Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Miss Sophie Pants!




You are growing so fast! And I miss you very much.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

And this is what we did.

As written in the Book of Our Family Laws, authored by the Grandmothers, codified by the Mothers, with regulations promulgated by the Daughters...we prepared too much food for the number of people in attendance for this holiday.

But what a grand and delicious time it was...

Wednesday night was the first of the Family Feasts, starting with a delicious smoked pork loin and mashed potatoes with gouda...followed by hot buttered rum, apple butter hand pies, and s'mores around the fire pit.
The sugar and um...butter...made for some much needed uncontrollable giggles. You may not know this, but uncontrollable giggles make it difficult for everyone to get in the picture or look at the camera at the right time.
But we persevered...
Thursday was the Day-of-Way-Too-Much-Food.

It started with pumpkin bread pudding, bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast. After Sister put her first turkey in the oven (which she did not get up at 4 AM to start, shockingly!!)...and we took some pictures with the two turkeys in the room....

Turkey 1...

Turkey 2...

we went for a family walk-about. And yes, it is another crooked family photo....
We had cheeseball and crackers (which, true to form, Dad had too much of...), pumpkin dip, peanut brittle, candied pecans, and apple chips for lunch...followed by Miracle on 34th Street and a nap. All in preparation for this beautiful feast!

Family Feast #2 included turkey and gravy, green beans with pecans, cornbread stuffing, bacon cornbread stuffing, roasted sweet potatoes with maple glaze, mashed red potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, sweet pickles and lots of olives! Followed, of course, by pecan and pumpkin pies.
This was followed immediately by a food coma, several movies, and no more photos...

Friday was a day of digestion (though we did have turkey and pork loin sandwiches on the trail) that included a hike to a canyon full of rock art and some pointing and arm waving by ArchaeologyAsh. I had a full day of touring places all over the park planned for the parents while Sister was working, but I could not get Mom and Dad out of the first stop! I am definitely not complaining....it is thrilling for the archaeology types like myself to have family members excited about what they do!

We walked...
We climbed....

We posed with the rock art...

Climbed from the bottom of the canyon to the top and found some more rock art...

And posed some more with each other!

I think my folks were tired...
And Ellie is still nursing her paws from all the rock crawling.
But we made some good memories...
Friday night, Dad, Mom and I made Turkey Leek Risotto and Thanksgiving leftovers while Sister and Brother-in-Law were working. This was followed by another food coma, a movie and no more pictures...

Saturday (this) morning, Brother-in-Law made bacon, egg, and cheese muffins before we all got on the road for home. Now Ellie and I are back in town, watching It's a Wonderful Life, feeling a little lonely without the family, and being hungry since there is no food in my house. Either that, or our stomachs are stretched too much....

Despite a possibly permanent sugar high (I forgot how much I like peanut brittle) and the extra sucking-in I had to do this morning to get my jeans on and even if we didn't do all of the things we used to do (no 4 AM turkey, no TV so no parade)...I am not complaining one bit about any part of the last three and a half days. It was wonderful to be around all of my family for the first time since July (with Brother-in-Law included since Thanksgiving 2008). It made this first Thanksgiving in this New Chapter of Life all that much bearable. So thank you, Mom, Dad, Sister, and Brother-in-Law. You put a much-needed smile on my face...and made Ellie's eyes glimmer (albeit terrifyingly).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Some days you gotta dance...

Its one of those days again.

I am somewhere between needing to cry it out....

Dance it out....

So I'll be just fine....

Monday, November 22, 2010

Because this is what we do.

Thanksgiving this year is being hosted by my lovely Sister and my awesome Brother-in-Law. I head over to their house on Wednesday when I get off work and will be there with my folks and Ellie until Saturday morning. I am excited for Sister because she has never had the opportunity to host a holiday. And, if you know my family at all, Thanksgiving is the B.I.G. one. The one with traditions. Some of them are kind of typical, like watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Some of them are odd, like Dad always vacuums in the middle of the parade (so you can't hear the marching bands), unless, of course, the Radio City Rockettes are performing. Some of them we are flexible with, like do we make four pies or eight pies?

