Monthly Archives: February 2015

Tropikale Smoothie

Standard

Finally, finally it feels like winter in Grand County: there is snow in the forecast for the next week! As I watched the snow come down this morning, I decided to give us a little bit of tropical flava, plus some kale to keep us healthy. So, the tropikale smoothie was born!

There’s no picture to go along with this recipe, but I can tell you that this smoothie is a refreshing shade of green when it’s all said and done! It’s super easy peezy to make. Here’s what I used:

1 banana

2 kiwis

1 cup of pineapple

1/4 of an avocado

1 large leaf of kale

1/4 cup chia seeds

enough water to cover about 3/4 of the fruit

Blend and enjoy.

If winter gloom is gettin’ you down, give yourself a tropikale boost with this smoothie 🙂

Advertisements

Tuesday Talk: Remembering Columbine

Standard

Usually, Columbine High School is talked about widely and heavily once a year: around April 20, which is the anniversary of the shooting that happened there. It seems that, along with the rest of the country, my community always takes that day to remember and show respect.

I grew up two blocks from Columbine, so that day might look a bit different in my home-community than in yours.

Sixteen years after the shooting, April 20 is still a big day in Littleton, Colorado. But now, months from that anniversary, Columbine and my sister that was there that day are on my mind.

Last Friday, the school district that I work in brought in local police to conduct a training about violent intruders. This is why Columbine is on my mind.

I knew that Columbine would come up during this training, but I’m saddened to say that our local police force did not handle the subject well. The day began with the showing of a 9 minute reenactment video of what happened in the Columbine library. I protected myself by leaving the room immediately; I will never sit through a video of Columbine.

I may have been the only one that left the room, but afterwards it was clear that many of my coworkers were disturbed by the video and found it unnecessary for our training.

After I suppressed the urge to throw up, and calmed my shaking hands, I thought I was emotionally prepared and ready to attend the afternoon breakout sessions about strategies for staying safe- or getting out- if there is a violent intruder at school.

I know I would have been okay talking about general strategies. But I was not okay, because the police continually threw out references of Columbine to us like they were bread crumbs to ducks. Again, I became upset. The disrespect of the victims bothered me. The objectivity bothered me. The sharing of unnecessary imagery bothered me. The repeating of disturbing dispatch calls bothered me.

I came from a community that knows how to be sensitive about Columbine.  Littleton knows what’s okay to say and not say, and how to say it. Littleton knows how to show respect, and knows the full story. Littleton lived this tragedy, and that community understands Columbine in a way that others may not.

I know I wasn’t wrong in expecting the law enforcement officers to show more respect than they did, but I wondered how I could help others understand the perspective of someone who grew up in the Columbine community.

There’s no way I would have felt okay with saying nothing, so I chose to use this as a teachable moment for those who were supposed to be teaching me that day. After taking the weekend to reflect and process why these sessions bothered me so much, I was able to craft a detailed letter to our trainers.

Among other things, I urged them to consider the perspective of those with ties to Columbine, asked them if the tenants of their program require specific examples from the Columbine context, and shared with them what was really on my mind at the heart of this matter:

I agree entirely with the fact that more lives could have been saved at Columbine with a better response plan, and that more people would have felt empowered if they’d known to fight back. Again, I appreciate your time and the valuable knowledge that you provided to us as school employees. But in the future, please give credit and respect to the victims, students, and teachers that were the first line of defense at Columbine, and to the community that still has scars 15 years later.  

WE ARE….COLUMBINE!

Hikes in this area, on the west side of the Continental Divide, have always rewarded me with oodles of flawless Columbines.

Sunshine and Mashed Potatoes

Standard

The sun is out, the birds are chirping, and the snow is puddling.

Yes, puddling. It seems that the little snow we have gotten here in Fraser this winter is melting and slushing and dripping and puddling and flowing away. We spent the weekend in Steamboat, under the sun, sweating, peeling off layers and skiing through mashed potato snow.

Sunshine and mashed potato snow with family and friends in Steamboat.

Sunshine and mashed potato snow with family and friends in Steamboat, 2015. Notice: the pines are naked.

Same weekend in Steamboat last year: foggy fog and 16 inches of powder every day!

Same weekend in Steamboat last year: foggy fog and 16 inches of powder every day! Notice: the pines are clothed in beautiful, fluffy powder.

With temperatures in the 40’s this entire week (GASP!), there is talk of bike riding instead of skiing. Where 15 foot snow piles usually tower, there is nothing now. Where ice and snow usually hang out on trails for 7 months, there is nothing now.

People seem grumpy and worried; much of our economy here in Grand County depends on mother nature and whether or not she decides to dump snow on us.

Other people seem happy, but leery: “If the snow’s not here now, it will be snowing in June.”

My brain is fooled; it seems like Spring, like school should be ending soon with this type of weather.

It’s looking like 4-5 months of mud season here in Fraser, which makes me want to: a) sit in the afternoon sunshine on my deck and drink beer and b) pout just a little about the fact that, despite the springy/summery weather, we will not be getting out of school 4-5 months early 🙂

For now, I suppose it’s time to employ some of my mud-season survival tactics until the snow decides to come or summer rolls around, and  time to remember this great quote that I recently saw on a tea bag:

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit; and resign yourself to the influences of each.”

-Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday Talk: Peanut Butter Stories

Standard

Black words centered on a white page. That’s all it was. In my new quest to learn about Mozambique, I came across one of the most- if not the most- beautifully written Peace Corps blogs I’ve ever found. I could be considered a Peace Corps blog connoisseur; I have pored over them for years. I love the ones that tell me stories about Peace Corps life, but this one told me a lot about Mozambique, and in a depth that went far beyond Peace Corps life in Mozambique.

It was not a recount of ‘what I’ve been up to lately as a Peace Corps Volunteer.’ There were no LOLs. Never did a post start with ‘So I haven’t posted in a while.’

The writer shares meaningful stories about how he is tied into a community, what his work is and isn’t doing, and how small actions over time can ripple into big waves.

Mostly, it is about peanut butter. (Read it!)

Peanut Butter is a big deal for Mozambicans living with HIV/AIDs, I learned.

Black words on a white page, telling me how peanut butter is a big deal for Mozambicans living with HIV/AIDs. That’s all it took.

Soon enough, the morning was gone and I had read every post on this blog. This blogger fulfilled his promise of documenting his Moz journey with stunning photographs, but he captured me with his writing too.

I learned something amazing and unique about this country we are preparing to journey to. And I realized that I’d like to write again with imagery and pace and play on words. I realized that I used to write narratively, to tell stories, and that I miss it. And that I want it back.

How do I get it back?

Well, write.

Writing as a routine feels like another lifetime these days. One reason that I think I don’t make the time for it is because I don’t have anything specific to write about.

It’s a vicious cycle. Kind of a ‘which came first: the chicken or the egg?’ type of problem.

I blog, but do I find story in my life, or do I share with you diary entries?

I journal, but am I writing story there?

Now, after struggling to come up with a satisfying Tuesday Talk topic (as I do most weeks), I think of how to start writing well again, and how to look for stories. I think of creativity and how to re-ignite it in the midst of the many other tasks needing to be completed between the end of work and bedtime. I think of these tasks, and how the list of them has grown immensely since accepting our Peace Corps invitation ten short days ago.

But mostly I think of peanut butter, and of the stories that find us.

Tuesday Talk: Journeys, and the East Africa Connection

Standard

In the past two days I have thought a lot about journeys. A journey is the act of getting someplace physically, emotionally, spiritually, and so on.  It’s the things you see along the way and the detours you take. It’s also things learned and people met.

Do you have any clearly traceable journeys in your past? Things that you can look back on, and see every step that led you there? Things that kind of make no sense, but happened anyways, all in a perfect and obvious string of events?

