Saturday, August 6, 2022

Downhill, Part II

Time is so strange. When you're attempting to run up 2500 feet of elevation gain faster than the people behind you, while gasping for air for your asthmatic lungs, at elevation, time seems to go really slowly. Similarly, when you're hanging upside down by your feet on a rope, seconds feel really long. Yet when you have one summer to spend with those you love, even when you savor the sweet sunsets and laugh a little longer than usual, you eventually find yourself at the end. 

Pre-race selfie!
Today I accomplished something I have been curious about for years. Something that I have been training for, more or less, since April. I conquered a challenge that had been at the back of my mind for months. It was probably the most challenging physical thing I have ever done. Nothing really prepared me for the continuous hills with every turn, the burning glutes and calves, having to stop and wheeze and spit and push on. And nothing, not even the entire blog post I dedicated to the delight of running downhill, prepared me for this descent. 

I hadn't run a 10k in 15 years. This was only the 3rd time in my life I have run over 6 miles. (I crossed the finish line at the capitol 10k in Austin at 55 minutes. The winner of this race did it in 56 minutes.) I stressed about what to eat the night before and the morning of and recognized that going backpacking for the previous 3 days with work probably wasn't the best race prep. Before the race, I received  messages from four sweet friends wishing me a good race, and found a few friends from the community to cheer on. My only real expectation was to finish, to not get hurt, and to do my best. With two different types of caffeine in my system, an empty stomach, and 260 racing friends, I lined up at the bottom of a mountain to begin this well anticipated race. 

There wasn't a gunshot or a "Go". Everyone just started running, so I took a few fast leaps to get ahead. I felt really good for the first 20 steps and then I joined everyone in a brisk uphill walk for the next hour. I constantly questioned my judgement for signing up for such punishment, but then I would turn around to walk backward and see a hundred people switchbacking below me, and determine to push on. 

Nearing the end, just this nice long hill and the one 
steep final stretch. 
After 2.5 intense miles, and not enough aid-stations, I saw one of the most glorious sights I had ever imagined. Finally, there was no more uphill, just extremely steep washed out roads of damp gravel and a 5km descent to the finish line. I chugged a sip of water and hopped into the downhill, free of doubt, glute pain, and my 80lb dog. It was the most glorious (and potentially the fastest) downhill I have ever experienced. At one point, coming around a corner to a slight breeze, I felt like I was flying. 
I flew all the way down, pumping my fists to my music, hopping from rock to rock pile until I finally passed the last 9km marker. Then a crippling side stich slowed me down, making me walk a step or two for every 10 steps I could run, until I at last saw the finish line and launched myself toward it. 

When I crossed the finish line, I didn't see my sweet dog happily greeting me, like I had imagined. There wasn't a friend to cheer me on. A little boy handed me a clay necklace with the race logo on it, and I hobbled to the grass nearby and cried. I didn't know why I was crying. Perhaps because I often associate asthma attacks with panic attacks and tears were the only missing factor? Maybe out of joy from accomplishing the task, or being done with it? Maybe disappointment that no one was there to hug as I hunched just past the finish line? It wasn't until I got home that I realized the true inspiration for the tears. This whole summer was an uphill battle, in one way or another, with brief, beautiful downhill sprints. Now that I have finished my final downhill, its time to look to my next challenge. 

I came to Taos this summer feeling pretty sour about it. But Taos worked its magic, as it does, making me appreciate the beauty of the mountains, the cool morning air, the community, the opportunities. I'm not the same person I was when I arrived here in May. I am sure I wasn't expecting to be... but when I look back at my ideas and expectations when I left Texas in March, I felt like I had much clearer goals than I do now. 

Sunday, June 26, 2022


 This entire blog is going to be about running, as inspired by my favorite blog A Runners Story. (Maybe this blog will even get a mention in that blog, although since we probably have 40% of the same readers/family, that might be redundant.)

