Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
Silver bells and cockle-shells,
And pretty maids all of a row.

On the surface, this rhyme is innocuous, inoffensive (or is it?). Flowers are lovely and it sounds like Mary might have some serious gardening skills, which is not to be scoffed at. It would be better if she were growing beets and carrots and peas, learning how to provide for herself, but flowers do make the world lovely. However, I have to wonder why Mother Goose describes Mary as contrary without offering any evidence to support this characterization. Given Mother Goose’s bad track record when it comes to portraying women, I wonder if she doesn’t like that Mary is working outside, doing something on her own, instead of sitting around, taking orders and taking care of the house and children. Continue reading →

What is Authentic?

I went to Tim Horton’s in Madrid. Being from Buffalo, New York, and having spent a lot of time in Canada before this fast food chain opened in my home town, I have a soft spot for Tim Horton’s. So, seeing one right outside my hotel window a few weeks ago, I had breakfast there one morning. The horror.

Here’s something else you might find horrifying – wherever in the world I am, I like stepping into McDonald’s and 7-11 to see what they sell. I generally don’t buy anything, but I’m curious. Personal feelings about McDonald’s aside, it is undeniably successful and popular. And it has become so, in part, by conducting careful research and tailoring its menu to each country it operates in. Therefore, going into McDonald’s is part of experiencing the culture of another place.  Continue reading →

Return to Spain

Against my own personal rules for how best to take advantage of a life that is far too short to absorb everything the world has to offer, I have traveled to an international destination twice. Two weeks ago, I went to Spain. Fourteen years ago I lived there, working in a summer camp in Andalusia with kids who by now are somewhere around the age I was during those brief moments when we knew each other, young adults out in the real world.

I didn’t feel like much of an adult at that age, but I certainly do now, which is why I didn’t mind retracing my steps a bit. That summer camp job was a lifetime ago and I was another person. I have only a few handwritten notes and photos printed from film to remind me of my previous adventures in the land of valiant conquered and intrepid conquerors. This time, I’m transferring what I jotted down into this blog post, structured according to the chapters in Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel. De Botton is a modern day philosopher whom I greatly admire. The Art of Travel was the first book I read with Ironman, who accompanied me on this trip, for our long-distance book club, one of the many ways we have of staying close while we are geographically distant.

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What’s New for Dinner?

I can’t resist making an easy buck. Some part of my mind still thinks I’m in my early 20s, earning $25k a year, instead of being nearly 40 and earning much, much more than that. So, I take on freelance work and odd little side gigs, as long as they pay enough. I don’t think I’m entirely alone in this hustle; I have friends in their 30s who still babysit, dogsit, or do other little favors for cash or beer. I mean, I don’t have kids, so what else am I doing to do with my free time? Go out and spend money, or stay in and earn more money? Plus, I get to work on some really cool projects!

Recently, I had a taste-testing gig for a market research company. The session itself was only 25 minutes long, and with driving to the place and back and checking in, I was all-in for 40 minutes. And it paid $50 just for eating some food and telling people what I thought about it, which was worth it to me. Fifty bucks fills up my tank and buys me a beer (or two on happy hour!). And it certainly was an easy buck.</p>
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Italy by Number

I have so many thoughts to share stemming from my two and a half weeks in Europe. My route was
Flight to Zurich→
Train to Innsbruck→
Car share to Bressanone→
On foot across the Dolomites to Cortina d’Ampezzo→
Bus to Venice→
Rental car to Padua→Verona→Bergamo→Milan→
Train and kayak to Bellagio→
Car share to Zurich
with a lot of little stops in between. Everything I saw was stimulating and new, and I took dozens and dozens of pages of notes. Since most of that time was spent in northern Italy, let’s kick off the onslaught of upcoming blog posts with a lighthearted comparison of Italy and Boulder. Continue reading →

Sanctuary 2.0: The Line

I love nature. I love nature in little ways, such as letting spiders stay in my house in whatever corner they decide to weave their webs. I love nature in medium ways, such as not getting mad about the goats peeing on my yoga mat at goat yoga because I was so thrilled a goat was getting cuddly on my mat with me. I love nature in big ways, such as sobbing uncontrollably while watching the whales bubble netting in Alaska because I was overwhelmed from witnessing such a majestic event that is so perfectly designed and so completely out of the control of humans.

