on Monday, November 8, 2010
I'm back to this blog. For the next few minutes, at least. I decided this morning that I needed some processing time. I remembered the days when this blog was an outlet of sorts, for me. I went back to the last few blogs I've made. Yep, I'm still sick of weddings, I'm failing as a naturalist (I haven't even tried), and I'm still trying to process what the last 6 months of my life have been. There has been so much change and so many new things. Overall, it has been wonderful. I love being married. Love love. I could never have dreamed to feel like this. Before our wedding I had no idea what it would be like to be married but I am perfectly content. It's not perfect, and no marriage is, but its challenges make both of us stronger and grow us closer together.

I am also in school again. REAL school, not IslandWood style. I am commuting 4 days a week to UW. Car --> ferry --> Walk to Pioneer Square station --> Express bus --> class --> reverse. Six weeks in to fall quarter, I can say that it hasn't been so bad. Reuben warms my seat in the car every morning (class starts at 8:30am for me 2 days a week so I have to take the 7:05am ferry), and I get work done on the ferry as I eat my breakfast. The bus is only 15 minutes or so, and I enjoy walking the streets of Seattle. There's something quite empowering about commuting. I know exactly where I am going. I can give people directions when they're lost. I walk en masse. The weather has been pretty decent this fall, and I haven't really had any super rainy-day commutes. I think that is about to change.

Classes are challenging. Academically challenging - only slightly, but it is more challenging to me on a more personal front. The classes that I am taking are Curriculum & Instruction (a class which I despise, and is excluded from this discussion), Global Health, and Economics of International Development. The latter two: I love. Global Health is way beyond what I expected. I'm not so much learning about sicknesses and diseases from a medical perspective as much as I am learning about the politics, socioeconomics, and history of the aid industry. It's fascinating. My economics class is hard and I can never wrap my brain around the concepts, but I think that makes a point in and of itself. Economics is confusing. The development industry is caught up in all this confusion, which has created a complicated, bureaucratic and global mess. I am always surprised, often aghast, and constantly being confronted with challenging ideas and points of view. It is a collision of my past experience, what I am currently learning, and (what I thought were) my future goals. It's developed a little bit of a crisis in me. I want to work with the poor, I want to help (as well as so many other good-willed people out there), but how can I do any good when the 'helping,' in and of itself, so often hurts? It would be easy to sit for a million hours straight and talk about everything that's wrong with the industry these days. That we blindly trust big aid agencies to use our tax dollars charitably. Don't get me started on child sponsorship. Is there any hope to be found? Is there such thing as a solution (or solutionS) I'm getting so muddled down and burdened with the crisis that I don't see anything positive coming out of it all. Only lately I've realized that this is exhausting me. What I'm learning is so interesting, but it's a dead end. There are some people out there perhaps that live to confront and critique. Take William Easterly for example. But that's not me. I'm not the confrontational type. What I've realized is that for all of the negative things I have learned, I need to channel them into something positive. And over the past week I've realized that I need to start to volunteer again. For the past few months (ok...year) I've been so caught up in my own life, my work and teaching, planning a wedding, and now being married that I allowed myself to take a break from reaching out to the community. From now on, I'm going to make it a goal to start that up again. It's so fulfilling that every time I go I think, "Why haven't I done this forever?" With all the synthesis that has been happening in my brain lately, it will be exciting to synthesize everything else with current real life experiences. Yay!

I guess that's all I want to say for now. Hopefully I'll be back soon for some more processing.

