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Peer Employee Interviews

Morgan Smithson

How were you introduced to us?

I was looking for a job in Seattle, and this position jumped out at me, so I applied! A boring story, but I'm glad it worked out. 

When did you move to Seattle?

September 2020, which was a bit of a nightmare. Being in the middle of the pandemic, there were plenty of complications. I ended up coming over in a plane filled with only three passengers traveling between empty airports; that was strange. 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

Idolizing people makes me a little uncomfortable. Everyone is so complicated, and I try not to put anyone on a pedestal. The closest I can think of was a lecturer during undergrad who spawned my interest in academics and got me to my Master's. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

Grimes "Go" on repeat today. Grimes is weird and great and puts on a fantastic show. I remember her performing "Scream" which usually has a guest artist rapping in Mandarin. But they weren't there and Grimes can't speak it, so she translated it into an Eastern European language she knows and performed it live. 

Do you have a favorite day or time of the year? 

Autumn is the season that I enjoy most. Being from the UK, part of the allure of moving to the pacific northwest was the similar mild/grey climate. Typically I'm not too fond of the extreme ups and downs. 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

I was always working from home and studying, so I didn't get as much free time. Work ended up being my hobby, but I can't complain, I still had a reliable income and a job. 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

The whole early 2000s emo movement. From around 2006 - 2010 was when I really got into music. My favorites included My Chemical Romance and Muse. 

I just saw Muse at the climate pledge arena recently too. Amazing live show. They were the first band I ever saw perform live, and it was at Wembley Stadium. 

Is there a skill you wish you could have?

I used to cosplay and really miss sewing and craft making and being able to make clothes. I have a lot of amateur drag king friends making clothes. I liked cosplaying obscure side characters that maybe just one person would recognize, but it would make their day upon seeing it. 

The Old Kingdom by Garth Nix was where I got some of my inspiration for my cosplay. It is a great young adult fantasy. 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

Currently, I'm working on exercise and yoga. Having just gotten over covid and getting a tooth removed, I'm taking it a little slow right now and getting back into them. Yoga with Kassandra on Youtube has been great for me.

Is there anything you'd like to try but have yet to?

Skydiving and bungee jumping. I want to try it once but never do it again, haha it does scare me. 

What are you watching/listening to lately that you enjoy?

I've never been as big of a fan of film or tv shows. Podcasts and audiobooks have been more my style. The "Oh No, Ross and Carrie!" podcast is among my favorites. They are ex-evangelists in LA who look into fringe religion and pseudo-science. They are simply interesting, funny, and clever people that are a joy to listen in with. 

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Ryan Pacchiano

How were you introduced to us?

Well, my first encounter with recovery was in 2007. I went to meetings/support groups and would be at the Dunshee House. One night I was struggling and was invited to SASG (before it became Peer Washington). It wouldn't be another year later until I went into treatment. 

A previous sponsor told me to "stay in the middle" of my recovery, which turned out to be great advice. Went I got out of treatment, I knew what I needed to do. I wasn't working yet, but I wanted to keep my time filled with my recovery. At one point, I wandered at SASG in 2017, Loretta at the desk; I was reading some big tarot book and chatted with Loretta for over an hour. Eventually, I asked if they needed volunteers, and she got my name on a list. Within a week or so, I got an email and was in. 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

Well, I know what I'd say when I was 20: George Winston. A fantastic solo pianist whose work has always moved me. Loretta and I both got to see him perform the last time he was in town. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

"Chemical" by Post Malone. "Broken Glass" by Kygo. My new favorite song in the car is "Waffle House" by Jonas Brothers. I'll listen to anything from ambient music to pop, but I have a soft spot for the singer-songwriter type of artists bringing you very personal music. 

Do you have a favorite day or time of the year? 

You know, it's September, when the sunsets get so nice: the moon, Venus, and deep orange over the water. I typically like the rain, too, so the weather is hitting that perfect balance for me at that moment. 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

I started back stocking all my bathroom supplies, haha. I even ended up buying survivalist stuff like a jet bowl, a life straw, flint and steel, a headlamp, a weather radio, etc. So, a little doomsday prepping ended up being my hobby. 

 

Another hobby of mine is my interest in Tarot. It's been nice and distracting to dive into early on in my recovery, and I now own about 50 books on the matter. If I could only pick one to recommend, it would be "The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination" by Robert M Place

 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

 

I do wish there was less of a digital world. It would be nice not to see everyone buried in their phones and looking up a bit more when out and about. 

 

Is there a skill you wish you could have?

 

I wish I could speak all the languages. I am trying to learn Spanish right now, and staying committed is hard. On Amazon Prime, you can subscribe to something called The Great Courses. It's a collection of college courses (including language) that I've been accessing. 

 

Imagine the four classic elements (earth, air, water, fire). Do you see yourself as one over the rest? 

 

While I have an air sign, I typically relate to water. Being in touch with your own emotions and love. And it has a lot to do with our work here.

 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

 

Gardening now that we are in springtime. Keeping the dogs out of the garden has been a challenge, but I'm starting to flex my green thumb more and more. 

 

Is there anything you'd like to try but haven't yet?

I want to travel more. Luckily, we are going to Ireland, Scotland, and England in about a year. Being half Irish and half Italian, seeing a bit of my history there will be extra interesting. I've also always wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and France would be cool too.
 

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Andy Levitt

How were you introduced to Peer WA/OBHA?

I started attending the rural peer support network groups during the pandemic that Jenna Cook facilitated with Stephanie Lane. Sometimes it was 15 peers, sometimes just 4 of us, and I got to learn a lot about Peer through them. I worked as a youth peer at Community Youth Services for a few years. I enjoyed working there, but they didn't have an opportunity for growth for me to grab. I needed to make more money to support my family. So when I was told about the OBHA opening coming up, I pounced on the opportunity.

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

Workwise, we are interviewing for two open positions for behavioral health advocates. I have never been on a hiring committee before so that's been a little disorienting and a new learning experience.

Personally, to get into a longer story, my partner is trans like me, and he was forced to give up his child for adoption at 18 by a church. Recently they connected, found out his son is trans too, and the three of us live together now, having bought a house last March. Having a space for our son was important to set up. He is working very hard on his mental health and challenges from his adoptive family, like unlearning toxic stuff from religious rural Idaho. He was taught not to even try because of his autism. My autistic partner and I are working to unlearn that ableism with him. 


Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

This will be a cheesy answer, but my partner is my hero. He has been through so much, been on his own since he was 16, and endured so much trauma. He is the most resilient human I've ever met. He has also supported me through my own psychosis. I admire how he shows up and believes in people. When someone struggles with mental health symptoms, he always sees the human behind the symptoms.

What song is stuck in your head today?

While I may listen to audiobooks more than music, "Baby was a Dancer" by Billy Porter is currently on my mind.

Which audiobooks were highlights for you?

"The Mirror Visitor Quartet" I'm listening to the second book now. It is a very fantastical world where the earth has been shattered into many pieces (arcs) where people live, and many people have various unique powers. Our main character can travel through mirrors and "read" objects' histories.

I'm a big fan of Brené Brown's podcasts too.


Do you have a favorite day or time of the year? 

May 26th, as it is my partner's bday and our wedding anniversary. We wed on his 40th birthday and will celebrate ten years together this May.

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

It is not a hobby, but in March 2020, the first day we were officially working from home, I started meditating. Ten to 15 minutes a day as a way to center myself. According to my app, I didn't skip a day for a whole year, which I'm proud of. Meditation isn't about quieting the mind; it is about noticing what your thoughts are and being aware of them. Once I grasped that and just stayed present, that helped me. It also helped teach me the physical feel of my feelings/emotions. As someone with anxiety, I notice my anxiety now in my chest/gut before my anxious thoughts, which helps me prepare.

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

I don't really want them, but I miss pogs. They were such a pointless toy, but something about them is so nostalgic.

Is there a skill you wish you could have?

I wish I could speak Spanish. I've always wanted to. Growing up, I was always afraid of sounding white even practicing my Spanish. I dated someone literally from Mexico and was still too nervous, haha. Now I wish I had and could have someone around to practice.

Another long-term goal of mine is to go to grad school and become a therapist. We need way more trans therapists!


Imagine the four classic elements (earth, air, water, fire). Do you see yourself as one over the rest?

Earth is what I'm drawn to, and I am a Virgo. I feel connected to trees as my peace and calm. Walks in state parks are like my church, the trees my temple. It feels safe, at home, and peaceful.

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

I am huge on self-care, even though I wasn't always. To show up for my family, I have to take care of myself. I can't think of just one specific thing, but I am very intentional about getting 8 hours of sleep, 3 healthy meals a day, and walking at least three days a week. I may even get into running again as I'm working to lose some more weight for a gender-affirming surgery I'm planning.

What does recovery mean to you?

Tricky question because recovery, to me, is really about learning to love myself. I struggled with self-harm for 15 years and have been clean from that for ten years now. I thought having bipolar was a death sentence. I didn't have role models, or peer support. Learning and accepting that I am worth the energy put into taking care of myself was vital. Mistakes don't make someone unworthy. Just because I have a mental illness doesn't mean I'm incapable of growing, learning, and helping others. Recovery is about showing others that it is possible too. 

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Michelle Tinkler

How were you introduced to Peer Washington?

 

Stephanie Lane introduced me! I had worked with her for a few years prior with Behavioral Health Ombuds training and coordinating other events like the Peer Pathways Conference. I love her she pushes me out of my comfort zone.

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

Outside of work, I'm an empty nester now; all my kids are gone. So a lot of my focus is on work. My biggest project now is getting OBHA launched. There is still plenty of fine-tuning and smaller pieces to put together. 

Where did you grow up? 

I was a military brat, so I moved every two years following my Dad's he PCSs to. I remember being in Germany and used to speak German when I was 4, but I lost that after a while. My Dad decided to retire in California. I was 13 at the time, and it was a local biker town, so that's where I became a rebel and started my journey of addiction.

