Archive for August, 2011

25 things to do while 25

Huzzah! It’s my birthday! Well, that is almost a month ago. But I generally think August is a great month and so I celebrate the whole thing. But since the end of August is fast approaching, I thought it would be about time to finish my 25 things to do while 25.

This is not a bucket list as I don’t plan on dying before hitting 26. It’s just stuff I’ve wanted to do. There’s nothing super fancy that I also want to do in my lifetime (like visit the Iquazu falls in Argentina or stay at the Prince of Wales hotel in Banff). It’s stuff we can afford and things I’ve wanted to do for a while. So I’m gonna do them.

Here goes:

1. Catch a fish and eat it for dinner.

2. Go to the hot springs.

3. Hike Ch-paa-qn

4. Knit a sweater

5. Sign up for a yoga class

6. Sew a skirt

7. Buy cross country skis and check out the Lubrecht Experimental forest trails.

8. Get my Master’s Degree (okay, maybe that’s a cop out, but I’ll be happy if I get it before I turn 26!)

9. Build a snowman

10. Float on the Clark Fork River

11. Go on a hot air balloon ride

12. Have a picnic somewhere

13. Fly a kite

14. Go sledding on Blue Mountain

15. Send out my resume to real, full time, paying potential employers.

16. Read each of the four Gospels.

17. Donate blood

18. Volunteer somewhere (real specific I know)

19.  Go one week without watching TV

20. Bake a Medovnik Dort (Czech honey cake…soooo good!)

21. Attend a knitting group at least once to see if I like it.

22. Attend confession at least once.

23. Read or attend a Shakespeare play I haven’t seen before

24. Go to a Griz football game

25. Go to an opera or a play.

Can you tell my main interests are being outside and making stuff? I’ll let you know how I do!


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What would you take?

Have you ever wondered what you would take with you if you had to evacuate your home?

In 2008 (before we lived here) the mountain behind our house caught fire and burned incredibly close to what is now our home:

We live at the base of that hill, behind the trees. And while the current fire in Missoula is nowhere near us, knowing that one could come within feet of your place makes me realize that there’s always a chance we could be packing our bags and fleeing for safety. As are thousands and thousands of people on the east coast who have been evacuated in the past few days. My alma mater, William and Mary, enacted a mandatory evacuation before the first week of classes was even up.

The other day, John and I were talking about what we would take if we had to pack and run, and the answer I think surprised both of us.

“Nothing, really.”

“Well, I guess the wedding album. We should take that.”

“We could always buy another one too though; the photographer would probably still have the files.”

Logically, of course we would pack certain things: passports, computers, medicine, changes of underwear, cell phones, flashlights and bottles of water. But everything else we could pretty much do without.

And this isn’t because we’re huge minimalists. We’re not. I’m hugely sentimental and getting John is convinced anything might be useful one day. Getting him to throw away a piece of paper is like asking him to donate a kidney. But even for us, we can’t come up with one thing that we would be really truly devastated if we lost it.

The Non Consumer Advocate wrote a post on this the other day, how stuff is just stuff. And it is. Things are things, disposable and replaceable.

On the other hand, I know that a couple days after said imagined disaster,  I would start to miss the earrings John gave me our first Christmas together, the teddy bear that I grew up with, the letter my dad wrote me when I graduated college, the first scarf I ever knit. I could buy a new mixer (well theoretically. We don’t have renter’s insurance so it would probably be a few years before we replaced the big ticket items) but it’s hard to replace things that have meaning.

My grandparent’s house burnt down to the ground about 8 years ago. They lost everything. The toys we had played with as children, old photos, cherished family antiques, souvenirs from their world travels. Everything (except for their marriage license, miraculously) was lost. And it was hard. For the first few days you think “stuff is just stuff, I’m glad we have each other.” A few hours later though, you are wishing you had grabbed your eyeglasses before you ran out of the house and are devastated you don’t have the outfit you brought your children home from the hospital in.

We can be proactive about this. Not give objects meaning. Cherish our memories and keep them separate from the physical items which played a role in those memories. But to do so takes a stronger person than I.

When I moved across the country, everything I owned fit into two suitcases and two boxes. Now, my goods have expanded considerably. Almost all the storage space in our 512 sq ft apartment is being well utilized. And sometimes I look around and think “why do we have all this junk? What do we need it for?”

Besides the aforementioned essentials (laptop/medicine/passports/cell phones, which yeah, even those we could replace) we don’t need anything. But we want a lot. And not all that desire is greed or selfishness. I will always love those earrings John gave me, not because of how much they are worth or how good they look with a black dress, but because he bought them because he thought I would like them. Because I’m pretty sure he spent at least a week’s worth of JV salary on them, a huge sacrifice. Because he gave them to me in that tiny, wood paneled bedroom of his on a cold winter night in Spokane and said “Merry Christmas.”

No, I don’t need those earrings. I don’t need them to know John loves me or to even remember those first months we were dating. On one level, they are just stuff.

But the stuff we have, that I love. The stuff I would miss if one day it would disappear. That stuff I love because it reminds me that I am loved.

We need nothing but Love.