I'm beginning  continuing to seriously question my decision to sign up for my first 10k since 2007. 
The second I crossed the finish line of the Capitol 10k in Austin, Texas, I swore to myself I would never run 6.1 miles or more again in my life. And based on my training yesterday, just 41 days before the Up and Over Race that I paid $75 to register for, I still won't be running 6.1 miles again. 

I started writing this blog in my head, about 60% into the uphill portion of my run. I had two goals of sharing my struggles: to set the stage for applause when I inevitably overcome all obstacles and finish (whatever the time) the Up and Over Race in August, and to remind readers of the power of overcoming obstacles. The actual result, I think, turned out a bit different. 

My first intent at an inspiring thought could be boiled down to a Nike slogan. Just Do It. 
From my notes: "I had every possible excuse not to run today. I avoiding the run this morning so I could sleep in. I met with a friend at the farmers market and enjoyed a coffee, all the while thinking that 'I should probably go running later, but I'll probably come up with an excuse not to'. But I came home and ate a fulfilling lunch of leftover chicken alfredo made by me!, and a small bowl of yogurt and granola, thinking 'this full belly will probably be my excuse not to go running'. Then, I settled into work and put on a sexy youtube playlist thinking, "I'm probably going to get into the flow and not want to go running." 
But then... youtube put on a new song I hadn't heard before, some simple, enchanting piano music played by a giant of a man with a burly beard. Something about the simplicity and sorrow of the tune reminded me of what a fragile world we're in right now, how fucking angry I am about abortion rights and government, and how amazing it is to be alive at all. So I stood up and put on my running shoes, and drove off into the mountains. 

In the 20-minute drive to my originally planned running destination- a 2 mile uphill trail that I had last hiked twice while backpacking with 15 middle schoolers in September-- I had a lot of time to think of more excuses. While there was a tiny bit of sun on the mountains, gray clouds surrounded it, and I could see veils of rain in several directions 
(months of prayers for rain, answered) . I thought about all the other trails I could do that would be shorter, or closer, and I calculated how many gallons of gas ($8.60) this trip would take me. I thought about my full belly and worried that my dog wouldn't be up for the run. But then I thought about how this was my first chance to get into the forests since their closure in May, and how wonderful the rain would feel on my skin in contrast to the smoke in my lungs during my last month of running. 

I pulled up to the trailhead and as I turned off the car, I heard the first pitter of rain. And then I went. Uphill, pulled joltingly and sporadically by my hound, who wanted to stop and sniff as often as he bounced and frolicked. Just before the first mile was announced by my running app, I had my first wheezing fit. Unfortunately, this has become a common occurrence-- an accompaniment for my last 5 runs. I can't say it's a full on asthma-attack , but as someone diagnosed with asthma, there is definitely a lower concentration than desired of oxygen getting into my system. However, as someone who was diagnosed with asthma in middle school and has only had 5 or 6 full-blown attacks, I consistently forget to actually USE my expired inhaler (received in 2016 when I had insurance from a doctor who googled my symptoms and gave me this one for free), or even bring it with me. (See conversation with my bestie). (Actually, this post is flowing more in the style of my second favorite blog, Semi Rad). 

So there is the second reason I wanted to write this blog. To speak as a reminder that everyone is overcoming something- whether its asthma, or grief, or whatever else someone is going through. But as soon as I set those thoughts in my mind, the direction of this blog changed. The robotic voice embarrassingly announced a 22-minute mile, as my lack of breath slowed my run to an occasional hop up the rocks. Unfortunately, the timing of me pausing for breath was not in sync with my hound's 10-second-investigatory twig sniffs, or his frequent pee-marking breaks. As I pushed on uphill, sweating and panting, grateful for the clouds and the gap in the rain, I thought about the downhill. I thought about how glorious it would feel to overcome the food belly, the poor timing, the thunderous skies, and the asthma, and to be gliding back downhill. Granted-- I hate going downhill. The only sport I have attended competitively was literally the flatest thing you can do on your feet- track. I don't ski, and when I Do bicycle downhill, I grind the breaks so hard I'm probably slower than my uphill climbs. However, in that moment, I envisioned the downhill has this glorious reward for overcoming UP. I thought of it as a metaphor to share with you all- for how hard work is repaid on occasion with ease. And that we should appreciate the downhills in life, because they only come after the hard work of pushing uphill. 