There is plenty of room for new traditions. New family. New friends. And always space for a new dish at the table (if you can find a bare spot, that is).

But then there are the things we do that are stronger than tradition. They are mandatory actions that take place when my nuclear family is all together for this happiest of holidays. These. Things. Must. Happen.

1. Pumpkin pies will be made no later than Wednesday. By Ashley.
2. Pecan pies will be made no later than Wednesday. By Mom.
3. Cranberry sauce will be made from scratch. To be fought over by Mom and Sister every (other) year.
4. There will be olives and pickles on a dish somewhere on the table. Hardly anyone will eat them. But they must be there.
5. Mom will wake up at 4 AM to put the turkey in the oven. In her pajamas.
6. There will be cheeseball for Dad. And crackers. He will eat too much of it and ruin his appetite.
7. The following movies will be watched in this order: Miracle on 34th Street. Its a Wonderful Life. You've Got Mail.
8. Everyone will fall asleep at the beginning of each movie, but wake up in time to put the next one in.
9. You will eat leftovers. On Thursday night. Friday afternoon. And maybe again on Friday night. Because there will be enough food for the one meal to feed three times the number of people actually at the table. And by the way, pie is an acceptable breakfast food on Friday.

Even though it is Monday and I still have a few days to get ready, I am fulfilling perhaps THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT TASK of the entire holiday. Hell or High Water, this task must be completed well before Wednesday night. So I am doing it. Right now. As we speak (write, read...). In my field clothes. With my boots and long underwear and compass still on.

10. Cornbread must be made in massive quantities for use in cornbread dressing (not stuffing). There will be too much cornbread, but making less may result in runny dressing, and is a risk NO ONE is willing to take.

So I have made three double batches plus one of cornbread. And if I'm lucky, this will be enough.

Even though we are changing things up this holiday on account of it being a Year of Changes, these ten things will happen regardless of the venue, hostess or company present. There is no point in fighting it. Because this is what we do.

And really, I can hardly wait!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Night Knitting...Its What the Cool People Do.

November is for Creativity. This is one of the established rules of November, and one that I am happy to embrace fully.

Saturday night is about reading archaeology articles (Yohe 1998 - Rose Spring Site bow and arrow, very interesting - and I didn't doze off!), eating truffles, and drinking wine. Saturday night is also about a little touch of insomnia. And learning how to make cables. Of the knitted variety.

Tonight I have cast on a new project having just cast off and blocked my Super Secret Surprise for a certain little lady named Amy. Shh...I can't even sort of show you in case her mom reads this.

I am planning to make one of these: An Outdoor Seating Spot that I can carry in my backpack to the field, on a hike, and one of these days, on a climbing trip. I am notorious for carrying more than I possibly need, and for loading my backpack so that it weighs approximately half of my size. Plus I just bought myself a tent, which means adventures in the Great Outdoors of the overnight variety are about to become much more common. Dry, warm derriere - hooray!

I haven't made it very far just yet, but I'll keep you posted. I am starting to think that rather than consuming two desserts a night - which, let's be honest, is tantamount to eating my feelings - I should knit those feelings into something useful and pretty to look at instead.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Night Music

One of my favorite things about Miles City(and one of the things I miss the most) was Open Mic Night every (or at least most) Friday Night. People from all over town would come out of the woodwork with their voices and instruments, meet in an established location, and sing or play their hearts out for everyone or no one in particular. It was a nice way to cap off the week, visit with friends, and make new ones.

No matter your walk of life, political leanings, or spiritual stances, nothing brings people together like music. Friends are made over shared taste in tunes...but as is the case in my house, enemies are made with your neighbors over the amount of bass/sub-woofer one should play with their gangta rap. On my easy-going Friday night, I am listening to something remotely like "apple bottom boom boomm jeans boomm booom booom and the boots with the fuuuur...boom boom boom boom the whole club boom boom was lookin' at her boom boom she hit the floor...boom boom low low low low..." from the other side of the wall.

To compensate, I am trying to listen to one of my favorite bands. And you should too. The first song they play is my favorite right now. And the last song too.

