Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Funtober

Ode to October

It's time to cozy up with a cup of tea and walk on the crunchy pathways!

Alright, if you know me at all, you know October is my favorite time of year for many reasons.  I love the changing of leaves and cool crisp air.  It's a perfect time for camping in near empty forests that feel like your own personal refuge.  Halloween, in my opinion, is the most badass holiday.  I mean, really, you get to dress up as anything you want and get chocolate for it.  Apple cider and pumpkin farms with bright red maples changing could you not by psyched for life?!?!  Plus, I get a little added attention for my birthday =)  Yup, I love you October.

This October, I carved a pretty awesome pumpkin and turned 30.  I took a couple of weekends to thoroughly celebrate the beginning of a new decade. 

The weekend of my birthday, I went with some good friends to Farmtober Fest, a German Oktoberfest on an organic farm.  We bobbed for apples (whoa, that is difficult), played German games and ate amazing organic food around a bonfire.  Although I didn't know everyone there, they sang happy birthday to me in German, and Emileah got me an amazing chocolate cake. 

I received phone calls and messages from friends across the country, and my friend Erin planted signs in my front yard to honk for my birthday.  I am so blessed in the love I have through my friends and family.  I know so many amazing people who live far away, and I wish that wasn't so, but we keep our relationships alive, and no matter what, I always feel your support and love through memories and catching up.  You are what gives meaning to my life.

The next weekend, my old college/Tahoe friend Heather flew in from Salt Lake City with her little dog, Daisy.  Another friend, Sam, and I all hit the road to Asheville, North Carolina.  The amazing artsy town is surrounded by national forests, and that's what I wanted to explore for my birthday! 

We camped at a site and enjoyed some conversation around the fire Friday night.  After trying to sleep with acorns pelting our tents and a tiny little dog nuzzling into my sleeping bag, we woke up and made pancakes. 

We embarked on a lovely long hike that followed a creek most of the way.  Running water is my favorite part of nature.  No one was on the trail and the leaves were falling like snow.  I was so happy to just walk and keep on walking in the woods.  It was inspiring.

So of course, we deserved a good meal after that.  We went into the quaint town of Asheville and found a hula hoop dance party!  Apparently, there was an electronica festival in town, so of course there were glowsticks and hula hoops.  Turns out Sam is a pretty damn good hula hooper, so Heather and I had to catch up and learn!  I think I burned 500 calories in 20 minutes.

We hopped around and admired people's costumes, especially a bright pink gorilla who was socializing his way through town.  Then we happened upon a mecca: a chocolate shop with a line out the door.  We had the most amazing hot chocolate there and listened to a little jazz band.  This town is awesome.

We were pretty tired around 10pm and decided to head back to the campsite, when Heather spotted a sign that said Scarioke.  U-TURN!!!!!!!!!!!  My 30th birthday would not be complete without some karaoke.  We walked in and it was pretty empty, which is great: no line for singing.  Heather and I sang "Monster Mash" and then the pink gorilla showed up.  We continued to get down and had growing suspicions that we were in a gay bar.  The gorilla was dancing like a ballerina and the cowboy bartender sang "Stand by Your Man."  As the night progressed, our suspicions were confirmed.  Awesome.  Karaoke in a gay bar to end the night!

I slept like a rock that night, falling acorns and all.

We explored a bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway, ate breakfast in the art district where they turned abandoned warehouses into art galleries.  I bought a mug that says, "Trust Yourself."  Build your life around who you are, and go with your instincts. 

Life is pretty good.  There's always something to celebrate.  I think I'm finally starting to feel back to myself as my friend base here in Cincinnati is growing and becoming more intimate.  Circles are becoming smaller and I'm starting to bridge communities.  I'm creating a life that I know I don't have to leave...what a new and wonderful feeling =) 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hula Hoops, Drum Circles and School

Well, I'm afraid that my life is no longer terribly exciting, but that's ok.  I am in the stage that Erik Erikson calls "Intimacy vs. Isolation."  I've made it through "Identity vs. Confusion": I know who I am, and I now chose to give who I am to the community!

