Tuesday, August 6, 2019

My Casa

My House!

When I was young I was sure that if I ever got my own place it would have to be new, even though my sustainably-minded subconscious knew that an existing structure would be better. Although I enjoy sleeping in the dirt and picking up bugs, living amongst someone else’s grime really grosses me out. Nevertheless, we have spent the last two months negotiating to purchase the house we are renting. It’s sort of a peculiar situation. The current owners manage many properties and this one is becoming too much for them to manage from afar. It certainly has more value to tenants like us who use the land and the creek. Truth be told, I freaking love this place. Since I was 18 I have moved over twenty times, in and out of dorm rooms and “housing+stipend” residences. I have boasted before about the freedom of living and caretaking others’ spaces, including not buying my own toilet paper, and not having to commit to a place. I have lived in five different states in four different time zones and stayed in a hundred different houses and from all that experience, I can happily say that this place is delightfully “me”. Well, Us.
The isolation and privacy from the canyon appeals to my post-apocalytpic-prepper needs. The Hispanic culture pervasive in the area makes me feel foreign and not entitled to the space, which encourages me to work hard to get to know and become part of the community. This is really an outdoor mecca with hundreds of trails within twenty minutes of my house, including a full forest that I feel I have all to myself at the end of the street I live on—a ten minute bumpy ride away. This climate is an ideal escape from the inescapable realities to come in conjunction with our rapidly changing climate. I just hope I can document all the existing flora before they burn out or begin their slow migration.
The house itself is a little rough. It has all the grime of years of month-to-month rentals with dogs and children that absolutely grosses me out if I think about it. But it’s mine. A blank slate I can apply whatever colors of paint I want to upon. A one minute walk from my door on a rough day will put me at the most peaceful acequia—a babbling little brook among juniper, pine and willow. A six minute stomp through the snow or the high grasses (depending upon the time of year) puts me at my own river, running right through the property, with a perfectly flat meadow on the other side. A hill beyond that runs up to the road, where talk of one day installing a zipline has been the most commonly-agreed upon update for us to prioritize. (Maybe we'll wait til the house is paid off).
Just as much as I am keen to the space and all the opportunity and challenges it presents…  I am just as excited and frustrated at the opportunity to “own” my own space, wherever it is. Of course, the duty of signing an immense amount of your current and future income away is daunting, but what I found more troubling was the idea of purchasing space in the first place. An untimely encounter with an intoxicated individual from the Taos Pueblo put into perspective my right to be on this land at all. Through a strange sequence of open valleys, land acquisitions, land grants, lost bets, and idealistic commandeering with some hippie's parent's money, now I am the US Government-recognized owner of this small section of land, divided by some simple pokey, vertical metal lines. A series of documentations will further propel this to someone else’s hands some day, but in the meantime, it’s my square of Earth to steward and share without needing permissions, and I’m damn ready for that.


Friday, August 2, 2019

I had a Dream (Part 4 of Moving on)

I have appreciated the slow immersion into my new job. It’s not a new job at all, actually, it’s so similar to everything I’ve been doing for the last decade as to be almost boring, or unchallenging at times. But it’s a new organization, and after the dramatic cut from the last one, I have appreciated a lengthy, reflective ease-into this new world.

Yesterday I completed my first camping trip with this company. I was reminded how much I hate rain, and am afraid of lighting, but I put on a good confident face for the kids (while making some wagers with the weather gods). I also had a really good team—not as much fun as the French folks I endured a week of wicked weather with, but two solid female educators with a lengthy list of outdoor experience.

It’s strange starting over after giving so much. In 2012, I was trained on a new program that spoke to my soul. I silently vowed that I would work there for ten years, but I only made it seven. Over the years I jumped in all the way—giving my energy, ideas, sweat, and tears to an organization that gave me the feeling of home and the support of family. I really thought of my work there as a baby that I had helped grow. This year, I’m learning new traditions, new faces, new jokes—out of communication of any of my “family” that remain at the old organization, standing on the edge wondering how much I’m going to jump in. 
In the old world, I suppressed parts of myself, and pulled energy out of the parts that aligned with their ideals. This time, I'm giving that part of myself, but saving the other parts for different dreams. 

I went to sleep in a dry tent on a wet meadow. I almost didn’t need my sleeping pad because the ground was so soft from the grass. My tent-mate was a co-worker at the Ski Valley over the winter, who I never paid much attention to. I fell asleep grateful for the dry, warm, cozy home for the night, marveling at the strangeness of sharing a small space with a woman who only knew about me what I was able to share on a short drive in a van.