Nearing the meadow which I had intended as my turnaround spot, the voice announced a slightly-less-embarrassing but at least this time expected 21-minute mile. I paused again, hands on my knees, amused at how my wheezing always reminds me of the Nutcracker (that's for a different post, but it will come, I assure you). I stopped to take a photo of the insane tree blowdown that was completely covering a path I had walked a dozen times 9 months ago. I took a few notes for my blog, and scanned the ground to make note of all the wildflowers I haven't seen in the previous 6 weeks without rain: monkshood, daisy, broomrape (can we-- nevermind, that's a different post as well), aster, fairy orchid, geranium, wild rose, dandelion, a gorgeous bouquet of woodland delights. I captured an obligatory sweaty selfie, turned back on my timer, and began at last the coveted downhill. 


Boy was I disappointed. After 10 steps in the dirt, the loose grave made me fear a steady trot with my 80lb eager-to-lunge beast in tow. As I started to get into a rhythm, he pulled at something to the side, reminding me how he could instantly ruin my day if he saw something down the trail, so I slowed my trot to a careful walk. In addition to the fear of at least one of my limbs being pulled down the mountain, an incredible side stich had worked its way right under my rib. 

I told myself that if I just get down the steep part, I could run again. I took this photo and instantly thunder rumbled in the sky. The now-wet rocks were slippery under my wet wrestling shoes, and I slowly realized the absurdity of spending half of a run looking forward to the other half. Just like spending half of your work day looking forward to coming home, or half of your life waiting for your retirement. No one is guaranteed a gentle glide downhill. Some people have the genetics, or the shoes, or the mental stamina to gently glide uphill, but we all have hills to climb. The important thing is to enjoy the journey, and not just look forward to the ride down. 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Gift(s) of the Magi- A Cass Christmas Story

You’re probably familiar with the holiday classic movie in which a woman cuts her hair to buy a chain for her partner’s pocket watch, which he sells to buy a brush for her hair. Did you know that’s based on a short story by O.Henry, the famed Austin author? I had my own Gift of the Maji experience this year.

Since studying environmental issues in college, I have always taken a critical and conscious approach to Christmas gift-buying. It seems each year had a different theme based on what I had been reading, how much money I had, and how much I prepared for holiday shopping. There was the year that I was home from college for several weeks before Christmas, and slowly churned out homemade gifts for all. Then the year I worked right up to the holiday, and spent my extra earnings on gift cards and donations for everyone on Christmas eve. Regardless of the gift, I am always intentional about wrapping paper- reusing paper from previous years when wrapping, and compulsively stashing the gift bags, wrapping and bows as I unwrap new presents.

Last year was the hardest Christmas on record, for most of us, I imagine. We were nine months into a pandemic changing our routines and habits, for better and for worse, only to be met with the reality that the Christmas present we all dreamed of- a vaccine- was months away from becoming a reality. For me, there was the added challenge of deciding that the week of Christmas was the time to draw the line on my relationship. I spent Christmas alone with my dog in Los Alamos. Most of the presents I managed to wrap and send were from the clearance rack at walmart. Last Christmas served as a stark reminder of the blessings I have- in my health and my supportive family, which I am so grateful to spend this Christmas with.

In preparation for this Christmas, with the pandemic threatening supply of crap I wouldn’t buy anyway, I decided to use Christmas as an opportunity to invest in my community. A friend from aerials class runs a local tea shop, so I was putting in some hours there. The pay isn’t great but the community is uplifting, and the owner is generous with her gratitude for my hours in other ways. During hours of sliding tea bags into packages, I decided that tea would make a great Christmas gift, and I could show support for the tea shop. But when the owner saw my cart of goodies, she insisted that I take them all gratis in exchange for my work there! (If you like what you got and want more, you can order online at )