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

My Dad, but he passed away in 2009. He was the only one that understood me. Now I live my life through my kids. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

K-Love is my go-to station. I love all kinds of music, though; it is hard to say what's my favorite. Opera, classical, rock, reggae, pop, etc. 

Do you have a favorite day or time of the year? 

My favorite days are on the weekends. On Saturdays, I make sure the computer is turned off for at least a little break. I am looking forward to launching OBHA so I can unplug more. 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

Binge watching! I like many shows, and many first responders’ show catch my attention. Some favorites include New Amsterdam, Yellowstone, and Law and Order. So funny, when I first watched New Amsterdam, I freaked out when he used the phrase I have been using for years, “How can I help!” 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

Rollerskates for me. I used to go to the roller rink all the time when I was younger. And bell bottoms! That combo needs to come back. 

Is there a skill you wish you could have?

I wish I could be more artistic and creative. Maybe painting. I usually work with data/numbers in my life. 

Do you have any hidden talents?

I danced the hula for years, from age five to 13. My mom ensured I was enrolled, and it was our way of keeping me out of trouble. 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

Getting to know my team! Meeting with them and learning from their different personalities and how they handle things. My team is amazing people, their hearts are out there, and I'm very excited to see what more we can accomplish together. 

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Stephanie Lane

How were you introduced to Peer Washington?

 

Oh my. Well, Cody West was the one that told me about it. I was intrigued when I heard about this new (new to me) amazing peer-run peer-staffed peer-managed organization. Both Cody and Josh Wallace explained it all very well to me. We talked about recovery coaches and how they usually come as volunteers to begin with. Peer WA is very grassroots compared to anything else I've seen, anyone can climb the ranks here. 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

Personally, a 100-pound Saint Bernard rescue dog I got three weeks ago is a new "project" of mine. I am training him to go into hospitals as a service dog. He has a broken leg that he is learning to walk with as well, but we are very confident in his ability. 

I am also learning how to draw. I do oil painting, but this is the first time I truly have put effort into drawing/sketching. Now I'm taking classes and practicing.

I'm also developing a board game, a Certified Peer Counselor board game to use in our trainings. I am basing it off the Balderdash board. Real-world scenarios will come up and ask you what to do, and your choices will affect your gameplay. I'm always looking for several different ways to learn the same subject. We've done Jeopardy and Pictionary in the past too. 

A big project for work is our 250-credit college course for peer work that I helped put together. We consulted with Washington State Health Care Authority through the process, and we created nine courses. Over the period of 28 weeks, we have been training peers at the college level in peer support. 

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Renton, WA. 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

Well, Josh Wallace is one. Or I can say Mother Teresa, she said one of my favorite quotes, "If you are busy judging people, you have no time to love them." 

Do you have a favorite day or time of the year? 

This whole answer will sound cheesy, but Christmas used to be my favorite. However, since I've been in recovery, just every day is my favorite. When I am alive and above the dirt; I'm having my favorite day. There were days in the past when I wasn't sure if I would wake up the next morning, or if I even wanted to. 

Imagine that people could control one of the four elements (wind, fire, earth, water); which one would you be able to?

It would be water. I believe that water holds the spirit of earth and brings the gift of life. It represents some very big and powerful concepts to me that I try to emulate in my life. 

What song is currently stuck in your head? 

"This is me" from The Greatest Showman.

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby in 2020?

 

My new quarantine hobby? …I picked up 2 Ben and Jerry's. 

 

What do I wish would come back into fashion?

 

I’m going to go waaaaay back, but it used to be cool to be chubby in the Ruebenesqe 16th century.

What is something you are doing to make yourself a better person?

I am accepting myself for who I am in the moment, and I have stopped wishing to be “better.” There is so much stigma around mental health challenges, and my whole life I could tell that the world wanted me to be different, to “calm down” when I was perceived as being too extra or joyful. And then I would hear from well-meaning people in my life, “pull yourself up and get going,” when all I could do is move from the couch to the bed and back again. This perception of always needing to be different than I am/was made me dislike myself in some ways and not feel like I was enough in all ways. I do not allow the idea that I need to be different in my head anymore. I’m enough, and there is enough. There is enough money, love, and resources, and this mindset has changed how I view the world.

 

I want to be different in some ways: I’d like to have more patience, and I have started a fitness routine again after a two-year pandemic-driven depression.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Not really anything I could claim as a real "talent" but I have tried a few new things like stand-up comedy. Here I am for the very first time on stage for Stand Up for Mental Health. 

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Gwynne McCay

How were you introduced to Peer Kent?

 

I had a friend in Oregon who went to a peer conference and got in touch with someone from Peer Seattle. My friend was thrilled with peer, and I had never heard about them. I looked up the website and found out so much more. It felt like what I was missing as a case manager. So I followed the website for about six months till you had an opening, another six months till being hired, and now I'm here!

 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

 

I'm excited to launch into my new job as Regional Director and get to know the other sites much better. I do love Kent, and it's been amazing to work here. 

 

Besides that major change, I'm also working on the SOP, which is a lot less exciting heh. 

Where did you grow up? 

 

I grew up mostly in California while spending summers in Alaska as a teen and young adult. I often worked on a fishing boat in Alaska as a seasonal job. 

 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

 

I really admire my grandmother. I lived with her for the last seven years of her life. I don't think I've ever witnessed her being mean or cruel to anyone else through all my memories with her. That genuine kindness is something I hope to emulate. 

 

What song is stuck in your head today?

 

"Singing in the Rain" by Gene Kelly. My son is obsessed with it, so it gets played all the time and gets stuck in my head; definitely better than having "Wheels on the Bus" in there. 

 

Do you have a favorite day or time of the year? 

 

I'm not as much of a holiday person, I had a lot of instability during my teenage years, so I'd moved away from many of those traditions. I'm working on bringing that back for my 2-year-old, exploring what new traditions we can foster and make our own. For Thanksgiving, we spent the day working with Meals on Wheels and had our own big feast later in the weekend. 

 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

 

I started reading fiction, turns out I love it despite focusing on non-fiction for most of my life. Also, needlepoint has been an important hobby for me. Working on that is almost like meditation; it drowns out other stuff. 

 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

 

Oh, I've never been fashionable. I do like funk music. I wish it were back on the radio. 

 

Imagine that people could control one of the four elements (wind, fire, earth, water); which one would you be able to?

 

I always wanted to think I was anything but earth, but that is what I am. I am stubborn, grounded, and stable. All the others are much more exciting, haha. I've spent too much time trying to be the other ones, but now I own my earth-self. 

 

Is there a skill you wish you could have?

 

I would love to learn how to sail. If I ever owned a boat. Being able to escape on a sunny Sunday afternoon in my own sailboat sounds divine. 

 

Do you have any hidden talents?

 

Trivia! I may not be as well versed in pop culture or spelling, but I've attended many nerdy trivia nights throughout my life. Especially in geography, I can name any country, its capital, and its flag. I'm a huge geography nerd, I even have National Geographic sneakers. 

 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

 

This will sound cheesy, haha, but it's working here. This world of peer support has been radically new to me. I didn't grow up talking about or expressing feelings. I'm still practicing being more open and vulnerable. I've found a lot of growth. It turns out I love sharing feelings! Ten years ago, I would not have said that. 

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Marjorie Drieu

How were you introduced to Peer Kent?

I graduated from king county drug diversion court in October 2020. The resource specialist at drug court reached out and told me about the recovery coach academy. I had yet to learn about the peer model and peer support, but I thought, why not? Let's do it. From there, I profoundly resonated with everything said, and I even found joy in it. There was a job opening for PSS for job court, and I pounced. While I didn't get it the first time, I kept at it, and now here I am!

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

Work-wise, the south King County municipal court program is what I'm currently chewing on.

Personally, this is also my first time being a mom. I've hit a lot of firsts over the past few years: first time getting a bank account, first promotion, first car bought, etc. I'm working to keep humble after all these wonderful things have started to fill my life.


Where did you grow up?

I was in France till 7, Ireland till 10, then I went to the states. Ireland was tough; they speak English but heavily accented. I remember my brother and I were in recess as the new kids. The local kids surrounded us and asked us questions, but we couldn't understand. They asked my name, and I replied with my age, and they all laughed, haha.

In Ireland, I went to a Catholic school and dabbled in Irish dancing, in uniform too. That was my first exposure to a team, and a way to fit in. Putting on the music, forgetting about everything, and just focusing on dancing; that was a fond memory.


Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

My Dad...1 million percent my father. His unmatched ability and determination. One time he decided to quit smoking and immediately did it. His willpower and determination are impressive. He is also a people person who gets along with everyone, which I always strive for.

He introduced me to music. He was a self-taught guitar player, and I always remember hearing him play growing up. My music tastes now are all over the place, undoubtedly influenced by him. We've even turned part of our downstairs into a music studio. Putting everything on hold and letting emotions out through music is therapeutic for me.


What song is stuck in your head today?

Me and Bobby McGee - Janis Joplin. My absolute favorite song in the world, and it is the first song my Dad and I performed at an open mic. Someone said to me, "Janis is in the house tonight!" the validation and power of music have always been powerful in my life.

Do you have a favorite day or time of the year? 

Christmas for my favorite holiday; I get that from my mom. When I was little in France, I remember waking up and seeing giant footprints leading from the chimney. My mom goes all out on stuff like that, the decorations, the holiday magic. It helped bring that family feeling to me. Having that feeling on Christmas is a great time to reflect and feel that closeness.

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

I had my son right before the pandemic began. I was struggling with staying in the moment. I prayed a lot for patience but couldn't achieve it until covid came around. Then I learned to care for myself and how to take care of this little human.

Also reading. Besides Goosebumps in 5th grade, I only really read while I was in jail. When I got out, the pandemic hit, and I had all this time on my hands. I picked up one of Michael Connelly's murder mysteries in jail. A quick read but very interesting. It turns out my mom has a bunch of his books, too. So I decided to read every book he has ever written, and I got to do that! My mom got me all the rest I hadn't collected for Christmas. The escapism they offer is excellent.

Now I'm reading Angela's Ashes. Set in 1935 with a half-Irish and half-American family, there are certainly a few parallels with my own life in this book. Some terms I hear in it take me right back to Ireland.