In the morning, as we awaited the sun drying the grass, a child’s side comment reminded me of a story that Jason Caballero told me at Magic Camp when I was 17, which sent in a flood of dream memories. I stopped, staring at the grass and let it all pour in.
It started with a stack of papers. A portfolio of resumes for future Executive directors for my old job. The top one was a familiar goofball who I couldn’t recall, but someone that made me think, “What a crazy option, he would do great”. With that settled, I somehow appeared at my job of watching children in a giant gymnasium (perhaps a strange hybrid of my personal training cert and educator responsibilities). I quickly noticed an open door which led to another gym that had a banner labeled CJ’s Gym and was a playscape of magical illusions for kids to interact with. CJ Johnson wasn’t running it, but Chris Walden was. Somehow I went and got Kent and he and I walked around talking about potential improvements to the place, until James Caldwell appeared.

Remembering the dream sent waves of comfort, nostalgia and humor through my body. I had a clear representation of what this dream represented—How much I’m pulling from Magic Camp, where I first gave my whole heart, and how I’m trying to move on from the last job, where my heart is lingering. This new place has a similar structure to my first job at Magic Camp—using CITs and Junior Counselors to do some of the relationship-building and game-playing and leaving the logistics and responsibilities to those with degrees. My foundation of taking care of people, and educating life skills to children with different needs in the framework of being a goofball all came from Magic Camp.
Then, I heard my dream telling me that I need to trust that changes to my old job will be made with their best interest. And to re-wire the “we’ out of my brain whenever I promote their programs. While I’ve been working hard to acheive different career goals since leaving that company in October, it’s been challenging for me emotionally. My baby has grown up and gone to college, and hasn’t so much as called home. 

Morning walk with the kiddos after a night of rain.

The trip wrapped up successfully. I tried to calculate how many tents I’ve set up and broken down. When I regained service I had a message from a leader of the old job, inviting me to have dinner and chat with the kids. Go figure—as soon as I decide to move on, I get a bridge back.
I’ve told a lot of people this, but, I’m glad I gave my twenties to travel, new friends, and building up programs and ideas. But now I’m ready to settle. This job seems like a promising place for me to settle into something sustainably, which just wouldn’t have been possible before. The path hasn’t always been straight and it certainly hasn’t always been easy, but I’m really grateful and satisfied with what I have now.

Saturday, June 8, 2019


I can't believe I haven't updated this in 6 months! I have five drafts saved--- all about topics that are hard to talk about, especially when releasing my personal opinions to the public.

I wrote the following blog for my new website, which will be unveiled soon. I know, brace yourselves. My main goal for my new website is to have a launch pad for all of the ways I express myself, including a resume and purchase-able services. That said, a goal for my new website and blog is to have lower expectations and less filter. Maybe that's a bad combination, but it feels right. (Feedback, as always, is appreciated).

Chasing Free
My hands are clean, but every one of my fingers is peeling, and parts of them are stained with a rich purple color.
My hands started the day in my house, uncovering the chickens, petting the dogs, putting the seedlings in the sun. This was my second day in my efforts to establish routine, and of course it was an atypical day of driving into the big city.
Nevertheless, I did some stretching on the porch in the morning sun, followed by a "meh" jump rope workout by 12 minute athlete. Then it was a quick shower, change, and pouring my coffee drink so I could be on my way in time. I love rural life but there are many things that you can't find unless you drive into the city. On this day, my goal was chasing free. I had one last free oil change with the purchase of my new car, and only 899 miles until my warranty expired. It somehow seemed worth-while to make a 5 hour drive to save $45. I made good time, but realized 2/3 of the way that I had left my wallet at home. This would seriously hinder my other goal of thrift-shopping and craigslist cruising for cheap furniture.
Unfortunately my $20 taco-money stash had be used up, replaced by a useless receipt. Fortunately, I had the foresight to stash my new debit card in the car with $50 on it. I highly recommend this.
In the city, my hands wrapped around a burrito and a free coffee beverage, and I dove into some feedback that will help me submit the final stage of my Environmental Education Certification. From there, my hands passed off my keys to the Kia dealer for my final free oil change, and then tapped away at the keys of my computer on their free wi-fi, getting some work done. 1.5 hours later, I figured I would take advantage of the Wal-Mart auto center and get the tire replaced that we shredded last week. Without going into the details-- I got kicked out of one Walmart after waiting an hour for using the F-word after being told they couldn't honor my warranty because the car wasn't there (It's 2.5 hours away, without a tire, because Walmart took the spare during the last tire rotation). I tried a second Walmart and also had no luck. I shouldn't even call this part 'chasing free'. I wasn't really trying to get a free tire. I was wasting hours of my day hauling a rim in and out of an auto center to be denied a warranty we had already spent $10 on. In case you haven't figured out the moral of this memo-- DON'T use Walmart's Auto Service for anything. As a final attempt to salvage my dull day, I swung by to see a friend on my way out of town. Before I know it, I'm in the giant commercial kitchen of El Pinto, washing mulberries that had been shaken from a tree hours earlier by the guy on the Salsa jars and catching up with said friend. There's nothing quite as satisfying as working with your hands, even if they're just pulling little bits of stick and seed off pounds of wet mulberries. But equally satisfying is wearing a sundress and sandals and a hairnet in a commercial kitchen and catching up with a friend you haven't seen in a year, just an hour after being trapped in a yelling match with an unempathetic manager at Walmart.
After an hour and a half, we finished cleaning the batch, and I snuck out of there, being rewarded 5 Free Salsa coupons for my labor. My hands, stained purple, got gas and drove home, weaving my steering wheel through the canyons under the dark sky of the new moon. Here my hands pet three happy dogs and five pecking chickens as I calculated my losses and gains of the day. -$20 gas; +$25 in salsa; +$40 oil change and inspection, -$10 warranty waste, +one new unique experience.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