I also spent many months this year learning the amazing craft of pottery from a new friend. I had made coiled pots and gazed them in elementary school, but never before understood the intense calculations that went into designing a vessel, crafting it with hands, mixing the glaze from scratch, and watching it go through several stages from wet clay, to dry clay to bisqued clay to glazed and fired, only to see it crack or break and be useless. I knew a hand-made mug would pair well with some craft tea, and decided to support his patience with my learning his craft, by purchasing several mugs from him. Here, the charitable Christmas spirit struck again. He insisted I pay just 25% his asking price, as a friendly discount, which wouldn't offer him much financial reward for his craft. Once again, my intent to support local artists’ income was thwarted with their personal generosity, perhaps with an acknowledgement that this had not been the most financially stable year for me. I ended up paying him 75% cost, with the agreement that I could take a larger hand-made piece—Merry Christmas to me.

I share that story with these simple gifts to express how these hand-made, deeply intentioned gifts are imbued with love and generosity, and with one final hope that as you enjoy these gifts, that energy gets transferred onto you. I have learned in the last few years that many people do not have the blessing of a large family, easily accessed in one area, that offers support, acceptance, love and laughter. There is no greater gift than getting to spend this year in the company of such delightful people, to share in joys and giggles and make new memories. And to gift them each a piece of the community that helped bring me back home

Monday, March 1, 2021

My Gray Duvet

It was fall in New Mexico. I pushed my bed against the wall and folded it back to its futon status. It was a symbol to myself that I wouldn't be sharing it with anyone. No one except my "Kwala" bear-- a stained relic of my childhood that still made its innocent jingle and had the important job of keeping my arms at a specific length from my chest to keep my shoulder in a good position every night. A job that had previously been held by a man's arm. 

My not-so new but happily re-formed bed was donned with a bright orange bed sheet with a 2" rip near the corner. On top of the bright orange, in a subtle contrast that brought me the most comfort, was my gray duvet. 

I can only imagine the life this duvet had before I found it. I nabbed it from a free pile at my second or third residential education job. It was heaped among things some other twenty-something didn't bother to pack or put away as their contract came to an end the summer before. In my care, my new duvet (which I used as a sheet) would keep me warm during the snowiest winters I had experienced (in Southern California no less!). Eventually it would act as just one more layer between cotton and quilts and wool in a 5th wheel trailer in a forest in the mountains under which my fiance and I would lie listening to the wind howl just a few feet from our faces. 

My gray duvet made it out of California, back to Texas and into the uhall with all my things, to my new home in sunny New Mexico. The fiance made it there, too, but he didn't stay for long. Not like my gray duvet. I can't explain the comfort I got from the dull gray sheets, or the solid softness they provided. Or the simpleness of the big round clear buttons on one side, designed to hold something inside. But it would never reach that fate, at least not with me. 

My gray duvet met a new fiance. It kept his thin body warm one week before he passed away. 

My bed went back to the wall, folded, in protest of love, of sharing and of openness. I wiped the tears of vulnerability upon my gray duvet, temporarily darkening its fibers.

I don't remember packing my gray duvet in Texas to bring to New Mexico. I don't remember packing a lot of things from my happy little house to move up to Taos. But it was at this new house that it met its fate. 

I purchased my first bed. I got engaged again. I got a puppy. A tear in my gray duvet kept growing until one day, I caught my toe on the rip and nearly tripped. I removed my gray duvet from my new bed, and gave it to the dogs. 

It wasn't over though. For months, they played tug of war with my gray duvet. Strings, patches, and pieces littered the house in corners, on tables, in dog beds, or just hanging out of the mouth of a dog or two. 

I guess eventually I picked all those pieces up, and my memory of the gray duvet faded away. 

I'm now writing this under a white duvet. It's serving its purpose, holding a synthetic comforter within its sheets. It's stained with pen marks, a drop of ice cream, and some blood from my dog getting caught on barbed wire. It keeps his white hair off my gray sheets. 

My bed is pushed up against the wall. Kwala sits beside me, her nose chewed off years ago by my new pup. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Case for Love

 I. Love. Valentines Day. 

It has always been my favorite holiday. 

