Sunday, February 25, 2018

Thirty! 30! thirty.

19 year old Cass
Today I turn 30 years old. Other than going through several boyfriends/fiances and living in 5 states and moving 18 times or so, it was a pretty chill decade of slowly easing out of my comfort zones. 
I decided that for my thirties I need to drink more coffee and do more drugs. 

I decided that to keep me focused on blogging this year, I'm going to post a monthly list of 30 things, starting with

30 unique things I have done in my life. 

21-year-old Cass

  1. Was told that having Controller of the Universe on my resume was too intimidating, so I changed the title of my planetarium job to Controller of the Solar System. 
  2. Sent nude photos to my fam and friends with my college graduation announcements. 
  3. Got a phone number from a guy on a bus by filling out a "reason's why you're awesome" notepad sheet and putting it in his hand as he walked by. 
  4. Dated a man I met on the internet (before it was cool).
  5. Shared a room with two different bosses, to save money on hotels. 
  6. Was paid to Mime on 6th street (when I was a teenager). 
  7. Took drum lessons with my favorite band's drummer just to ask him out. But I learned a bit, too. 
  8. Been in the president's room at the Kennedy Center.
  9. Spent at least a week away from home for 45 of the last 48 months. 
  10. Vomited on an OU fan at a Texas bowl game. 
  11. Lived in Four of the US Time Zones. 
  12. Auditioned for my dream role as Peter Pan, but didn't get it. 
  13. Spent three weeks in Germany-- ate gelato every day, but only had one beer, and no meat. 
  14. Dated four different guys in a three-day weekend. 
  15. Driven at least 10,000 miles in a 15 passenger van.
  16. I am an illustrated character in a kids book. 
  17. Paid to "lose my head' as a magician's assistant (best paying gig I've ever had). 
  18. I have watched the sunrise on the East coast and set on the west coast (but not in the same day). 
  19. Bought a new car.
  20. Shaved my head 5+ times. 
  21. $19/hour is the most I've ever been paid (other than Mime and magician gigs).
  22. Been engaged twice, never married. 
  23. I can do half a handstand push-up. 
  24. Paid off my student loans (Thanks Grandma!)
  25. Got paid to do voiceover for a kid's program.
  26. I used to have three black lights and a disco ball and strobe light in my room, where I would dance to 311 and Metallica, and Disco music and the Night at the Roxbury soundtrack. A lot. 
  27. I've given $2000 to a friend in need (on more than one occasion) and received a $1000 plane ticket from a friend when I was in need. 
  28. Did 9 days of the 10-day Master Cleanse
  29. Hiked 26 miles in a day (from my front door, up San Gorgonio and back to bed) in Merrel's paceglove. 
  30. Slept in a homeless shelter, a park, a teepee, a hogan, a Wigwam and a variety of tents, several vans, and a couple hatchbacks as well a dozens of nights on the ground under the stars.
I would LOVE to hear if anyone else has done more than one of these. :)

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Case (for/of) Children...Part 1

I know it's pretty early in the year to anger people, but I have a story to tell you.

This is the story of a little girl and a little boy. The only reason they exist is because their mommy decided not to tell their daddy that she would stop taking birth control, surprising their dad with their existence, and ensuring he would be connected to the mommy forever. Their mere existence required the dad to quit school, the family to move, Wal-Mart to become their primary shopping experience, and a decade of emotional neglect, and deception to dominate the children's lives.
Sadly, I have met an increasing number of the people of these stories. Parents who tell me their children are little blessings, albeit expensive ones that they don't have the emotional capacity to care for.

This morning I listened to a pediatric neuroscientist explain the basic need of physical touch to all mammals. He expressed that the growing trend of raising isolated families without the existence of the extended-family or village community that has been present in 99% of our evolution, young adults are entering the world with the emotional capability of a 4 year old. I thought that this perhaps explains my reluctance to have children. I explain to others that I still very much feel like a child, developing my beliefs and decision making processes such that I would feel unprepared to bring a new human into my world, under my care.

