Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Unthinkable

I'm addicted to books. Which is an expensive addiction when you live overseas and don't have a local library. But, now that we're back state side you can find me at the library scouring the new arrivals shelf and hoarding armfuls of books. I'm particularly enamoured with non-fiction, especially anything about psychology or sociology. A couple of weeks ago at the self checkout, which is deceiving, because my youngest insists on completing this full-service-not-self-service-checkout-task for me, I spotted an intriguing title. The Unthinkable: Who survives when disaster strikes and why. Intrigued, I had to pile it atop my already looming stack.

I didn't think about it at the time. How timely reading this book is after the Waldo Canyon Fire. Maybe because I hadn't make that connection yet. So, it was put in its place in the reading queue in my head. Which happened to be right after another book on writing. But, before I got to it, the unthinkable happened. The Aurora shootings. Unfortunately, reading this book had gotten even more timely. And I re-prioritized it.

After the flames crested the ridge in the Waldo Canyon Fire and we were evacuating, I was struck by something. The complete lack of panic. There were people who weren't evacuating at all, but instead climbed on their roofs in the pseudo-night sky the smoke created while it rained ash to catch of glimpse of the inferno. And to take pictures. The traffic exiting out of neighborhoods threatened by the flames was overtly polite and orderly. And I remember thinking how completely bizarre it all was. Surely, this wasn't a typical reaction to an impending threat such as this. But, as it turns out, I was wrong. It is.

It's one of a few powerful coping mechanisms humans have. It's coping's powerful first responder. Denial. Not that I would know anything about denial. Because I was lounging at the pool without any bags packed staring at the crest of the ridge when it happened. Taking the picture at the top of the post. That was before fear set in and I realized I had no gas in my car. Yikes. I didn't know it at the time but, but statistically fire is by far the greatest threat and claims more lives than any other disaster. Yeah, I didn't know either. In a world full of other more blockbuster-worthy threats, who think fire? And though there seem to be so many cataclysmic events the world over, your chances of actually being in one? They're extremely small.

But knowing what to do in the event that tragedy does strike close to home is good because it actually decreases your stress. Again, I know. Counterintuitive right? And even though we can't predict what our behavior will be in crisis, as that's far more primal than we may realize. Having a larger hippocampus in your brain naturally increases your risk of survival. If you don't happen to know the size of your hippocampus or what the hell it does, you can increase your chances of surviving a disaster by reading the book. (And by not wearing high heels.)

But I thought the greater point to the whole book was this.
In a world where there are so many things beyond our control that stress us out, why do we have blinders on to the really imminent threats of our mortality?

1. Heart disease
2. Cancer
3. Stroke

Statistically, these are the 3 things most likely to kill you and the ones you love. And you can reduce your risk to all 3 by eating a healthy diet, exercising and not smoking. Slap on some sunscreen and you've got 4. Don't let the unthinkable happen to you.

(And don't deny it, yes, I'm talking to you.)

Recommended reading: THE UNTHINKABLE by Amanda Ripley

Next in the reading queue in my head: COSETTE'S TRIBE by Leah Griffith

Saturday, July 28, 2012

World Record Day

It wasn't just any friday, it was the day we set out to break the world record. Yes, the Guiness World record. What tremendous feat could we possibly perform? The most people in a photo wearing swim caps. I know you can feel the danger. Fingers may be pinched, forehead wrinkles exaggerated and problem solving skills challenged to get ones ponytail into the swim cap. Without any water. Did I mention that? Yes, it's treacherous, but we're up for challenge.

It was all part of the kick off to the Rocky Mountain State games and coordinates perfectly with the opening ceremonies in London. We arrived in downtown Colorado Springs confused. Where do we get the swim caps? What time are they doing this exactly? And how the hell are they going to count all the people wearing swim caps to know if we broke the record? For those of you who may not know, the current record for people in a photo wearing swim caps was set in Georgia on January 1, 2012 with 2,049 people.