I can vividly imagine the colors of construction paper used to make valentines- starchy red, light pink (dark pink if you have the fancy stuff), and that creamy white. I use to use paper doileys. 

I had a book about valentines that I would sit on the floor of my room in early February and read over and over again. 

I'm positive it was one of these or a few of them. 

Upon reflection, I wasn't a particularly cute child. I was creative, and weird. And probably in my head a lot. I had friends at school but not a ton of them. I think my love for valentines started in Elementary school. Yeah, eating red-iced cookies and getting to have a party in the middle of February was fun, but what stood out to me was the yearly excitement of creating my own box, decorating it however I wanted, and receiving a note from every single kid in my class. AND getting to pick out my FAVORITE pre-printed cardstock valentine pun from the grocery store to give to my big crush. Nevermind that he didn't talk to me. Or that 20 years later he would send me an unsolicited dick pic, without having spoken to me within that time period. I can only imagine that he could tell from the extra hearts I wrote on his valentines in 2nd and 4th grade that he was my favorite, and that when lonliness struck decades later, I was easy prey? But that's not the point of this post. 

It’s an interesting tradition to once a year require students to just “be nice” to all the other students. And perhaps knowing that it’s a lot to ask of young children, niceness is reduced to punny greetings on a folded piece of paper. And if you’re lucky, the piece of paper comes with a tasteless heart-shaped red lollipop with white ink around it that dissolves the moment it hits your tongue- which is about 5 seconds after most kids open their valentines box. I however, savored my valentines. I would wait until I got home and read each one, noting the way they signed their name and if they wrote anything extra.

I remember being disappointed when the box of valentines tradition didn't continue through middle school. Most years since then, I have still written, designed, created or at least purchased and signed a little valentine for friends and lovers. Because I LOVE Valentines Day. 

Valentines Day gets a bad rap. It's like if Halloween was reduced to a holiday where you wear masks and eat candy. I admit that as a child that was the extent of Halloween for me, but as I got older, I learned about the historical importance around All Hallows Eve and why that time of year is significant for spirits. So Halloween is the holiday in which we honor and celebrate the dead. (And kids dress up in costumes and eat candy). In contrast, Valentines Day is the day we celebrate love. What other holiday is given to celebrate an emotion? And what emotion is more powerful than LOVE

You can feel love. You can love a color or a song. You can be in love. You can adore, like, have passion for. If you love someone very much you can enter into an intimate relationship with them, which is loving someone so much that you trust them to be vulnerable around them. Not everyone will love that deep. Not everyone will have their heart broken. Not everyone will be married for 50 years or more. But every single person on this earth today and that has been on this earth in the past can love. And I think that's lovely. 

Whether you love your car or your cat. That feeling that wells up inside of you of pride and agony when your beloved parents drop you off at college and make your bed and then get in the car and drive away, and you wonder if you'll ever see them again but feel grateful that you have them in your life and that thy brought you so far and taught you so much- that's love. I'm told that you can feel the "heart strings" taking root when holding your child for the first time-- that's love. Crying as your best friend kisses the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with and knowing she's going to be treated well and supported-- that's love

It doesn't matter what langugae you speak, although the words for love in different language are impressively unique. On the Acoma Pueblo, I was taught that their word for love feels deeper then ours. It's not "just a feeling" but a description of the warm bubbles or butterflies that well up from your stomach and attempt to stop your heart. 

So, maybe in 2021 this day has been resigned to be a corporate holiday about candy and expensive greeting cards. But I say we take it back. This year more than ever, we need to celebrate LOVE. Even if it's just for one day. It doesn't matter if you're married, gay, asexual or single. I've had highschool boyfriends cheat on me and a fiance that passed away less than three weeks before we hoped to get married, and you know what got me through it? Love. A song I loved. a meal I loved. friends. Clouds. My immense love of the sky and the changing weather and the warming spring. I'm capable of feeling it because I am capabale of LOVE and so are you. 

