My Dad’s 25 Random Things: 

(Swiped from a Facebook post in 2009). 

1. Old friends are the best.
2. Getting outside is good for the soul.
3. I’ve been thinking this winter was ‘record-setting’ – and the AA Snooze-paper confirms it tonight.
4. Changing jobs after 23 years in the same place is a bit destablizing and stressful.
5. Change is good.
6. What will we all do now that life is not all about buying stuff that we don’t need and that costs too much?
7. My kids rock.
8. My nieces and nephews are an amazing bunch of people.
9. The lake house addition is still not done – after what, about 10 years? Oh well, maybe this summer.
10. The only thing that sucks about the new job is so little vacation.
11. Those stock options better pay off!
12. I’m not looking forward to doing my taxes after they do. (Maybe then it’ll be time to hire an accountant.)
13. Harold, one of these days I want to actually make it out on the big lake on your boat–not just up the river and back.
14. Laurie(&Joe)-you can invite us up to Plymouth to partake of your cooking as often as you like.
15. I do better (and enjoy more) playing old-fashioned pinball games than Gears of War.
16. Why do some people think cutting taxes is the answer to everything?
17. I’m feeling a need to waterski this summer–just to prove it can still be done by someone over 50.
18. Reading is also good for the soul – real books, that is – not this on-line stuff.
19. Hot showers are about as good as being outside – and definitely better when it’s below zero out.
20. It’s been way too long since we went camping.
21. Answers to the most serious existential questions can only be found around a campfire – with plenty of beer on hand. (Note: The beer serves to obscure the fact that there are no answers to such questions–but also makes this sad fact more tolerable.)
22. Keep moving. Use it or lose it.
23. Sunsets are restful, sunrises challenge you to try again.
24. Shaving is more fun with a good electric razor.
25. Bedtime!

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Beer Boot Mugs

I think I first remember big hugs.

Then I remember Toe Jam and Earl on Sega. And a trip to Wendy’s in Ann Arbor when you were babysitting the two of us.

We must have been so annoying to deal with after the cute phase.

But I never ever felt that from you.

I’ve held my “Sporto” award to my chest like it’s sewn on.

Then I remember that you would always keep the fun going. As kids that meant being the longest adult to play the noodle-frisbee game, and as adults that means NO-sleeping, more shots, more euchre. We love it.

And that’s what it’s been as adults. I deeply care about how you find that time sacred, like I do.

But then we all scattered like a bag of marbles, and everything that’s sacred has become more difficult… And weddings and funerals seem to be the only written-in guarantees of what I grew up loving so dearly.

Then I had a unique chance to center life around family… on a different ocean. It was so scary and exciting I almost couldn’t believe it. Of course, it was colored with shock and sadness, but I still knew it would be all those things.

It was within my grasp, but I let it go. Without really even realizing that I did.

But you all realized, and I felt your sadness before I felt my own.

Why does one have to choose? I’m so mad while being so broken and exhausted that I had to choose.

I chose to give a love another chance. And that’s what I’m doing. That’s all I know so far.

But in the downbeats, when I remember the ‘almost’, the ‘what-if’… I can’t keep it together. I can’t bear to think that I let down the ones I love the most.

So I hope I didn’t… Not completely…

I think about you all everyday. I wanted so much to be a part of the everyday activities. Your safety net was going to catch me in my free-fall.

I don’t know much about many things. I don’t know if I made the ‘right’ decision. Just wading through this swamp hoping it feels more like countryside sometime soon.

….But it won’t have mountains and ocean and Beer Boot Mugs.

And I try not to cry knowing that.

 

 

 

I don’t remember agreeing to this…

In light of my recent conversation with my beloved college lady sweetheart, we decided to craft an ode to the perpetual hatred of adulthood. Our disdain is surely mirrored by, oh… Everyone in the world.

Reasons I hate being a grown up

1. What did I do on my day off work? I mopped my apartment. More troubling than that is the fact that I got real pleasure out of the floor being clean.

2. Working more days than the weekend. And what do I do on the weekend? I wear pajamas for 24-48 hours straight. I’m not mad about it, but I should just rephrase that to say that there is no weekend.

3. Dating older men now runs the risk of getting involved in complicated, modern family situations.

4. Thinking about how big life and financial decisions will make taxes all the more difficult.

5. Doing taxes…. Okay fine. I’m sending my W2s to my Dad, but it’s still a huge pain.

Generally speaking, the way older people in my life always talked reminiscently about the way they “blinked and all the time has passed”, has come to fruition. It doesn’t exactly seem like just yesterday that I was cramming for a high school algebra test or watching Saturday morning cartoons, but I sure don’t remember electing to not only have a job… but be expected to: do laundry, go grocery shopping, budget… fill up my car with gas, pay for insurance… and LOOK like I’m a self-sustaining participant of adult society. I don’t remember raising my hand for that.