I wish I could add songs to every blog - then you might know exactly what mood I'm in while you are reading along. I also wish I could have the Avett Brothers standing in my cubicle Monday morning. They could ride to the field with me. Play their songs and follow me while I walk transects.

Hey, don't judge me. A single girl can dream, alright?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Naughty girl

I found this on the floor when I got home from work today.
Its a jiggle and rattle and wiggle elephant meant to clip on to the stroller or car seat or bouncy chair of Miss Amy Gail. It was in a box ready for the post office, actually. On a very high counter. With a rubber duckie and some other goodies....meant for a baby. Who could have done this? Who could have killed this poor little elephant?

Oh. I see.
And in case I wasn't sure how she went about tearing a hole in the side, she reenacted it all for me to share with you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two for One Day

You learn something new every day. Some days, you learn two new things, and by my summation, that warrants two desserts (if you first ate a very healthy tofu-ful and broccolicious dinner, of course....)

Forgive me for gloating, but as November is supposed to be my month of betterness, not bitterness, I am celebrating the baby steps.

Lesson 1: I found it.

Hidden away under a few layers of self censoring, swallowed words, denied emotional responses, and frustrated feelings...was my voice. Not my big, angry, irrational voice. Not my little, whiny, girly voice. This one. The voice that is c.o.n.f.i.d.e.n.t. in what I am saying. The one is that is being assertive without offending you. Oh, I had a moment of weakness in which I asked for validation of my voice. For a moment, this voice and this voice threatened to reduce this voice to sniveling and hiding under my desk. To convince this voice to play the quiet game, or worse, the unproductive bitching game. But this voice won.

It wasn't much really. One of those work issues where people were passive aggressively emailing rude remarks back and forth, kind of picking on the new kid, but perhaps, more than anything, testing to see if the new kid is worth the investment. I tried not to take it personal, and I didn't really, but I had to respond somehow. By email, naturally. I'd like to think I set the record straight. At least straight-ish. I'd like to think my voice came through loud and clear. Time will tell, but I am going to count this as a small victory worthy of gingersnaps and milk.

Which brings me to....
Lesson 2: I count Lesson 1 as a small victory because the hardest thing for me to do right now is to find the middle ground. The voice between this voice and this voice. Everyday is an onslaught of emotions that threaten to put me in this state:

or this state:
at any given moment.

I am trying, but some days, my past experiences and a gap in my ability to just "have a little faith" get the best of me. I am weak and yet overly aggressive in an awkward attempt to protect this voice. One of my favorite bloggers who writes a very encouraging blog for the separated and divorced said it best: "Because you lost so much there are certain things you hold onto with a vengeance- and one of them is the ability to love and trust again....We are the walking wounded. Our hearts have been torn out and stomped on by life. We are the tin men of the world." I'd venture to say we are even a little rusty at "normal."

Today's experience, a weekend of heartfelt and honest conversations with two of my very best friends, and an encouraging email from a good Miles City friend, brought me to the realization that I am mired right in the middle of the stages of grief. There are five of them actually, and I didn't even know it. Divorce is the loss of many things, just like death, and so it follows a similar pattern of grief recovery. Maybe you tried to tell me when all of this started, way back when I was in the Denial (1). Perhaps you mentioned it again during the Anger (2). And repeated it loudly when I went through the Bargaining (3). But now I am somewhere in the Depression (4), which I acknowledge, that is accompanied by Fear and Anxiety, unfortunately. The world wide web tells me it is good for the grieving to know where they are in the stages....its healthy even. The Huffington Post even tells me how I can kung-fu kick these blues: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-dovev/the-five-stages-of-grief-_b_782786.html

I am sharing this lesson with you because I need to apologize. I'm not really myself right now. In fact I am not even sure sometimes what "myself" means. I am sorry for being distant and unreachable some days. And then so clingy and needy on other days you kind of want to hate me. Said I would call but didn't. Finally called and cried and carried on and didn't ask you about you. Expected more from you than you are willing or able to give right now. Read too much into one thing and not enough into another. Got frustrated when you were just trying to be nice. Nauseated you, again, with a touchy-feely blog.

