When I was almost twelve, my dad and uncle loaded my brothers and I up into two cars, popped the cats in back, and drove us out west on our move to Seattle. After we passed Mt. Rushmore, every inch more was another inch further west for me. This was my grand adventure.
We stopped at lots of historical and natural sites. Particular highlights include Little Big Horn, Yellowstone, and a plethora of churches. But the one that stands out the most in my mind is visiting Devil's Tower.
Just like the iconic images, Devil's Tower rose out of the mist on the cool, wet day we visited. We drove up and visited the ranger station before hiking around the park, and it was in the ranger station that I picked up a pamphlet to become a "junior ranger" by completing some activities within the park.
One of the activities was to discover lichen. Lichen? I'd never heard of it before! But thanks to this little pamphlet, I learned about one of the many organisms that continues to fascinated me. Lichen is an obligate symbiosis between a fungi and an algae or cyanobacteria; the fungi provides essential nutrients, and the algae or cyanobacteria produces sugars via photosynthesis that both portions of the lichen use to survive. Because the symbiosis is obligate, neither can survive without the other.
Lichen are particularly interesting for many reasons. An early colonizer after disaster, lichen work to decompose and return nutrients back into the soil. In addition to being found on dead trees, lichen can even live on rocks. If you've ever seen a tree growing out of a crack in a rock, there's a good bet that a lichen deep in the crevice created a little dirt to allow the seed a foothold. Lichen are tough organisms that can survive arctic winters, but they are strangely sensitive to pollution and thus are an early warning of diminishing air quality.
I'd forgotten about this trip to Devil's Tower and the junior ranger activity until recently. As part of the programming here, we teach sixth graders about decomposers, and one of the categories is lichen. While walking around the woods preparing for my lesson, my memory was stirred.
Sometimes, I'm not always sure how I ended up an ecologist. For years, people thought I'd be a high school math or history teacher. But when I remember small things like this memory, it seems only natural that I should be drawn to this career.
I've been tagged (by Karina) for a meme where I tell everyone 6 random things. I won't retag anyone, since I know a lot of people have done this already. But I'll share some stuff. Maybe I'm not quite following the rules in sharing more recent events in my life, but that's okay with me.
1. I've been sick for over a month now. This is starting to mimic my sophomore year of college, where I was borderline sick for months. Back then, I had mono (or something similar), but this now is just a lingering cold. Still, it is consistently annoying and influences my ability to sing well during choir (I sing in the church choir here).
2. This past Saturday, I successfully assisted my supervisor in pulling off a really huge event. We had over 1,000 people through our nature center for a fall/Halloween celebration. The week before the event, I worked 12ish hours most days in order to prepare, and I worked 14 hours on the day off of (what a typo!). But it was totally worth it to see all the happy kids and parents enjoying the nature center. We had lots of non-members visit, and we're hoping they come back for more events.
3. I mailed my ballot today! I voted in Ann Arbor to simplify my life, and the ballot went in the mail today. I'm happy to have completed my civic duty. I heartily encourage my readers to make sure that they vote on or before November 4th as well. I firmly believe that it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in the democracy.
4. My favorite animal is a salamander. A rough-skin newt, to be exact. I find them gosh darn cute.
5. The things I do for sushi . . . on Sunday, I am heading up to the Twin Cities to get something for work. But the store could ship the item. It's just that driving up there gives me a great excuse to go get some sushi. I've done a bunch of research and think I found a great place to go. I'll be going by myself to scope it out and see if it is a good place for my boyfriend's very first sushi experience.
6. I just had a PBJ, a slice of cake, and chips for lunch. Yes, I know none of you care. But the bright spot is that the cake and chips were left over from that big event on Saturday, so I had cheap lunch. I get lots of free food here, which helps with the budget.
I am feeling guilty today. I am guilty because I am so damn lucky, and I wish the same could be said for every single person in our nation.
Right now, I am blessed to have a fabulous, supportive, amazing boyfriend. He brings me lunch at work when I sleep in, runs errands with me, and listens to the perpetual stream of words that come out of mouth thanks to my habit of processing damn near everything externally. And I can appreciate my boyfriend precisely because I have not always had good boyfriends, but I learned from those poor relationships and from friends, other relationships, and therapy that showed me what a good boyfriend should be. And perhaps most fabulously of all, I am blessed that if I someday choose to marry this man I am dating, I know that I will be able to do so in all 50 states in this nation, and no one will ever question my decision nor refuse to honor my choice.
