Friday, November 8, 2019

How a Day Camp Changed my Life

Yup. dis me. In Mime makeup. in 2011.
When I was eleven, and hyper focused on the dream of becoming an actress, which later evolved into a theater teacher, which fizzled out after not winning a scholarship to become a theater teacher... my mom sent my brother and I to Magic Camp. I had been to Dinosaur Camp, and writing camp, and acting camp, in which I played Lenny from Crimes of the Heart-- the peak of my child acting career, but Magic Camp was different. My first summer there, in just a two-week session, I learned how to polish a magic trick, was filmed doing magic for a news segment, learned how to project using my diaphragm, and learned the magic of perception. But even more important than that, I met some of the most amazing, inspiring characters that are still deeply influential in my life, and I knew I had to come back the next summer.
When I was twelve, I returned to the Performers Academy. I made more friends. I practiced performing, built an illusion, and learned pro-tips from magicians that were locally famous who talked to me at the age of twelve as if I were a peer.
At thirteen I became a CIT for magic camp, and learned that aside from performance-focused camps, they teach the magic of self confidence through a magic, juggling and puppetry curriculum. But the REAL magic, again, was the people. The real magic was the spine-tingling joy that I STILL feel when I hear Sousa's Washington Post march, which signified carnival day-- a day in which campers dressed however they wanted and spent the afternoon winning tickets and trying their skills at a variety of quality hand-crafted games. The REAL magic of magic camp was finding a place where I whole-heartedly BELONGED in a world where I felt like an outsider.

It has been twenty years since my first day at magic camp. In twenty years I have referenced the skills I've learned, both internal and external, from that experience almost every day. I have attended weddings of friends that I met at this little day camp when I was barely a teenager. From this one life experience I have an adopted-uncle, a second father, and a whole family of life-long friends. Because of this simple-seeming day camp, and all the passion and intention that went into it's development, I have earned several jobs, had a few magical relationships, and supported many camp friends through pursuit of atypical jobs.

At Magic Camp, I learned the beauty of empathy.
We practiced an all-inclusive model, never turning down a child who was interested in coming to camp, despite any diagnosis or ability they may have had. We had a "Director of Empathy" who spent at least half a day with a different kid building relationships and getting to know why they didn't want to do juggling that day.
We had campers with ADD, ADHD, bi-polar disorder and Downs Syndrome. We had counselors with those qualities as well. Gay, straight, bi, tall, black, Asian, overweight, speech-impediment, autistic... all together, old and young with one common goal- to learn magic. But the magic wasn't the slight of hand we were taught in magic class. The magic was the non-verbal nine-year-old teaching the autistic seven-year-old boy the magic trick she just learned. The magic was having a trick to show and an audience to listen.
What I really learned from ten years of working at camp, as a CIT, counselor, front desk manager, and camp director, was that we ALL have special needs. Some of us need to be left alone. Some need hugs. One needed to draw with his poop on the bathroom walls, but we worked on that. I needed all the papers on the front desk to be perfectly straight despite the fact that Joe would purposely run down the hallway to make them blow everywhere.
I have applied this knowledge to all my interactions since then. When I see someone angry, or hungry, or drunk or manic, I can empathize. I wonder what needs of theirs aren't getting met and how I can help them. This is especially true with the children I teach.

I learned external skills at magic camp, too. Just last week I had a class full of fifteen elementary students from kinder to fifth grade with almost unmanageable energy. Everyone was asking me different questions. "Can we go outside?" "Can I color?" "I need to call my dad". The day was only 10 minutes from ending. I opened my drawer to a bag of rubber-bands-- a simple tool that i bring Everywhere, and spun around with, "Who wants to see a Magic Trick?!". Instant silence. The group sat down. I showed my default, the "Aggie-Handcuffs." After all the kids but one fifth-grader got picked up, I swore him to secrecy, and taught him the trick.

Despite having almost two decades between when I first learned some of these techniques and activities, I still teach them with great success. I had a student who is always "bored" and asking "Do we HAVE to" when I introduce a new game or activity. But when I did some clowning activities today he was totally engaged in a way I hadn't seen him before.

