Sunday, May 19, 2013
Saturday, May 18, 2013
|Do I look pregnant? I submit that|
I do not! I need to go eat cake now...
On Thursday, I was shuffling through the dress racks at Salvation Army when a woman with a huge black sunhat entered my aisle. I looked up at her, smiled, and said, “I like your hat!”
“Thanks!” she said brightly, then glanced at the potbelly (aka my “butter tummy”). “So are you due soon?”
My brain had a conniption of indecision, trying to decide whether to teach her a lesson through embarrassment, or tell her a made-up due date. I blurted out a cheerful, “Not yet,” and escaped to the other side of the rack, leaving her to sort out what that might mean.
Suddenly I didn’t feel like trying on dresses anymore. I meandered over to the kitchen goods section and rooted through the utensils. My thoughts went something like this: Hmm, a ladle. We could really use a ladle, for dishing out all those INCREDIBLY NUTRITIOUS SOUPS THAT I MAKE. Oh, and here’s a potato masher so I can make my own mashed potatoes and LIGHTLY AND RESPONSIBLY SALT THEM, and— hey, look! A watermelon baller! Now I can scoop out watermelons easier and make TASTY AND SLIMMING HEALTH MEALS WITH THEM. Right? RIGHT?
And then I speed-walked home and baked a cake.
Friday, May 17, 2013
(Note: I don't know for sure how old I was when this took place, but I’m guessing six.)
One day, I was using my newly-acquired reading skills to tackle a story about Emily Elizabeth and her giant dog Clifford visiting a fire station. Emily Elizabeth pointed out that Clifford was red, just like the fire trucks!
This exploded my mind.
Did the author consider that parallel when he started writing the series, or did he just think it up as he wrote? How was either of those options possible? The intellectual capacity of the author staggered me. I wondered, could I ever write a story with that much depth?
In my brain, a door had been opened.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
|Antelope Island is pretty even from a distance.|
|It's not an antelope, but bison are pretty cool, too!|
|A causeway lets you easily drive to the middle of the Great Salt Lake.|
|The view from the Fielding Gar Ranch isn't bad, either.|
This isn’t the first time on my blog that I’ve mentioned Antelope Island, a nature reserve surrounded by the Great Salt Lake. A few days ago, I stumbled on the stunning bird photography on this website, and that made me want to revisit my own photos of this one-of-a-kind area.
This is what I wrote about it in a blog from 2011:
“The Great Salt Lake is the remnant of a prehistoric lake that spanned most of western Utah back in the day. Fed by three mineral-rich rivers (the Jordan, Weber, and Bear), the lake only loses water through evaporation, so the water gets saltier every year. The largest creatures that inhabit its cloudy waters are brine shrimp the size of fingernail clippings. These, coupled with vast amounts of brine flies, draw a host of birds. Avocets, black-and-white wading birds with orange shoulder and upturned bills, feed in the shallows while American coots, duck-like birds with black plumage and white bills, paddle around in the deeper areas. “Deeper” is a relative term— although the Great Salt Lake covers 1,700 square miles, on an average year it barely gets deeper than 30 feet.
“The visitor center boasted a dizzying amount of information (Antelope Island contains rocks older than the bottom of the Grand Canyon, apparently), but my favorite part was a clip from a silent film shot on location on the island. Mostly a bloodbath of bison hunting and dramatic scenes of pioneers getting caught in quicksand, it contained such thought-provoking dialogue (written neatly in white Times font) such as “If Brigham Young, the Mormon leader, could get out west with all them wives, then I can sure ‘nough do it with my wagons!” We also visited a working cattle ranch with historical buildings that showed the history of the ranch from the first white settlers in the mid-1800s up until present day.”
Why you should go: If you’re a history buff or a nature lover, this island has plenty to offer. It showcases an interesting slice of western history and is an essential resting place for migratory birds, not to mention a unique ecosystem and a stunning panorama.
How to get there: Here are driving directions.
What to bring: Money— a day pass is $9 per car or $3 a person if you’re walking/cycling in. Bring sturdy clothes and shoes if you want to hike, and some sort of protection from the sun since there aren’t any trees. Pack a picnic lunch and lots of water. If you have a camera and a pair of binoculars, be sure to take them along too!
What else you need to know: If you’re not a hiker, there is still plenty to see; you can pull off the road in most places, have a picnic, and admire the scenery. Be sure to check out the visitor’s center and the ranch, which both help expand on the island’s past, both geologically and historically.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Yesterday, Zach wanted to take a long walk, and I wanted to hide under the covers and eat ice cream. I’m thankful to have a husband who makes me walk 12 miles when I’m feeling like that. If I don’t walk enough, then my body starts punishing me by feeling awful (which, ironically, makes me want to hide under the covers and eat ice cream instead of walking). Zach breaks the vicious cycle and rewards me with pizza.