I don't know where I am in the 4th Stage, but I have hope that its drawing to a close. Perhaps that is a good sign. I'm not going to force it to, but know that I am anxious for the Acceptance (5) to get here.

And this baby step earns me a mint chocolate ice cream sandwich.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A word from the wiser....

Writing a thesis and having a full time job is tough work...especially if you are really good at what you do for a living and have enough data to write two theses and a dissertation. But remember....

You are almost there, my friend!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Just in case I forget....

Mother Nature is amazing. Really, truly, amazing.

Ellie and I welcomed November with a hike up to Olancha Pass yesterday from the Sage Flat Trailhead. You may or may not know this about me, but when my head is full, my heart is heavy, and my self-esteem is low, all I need is a commune with Mother Nature to make me feel better. If I can take a few moments - or miles - without people, my iPod, the Internet, or cell phone service, I can contemplate life, love, and the meaning of happiness. In solitude or with companions on the trail, the fresh air, whispering pines, and singing birds calm me down, lift my spirits, and provide me with the answers that I seek.

The day was beautiful, hovering in the high 60s at the trailhead. The sun was shining and I immediately had to take off most of my layers before I even made it to the first set of switchbacks.

The hike starts at just under 6,000 feet, traverses the slope through a series of switchbacks, before mostly leveling out and climbing to the Pass itself around 9,200 feet. While I would like to say the heavy sweating and labored breathing was entirely due to the elevation change and heat, it probably has more to do with the fact that I am terribly out of shape. Also, I was carrying a heavy pack loaded with my water, Ellie's water, and a whole lot of warm clothes plus a headlamp (as always, just in case). Whatever the reason, by the time I got to this point:

I had to take off my completely soaked cotton over shirt and put on my rain shell over my wicking layer, since wet clothes can make you cold, even if it isn't that cold outside. Ellie and I hiked on, stopping here and there to take pictures and enjoy the view. We rounded the top of the hill, and had a nice vista of the next row of densely forested mountains. And our first look at some not so pretty clouds. But "hike on up the trail!" Ellie insisted. We got to the Pass around 2:30. It was open, rocky, and had it not been for the wind, would have been a nice place to sit and knit for a while. This could explain why there was a very nice scatter of lithic artifacts in the area - someone else a long while ago must have also thought it a nice place for purposeful creativity and contemplation. It was also cold and I started bundling up.

I took some pictures. Though the self portraits, as they are apt to do, failed miserably.
Because experiences with Mother Nature are entirely personal, because I don't know who actually takes the time to read this blog, and because I am not comfortable sharing my inner-most thoughts with anyone (an admittedly detrimental Virgo tendency and a fault of my own that I would like to remedy), I will not go into great detail about the next half hour on the Pass. I will say this: beautiful moments in nature can be ruined by self-seeking and self-centered thinking. Selfishness and over analysis are also Virgo tendencies that Mother Nature informed me She does not like, especially when She may or may not be trying to tell me something.

And so I was humbled. With lightning. With thunder that made Ellie jump and her hackles raise and that made me feel like I may be pushing the limits of my comfort zone. With hail that turned to snow that turned to freezing rain.
Heads down, butts in gear, Ellie and I made it down off the pass and back to the car by 4 PM, cold, wet, and in awe of the speed at which the Sierra weather patterns can change. And feeling perhaps a little defeated.

But then. Just in case I forgot the whole purpose of seeking solitude in the wilderness, Mother Nature reminded me of something very important.

Life can be unpredictable. Cold. Uncomfortable. Maybe a little scary. Storms and turmoil sneak up on us when we least expect it. We might not always be sure that we are going to make it. We might be disappointed by the way things turn out sometimes. If we focus too far ahead on the future, we'll forget to focus on building foundations and relationships in the present that will make everything ahead that much easier to handle. If we get wrapped up in ourselves, we fail to see the beauty in the situations that surround us and be thankful for the small moments we have with those we love. We must remember that storms are life-bringing. Cleansing. A natural part of the cycle of life.

Whatever lesson I was supposed to learn yesterday, I think the most important was this: