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I'm semi-reformed because I live back in north Texas and it's hard to live in the mountains when there are none. I don't need stuff, I'm uncomfortable being the recipient of gifts, and it's that time of year that makes me feel funny, Christmakwanzakkuhstice. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm gracious if given things, but I don't NEED things and I'm always stumped when people ask me "what do you want?" Um... peace and quiet? A chocolate bar? A glass of wine and fun conversation? Be sure to wrap that up for me in biodegradable paper, kthx.

So yesterday was one of those episodes of Oprah that makes me glad she's still on air asking the same questions, and grateful she didn't say "John. Tra. VOOOOLTAAAAA!" or whatever. If you don't watch her, I get it, I do. But that's a show that should be seen because it has SOLUTIONS to horrible things that are happening. Summary: girls the world over are treated horribly. Shocker for most of you, right? *eye roll* BUT. It is a shocker to people that wear kitty cat appliqué sweaters and jingle bell necklaces as they hand craft instructions for proper gift giving to the family so The Christmas Party Goes Off Without A Hitch.

What I admire so much about how Oprah is going after these many many many horrible things (it could seriously lay me low for days, just thinking about all of the ugly in the world) with an efficient and swift and AFFORDABLE way for average folks to get involved. It's true: trying to Stop Sexual Slavery is not unlike a game of Whack-A-Mole, but helping ONE person is tangible. Which leads to two people. Then four, and you get the point.

I say all of this because I decided last night that our holiday/gift giving this year is going to be focused on these charities. (My BFF got a birthday gift where she'll write letters to rape victims in Darfur and is making them micro loans to help them get on their own feet. My MiL got a gift of her donation to set up a school in Africa for an entire year. Both were the right size and allergy free, yay!) I had the kids watch some of the episode with me (some. Boy, it's brutal, so don't plunk children down and expect them to walk away not sobbing.) And later the kids are going to "shop" through the charities and pick out which is going to be their Christmas present.

I'm telling my husband all of this last night on the phone (he travels every week with his job) and he got a little quiet. "What? Why is this a bad thing? Are you trying to tell me you're not okay with this? What the hell do we need, we have stuff and things and whaaaaaat?"

His response? "But... I really wanted a Playstation 3." (Note: we have both an XBox 360 AND a Wii.)

I sighed heavily. "Fine. You've worked hard this year. You can have a damn PS3. AFTER we take care of people that you know, have no freaking food. Is that okay with you?"

"Yes. I mean, Laura, we're Americans. We can do both, help people AND be ridiculous consumers." Lol.

I'm not telling you this because I want you to say I'm a good person, or something, for contributing to charity. I'm saying this because I want to be sure that you all know about these charities, too. And seriously, you can give TWO DOLLARS. And that buys textbooks for someone. It's not that it's awesome to do it, but that it's shameful to NOT. :) And be sure to pick up a copy of Half The Sky by Nicholas Kristof, who is absolutely amazing for going where he goes to make sure we know about things that aren't being reported on. Like how more women have died from discrimination than all the men of EVERY WAR of the 20th Century. Ahem.

LEARN MORE HERE. Great site, not Oprah, if you're adverse. :)

Into The Wild
I'm not going to go into meta about the story or the movie or anything deeper than how much this movie made me ache. The Narrows! The slabs! The Grand Canyon! My god, they even filmed in Vermilion Cliffs, an old stomping ground of mine as well. All of the hiking, the laying about in the sunshine, the setting sun hitting the mica in the rocks lighting them up like flames. Red red rock, so red it's hot pink. That lovely sense of being away from everything, not just people, but CIVILIZATION. Society. Cars, noise, elbows, things to acquire.

The nicest people I've ever been around have been random strangers that are stomping through scrub brush, looking for a mythical keva or a rumored heiroglyphic left over from a thousand years ago on a hard to reach cliff face.

People that wave with their hands fashioned into peace signs without irony. That check to make sure you have enough water. People that ask if you have a copy of some random jam band, and then hand you their copy because "it's so choice, and I have it up here, man," as they tap their temple and smile. People that draw maps in the sand to make sure you check out a totally cool rock formation before you head back to your apartment.