My 2018 identity crisis, illustrated.

 I usually make a hearty reflection-full post about my growth and goals of the year. Over the last few years, I've wanted to collect more data... which I suppose could sound like a nerdy non-personal way of analyzing a year... but to me data is the opposite. I have a Fit Bit and lots of apps (I just made a post about my favorite fitness apps you can check out) that tell me how long I spend on websites, and how many calories I've supposedly burned in a day. But for me, data is different. There's something wholesome about taking all of these moments, breaths, ideas, steps, etc and somehow condensing them into a yearly trend or new habit. After trying my hand at these electronic apps and gadgets, I've determined that my favorite way of collecting data is through thoughtful reflection at the end of each day. I think one of my greatest accomplishments in 2018 was a) seeing a therapist and b) realizing my therapist was right that I'm in a sort of identity crisis. Looking back at my planner/diary is evidence of my mercurial year, and my affinity for collecting data. For too much of my year, however, this reflective 'data collection' wasn't possible. For much of the year I struggled just to eat, sleep, shower, please people, and navigate the different pulls in my heart and brain. Fortunately, I feel in a steady place, despite all the unknowns ahead of me. And from this steady place, I look back at my 2018 through the graphics I drew. 
Over 15 great days and just two and a half utterly horrible ones. I am blessed. 

The highlights of my year were in my travels. I managed to make it home three times in 2018, once by air and twice by car, and only once for work. Most importantly my boyfriend got to meet the important players of my family, including my 95-year-old grandpa, just a month before he passed away. The memory of them making veteran jokes that none of us understood before my boyfriend dropped an "I'm going to marry your granddaughter" to the shock of my immediate family will stay with me for a long time. 

When your rough draft becomes your final draft
The year was tragically void of trips to Detroit, save one battle with a biased judge in a court that is acting criminally against us. I have received mix support from friends, but if anyone reading this knows a good family lawyer in Michigan HMU. 

The highlight trip was a three-week adventure to the Northwest that allowed me not only to scratch Montana and Idaho off my list, but also experience the lovely towns of Boise and Missoula. 
Highlight of Boise: Vegan BBQ
Although I found out that my grandfather passed while in a hotel parking lot in Eugene, the same town where I found that the friend I hoped to visit was in the hospital, we had many wonderful drives through the changing leaves, and met up with a dozen good friends on either side of our framily. 

As much as I appreciated traveling and seeing new things, the part of the year that made my heart happiest was just being home. I had three different homes in 2018, aside from my parent's house which will always be a different, deep/nostalgic feeling of home. I left my home of 4.5 years and moved into a tiny studio with my boyfriend, then moved sight unseen into a relatively disgusting bigger house. After six weeks of traveling during the first two months we moved in, some fresh paint and lots of magic erasers, I'm enjoying having hours and days in my abode with my man and dog and our tiny ass fridge. 

Obviously, I didn't draw this one, but I took this photo upon the conclusion of leading Paleo Trek for the second time. It was a weird summer, doing a job that had always made me happy and realizing that it didn't anymore. Especially because the friends that had seen that happiness couldn't understand why or how I was changing, they just assumed it was a negative thing. I think of life in Spirals, you're growing outward, facing some of the same problems, hurdles, and joys you have before, but from a different angle. I'm so glad I spent my 20's working hard, doing what I loved and trying new things with new people in new places. 

One of the images I worked on for therapy is a graphic (in progress) that highlights how I understand identity. Identity is like a tree at your core, there may be one or three or five (but goodness not an even number, lol) of things you identify with at your core. Over time those trees will grow, and new branches will emerge. These branches can be new people in your life that have similar feelings on that subject as you, or careers along that path. These might grow into sturdy branches or they might fall, to give way to a new branch to grow. The roots of that tree go into who you are, but as the tree grows, it might shift a bit. 