Like I said, this also coordinates with the opening of the Rocky Mountain State Games. With just a little less grandeur than the ceremony in London. But, there was a torch. And thus, a torch bearer. A local hero in these parts, but one that you may know if you watched the coverage of the Waldo Canyon Fire. Jerry Mar, with the US Forest Service. My family knows her as the lady that tripped over the microphone cords on camera right before a morning news briefing on the status of the fire with her coffee. Maybe it was just our family that thought that was hilarious and watched it over and over on repeat. And no, she didn't trip with the torch. Not that I was wishing she did or anything. Although I did have my camera ready, just in case.

You may wonder if this is a photo of the Nuvaring. It's not. Although every city should have large reminders that controlling the size of the population is a good thing. Because when you have large masses of people with too much time on their hands then they come up with these stupid ideas like wearing swim caps and taking pictures of themselves. Which really doesn't better a community, unless you just need some comic relief because a fire burned 346 homes to the ground and then a crazy shooter killed 12. Then it actually does.

So we picked up our swim caps and got assigned to a square in the grid. Where we sat around and waited while eating trail mix. This is Colorado's state food in case you don't know. Well, not officially or anything. But everyone knows it is. It doesn't actually have to be official. So we stood there in our caps for 10 minutes while some guy in a utility truck with a bucket got the aerial shot. Or so we hope. Did we break the record? We still don't know.

And really it doesn't matter. Because unofficially, I think we all know we did win. We're winners.

Photo credit Birgit Landin

Cause look how committed we are to the cause.

And by we, I mean my friend Lori. Who was even willing to break the world record for woman in a swim cap pooping in public.

So I ask you? How? How could we be losers? Unofficially, we're not. Not yet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Tentacles

In my human form you may know me as Marie. But to my children I am the alien who merely uses my human form to ruin their lives. And then blog about it. Which ruins their lives even more. And it's really, really laborious with my alien tentacles I'm disguising in these really, really intrusive hand formed mittens. That I confess are excruciatingly painful, to type in.

What my kids don't realize is...

Spending every moment of the summer with them isn't a picnic for me either.

I don't live to nag at them.

I don't nag at them because I don't like them.

Because I couldn't be bothered nagging someone I don't care about.

Because I actually hate nagging.

So I save that for the ones I love.


So therefore, by simple logic, it should be obvious that I love them.


Because I care enough to nag the very, very best.

I'm glad that they are finally in bed so I can take off these painful mittens and let my tentacles breathe.

And now I'll take this moment to apologize to my alien parents for ever having been a teenager.

Yes, mine truly were aliens.

Cause they're Canadian.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Organically Green with Envy

The one thing that really drove me crazy in Morocco, above all else, was the lack of crisp, varied, bugless organic greens. So, now that we're back in the states and belong to both Grant Family Farms csa and Costco, I have more greens than I know what to do with. Which I love because it forces me to try new recipes. And as I've said before, I'm a total recipe whore.

When I have spinach I'll sauté it in garlic, olive oil and soy sauce. Maybe throw in some sesame seeds. Or, I'll make creamed spinach with a little grated parmesan cheese, garlic, onions, nutmeg and, of course, cream.

I think it goes without saying that I make lots of funky salads. On a side note, I'm still in awe of how many salad dressings there are in the grocery store here in America. And, even though I told myself I would make our salad dressing from scratch once we moved back because I was so used to that in Morocco, I caved on that one real early.

When I have kale on hand, I shove it in the blender, add some frozen mango, coconut water and the secret ingredient. Which is cayenne pepper. Seriously. This recipe whore likes it spicy!

I made this war-torn looking greek inspired roll out of some mystery greens that came in my csa basket. I got the recipe after begging my friend Lisa for it after trying hers at happy hour. In addition to mystery greens, it's got dill, cilantro, feta, nutmeg, garlic and of course phyllo dough rolled haphazardly.

Then, I came across this arugula recipe. And I've been dying to try it to use up my massive heap of arugula.