So whether you are IN love or out of it, celebrate the face that you CAN love, you HAVE loved and you ARE loved. Even if it's just by your cat. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Lesson

I have been struggling. I know I'm not alone. Living in a pandemic, with persistant social injustices, increasing environmental injustices, and a sudden lack of agreement on what TRUTH even is-- is... stressful. 

And like many I'm sure, my struggles have been layered. 

  • Tensions amongst those you live with who suddenly fill new roles for you, and expect you to fill new roles for them. 
  • Feeling like the world is spiraling out of control
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Constantly changing routines make it hard to keep habits
  • Things being cancelled or moved to an online platform that is confusing or not fulfilling

I'm going to get pretty personal here (something I default to but have lately been working hard to limit). 

I've tried a few things...
-busying myself to the point where procrastination isn't an option
-(re)subscribing to online therapy

For months I looked forward to the New Year, as if I expected the ball to drop and the bricks to lift off my shoulders. But here we are, 10 days in and as the last week passed by, I became more and more aware that the same habits were at play, and thus more frustrated at myself, and less productive, and then repeat. 

As I have done for the last several months, I looked forward to the weekend. I had a relaxing Friday night that I felt I didn't deserve (because of not checking off to-do list boxes during the week), and I committed to doing ALL the things I couldn't muster the motivation to do during the hours that someone might hold me accountable, during the freedom of the weekend. Particularly this one BIG project that I have had MONTHS to work on, but have only barely tapped into. For this big project, which was created from an idea that *I* pitched to a company across the pond that knew nothing about me, we have been meeting every other week to check in. Two weeks ago my world was turned on its head so I cancelled that meeting in anticipation that I would finally do the work in the coming weeks. 

So, Saturday morning I awoke and drove to meet my boss for my first ever cross country skiing experience! It was horrifying but awesome to try something new! I reaffirmed that I am not good with hills and that my boss is an excellent teacher. Then I went home to start my project. But instead I got distracted with doing the dishes, cooking dinner, feeding the chickens, and walking the dogs. Oh, and cleaning my room so that I could focus on my big project. 

So this morning I woke up and made coffee, and walked the dog, ready for my big day of projecting. Then I made breakfast. And then I did some research on what new coat I should buy. And then I dove into this book I've been wanting to read for months, but finally got the motivation to. 

And this book- Trauma Stewardship- that was recently championed by the principal at the school I work with... had some incredible insight into my struggles. The procrastination, the adding to-dos to the list that weren't necessary, the feelings- like I have the world on my shoulders and I must do everything always or the world will collapse, species will go extinct, the rainforest will get cut down, children wont go outside, and god forbid, my dogs wont get a walk. All of these are normal reactions given my history, my beliefs, my experiences, and the fact that we're in a pandemic. 

Now, since I had a big project to work on-- I didn't get to the next chapter about how to overcome those behaviors. But I did clean the chicken coop, take the dogs out to play (and clean up their play area), organize some things in my journal that I had been thinking about for days, sign up for a webinar about water in my state, take a survey about outdoor education, send cute pictures of my dogs to my mom, watch videos of my friends' kids play in the snow, take a shower, make an awesome egg salad sandwich, brew sun tea, wash dishes, grade all submitted assignments, send an email I've been planning for two months, do 5 pullups and chin ups, and watch a TedTalk about a business mogel in Babalyon and another about procrastination that wasn't as insightful as I had hoped. 

So all in all- it wasn't a bad Sunday. As I was cleaning the bathroom before coming to my room to settle into my project-doing headspace, I remembered in college when I asked my English teacher to assign me a fake essay so I would clean my bathroom-- because even then I realized that there's nothing like a deadline to accomplish anything else. So, for the record, I sat down at 9:00pm and opened my computer to send an email explaining that I couldn't make our normal time because I had neglected to inform them that I'm now teaching a class at that time (and deeply hoping that this would allow me to get another day, another week? to take advantage of all my clean rooms and get something done.). But when I opened the last email sent in 2020, it said, "no hurry. Let us know when you have something to share." And just like that, my deadline vanished (well, postponed). And just like that, instead of feeling this immense guilt for the one thing I didn't do, I feel sort of accomplished for all the things I did do. 
And just like that, I'm motivated to take the energy I was expecting to spend in the next few hours making something rushed look like it was well thought out, and instead
-Write this blog
- Reflect on today in my journal, and plan out my week (with imaginary deadlines?)
- Email my boss my plan for the week to hold myself accountable
-Get on to the next chapter about how to change my behaviors