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More fire

So now I feel a little bad writing about how to start a fire since this is what Missoula has been dealing with all week:

Monday night a fire started about 5 miles east of Missoula. Within an hour the fire had spread from 150 acres to 1500 acres and peaked the next day at 2000. It came within 30 feet of homes but the wind shifted directions just in time. Missoula is in no danger since the fire is on the other side of two rivers, but the smoke has filled the valley the last few days. On Tuesday the valley was so smoky you couldn’t see the surrounding mountains. The whole city smells like a campfire.

Isn’t that an amazing picture? We didn’t drive to see the fire on Monday night, though I did take a peek at it on Tuesday afternoon. The smoke from it was pretty incredible. Today it sounds like firefighters have gotten it mostly under control, which I sure hope so before my eyes itch themselves right out of my head. There is another fire south of us, so I’m hoping that smoke doesn’t decide to settle here too.

No hurricanes or earthquakes for us, just the land of fire.

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I was a girl scout for 10 years.

Most of it I could take or leave, but I was a big fan of the outdoorsy skill building stuff. Which Girl Scouts was pretty light on (oh heavens! Might these young fair ladies break a nail whilst learning to carve wood? I hear a lawsuit pending. Flee away from such danger! To the sewing machines, children!). But knot tying, setting up tents, campfire building – that was my favorite.

I have two secret skills in life. One is that I know how to tie balloon animals, a skill also thanks to Girl Scouts. The second is that I am really, really good at building a campfire.

This weekend I went camping with my superb husband who was smart enough to let me build the fires, because really its my favorite part of camping and I get kinda pouty if I don’t do it. I’m sorry, but I’ve sat by and watched too many times while some guy, by virtue of having a Y chromosome, decided that he must build the fire and figured that because simply placing a fire starter block next to a log wasn’t working, the wood must be too wet.

This weekend I managed to do every pyromaniac’s dream – build a one match fire. Granted, it’s August in Montana which means I don’t even remember the last time it rained and you have to try harder to keep things from catching on fire, but I still built a couple really good fires. So let me share my wisdom.

If this was one of those blogs with really pretty pictures, there would be a really pretty tutorial here. But it’s one of those blogs where the author can’t find her camera charger or card reader and wouldn’t have thought to take pictures anyway.

Step one:

Have a fire pit, cause Smoky Bear would get pretty mad otherwise. Make sure the idiot before you didn’t dump three buckets of water into it and soak the coals. If their are chunks of wood floating in water, just forget about camping and go to McDonalds. If things are just damp, chuck the half burned logs out and start from scratch.

Step two:

Gather up some tinder. I get tinder and kindling confused and for the life of me have no idea which is which but I looked it up this time. You start with tinder.

Tinder is this little stuff that starts the fire. If you did Girl/Boy Scouts, it was probably some dryer lint in an egg carton. If you are a pansy, it’s one of those fire starter blocks. Otherwise, it’s things like dried grass, pine needles, pine cones, small twigs, dried leaves, etc.

Summer time in Montana looks like this, which means there is plenty of dried grass to spare. And also that you will pretty much go to jail for throwing a cigarette out your window. I don’t know if that’s true. But it could be.

The balance in your tinder is key. If you just get a big pile of dried grass your fire will look awesome, for about three seconds and then it’s gone. Same with pine needles. That’s why I like using a mix and throwing in a few pinecones. Gather up a couple handfuls of anything that looks like it will catch fire easily and pile it in the middle of your fire pit.

Step three:

Get some kindling. For kindling think stuff between twigs and small logs.

Kindling will take a little longer to catch than the tinder, and will be deliver the fire from the tinder to the logs. So it’s got to be something that will catch easily but not burn out before it catches the bigger pieces on fire. Take the kindling and form a teepee around the tinder, but make sure some of the tinder is is still accessible ’cause that’s what you will be lighting.

Step four:


They should be not huge and dry. That’s the general rule of thumb. There are two basic steps you can take from here. The log cabin or the tee pee. The log cabin you basically build a log cabin around your kindling teepee using 4 medium size or 6 smaller logs. It allows air to flow through the bottom and is good if you want a stable fire. But it doesn’t catch as fast usually. The second type is the teepee, which can be a little harder to get to stand up, but not impossible. Take three or four logs and make a little teepee around your kindling. Basically whatever you do, you don’t want to smush your fire, rather, you want to have plenty of room for the air and flames to throw.

Step five:

Take any extra tinder you have and stuff it around the edges. Now take a match and light it. If need to, blow or fan the fire so that the flames grow. And va va voom you have a fire.

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Excuse me while I rant.

For one, there is a beeping noise going off every 30 seconds at work and I can’t figure out what it is.

For another,  I’m tired of people knocking my degree.

I just finished reading this article on Mint, which was yet another article explaining how idiotic you are if you go to grad school and come out with debt. Despite blazing through my master’s degree (I’m almost done with my coursework and have a significant portion of my thesis written) while earning a second degree (I’m getting a Certificate of Public Health, nothing special but its something) I’ve been called a professional student, a term I would normally save for someone who is working on their second PhD or had never been in the workforce. And I’ve gotten more than a few snickers when explaining to someone what Medical Anthropology is.