Image result for children cost as much asI'm at the phase in my life where friends are starting to have children. Technically that started when I was 18 or so, with some friend's kids looking exactly like they did when I met them in 4th or 5th grade. I have struggled to speak heartache at seeing all these children, because it seems so taboo. Babies are supposed to be blessings, bundles of Joy. As animals, we are genetically wired to want to procreate. But as intelligent animals, I don't understand how this urge overwhelms our senses, especially in the midst of overwhelming population growth, resource over-consumption and a growing body of children needing physical touch and community that seems to be ignored.

I have met, entertained, taught, played with and educated over 1000 kids in under a decade. Through this experience I have learned that every kid's most basic needs beyond food and shelter, are attention and love, and the freedom to act as children. In the ten years I have been teaching, the trend of children not having these basic necessities seems to be growing.
When I am not working to teach children the joys of nature and the importance of our environment, I am helping my friend's children learn to tie their shoes and use manners, or I am trying to teach life skills to a young woman with a complicated family life who knows the foster system all too well. Meanwhile, Facebook shows me more and more photos of perfect little white babies born to happy moms and dads with the means to support them. And although those families have the best of any intention to raise their babes into component, intelligent inspiring adults-- I see every new baby born as a crime against the millions of children in foster care systems wishing they had a family to love them. I see it as an injustice to an Earth that has given us everything from it's soil to it's sunlight to sustain our insatiable demands. If I imagine the world the way I want to live in it-- parents would have to prove themselves financially stable and emotionally intelligent enough to have children. Ideally, they would be required to foster before having their own children-- to share their love and resources with those in need before bringing to this world another mouth to feed.  I just don't understand why it's adopting dogs is so common but children is not.

I know that most of the people reading this have children, (my mom included) or strongly desire children. I don't mean to judge or shame you. I just want you to know that for every ounce of love you have for your current or soon to be baby-- I have for the mountains we blow up to mine the metals for your smart phone, the wildflower covered fields that were paved over with your new subdivision, and at least some of the hundreds of children I know that need far more attention than I can give them.


Monday, January 1, 2018

I don't do extreme sports because my life IS an extreme sport (aka obligatory 2017 reflections)

Perhaps the most significant and summarizing event to happen to me this entire year occurred just yesterday, on a long drive.
A Harvard scientist who is the director of a 75 year study that has studied 700 men over the course of their lives was giving a talk about what they found. There were two main groups-- Harvard students, a low-income men working in Boston all about the same age. They tested heart rates, body fat, income, happiness, etc. The result? Having positive relationships makes you happier, live longer and be healthier.

That dropped the mic for me.
I have spent all of my year giving to one relationship, and two little people by association. I have neglected my letter writing, my community, occasionally my job, and often myself. I think I did what I needed to do this year, while being honest and aware of what I was doing...but it's time to strive for balance. 2018 will be about strengthening relationships. My life depends on it, according to Harvard.

Well-- that was easy. Now let's look back-- What did 2017 do for me?
Let's see..

Put another 23,000 miles on my car, driving mostly to Detroit and back and Colorado and back. And once to Texas and back.

Found several dinosaur bones, poops, and fossils from the late Triassic.

Finally hiked to the Sandia Crest. 

Didn't make it to any new states but I finally visited Canada, so I've now visited 4 countries and lived in 1.

I don't think I finished a single damn book. Except Waiting for Godot, if that counts. 

I think I saw some movies but none were really memorable. 

I presented a workshop at two different conferences. 

We often wait for the big accomplishments to celebrate our achievements, but this year I worked on acknowledging the little things. In my busiest 228 days of work (March-October), I 
Learned 795 names
Forgot 760 names
Worked 76 Field Days with kiddos (and some adults)
Worked 36 office/admin days to organize all our tripsWorked 47 days at our Base CampWorked 37 days at the park or on some field project not on trekSpent 69 days/nights with my lover/partner.Had 34 days "off" to recuperate/relax/refresh.Visited Chaco Canyon 4 times (+ once in Winter '16)Organized outdoor experiences for 26 different schoolsCoordinated getting 1304 people to spend over 3000 days outdoors.Aided in awarding $18,000 of grant money to New Mexico schools for field trips.

I think the best way to summarize my year, however, is with PHOTOS. 

I got really sick traveling from Chicago to St Louis to Indianapolis and back to Chicago. But I went to this cute museum in Indy with a bunch of Southwest paintings. 