On being a naturalist

on Thursday, August 12, 2010
My naturalist skills failed me today. As I was sitting in the backyard a tree started staring back it me. It was an eerie feeling to look at something and not know what it is - like a stranger stalking me. "Stranger Danger!" as a preschooler would say. I sat there for awhile, continually looking over my shoulder, until finally I had enough. I stood up, walked through the soggy grass in my socks, scaled the 5 foot wall like I always did when I was small, and stood up right in its face. Its needles are long and pointy and sharp, and the tree put up its defense by poking me. Ouch! I was undeterred. The night was black and the only light I had to see was from the neighbor's distant lamp post. I ripped off an end from one if its branches. It had enough to spare. I spotted a dark blog resting on one of the branches, and I reached in to grab a mature, open cone. I also groped around the nearby branched that sacrificed itself for my identification purposes, and I also stole a young cone. It wasn't going to ever reproduce, anyway. That tree has been there forever and I have never noticed it. Our beloved family dog, Sable, is buried underneath. So is our cat, Diedra. RIP. And yet all of the times I have been out there, sitting and gazing at the stars, or walking and climbing around the walls for hours, I've never, ever noticed this tree. It stands alone, this big, giant tree amongst my mother's landscaping and flower beds. And our long lost pets.
I jumped down the wall and went on a mission to meet a new friend, and discover once and for all what this tree is. I went straight for my Pojar, which luckily was already sitting on the table on the porch. It's a good thing to have on hand if you live on the Coast, but as I discovered earlier today, it is useless in the deserts of Eastern Washington. The key in the front led me to Pinus contorta: shore pine. Nope. I finally had to pull out the big guns: I ran to my room and pulled out my dusty (all the dust that had gathered from the last 4 years since I had touched it) Hitchcock and Cronquist Guide to the Flora of the Pacific Northwest. It is a beast. I cracked the pages to the index in front and was immediately overwhelmed. I hardly remember what a dicot is, and I certainly couldn't find the pine in here. I was trying hard to identify this mysterious tree of mine as legitimately as I could. But Hitchcock and Cronquist finally pulled me over the edge and I grabbed my computer. Google. "Pine trees in Washington State". That led me to none other than the exquisitely scientific Wikipedia. There was only several options to choose from in terms of evergreen trees in Washington state, so even in the dark, I was able to narrow them down significantly right away. I click one one name and I refer to the picture. Could this be it? Could this be that mysterious stranger leering at me in the night? I think it is. Ponderosa Pine! Pojar must have missed this one, oddly enough.
I use my superior research skills (wikipedia) to investigate. I learn that the ponderosa pine is especially adaptable to climatic conditions, resulting in 4 different 'geographic races'. So which subspecies is this new friend of mine? That question shall be answered another day, hopefully during the light of day. But for now, my hands are sappy and sticky and smells like fresh pine. All these years that we've had a fake plastic Christmas tree I've always missed the fresh scent of pine in our home. I had no idea I could simply venture outside to take in the sweet smell of ponderosa.

Good night, dear friend. See you tomorrow, in the light of day.

the table where rich people sit.

on Saturday, June 12, 2010
I love Byrd Baylor. I have read her books throughout the year and I never met a kid that didn't like them. However, I think I enjoy reading them more than the kids like listening to them. The Table Where Rich People Sit is one of my favorites. Read it. It will change your life.

I chose to read this book on the last day of my last teaching week. After all, what more do I want students to understand than the fact that life is MORE than the things they acquire? After I read the story, I asked my students: What means more to you than money? What in your life is priceless? Kids, even in 5th grade, get so wrapped up in STUFF, without realizing it. One of the most surprising things that children discover here is that it IS possible to go 4 days without a Wii or a cell phone or an ipod. What a beautiful thing to offer children the gift of appreciation for LIFE.

Last DAY

My last day of teaching! Incorporating every single Thursday theme we had throughout the year, we looked like fools as we walked to the friendship circle for the very last time (we didn't care).

My plan for the day was to do the 2 activities that I love to do the most.

After the final 2 hours in the field with the kids, we sang "See ya later IslandWood" for the last time at the closing friendship circle.

Said goodbye to our LAST school as they headed off on the buses

And had our last celebration of their departure.

Debrief lunch was amazing! Check out that spread!

After we chatted with our mentors and wrapped up the debrief for the week, Ray shared the community agreements that we made as a group from the beginning of the quarter.

What an ending!


on Thursday, June 10, 2010
This week was my last week of teaching SOP at IslandWood, and today was my very last full teaching day. Unbelievable!

It was my last time to write a flow on the board.

It was our last time singing "My Barnacle".

It was my last time forcing my students to lug around peanut butter, turkey, and bottles of mayo and jelly, and my last time eating crate lunches!

The last time exploring the harbor!

And of course, when we needed to go through the gate for the last time, the lock wouldn't budge. Lucky for bushwacking and the end of the fence!

It was my last time to hang out in the prep room after a long field day, sharing stories and laughing at each other's crazy children.