But first I have to say a few friends and I stumbled upon some hippies at Mt. Echo Park last night.  There we were chatting over a picnic when a lady with hula hoops in her hand walked by.  Odder still, another person with hula hoops, a drum and a dog walked by.  They just kept on coming.  We realized we had happened upon a hula hoop convention!!!  There was a drum circle and frisbee tossing, a man making giant bubbles for the kids, and hula hoopers everywhere!  I was so happy to feel a bit of the "western" mentality here in Cincy.

So I started taking grad classes at Georgetown College, KY to earn my ESL (English as a Second Language) endorsement on my teaching certificate.  I passed all three of my Praxis tests (yeah!) and can now apply for a Kentucky teaching certificate (it's currently a Colorado cert.)  Man, they make you jump through a lot of hoops in education, but I finally feel so ready for a career path and am psyched about taking these courses.  I will earn my endorsement at the end of next summer, and hoepfully will have a job all lined up for next Fall. 

Enjoy the last days of summer amigos!  Thanks for reading =) 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Another Seasonal Job...

If only I could be a camp couselor forever....and in turn would forever live with my mom.

I LOVE MY JOB this summer!!!!!!!!!!   I am working for Cincinnati Park's "Explore Nature" camps.  Basically, I get the same 15 kids every week and teach them cool things about conservation, trees, animals and the creek.

Here's what I've learned so far:

10% of Cincinnati consists of parks, and our park system is considered one of the best in the nation!  We even created parks in our sister city, Munich, Germany.

Fossils are abound here in Cincy, and the most common is the Bryozoan (looks like ancient coral).

Honeysuckle is incredibly invasive and is competing with the local Spice Bush.

Skunks have 3 spray options and can hit you in the eye from 10 feet away!

Owls can turn their heads 270 degrees.

There are no poisonous snakes in our county (thank God).

(and I can finally identify poison ivy!!!  And have not gotten it yet...)

So far I've canoed on the Little Miami River, handled our pet snake, Willie, collected clay from the creek and made ornaments with it, and have cleaned the bathrooms a lot.  I cannot believe I am getting paid for this.  I mean, really, every day I just take the kids and hike with them or play awesome games together.  I am seriously learning just as much as they are during the animal talks my boss gives and the training week that included identifying birds, trees, plants, flowers and animals.  It's just like Squaw Kids, but in the summer!

Now if only we could crank down the humidity...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Great Smoky Mountains

My buddy, Scott, from Portland, happened to be in Knoxville, Tennessee.  We made plans to meet up in Great Smoky Mountains NP...what a  great place to catch up.

It's been fun exploring this side of the Mississippi, and the Smokys were no disappointment.  The plan was to camp in Cade's Cove and hike the next day.  I remember looking at a satellite view of the area and was a bit confused.  The campsite looked covered by trees, but there was a weird clearing next to it that I assumed was a mined area.  Come to find out, people in the 1800s clear cut the valley in between the Smokys and made it into a community of farms.  We spent the whole day on this loop learning about the culture of the time and hiking to a waterfall.

First stop was the oldest cabin in the area, and then the Primitive Baptist Church.  Now, I was confused on the adjective there.  Was it primitive because it was in the middle of nowhere or because it consisted of basic values?  Turns out, Primitives believe that everyone is predestined to go to heaven or hell, so do what you want because you can't change your RSVP to the party!

There were 3 different churches in the small agricultural community and each had a very antique cemetery.  One man died in the Revolutionary War, another murdered by North Carolina Rebels.  What do you want your headstone to say? 

We stopped in the middle of the loop to hike to Abram's Falls.  Man, did we see Nature!!  Upon our 5 mile journey, we encountered a black snake, a millipede, river otters, tadpoles, wild turkey and white tailed deer.  We also saw the wilds of a different kind, such as running shoes left to the side of the trail with no one in site and a lone shirt hung in the branches (to dry?).  Well, we are in the South....