I use other skills, too. At a check-out line, I drew a happy face on my finger and entertained a crying infant with my novice ventriloquism. I have built puppets of all shapes and sizes with many different groups of people after learning the power of a glue gun, at Magic Camp. Yesterday I pacified my group of wild elementary students with a lesson on balance, inspired by Peter's ladder-on-the-chin lesson. When I went to my aerial class after work, I decided to bring my jar of peacock feathers inside, rather than leaving them in the car. I subtly taught feather balancing to a child sitting bored on the couch while here mother took a silks class. At the end of the class, the child was running around the room chasing a peacock feather on her hand while I offered tips from my upside-down-on-a-rope position. This encouraged a conversation with the owner about kids camps and now I'm developing my own kids juggling class in Taos.
Oh, also-- knowing how to tie a balloon dog, bear, or sword has come in handy at the strangest times.

Hands down, the most important thing I learned from Magic Camp was improv. Life is improv. So many people are afraid to stand up and say something off the top of their head in front of other people, but that is literally what life is. Making swift decisions that hopefully have some comic relief but ultimately help you survive the moment and relieve your stress by putting it on someone else. Especially in working with children, and working in the outdoors, I have to improvise every day. I have taught several basic Improv classes to different groups of co-workers, students, and at conferences. We taught improv classes, but it was also just the mentality around camp. A mentality that I still carry. How can we rig the lights to turn on and off with a magic wand? Improv it.
The school for the blind is coming today and the show for the day is a wordless vaudeville act?! Time for some quick-thinking skills.
Magic Camp didn't take place in Hogwarts. You didn't have to jump through a wall to get there. It was usually in an old school or church or mall. Yet, we improvised a magical world within that space. Without it ever being spoken, you could feel that as soon as you entered, you could try anything, fail with friends, practice something all day if you wanted, and just be yourself.
I suppose the secret to our successful improvisation, was that we were challenged to do it in the first place. The Magic Camp empowered young adults to empathize, improvize, and take care of a cadre of campers who didn't otherwise belong. At age 14, I was responsible for taking care of a whole group of campers. At age 17, I was responsible for knowing the names of 100 campers and their parents, and sometimes their dog. At age 21, I was responsible for running a whole camp! I felt empowered, and supported. And that has translated to my whole life, through my own careers, and empowering other young people.

It's been twenty years since I first attended Magic Camp. Peter the Adequate is the uncle I never had, who has shown up for me in my most trying times without hesitation. Founder Kent's advice and role modeling has stuck with me as much as my own father's. And, although this is intended for parents of future campers, I can't neglect to mention that I met the love of my life there... when we were staff... and I chased him across the country for 14 years before we got engaged-- my own Forest Gump story.

I shudder to think of who I would be if we hadn't found the Magic Camp ad in the newspaper twenty years ago. Would I wake up and listen to Stars and Strips Forever with the delight of a kid on Christmas day, wearing a red ribboned choker with a top hat on it, on my way to teach juggling at the aerial gym? Would I live my life diving into my passions, however unpopular, knowing that whatever happens to me I have a core of framily who TRULY understand me, in a way that no one else ever did?

Since moving away from Magic Camp, I no longer enter a room full of people and have them cheer at my arrival. I haven't been a magician's assistant in at least a decade. I definitely don't have my magic briefcase anymore. I recently donated some of my more enduring magic tricks to a beginner magician friend. My kids Magic Camp shirt doesn't fit anymore. But I have a bag of juggling supplies that I carry with me to new places-- a great way to break the ice. On my floor lies a bag from the Society of Young Magicians, and my laundry bag has the Magic Camp stamp. On my shelf sits a half dozen magic-themed books. But beyond these material things polka-dotted through my room, Magic Camp has woven dozens of amazing people, experiences and skills through my life. Now I believe in Magic.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Back on the Wagon