I am blessed to have a good, strong upbringing. My parents taught me how to be fiscally responsible; I know how to budget and when to tighten my purse strings to make it between paychecks. Furthermore, even though I know how to live within my means, I don’t necessarily have to; my parents also taught me to put away as much as I can in the flush times in order to make it through the lean times. They also taught me how to educate myself about everything in order to always make a well-informed decision.
I am blessed to have healthcare. This is a direct consequence of my fabulous parents and how they taught me. Right now, I spend almost a quarter of my monthly paycheck on health insurance. Yes, a full 25%. It does help that I don’t have to pay rent right now, as housing is included in my internship. But I currently make $190 a week before taxes, and I find the room to pay $120 a month on my health insurance. It’s not fun, but it is a necessary expense, and I am fortunate that I can make room for it.
I am blessed to be physically healthy. I know the value of physical activity, and I use physical activity to help me feel better. It gets me through blue times and gives me extra energy.
I am blessed to be mentally healthy. A year and a half in therapy taught me to listen to my own feelings and prioritize my needs over the needs of others. This doesn’t mean that I am selfish to the exclusion of the people in my life; it does mean that I now know that I am better equipped to help other people if I first help myself. I no longer feel like I can’t get out of bed in the morning.
I am blessed to be surrounded by beautiful nature. At my job, every single day, I get to smell clean air and walk amongst prairie grass and trees. I see wildlife on a regular basis; it is a rare day where I don’t spot at least one whitetail deer, and I can’t even imagine having a day at work where I don’t see a bird. And who amongst us can say the same? I also get to help kids experience these joys, and sometimes I get to facilitate time for children to just play out in the woods. As sprawl encroaches on our natural lands, I worry that too many kids will not experience the joy of finding millipedes as they roll a log or sitting patiently on a dock until a painted turtle climbs up onto a log to sun.
Where does feeling guilty factor into all of this? I feel guilty because not everyone was fortunate enough to have the background I did. There are many people out there who cannot escape their abusive relationships or don’t even recognize their relationship as such; emotional abuse is a terrible act that is difficult to recognize. There are a great many people who are in debt and cannot see their way out, even if they have jobs and a means to eventually work out of debt; you need more than an income to help you move ahead in this world. There are people who don’t get enough food, who don’t have a roof over their head, and who don’t have access to medical care. And all these people suffer.
I’ve spent the last half hour reading and crying. Specifically, I’ve been reading the blogs of women who had late term abortions for the health of the mother, and these women have posted their reactions to McCain’s comments in the most recent debate. For those interested, I suggest a letter to John McCain at Upper Case Woman, As Apple Fucking Pie at the same blog, and Why No One With a Uterus Should Vote for John McCain at A Little Pregnant. I can’t even believe the choices these women had to make, and I pray that I continue to be blessed and never find myself in the same spot.
I’m not just a one issue voter here. There are more things that are important to me. I want teens to have comprehensive life education; in addition to fully comprehensive sex education, there should also be relationship education. It’s very simple to know that you should leave a boyfriend who hits you. It’s much, much, much more difficult to leave a boyfriend that threatens to kill himself because you spend more time than he’d like you to spend with your guy friends. Math classes should include budgeting and “life skills” math (a lame name for an important concept). Everyone should have access to comprehensive, preventative health care and illness treatment. Everyone should also have safe parks and trails where they can experience nature, meet their neighbors, and get exercise. Everyone should be able to have their committed, monogamous relationship legally recognized and respected.
Call me a socialist or a dirty liberal. But what I know is this: those of us in this nation who feel healthy, safe, and well-loved are lucky people indeed. And if there is more that each of us can do to help others feel the same way, we are ethically obligated to do so. This extends far beyond the vote you cast this November. This is an approach to life, to the regulations we ask all our legislators to enact, and how we spend each dollar. Live as you want the world to be, and we will all be in a better place.
This human interest story in the Seattle times hits close to home. Yes, I still read my Seattle paper on a regular basis; I check it out at least weekly. Today, I was perusing the popular stories and opened up this one, as it sounded interesting. As I was reading, the story sounded familiar, and I suddenly realized that this guy was one of my classmates in sixth grade.