Flew to San Diego to meet my partner's parents and see his old stomping grounds

My lover made me my favorite food and it was perfect. 

I slept outside, a lot. 

Had an unexpected May snow, one of the times I was sleeping outside. 

Spent Memorial day battling crowds with foster kids. (White Sands)
Set up a lot of tents. 

Visited/Fell in love with Rio Grande Del Norte with 10 boys from Bernalillo.
Chased a lot of sunsets.
Spent two weeks making memories with these goofballs. 

Caught this one on Solstice.
Watched this cloud for 30 minutes.

Slept inside, for once, cause it was freezing.
Went hiking outside of work!

Took this new favorite photo of mine when my folks came to visit <3

But really-- live for these moments of sunny solitude, when I can reflect on all the love and fun I've been having...

In my beautiful backyard.
I know 2018 is going to have it's struggles and it's hilarity. But as long as it's shared with open-minded people, I know I can endure, and maybe even flourish through it. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A weird Christmas.

I'm writing this on the evening of the 29th, in a hotel in Lubbock, after a very thought-provoking, warm and fuzzy, capitalistic-encouraging Christmas.

I can honestly say I sort of changed this Christmas. 2017 was a rough year, and not just because it's an odd, pointy number (I'm greatly looking forward to delving into the smooth curves of 2018, but I'll get into that in another post). With the year ALMOST behind me (us), and my 30th birthday looming ahead, I granted myself an opportunity to take the 10 hour drive by myself to my next-door state and visit 40 of my family members and friends in one central location. The only kicker is that I have to endure the quintessential Capitalistic+religious love-baby that is Christmas. 
Don't get me wrong-- for all the things I can't stand about Christmas- the strong implication that it is necessary to buy things people don't need to show that you care about them, the growing tension as the holiday approaches, the inability to get through a shopping line under 10 minutes, and the intolerable commercials, there are the wonderments of cinnamon candles, making cookies, seeing relatives, singing songs together, and the sparkle of a decorated tree emanating it's fragrance in the front room. 

One thing that changed me was the words of encouragement from friends and family who read my blog. Although you (and Russia, apparently) are the only ones who read my blog, it showed that it's certainly not for nothin'. Although it does cause hesitation when the characters of my world that I'm depicting here are also my only readers. I appreciate you all for following along, and I have some exciting things planed for the coming year.

Because the greatest memories and revelations from my one week home came from vastly different sources, I can think of no better way to present them than....bullet points.

  • The sweetest, smartest, most-gentle-man in the world (who happens to be my grandpa) told me not to worry too much about rising climate change, and increasing stupidity (my words) because we're going to get nuked. #affirmation
    • As a side note-- I listened to the Nature Backchat podcast from November 2016, with world scientists coming to grips with Trump's election win and speculating what that might mean for science...and I felt okay-- like there are champions of science working to spread information and educate people. Then I went to Wal-Mart, and felt like maybe getting nuked wouldn't be so bad. Really though-- so many people seemed to be suffering, smoking, shuddering, stooping. If going to Wal-Mart is their greatest hope in life, maybe a bomb wouldn't be so bad. #judging #sympathizing
  • My other amazing grandfather said "I hope to see you again" when he hugged me g'bye.
    But there's NO WAY I won't see him again cause he's a peppy 93 years old and we've got lots of life to live together. 
  • Internal monologue while watching presents unwrapped, "So much packaging. Wait that's recyclable! (watches as it's thrown in trash). Dammit. People use these? Can't we just read books anymore? What's that? How does it work? Put your phone down!"
  • Comparing my 5 humble Christmas celebrations to my boyfriend's one simple present opening. 
  • Reading my favorite Christmas story to my family with the help of my English-expert brother for some of O'Henry's harder words. 
  • Taking 5 trips to pack up all the wonderful gifts I received-- that I don't need, some I wanted, others, such as the fuzziest blanket I've ever had, will certainly come in handy, wondering how it's fair that I get so much love, warmth, food and presents while others get so little. 
I guess the bottom line is that I'm sensitive. I'm sensitive to people wasting resources, and I'm sensitive to people who fill their bodies with cool whip and fast food and sneer at kale salads and doing squats and stretches in public. I can honestly say that I've been touched with the Christmas spirit this year. As I'm sitting in my gnome pajamas from my grandma, in a hotel my dad booked for me so I could take a rest from the road, eating a chocolate covered strawberry that my brother made himself I am literally surrounded by love and warmth. This Christmas was overwhelming if you count what I ate or spent or saw thrown away... but it reminded me of how blessed I am to have family and presents and live in a place without blizzards, or fires or hurricanes (currently). And I am motivated more than ever to spread the love and warm fuzzies. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Things I don't Understand

