Friday, January 5, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, January 1, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally hiked to the Sandia Crest. 

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

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

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

I presented a workshop at two different conferences. 

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

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

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

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

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

I slept outside, a lot. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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