For me, this is a connection to East Africa that is going on 6 years now.

It may not seem so to you, but to me it’s super weird. It’s one of those things that makes me believe in the plan of the universe and larger forces that be. Truly.

Here’s what has happened:

In 2007 I went in to journalism school. Although I never wanted to get into newspaper journalism, through a class I was introduced to the editor of the Greeley Tribune newspaper. I later wrote a sample profile article about him for class. After reading this, he told me to get in touch whenever I was ready to do an internship.

In 2009, I was interning at the Greeley Tribune newspaper and sat down with Mark Hagen to write about him, his wife, his partner organizations and a Girl’s Rescue Center that they are building in Kenya. He said I should come to Kenya with them sometime.

I said ‘Sure!’…even though I never wanted to go to Africa and thought it was scary. I thought maybe I would go in two years, after graduation.

A month later he called me with an offer: to accompany him and his wife, plus a PhD student doing research, and one other to Kenya in 5 months.

In April 2010, I got a plane to Kenya-with literally $30 in my bank account-after raising money, getting help, and spending lots of my own. My fellow traveller, Phyllis, paid for an unexpected baggage fee of $50 because I didn’t have enough money…don’t worry, the rest of the trip had been prepaid and went splendidly 🙂

I spent two weeks in Kenya and wrote 3 stories about the Center when I got back.

But what really shook me was three sisters that I met there. All three had incredible stories and had faced early marriage and circumcision. I knew immediately that I wanted to go back, and spent a lot of time researching these tough issues and trying to save money to go back.

In September of 2010, my best friend left for the Peace Corps. I had told her from the start that I would go visit her wherever she ended up. She ended up in Tanzania!

In April of 2012, Alex and I went back to Kenya for a month; I spent a good amount of time interviewing women and girls at the Center and one other women’s village, and we spent the rest of our time gallivanting and carrying out a DIY Safari. After Kenya, we went to Tanzania for about a month and spent 2 weeks at our friend’s Peace Corps site. During this time I realized that I  could see myself doing Peace Corps…but knew we’d have to be married to go together.

Two days before coming home, Alex proposed!

Next, we moved to Grand County, Colorado. I jumped into writing my first book, In the Place of Many Zebras,  a narrative nonfiction project about the girls in Kenya. We also got to work planning our wedding.

In October 2013 we got married!…and almost immediately started researching options for married couples to teach abroad.

On March 1, 2014 we applied for the Peace Corps. On March 25 I published the book!

Right before leaving for a trip to Ecuador last summer, we got nominated to go to Peace Corps Malawi in June 2015.

I thought to myself ‘First trip to East Africa: two weeks. Second: two months. Third: two years….what is it about that area of the world?!’

Then, in Ecuador I learned some Spanish. We thought that Peace Corps might switch us to a Spanish -speaking country since we both now had Spanish experience. But secretly, I really wanted the opportunity to go back to Africa. I felt, and feel, an incredibly strong ‘tug’ and kind of a painful ‘want’ to go back there.

In January, Peace Corps contacted us saying because of both of our ‘Spanish backgrounds’ and other experiences, Peace Corps Mozambique would be a good-fit program for us. That program needs Spanish speakers…because we have to learn Portuguese. That makes perfect sense right?….Send some Spanish speakers to Africa instead of somewhere Spanish-Speaking.

Fine by me 🙂

But…I had to pass a Spanish test first! So I did that.

And finally, we received our invitations to Mozambique for this September! Yay!

Maybe this isn’t as weird to you as it is to me, but for someone who thought she’d never go to Africa, it’s strange to feel a constant tug to go back, and to have things work out in a way that keeps allowing me to go back! I look back on all that I have learned from my past two trips to East Africa, and I can’t wait to see what this new country has to teach us.

Here’s to journeying! 🙂

Me with Eunice, my wise Kenyan "little sister."

Me with Eunice, my wise Kenyan “little sister.”