I haven’t written in a Long time. It’s certainly not because I have nothing to say. It might have something to do with the insane hours I put in at my job. But it’s mostly because I’ve been listening. There are a lot of voices speaking up for the first time, or that have been speaking up for a long time and are finally being heard. So I’m listening.

The shortest summary I can give for my stance as an environmentalist, is that we’ve failed. Maybe it occurred when Trump got elected. Maybe it was that seemingly insignificant day when the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide? It is quite possible that it has been a different day for every different person, and clearly, that day hasn’t come for some, yet. But as I increasingly allow myself to understand what it means that we have failed, I am comforted as friends and colleagues join me.

I’m talking about an utter loss of hope. A paradigm shift. The start of the apocalypse—to be dramatic.

A year ago I still felt that I was making a difference. That I could bike to work, explain to others what could be recycled, and inspire environmental literacy in our youth. Today, every time I hear a low-flying plane, I imagine it’s a nuclear bomb. Beautiful women harmonizing on the radio sing of “when the soft rains come” after the people have wiped ourselves out. Environmentalists I use to work for also make plans about where they should move to avoid rising sea-waters, increased hurricane activity, extended droughts and unforeseen things like blackouts and a breakdown of our necessary systems like food transit.

In short, I strongly believe that we’re going downhill, fast. But I’m not here to talk about that (yet).
Since I’m still listening, I want You, whoever you are reading this besides my mom and maybe my uncle, to explain these things to me. Things I really don’t understand.

I am not a professional scientist. But I spent a lot of my undergrad studying science, and I seek to continually learn about how our world works. I know that our climate is something we’re still trying to figure out, and that it runs in cycles that overlap on cycles that repeat with other cycles. Like most of our world, nature is beautifully complicated. I know that trees and plants can communicate within their communities through energy, and some sort of pheromones. I know that there are MILLIONS  of species that we aren’t even aware of, but we act like we’re the only ones who share this planet.

But there are a number of things I can’t, for the life of me, understand.

1)      Babies. I clearly missed the procreation gene, or something. I just really don’t understand how, with all the social, environmental and population issues plaguing our planet, why anyone would want to make a smaller version of themselves to have to feed and teach and grow into a decent human. In my experience, most people having babies forget that last part.

2)     Lack of systematics and mistrust for science. How many of you reading this have a degree in science? I recognize that a lot of science is funded by interest groups that can make scientists unreliable, (see below) which should prompt us to be skeptical and search for citations…not mistrust science. When someone who spends 60 hours a week studying something that interests them for a nominal wage is arguing against someone who has billions of dollars to lose and will say or do anything to not lose money… why wouldn’t you apply that skepticism to the latter.

3)      Capitalism. I understand the idea of capitalism around material things, to an extent. I don’t understand how greed can manipulate basic human services like education and healthcare.

4)      Economics. I took a couple classes on economics. One drove me to environmentalism. I really don’t understand environmental economics. Maybe economics outside of capitalism makes more sense.

5)      Apathy. In a world with SO MUCH going on, how can anyone not be bothered to care, about something, at least.

6)      Human nature. This one might be unpopular. But as an animal species-- albeit a sentient, empathetic one—there are things that are inherent to our nature that we seem to suddenly be asking everyone to ignore. Not that all people born with female genitalia have the nurturing gene, or that all men are aggressive fighters… but many of us are. I’m not opposed to the non-binary trends and appeal for an increase in sensitivity, but I wonder how it’s going to work on us apathetic animals.