October 1st
 The short excuse is that I lost focus, shifted priorities, and got "too busy" to adhere to my workout regimine.
The longer story is that I fell in love, I started a new, emotionally demanding but physically rewarding position at my non-profit, my fiance passed away before the wedding, in grief I hungered for nothing but lucky charms, and even though I cried through a few workouts in the following months, I couldn't maintain a routine. I started a new relationship that required some navigating of personal space and two years later still find myself moving, searching for and creating my own space, and chasing routine (a subject I have ironically neglected to succeed in blogging about). I am thankful that I made toning, training, and exercising such a regular part of my life when I had routine, because when things got crazy I had the knowledge (and desire) to drop in workouts when I could.

Ocotber 5th

Side Note: At my peak stress, I lost about 25 lbs in a year. This would be awesome if it were intentional, but I'm sure it was mostly muscle weight loss that came from appetite loss. During this time I received some comments about how great I looked. I did feel good in some ways to be 25 lbs lighter. Pull-ups were easier even with my missing muscle. But I wasn't as healthy as I had been. Just remember that skinny isn't healthy. Everyone has something going on, and if you see someone that looks like "Damn!" try something like, "you're glowing", "you look really happy", "you seem to be engaging in healthy routines" or just ask them how they feel.
*steps off soap box*
This year, despite earning my Personal Training Certification which gives me the authority to tell other people how to live healthily, I have still found it difficult to get back into a regular workout routine. Granted, though my journey in the last few years I have reconsidered what a healthy workout regimen is. Every month this year, I swore "this will be the month I get back into it" but traveling, moving, new jobs, etc. kept that pushing to the next month until finally, this October I had nothing else to do but focus!

October 14th
Here's what I did:

1) Plan
Arguably, this is the most fun part. You have nothing to lose in your planning phase, just ambitions. Obviously planning is like goal-setting: you want to make your plan achievable. Since I had been plotting my big return-to-workouts for months, as well as studying some beefy training-focused manuals, I didn't have to put too much work into my plan this time.
Here's what my plan looked like:

Every week of the month, follow this format.
Monday- Hill Runs
Tuesday- 12 minute athlete + thenics workouts
Wednesday- Sprints and/or aerials class
Thursday- Full body weights and/or fitness class at The Body Shop
Friday- Rest day
Saturday- "distance" run
Sunday- Active rest, stretch session(s)

2) Commit
October 31st
I have read a lot about training principles in the last few months. I've watched a few movies about crossfit and body building. I've started attending an Aerials class and a couple fitness classes per month. I believe that all of these forms of fitness have their place. My goal this month was SUPER simple, because I knew that's what would make me successful. My goal was just to stick to my plan. As you can see, I didn't set out any strong goals in my plan. Since I've been off the wagon for so long, my goal was just to DO something. Even if my hill run was just one or two of the driveways across the road, or my distance run was just to the mailbox and back (2.5 miles). At least I did something, every day, and followed my plan.

This month I didn't worry about nutrition, though that's something I really need to refocus on again.

The results?
I feel awesome. Granted, I am very blessed to have a body that (at least for now) is very responsive. I bought my first pair of jeggings a few days ago and it's all I want to wear. There were days that things came up and I had to shift my schedule around, but I at least tried to do some sort of 'work out' those days or doubled up the next day if I had to.
These weren't hard work outs. Some days I didn't even put on work out clothes. I just moved. That's what I want to encourage future clients to do-- just move. Be in your body, make it do stuff. Challenge yourself little bits at a time. And hopefully now that I'm getting back into my body, I can inspire future clients.

What's next?
My aerials class has been very humbling. I hadn't been on the rope since college (almost a decade ago), so remembering the grip strength, foot locks and core strength has been challenging. For November, I plan to stay committed to my schedule, work on eating enough (some...any?!) protein each day, and focus on an aerials-based workout plan that I wrote while waiting for my oil change this morning. woo!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Journey Without Maps

In 2008 I bought a book, on a whim, at a used books store- a monument to creativity and culture. The book was called “Journey Without Maps”. Admittedly, I still have not read it. I believe it currently sits on a dusty shelf in a nearly outdoor library near Thoreau, New Mexico. The library is more frequently inhabited by rats than humans, but it has an incredible collection of nature and native American stories, some dating back to the early 1900’s. I off-loaded the book on the Staff Recommended shelf when I worked there in 2014, and when I last looked in 2018, it was still there, its bright blue cover a contrast to the sepia tones of the rest of the library.