What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

Bell-bottoms. I love the flair. Maybe they make me look taller, too, at 5'1"; I can use the help, haha.

Imagine that people could control one of the four elements (wind, fire, earth, water); which one would you be able to?

Water, I love swimming, love being in the water. My grandma lived on the beach, so I got to spend many summers there; feeling the ocean on my toes can be very grounding. Unfortunately, I've recently discovered a fear of murky/deep water, but I still want to scuba dive more and try cage diving with sharks.  

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?

Skydiving or bungee jumping. I've done ziplining in Hawaii and had a blast.

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

The ongoing process of staying present; being aware of myself and who I am. I've spent eight years in active addiction. I lost so much of myself during that time, my likes and my dislikes. Coming into recovery with no sense of self is terrifying, and I think many people go through that. So, I'm trying new things and finding out what I like. When you know yourself, you know your weaknesses and strengths. It helps makes me a better person, mother, daughter, etc. 

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Trevon "Tre" Bobo

How were you introduced to Peer Washington?

Job hunting on Indeed. I saw this job was exactly what I was looking for in the community aspect-helping people. Peer's mission really spoke to me. I appreciated that Rivet got back to me quickly, and everything fell together from there.

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

Outside of work, not too much. Jujitsu has been my latest hobby, and I've been getting a lot out of it. Surprisingly there is a lot of studying you do about various body movements; it is like a college-level course all on its own.

Work-wise I always enjoy the group packages I get to work on. Finding the right images and optimistic feel for a support group is a fun puzzle to work out.

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

In the past, I did, but your heroes can disappoint you. The person that most inspires me now is my Dad. He is kind of an old-fashioned black man who sticks to his views. He taught me a lot about sacrifice and time management. He is comfortable being controversial and consistent with his personality, which I admire.

What song is stuck in your head today?

Ex-girlfriend by No Doubt. That guitar riff is excellent. I've always enjoyed Gwen Stefani.

Has music ever been important for you?

I was a prominent DJ at college and the hip hop director for our radio station at Washington State University. We put on a live show with a bunch of local bands. I remember sitting in my room listening to hours and hours of music and putting together sets.  

Do you have a favorite day or time of the year? 

I don't have a favorite day, but I am pretty into fall. Winter is too cold, summer is like, "eh, I can't be bothered to go outside," and spring is...under-rated, I guess. But during fall, you get to layer up and enjoy all the pumpkin spice and chai. What's not to like?

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

I tried quite a few! Hiking, photography, weight lifting, and now jujitsu. I started jujitsu earlier this year. I used to watch a lot of boxing and thought I would go into that, but boxing is boring to watch, haha. So I went from boxing to watching MMA. On top of not wanting to get punched in the face, that made jujitsu the clearest candidate for me to learn. I was freaked out in the beginning, washing myself a lot making sure I wasn't spreading covid. But I got the bug now, seeing how much there is to learn.

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

Heelies! I used to heel around everywhere as a kid, but then they outlawed it, and it became "not so cool." I might buy some soon for fun, but they are a little spendy for adults.

Imagine that people could control one of the four elements (wind, fire, earth, water); which one would you be able to?

I'm a big avatar fan, so I've been thinking about this before. I love air; the ability to avoid confrontation, to turn things around in your favor. And I love animals which seems to be an air thing.

Water? I can't swim. Fire? I'm not spicy. Earth? Nope. I just quietly spin out of the situation, lol.

I hear you are visiting Japan soon?

I am! I'll be visiting my girlfriend and her family there. I'm very excited and a bit nervous. I am a bit of a picky eater, so I hope the food doesn't scare me. I plan on doing some jujitsu training there too.

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?

3D modeling. In college, I was really into animation, so I learned the basics but haven't used it for work. Similarly, 3D printing too.

What would you print?

I'd love to do a miniature scale of a cityscape—like a giant sand castle but next level.

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

Volunteering downstairs for the front desk. Even just once a week, for 3 hours, I get to see the community I serve. It helps put a lot of things in perspective and shows me the progress I can make myself. 

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Aary Gariss

How were you introduced to Peer Seattle?

I knew when I moved to Seattle I was looking to transition from community arts to more direct service/helping people work. While browsing jobs on Indeed I found the executive assistant position for Peer WA, applied, and got through two interviews, but I didn't get the job. So I sent Josh a, "you haven't seen the last of me!" kind of email. I felt a pull to Peer Seattle and made it my goal to get in. I started volunteering and was doing that for about six months until the position I have now opened up, and I applied the first hour it came out.

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

The voucher program! When Dan asked me if I wanted to restart it, I obviously said yes. I come from a performance background and know how it can build community when we lower the barriers to entry. I firmly believe that these "high art forms" like theater or a symphony should be accessible to all different kinds of folks. I was always attracted to organizations with that mission at their forefront; and now I get to be a part of that work again but from the other side. Shameless ask - I'm always looking for more connections to arts/culture organizations to utilize for it - so if you've got any hookups let me know. 

Do you miss anything from Chicago / Wisconsin?


Wisconsin? No - lol

 

I miss Chicago's sense of community and diversity. In my work I was able to work with people from all different cultures and experiences which really shaped the person I became. It's a lot harder to find those kinds of spaces in Seattle. Chicago may be more sassy and loud but also more welcoming.


That and cheap tacos! And elotes from a random cart in the middle of the park. 

What got you interested in theatre?

I started doing theatre in elementary school. And I'm stubborn as hell so when I make a decision about my life, I stick to it. In 8th grade I went to Chicago for the first time and told my mom/grandmom that "I'm moving to Chicago and doing theatre for my life" and that's what I did. I can be very one-track-minded.

But as a lot of us know - sometimes you get exactly what you wanted and find out it doesn't fulfill your soul. But I have no regrets. I may return to school for drama therapy - best of both worlds.

Do you have a favorite project you worked on in your theatre past?

I'm a big, big history nerd so I was always attracted to classical Greek theatre, the OG stuff like Oedipus, Electra, etc. I like how they can be used almost like templates to start questioning our modern-day issues and culture. They have universal themes and characters you can do a lot with and reflect modern problems through while embracing the uniqueness that theatre gives as an art medium.

 

But my favorite project ever was called 100 Hauntings - it involved collecting hundreds of stories about ghosts and hauntings and as an ensemble we used those stories to create a play that examined how hauntings have existed through time and cultures and what they tell us about who we are. Click the links below to get a little more insight into what that looked like. 


Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

My mentor from theatre life. The Lovely and Talented Coya Paz (look her up - she's the shit - there is a project I worked on with her and also check out her TedTalk.) Her guiding principles are still important to me. She was the first person that made me think, "that's who I want to emulate." Her reflection on art as a form of community and how important community is for people changed how I walk through the world. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

"Change the Locks" - King Princess. It is very gen z queer pop music. I'm a basic little zillennial.

Do you have a favorite day or time of the year? 

Well, I'm a summer person now. When I was young and moody, I would always say Fall because the earth is dying and being reborn and all that. Now I'm more joyous and embrace the sunlight and happiness. 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

I'm actually really bad at hobbies. I remember wanting to get caught up in Marvel since I was so tired of feeling left out whenever people were talking about it. And I hate being left out of conversations. So I spent a bunch of time watching all the movies and tv shows - and now we don't talk about marvel anymore LOL.

Imagine that people could control one of the four elements (wind, fire, earth, water); which one would you be able to?

Avatar is maybe my favorite series ever so I've been thinking about this constantly since I was a kid. I'm probably a water bender, even though there was a time when I thought I was a fire bender. I strive to create peace, togetherness, and healing; and to fill in the cracks necessary to keep things working.

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?

I want to go skydiving, but I am worried I'm unlucky. I fear heights, but I want to face that and give in to that side of me that desires such a unique experience.

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

I have a tacky response: I just love my job. My favorite part is being a person with "front desk" in my job title because that means I interact with practically all of our members. I get to hear their stories and give love and support. I get to give hugs all day to people that may not be getting enough of that. Society has deemed many of these people unworthy, and I reject that. We hug for as long as it takes to release that happy hormone in your body.

It gives me a better and better understanding of the world around me and how to treat people - which I think makes me a better person? 

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Marc Shelffo

How were you introduced to Peer Seattle?

 

I've been HIV-positive since June 1989. I moved to Seattle in October 1992 from Santa Cruz, California. I was told to check out the Dunshee house around 1993, where I went for my first and only HIV support group. After my first meeting, I thought, "...fuck that, I'm never doing that again." I was too young and scared at the time and couldn't see the value of that meeting. Looking back, I think I wasn't ready to heal in a community. I had a lot of unprocessed self-loathing to work on, if not just recognize yet.

 

Later in 2012, I found out about the SOS (Strength Over Speed) meeting and started my recovery there. 

 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

 

Recovery Coach Academy (RCA) is coming up in the first week of August. After that, I have group facilitator training. I also just started planning the next Discovery Retreat (The Spirit of Recovery) held from October 31st – November 4th at the Rainbow Lodge. 

 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

 

Honestly, one of my flaws before coming into recovery was not allowing anyone to be a mentor or hero to me. My early family relationships informed me that I had no value, and I was angry and felt abandoned and ignored. So, as a result, I had a "screw you! I can do this by myself" attitude. But then I met people like Tony Radovich, George Spellman, and others, and they showed me how beautiful recovery can be. It made me want what they had. 

 

What song is stuck in your head today?

 

One of my superpowers is to give people earworms. I can get a song stuck in the heads of an entire room of people. The last song I played was *checks music player* TLC's "Waterfalls"! *He starts singing for me.*

 

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar? 

 

I love the Summer Solstice and those long summer days or any day there's a thunderstorm.

 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

 

Acrylic painting. I have a composition of the Tree Of Life that I'm hoping to get added to my sleeve tattoo. 

 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

I wish people would learn to converse and connect in person again instead of being on their phones all the time. I wish kindness and polite culture would come back in fashion. 

Imagine that people could control one of the four elements (wind, fire, earth, water); which one would you be able to?

I want to be all 4, but you don't get to, do you?