These are the things I don’t expect to understand, no matter how much I’m listening.
Most days, I wake up and go through the motions because it’s what I’ve practiced doing for so long. Recycling, taking short showers, up-keeping my bike, and buying food from the local farmers market. But when I hear those low-flying planes and imagine what the blast would feel like… I feel sort of calm. That all these increasingly complicated layers of our society that don’t make any sense, might just disappear.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

If you're not angry, disgusted, outraged, and inspired... you're not paying attention.

I would like to preface this by the fact that I have learned more about politics in the last month than in my previous 28 years. I have heard a lot of radio stories from both sides, done a lot of reading, and listened to worries and hopes of people from diverse backgrounds in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, New Mexico, New York, and Massachusetts, in addition to countless other opinions I've read on my Facebook feed. 
In the past month I have cried for future generations, and for students in New Mexico who have so many hurdles to gain a general education. I have strengthened my stance that education affects everything, and seen and heard the dramatic actions and beliefs caused by people who have lacked access to a holistic education. 
In the past month, I have come to some conclusions about our current political climate

  • I am a part of a growing minority. 
  • The things I care the most about, environment and education face irreparable damage for the sake of wealth. 

I have thought a lot about what I can do. Protest? Cry? Yell at people? Practice my aim? Argue on Facebook? Alas, although it seems futile, my main objective in this life is to perpetuate knowledge. So here goes.

It seems our nation is easily distracted by media cycles on Russia and Sweden, and Muslims. While some may brush this off as something happening "somewhere else," and other's feel the connectedness of these and other countries to our global economy, there is historically little media coverage on the climate anomalies and catastrophes across the United States. Weather is usually confined to local news, causing people to miss the opportunity to connect the dots. 

In the past two weeks, here's a brief look at what has happened to our Environment.

In California, atmospheric rivers are helping relieve drought and cause flooding. To me this is an awesome example of the highly complex systems that aid in our Goldilocks planet. There are dozens of systems that impact the climate of our Earth, and people that spend their life studying them. Unless you have a degree in atmospheric science, please keep your global warming attributions or denials to yourself until you consult a professional. 

In Australia, thousands of bats literally dropped out of the sky after searching for shade and fanning themselves. As a native Texan I initially scoffed at complaints of how hot it's been in Australia for their summer, but this is a valuable reminder that we are not the only beings on this planet. However we are the only beings capable of telling ourselves that this isn't our fault, and turning away from the responsibility.

In the House of Representatives, 225 members of the house voted to overturn a federal rule (crafted over years by wildlife managers at the US Fish and Wildlife Service) to stop denning of wolf pups, killing of hibernating bears, and targeting grizzlies from aircraft and shooting them after landing, among other cruel practices. "Some members favoring the Young resolution cloaked their vote behind the mantle of states’ rights." While I'm still trying to learn the benefits of this stance, it doesn't apply to the National Wildlife Refuge referred to in this bill. 

In the Southwest Power Pool region, (a large swath from North Dakota to Montana and New Mexico to Lousiana) wind power constituted over half the energy least for a few minutes. After hearing a report about Trump's promises on the future of Coal industry, I'm reminded of the power of our dollar. We can vote every day by making informed decisions and choosing consciously what we pay for. 

In Colorado, and all across the US, insect populations are slaughtering forests. This is directly related to our rising climate because cold weather used to provide trees with an opportunity to build defense and communicate-- yes, communicate with one another to warn of attacks. Now the lack of a long winter season means that trees are not only fighting non-stop, but tree-boring insects are having two breeding cycles within a year, causing twice the damage. I hope I don't have to explain the importance of diverse forests to our country and world.

In the northern alps, a glacier that has been retreating for decades is revealing gruesome artifacts, including corpses, from a WWI battle. Perhaps this is a silver lining? Until you think further on the effects of retreating glaciers...

Perhaps the most disheartening thing I've learned from the articles I've read and radio segments I've heard, is realizing that American's care less about environmental protection. I think this is partially attributed to our education, where students in an economics class are prompted to consider only the cost and the personal gratification of a decision, not the effects to others and the environment. I also think this is a product of our success at managing Environmental dangers. Since the Clean Water and Clean Air act passed in the 70's, rivers that catch on fire and unrestricted pollution pouring out of smokestacks in industrial areas have curbed. But the battle is far from over. I have read a lot of about the environmental injustices of our decisions. Mostly poor communities are shouldering the health problems and eyesores that people with greater income are able to ignore.