That’s the end of the story of a book I bought and never read, but the point of bringing it up is that I love the title. This morning, I am sitting at a coffee shop in Taos, New Mexico. The sign when you enter the town simple reads “Taos Elevation 6969”. I am eating a cheesy, spicy breakfast burrito from Santa Fe, sipping a “Mexican” mocha in a soda fountain-style mug, and wondering if it’s mere coincidence that my car is the only not white car in a parking lot of over twenty vehicles.

What started this blog was the simple thought that, “if I could only tell my past self that there would be a moment in my life where I’m getting paid to sit in a coffee shop and eat a burrito (granted, I’m supposed to be working, not blogging, but maybe this could be considered a form of professional development), would I feel any comfort in my life choices?” Then I thought about the journey I’ve been on. A journey paved from a certain amount of privilege that I couldn’t even comprehend until recently, and yet fought with a certain amount of hardships, some self-selected, to give me an understanding of grit and perseverance. In the reflection of my computer screen, my necklace gleamed in the sunlight. The Greek Masks- comedy and tragedy, a simple token of appreciation gifted to me by an incredibly committed 5th grade teacher, have become a totem for my journey. I thought about the path I’ve taken, which has been highlighted by some drama in the last seven years, but really, possibly starts with my passion for stage-teching in 5th grade, and the teachers-pet/overachieving mentality that spouted back then. Since then, I’ve taken a journey through life without maps. I suppose there are people who chart their course, and I definitely tried. But my opportunity-seeking attitude took me off course and around the country, and I am so grateful for that.

I’ve been struggling a bit lately, despite or because of all the exciting things on the horizon.  I’ve started some new projects. Home-ownership is a big one, especially since we’re landlords as well. Then some new jobs—one in an entirely new field that I’m apparently pretty good at, and another very familiar job that’s not as rewarding as it used to be. I’ve also started writing again, which is empowering in all the ways I need it to be. That simple glimpse of my reflection this morning was a reminder of my own Journey Without Maps, and that whatever comes to pass, I have a history of experience in navigating through it.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A Valuable Lesson in Different Opinons

This last weekend, I got offered a unique experience. A man who runs corporate expeditions with clients from France all across the Southwest and around American had reached out to see if I would be available or interested in helping him set up a Glamping experience for his client in Monument Valley. I hastily agreed. Getting paid to have unique experiences has become my standard of living. I mean, most of my adventures and accomplishments in the last decade have been job motivated, from kayaking in Texas to climbing mountains in California. During the weekend of the Harvest Full Moon, I was invited to stand-up-paddle-board on the river in the moonlight, and despite that I have been mourning my lack of river time, and yearning for a paddle board for the last few months, I declined. It's been a pretty crazy month, so I opted instead to stay home and dutifully work toward a deadline. (Had I been invited more than an hour in advance I'm sure I would have accepted). Immediately after declining, however, I ached with FOMO (fear of missing out). Why had I neglected this incredible opportunity? Probably because I wasn't getting paid. I have been so blessed with the opportunity to experience unique events and get paid for them, albeit a relatively small wage, that it didn't seem worth my time. So, I jumped at the opportunity to get paid to drive five hours to Monument Valley and set up some tents.
After I agreed and told my partner about the opportunity, he suggested he could come along. Now, as much as I enjoy his company, he and I have very different working styles, and it has become evident over the three years we've known each other that working together is not always the best idea. However, the man that hired me suggested I bring someone else along to help, so things fit into place for my Significant Other to come along and for us to spend his birthday weekend within the beauty of Monument Valley, in exchange for a little work. 