There's a scene in the movie where the protagonist Chris is riding the Colorado River in a kayak (oh my god, he'd never done it before and I thought of moosesal and knew she would be LIVID about it, and rightfully so because DUDE THAT IS HARD CORE AND YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING!!!) and he's shivering in the sunshine because that water is so freaking cold. (I mistakenly jumped in once - from the wrong side of the trail where I missed the MASSIVE HYPOTHERMIA WARNING sign. I've never jumped out of water so fast. 115 degrees in the Arizona sun, that water was MAYBE 55. Snow melt and fast movie = never heats up.)

But back to the movie. So he's riding the river and there's a random couple sunning themselves on the bank, waving him over. Netherlands tourists, buck naked, wading in the water, delighted to be in the sun. They hug and kiss Chris, offer him a hot dog - so gleeful to be in America eating American food and they're WARM because they're way below the Arctic Circle. I was shocked to see the girl NOT in ankle socks and high heels, which was how I found almost every European tourist while I lived out West. LOL. But it was that "we're away from everything! We're so happy to be living like humans used to, and to share our delight with someone makes it better!"

I miss that. I have complete admiration for that kid for just living life. I know so many people that have done that and done it successfully. Obviously the movie doesn't end happily, and it's a stupid stupid mistake that isn't uncommon, unfortunately. But hey - he knew the risks, and for those two years that he just lived in the world and left only footprints he finally connected to the world. if you're a believer, he connected to God. If you're not (like me) he connected to the earth, to his history, to the story of man stamped in his genes.

I wish everyone could have experiences like that. I wish everyone could put away their things and just be happy with their own thoughts for more than a few hours, a few days, more than a few weeks and just connect to what grows and blows and moves around you, the things that have been here for eons and will continue to be here when we go the way of the dodo. Here is my most favorite place on earth. The Tetons come a close second, followed by the outback around the Grand Canyon's north rim.

Just... look around at the stuff in your life. Convenient? Of course. Sheesh, I freaking love my phone and my Le Crusette pans, I won't lie. Heaters? Awesome. Down-filled pillows? Delightful. But sitting on some Navajo sandstone that resembles a beehive because of the alluvial plains that have flowed and hardened and flowed repeatedly over millions of years making a perfect series of steps... The sun shining on you, a golden eagle flying over head, the sound of water rushing somewhere in the distance promising a place to cool off, a stinky dog laying at your feet? It doesn't get much better than that, no matter which level you finish on Call of Duty. :)

Anyway, if you have wanderlust, that's the movie for you.

And I can't tell you how badly I wish I could convince Kita and Lynne to take a hike through Red Rock Canyon park this weekend while we're in Vegas. The bouldering we could do! The rock climbing!! Sigh. ;) (And there will be radio silence from me for the rest of the week, so you can sigh in relief.)


( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 2nd, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
Into the Wild pushed all of my "I want to go live in the wilderness" buttons so hard. I also sat and sobbed for half an hour after it was over, heh. But, yes, that movie made my wanderlust ping so hard. I wanted to go camping/hiking/ANYTHING immediately.

We're lucky in that we have a small state park about two miles from us, so we've been trying to go out on at least short hikes every few days lately, and it's been really rejuvenating as the days get shorter and darker. I love the quiet of it.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 04:32 pm (UTC)
Oh my gosh, it had the same effect on me, too. I'm jealous of you PACwesters - so much closer!!! :)

I don't know where I'd be without my daily walks. I need to see the birds, feel the sun (or rain/snow like today) and have FRESH AIR around me every day. And it's super good for the Puplet, too. :D
Dec. 2nd, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
Jews don't climb.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 05:08 pm (UTC)
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Dec. 2nd, 2009 05:05 pm (UTC)
We've been doing donations for five years or so. We buy everything we need all year long, why celebrate that? Our families get to pick where they want us to make a donation. It's a gift everyone can feel good about, and nobody needs to make room in their closet for a Snuggie or another Chia Pet!

Man, it's been too long since we've been to Big Bend! I love being out in nature with nobody around except my husband.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
One day I'll convince the rest of the family to go along with us on the "who needs more THINGS?!?" avenue. One day...

Oooh, Big Bend! that's so pretty out there. I love the desert.
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Dec. 2nd, 2009 05:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I put off watching it for a long time knowing how it would end. But it's presented as a way for someone to just lose themselves in the world around them, knowing what one outcome could be, and it made it ... well, not better, but gave it some gravitas that helps you get why it's okay that he ends up the way he does.

But yes, with friends that are actively on S&R teams for the mountains, AUGH, listen to advice!