We made friends with Ranger Tom, who informed us of the stupid questions people ask, such as "When do you release the animals?" And, "Where's the petting zoo where we can pet the animals?"  Tom often pointed out to tourists embarking on the 5 mile hike that they may want to change out of their flimsy Old Navy flip flops because he had carried out a girl who broke her ankle not too long ago.  "Oh not to worry" they say, "we'll be fine."  Of course Ranger Tom doesn't know what he's talking about.

Scott and I had some nice fire talks and comtemplated the fact that when the park was being created, it kicked out all those people who had farmed the land for so long.  Most received compensation, but one man refused to go.  The court system took care of him eventually, and now the NP gives heritage lectures about the place.  A little ironic if you ask me.  And to perfectly juxtapose the hard work those farmers endured, Scott and I stared in awe as our neighbors, who were perfectly capable of walking, took turns using the motorized scooter to get to the bathroom while yelling at the kids to clean up the site.  Just some things that make you go hmmmmm....

We did really luck out on the weather: it was perfect the 2 days we were there and then started raining overnight.  We packed up quick in the morning and headed back to Knoxville, and I back to Kentucky. 

So thanks Uncle Scotty for the visit!!!  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bike Prom!

Hooray for Cincinnati, home of MoBo's bike gang!!! 

With options of attending a Red's game or touring around the Taste of Cincinnati, Erin and I chose to participate in Bike Prom. 

It was a fancy affair adorned with tuxes, elegant dresses and double-decker tandem bicycles.  We started out in artistic (and hipster) Northside, got our formal photos taken, and then slowly cruised downtown to frolic in some water fountains.  People laughed and some looked confused, but all were jealous that we didn't have to pay to park.

Now, in my opinion, it is fundamental that every local community have a bike gang.  These people seem to have the same mentality: enjoy your commute, take pride in your pedals, work hard for your destination and, most of all, make it fun!  I've never met a close-minded fun-hater bike cruiser. 

Cincy, you make me proud! (But damn that humidity...Erin and I looked like we had a hell of a prom night by the end.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Greater Cincinnati Area

What in the world have I been doing in Kentucky?  Well, a lot actually.

The first few months were a bit stagnant as I made the big transition from mountains to the Ohio River Valley.  Everything I was so sure about before began to fade as a new lifestyle presented itself to me: no job, far away friends, living dependently and few hikes in sight to help me cope.  But then, I got involved.

I've finally started getting steady work.  I sub at 2 very different schools.  One school the students are respectful and well-behaved; the other, I had to break up a fight.  It's been a good experience as I finally feel fully confident in the classroom.

Dan has connected me into this community which has, in effect, connected me into everything else I've gotten involved in.  It's an eclectic group that gathers every Tuesday.  We eat and have reflective constructive conversations about almost everything.  And it's these kinds of people I really enjoy being around: people who actively seek knowledge trying to get at the truth, people who get involved in the community around them, people who use their talents to improve the world.  To be honest, if it weren't for this group I'd feel very lost here.  They are fun, commit, and are totally psyched about riding bikes in downtown Cincinnati with glow sticks and a beer in hand.

I am taking a course in community gardening through this local non-profit organization.  I've always loved plants, but I don't really know a lot about them.  Now I am constructing an anti-deer 6 ft. fenced-in garden in the backyard.  Hope to get some kale and carrots growing soon!

Through the coordinator at the garden center, I got connected into a volunteer English as a Second Language program at a church.  We teach a group of Africans from Burundi English and it has been a wonderful experience.  Some are learning the alphabet while others are practicing for a driving test.  We are always learning from each other, but I have yet to learn how Epiphania weaves plastic bags into purses.

I reached out to this organization to maintain some interaction with the Latino community, which I miss so much.  I was asked to teach a basic computer class in Spanish, which was hilarious because I've lost a lot of Spanish being away, so trying to say, "Move the cursor to the corner to minimize the window" was a challenge.  I finally picked up on the computer terms though and got the class attaching documents to an email in the end!