But you know what?

I’m paying for grad school in cash and scholarship with nary a loan in sight. And while I’ve spent more than I am taking in these two years, I haven’t accumulated a penny of debt.

Life is about more than money. Should you take a job that is able to pay your living expenses and pay off your debt? Absolutely. But money is not the sole determinant of a job’s value, especially since CEOs of corporations like Apple make more than directors of hunger addressing programs like Feeding America, even though we would all probably rather go without an iPhone than starve. Not having debt and not needing the biggest, fanciest, newest everything means I don’t have to measure whether or not it has been worthwhile to go to grad school based on future earning potential. I can get a degree that enables me to do more good work even if it doesn’t translate into me earning more money.

And who knows. Maybe I’ll never get a job. Fifty percent of people living with interstitial cystitis are unable to work, and I realize that’s a possibility. But I believe the research I am doing now is not worthless, even if my life evolves in a way that means I am either unable to work or choose to be a stay at home mom.

And just because someone isn’t familiar with the field of Anthropology does not make it useless.

For one, anthropology is a science not a liberal art. Sure, hard scientists might like to call it a “soft science” or a “social science” but sub-fields such as biological anthropology and forensic anthropology are a far cry from being a “soft” science in my opinion. But my point is, it’s not a completely esoteric pursuit. The contributions from anthropology are real even if they are not well known.

I’m tired of conversations that go like this,

Friendly Acquaintance: “What do you and your husband do?”

Me: “We’re both in school – he’s in law school and I’m in grad school.”

FA: “Oh, what are you in grad school for?”

Me: “Anthropology.”

FA: “Oh. So your husband’s in law school? That must be so hard for you. I bet you can’t wait for him to be done. Is it hard being a law school wife?”

I don’t think anyone has ever asked John if it’s hard to be a grad school husband.

Maybe it’s not the path everyone else would have taken. Maybe I should have gone the more traditional route to support my husband through law school, then stay at home with children and hang it over his head whenever he brings up me going shopping. Or spend years talking about how one day I plan on going back for my masters but never actually doing it. I wanted to get a master’s and so I’m doing it. I’m not worried about what income bracket it will launch me into and I’m not worried about not being the traditional wife.

And now I’m off to find whatever that beeping noise is.

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It’s me.

I’m back.

I know everyone hates posts that begin with “OMG!! SO SORRY I haven’t blogged in like FOR-EVER!!” and I’m not gonna do that because truth be told, I’m not all the sorry.

First we were at the Oregon Coast. Then my parents were visiting. Then at a wedding in Billings. And in between, I just didn’t have much to say.

You see, I started this blog to write about coping with a chronic illness and I’ve pretty much written about anything but. I don’t know why. Maybe because I am learning to deal better. Maybe I’m still to embarrassed to describe intimate details of my nether regions to the inter-world. But mainly because I still don’t know what to say about it beyond “yup, still hurts.”

So I blog about other stuff – social justice, being a broke grad student, my failures in the domestic sphere. But the frequency of my blogging directly correlates to the amount of time I spend online which inversely correlates to the amount of time I spend in the real world. Hiking. Knitting. Biking. Doing yoga.

So I’m going to try and figure out how to balance my online time with real life time and with the demands of everyone who have asked me to start blogging again (which has mainly been my husband. Maybe he likes when I spend more time online?) It’s funny that two years ago I hardly spent anytime online (as in, I probably checked my e-mail once a week) to doing everything from reading the news to catching up with friends to looking up recipes on the computer.

Yesterday I met the new JVs (yay!) one of whom told me that upon telling someone she knew in Portland that she was moving to Missoula, the person mentioned that she reads my blog. Which was pretty embarrassing. So for you, random Portland person I don’t know, I will return to (slightly) more regular blogging. And do that by listing a few of the reasons I love this town.

I love that local businesses set out bowls of water for passing dogs.

I love that cashiers ask you if you want a bag or brought your own.

I love that I can buy pizza dough from the local bakery at the grocery store.

I love that the electrical boxes are painted with vivid scenes of town life and that in the summer, the entire town is simply full of color.

I love that there is a Jesuit parish nearby and that our new priest is a former Jesuit Volunteer himself.

I hate the inversion though. The inversion is when, during the winter months, the clouds sink down into the bowl created by the surrounding mountains and refuse to move for weeks on in. Last winter, we went from Feb 13 to March 14 without having a single day with sunshine.

I love that we have the 3rd highest percentage of people in the country who bike to work. Which includes me on days that I’m not working till late late at night.

I love all the festivals, concerts, shebangs, and brewfests there are here.

Also that A River Run Through it was set here. And that Miranda Lambert mentioned us in her song Dry Town. (Although I don’t think there is a dry anything within however-many-miles-to-Utah from here).

It’s been fun galavanting around the Northwest, but it’s good to be home too.

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Happy Birthday to me

I’ve been taking a break from blogging and doing other things with my life lately. But yesterday was my birthday, in case you were wondering.

So I’m going to make a list of 25 things to do while I’m 25. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

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