I’ll always dance in my underwear, damnit.

***

Read JoJo’s middle finger to maturity here. 

To Whoever Got Stuck Sifting Through Resumes

Oh, hi! Is someone actually reading this? I thought cover letters were just a torture device designed by hiring managers to weed out casual job seekers from the truly desperate.

I’m writing because I saw that your company has an open position that is vaguely related to my experience and interests. Honestly, it’s not exactly my dream job but I’m getting pretty sick of ramen noodles so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I’m a college graduate, and I would tell you which college I graduated from except it wasn’t an ivy so you probably don’t care. I have held a respectable number of internships and other career-related positions, and I have undertaken soul-enriching travel to foreign countries that I occasionally bring up to help me make a point, but not in an obnoxious way. I also have real, paid work experience in a position that taught me important skills about professionalism and how to laugh when your boss tells the same stupid joke for the fifth time. I eventually quit (that’s why I’m writing to you!) when it became clear that I was never going to get a promotion no matter how well I did my job. You may see this as a sign of flakiness or disloyalty, but I’d prefer it if you thought of me as someone who is willing to take risks to get what she wants.

Oh, yeah, she. Did I mention I’m a woman? But before you write me off, know that I am reasonably attractive, sometimes bring delicious baked goods to the office, and I will play along with your awkward flirting as long as you don’t actually touch me. Also, I like beer and fast cars so I can totally be “one of the guys” if that’s the type of female employee you are looking for.

I have all the fake skills you say I need for this entry-level job (seriously, I can’t believe you listed Power Point as a required skill. It’s 2014; eight-year-olds know how to use Power Point). I can speak French, which is completely irrelevant but might impress you, and perhaps more to the point, I am capable of writing business e-mails without any embarrassing typos or inappropriate emoticons.

Let’s be honest. It doesn’t really matter who you hire for this position. A poorly trained monkey could do it. I know you want someone who has always been passionate about writing the monthly financial reports for a paperclip company, and you may even find an applicant who can convince you that they are that person. But as far as I’m concerned, a passion for being able to pay the rent is at least as motivating, and I’ve got that in spades.

Call me when your first choice declines,

Annie


Annie is a guest contributor who enjoys baking at four in the morning, eating foods without enough iron and making irrational decisions after drinking tequila (hence, our bond as cousins). She lives in Brooklyn, New York at present with her two roommates: a successful, super cute shoe addict, and a determined mouse who resides in the shower drain. 

The Long Bus Ride

I stand in line for the Megabus… I’ve done this too many times. Not even splurging for the train. Headed to the city of cities for a very chilly New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

I stand with my friends. Or, what I’ve conjectured in my head as my friends. A family originating from some Spanish-speaking country that asks me if they’re in the right line. Everyone has the same question. The older son has a Targus backpack just like mine, and I desperately want to ask where he bought his. Then I think to myself that maybe Targus is the JanSport of South America and that would sound so naive to ask him just so I could say that I bought mine in Miraflores.

On the bus there’s an extraordinarily pretty girl that allows me to try out her above-the-seat outlet only to find that they ALL DON’T WORK. Her wild curly hair and young-Eartha Kitt face makes me think that all people in New York City must be effortlessly beautiful and impossibly trendy.

There’s a group of friends communicating through sign language, which leads me to a train of thought about what interrupting someone looks like in sign language.

Everyone is going somewhere. Doing something – just by being on this bus and en route.

What does being en route mean? Is it just anticipating the next thing…

I think it’s the slightly reckless feeling of not knowing exactly what’s going to happen next.

I always want to know where people are going. What they’re doing. Who’s important to them? Do they try as hard to please their parents, to live up to what they’re supposed to amount to?

I am en route. We are all en route. 

 

An old Peru post – Cusco & Machu Picchu

I wrote this on the five day Salkantay trek I did while in Cusco during the last two weeks of my Peru trip. There’s a number of trips you can sign up for in Cusco that include Machu Picchu on the last day, or you can just do Machu Picchu as a day trip. The incredibly ambitious Germans I was traveling with coerced me into this particular trek (the hardest, most badass one), and I am very thankful for that.

***

I am currently covered in dirt and grime–a layer of scum further caked to my skin with sunscreen and bug spray. And surprisingly enough I actually had a shower in the past 24 hours which is much better than my shower record for the past week.

Why am I a walking, blistered, bitten dirt pile? I have just completed the Salkantay Trek. A five day/four night trekking adventure through the high, cold Sierra of southern Peru and then back down through the rainforest ending at Machu Picchu.