So those are my weekly experiences and they keep me filled to a point.  I do have to say, I really miss the west and am wondering where I am meant to be.  But I'm glad to be here for the moment at least to be available for family gatherings in Indiana.  And there are some things that make me appreciate my past here and its history, like unknowingly driving past my great grandpa's car dealership in Ohio while coming back from a job interview.  The facade of the building looked familiar despite the 'Family Dollar' sign now covering it.  I remember going there as a kid as my grandpa chatted up customers and took us for spins in different convertibles.  There is something special about your roots and where you come from.  I'm just afraid that after seeing the world, it may be too difficult to truly come back and feel myself.  Chalk it up to still needs a little time.  

And of course I've been eating ice cream....

and riding bikes...

and camping....

and riding roller coasters with an old kindergarten friend...

and going to the famous Cincinnati zoo for "Tunes and Blooms"...

and singing karaoke...

and playing spring softball...

and learning how to salsa...

and going to the oldest observatory with the oldest telescope in the nation...

and just learning more about what Cincinnati has to offer!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Midwest Ski Slopes: A Comparative Study

Skiing at Squaw Valley:    
  • schralping the gnar
  • epic vertical drops
  • fat skis
  • pro skiers
  • powdah!

Skiing in the Midwest:
  • snowplowing 
  • rolling short hills
  • 80s style skis
  • Amish skiers
  • icy terrain     

These are just a few differences I noticed while checking out Indiana's Perfect North Ski Slopes and Michigan's Bittersweet Ski Resort.  It was great to strap on the old ski boots, but it was a different way to ski!

I went to Perfect North, a slope I used to frequent in high school, and multiple people commented on my Volkl Auras as huge powder skis.  Little did they know I have actually sold my powder skis and kept the Auras as my all mountain skis, but they were humongous compared to those tall skinny 80s types.

And speaking of the 80s, it was like we had never left!  Granted, there is some strange connection between ski culture and that tubular decade, but at Squaw the 80s came out in newly designed gear using those florescent bright colors for those who don't want to be missed cruisin' down the mountain.  In the Midwest, the gear is directly from the 80s: either saved from that era or bought at a garage sale.

This brings us directly to the definition of a gaper.  Urban dictionary can sum it up best:

gaper (n)

A gaper is a skiier or snowboarder who is completely clueless. Usually distiungished by their bright colored clothes and a gaper gap, the gap between goggles and a helment/hat. Gapers also do the "Gaper Tuck" which is an attempt at being a ski racer by tucking, however, it is done incorrectly with the poles sticking straight up like thunderbolts and lighting, very very frightning! Gapers also sit at the bottom of jumps and try and go big off table tops in the park.
1. My eyes are burning from that gapers bright colored clothes.
2. I fell off the chair laughing at that gaper tuck.

The entertainment was endless, from gapers in jeans to gapers wearing bicycle helmets on top of their hats (see photo).  In fact, for Midwest purposes I believe we need to inhibit the labeling of a gaper, as the vast majority of skiers are assumed to be.  Anyone who looks like they know what they are doing and can ski properly without running into fellow skiers or trees should have a special name of recognition there, maybe something like able, as in, "Look there at that able skier, she can ski directly where she wants to go!"

Skiing in Michigan wasn't much different.  I was able to meet with my cousins who live in Northern Indiana.  We met at the ski resort and my cousin, Brodie, was labeled an Indiana boy from his Carhartt attire.  Really, who are they to judge!!!  Everyone looked out of place there, especially the Amish women skiing in their bonnets and skirts.  Yes, you read that correctly.

Skiers and snowboarders were constantly crashing off the chair lifts and trying to put their skis back on while the back binding was still flipped up.  I had this overwhelming urge to help everyone I saw who had yard saled (fell and lost ever piece of equipment and loose clothing on the way down) or were trying to put on their equipment incorrectly.  Ski boots were unbuckled and 3 sizes too big, arms were flailing and people weren't going fast enough to gain speed to go over a jump.  They'd go slowly up the ramp, their tips would touch the top, then they would slide backwards and fall over.

Despite all the differences, it was a blast.  My cousins were fearless and up for a good time.  The sun came out, we laughed at each other and ourselves, had a beer and got down on the slopes, which is what it's all about anyway no matter where you are.