Tonight, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse explained the power of Corporate lobbying. Outspoken environment-hero Bob Inglis, a South Carolina Senator who lost reelection to a Tea Party candidate likely because of his anti-fossil fuel stance is an example of our trending trade-off for increased money to futile industries at the cost of our natural resources.

You can read all of these articles with skepticism. You can, and should, research the funders of scientific reports that come out (as scientists are often targets of corruption as much as politicians). But to me it comes down to this. What do people have to WIN by denying climate change and approving legislation that destroy our environment? More wealth in their pocket, decreased regulations, money money money. What do people have to gain by protecting our environment*? A lot of uphill battles, hard work, and spending. But the rewards are emotional, and mental, not economical. I will always side with the people making decisions with their heart over those making decisions with their wallet.

Knowledge 'n Action Equal Power
*Apparently their are environmentalists that stand to make some money of fear-mongering, etc. I've read that Michael Crighton book. But the majority of the people suffering climate change have no voice, and nothing to gain from our warming earth, save a few shorter winters before we all cook in Earth's oven.

I'm trying to hear many points of view on this. If you've read this far, you likely are too. I would love to hear your thoughts, challenges, and articles.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Groundhog forsees many warmer, darker winters ahead

I have been... fortunate... enough to have a week off from work, so I can wallow in the dread of Trump's presented policies and executive orders and estimate when the first nuclear bomb will hit, and where. 

In solidarity with friends everywhere, especially back home where there have been marches and protests I couldn't be a part of... I do feel like I'm drowning. I feel like I'm in a fog in a nightmare where I can see what's happening and can't reach through the fog and affect anything. A thought that keeps plaguing me is wondering if this feeling will be dismissed by many as a typical reaction to a president with opposing political views

Yesterday I happened to be at the Texas State Capitol with two out-of-state friends. We saw a huge group of Muslim visitors for Muslim Day at the Capitol. There was a fury of energy because the session is In. There was a man with a big beard and a shirt that had Texas outlined and exaggerated within the US and the words "I'm with Stupid" in Texas pointing to the rest of the country. Inside, we admired the architecture and the buzz, and found ourselves looking longingly at a photo of George Bush Jr. "Gosh, I almost wish he was president again," we all agreed. 

Because even though I Don't agree with a lot of the things George Bush did or believes in, I was able to exercise my right as an American. I signed petitions, wrote letters, and listened to news. What's happening right now is not only a threat to my rights as an American, but my right as a steward of the Earth. And it is through that vein that I will be focusing my energies and efforts henceforth. 

I was proud of the protests for the "Muslim-ban" and the people that stood up to it. But I couldn't help but see it, and the extensive news coverage of it, as a distraction from some equally tragic promises that Trump has signed in. 

So here's a look at what I've seen, just in the last two days. 

1) EPA pick Scott Pruitt is a nail in the coffin, not just for the environment but the future of our Nation. I strongly recommend Bill Moyer's commentary for a full picture. 

2) Congress is looking to overturn the Stream Protection Rule that Obama set in place that urges mining companies to restore stream habitats to the way they were once they were done. The way it's written, there's plenty of potential for polluters to find loopholes, unfortunately. So why bother eliminating it. HOW DO PEOPLE NOT SEE THE VALUE OF STREAMS? 

3) And perhaps the biggest horror is the legislation Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz proposing the US sell of 3.3 million acres of public land (read- public land, meaning they don't OWN it, WE do, we ALL do). 

To me, this is life or death. This is greedy leaders in the Present pulling physical and aesthetic resources away from the Future. I can't even believe this is legal, much less accepted. 

What truly worries me is how little people understand about the Environment. I spent 2 years studying the systems and interworkings of the environment and BARELY scratched the surface. Our Earth will not HEAL itself from the mass of wounds we are digging into it. We must act as stewards. 
 What gives me hope, is that Veterans will continue standing for local tribes, for families and for the future of our water, our Earth, our favorite hiking places. 
What else can you do? Call your senators! Tell them to oppose Chaffetz's legislation. Do your best to keep your head above water and I will continue to collect what information I can about environmental policy.