My husband, usually a fan of cold rainy weather, felt his California roots stirring him to run outside and enjoy the dry heat (he was born in Sacramento). Around 4:00, he finally convinced me to put on my sunhat, lace up my shoes and step outside into the gusts of hot dry air. Don’t get me wrong— I hate St. Louis’s humid summers as much as the next person, but dry heat saps out every ounce of fluid in my body, and no matter how much water I chug, I’m always thirsty. (Wow, Shafter, that’s a promising sign, since 600 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail runs through the middle of a desert!)
But I digress. I was going to tell you about the turtle.
Zach and I were chugging down the Katy Trail by the side of the busy 45-mph road Arena Parkway, blinking in the overbearing sun, when Zach gave a cry and pointed to the shoulder. I looked, and gasped too: there was a footlong snapping turtle crawling toward the traffic!
We ran out to the shoulder and stared at this weird beauty: he had a mud-colored shell worn smooth, a head the size of my fist with cute wet blinking eyes, legs as thick as my wrist with impressive claws, and an alligator-like tail. Two tear-drop-shaped leeches clung to the top rear of his shell, squirming in the sun. (Why would leeches be attached to a turtle’s shell? I do not know.) An Internet search today revealed that this sucker (“Mr. Turtle,” as I oh-so-creatively named him) was an Eastern Snapping Turtle.
As Zach and I approached, Mr. Turtle raised his thick back legs and scrunched his head into his shell, sticking his butt in the air in some sort of defensive posture. Zach and I debated: we couldn’t herd him back into the grass because there was a curb in the way, but neither of us thought it was wise to pick up a footlong snapper. (The Internet confirms our conclusion: apparently the only safe way to pick one up is by the tail, at arm’s length.) I tried to guide him with my foot, but he whipped his body around and hissed, making me jump back.
|This isn't Mr. Turtle, but one of his cousins in Maryland. (Photo source)|
At last we decided there was nothing we could do but hope for the best. We watched him worriedly as he altered his original course and started walking parallel to the road down the shoulder. Why on earth, we wondered, would a giant turtle leave the water, climb up a steep embankment, cross the trail and hop down from a curb to head out into traffic? What did he hope to find on the other side?
Later that night, our brother drove us back along the road, where we anxiously looked for the remains of Mr. Turtle. We didn’t see any roadkill, so we let out sighs of relief, still wondering what became of the brave wanderer and his faithful leeches.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Question from last week, which stretched into two blogs:
What’s the easiest way to plan what we’re going to do when we get there? I always want to plan things so that we don’t waste time doing nothing, but I get overwhelmed trying to figure out a timeline for things.
Last week, I talked about making a timeline. This week, I’m including all the miscellaneous tips I have left over.
First of all, three tips to help anyone avoid time-wasting:
Know thy transportation. If you’re traveling via public transit, get a map of the entire system and study it while you’re on the bus so you know how to get where you need to go. If you’re taking a car or walking, keep a good map on hand. If you know how to smoothly navigate from place to place, you’ll have a much easier time of it.
As I mentioned last week, make your plans around geographic locations. My sister and I enjoy wandering all over cities and doubling back on ourselves several times, but it’s not very efficient.
Have a lot of backup options. When you plan your day around one big event, you might find it takes a lot longer or shorter than you expected. That’s why backup options are so handy— you can discard them without any loss to the quality of your trip, or find time to visit that ornamental rose garden after all.
As I was compiling these lists, I realized that some of my posts directly pertained to traveling in a group. Travel with two or more people can get more complicated, but it’s lots of fun. Here are my best tips.
Choose a leader. Ideally, the leadership should be fluid, but at any given time in the trip, there must be one person who is taking all the choices and opinions into consideration and making the final decision. Otherwise you waste incredible amounts of time trying to figure out simple things, like “Where should we eat?” “What should we buy at the grocery store?” “Which museum should we visit today?” A sympathetic but decisive leader eliminates the endless debates and discussions.
Figure out a money system. Here’s what’s worked for me in the past: each person on the trip takes a turn putting $20 of gas into the car. (This was traveling with a bunch of single people: you’d have to take in account married people.) Each person also pays for his or her own food, making deals with other people (“Want to put in half to buy this huge pack of lunchmeat?”) and sharing as they wish. (Hint: Communal food causes conflict very quickly.) Split hotel bills into even fractions. This is the easiest way to make the finances fair.