For the last few years I have been hoping to write in my blog more regularly. This seems like a silly thing to write about, but here it is. The best thing that happened to me today (aside from my deadline vanishing) was reading about the rut I'm stuck in and realizing that I'm not the only one. So if sharing this makes you feel less alone, it's worth it. 

Now, close this window, get off facebook, and write your own blog. I expect to read it in 24 hours ;)

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Hindsight is 2020

Okay, I know everyone and their dog is using that title, so it's unoriginal, but if you don't, you're just an idiot, so, anyway: 

Obviously this was a fucking YEAR for everyone so rather than harp on some of the challenges, I just want to paint a better picture of what I'm doing and where I'm finding myself as this year comes to a close. (Note: I wrote most of this earlier in the month and some things have changed, but I haven't processed them yet, cause 2020)

I live in New Mexico. Not Arizona, or Colorado, although if you're reading this from Texas it's likely all the same to you. 
I just wrapped up a class on public lands and that's totally not a non-sequitur because if you live in Texas like I did for 18 years, then you may not realize just how amazing the world is outside of the state, especially in places like New Mexico which is over 40% public land. I appreciated thinking about public lands through the lens of equity and diversity...

So, I'm in New Mexico, in the mountains. I lived in ABQ for five years until two years ago when we ran away from the chaos and found ourselves establishing roots here. I wanted to write a blog about what I've learned in the two years since my co-workers said they didn't trust me, and my boss kicked me out of our staff housing because she didn't like my boyfriend.. but to be honest, I'm still processing all the shit that went down... and looking forward to connecting with some of the other folks I know that are still processing, too. Maybe 2021 is our year of reconnecting. 

Where I live has a lot of public land access. It's a little overwhelming. In the previous 5 years I spent living in NM, I really dug into the landscape and exploring one specific corner of the state. Not only is there an entire new set of trails up here, but entirely new ecosystems-- which is both exhilarating (because there's so much to learn) and exhausting (because I feel like a n00b). 

16 months ago we bought a house. I wrote a blog about it. It's been a journey, for sure. Other than the foam squares we put in the bedroom, (most of which have since been covered with cat snot, torn up by dog toenails or repurposed to another room of the house) we don't have any flooring in our unit. Just painted subfloor. There were five separate units but we turned one back into a garage, offering the cabinets from the kitchen to the chickens for nesting. It is currently filled with a miscellany of things including two motorcycles, a mechanism that throws clays for shooting at, and a fridge that somehow got unplugged before it got emptied that I hope will somehow spontaneously combust before I get around to the deed. 

I have felt extremely fortunate to have this house since the pandemic started, for a lot of reasons. One is the security and stability. Although the bank owns about 98% of it, it's been nice not to navigate the rent situation others have gone through. Secondly, is the ability to give. Since we have the space and the situation, we have been able to help those affected by Covid, in some ways. And third is the community. Since buying the house, we've been opening the units exclusively to our friends and people likeminded. We call it our "unintentional community", which currently consists of 5 dogs (ranging in age from 8 weeks to 3 years), 5 cats, 7 adults, 1.5 babies (one is on the way), about 45 hens and 7 roosters. Lastly, I guess I feel really blessed to live in a place that is infinitely beautiful, and challenging, with a cultural history I have barely scratched the surface of. 

I could go on about my house, especially since like most people, I have been spending a lot of time there this year... but for the sake of everyone else's privacy, I'll ramble about my employment. 

