The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

It’s dangerously cold here. And by dangerously I mean I am at risk of morphing into a pile of fleece and hair and never leaving the house again. Also people who don’t have a warm place to stay are in actual, serious bodily danger. Plus sharks are literally freezing to death, which is sad and terrifying. But mostly it’s about the resulting and inevitable slide toward my natural state of being—an amorphous, speechless hermit.

To battle this inevitability, I’ve been trying to trick myself into leaving the house by planning activities that can only be done in places that make me happy. I had to go to the library to get my new books. I needed to drive to the ice arena in order to ice skate. I had to go outside to order the giant egg rolls we obviously needed to eat on the last day of 2017. It’s worked intermittently, but it’s not been an entirely pleasant process.

After all that struggle forcing myself to act like a real human in the midst of this insane weather, I’m now wondering whether it’s really necessary at all. Who was it that decided we should still have to go to work and act like adults when it was five degrees Fahrenheit? That person probably hated being at home and had a miserable life, so now we all have to suffer. Or maybe they were a firefighter, which is very brave and self-sacrificing. But I’m not a firefighter, so what’s with all this pressure to buck up and face the wind?

I haven’t encountered anyone at my office who is happy about their cold, uncomfortable commute. No one standing at my bus stop feels emboldened by their choice to be outside. We’re all shivering and depressed together. I feel like we need to stop with this madness and just accept that now is the time to sit at home and read books and watch Netflix and eat soup.

Basically, I’d like the rest of you to push yourselves a little less so I don’t have to feel guilty about my need to legitimately hibernate for the next month. Please do your part.

A Long Time Ago, We Used To Be Friends

It’s been awhile, but I think of this blog and my throngs of readers as very good friends—and we all know you can neglect your real friends for huge stretches of time and they will just come back to you with love. No? You can’t? You need to be responsible and caring and thoughtful with the important relationships in your life or they risk shifting into something you never wanted? Damn it.

Well, here I am. Just a girl, sitting in front of the computer, asking you to sorta half-read this nonsense while you’re browsing for new towels or watching Real Housewives.

A lot has happened since I’ve been away.

First, the world is basically on fire (literally and figuratively, yay for global climate change!). We’ve got a president who is completely unqualified for the job and a government that is exploiting his ineptitude and arrogance for their own self-centered agendas. People are afraid of nuclear war again. White supremacists are still killing people in the streets, but this time the leader of our country isn’t condemning them. Women continue to be assaulted and exploited. Police officers are shooting people for no good reason and getting away with it. Civil wars and unrest around the world have forced families into danger and starvation.

I could keep going, but I’m finding myself falling into a spiral that’s not going to help any of us. Basically, a lot of very bad things happened last year.

It’s not all terrible though. Some good things have been rumbling around this planet. Women supported one another when we spoke up about the harm done to us. The hole in the ozone layer is shrinking. Scientists keep doing cool things like inventing insecticides that won’t kill bees, discovering planets that might support life, figuring out how to pull water out of low-humidity air, and proving Einstein’s theory of relativity. We met Fiona the hippo. Guinea Worm and polio are taking their final lap. More countries reached marriage equality.

Things have happened in my own life too.

I bought a house and embarked on a tumultuous but compassionate five-month-long relationship with a CB2 customer service manager. I visited Japan and Hawaii and Disney World and Cleveland and Banff National Park and Boulder and Michigan and Toronto. I survived a triathlon and suspected food poisoning (not at the same time). I tried to make vegan challah again and failed again. I learned a new series of bus lines in my city. I rode in a helicopter. I rode on a bullet train. I swam with a sea turtle. I marched on Washington and heard Gloria Steinem, Angela Davis, Janet Mock, America Ferrera, and Cecile Richards speak. I cheered on some badass women during a roller derby match. I wore my Chewbacca onesie in public twice. I stood in the rain for science. I stayed alive while a doctor put a camera down my throat into my stomach. I played soccer with a lot of random children. I saved a father and son from getting swept away into the ocean. I spent the night at a Buddhist monastery in the mountains, where I massively failed at meditation. I heard Steve Martin tell jokes and play the banjo. I bought cartoonish leggings in Harajuku surrounded by stylish teenagers.

I also wrote about some cool stuff for National Geographic, including a piece trolling Donald Trump that earned decidedly lukewarm reception on social media. A producer on The Walking Dead and the official comic book account tweeted out something I wrote about zombie tourism (not tourism for zombies, which is a piece I have now put on my brainstorm list), and we all know virtual pats on the back from famous-adjacent people are the real currency in this new world. I interviewed survival experts on how to prepare for disaster, told people what I love about Michigan, and wrote stories about outdoor skills in the apocalypse and adventuring like a Game of Thrones character. But mostly, since I officially became an editor, I spent a lot time helping other people write things, which is good since Cher Horowitz taught us “tis a far, far better thing doing stuff for other people.” Just kidding, it’s a mutual relationship, ’cause I gotta feed the content beast that is the internet. You people are insatiable.

So, here I am again. I’ve got a year’s worth of stories to tell you that have been taking up space in my brain, a year’s worth of opinions sitting on my chest. I hope you’ll come back to read them.

Be Selfish

voted

Selfish reason for voting on November 8th:

You probably get a couple hours off work to do your civic duty. I bet no one would even notice if you grabbed a breakfast sandwich on the way back from the polls or took an extra walk around the block after putting your ballot in the box. Not only do you get the gift of participating in your own government, you get a few extra minutes to yourself to fulfill that responsibility. But only if you go vote.

So what do you want out of your morning on November 8th? A nice breakfast, a long walk, and a vote that shapes the future of your country or the same old dreary commute into the office for a community kitchen cup of coffee? The choice is up to you.

Paper Ballots

vote

When I was in elementary school, our teachers ran a fake presidential election. It must have been 1996, because I was nearing the end of my illustrious career as an elementary student and I distinctly remember Bob Dole being on the ballot. We only voted for president, but we didn’t get any particular information about the candidates or their platforms. At least, I don’t remember learning anything. I did go to public school after all. We were lucky they even told us there was a presidential election happening.

There was so much buzz that afternoon. It was mostly about doing literally anything but practicing cursive or completing division tables, but we were also excited about participating. We all got tiny pieces of paper and dropped them into these little cardboard boxes. Most of us knew we were supposed to vote for Bill Clinton, and most of us did. He seemed cool, we’d heard our parents would be voting for him, and he played the saxophone. A bunch of kids voted for Ross Perot, because they knew it was the alternative choice and that holds a lot of appeal for a ten year old. I’m sure a few voted for Bob Dole, but he mostly seemed old and boring. I think Clinton won our class election, just as he won the actual race. We were all very pleased. Our accuracy made us a sort of groundhog, I think. I should find the group, poll them all today, and see if we’re a good measure of results for this upcoming election. We were uninformed but also a strangely close representation of reality.

For this election, I recommend getting a little more knowledgable than my friends and I were in 1996. Factcheck.org is a good spot to start. It’s dedicated to sorting out the nonsense from the truth, regardless of party or affiliation. It’s run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and is staffed mostly by journalists. Once we’re all educated, then we can go about the giddy business of choosing the next leader of the free world. Maybe we’ll even get extra time at recess for doing our civic duty.

Forward Or Else

emailchain

I finally figured out why I was so unlucky in love during my middle school and high school years. All this time, I thought it was because I had trouble relating to other kids, never had the right outfits, and stayed up all night reading instead of doodling hearts in my journal with a glitter pen. Then, scrolling through the internets last weekend, it hit me. None of those things kept me from having any semblance of a dating life. It was one thing and one thing alone. I never forwarded along those email chains. Never. You know the ones. The letters that claimed if you deleted them or stopped their run, no one would ever love you and you’d die in a fiery crash. Well, they worked. I didn’t die in a fiery crash… yet, but I also didn’t have a line of young men interested in taking me out on the town, so I’d say the consequences were real.

The power of the chain email seemed to fade in the years after the internet bubble burst. I finally found someone who wants to eat pizza and watch Netflix with me, so it turned out ok. It was a tortoise and the hare kind of situation and apparently I’m more reptile than mammal. It was also like being an unknowing participant in a cruel, cruel experiment. Studies find it takes six to seven years to overcome the curse of late 90s technology superstitions.

Old Man Dodge

notignoring

When we were staying in Olympic National Park, we spent time at a few of the campgrounds. One of the early spots we stayed was Sol Duc, in the northwest corner of the park. While we were there, a couple came up to our site to talk with Dave. The woman didn’t say much and kept walking along after the man said hello. That’s how I like my strangers, friendly but impermanent. The man, however, didn’t have the same courtesy. He talked with Dave about our strange camper van, about how much his home had grown in value, and about nailing copper into trees. That part seemed particularly aggressive, but I guess people do it to keep trees from growing. Dave sent off a few typical end-of-conversation indicators, but this guy was not picking them up. He just kept on going and going. Eventually, I had to interrupt. I turned around (obviously my back was turned to them the whole time, because that’s how I roll in awkward social situations) and said a bit too loudly, “Ok, it’s time to go now.” Still, the guy didn’t stop talking. I repeated myself even louder. Nothing. Then Dave repeated what I said. That worked. I guess the guy couldn’t hear my little lady voice.