Fire. I've always been a pyro; I love playing with fire, fireworks, and fire play. I'm the one who brings the "fire magic" packages to add fun colors to our campfire. Some may say I have a fiery personality and passion too. 

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?

Skydiving is at the top of my list; however, there is a recently discovered cave in Vietnam called "Hang Son Doong" cave. It is so huge that rainforests grow throughout it. You can hike and camp through it; the journey takes three days.

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

This job certainly does. It helps heal the wounds I've caused in my community while I was out there getting high. I never did anything malicious, but I've hurt people just by the nature of my addictions. Healing my tribe has been my focus. And my dog Bruno helps with that as well. 

How does Bruno help?

Well, Bruno makes the best first impression. He makes people more at ease. And that helps me in the work I do. I got him when he was just five weeks old. And he's become not just a great service dog but a valued therapy pet too. I've seen him wake up from a nap and go over to people that need support because he could sense it.

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Andrew Leonard

How were you introduced to Peer Spokane?

I used to work for a pet supply distribution center, and I had never heard of Peer Spokane until the job listing on Indeed. The job description piqued my interest, and I looked them up. After learning about Peer's mission and our services, I knew I had to have this job. I didn't even apply anywhere else.  

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

I've been working a lot with Better Health Together (another non-profit in Spokane). A bunch of new grants are coming in, bringing new trainings and some more work for myself.

Outside of work, I also enjoy gardening. In October, I moved to a new place and have been working on my little patio of plants. Tomatoes are always my staple, and I have been working on multiple types of peppers as well.

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

My hero is my best friend, Shaunda. She has always been my rock and guiding light. She is very encouraging while not simply telling me what to do. Whenever I need a push, she is always there to push me, and it's always been in the right direction.

What song is stuck in your head today?

So, I've been watching handmaids tale. "I Don't Like Mondays" by The Boomtown Rats was just played in an episode, and now it's stuck in my head. 

But what do I normally listen to? I can go all over the place. Currently, I'm getting into nostalgia, so a lot of All American Rejects, Green Day, Good Charlotte, and even the new My Chemical Romance album. I like a lot of cliche "gay" music too, like Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga.

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again for the first time?

Harry Potter. I watched some of the movies before the books, which was cool having that baseline of characters and visuals already built. The story made me feel like a kid again. The excitement of both the books and movie releases coming out was a lot of fun. I watch the movies about once a year.

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar?

This will sound silly, but my birthday. It's June 2nd, which happens to be during my favorite time of the year. It gives me another excuse to enjoy the summer weather. Last year I got to vacation in Maui and had a blast.

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

Well, gardening for sure. I spent a thousand dollars on lumber for garden boxes during the first month of the pandemic and dove right in. It was a lot of work, but it was also very rewarding. I even found it very healing to dedicate yourself to a big project like that.

What do you wish would come back into fashion?

Wallet chains. I always wore one from grade school throughout high school, and I even had several different ones coordinating with different clothes.

Imagine that people could control one of the four elements (wind, fire, earth, water); which one would you be able to?

I'd probably say water; I go with the flow a lot. I'm also a Slytherin (also associated with water), but not sure how proud I am of that.

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?

Oh, I keep making plans for this, but they have always fallen through; skydiving. That's an all-time dream of mine. When I was little, we lived near an airport and got to see divers all the time floating through the air.

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person?

Self-care, and mental health. I'm going through a divorce. I'm starting to do yoga; I found a youtube channel called "man flow yoga" that I've been utilizing at home. I've begun trying to read some motivational books, even though it can be tough for me to really dive into most books. "The Mountain is You" by Brianna Wiest is what I'm currently reading. 

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Therese Paxton

How were you introduced to Peer Kent?

I met Michael Robertson (Peer Kent alumnus) at an AA meeting through a good friend Carolyn Presnell. She even sent me the job posting and introduced me. 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

I have a few. I'm collaborating with Nathan Hord, the homeless outreach admin for the city of Bellevue, to help put together the Resource Fair. This fair happens on the last Thursday of every month, starting with April of 2022. 

I'm also presenting at the 2022 Behavioral Health Conference about peers in libraries.

 

I'm also planning on starting guitar lessons soon for me. I write music and I do vocals as well, but I am currently working through some creativity trauma. Some of my favorite artists include Lil Peep, Taking Back Sunday, Brand New, Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains, Juiceworld, Sublime, Mindless Self Indulgence, The Distillers, Bring Me The Horizon, Operation Ivy, Asking Alexandria, Kevin Gates, and Ghostemane.

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

Alan Watts and Marilyn Manson. I really love Alan Watts' philosophies and lectures. Inzo has a song called "Overthinker" that I really like and it features a voice clip from one of Alan Watts' speeches. He has a lot of wisdom that I respect. 

Marilyn Manson and I share the same rare Meyers Brigg personality type, INFJ. Manson may have different opinions on some things, but I respect his courage to vocalize them despite what others may think. I like that he doesn't get offended by people when they are judging him and being rude. He can still sit calmly and remain unmoved by criticism from others. 

And I have to mention anyone surviving through trauma and addiction. Anyone that can come out of that is a hero to me. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

Death Cab for Cutie - "We Looked Like Giants

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar? 

The 4th of July. It's always nice & sunny out, and you get to blow stuff up.  I still have fireworks to get rid of from last year and will get bigger booms for this year. 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

Yeah, I started making memes, and I made one that went viral. You may call me a memelord, but I am currently retired. 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

I like diversity, so I like when things are "out of fashion." 

Imagine that people could control one of the four elements (wind, fire, earth, water); which one would you be able to?

It's fire for me. I'm an Aries, and I've always been a bit of a pyro. Fire is mystic and powerful and moves energy. 

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?

Surfing. Honestly, the ocean scares me, but I'd like to overcome that. I already enjoy skating and snowboarding, so it only makes sense to try out surfing as well. 
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What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

Meditating. My support group, Meditative Minds, has been helping with that. Also, introspective investigation; challenging my own thoughts/beliefs and seeing what needs improvement. 

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Justin Harmon

How were you introduced to Peer WA?

During the summer of 2019, I was doing some work with my sponsor, and they were asked to be on the advisory for Peer Spokane, a brand new branch of Peer Washington. This piqued my interest in what Peer Spokane was doing here. A few months later, I did their coach training, then group facilitator training, and by the end of 2019, I was hired as an employee there!

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

For work, I've been coordinating the vending machines with Narcan. Our members will be able to access Narcan and other useful items at a level of convenience unseen before, and that's something that's really needed. I hope it's the start of seeing more things like this pop up elsewhere in communities that need them. 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

That is a tough question; many people have taught me so many things. Thinking on it, my dad sticks out the most. His actions carried out his core values very well. He taught me not to be judgemental, help whenever I can, and to keep up a good work ethic. 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again for the first time?

It's been so long, but that would be the first concert I ever went to, September 5th, 1998. I got to see Metallica at The Gorge Amphitheater. There were no cell phones back then, no distractions, everyone felt very present. 

I'm still a big fan of many Seattle grunge bands too. The last concert I got to enjoy was a show by Megadeath. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

To tell you the truth, I've been cranking out Elden Ring (the latest Dark Souls game title well known for being a difficult task). The game's soundtrack is stuck in my head all day long. 

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar? 

November 15th, the day I stopped using. Every year I try to make it to a 12 step meeting and have a celebratory dinner. 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

Not really a "hobby", but I was able to take a road trip which absolutely became my highlight of 2020. I went down through several national parks, Utah, the "four corners", and back up through Nevada. Monument Valley was the biggest highlight for me; it is one of the most photographed places in America and has had lots of western movies set there. 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

Oh, the 90s band T-shirts with ripped jeans and a flannel. That Seattle grunge scene feel. 

Imagine that people could control one of the four elements (wind, fire, earth, water); which one would you be able to?

I'm so wishy-washy I may have to go with water. 

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?

I remember wanting to try out sushi for a long time, but I've changed that and have had plenty of delicious sushi since then. 

I do have a fear of heights, and I always wanted to get over that by doing something like skydiving. While terrifying, I hope that it would help me face a fear while also being a fantastic life experience. 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

I haven't been doing any writing recently, but that's something I want to kick start again. I just got a Handbook for New Stoics with weekly goals and exercises to do. It has been helping me understand how to interact with people in better and better ways. I have read a lot about philosophy/spirituality/new age stuff. 

If you could recommend just one of those pieces of literature, what would that be?

Tao Te Ching is what I would recommend. It is a very short book, is an easy read, yet packs in so much self-reflection. 

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Jenna Cook

How were you introduced to Peer WA?

Well, I went to Peer Seattle once for a training event. I was impressed with the building and how everything looked. Every person I met was relaxed, fun, and welcoming. The place had a great atmosphere going on. I then heard Peer Olympia was opening and got excited. I'd worked with Stephanie Lane on the side here and there and was asked by her to see if I was interested in Peer Workforce Development. Luckily, the timing was perfect, and it landed right when I was leaving another job; the answer was clear to me. 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

I'm very excited about an active duty training coming up. We will be working with active duty folks, teaching them about peer support. We just did one for first responders in January. It is a different swath of people that I usually haven't had experience with, so it was cool to hear about what they go through and how peer support can help with what they face. 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

Yeah, my sponsor from AA helps guide me. My sponsor has helped me in many facets of my sobriety, including my mental health, spiritual growth, etc. I've genuinely learned a lot from her. 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again for the first time?

They had a fantastic Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum with infinity rooms utilizing mirrors, sculptures, paintings, etc. It was an unbelievable experience that I wish I could go through again. I make art myself, and while I don't do any massive projects, it gave me tons of inspiration. Yayoi Kusama's paintings are often very simple, which also helped motivate me; it gave me less pressure to make sure something is perfect. She also has mental health issues and even lives in a psychiatric hospital. Much of her artwork comes from that internal experience, and I relate to expressing that. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

I'm not a big music person. Usually, it's whatever is playing at the gym or the store I was just visiting. I love to let other people pick. I'm more of a podcast person anyways.