I have been incredibly fortunate to not only stay employed, but gain employment during this time. I was going to write a blog about how I achieved this until I realized the secret is "work hard, and accept insignificant amounts of money". Because this has been my foundational work ethic, this is not strange to me, but from talking to people versed in for-profit situations, apparently this isn't the ideal way to do things. BUT, on the other hand I look at people like my friend who reflected after the pandemic started that, "after this clears up, I would like to go into a career that I felt good about". The work I do doesn't only make me feel good, often it gives back to the world in a way. I have made it my business to seek payment for opportunities rather than pay for them. That's just how I roll. SO, what have I been up to this year? 

In January I started a new position at a new non-profit that did very similar things to my last job. After a few slow months of learning through a new community, I was eager for events to gain steam and programs to start rolling out. A week after they started, Covid cancelled everything. Like many, I spent a few months struggling to complete tasks while working from home, until June, when I was fortunate to begin in-person programs taking small groups of students hiking around the mountains. I am so fortunate (mentally, emotionally, and financially) that these programs continued through October!

My side-gig doing data entry for a food delivery business had been stalled since last Thanksgiving, but it turns out that a pandemic is a good time for food delivery, and we got some additional funding allowing me to earn a bit when I could get the hours in. We are expanding to Boulder next month and I am excited to continue this venture for a bit. 

My in-town role model hired me as a personal trainer! My first gig as such. Although with the pandemic we were teaching classes virtually, it was still a fun way to get into the business. I did get to teach a few classes in person out doors with a mask on in the grass 10 feet away, but as cases rose, that got shut down. Eventually that boss fired me for taking a similar gig and not knowing the small town backstory behind their feud. 
BUT in the meantime I pitched an idea for an app for aerialists to a company in German and now I'm their content designer. It's a lot of work and research but I'm hopeful for the outcome. I'm only about three bites into the elephant at the moment. 

During the year, I also worked for the Census for a bit, which was interesting insight into the absolute shit-show of a federal government organization that only runs every 10-years during a pandemic under the Trump Administration in the state of New Mexico in a town with very limited resources. I actually wrote to a couple of newspapers about how poorly the thing was run because I felt it would rival the headlines about the post office. I haven't heard the final numbers but two weeks before the census closed prematurely, only 30% of our town had filled out their survey, which isn't great for our future budget. Local stores were offering gift cards and free ice cream if you filled it out. 

Finally, through the first-mentioned job, I got a position as a PE teacher at a school I can ride my bike to. I got to spend a few weeks in person with students with masks on, reminding them to stay 6-feet away and doing a lot of unusual outdoor ed-based PE that they weren't used to. The rest of my time is spent designing screen-free outdoor activities that are delivered through Google Classroom. What a world we live in. 

Outside of my employment endeavors, which clearly kept me busy (along with care-taking the chickens, harvesting from the garden, and other house-related shenanigans) I managed to write an article with the Center for American Progress, and I'm a defendant in a case against Donald Trump and his attempt to roll back certain Clean Water Act standards that would affect watersheds here in New Mexico where I farm and recreate. My Bataan March was cancelled as was a trip to New Orleans for the Tennessee Williams Festival that in hindsight I couldn't have afforded. Instead, Duck (the dog) got lots of walks around the neighborhood. Perhaps my greatest accomplishment was rearranging my room and creating this almost-perfect corner of books and beauty. 

Like many others, I also experienced some loss this year. My inspiring grandmother Isabel passed away, as did my sweet friend, old co-worker and ex-roomate, Hannah. Both of their lives truly inspired me and I will keep them in my heart as we march into 2021. 

So-- here I am. Some hours, days and weeks of 2020 were certainly a struggle. But I'm here. At the dawn of a new decade-- (a New Age of Aquarius?). I think it's easy to look back at the last 12 months of cancellations and police brutality and unfair economics and feel sour-- but I am inspired by the people who turned out to protests with masks on, I am grateful for months at home to play with my dog and watch the flowers bloom, and I am hopeful that if nothing else, 2020 renewed my energy and reignited my anger.  Cause I (we) have some work to do in 2021.