I left Horizon school last week in a flourish of abrupt goodbyes and unfinished decisions. I claimed to everyone that I would return for my last weekend in Peru–which is the Peruvian independence holiday. That was a bold statement, and it now seems clear that I definitely will not be accomplishing a plane ride and bus to return to the north before my flight leaves from Lima on the 29th of July. Instead, I will be exploring the beautiful city of Cusco.

Cusco–as our Salkantay guide told us–means navel of the world. I arrived to Cusco last week in the afternoon after a grueling 22 hour bus ride on a winding mountain road. I arrived with some German acquaintances with a plan to get acclimated to the higher altitude for a day and then set off on a trek. Little did I know that these Germans had a more grueling trek in mind than the three day one I assumed I was taking.

Cusco is a small but lively city in the middle of the mountains. For the first time in my almost seven weeks of travel, I felt not at all out of place. Foreigners flock to Cusco because it is the jump off point for seeing Machu Picchu.

The second day, after scheduling our trek, we had to spend preparing. I rented almost everything I needed for heavy trekking and bought more warm clothes which now allows me to be covered from head to toe in alpaca material.

The Salkantay Breakdown

salkantay_map
On day one, myself and my compadres left our hostel at 4:30am to follow a guide along darkened Cusco alleys to pick up other Trekkers on the way to the San Francisco Plaza–where we would depart by bus headed to a small town 3 hours northeast.

The trek was hardest on first two days because of the amount of incline walking, and increasing altitude. Everyone warned us about the altitude sickness, and advised different things. Coca products were the most abundant recommendation, and also the easiest to get. Yes–coca… The same coca that when soaked, the liquid product is used to create cocaine. Kind of alarming at first, but we were told that coca products are a trekking must-have. The day before we entered many a coca shop and bought a range of goodies. Coca leaves, coca candy, coca granola bars, coca everything. I was not hesitant to try out my coca because even in Cusco where the altitude is a mere 3,400m, by mid afternoon my head was pounding and I was very fatigued.

andre

Our guide and instructor of all things Incan, Andre

The first night we spent on the foothills of the mountains, and we all shivered most of the night in our tents. The second day we had the hardest hike ahead of us to reach the highest point–altitude. The coca leaves quickly became my best friend, especially as we climbed to the “highest point” in the Peruvian sierra amongst the snowcapped mountains the highest of which is Salkantay standing at 6,200m.

What you do is take a small handful of the dried leaves (which smell like herbal tea), and put a small amount of dark black llipta (“yip-tah”) in the middle of the leaves (a taffy like sweet substance from the root of the coca plant), then you roll the leaves up and nestle it in one side of your cheek. With the llipta, the effect is immediate because the alkaloids are more quickly released. The coca leaves cured my headache, and definitely propelled me up the steep inclines when it seemed I had no hope–or maybe it was all a placebo effect… Who knows?

The coca plant–as our guide, Andre, explained–was used for Incan workers and messengers traveling on foot. With coca, you are not thirsty, tired, or muscle fatigued.

I thought about trying to smuggle the rest of my coca goodies into the states, but then quickly decided to give them to a friend going on another mountain trek… Probably a better idea. I could definitely see a scenario of Ellen-not-making-it-back-into-the-states-because-of-the-Peruvian-trekking-vices.

At the highest point we performed an Incan ritual with our guide by placing a rock that we had brought from the bottom of the mountains with a small offering of coca leaves. We gave thanks to each of the mountains in Quechua and drank a bottle of whiskey in a circle. I like Incan rituals.

snowy

Our trekking group named itself “Sexy Panaca” meaning “Sexy Family” and we proudly represented the USA, Germany, France, Holland, UK, New Zealand, and China. An interesting bunch that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Nothing brings you closer to people than not bathing for long periods of time, using the bathroom in the wilderness, and chanting in Quechua on a mountain top.

Almost the whole fantastic trekking group celebrating our return in Cusco

Almost the whole fantastic trekking group celebrating our return in Cusco

The third day was a breeze of flat rainforest climate that ended with a visit to the crystal clear hot springs of Santa Teresa. Glorious. That evening we stayed in a compound like camping site with other hikers–which also included a quasi bar/snack shop.

Camping in large designated areas along the trek was a blessing and a curse. The camping spots had some sort of bathroom, and long dining tables, but also no privacy and a constant group atmosphere. I enjoyed the trek 100% of the time, but I am also traveling alone and an outgoing person. If a trekker was looking for ultimate serenity and just you and nature, I imagine he or she would be displeased with how the Salkantay is organized.