Going into 2019, I'm working on a few more applications for Graduate schools. This is especially challenging for me, as academia is so important to me, and funding is so scarce, that I yearn for an amazing program that I can flourish in, for free, within my realm of interests. The challenging part is deciding just what interest to pursue. At this point I've written three different, almost opposing essays about how one or the other program is everything I want in life. This year is bound to bring big changes (hopefully not scary political ones) to my life, and I have no idea which direction it will send me. What I do know is that I have a super supportive family, a group of enduring friends, and a car that I've just about paid off. So, bring it, 2019. 

An identity analysis with a Grad school Focus... and lots of room for adding on. :)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

5 Fitness Apps you should check out if you wanna get fit in 2019.

My last few years of New Years Resolutions have included "collect more data". This year I've done that more than ever, mostly with the help up Apps and programs. Even though I'm a doomsdayer Luddite, I have found a few apps to be really helpful in achieving my fitness goals AND personal productivity.

I will note that this year has been the least productive fitness year for me. Hopefully next year as I'm obtaining a Personal Training Certification, I will be able to get back on track of my fitness goals, but this year, amongst anxiety, weight loss and lack of life motivation, I applauded any effort to be active (and met my Fitbit calorie goal almost 50% of the time).

So this is just a post for those of you looking for some extra Apps or websites to keep you motivated and most importantly having Fun!

I have tried other apps like 7 minute workout, which was fun when I didn't have a lot of time, but because it wasn't my only workout program it would think I was lazy. I also have a fitbit, that is definitely helpful in tracking certain things, but I'm kind of over it. The first few months I had it I checked it for everything. now I forgot that I'm wearing it until I go to check the time and find it dead.
I had how easily it runs out of batteries. I was really torn between a Fitbit and a Garmin and I wish I had gone with the latter. I've gone through three new bands (one under warranty, another a month after my warranty expired), and the screen cracked the first month I got it.
This list is the 3 apps and two websites that I use regularly to design my workouts. I'm sure it will change a lot if I do this post next year.

5) (App) Map My Run.
I'm not a big runner, but this app has helped me track my progress (and share it). I typically use this app with my Fitbit running as well, and there are some definite discrepancies... but it's cool to see my route and how much faster or slower I made it. I like that I can make notes about my run if it's an especially humid day, or I have a bad cramp or something. There's also a big community piece that I haven't explored much, though I've posted some of my personal best's to Facebook with ease from the App.

4) (App) Tabata Intervial HIIT Timer by Slydroid
I typically prefer a simple timer to track my intervals and workouts. I use the interval timer on my Fitbit, but because it doesn't beep I have to focus really hard on my wrist mid-Sprint, and I often miss intervals.
I have a Gymboss timer that I love but went missing for a while, so I would use Fitlb's online Timer if I was near a computer. But for times when I would be at the Boxing Gym or outdoors, I downloaded this timer to manage my intervals. I have the free edition so I can only save one timer, which I just adjust depending on the workout. While it is a lot more complicated than the website app, I like that you can play music through the app that gets quiet during intervals. I also like all the settings and possibilities. To be honest, I haven't used this to its full potential-- maybe that should be a 2019 goal.

Whether you're a fitness professional or breaking a sweat for the first time since PE class, there's something at Darebee for you. I think it was designed for board-game-playing anime lovers who decide they need a bit more exercise, as each workout has a warrior/spartan/nerd reference. I often use their workouts as warm-ups but in my darkest days, I would click around to find a 1 minute challenge that would at least get me flexing my muscles for a minute. Again, whether you're new or old to exercising, check this site out!

2) 12 Minute Athlete.
I'm not sure how I stumbled upon this blog 3-4 years ago, but it has been my fall back even on this gloomiest of years. While her website has become less user-friendly as it now enables cookies and has ads peppered throughout the workouts, I still use the search function to find the perfect apartment friendly, boxing, or pull-up workout that I can have done in 15 minutes (including warm up and cool down).
I actually avoided getting the App for years because the website is free, and I a so anti-spending money, even though at just $2.99 it's an incredibly good deal. Cheaper than your post-workout smoothie.
The 12 Minute App is well worth the price. It offers all the workouts accessible at your fingertips, with timers built in, and it tracks your personal best. I kind of which I had this from the beginning so I could see how my workouts have fluctuated during my high and low active periods.
This isn't just a fitness app, though. I get thoughtful e-mails, protein-rich recipies and access to a facebook group of random people just trying to stay fit, all curated by Krista and a few others. As a female fitness junkie, I am often put off by other female-led exercise that are totally for newbs, but 12 minute Athlete offers a range of exercises for all fitness types and abilities, AND she shows you how to do each exercise, AND it's done in just 8-16 minutes, depending on the workout you choose.

1) (Apps) Thenics
I think I found this from someone I follow on Instagram. After months of scrolling through looking at photo after video of sexy people doing handstands, muscle-ups and front levers, I wished that someone would break down the exercises needed to work up to those kinds of things. Then lo and behold, I found Thenics. I love these workouts because they're concentrated but I don't have to break a sweat. I have done these before or after other workouts, or as a stand alone when I don't have the ability or desire to do a full workout and get really sweaty. I think I'm going to try to do these more regularly in 2019 and track the progress, so stay tuned.

Hey, here's one more plug that doesn't necessarilyhave to do with fitness, but I don't think I'll do a whole blog about it.
I downloaded the RescueTime desktop App for my browser. This is really helpful for tracking my hours spent working, because I can look back each day and see how much time I spent on work-related websites. But it's also been neat to see how much time I spend on certain websites. I think, "Oh, I'll just space out and visit buzzfeed real quick, I've earned this," but Rescue Time is telling me I'm spending 3 hours/week on that website, and that's valuable time I could be spent learning a language or cooking my own food. :)

I hope you find this helpful.
What's your favorite fitness app? What are your 2019 fitness goals?

Sunday, December 9, 2018

How long does it take an Environmentalist to go grocery shopping?

The answer should probably be some sort of punchline, but in my case, it's-- "wayyy too long".

My boyfriend and I have been dating for over two years. I'm a vegetarian who tries to avoid dairy (milk and cheese products) for ethical and digestive reasons. My boyfriend is an ethically-leaning-carnivore-on-a-budget, with a severe gluten intolerance. Both of use prefer organic, whole foods but enjoy things like sugar, honey, fruit, and cereal. Other than salad and frozen yogurt, I have been challenged to find foods that we can both share. So, adding that to the fact that we both travel a lot and I usually got food at work, we rarely would buy more than 2-3 meals worth of food at the grocery store.

I liked this way of shopping. Boyfriend and I have each spent some time in Germany, and enjoy the European feel of going to market, buying some fresh bread or stinky cheese that was packaged that day, then coming home and eating it. The greatest benefit of this is purchasing what you are hungry for and eating it fresh. I used to meal plan and cut out recipes, but often by Thursday my leftovers from Tuesday that I planned on Sunday weren't exactly appealing. So I would eat those leftovers, still craving something else, and over eat. (In the last two years I've got a good handle on my weight and diet by eating what I'm hungry for... a simple concept that I'm still driving into habit.)
My every-few-day market dash usually included avocado, tomatoes at any time of the year, beef jerky, and some relative an almond milk coffee drink for me. For years now we've literally lived of those main items plus a few others, supplemented heavily by the leftovers at whatever restaurant we went to that day.

This week, we made history in our relationship. We actually filled an entire cart of groceries. We had a healthy pile of veggies- lettuce, carrots, peppers, onions, sweet potatoes and fruits- apples, grapes, avocados, and limes. We got a regular amount of everything two healthy people should eat, including coffee, milk (and non-dairy milk), cereal and eggnog. Although we had a full-page list, I am wired to usually only buy things that are on sale, substituting things on sale for things on my list just to get the discount. In the end, we "saved" $36 and spent... $300! To this day I cannot understand how my mom regularly fed a family of five on $120-$150/week, except for a) inflation and b) Texas (I do miss my H-E-B). I honestly looked into how to get food stamps last year for the one week I helped feed two kids on top of our regular food on my single-person budget.

So all that is a big introduction to: here's the problem with grocery shopping as an environmentalist.
When I was in college my brother came to visit and we went shopping. I spent at least 5 minutes in front of the egg selection, weighing out the pros and cons of: vegetarian fed, styrofoam packaging, organic, free range, local and of course, cost. While I was weighing the options and how my one choice of which eggs I brought home that one week could potentially destroy our environment, my brother went to get something and came back, "you're still here?"
I felt that again this week, shopping with my boyfriend. I was pretty dilligent through the first half of the store, putting back the Nutella because it's made with palm oil, choosing organic vegetables when the prices allowed, opting for non-organics of some of the less 'harmful' ones, trying to buy things in bulk that I know we'll use up to save on packaging, choosing mostly in-season foods, or local items from trusted sources... But by the time I got to the freezer section in the middle of the store and remembered that the dog was in the car and that the store was closing in 20 minutes... my anxiety became suddenly frustrated at my environmental conscious, wishing it could just shut up.

I honestly can't empathize with people who don't pull up an article they've read while grocery shopping. I would hypothesize that most people in the egg aisle are debating in their head whether or not eggs cause cancer that week, or if it's been long enough since the last salmonella outbreak to buy spinach, etc. But for me, it goes way beyond that. Every food I buy has a footprint, a story, and a track. I strongly believe that my body is my temple and I want to put only the healthiest, most nourishing foods into it. (Sometimes, the healthy nourishing foods my body craves are Frozen Yogurt with lots of chocolatey peanut buttery toppings, but usually it's a more balanced meal.) Part of what helps me keep track of my environmentally focused shopping trips is making pledges. In 2007 I pledged not to purchase bottled water. In 2010 I pledged not to buy palm oil. I know that there are organic options, and local efforts that make the evil of monocultured giants lessened...but that just complicates my grocery decisions. Organic is supposed to be better for you, right? When I was in college I had friends that worked on an organic farm and one that worked on a 'conventional' 22-acre farm. The organic farm kept their certification by putting heavy metals and weird concoctions not found in their natural environment on their plants, while the 'conventional' farm did everything they could to keep things simple and use biologic pest controls, etc. What makes grocery shopping complicated is that every single product has a story, but they're also trying to sell something. To me, buying from co-ops helps take some of the guess work out of it, because I trust them to only stock things made with good social and environmental practices. Natural food stores should check the same block, but unfortunately stores like Sprouts, Natural Grocerers, and Whole Foods often use that knowledge to exploit the consumer. There are still good products at those stores, and often they maintain good principles, but again it's a case by case basis, and even those companies can change their principles over time (take Whole Foods, for example). Nevertheless, we persisted, and two packs of Milano cookies later we convinced someone to open a lane so we wouldn't have to self-check-out our whole basket, then returned to our happy doggo in the car.

This epic grocery shop has already impacted our lives. When we took a small one-day road trip, I packed a delicious snack of cheese and sausage, fruit and pickles and olives. (In hindsight, I should have made myself a sandwhich cause I was super hangry a few hours later). Other than two meals picked up on days we had to drive the 5-hour round trip into the big city, we haven't gone out to eat at all! (Honestly, we've hardly even left the house).
The downsides to buying $300 worth of groceries for two people, is that I'm suddenly remembering that I don't eat that much anymore. Gone are the days where I would house 3 bowls of chili and then look for dessert. Some days I'm hungry mostly for snack foods: granola and fruit for breakfast, cheese and apples for lunch, carrots and hummus and cookies for dinner... but then other days I crave a full meal offset with smaller snacks on either side.

In hindsight, I think that successful grocery shopping requires more than an army of environmental articles and your canvas bags. I am grateful to three tools in my kitchen for aiding me in successful meal planning: big tupperware, a freezer, and a toaster oven. Because I'm the only one eating most of my meals, I've taken to freezing what I won't eat after a day or two. In the freezer currently I have: cooked "meat" crumbles which make an awesome addition to anything I'm cooking in an saucepan; homemade crockpot chili; spaghetti squash with pasta sauce and a bit of tofu. Also in the freezer are my breads, which I take out one at a time when I'm ready to eat, and warm up/thaw in the toaster oven.
Since writing this post, we've restocked on cheese, and I need to buy more pickles. There are still some cabbages and a whole cauliflower in the fridge. Now that I'm getting more comfortable grocery shopping, I can work on eating. All in time.

Since you've made it this far, I'm going to tell you how to make my
go-to breakfast scramble, which I think I perfected this week.

Ingredients (for two):
4 eggs
1 slice Daiya cheese, or regular cheese (if you're into that sort of thing).
2-3 leaves of kale (I usually use the leafiest green kale I can find, not that dino kale stuff)
1 sweet potato, peeled
1/2 yellow onion
Optional: meat, vegan applewood sausages, vegan chorizo crumbles, black beans

1. Cook diced onions on low for about five minutes
2. Add diced sweet potato in about half-inch cubes
3. I season liberally with chipotle powder, salt and pepper, spanish paprika and Chimayo red chile powder or cayenne.
3. Add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover with a lid. Let simmer for about 10 minutes until the sweet potatoes can be smooshed with a wooden spoon.
4. While the sweets are cooking, chop the kale. No one really likes kale (no matter what they tell you) so I chop it into little bits. (We have a running joke about my boyfriend killing himself in inventive ways every time I try to feed him kale. Not funny? Okay, I guess you have to be there...)
5. When the water is barely covering the bottom of the pan, add the kale and recover. You might wanna put on some more salt and pepper.
6. While this is cooking, I either scramble the eggs (with almond milk and a tiny squirt of mustard, + Salt n pepper) or prep the eggs for steaming (poaching?) on the kale.
7. When the kale turns a darker green, I'll pour in the scramble, or crack an egg evenly spaced out over the kale, and recover. For the scramble, I just keep scrambling until it's all cooked. For the poached? eggs, I just cover until they look solid enough to eat.