Be open to splitting up for a while. When I traveled to the Grand Canyon with a couchsurfing friend, Amanda, I appreciated that she knew when we should go our separate ways for the day. We hiked a few miles together in the morning, and then she decided to chill, have a little picnic, walk her dog, and take a nap in her trailer. I wanted to hike the rim as far as I could, so we parted ways and met up at evening for dinner. Both of us had a much better time that we would have with a compromise.
Whether traveling solo or in a group, be sure to have a strong leader, figure out details in advance, and stay chill about your schedule. After all, the point of all this planning is to help you relax and enjoy your trip.
Monday, May 13, 2013
For most of my life, I’ve been a pretty happy-go-lucky person. I worried a lot as a child— for instance, every time I got a stomachache I assumed I had cancer— but those moments tended to pass quickly and my outlook has always been generally optimistic.
Growing up in a family where depression is rampant, I’ve also always been aware that my optimism was a gift, and was not something that I accomplished on my own through the power of positivity. Still, it’s always been hard for me to understand what depression is. I realized that I’ve only experienced true depression twice, for relatively short periods of time— the other times when I thought I was depressed, I was just sad.
This cartoon by Hyperbole and a Half is surprisingly one of the most articulate and eye-opening discourses on depression that I’ve ever read. I think it’s important to read for people like me, who have never struggled with depression long-term, and who have a hard time grasping that someone could feel like that for any amount of time. It’s well worth a read.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Saturday, May 11, 2013
(Men probably won’t have much interest in this post: it’s about female leg hair, which is an odd thing to blog about when half a person’s intended audience are male. So guys, do not feel obligated to read further. You gone now? Okay. That makes me feel a little less weird about posting this.)
On highway 70, I see a billboard for laser hair removal that shows a woman’s legs, girlishly skinny and smooth, with the tag-line, “Be Ideal.” This sums up a convention that almost every woman I know adheres to: smooth legs are sexy, and hairy legs are embarrassing and gross. However, all women have hairy legs (and armpits). It’s as natural as the hair on our heads. So why do we feel the need to shave ourselves in order to be attractive?
Like every girl I know, I started shaving my legs when I hit puberty. It was annoying at first and it took me weeks to get down the technique without cutting myself, but I was intent on ridding my limbs of the scraggly hair that grew afresh every day. I never questioned this compulsive action, because what self-respecting girl would go out in shorts with hairy legs? This wasn’t, and never has been, based on a fear of guys considering me unattractive— I just assumed people in general would think I was gross and masculine.
As a teen I wasn’t too concerned about my appearance, so I never stewed over the issue. I did, however, feel embarrassed when faced with the prospect of leaving the house with my stubbly legs in view. Whenever I wanted to wear a skirt, I felt obligated to give my legs a once-over. When I didn’t have time for that, I wore a longer skirt and kept my feet tucked under me, hoping that no one would see.
When I was 21, I left for my first farm volunteer trip in Washington state. On the first farm, I worked four hours a day with some hardcore hippies. These girls did not shave anything, and I was both shocked by the sight of how hairy women’s legs can get, and jealous of their self-confidence. On the second farm, I didn’t shower for two weeks straight, and so of course the thought of shaving never occurred to me. On one of my last evenings there, a new volunteer came to visit. I was sitting at the kitchen table, wearing shorts, and my legs were hairier than they had ever been in my life. And for a second, I felt honestly embarrassed to be meeting this new girl when my legs were so hairy. Then I laughed at myself. Here I was, greasy-haired, smelling like compost, callused and sunburned, and I was worried about my stupid leg hair? That was my first clue that I cared about the cultural conventions way too much.
Over the next couple years, I began loosening up. I shaved when I wanted to, and strolled out hairy-legged when I wanted to. I gained the confidence that I had envied in my hippie farm friends.
Do I still shave my legs? Yes, sometimes. I shaved them yesterday and I like that they feel smooth and shiny. Like a guy shaving his face, it’s a nice way to feel cleaner. But before that, I hadn’t shaved in months. I just didn’t feel the need to. I’m a woman, and I have hairy legs just like any other woman. As with anything, it’s important not to let the fleeting conventions of beauty make a decision for you.
Friday, May 10, 2013
The instant I saw him, I liked him.
It’s funny that I can’t remember where we were on Cornerstone Festival’s expansive grounds, or if we made eye contact, or if we exchanges words besides our names. I was struck by his ridiculously curly long hair, nervous downward glance, band t-shirt, and slight slump as if he didn’t want to seem too tall.
Ooh, a shy one, I thought. I’m going to be his friend! I was shy during my early teen years, so I had a heart for coaxing timid people out of their shells.
I had no idea.