Leading up to this weekend, I became increasingly nervous. Obviously, I trust and respect my partner, but I also acknowledge that he has different perspectives and values of worth ethic than I do, as molded from his different experiences. That's part of what makes me so attracted to him. But he was a big part of the tensions with my last boss, that (thankfully) led to me quitting that job which also involved setting up tents in the desert, so inviting him into a new, similar situation made me nervous. In my last job he argued that I was being undervalued and working too hard compared to his experiences, but lacking those experiences for myself, it felt normal. What I didn't see when I said yes to this adventure was that this was a similar situation of exploiting my willingness to help for a relatively low wage. Still, I wanted so badly for this to be a weekend of fun adventure and not the difficult learning experience it turned out to be.

Friday, the day we left on our journey, set the stage for my anxiety. My partner couldn't make it home in time for our internet-switching appointment, so I had to barrel into town with the dogs thrown in the car and try to communicate about something I didn't understand. When I returned to the house there was a series of delays and miscommunications that ended with us setting out for our journey earlier than expected but later than would have been ideal. The whole drive I felt familiar butterflies build as I worried I would let down my new boss by not getting the van in time. 

The first drive was fine. 1.5 hours to Santa Fe. We picked up he rental van, we drove to the shed that was absolutely packed full of stuff for us to take to the valley, and it clearly became evident that it would be impossible to fit this pile of stuff into this small of a van. This is where my first learning experience began. My partner, apparently, expresses his frustration very vocally. He couldn't believe that we were set to do a task and this essential piece (the correct sized van) was incorrect. I, however, have been through so many headaches and scraping together-of-situations, including years of crisis after crisis with things falling apart and being physically or metaphorically duct taped back together, that this impossibility felt almost comfortably familiar. My partner on the other hand, who had never worked for this person before, and who has been paid more than we were offered to do much simpler things, and who had not been presented with the entirety of the situation, was understandably agitated. Nevertheless, somehow everything got stuffed into the van, and we began our journey into the valley.

As we departed Farmington around 10 p.m. with groceries in my lap for lack of space to put them, I began to feel sad that my S.O.'s first view of the valley would be int he dark, without so much as the moon to highlight incredible features around us. Shortly after that thought, however, an orange slice of the moon rose in the blackness along the horizon. By the time we made it to the valley, the yellowing moon was just high enough to be framed by the darkened sky-reaching spires. We pulled into the campground at midnight, staked our tent into the hard ground between RV's, and had a quick snooze before the sun came up. In the morning, after being shocked to discover that there were no bathrooms at the campsite, and that the road we needed to take would be closed until the moment we needed to finish our set-up, we worked the magic that our relationship tends to exude, and arrived at the site of our camp before 8 a.m.. This was to the dismay of the people who had paid to stay the night before and were just waking up as we bounced into the private campground. This was a hiccup we were not expecting. French and British people exited their Hogans as we dumped loads of gear on the ground outside their bedrooms. I found myself in a place I find myself often-- empathetically between two differing views on a situation, understanding both sides. Often this is an emotional weight that becomes difficult to bear, but just as often, being able to see two sides unbiasedly allows me to be somewhat of a conflict resolver. This time, I tried to explain to the foreigners visiting this beautiful space that I was just doing my job, and that's kind of the American way. There had clearly been some communication issues that were not my fault, but I couldn't wait for them to take their time and wake up. Eventually my boss offered them some compensation! to leave quickly, and we were left in the crisp desert air with our pile of gear to be built into a temporary kingdom.
The frustration started it's uphill climb to a peak that would be met around noon, four exhausting hours later. Once the sun rose over the iconic rock structures, the chilly desert temperature rose about thirty degrees. As the sun moved West, we moved heavy bundles, pounded stakes into impossibly hard ground (okay, my man did most of them. I did 10 stakes, he did 110), siphoned stagnant water into shower bags and gussied up the dirt. But a pervasive theme kept popping up. In my nativity to accept a unique experience for money, I trusted this boss to see through all the details. Only 10 stakes in, we broke the mallet included with the tents. We borrowed a real hammer from the land owner and broke that, too. My S.O. was using rocks pretty successfully until he was reminded by a pain in his wrist of the helpfulness of handles for such tools.
Without the right van, or hammer, you have to work harder. I have worked in Education my whole life and with a lot of non-profits and between the two there very much seems to be this understanding that you have to do whatever you can with whatever you have and more often than not you do not have the right tool for the job. This has encouraged me to be creative, but also to be satisfied with an imperfect job, because it was the best you could do. My S.O. however, is a craftsman. A woodworker, gun smith and tattoo artist, he prides himself in measuring twice, focusing in and producing the finest product possible. What vastly different approaches to a simple sort of job... 
After hours of head-scratching, yelling, complaining and looking into the beauty around us for a break, we jumped in the van and made the arduous trek thirty minutes into town in quest of the correct tools.