If we are talking podcasts, "Armchair Expert" by Dax Shepard is one of my favorites, and he has experts and great guests on all the time. More recently, he has been doing "Armchaired and Dangerous" where they talk about weird conspiracy theories like bigfoot and simulation stuff. 

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar? 

Right now, August 26th, because I'm going on a surf retreat. I went to it a few years ago and absolutely loved it. It's a women's retreat where you can surf and eat fresh organic food served every day; what's not to like? I'm not a perfect surfer yet, but luckily you don't have to be to go. 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

I did! I've been walking a lot more with friends. I have one in particular where we walk every Sunday, rain, shine, or snow; we always walk. That's still been going on since quarantine started. Sometimes we have others join us. We usually get in 5 - 8 miles of walking. The conversation seems to flow even better when paired with a good long walk. 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

I was thinking of JNCO jeans. They fit in the waist but progressively get bigger and baggier out from your legs. Also, they have pockets all the way down to their knees.

 

Imagine that people could control one of the four elements (wind, fire, earth, water); which one would you be able to?

Water. I like to go with the flow and tend to be very easy-going. Plus, if I controlled water, I could make it not rain so much during my walks!

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

Easy! I've been doing weightlifting/strength training for the past six months with a trainer and everything. It improved my mood, made me more energetic, its helped with my motivation. Also, it has really helped with my physical disability. My right side has some nerve damage and a lack of muscle, but working on that has enhanced my mobility. It hasn't been a massive problem in the past, but it is great to see it improved, which also helps my confidence in day-to-day life and while presenting in front of people. It should help me surf better too! I've started getting my other friends to join in with me too. Nowadays, I've begun deadlifting with an Olympic-sized bar. 

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Tyler Self

How were you introduced to Peer WA?

Wow, hey, excellent question. Keep them coming!

Living on Capitol Hill in Seattle, I heard a good deal about Seattle Area Support Groups (SASG) from general chatter and a few good friends who have utilized their service. SASG has since evolved to Peer Washington and our various sites. 

2020 was undoubtedly awful, but it also gave me the shake-up I needed to reevaluate how I was spending my work time. I was tired of working for companies that, at best, were impersonal and, at worse, greedy entities I could never fully respect. Peer Washington changed that for me, and I jumped at the first opportunity I could to work for a local nonprofit that I've directly seen better my community around me. 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

The most exciting may be our upcoming commercials for our core services. They'll be quick and charming, but there is still quite a bit of work to be done for them. Being able to explain a service like Peer Coaching efficiently and with style will be very valuable. 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

I never really had a favorite hero or figure growing up, but I've collected many more minor heroes I admire for their specific strengths. Gandalf's wisdom and core ethics. Frank Herbert's understanding of complex systems like politics, religion, & ecology and how they interact with each other. Adrian Veidt's utilitarianism. Rorschach's moralism. Keanu Reeves' general chill. 

Actually, screw all that; look at Wilfred Warrior. He is my hero. 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again for the first time?

I'm going to say a video game; Outer Wilds. I thought it was just a fun space exploration game...it displayed beauty and wisdom to me in a way that other mediums could never deliver. It took me to some places I never thought I would land, like how to keep going even with my bad days and how to stop when you know it's time to close this chapter and start something new. Brilliant game; it won "game of the year" for good reason. If you're interested at all, I recommend going in as blind as possible, you can't really experience this game the same way again twice. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

"Catching Smoke" by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. I am still enjoying their Butterfly 3000 album; it is so happy and catchy. 

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar? 

As much of a Grinch I am, it's probably December 25th. The excuse to find a gift for people you care about is fun to me, and it's almost like a puzzle trying to find that perfect gift that they didn't even request. And I love coniferous trees with a bunch of tacky trash thrown on them. 
 
What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

Can we get into bald heads? Were we ever into bald heads? I'm losing my hair :(

Imagine that people could control one of the four elements (wind, fire, earth, water); which one would you be able to?

I like to go with the flow; I'm a water guy. 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

I'm working on evaluating my surroundings and transforming them to make myself a more productive and relaxed person at the same time. Currently, that means apartment hunting, looking for a better home work desk, and working on my sleep. I am striving for more minimalism in my life too. 

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Jess Lam

How were you introduced to Peer WA?

I first found out about Peer Seattle when I wanted to join a support group on cap hill. Peer Seattle was the prominent space holding groups regularly, and the environment felt very safe to me. 

When I was attending, I noticed how welcoming everyone was here. I specifically remember going and seeing homemade cookies out. It felt so good to go to Peer as a resource, not just for one thing. It worked for me, and I wanted to help pass that on to others.

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

Sort of! Climbing is an ongoing hobby, and I was just accepted into a very rigorous alpine mountaineering course starting in January. The program will last for six months and cover additional training like wilderness navigation and safety. I need to work on my cardio to prepare!

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

I can't say I have a hero. But as I get older, I look to my grandma for more advice and valuable history. My great-grandparents raised me, and they were immigrants. They went through assimilation, learning a new language, and losing a lot of our culture. Growing up, I wasn't fully aware of all that, and that knowledge is very important to me. I don't want it to get lost. My grandma talks about the past struggles today like they were nothing, which helps inspire me to have an even bigger drive and work ethic. 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again for the first time?

I was just thinking about this, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I watched it many times as a kid and absolutely loved it. I need to do a rewatch to see if it holds up as well as it does in my memories. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

Orion's Sun has been on repeat for the past few months. Specifically, the album Hold Space for Me. Also, Taylor Swift, but don't tell anyone. 

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar? 

December 25th. Not only is it my birthday, but it lands right on Christmas and the whole holiday season, which I think is a very interesting time of year. You get such a dichotomy between people both so stressed and anxious, but also so joyful and abnormally happy. 

 

Being in the thick of the holiday season, did you have any fun/unique traditions growing up for any time of the year? 

I remember when I was very little, still being raised by my great grandparents, we had joss paper or ghost money. The paper was very thin, and in the center was a square foil (silver or gold). You needed to fold them in a certain way, kind of like a boat. We made hundreds of them and burned them to pay respect to our ancestors. 
 
What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

Well...I can tell you what I don't want ever to come back. Skorts. Skorts were shorts that had a panel in front, so it almost looked like a skirt from the front. I don't know why I have this strong feeling towards them, but they are gross. 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

It's definitely climbing. I've put so much into it as one of the things I do for fun. When I'm in it, I only focus on that; just for me, nothing else matters. It is a great activity to displace all that energy when dealing with addiction. I've seen climbing permeate other areas of my life, too; it brings me more confidence to tackle whatever obstacle is thrown my way.

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Stephanie Tompkins

How were you introduced to Peer Washington?

I got to meet Josh Wallace when I was director of the Northwest Indian Treatment Center. Together, we helped develop Washington Recovery Alliance back when Peer WA was still SASG (Seattle Area Support Groups). 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

Everything about Peer Olympia is my passion project right now. 

 

Back at home, I'll be redoing our garage soon. My daughter moved in when she had twins and kind of took it over, and I want to make it more livable. Get some more windows and easy access to and from the house. Also, I am in flood country, and we need to be prepared for that. So really, it's a bunch of house projects. 

 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

 

Both my Dad and my stepmom are my heroes. I grew up in a very torturous, traumatic childhood. My stepdad and biological mother were pretty horrific people. As of now, I haven't talked to my bio mom in about seven or eight years. My bio-dad traveled a lot when I was a kid, so we weren't very close for a while. Eventually, we promised to have dinner once a week, which turned out to be a great decision. My stepmom, in many ways, taught me how to be both a woman and a mother. She also taught me how to care about myself in ways I never got before. So, I owe a lot to both of them. 

 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again for the first time?

 

I have such a bad memory of things that I usually have to watch them eight times to get all the details. So, I kind of already do this, haha. One thing I wish I could is season 1 of Modern Love. It's a series based on a New York Times article, a collection of short stories about love in modern days. 

 

Were you a sporty child growing up?

 

Skating and softball were huge passions of mine. I did figure skating and dance and was a speed skater from age four till around 12. I was in a newspaper article called the "pint-sized speedster" from my speed skating. 

 

Are you a movie freak at all?

 

I love horror movies in general. When I was younger, I loved the classic slashers. Now I go for more thought-provoking and suspenseful horror. I love anything Steven King, and I've read so many of his stories. I also enjoy love stories and my guilty pleasure of reality TV. All the classic reality shows are so great. 

 

What song is stuck in your head today?

 

Last week we did a lot of native songs in our training, where I taught people how to drum. I was just humming along to one earlier today. My music playlist generally has everything on it. I had a metal stage during my addiction, grunge too, and now I love absorbing everything. Marilyn Manson, Pantera, Slayer, Korn, I've seen all of them live. Mushroom Head for some rap metal. 

 

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar? 

 

Halloween! Or the longest day of summer and my Dad's birthday; June 20th. 

 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

 

Is anything really out of fashion? One of my favorite things was the hippie era and big bell bottoms, but I still wear them! My kids used to make fun of me for that all the time. 

 

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? 

 

I would probably cheat and choose a motorhome, so I don't have to choose to be stagnant. I do love the mountains and how quiet they are. When I go home, I like to be a hermit and isolate myself from going out and socializing. I could also see myself making a home in Mexico or Hawaii. 

 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

 

Nothing particularly new lately, but I have some good habits to keep up. One of the things I've always done was going to the sweat lodge and ceremonies. We haven't been able to do that as much due to covid. Lately, I've been feeling a bit stagnant since I need more of that. Tapping into my culture helps me maintain change. 

 

Something I do when going to a new city is simply talk to the homeless. Bring them some spare cigarettes and a hot meal. We talk to people, hug them, and make them feel human, like they matter again. I love getting to do that, and it's a part of my job now too. 

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Heather Hinds

How were you introduced to Peer Kent?