LOL, that's hilarious, your story. That's like my dad asking my sister and I if we'd heard of "Monterrey Jack cheese." No, do go on! People are funny.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
There seems to be debate as to how McCandless actually died as Krakauer's original theory didn't hold up to science. The seeds found in his stuff aren't actually toxic. The same happened again on the re-print of the novel where Krakauer had an alternative theory that also didn't work when tested. The fungi also proved to be non-toxic. The most likely scenario seems to be that poor kid suffered dehydration and starved to death (and possibly was mentally ill. Though that too is debateable). His autopsy also found no sign of a real injury. Unfortunately, McCandless went into the woods without a map and died within a mile of a map-marked river crossing, a manual tram that could cross the stream no matter what the water level and he was less than 10 miles from a park road. (That he was in an abandoned bus meant there had to be a road somewhere). It's terribly sad. His death was likely unintentional as he left a note saying that he was too weak to hike out and asking anyone finding the note to please save him, and many things point to his his death prehaps being preventable had he taken standard precautions for such a venture.

Love Krakauer's writing, though. I really enjoyed Into Thin Air as well.

Edited at 2009-12-02 05:16 pm (UTC)
Dec. 2nd, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
The movie has him starving to death as a result of not being able to absorb anything because of the seeds (and as a result of No Food to boot.) I think you might find the movie interesting in how they deal with it.

It's hard to nail down how someone died on their own when there's no witness and only some delusional diaries written as a person's dying... They couldn't film at the actual bus (still there) because it's so remote they couldn't GET there. So. *hands*

Krakauer is my writing ideal for narrative nonfiction. I think he's outstanding.
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Dec. 2nd, 2009 06:01 pm (UTC)
Yep, Into the Wild is a movie made of awesome :) I agree with you completely about appreciating nature - something that surrounds us everyday. I think so many people forget to be mindful when they're caught up in the rush of their jobs, etc. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Dec. 2nd, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC)
We have found our non-compatibility: I hate nature. It's nice on tv but I don't want it touching me. I'm unconvertable, too.

Clearly the charity thing we have in common. I should do a post like this, too. The micro loans thing is something people can wrap their minds around since it's tangible and Americans love credit.

We started doing Heifer International when the kids were little because even a five year old understands buying someone a sheep.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
See, you must stay home and have a spa treatment while I hug a tree. Then I'll come home and we'll have more spa time and drink wine and watch SPN together. IT CAN STILL WORK, DON'T GIVE UP ON ME, BB.

I love the micro loan idea - I think it's incredibly clever and obviously works. There is no bad there. LOL at "Americans love credit."

I love Heifer International! That's been my MiL's charity of choice for years. I'm weary of pink ribbons, so I need something new to channel my energies.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
I haven't watched that movie, i'd like to....

One of my most favorite things to do as a kid was to walk in the woods. We lived out in the country on twenty acres, surrounded by more acres that were basically 'pasture' for cows, though land covered by cedar and oak and rock does not 'pasture' make. But!

I wandered, winter and summer, in the woods, and loved it more than anything, and miss it profoundly. And am bummed about the fact that my daughter didn't get to do that, because we lived in town when she was born.

The ultimate beautiful place that i wandered was on Mt. Rainier in Washington. God. We walked out on a fallen tree into the middle of a stream and watched the wind blow skeins of snow down off the top of the mountain and a few minutes later i *swear*...you got a little buffet of ice-crystals across your face. It was....

Dec. 2nd, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you for these links. I intend to share them on FB later. I clicked through and read a little bit on each one, but I find now that I'm an old person & awfully sensitive I start to tear up when I read about sad experiences women have all over the world. I don't want to bury my head in the sand and pretend lala lalala la, I just want the world to be different so that it's not happening at all, you know?

I thought I saw a figure yesterday that said Canadians will spend around $30 million on Christmas gifts this year. I don't know whether that's inclusive of Boxing Day sale spending too or not. And I can't find the source of that figure now, so maybe I'm just on glue or something. Anyways, even if it's not quite that, it's still millions of dollars. What a huge difference that would make in more impoverished countries. Or even in our own! Helping the homeless, or the one in five children here in BC that is living in poverty.

What's interesting is that every year I decide to give to charity & then put in peoples' cards "Donation in your name made to x", I get these responses of wow, I never thought of doing that. Srsly? You never thought about opening your heart to another person or an animal in need, instead of material items that, pharoahs notwithstanding, you can't keep with you for all eternity? /judge-y moment
Dec. 2nd, 2009 09:27 pm (UTC)
I love it when people actually teach their kids about charity and helping other people. Children have generous souls when they're taught to.