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But there is a point at which I stop communing with nature. The squirrels that killed my garden this year brought me pretty close to that point. Pretty damn close to making use of a pellet gun. But this…this is the real line. Nope, nope, nope. Nasty! Uh-uh. No way. Continue reading →

The Portland of My 49th State

When I was young, my family took a lot of road trips up, down, and around everywhere east of the Mississippi, and even once all the way out to Montana. When I moved to Colorado, I took a lot of road trips around the western states to see everything I could before getting my master’s degree and moving back overseas. When I stuck around after graduation and found that travelling internationally from Denver was kind of a pain, I took some large pseudo-domestic trips, such as to Hawaii and Alaska. After all this travel, I found myself at the beginning of 2017 with only two states remaining to set foot in: Oregon and Idaho.

And now, there’s just Idaho. This is my somewhat-creative writing blog, but by day, I’m a technical writer and I work for an excellent and successful company. So excellent, in fact, that they picked up the tab for me to attend the Write the Docs conference, which happened to be in Portland, Oregon, this week. I have to specify Oregon because as an east-coaster, I still think of Maine first when I hear Portland, and I imagine some of you do too. I won’t go into all the details of what one learns and talks about at a technical writing conference, but if you’re curious about the career, I highly recommend Tom Johnson’s blog. He’s a tech writing guru, and he totally had groupies (including me) at the conference. Here, I’ll sum up some of the other highlights of the trip and save the show notes for my coworkers. Continue reading →

(Isla de) Ometepe, Nicaragua (July, 2008)

While You Are There: If you can arrange your trip while there is a festival going on in Altagracia, which we did unintentionally, stay there a night and enjoy it. Otherwise, hop on a long, slow bus ride to Merida and stay at the Hacienda Merida. They can arrange a bunch of activities for you or you can use the bicycles and explore on your own. The dinner buffet is tasty and provides an opportunity to swap stories with fellow travelers; however, food poisoning is possible. And because the rooms, including bathrooms, are open air, when a lot of people get food poisoning, the night air is filled with all sorts of special sounds that aren’t coming from wildlife or the ocean waves.

Why It’s On My List: It’s a “something for everyone” kind of place. If you are going to Nicaragua but don’t have much time to spend, you can go here to enjoy beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes, petroglyphs, and wildlife. Plus, you can take a ferry to get there.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Sanctuary 2.0: Re-Engaging the Senses

I recently starting rereading Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses, which I read for the first time approximately two years ago. The book is an exquisite and vivid journey through our five senses and how they guide and influence our interactions with the world around us. It’s a beautiful piece of writing that serves as a reminder of the importance of literally stopping to smell the roses. Today, I did that. IMG_6411After a morning session of restorative yoga in the planetarium that left me with an almost unbearable desire to pack up the car and drive straight to the Badlands or Moab to be alone with my senses, I settled for a three hour solo hike into the forest and canyons at the base of the Flatirons. The air, earth, and plants were still damp with the heavy spring rain that soaked the whole region on Friday. Such a rich humidity on a rainless day is rare treat in Boulder, as is the sound of rushing water and a nearly empty hiking trail only 15 minutes outside town. The luxury of the experience filled me with emotion and also got me to thinking about how my own senses have been heightened and tantalized since I removed myself from a relationship that was breaking my soul and forcing me to suppress a desire for rich experiences in order to simply get by from day to day. Restorative yoga helps you be present in your sense of self, but the other five senses are every bit as important. Here is what has been influencing mine lately. Continue reading →