I was introduced through drug court. I called simply to get a gift card and ended up speaking to Pattie (Kent's director at the time) for about three hours. She didn't even know me, but she wanted me to volunteer and use my skills for Peer. She ended up convincing me, and I started volunteering, including at the front desk. 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

I'm planning a new support group, Goddess Warriors, with my mother. We are still working out the details but hope to have it running within two months. I'm also starting to work on a newsletter for our "Volunpeers". 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

Probably my mom. She is simply an incredibly strong woman who raised me always to empower myself and grow. She just moved to Port Angeles (we are from Boston originally) not too long ago but is now a Peer Coach at Kent as well. And she just beat cancer! She was supposed to be on her deathbed, but she is so resilient. 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again for the first time?

I really enjoyed the Back to the Future series. It's what I grew up with and was such an excellent blockbuster for the time that still holds up today. With it being Halloween season, I want to mention the Evil Dead series, too. My favorite from that franchise is Army of Darkness

What song is stuck in your head today?

"The Bomb" by Neurotic Fish. They sound industrial and goth. I have a broad taste in music. 

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar? 

I do love Halloween. The horror movies, the overall spooky theme, and getting together with friends and going out at night. Getting to dress up is fun. Vampire is my go-to look, but this year I'm sure I'll be costume shopping last minute. 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

I like the 80s. Big hair, spandex, and neon. Getting to listen to The Smiths again. 

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? 

I guess...right here! The Pacific Northwest. I love the rain, the forest, the ocean. It is certainly a milder climate compared to Boston. 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person?

 

That would be my volunteer work. I do a lot of volunteer work in my free time. Often I am building houses, cleaning up camps, or doing outreach. It is a great way to have such a direct impact on your community. 

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Jessica Wark

How were you introduced to Peer Spokane?

I was actually there to aid with the opening of Peer Spokane. My husband was doing some contract work, so I was helping him paint and fix things up. I even assisted Georgia in picking out some of the furniture. Hearing about the Peer Coaching class intrigued me, so I went ahead and took a class. My first coaching happened soon after, but then covid hit. I still worked with my peer over the phone for a while, but I wanted to get back out there and do something in person. My previous job was as a dental assistant, so I already love working with people. Then the covid care grant was gotten by Spokane, which gave me an in. It started as a six-month-long stint but is currently extended to June 2022. 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

Not too much at the moment. We may take the medical coding class, helping sign people up for Medicaid, so I'm looking forward to that class. I really want to do something animal-related; maybe as a support group, animals can brighten the mood of so many people. 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

My Dad is my hero. He has always been there to help. Even when he hadn't been, he was still checking in and making sure I was okay. He was gone a lot during my teenage years due to his geology work. My mom was an alcoholic/addict, which was a struggle growing up, but my Dad stepped up to the plate when needed. 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again for the first time?

It sounds stupid, but I like the excitement of roller coasters and that kind of thrill-seeking stuff. When I was younger, I loved to go on them and experience that feeling. But now I'm terrified of them! I wish I could get rid of that bit of fear. I've also always wanted to go sky diving, but I don't know if I could even get on the plane. So, I wish I could get rid of that fear. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

Haha, I have a Drake song in my head called "Nonstop". I was singing it to Jonathan earlier, and he loved it.  

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar? 

I do love Fall. I love Halloween and Thanksgiving, the weather, getting your comfy socks out, and getting some fun decorations out. Trees changing, the bright oranges and reds. Excellent walking weather with the dogs, not too sweaty. 

It's spooky season soon; are you dressing up for Halloween? 

I've still been thinking about my costume, but my dogs are ready! Sandy will be a butterfly, Rossi will be a dragon, and Coco will be a pineapple. It may be my favorite holiday since my grandparents would always have me over to hand out candy; they had a LOT of trick-or-treaters. I'd even get paid as a teenager to do that. Hopefully, we will get a good amount of spooky kids visiting this year. 

Do you have a favorite horror film for the season?

I used to be obsessed with Chucky when I was younger. I got to see the newer one and left a bit disappointed. I remember loving all the Jason movies. I love a good scary slasher film. The Saw movies were great too, when they were coming out in the theatres. 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

I loved hammer pants when I was little. I was really into the neon, the scrunchy socks, the whole TLC era. Those jelly shoes seem to be coming back! 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

I'm working on my mental health. I've been sober for over two years now, and many things are coming back from my younger years and past that I've pushed back. Some deep things are coming forward that I'm finally able to deal with. Decompressing and not getting too stressed about it is essential. 

I'm also trying not to bring work home as much. I've had clients pass away, yet you still see people doing the wrong thing in public regarding covid safety, and it can quickly become very frustrating. I try not to focus on that. Just focus on my family and those close to me. Loving the ones I love! 

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Jesse Holcomb

How were you introduced to Peer Seattle?

This is a great story, so I struggled with substance use (cocaine/meth/alcohol/weed) and sex work until my loved ones had an intervention with me. They wanted to send me to rehab, but I was adamantly against that. So I made a plan to start going to NA. I was scared to even start that, partially from worries about it being overly religious, and also, as a trans woman, any new environment has the potential to be scary. While researching, I found Peer Seattle around three years ago and decided to check it out. The first person I met, working the front desk, showed me the meeting schedule and explained them better. That person was Sayed, whom I ended up marrying! We first met at Peer Seattle.

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

Work-wise I'm going to be starting a trans support group called "Trans is Beautiful," which happens to be my favorite Instagram hashtag to use. As soon as we get the clubhouse grant, I'll start an employment and jobs group.

Otherwise, I am applying to grad school right now. I am going to get my Master's in non-profit management.

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

I mean, I don't idolize public figures so much. One of the things I love about peer work is the equality of other people, that no one is better/above anyone else. So celebrity culture rarely hits me.

I've always been inspired by the women in my family. My mom and I are very much the same person. She has always been very open and honest about her mental health struggles, which helped me confront mine. I can always talk to her about anything, and she always has my back.

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again for the first time?

I will never rewatch things, not sure why. So, in a way, my answer is all of my favorites. My favorite movie is probably Moulin Rouge, and that is one of the rare ones that I've watched multiple times. I was the weird eleven-year-old that loved that movie. Another that came to mind was the Spice World movie. Also, Grace and Frankie, I love that show, and I am already caught up on the new season that only came out a few days ago.

You graduated from the University of Washington with studies in textile & fiber design, was there a specific style that attracted you to these art forms?

Initially, I was in business school and found out about the fiber/textile program later. I've always loved textile art and sewing. Textile/fiber fine art is anytime you are using fiber to create art. There is a vast landscape as far as what that entails.  I decided to sign up for a fabric dying class and eventually switched over entirely.

Even though I always loved art classes as a kid, I felt like I needed to be more proactive about my future. That sort of collegiate degree can be seen as a dead-end. I'm sure I was influenced by my mother, too, who got an art degree and didn't pursue that for a long while. Looking back, I'm glad I did it, and I still make art today.

You also received a minor in sociology from there; do you have any lessons from sociology that you wish more people were aware of in their day-to-day lives?

I've always had a fascination with people and how they interact. My higher power is community, and I genuinely believe in the power of people coming together. I always try to think the best of other people and see things from their perspectives. Even when people ask for my advice, I'm very Switzerland/neutral. Your feelings/perspective may be valid, but...they don't often convey the whole truth. Empathy between different experiences/cultures is essential. That is the biggest lesson to take.

What song is stuck in your head today?

My latest favorite is "Henny Talk" by Rosemarie - I love female R&B artists. Unlike with movies and shows, I can relisten to songs over and over and over. This one has been going strong for a few weeks now.

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar?

I love other people's bdays, gift-giving is a lot of fun, and I get a lot of pleasure from it. So with December 7th being my sister's and husband's birthday, it is the perfect date for that.

What do you wish would come back into fashion?

I'll be hella controversial and say low rise jeans. I love the early 2000s movement coming back. In my mind, I'm picturing Paris Hilton with low rise jeans and baby tees, and that makes me so happy.

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person?

I love giving back to people. Helping other people helps yourself. For the past three years, I've been a facilitator for a trans youth group through the Trans Families organization. I've helped develop/facilitate their youth trans fem group. That plus NA showed me that helping people is what I love to do. Before this, I was a product photographer for seven years and wasn't getting fulfillment out of it. Now, I genuinely feel like I help people every day that I work here. 

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Sara "Nerdzilla" Graham

How were you introduced to Peer WA?

I started going to SASG (Seattle Area Support Groups (before it was Peer WA)) for my Al-Anon meetings. Then started volunteering at the front desk for SASG for just a few shifts. I ended up writing a proposal on what SASG should do as far as their tech stuff, considering everything was on paper at the time. Because of that proposal, Josh made me an offer I initially refused but ended up accepting after a few days. 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

This is a difficult question, one of the first to my mind was May West. I love her a lot. The way that she inhabited her surroundings and owned herself. 

Geena Davis is another hero, she was in A League of Her Own, and Earth Girls Are Easy. She now runs the Geena Davis Institute, which looks specifically at inequities in TV & film, addressing both disparity in pay and disparity in what kinds of stories are told. We deserve diverse stories with unique viewpoints. The institute goes beyond just dealing with actors, but also directors, writers...everything. She has led and funded a bunch of studies around the inequities in entertainment. Geena is a wicked smart person doing great things to better our culture. 

Also, Eartha Kitt. She is basically a badass. Whenever people ask her what she wants in a man, she always has a badass response

I've also got many great friends whom I would consider to be personal heroes. My mom is a badass; she is on the list. My mom raised me with the idea that love is complicated and difficult all on its own. To limit your love towards people is, well, kind of bullshit. You love who you love, and fuck the rest. 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again?

I don't know if there is anything since I love building my experiences on things. I watch shows/movies several times and still gain excitement for them; they do not lose their luster for me. 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

I did get into embroidery stuff. I've made a lot of fun perverse needlepoint things. I like them!

Making fairy houses is a blast too. They appease the fairies, so they don't get all mischievous and hide your shit. I find materials, especially anything that can't really be recycled, and use them to make cute tiny houses. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

The first song I listened to today was aptly named "First" by Cold War Kids. 

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar? 