Following the hot springs day, was zip-lining for an extra fee. Worth it. One should always pay for an opportunity to do a “spider monkey” many feet in the air sailing back and forth in a river valley. This concluded the “roughing it” part of the trip. The last night we got assigned rooms in hostels in Aguas Calientes–the glitz and glam little trinket of a town that is the closet access point to Machu Picchu.

spidermonkey

Fifth day, we wake up just shy of 4:00am, and thus begins the dark pilgrimage to get in a line, to walk up a steep incline for 45 minutes, to wait in another line… to enter Machu Picchu park. It does generate a great feeling of triumph–to be one of the first few hundred to enter the park of this ancient mountainside abandoned city just as the sun rises looking back on the past four days of meters and incline hiked.

sunrise

***

It’s true that everyone asks whether you went to Machu Picchu immediately after you say you spent any time in Peru, and it really is worth it. What I find myself saying is that it truly is a bummer how touristy it is. It’s hard to visualize what the stone city once held when hordes of gumpy foreigners are plowing around snapping photos–me being one of them. Our guide, Andre, also told me that this wonder of the world is crumbling because of all the foot traffic everyday. That’s awful!

I made a great friend on the trails, Ms. Marion. She is as big of a nerd as I am, yet probably much cooler. Check out her directing skills, and our killer dance moves:

A Syrian strike, or not? For Dummies (like myself)

If you desire to hear no more about Syria, DO NOT continue reading! I wanted to get caught up and finally see if I could form an actual opinion.

“It’s not my red-line, it’s the world’s red-line…” -Pres. Obama during his visit in Sweden last week

The red line?

In August of 2012, President Obama answered a question regarding his potential response to chemical weapons activity in Syria:

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

Many reflect that his answer was not scripted, and therefore, not the concrete White House position–meaning it should not be taken as the black-and-white stance of the administration.

August 2013–Chemical weapons are used in Syria killing more than 1,400 people. Assad regime blames rebels. Everyone else blames pro-Assad forces. Obama says some kind of contained strike against Assad is needed. Russia and China disagree.

Surprisingly, Obama gives the decision to strike Syria over to Congress. Some speculate that this was simply to put a stall on any action, so that he wouldn’t have to follow through with enforcing his red line.

People are finally coming to terms with the fact that whether or not the administration has dragged its feet, or acted in contradictory ways, this is a collective decision. I think we are all hung up on the particulars of this “red line” rhetoric because no one wants to cope with the decision of whether or not to fight fire with fire in Syria, or whether to stay on the sidelines and watch.

RUSSIA–Syria’s international muscle

After the whole international community turned on Syria post-chemical weapons, Russia stayed by its side. WHY? Because Putin believes if the Assad regime falls, the Taliban-type government that will follow will be much worse. This would endanger Russia’s economic core area where Muslim ethnic groups already have issues with Russian rule.

Since the Assad regime took power, Russia has used its veto multiple times and teamed up with China to effectively block UN resolutions to address the violence in Syria. Russia also beefed up its military presence in Syria while the threat of a US strike has been potentially imminent.

However, today marks a significant day in a long period of Russian solution-blockage.

The origin of Obama and Putin’s discord dates far back, but Putin seems to have constructed a life raft for Obama’s administration, and offered Syria a proposal to turn over the control of its chemical weapons, which Assad has reportedly ‘welcomed’. 

Will the US accept this proposal as a solution?

Definitely not. Syria is vague in saying whether it will comply with the Russian proposal, only that it has welcomed it. Sec. of State, John Kerry, says that the sheer number of chemical weapons in Syria makes it difficult to foresee a complete withdraw and dismantling of all threats.

Kerry also says that there is more risk in not acting in Syria because of the precedent that may be set. These sentiments are echoed today by Deputy National Security Advisor, Tony Blinken.

I think I can speak for most people my age and with a medium-level of understanding of the crisis at large in saying… What’s the right answer here?

The US has effectively said that something has to be done, yet Obama is now at the mercy of Congress. In the House, support for any action in Syria is dismal. So how does Obama send a message to Assad?

The main problem is that no one is properly informed, and that pundits are cloaking the issues in layers of irrelevant debate. Nothing new there. Obama is being scrutinized to the point that every small action and decision is carefully weighed and over-publicized.

My advice (that I finally put into action for myself): read everything you can, and reiterate the question again and again–Should we (as a part of an international community) punish a regime that has indisputably unleashed chemical weapons on its own people and ignored international warnings?

Barack Obama is just one man. His Presidency will undoubtedly be graded in part by how this situation plays out, but why are we considering his legacy and performance before even thoroughly considering how each of us views the moral dispute of the bottom line?

This afternoon Hillary Clinton summarized her conversation with the President. She says the Assad regime’s use of weapons of mass destruction “violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order”.

The clear answer for me after becoming informed is that you can be against war, and still be in favor of action.

Cool nytimes quiz to see how informed you are. I scored embarrassingly low.