I was glad the interaction was over. We took a dip in the nearby hot springs to celebrate and I forgot about the stranger.

A few nights later, we pulled into a new campground—Kalaloch. Seven minutes after we pulled into the site, a face appeared on the other side of our car’s hood. It was his—his wrinkled, pale face under a flop of white hair. He said, “Looks like we’re following you.” He could not have said anything creepier. Yes, old man, I’d love to hear about how you’re stalking me in the woods. Please bring my nightmares to fruition by explaining how you have tracked me from place to place in a giant van.

After interrupting us, he pointed at his camper parked literally across the street. He could peek from his front window into our back window. Not something I wanted to happen. I also didn’t want to have to stand there and listen to him talk about nothing. I had macaroni and cheese to eat, so I had to pull out all the stops. And, by all the stops, I mean I had to turn around after he’d been talking for 56 seconds and pretend I had something really urgent to do. He persisted. I waited. Eventually he sighed and walked away.

I know I sound terrible. He wasn’t actually stalking us (I’m pretty sure). He was just on a nice vacation with his lady friend or wife or mistress. Probably not that last one because, as much as he chatted with us, he didn’t seem to say a word to her. We just happened to be in the same place too many times in a row. He also just happened to not understand reasonable social cues and be totally indifferent to other people’s feelings.

Don’t feel bad for the guy though. On my walk to the bathroom, I saw him accosting another couple on the path. And a different guy was stopped by his chatter on my way back. He was fine. I was also fine because after my masterful dodge, he didn’t try again. I guess not everyone escapes to the woods to get away from all of humanity.

Giant Squirrels

marmots

It’s been awhile, I know. I wasn’t just eating cookies and watching Netflix this time though. I’ve been far away in a magical wonderland of fairies and marmots. Turns out, that’s the Pacific Northwest. I didn’t see any actual fairies, but I’ve seen Fern Gully and I’m pretty sure they were there. I did see a whole bunch of marmots, which was excellent, since as soon as I read that there were marmots in the area, I told Dave, “I better see a marmot on this trip.” I didn’t even know what a marmot was, but it was really important to me that I found one.

Luck was on my side, because I saw one on our first real hike in Mt. Rainier. I say real, because we did a test-run hike on our first night and I failed and made us turn back. I was not prepared. I’ll fill you guys in on that one later. This first real hike was a success though because I both completed it and accomplished my primary goal: spotting the elusive marmot. Also I learned they are not at all elusive. They were everywhere. We saw like ten of them waddling past us on the trail and laying out on rocks eating grass. When I turned toward another hiker to express my glee at spotting the first one, she just said, “Oh yeah, they’re out today” and kept on walking. She didn’t even care. She moved along like she’d seen a million of those fat squirrels. I hope I never lose my zest for marmots (and life).

Well, I really had no idea where this post was going when I started it, but I feel like that’s a good place to stop for now. In the next few, I’ll share some moments from my trip. Stay tuned for stories about how we managed to survive in a van nearly the same age as me, the old man that followed us from campground to campground, and the most dangerous s’mores ever made. Probably some other strange things too. Who even knows. I’m delirious from fake jet lag and too many marshmallows.

For now, let’s all toast to marmots. Those fat dudes know what’s up.

Unreal World

RealWorld

Every once in a while, it’s important to stop thinking about work and chores and news and start thinking about what it would be like if we all had to ride giant tortoises to work or if all our food was available in pie form alone. How fast would these tortoises go? What would a spaghetti pie taste like? These are the things I think about when I’m supposed to figuring out my life.

Deleted

Internet

Last night I wrote a post about watching the first episode of the Bachelorette and how it forces two contradicting aspects of myself against one another. I’m a sucker for pop culture institutions and an uber feminist. Unfortunately, these two things rarely overlap. Although we’re being gifted with more and more amazing feminist entertainment, the majority of pop culture is sending us messages that make the tiny Gloria Steinem inside my brain cringe.

Anyway, I wrote a whole post about it and then my blog deleted it. I think that means the internet hates women. Just kidding, we all already know the internet hates women. Even though I feel strongly about the need to recognize the contradictions we live with regard to our beliefs (and forgiving ourselves for them), I also feel strongly about getting in some quality relaxation before bedtime.

Instead, I will leave you with Dave’s response to me after I tried to explain a particular scene from a past Bachelor season. He looked me straight in the face and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I love you.” So that’s basically my life in one sentence.