My daughter just aged into getting an allowance this year ($6 a week), and the way we've set it up, she gets three money jars it's evenly split into: "Small Things" (her school sells Smencils and she's obsessed with them), "Big Things" (we're going to Barnes and Noble in an hour so she can buy herself the complete Chronicles of Narnia boxed set she's been saving up for), and "For Others." Every few weeks, she gets to pick a charity to donate to- sometimes, she'll go put it in the HeatShare box at our utility company, sometimes she'll get the singles turned into change and pour the quarters into the Ronald McDonald House thing at McDonald's (it's a really nifty thing, the coins spin in a wide, shrinking arc down a funnel), but her favorite is definitely when we go buy pet food and chew toys and then go donate them to our local animal shelter.

I owe Tim Allen for this system; he mentioned in his book, "I'm Not Really Here," that this is how his daughter gets her allowance and I thought, "Wow, that's a really cool idea," and then appropriated it for my own child. :-)

Thanks for pointing out this site...I can't watch the Oprah episode, I don't think, 'cause just reading the various things you can donate to is making me weep. But I definitely want to give here.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 09:45 pm (UTC)
No time for Deep Thoughts, but I must say that when I read your post I thought you were talking about Where the Wild Things Are. And let me tell you...! It made no sense. Hee! He went kayaking? How did the monsters fit?

Also, have a wonderful trip. I only wish I was going, too. ::hugs::
Dec. 2nd, 2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
<3 U!

I wish you were going, too. We'd have a ridiculous amount of fun.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
It's great that you're working with the kids so they can choose their own charities.

It would be cool if you could do some kind of...I don't know, wilderness retreat, or something? I don't know if you'd want to go with other people, but some ranch or canyon area where they're like, "Fly and be free, Stoney! We'll be back with the jeep to pick you up in five days!"

I'm thinking of slowly saving to do a retreat at a yoga center a few hours away from here. I think it could be a cool centering thing.
Dec. 2nd, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
Jess, this is why you are awesome. I was thinking of "How can I have my own convention with fun people that will sit outside with me and then have delicious foods and pedicures?"


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Dec. 3rd, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
This post is another reason as to why you're one of my favourite people.

Also I wish I was doing Vegas with you guys and I hope you have a brilliant, brilliant time - which you will. When you come out to NZ (notice I say when :) ), I'll take you out to the Waitakere Ranges and we can wander around nature to your hearts content.
Dec. 3rd, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)

And oh my god, how I wish you were going to be there with us. I will go to Vegas to meet up with you any time. Drinking around the clock, and as long as you're near a casino table, IT IS FREE. It's not quality, but you've been to Australia, you've had rot gut before.

I WILL COME TO NZ ONE DAY. It will happen. And I cannot WAIT to wander your countryside. Hell, I'd be happy to wander the strip malls and factories, as long as you were there, supplying me with booze and chocolate.
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Dec. 3rd, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
i try, try so HARD, to get my family to do this.

i am quite partial to http://www.mercycorps.org/mercykits/?source=8300

the ONLY member of my family willing to accept a donation to charity as a present is my 13-year-old-niece. and none of them will donate instead of buying a gift. despite me asking them to not buy me things but donate instead.

le sigh.
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Dec. 3rd, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
Hi, sweetheart!

The one about the school is there on Oprah's site under the "For the Women" header. A donation of about 237 dollars (I think) buys all of the supplies to open a school for one year. Pretty astounding, right? They also have smaller things you can do like buy one child books or uniforms or transportation - education has it's own little tab there, I believe. I've been very happy with the options listed there, way to go, Oprah!

I've not heard of that book, so now I'll have to go get it, thank you! <3
( 35 comments — Leave a comment )


Are You Actually

Reading this? I'm just curious. Because that's really detail-oriented of you. Feel free to stop reading. But you can see that there's more here, so are you going to keep reading? Really? That's pretty dedicated. I'm impressed. No, really. I'm not being sarcastic, why do you get like that? See, this is the problem I have with your mother - yes. YES. I'm going there. It's time we put all of our cards on the table.

I love you, why are you doing this? After all we've been through? You don't have to be like this. You know, still reading. You could be baking a pie. And then sharing it with me.

Time Wot It Is

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