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.

Sunday, October 28, 2018


**Disclaimer** This isn't the easiest subject to write about. This is strictly personal. I accept feedback and constructive criticism. I'm not pointing any fingers, just trying to point out what I see. 

Written October 6th, 2018:
I have given many hours of thought to this topic in the last few days, though the essence of it has followed me since before I became aware of my own privilege—which honestly has only been in the last decade.
I’m writing this from a truck where I was attempting to take a nap before work. I slept in the back of a van last night, and had a dream that a man was peeking into the van in the middle of the night and I tried to hide from him to avoid the unimaginable. In several weeks I haven’t slept in the same place for more than three consecutive nights.
Yesterday all these thoughts formed into a direction... I called my grandfather to ask about his health- he offered me a couple hundred dollars to pay my graduate school application fees. This is Privilege, I thought.
Just hours later, on the phone with a good friend, I’m listening to their frustrations at not having the extra $750 to pay their reduced lawyer fees in an attempt to gain custody of their own children. This is poverty, I feel. Despite being told I’m getting a check for several hundred dollars, I feel helpless to help their position.
Last night, at the end of a sporadic 12 hour day of computer work, meetings, organizing, etc, I’m with a co-worker in a work truck at a grocery store.  A gray-haired leather-skinned man with a strong Spanish accent waits outside the car door for us to finish our conversation, before launching into his request for money for a bus fare, etc. etc. Coming to the end of my emotional roller coaster for the day, I told him firmly that I was at trying to end my work day, and had enough charities on my mind at the moment. Immediately, I felt guilty. I have seen friends struggling with addiction-- living off of the dollar bills they find in their apartment until the next paycheck come in-- offer kindness, food and even money to people in similar situations. Here I am, (despite not having a job after this month) with a car, and a savings account—which is surprisingly more than so many people in this country—and I’m a bitch to someone struggling to get by.
This morning I went on a walk with an empowered young woman with no family to offer her hundreds of dollars for graduate school. She has her own apartment, and a job and is going to school, but doesn’t have much in the way of savings. She has benefited (if you can call it that) some certain financial state requirements for kids taken from their families, but not in a way that eases the emotional burden of such. She is one example of this growing population of people just trying to get by, who will continue trying to find more jobs and seek more government assistance to pay the rent for the older generations who feel entitled to rob the youth. 
After our walk, I went to get some coffee at my favorite coffee shop, full of gray-haired customers and hipsters alike. After spending $8 on coffee and granola and using their free wifi, I passed a homeless man on my way to the car. Most of his speech was incoherent, but he assumed I had a job, denied asking for money but suggested that I smoke (implying I give him a cigarette), then as I walked away said he didn’t want to date me… [incoherent]…I hope you have a great day …[incoherent with increasingly negative tone]. I thought, as I walked toward the truck I’m typing this in, of the commonly uttered statement by white middle class and working class people, as a dismissal for giving to the poor and underprivileged: “I’ve worked hard for my money. I’ve earned this, etc…” Whew. What a statement. Is being born a white cis male or female and getting the management job you apply for, and then, yes, working 60 hours a week getting your team up to speed to accomplish important tasks for the world, “working hard?” Did you work any harder than the college student who spends 5 hours a day, 6 days a week teaching 30 kids in childcare? Or a woman born of Mexican-immigrant parents who works a night job as a janitor and a day job making tortillas and in the meantime is teaching herself English. Why are you entitled to 3x her salary? Because you worked harder? Because you had someone help you pay for college?...
Perhaps none of these thoughts are new to you as they are to me. My own privilege in this world is just finally clicking. I know that a lot of the people reading this might defend their behaviors with a “you can’t help the whole world” sort of statement, and that’s just where you are. I know I can’t help the whole world, but I can certainly figure out my place in this one. I may have the privilege to be an out-of-debt, college educated straight woman, but I can commit to sharing my meager means with those who need it more than I do. And where I can’t give with money, I can give in time. In the time it takes to get a high score in Bejeweled, or whatever, I could volunteer at any number of organizations...