On the drive into town we talked out what was going on. I had agreed to trade my work-ethic for an adventure-- going to a new place with my S.O., without fully thinking through the details, and the result was the two of us busting our butt for someone who was underpaying us for the work we achieved. I had undervalued myself, and had to find a way to correct it to make this experience worthwhile. Fortunately I had some nice long hours to think about how to do that.

When we returned, I was sweating. Not from the heat- but from the fear that my craftsman S.O. who had been breaking his wrists to build a dream for someone who hadn't brought the right tools for the job, would pull the plug on this journey. Instead, an old friend showed up and offered some much needed comic relief and two amazing helping hands. By the time the boss showed up, we were just about done. Four canvas tents with well tucked sheets rose tightly out of the ground, surrounded by lots of little details more appropriate for a permanent glamping company. We finished up and rolled out to The View to be treated to some Navajo tacos and front-row-views of tourists taking pictures of rocks. All I had to worry about now was making breakfast before their 6am departure, and then tearing down and packing up all the work we had done.

We slept on the soft red dirt. I awoke at 4:22, and carried a stove a tenth of a mile across the dark sand listening to a Frenchman talk loudly in his tent, wondering how I got myself into this position. To many people, this would be a totally novel experience, but to me this sort of hard work at weird hours in outdoor spaces is a days-work. "Is it time to retire from this world?", I wondered. Or is working hard for little pay just my gig? 

I made the coffee, burritos for 30, and fruit salad. The blue dawn stretched into the dark night, and the fire roared with Frenchman around it. Beside the fire an aging wagon flapped an American and French flag, as the silhouettes of the Monuments could be seen against the brightening sky.

After they had packed up, the Frenchmen loaded into their convertibles rented for their trip, did some donuts in the soft red dirt on the sacred ground that didn't belong to them, and got an intense talking-to by one of the land-owners. 

When all was quiet, we began to tear down and fold up our four 16-foot tall canvas tents, three showers, 30 shower bags, six tables, 30 chairs, 18 cots with sheets, pillows and blankets, lanterns, torches, coffee pots, food, solar lights, kitchen pots, dirty dishes and gather the trash. We left by noon. We drove a beautiful seven hours in a tightly-packed, very heavy van, and made it home in time to go to dinner.

Unfortunately... we went home. The van rental place closed at 2 on Sundays, so we couldn't return the van. This was another example of a waste of my time that wasn't paid for. This morning I woke up, drove the van to Santa fe, unloaded it, drove it to the rental place, got a ride back to my car by a man who's main job has been kidnapping kids to take them to residential treatment centers, and then sped back up to Taos in time for work. All that drive time gave me a moment to reflect on my own. "Never say no to an interesting opportunity" is a mantra that has guided the decisions in my life thus far. However, as I'm noticing changes in desires and habits as I age, perhaps this is something I can change, too. I still want to be known for being hard working and helpful. I don't want to seem money-driven even though I obsess over budget-sheets. I can earn $25/hour to watch children sleeping, but in this case received about $12/hour for a good-steady-workout far away from home. So I wonder... was it worth it? I guess I'll have to ask myself that when the next opportunity arises. 

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. :)