And, (luckily) it was my last time having to eat Wednesday night cheese pizza! Despite the never-changing menu, I will miss eating and hanging out in the dining hall.

It was my last chance to drum the djembe at campfire, the last time singing Rattlin' Bog, doing the fireworks clap, and the kids slideshow.

A FIRST (and a last) for us tonight was our very own instructor slideshow with pictures of us that had been taken throughout the year - courtesy of Ilya and Minna, this week's liaisons. It was followed by a 'campfire' of our own.

Does it really have to end??

Inspired by salmonberry

on Sunday, June 6, 2010
As I was walking from campus today, I slowed down and even stopped occasionally to admire the salmonberries (admiration by observation or ingestion). The salmonberry is the first to flower in the year, and the first to berry as well. As I was thinking about what colors to incorporate into my wedding, I was inspired by the salmonberry flower.

As the brilliant pink petals fell to the ground one by one, they were gradually replaced by small greenish berries that grew larger and transformed into hues of pinks and oranges. Perhaps I was drawn to them by the inability to eat them - due to their unripe status at the time. But now, they're ready. I realized today as I was on the trail and admiring the salmonberries - that the color of their fruits were the same colors that I picked for my wedding. I would like to believe that I've spent so much time in the forest this year that the flora and I have begun to think alike.

Once I was looking at the spectrum of colors around me, I began to notice more and more the dazzling signs of new growth: the salal berry, the maple tree helicopters.

Even decay can be brilliant.

Come to think about it, I guess I could compare my own dress (yes! I have a dress) to the blackberry and miner's lettuce flowers - although I wouldn't have known it at the time!

"If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has the power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand – rejoice! For your soul is alive."

-Elanora Dosa

Alaska 2

on Saturday, June 5, 2010
Pictures continued

Kama and Mega, our dining room stewards

Ben and Dylan entered the ship-building contest

Alaska 1

We had been waiting over 9 months to go to Alaska on a cruise! Our family has expanded by 2 since our last family cruise, and the number was brought up to 17, a record high! Our boat, the Oosterdam, left from Pier 91, just a mile or two from the Bainbridge ferry. I didn't have to go far! Because it would be a lot to narrate, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Day 1 we left Seattle, and Day 2 was also a day at sea as we sailed North to our first destination, Glacier Bay. It is conidered a 'port', although we don't leave the ship. We sailed into the Bay for the day, came to the end of our little inlet with an amazingly deep blue glacier. I was so surprised to see ICE in the water! Mini icebergs. As we stood on the hull of the ship, we probably stood outside for about 4 hours admiring the scenery and watching the glaciers calf (ice breaking off) One of my favorite parts of the trip!

Our 2nd port was Juneau. I really wanted to go on at least one run on Alaskan soil, so my sister and I went off the ship and went for an hour run. After lunch we took an excursion to see the Mendehall Glacier, which was about 20 minutes away from the city ( by bus.

We stopped at three other ports: Ketchikan, Sitka, and Victoria. I don't have much to say about Ketchikan because I wasn't that impressed. Too touristy. I went into town, bought two postcards, then went back on the ship. Victoria was even less interesting. I've heard great things about Victoria and I know that it's beautiful, but the dock where the cruise ships come in is in a really strange place and is nowhere near anything! Not only did we not dock till about 7pm, but you had to take a taxi or a tour to get to town. And to top it all off, there were two other gigantic cruise ships docked there at the same time. Because of all of the above and due to the fact that it was our last night on the ship, I did end up going off the ship but only briefly.

I'm obviously not going in chronological order because I haven't yet spoken about Sitka. I wanted to save the best port for last. It was our only port we had to tender at, and Dad, Dave, Darcy, Dylan, Hannah, Ben, and I went on a sea kayaking excursion. It was fabulous! We spotted a humpback whale on the boat ride out to the boathouse that housed the kayaks. We kayaked around the bay, admiring the sea weed and sitka spruce. We had hot cider and clam chowder back at the boat house (as if we hadn't had enough to eat already). On the boat ride back, we spotted two brown bears - also known as grizzly! A momma and her cub - what a treat! (I didn't bring my camera on this trip so unfortunately I don't have any pictures!