In my assessment of our American right now, there is a lot of privilege. At least amongst the types of people browsing facebook every day and reading my blog. And there’s also a lot of poverty. The privileged bunch tend to have the opportunity to ignore certain realities of the challenges of rising rent prices, drug addiction, the daily impacts of climate change, etc. Then, even amongst my friends, there are people who don't have financial support from their families or even emotional support from their families. I have one friend who grew up from a middle class family that stopped talking to him when he had his first breakdown that resulted in him being diagnosed with manic depression, and now he's in a hospital psych ward in Oregon, surrounded only by other homeless friends as family. 
However my brain is wired to work, I cannot fathom how anyone can ignore these situations, in a growing globalist society, and live in ignorant bliss in their own communities. Aside from the issues and wars and injustices of the whole world, even in your own communities, there is poverty, there is pain and there is a suffering that we all could work to heal. I just. Don’t. understand. the apathy.
Here’s an idea, for example. How many middle-upper-class families do you know, that have a spare room in their house for when their adult-child comes to visit (or something similar)? How many nights do those nicely adorned beds in high-count thread-sheets collect dust? If every middle class family got to know and adopted a homeless person, showed them the compassion and connected them with the resources necessary to help them get on their feet, that could mean millions of people assimilating back into society… Obvious there are challenges with this model, but it's a thought/start. 
I also feel a little bad, harping on working class folks, and certainly, don’t want to discredit their work and families and problems. For example—in the last three-ish years: I have had three serious partners, the love of my life passed away, I took my first serious full-time job with benefits, I have helped fight custody battles, blah blah blah… Despite considering myself a pretty strong woman, I have been through many challenging and defeating things in the last few years… and yet, now as I come to the end of my full-time job, I eagerly await the opportunity to slow down and process. What a privilege! To think that I’m exhausted from all the normal things that happen in life and yet I'm relatively immune to the spiral of problems that keep many oppressed and in poverty… is quite the privilege.

I have spent the last week driving around the Pacific Northwest, hearing hard-working people with no means to invest talk about great ideas that will never be supported. As we search for a parcel of land to hatch our own dream, I'm met by constant examples of how a small number of people are exploiting the rest of us to make themselves richer, for what? More yahts? 

So what does all this matter? The 1% is taking over the world, and we’re all being funneled around like sheep (most of us blissfully ignorant of our situations) towards a war that will likely eradicate at least 40% of the least-wealthy populations in our country, if not the globe... But I guess I feel like recognizing our place of privilege amongst all that, is the least we can do. …

Sunday, October 7, 2018

I Quit

On Tuesday I facilitated my 100th expedition. 

One month ago I moved out of my house-- the most stable living situation I've had since living at home. Weeks before that, I had carefully crafted an e-mail to my boss (edited to remove my emotions, thank you, David) stating my desire to end my employment with this organization.

After 7 summers, six seasons, and three full years, I'm resigning from the work I once felt was worthy of all my energy. I'm leaving the responsibility of taking care of others' children and 27 acres, and the anxiety and guilt of working at a non-profit, and focusing instead on myself and family. 

This was perhaps the most difficult decision I've ever had to make, just a few hairs above taking this job in the first place. By ending my role in this position, I'm ending endless bragging rights, opportunities to work in the sunshine, and shutting the door to an amazing community of dozens of like-minded people. To many still in the role, this decision was hard to fathom. What's gained by me moving out of my house and ending a job I've labored over for years, is acknowledging a need for a reset. And the world has shown me several reminders of the importance of this decision as of late: 

Image may contain: 2 people, text

To be clear-- I think I'm on a generational straddle between making long-term career commitments, and the increasingly flippant idea that self-care outranks community-care, and commitments can be broken. I have been loyal to this organization and it's community to the point of my own self-destruction...and after much consultation with friends, lawyers and a therapist, I've decided it's time to go. 


There's so much I Could say about the difficulty in the decisions I've made in the last few weeks, or months... but one way to summarize is this: 
"Find what you love, and let it consume you" is tattooed on my left hand. It's a daily reminder of the way I live and love-- by diving in deep. 
Remember the scene in Matilda in which the kid has to eat the entire chocolate cake in front of everyone? I love chocolate cake. But eating one piece of it leaves me unsatisfied. All I can think about it getting to eat cake again. So, my style is to plunge in, and eat the whole damn cake, or as much as I can until I'm so sick of cake that I never want it again. For better, or worse--that's what I did with my first fiancé, and that's what I've done with this job. 
I got a taste of this new exotic flavor. It's family, it's support and comfort, and I'm gonna dive in.

Monday, August 27, 2018

There's No Place like Home

When I worked in California, before moving to New Mexico full time, we taught the students the basic needs of all species to ensure their survival as an individual, and a species:

FWARPS. Food, water, air, reproduction, protection, space.
It was fun working through the acronym from their 12 year old brains. Of course they never guessed Reproduction, and would giggle when I said it. They would guess the "S" stood for shelter, which I would lump under protection. But the final word, "space" really got them. I liked to teach this in the San Bernardino NF, next to a thick stand of hundreds of Ponderosa or Jeffery pine that were only about 6 inches in diameter with a foot on average between them. Next, I would take them to the strand and tell them about the unicorn sightings and explain that if they hug a tree and make a wish, it would come true, and that if they saw a unicorn they couldn't ever tell anyone... but this post is about space, not unicorns.

Over the years, I've identified my growing need for "space". In a recent appointment with my therapist, I was illustrating my own basic needs, and amongst "friends" and "nature" was space: both internal and external, illustrated by me in a little treehouse, with nature all around.

On a recent trip with a group of senior citizens, an older man named George asked where I was from. "I grew up in Texas, but now I live in Albuquerque", is one stock response that glosses over my transient period. "Oh, how long you been there?" he asked. "4.5 years," I bragged, "but the previous 5 years I had lived in 16 different places." "Oh wow. Where to next...?" he inquired. I smiled.
Although he and most of the crowd had been living in Albuquerque since the 80's, all transplanted from the East Coast or some far away place with an entirely different climate, he somehow recognized that my time in this city was coming to an end. 

The view from my old porch
When I ended my season of teaching in California, I moved to the space from which I am typing this. A small one-bedroom casita with modern fridgedaire appliances in a 27-acre park with apple trees, grapevines and lots of space. Friends and family have teased that I found my retirement job a little early. This space has been my Home, and I mean that in the deepest comforts of the word. On stressful days, I've walked from my front door to the pecan orchard and watched the ducks bathing in the irrigated grove. I've seen baby geese and blooming roses along the trails. I've had to say things like "please don't move your furniture into the sunflowers," and "Sorry sir, you can't use your metal detector here" and been offered a guinea hen, and told that I'm the Poop Fairy. In addition to being a constantly amusing albeit public place to live, this home has also been my safe place through the ups and downs of getting a great job, and losing one, and boyfriends coming in and out of my life, and this world. 

Kitchen/living room
 These walls have seen several shades of love, as I've shared them with my first fiancee, my game-warden-bound best friend and her adorable dog Boone, a work friend and her dog and occasionally her boyfriend, my soul-mate who met an untimely fate, and a couple of years with this wild man I'm looking forward to spending my life with. Under this roof, I grew and practiced different kinds of love. 
These walls have shared the laughter of long nights of rants and giggles. The floors show stains of memories from Amil squeezing peaches to distill into peach liquor, and the walls show a few knuckle dents from when things were really hard to take.

There are desert and NM skies like these elsewhere.

Despite all my fond memories of this fishbowl, I may have worn out my welcome. Two friends recently told me, in their own words, that... In life, when you feel like you it's time to do something different, you should really listen to that. I had held onto this space, despite my exhaustion of opening and closing the gates every day, sleeping with my phone on in case I don't hear the alarm, having to find someone to live-in my house and do my jobs for every night I didn't stay there, and the utter lack of privacy of living in the middle of a parking lot. I held on to the perks of my slice of nature in the city, and the pride of the reputation I have built in my Home. But I finally realized this summer, that there are other Homes. We found a beautiful place to rent in Valdez, NM, along a stream in a verdant canyon under the highest mountain in the state. The neighbors are like minded, the dog can roam free, and there is easy access to the Carson NF. 

Farewell, sweet little abode. 

On the day that I moved all my stuff up, I saw a bus boy watering the plants outside with the leftover water glasses from the table; we donated $10 to the local fire department and were told in exchange "thanks! We'll save you first" in all sincerity; and we discovered that the local "post office" is just a stand of P.O. Boxes. I think this place is going to be a good fit for a while. I can definitely start to feel like this is Home
[Check out the song Lost Boy on the link, can you hear me on the back-up vocals? 

---- Just for fun: -------

The 3 stages of packing up your shit.
1) I am the definition of simplicity!
During this phase, you throw out everything you touch, thinking about how good you're going to feel packing the three little boxes into your car when it's time to move. You start with biggest stuff you've been threatening to get rid of, then work your way to the junk drawers and nooks of nothing you've been holding on to since college. You create piles of questionable materials like anything electronic and dead pens...wondering where you can recycle such things.
2) I might need this, later...
About halfway through the purge, you start thinking about your life in the next situation. What if it doesn't exactly work out. What if every Salvation Army and Goodwill across the country suddenly close and you can't ever get that rug/hat/jewelry stand/ boot scraper back...
3) To sleep, or to pack, that is the question: 
Finally, you realize that it will take as many years to sort through everything as it did to accumulate it. You put everything left in boxes, take the final three loads to goodwill, and just move it to the next place, getting rid of more stuff there as it doesn't quite fit with your new floor plan.