I've been looking forward to Deep Playa Campout. It is a Burner event in September, after Burning Man, for everyone in the area to get together. I expect to see art projects, bands, DJs, fire spinners, etc. 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

Well, I do go to Al-Anon a lot. There are three core meetings each week I attend. Typically I even try to make it to a meeting every day, so I am very involved with them. I also do my spiritual identity class. It helps makes me less of a dick and builds empathy. I also support Queer the Land; a fantastic organization focused on queer people of color. 

Do you have any recent nuggets of wisdom you could share from your spiritual identity class?

Yes: notice how trees let go of things. If we look at leaves, leaves are actually pushed out by new leaves that are budding. The new pushes out the old. We have to let go of things for what we need to be cultivating. If we hold onto that dead leaf, we are not allowing for the new thing to come to replace it. Notice how trees let go of things. 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

I wish that overthrowing the government and revolutionary acts came back into fashion. It wasn't that long ago that we would tear down a politician's house if we disagreed with what was happening. 

What will be your next hair color?

I don't know! My hairdresser picks my colors. I've never been one to make those kinds of decisions since I don't care. I just ask her to make me pretty. 

Going on any big trips coming up?

In August, I have my initiation retreat, which is like graduation from my spiritual identity class. That will be at a place called 9 Muses in Idaho. 

Do you have a dream job? 

If I could do any job in the world, I would want to be a sex therapist. I'd help people find their kinks and explore their gender & sexuality. I believe there would be less violence in the world if we weren't so sexually repressed. 

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Charles Tatum Junior

How were you introduced to Peer Kent?

I was introduced mainly through Nya that worked in drug court. On my first day there, I didn't want anything to do with it. However, after some persuading and going through with the drug class, it all started coming together. Nya saw me doing volunteer work, and they figured I'd be an excellent fit for Peer Kent. I got interested. Pattie called me and brought me in, and now I love it. 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

 

Two projects! The first project I want to do is an art group. Sarah knows someone who does art therapy who I want to get introduced to and bounce ideas off. I'm also talking to Mark about it; he has a similar concept going for his group; Creative Gathering at Peer Seattle.

 

The second is working with my black festival group: Sundiata. This happens every year in June at the Seattle Center and includes live bands & around 60 vendors. 

 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

 

I constantly reflect back to my parents. My mother is my muse; she passed away 1.5 years ago. My father is hard-working but always puts family first. They are both my stepping stones to stay positive in my day-to-day life. 

 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again?

 

I don't think I've experienced it yet. My forefront thought just makes me wish I had more time with my mother. All my life, I've been drawing, and she was a powerful encourager for me. She was a seamstress who would stay up and sew all night watching Alfred Hitchcock. My mother would let me stay up with her and draw while we watched. 

 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

 

Patience. The only time I have patience is when I'm drawing. When I got out of 13 years of jail, I needed to see everything I could. The world was moving too fast for me to enjoy it. The pandemic, in a way, slowed down time. It actually helped me focus inwardly and on my art. 

 

What song is stuck in your head today?

 

Sam Cooke - "Its Been a Long Time"

 

Do you have a favorite date on the calendar? 

 

My mom's birthday on October 21st. My father and I still celebrate it. 

 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

 

I'm focused on being more truthful. Not that I tell many lies, but I'd like to speak my mind more rather than keeping quiet. I'm hoping that makes me more comfortable with people around me. 

 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

 

The jerry curls...if I had the hair! 

 

Where can I find your artwork? 

 

At the moment, it is on my Instagram. I'm also working on a site now that has my greeting cards.

 

I used to do tattooing, but I wanted more artistic freedom rather than carrying out the wishes of others. 

Is there a particular artist that has inspired you? 

 

No! That I can say for sure. I love all artists. I still discover new artists every day across the world and of all nationalities. I just found a 16-year-old in Africa that does realism only with a pencil, and that is so impressive. So, I love all art, and I could never pinpoint a single inspiration. 

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Julie Hinkemeyer

How were you introduced to Peer WA?

 

I was looking online for work in this field. I had interviewed at a few places, but then I saw Peer Spokane open. They had just cut the ribbon when I walked in the door and started talking to Georgia. I didn't follow any directions about sending in my resume, but I walked in and buttered her up the best I could. I checked in every week and hounded her until I got an interview with her and Josh. I had no experience or office history, but I told them I throw a good party and that sure sold Josh and Georgia. The rest is history, and I fit right in quickly. 

 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

 

I am setting up the Family Navigator position for Peer Spokane! 

 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

 

This will sound really corny, don't laugh, but it's my parents. They raised me the best they could and gave me a great work ethic. They paid for all these private lessons with sports. Even when I did messed up stuff to them, they always held out for me. If they weren't able to love me unconditionally, I wouldn't be here today doing my work. Today we even live on the same street. 

 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again?

 

Game of Thrones. I love to watch that show. It's got everything you could ask for! 

 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

 

When I was quarantined, I still had the peer Spokane phone; it was my cell phone. My hobby was listening to people melting down from the pandemic. It was rough. I would get calls all day. It felt great to help people, but the emotional toll it took built up on me quickly. Washington Listens was an excellent lifesaver for me. 

 

I also like to paint. I paint regularly and with large paint-by-numbers projects. Sometimes I would paint while listening to people melting down. 

 

What song is stuck in your head today?

 

Justin Beiber's "Love Yourself." I'm not sure why, but I love all his songs. I'm a Belieber! This song helps me build confidence in myself. Even though he is such a douche, he speaks to me. 

 

What is your favorite date on the calendar? 

 

February 2nd, 2022. Two has always been my favorite number ever since I found out I write it uniquely. It has always felt lucky to me. 

 

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet? 

 

Bungie jump or skydive. If I weren't so scared of the flight to get there, maybe I'd have done it by now. Having someone else in control like that terrifies me. The jump itself would be easier for me. 

 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person? 

 

I am giving back to my family. My mother is dying of pancreatic cancer, and my dad has been showing signs of dementia. My 90-year-old grandparents live nearby me as well. I've been feeding my self-less growth by focussing on my family. During my addiction, I stole a lot of money from my parents. Now they are well off, but during that time, they sacrificed so much for me. 

 

What do you wish would come back into fashion? 

 

I kind of wish everyone still wore dresses, like with girdles, lace, corsets, fancy dresses. I'd work in a brothel just to have a corset. I want the fun of dressing up and going big. 

 

Well, that or the 80s. The gloves, the crimped hair, the polka dot skirt, vinyl.  

 

Did you have a favorite sport to play growing up? How about now? 

 

While growing up, I played soccer, softball, and basketball. When I was young, I would do multiple sports. When I got older, I focussed on basketball to get scholarships. I was on a team that went to nationals for basketball. I played till my senior year and dislocated my ankle, which halted all those plans. 

 

Looking back, it was all about training; I didn't really have a social life. So I didn't enjoy it to its fullest. 

 

Do you watch any sports on TV? 

 

I'm one of those people that yell at the screen. I have to watch it after the fact; I get mad and adrenaline pumping. 

 

What is new at Peer Spokane? 

 

We now have our four tables with umbrellas on our outside deck with a grill. We want our members to feel more at home here. That can include us having "coach cookouts" where we have trainings and delicious BBQ right after. 

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Michael "Pookie" Kerns

How were you introduced to Peer WA?

I came into recovery in 2009, having used meth in Seattle. Seattle was my playground. To get away from Seattle, I moved to Tacoma. While there, I still had some friends in Seattle who mentioned Strength over Speed training. I attended meetings, became a front desk volunteer, and now here I am! Loretta was my tutor when I first started here, and she got me on the right track. I also volunteered at the tree lot and had a blast doing that. 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

Yes, I am setting up the family navigator program! I've been collaborating between Sarah and Julie. 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

So many people leave footprints in my journey; so this is a difficult question to think about. It's like being at the Oscars...who do I choose to thank?! My recovery coach family, my AA family, I really can't single out an individual. 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again?

When I was 16, my father taught me to fly. Pot and drinking made me never finish that. If there were one thing I could go back and do, I'd go back and get that license. 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

I worked for Holland America line cruise company and got laid off due to the virus hitting us. For three months, I decided to travel by myself while adhering to health precautions as best I could. I got to visit places I've always wanted to see. I went to Las Vegas, saw Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyon Land, and even the Grand Canyon all in a week. 2100 miles driven all by myself. 

What song is stuck in your head today?

The Cars and Depeche Mode. "Moving in Stereo" or "Enjoy the Silence" are often in my head. 

What is your favorite date on the calendar?

St Patrick's Day, that is my anniversary of stopping meth. 

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?

There are two: extreme bungee jumping or sky diving. I love to fly!

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person?

Spiritual retreats! So, I have myself turned inside out, process trauma, go through it one more time, and be done with it. I'm learning to stay in my lane. 

What do you wish would come back into fashion?

My hair! I used to have beautiful blonde hair. Feathered hair, blowing in the wind, gorgeous!

You have a great passion for aviation; where did that come from?

My father, he was a pilot. He started the flight school currently at Joint Base Lewis–McChord. He moved the family up to Alaska, where he piloted many workers. The man had tens of thousands of hours of flight time and was very well known. I had gotten the bug from him, and I loved flying with him. 

On that topic, do you have a favorite type of aircraft that is special to you?

The Concorde, it was the pinnacle of aviation. My father met Andre Turcat (the first pilot to take the first Concorde prototype to the skies), he got me an autographed picture with him and the Concorde. 

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Loretta Donnelly

How were you introduced to Peer WA?

 

Around 2010, I was going to a Dunshee House support group called Daring Divorced Divas. From there, I heard about the tree lot they did every year, so I decided to visit and asked if they needed help. They said always! After the new year in 2011, I applied to be a front desk volunteer. 

 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

 

I am rolling out a new inventory on Smart Sheets. That will help show all the crazy little things we need. 

 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

 

Zena warrior princess and I have the tattoos to show it! She didn't take no shit, and she was always very persistent, even in the face of failure. 

 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again?

 

Disco, the whole disco era. The white blazers, the Frye boots, and don't forget the hankies. Listening to groups like The Trammps again for the first time would be magical. 

 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

 

Well, I wasn't really quarantined. I was still here and let myself go crazy cleaning the place up and taking advantage of the "break." So, cleaning and organizing was my hobby. 

 

What song is stuck in your head today?

 

"Latch" by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith. It is a great dance song to crank up and get myself motivated.

 

What is your favorite date on the calendar?

 

My favorite date is probably March 15th, the Ides of March. The day the Roman senate annihilated Julius Caesar. He was going to declare himself a god/Emporer or whatever. It reminds me to have faith in people to prevail and overthrow zealous leaders. 

 

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?

 

Fear aside, it would be dancing on a Broadway stage. 

 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person?

 

I've got a stream of notes tapped to the bottom of my calendar. These include: "don't panic," "adapt, adjust, and accept," and "act, don't react." Those have been my mantra for a couple of years now. Putting them up has definitely made me a better person. 

 

What do you wish would come back into fashion?

 

The mullet! I used to have the perfect one. In Burien, they are still fashionable, though...

 

I hear you've been involved in ballroom dancing, is there a school of dance you enjoy most? 

 

I was in a contest in Spokane and got first in the Cha-Cha; that is probably my strongest school of dance. I was going to go to Century Ballroom to get back into it. I want to perfect the Lindy Hop or Jitterbug. 

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Sarah Andrews

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How were you introduced to Peer WA?


I was introduced through Pattie! I knew her when I was a maintenance supervisor at the apartment she lived at. While there, our daughters became very close. Then, we lost contact for a while, maybe ten years, until I was training to become a Peer Counselor, and we had a guest speaker come in who happened to be Pattie. I talked with her right after, kept in contact for a few months, then she told me there are positions open Peer Kent. Now here I am. 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?


I do a lot of yoga. When I'm not at Peer Kent, I work for 3 Trees Yoga part-time in Federal Way. I've also started a group on Mondays called Movement and Meditation. I'm working on a project through them for Pride this summer; it will be Queer Positive Yoga for people in the LGBTQ+ community and their friends. When I teach, I try to curate a very peaceful and calming environment to encourage meditation. It helps a ton with depression and anxiety, among many other health benefits. What I love most about yoga is that it can be done anywhere, at any time, and by anyone regardless of body type. 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?


My Mother-in-law Lavinia Tan is probably my biggest hero; she is the most incredible woman I've ever met. Her family fled Vietnam during the communist takeover, was lost at sea for weeks, and eventually fled to Malaysia in a refugee camp for six months. Later, she was sponsored by Seventh-day Adventist missionaries, and they got her to move to America. She quickly adjusted, went into education, and helped her younger siblings get into college as well. 

 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again?


Schitt's Creek I am obsessed with. Although, I could watch that again anyways. I've already watched it four times. 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?


Pickleball! My partner and I used to go to the gym all the time since it was within walking distance, and we'd always see an older crowd playing pickleball. We have some courts nearby and decided to buy the gear and start playing. It turns out that it is tons of fun and a great skill to learn for folks to stay mobile. 

What song is stuck in your head today?


"Simply the Best" by Tina Turner

What is your favorite date on the calendar?


Although I am not the most sentimental person, it has to

be our anniversary. On March 18th, this will be our

seventh year. 

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?


Let's see, I've already tried skydiving, zip-lining in Mexico, hot air ballooning...LARPing! I've always wanted to do it. The next staff connections should be LARPing, please. 

 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person?


I try to live by the eight limbs of yoga. This includes the Yamas as the 5 social ethics regarding how you treat others (kindness, truth, not stealing, moderation, generosity) and the Niyamas, which are more about how you treat yourself (purity, contentment, austerity, soul study, surrender). Even though I am not religious, so I don't study the "surrender to a higher power" as much, there is a lot of wisdom here that I try to embrace from them and the other eight limbs. Mindfulness and harmony of myself and with the universe are things I find essential to seek, not to mention many other benefits

What do you wish would come back into fashion?


Spandex. 80s Jane Fonda spandex. Speaking of questionable fashion, I remember being a big fan of TLC. So much so that when I was 12 or 13, I tried to get a haircut just like T-Boz. It turned out to be a bowl cut...

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Roberta "Bert" Romero

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How were you introduced to Peer WA?

About two to three years ago, I was invited by the king county recovery alliance to a meeting hosted by peer Seattle. There I met Cody, Dana, Loretta, and Josh all on that first day. 

 

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

 

I am! With something that has taken my whole life to get here. I've always wanted to do something special about mental health on the news network. I've just started this brand new segment on King 5 called "are you ok" airing on Sunday morning. It covers a wide variety of mindful topics, from depression to how to talk about politics. I get to help write it, develop new content, and allow the anchor to execute it. I am still perfecting it and getting it to a great place to grow. 

 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you?

 

One of my heroes would be my mother. She grew up in New Mexico; her first language is Spanish, the eldest girl of ten kids. At school, whenever she spoke Spanish, she would be physically hit. When she started high school, her Dad told her no more education. Luckily she was still able to go through high school despite this. She is a domestic violence survivor and a great ally for me when I was getting sober. She gave me a great perspective on any disenfranchised community. 

 

Who is your favorite interview you've done?

 

I've done some big names like Dick Cheney and Oprah Winfrey, but the best are usually the little families willing to share their stories. A big one that comes to mind is Penny Legate. She was Evening Magazine's anchor.  Unfortunately, her daughter died from a drug overdose, and Penny has since been a prominent advocate for recovery and drug addiction visibility. Her story is always one that sticks out in my mind. 

 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again?

 

For tv, it's got to be Breaking Bad. It was even filmed in my hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

 

For music, I had the great fortune of having a once in a lifetime musical experience. My twin daughters wanted to see a concert back in middle school, and I luckily took them to a show. It was a small venue, very personal. It was Bruno Mars and Janelle Monet! Right before anyone knew them. I'd love to be able to do that again; watching them live was unbelievable, and getting eye contact from both artists during their performance was very memorable. 

 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

 

No, but I reignited one—coloring with gel pens. 

 

What song is stuck in your head today?

 

I start every day with "Lovely Day" by Bill Withers. A few commercials picked it up and reminded me of the song. 

 

What is your favorite date on the calendar?

 

January 2nd, my sober bday, 1-02-04. My bitter regret was not making it 12-31-03; it feels like I missed a year. 

 

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?

 

Well, I don't want to jump out of an airplane. I want to do more art like painting and sewing, but it intimidates me. Need the willingness to do so. 

 

I'd love love love to write a tv show or movie script. A 30-minute sitcom type, even though writing funny is difficult. It is easier to write to make people cry rather than laugh. 

 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person?

 

I'm in a brand new group; it is an all-women group learning about codependency. 

 

I seem to have a really poor memory of my childhood. I've come to find out that is because of trauma; as a child, you learn to deny and minimize it. Unpacking that has made a lot more things make sense. For instance, my difficulty with learning Spanish was because of my father using it during times of domestic abuse. 

 

Are there any recent technologies or pieces of pop culture that you've surprised yourself by liking?

 

I can't believe I love TikTok and Reddit; I just love them. Facebook? Hate it. For TikTok, I really enjoy watching drag queens go through their makeup transformations. For Reddit, I love any pet-themed subreddits, like animals being "bros" or jerks. Some of my favorite subreddits are: r/stopdrinking r/raisedbynarcissists r/relationshipadvice (reading this one makes me think, "oh, my life isn't so bad").  

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Rivet 

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How were you introduced to Peer WA?

I was introduced to the organization through a friend, Steven Griffith, who worked at SASG ["Seattle Area Support Groups" now renamed: Peer Washington] at the time doing a version of my current job. He asked me to help develop a poster for the tree lot [the tree lot was a fundraiser we were able to do selling evergreen trees for the holidays]. This led to me helping work the tree lot itself, which allowed me to meet many people within the organization and learn about their work. 

Eventually, I developed a website for SASG since I saw that it could be easily updated and presented it to Josh Wallace. I wasn't looking for a job at that time and enjoyed it as a side gig. However, Josh convinced me to take up a more stable position, and here I am!

Are you working on any projects you'd be excited to tell us about?

 

My new house in Tacoma. For Peer Washington, I'm working closely with Tyler and Bert formulating a new ambassador program to help with marketing. Expect that to come to fruition this year, along with some new merchandise to help spread our name. 

 

Do you have a hero? Or any idols that help guide you? 

 

I would feel remiss if I didn't mention the grand excellence himself, Josh Wallace. Nikola Tesla has always inspired me by his eccentricities and how far ahead of his time he was. Dolly Parton is awesome. 

 

What piece of entertainment do you wish you could erase from your mind so that you could experience it again for the first time?

 

Battlestar Galactica. It is just such a great show, humans coming together to face a problem they put upon themselves. Extremely well-written characters make the whole ride so enjoyable and insightful. 

 

Did you acquire a new quarantine hobby for 2020?

 

Fermentation station. With the help of Brad Leone, I've been able to do a lot of fun stuff. "Peppergine" might've been my biggest hit, a hot sauce made from hatch chiles with that added fermentation-funk. 

 

What song is stuck in your head today? 

 

Raspberry Beret by Prince. As much as I don't like Prince for being a chauvinistic asshole, it is catchy. [Rivet sings, "She wore a raspberry beret, the kind you find in a second-hand store!"] His song highlights reducing-reusing-recycling, which I'm very into right now. 

 

What is your favorite date on the calendar? A holiday?

 

I don't know; I have more of a favorite time of day...like lunchtime. 

 

What do you wish would come back into fashion?

 

Capes. Men's capes. Or...cloaks, put cloaks. I feel like I want to wear a cloak, but there is a part of me that says, "no, you're not old enough to be eccentric yet." Plus, I wear shorts, and I haven't seen any good cloak-shorts combos yet. 

 

What is something you've meant to try but haven't yet?

 

Basketweaving. I think it's a great skill to have, and I bought my mother a basketweaving gift for Christmas because I secretly want to do it. 

 

What is something you are doing now to make you a better person?

 

I'm participating less in the outside world (social media and news) while trying to be more mindful of the people and space around me. I'm receiving validation from the people closest to me rather than from the masses, which, I think, gives it a lot more meaning. 

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