Jordan was in the class next door to mine, but we did a lot of joint activities. I remember hanging out with him from time to time. He was always a nice, friendly guy. Once I graduated college and moved back home, I worked out at the Y, and Jordan still recognized me from back in the day (and I him). It's been two years since I was last at the Y and saw him, and he has apparently changed so much. I'm really impressed by the changes he has made in his life. Sappy but true: it is far too easy for us to take our own bodies for granted, and stories like his make me realize that I am blessed to have the luxury of my healthy body.
As some may recall, I left the last 10 of my 101 goals as to be determined. I've been working on them, and I think I have a good list that is partially Minnesota specific and all things I'd like to do.
Because I may end up accomplishing some tomorrow on a visit to the Twin Cities, I'd like to post the items now as proof that I had put them on my list prior to doing them.
92. Go cross country skiing
93. Get business cards (or moo cards)
94. Visit the Minneapolis zoo
95. Visit dinkytown
96. Visit the Mall of America
97. Go ice skating
98. visit a Minnesota tourist attraction
99. buy some new underthings for myself
100. post some macrophotography photos
101. learn three songs on guitar
And that means that I have been blogging for five years now, since I am a charter member of typepad. Interesting to see this service and my own development over the past five years.
This reminds me of something a professor once said. A student of his once wanted to play piano but lamented that she was too old to start learning. He said something to the effect of "well, if you start playing now, you will have played for 5 years by the time you're 25. And that's pretty good."
Likewise, I've been blogging for 5 years, and I am now 26 (my birthday was last Monday!). It seems both strange and awesome to me. I love the long list of memories I've recorded on my blog, and it's always fun to look back through my archives and remember little tidbits I'd forgotten.
So, here's to 5 years of typepad and hopefully many more!
Things I mean to do that just never quite happen:
1. Keep my room clean for more than a day or two. I guess I still don't have places to keep all my stuff. I wonder if this will be a lifelong affliction or if it will get better once I finally have a place well-sized enough to deal with the things I own and use on a regular basis.
2. Go into work early. I don't have to be at work until noon today, but I have some stuff I need to get done that might take longer than the work day. Seeing as how it is 11 now, I guess I'll just have to be crazy efficient today.
3. Update my blog regularly. I did so well for that one month of daily blogging. Since then, I just can't manage it. I guess I feel like my day-to-day life isn't all that amusing. I keep thinking of good philosophical/reflection/memory posts, but those take time, and I am lazy at heart.
4. Most important: keep up with my readers. I'm not sure I know who all of you are (for example, there is a certain Emily who links to me on her blog, and I keep racking my brain trying to think of whether or not I know her). So, readership, how are you all doing? How is life? Let me know!
Work is crazy busy, and I also don't have internet at home right now. Consequently, I'm just now catching up on my internet reading (and the only reason I can do so is that work is so busy that the office admin is out, so I'm babysitting phones for her and thus chained to the computer).
In any case, I'd like to share this dooce post with all of you. I frequently struggle with how to be kind and generous without bankrupting myself and my admittedly super meagre budget. Her story is a good example to us all.
1. Yesterday's Vikings game. Holy cow! Turnovers galore from New Orleans result in the Viks steaming ahead. Then Viks lose momentum near the end of the third, and Reggie Bush has TWO amazing kickback returns for touchdowns. Then, the Saints tie it up, but they miss their long field goal. Vikings get all the way down the field in just a matter of minutes, kick a field goal, and are victorious.
This all sounds pretty brilliant, right? But, no, I am leaving out the best part. Early on in the game, the Saints go for a field goal. And it is blocked! And tipped! Right into the hands of someone who apparently loves to run and does it well. What an amazing touchdown. The game made records galore, and it was lots of fun to watch.
2. This guide on looking good in photos is comprehensive and useful. I particularly like hint 6; this is my trick for looking better.
3. It is raining today. I love rain. It's one thing I've been missing from Michigan, as fall in Michigan means rain, lightening, and amazing torrential downpours. Apparently, I missed a 5 inches in a day doozy a few weeks ago.
4. This article on otter declines and their influence on the bald eagle (apparently positive) is so beautiful and interesting. While the otter decline is sad, the article is just so darn interesting. If you like nerdy biology stuff, go check it out. This is exactly the stuff of biology that interests me so much.