I serve it on a tortilla with avocado, sometimes fresh tomato, and hot sauce. And cheese, real or non.


Also, check out this alternative I made this week that I'm obsessed with:
Eggs, feta, black beans, onions and some amazing "sweet and spicy" green chile.

Friday, November 30, 2018

A final farewell...

Okay, I'm delaying my cute little blog post about grocery shopping and going straight for what you're all waiting for- What on Earth have I been doing since my "I Quit" post?!
Well, I wrote a pretty personal post about privilege but was too apprehensive to promote it, so if you're really curious you can click the back button my archive.

Since my I Quit post, I've been doing a lot of traveling, a lot of sleeping (who knew the body could stay horizontal for 9 hours at a time?), and a lot of research and applications for graduate programs. Perhaps the most time-consuming task has been compiling my portfolio of experience in Environmental Education. A lot of the pieces I have compiled will make excellent blog posts coming up... but I decided to start by sharing this photo essay. In my portfolio, this essay serves to show many distinctive experiences I've had in EE, but it's a nice look back, as well. 
As I'm looking into graduate programs and teasing with what job can help me afford the applications process, I am starting to say goodbye to my energy-sucking experience in Outdoor Education. It is my goal to stay educating and influencing others about the environment... but I'm realizing that I just don't have it in me to do these residential programs anymore. So, without further adieu, here's a look at my life the last few years.

When my parents came to visit in the fall of 2015, I took them to Base Camp. The pinon were ripened, as I’m showing them here, but I explained not to collect too many because the local animals and communities gather them for food and income. 

 I learned the hard way that some Native cultures in NM don’t like seeing skeletons, much less collecting them. Nevertheless, in American culture nothing is more hardcore than some skulls and bones. I worked with an 18 year old who was attending our 6-week expedition over the summer. She didn’t quite fit in because she came from a less affluent background than the rest of the students, and her interests were less social. I sort of created a niche for kids like that, and when I told her that I had found a half decomposing bobcat in the canyon, which I buried in forest, she told me she would love to help me render it. I think I took the photo with her camera, but at one point after digging up the bones, dipping them in hydrogen peroxide and bleach (separately), and lots of scrubbing with tooth brushes, we had a full spine of a bobcat on a string. I suggested she wear it like a necklace and she did, having me take some pictures of her epic success. 
  My favorite thing about running Family Programs every Sunday for 4 years was the openness it provided. I would encourage every family that walked in the door to explore, play, touch and create. I never had set rules on what you had to do with the crafts on the table, but had lots of opportunities for various levels of interest. In this activity, participants were to make a nest, which these kids filled with painted rock “eggs”. There was no right answer and everyone was encouraged to be creative in their own way. The child on the right didn’t go for nest building, but instead played with the puppets, making up stories and begging me to play the role of the other animals. Additionally I set up experiments to be conducted around the park, and activity to get the families exploring outside, and some sort of indoor craft that would challenge different motor skills like sand paintings or watercoloring with wind (by blowing through a straw). 
  I’ve taken dozens of groups to Bluewater. The last group I went with was a group of 9th graders who seemed uninterested in anything but each other. Nevertheless, I got them all to stop and squat down around a dead snake that I found along the path, and we speculated its cause of death. With other groups I’ve just seen how far we can walk down the canyon before turning back, allowing them to take in as much of the scenery as possible and pausing at only the most important of features, like the one place where you can literally reach out and touch 5 different types of native trees. With other groups I haven’t made it out of sight of the parking lot, where we stop and catch crawdads and make watercolors from the murky brown water. 
Another thing I learned over time from working with (and dating) Dine people is that you shouldn’t touch trees that have been struck by lightning. I explained that to this group, offering that it could be dangerous and they didn’t have to touch if it they didn’t want to. But most opted, like me, to get a closer look and smell the burnt caramel sap and imagine what it would have looked like to see it get struck. 
 I have led a number of adult groups as well. I have grown to rather like these, as they have a deeper appreciation for how I have strung my knowledge together over years of learning and connecting. When I brought my first adult group to ah-shi-sle-pah, an area that every child we work with raves about and could explore for hours if not days, I was sure they would take a look, take a few photos, and turn around. But I was wrong. A 64-year-old woman was with me as we crested the hill overlooking the mushroom rocks in the white wash. She clasped her hands together and strode off with the same boundless enthusiasm as an 8-year-old. I pointed out the dinosaur bone and some of the unique clays, but they were content to roam on their own and take photos. 

