a yoga studio on Bainbridge Island, and her family has a home – well, a compound – on Whidbey Island.


The Sunday before New Year’s, Jen’s husband Tom called to ask if we wanted to join them for a couple of nights at her parents’ island paradise.  We had plans already and I had a lot of cooking to do for our supper club, but it took us about 1.5 seconds to say yes.  We had been there twice before and words cannot begin to describe the beauty and special energy this place possess.  Each small building is warm, welcoming, and not at all grand, just perfectly homey.  Each of her parents have an art studio (her dad is a painter and her mom is a weaver) and there are lots of bunk beds for all of the grandchildren.  Their table seats 12 or so, even though most of the time it is just the two of them.  They are always ready for a few guests.

Whidbey Collage 3

If, perhaps, it is a beautiful warm night with a full moon, you may decide to sleep here.  In the summer months, a mattress is laid on this bed along with pillows and all kinds of warm blankets.  Tom is a big fan of this bed and I’m sure, as the kids get older, there are going to be fights about who gets it.


This photo was taken on rainy windy New Year’s Day – not usually a banner weather day in our part of the country.  And still, I hope you can see how powerful and riveting the beauty is.  Imagine this exact same spot on a sunny summer evening with cocktail in hand and children running about.  Imagine it again in the darkness and with roasted marshmallows and a guitar.  Imagine on your way back to your bed you stop by the hot tub to warm up.  Yes, hot tub.

Whidbey Collage 4

Years ago, our famous Pike Place Market had artists all over the city design a pig.  They were then auctioned off in a benefit for the Market and its’ medical clinic.  I (somewhat) jokingly told Randy I wanted one of the pigs.  I should not have been surprised to find one on her parents property – and one of the coolest pigs at that.

Whidbey Collage 1

In fact, the art may be what I love most up there.  Each sculpture is so lovingly chosen and placed.  There is so much whimsy and celebration of what makes art special.  Nothing stuffy about it.

Whidbey Collage 2

Three years ago, we had an epic wind storm in our area.  We only lost power for about 18 hours at our house, but some people were without it for up to two weeks.  Just as the storm was brewing, Jen went in to labor.  She was able to make it across the Sound to the hospital with husband and other three children in tow.  After she had the baby, they stayed downtown in a hotel while waiting for their power to come back on.  Imagine.  Newborn baby, recovering from childbirth, three other young children, and not in your own home.  At some point, her mom, who had power thanks to a generator, had her come to Whidbey where she gave up her bed to Jen and her new baby.  Jen says that visit healed her in more ways than one.  Take a look.  Couldn’t we all heal here?


I can’t mention Whidbey Island without telling another very special thing about it.  If it weren’t for this very long island (2nd longest in the country after Long Island), I would never have met this guy.


Many years before I knew him, Randy was a Naval Aviator.  He graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis and went to flight school in Pensacola.  He was assigned to fly the A-6 Intruder which gave him two choices of bases.  One was Virginia Beach and one was Whidbey Island.  Being an East Coaster his whole life, he just assumed he would go to Virginia.  Some friend who had been to Whidbey took him out for a beer one night and told him about the beauty of Puget Sound.  The close access to Seattle and the proximity to skiing, boating, hiking, mountain biking, and just the general outdoors.  Because Randy will always choose adventure over complacency, he decided to listen to his friend (bless him) and take a chance on Whidbey.

Once he oriented to West being the ocean and East being land (important if you are flying a fighter jet), he fell in love with our area.  He took advantage of all it had to offer and then some.  After a few years, his life became a little more complicated and he opted to move back East to teach at the Naval Academy, to get more schooling and to appease a difficult first wife.

In 2000, as he was finishing business school in Boston, a friend from the Navy came for a visit and to try and recruit him to join a company that he had founded in Seattle.   Randy had already accepted a very good job with an international consulting company and had planned to set down roots in Boston.  For many different reasons, the friend’s job offer was enticing.  Perhaps the main reason was that, having spent time on Whidbey, he missed the Northwest.  And so, he did something very un-Randy like which is to re-neg on an accepted job and take a different job for half the pay.  In June of that year, he landed back in Seattle.

His then wife was supposed to close up house in Boston and then take her time driving across the country.  At Wyoming she decided to go back to Boston and end the marriage.  Two months after that, Randy and I met.  Almost two years after that, we got married.

So, even though I have only been there about a dozen times, I have a deep appreciation for Whidbey.  If it weren’t for that island, my life would be very different.  It is hard to imagine life without Randy.  And very hard to imagine life without these two.



  1. wow – the pictures are fantastic! What a fabulous place to spend a few nights with the fam and friends!! Glad you had a great time!

    Comment by Gaby — January 6, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

  2. and why isn’t one of your son’s names “Whidbey”?
    It has so much meaning and looks like a beautiful place.

    Comment by Stacey Snacks — January 6, 2010 @ 10:43 pm

  3. Oh! I just thought it about, and realized what your last name was!
    Wouldn’t that be funny? (and sad for a kid named Whidbey W.!!!).

    Comment by Stacey Snacks — January 6, 2010 @ 10:45 pm

  4. where did your husband go to business school? mine also got his MBA in boston.

    loved the story– glad you two found each other!

    Comment by Meredith — January 7, 2010 @ 1:44 am

  5. wow- beautiful words and pictures
    thanks for sharing in such an intimate way…
    I thought I’d be sad there was no recipe attached, but was surprised to find myself “full” from the post

    Comment by catherine — January 7, 2010 @ 2:06 am

  6. I LOVE your blogs about your family. They are my favorite…closely followed by the peanut butter caramel ice cream pie of course!

    Comment by Julie — January 7, 2010 @ 8:09 am

  7. I feel ill with envy! It looks too divine…

    Comment by Koek! — January 7, 2010 @ 9:12 am

  8. Love this post – your most personal ones are always my favourites.

    Comment by Hilary — January 7, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

  9. This does look like a lovely place regardless of the weather! You must have had a fantastic New Year’s there.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — January 7, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

  10. This was a pleasure to read as I drank my coffee before settling into my working day. You are reflective in a way that reminds me to be more so, more often, myself.

    Comment by Rachel — January 7, 2010 @ 3:09 pm

  11. Ok, I am seriously tearing up over here. It is amazing that certain places can be so emotional and deeply rooted in our life. Thank you for this story! I hope next time I get to Seattle I will be able to visit these wonderful islands.

    Comment by fresh365 — January 7, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

  12. I hope to live/be near to a place as beautiful as this. I plan to be on my way in a few years-lovely pictures!

    Comment by Annie — January 7, 2010 @ 8:02 pm

  13. oh dana! how i love the tale of how you met randy, and how i love the happiness that exudes from the photo of your boys. i’ve been seeking a new yoga studio here on the island and am definitely going to check out jen’s, as i miss my days of bikram. next time we’re on whidbey, i’ll be thinking of you.

    Comment by giao — January 7, 2010 @ 9:54 pm

  14. love the personal tidbits. that first picture makes me feel so jealous of that place, I need that right now, it looks gorgeous.

    Comment by Sara — January 8, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

  15. Wow, that place is stunning. A dream home for sure. I love personal stories and yours is too charming.

    Comment by kickpleat — January 10, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

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