  My favorite thing to do with the pre-schoolers that visit the park is ask them to tell me how many arms across our big trees are. The result is a wonderful photo-op of students hugging the tree as the teacher walks around counting the students. That isn’t what’s pictured here, but on this hike we were exploring the texture of a relative giant. Although you can’t see the student’s faces, you can see their interest and engagement in this discovery. 

This was one of my most successful days in my summertime position as naturalist. I had 4 kids choose my activity, which was to go explore the rotting elk carcass that had been hit by a car along the side of the road. You can see my bandana from when we checked it out. Later visits would prove more successful once the maggots subsided. The period started with an unplanned encounter with a snake which I will detail later, but by the point of this photo they had gained enough trust in my passions to stop and marvel at every little thing in the dirt- even button cacti and small sage plants. 
My final photo goes with a little essay I wrote, as my final farewell to the friends I've worked hard alongside. Since they didn't have room to publish it in the last newsletter, I'll drop it here. 
You know that moment when you’re waiting for the thunderstorm to pass and you’re huddled under a tree with an inadequate poncho, watching the lightning strike and hoping it stays far away, and even though you can see the golden rays of sun just beyond this mediocre cloud, the penetrating rain drops are cutting into your planned hiking time, and now you’re wondering if you’ll be able to make it down into the cave and out again and back to the vans before the trekkers get hangry for their snack… That moment seems to last for decade. In fact, your whole summer is strung together with moments like these; or that insufferably long walk to the General Store after Chili night, or waiting for your Outfitters to go back to their cabin to get their raincoat/socks/headlamp/item-you-mentioned-16-times for them to have in their day pack. And yet, despite all these wonderfully drawn-out moments, the summer is over in a flash. You find yourself singing Desert Silvery Blue one last time, trying in the breaths between bars to think about to those drawn out moments, and hold on.

I can’t speak for all the alumni staff at the Gulch, but for at least the last seven summers, I’ve been trying to put our finger on a strange and mysterious concept. This year, we gave it a name, a name that it may have had before, and surely will be carried on. Gulch Time: that crazy dissonance between those long, scattered moments and the apparent brevity by which we all come together in one, perfect, rustic, phone-free space to laugh, cry, sing and grow.
I can only speak to my experience of Gulch Time as a staff person, and even then, my concept of it has shifted depending on what my responsibilities were before and after the summer. But I have observed it’s affect on our trekkers. I have heard countless trekkers sitting with me on airport day, or at our final meal together at Base Camp, express hesitation for going back and immersing into their world, after spending such an intentional summer building community.
A few years ago, a girl on MDT confessed to being hesitant to return to a world where she was compelled to use her phone again, now that she knows she can cope without it. A summer after that, on a Cottonwood hike with two TTers and a boy from WCT, one of the girls confessed that this experience made her be present, and more friendly.
“I wouldn’t even be talking to you if we weren’t at the Gulch.” She playfully told the boy. “At home we’re conditioned to avoid awkward interactions by connecting via screen with our friends. If I was bored, I would use my phone… but here, if I’m bored, I have to ask you questions, make friends, and entertain myself.”
I consider that a success in my book. I saw two articles this week about schools banning phone use during school hours. In one article, they site all the concerns parents have for not being able to connect with their kids. These are valid anxieties in a world of instant communication, but remember, that world is a new creation. At one campfire this summer, near the end of our 16-day expedition, I asked the trekkers what they miss most, and what they are gaining by being here. When one trekker stated that he missed the luxury of google-searching anything on a whim, everyone agreed. Yet, our carefully selected book box had hardly been opened.
This fall I got to hike The Narrows in El Malpais—a land that was totally foreign to me in 2014 when I agreed to move to Albuquerque and help with caretaking and outreach for the Gulch. I thought a lot, on this hike, as I often do. I thought about all the times I have built a fire in the rain, jump-started a car, pushed a car out of the sand/mud, talked two people through a conflict, helped make a salad for dinner, or shouted “Hey Cottonwood Gulch!” with a resounding response of attention. As I trekked from cairn to carin I counted about a dozen times that I’ve traversed this trail, wound up the sandstone steps, and explained the stunning views of lava-flow below. Gulch time means never stepping on the same trail as the same person. 

I’ve been thinking about Gulch time differently this last month—in the deeper sense, of the Gulch’s affect on our life-time. I have worked 7 summers, two seasonal contracts and three full years in various positions at the Gulch. I trekked on 100 treks, exactly, leading over 65 of them. The Gulch has provided my paycheck, an incredible forum for learning and creating, and a strongly woven network of friends. But soon it will merely be a memory, a brand of hardships, perseverance and commitments that will serve as a foundation for my future.