I know you're green with envy at my slouchy posture, prominent forehead wrinkles and quirky awkwardness. And you know what? It's all organic. But, really don't be ashamed to spread the love and admit that you got this awesome new recipe from a recipe whore.

Enjoy and Cheers!


Friday, July 20, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer

Summer. My favorite time of year. Long days spent outside. Hiking. Biking. Camping. Lazing at the pool. Seeing friends. Staying up late. Sleeping in late. It's all so magical. Well, it is, if you're a kid. But, if you're a parent, you know there ain't nuthin' lazy about summer. Except your kid. (Or maybe it's just mine.)

Because in order to make this magical, lazy summer happen, I'm the freakin' Wizard of Oz behind the curtain in charge of making a horse of a different color. My kids have no clue what I do all day. So when summer rolls around, there is always the disappointment about a month in that even though it's summer, the bills still need to be paid and the floors still need to be cleaned.

And it's painful.

For all of us.

Because you see, I'm lazy too.

Oh, I want my kids to know all the work and choices that go along with being an adult. I want them to know what a pain in the ass it is to call the state tax office to clear up the states mistake they made sending you a late payment bill. (Turns out they weren't wrong after all. Oops.)

I want them to share in the pain of waiting at the DMV with me. (Which was the shortest line in a DMV EVER. Then, I didn't have the right paperwork after all.)

I want them to know where their food comes from and that all that organic nutritional food I serve them is the best fuel for their bodies. (And really freakin' expensive, so they better freakin' eat it.)

I want my kids to see me reading a good book and writing my own stuff. (And forging through the fact that I can get very intimidated to write after reading a good book. Although in a sick twist, reading a crappy book totally inspires me.)

I want them to see me deposit money in the bank and know that I'm saving for our future. (Even though all they want to see, still, is the big vacuum tube at the drive-thru.)

I want them to see me work out and know that I make a choice every day to keep it strong and healthy. (Or so I thought.)

I want them to know all this and so much more. In theory of course. Because in reality, all these endless explanations about taxes and why it's illegal that they touch a bottle of liquor in the liquor store are completely exhausting. Not to mention really, really frustrating. Because I'm really lazy at heart. And even though I try, really try to be patient on a daily basis. I am not by nature a patient person.

So, when I get up for my morning work out, which over the summer consists of a lot of Jillian Michaels dvds, I'm proud I got off my lazy ass to do it. And that I can spend the rest of the day resting on my laurels. Or haunches. Or beach chair. Whatever.

Last week when I was kick boxing with Jillian. And she insisted, "This is you time, baby." Right when I was sending her the telepathic message, "Then YOU would shut up!" My girls walk in. Crap. "Good Morning", trying my best cheerful voice whilst I'm dripping with sweat and pretending I'm kicking Jillian Michaels in the face with my foot. I'm trying to keep it all together.

But, you know how if you whack your head on something. Like really, really hard. And you're instantly enraged and you can't even help it. That's what happened when my daughter studied Jillian, looked back at me and informed me, "You're not doing that right."


Then I started.

"You do it then! This is harder than it looks you know!"

That's the abbreviated version of my tirade anyhow.

And this is when I made a new rule. Oh, I will take them to the dmv. I will make them hike 5 miles uphill. I will teach them how to do our taxes so they don't get screwed up again. I don't care. But they just can not under any circumstances watch me do a Jillian Michaels dvd again. Ever.

Lazy days of summer, my ass.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Camping is In-Tents

The trip was planned before we even left Morocco. Camping at Monarch at an elevation of 10,500 ft with 6 other families. The wildfires didn't burn here, but there is a fire ban in most counties in Colorado due to the dry, hot conditions. There will be no s'mores. No sing-a-longs around the campfire. So why the hell are we going again?

Because do you know what an intense pain in the ass it is to pack up a family of 6 to go camping? Do you? Not to mention that we are packing them in to a 1977 vw bus that has no air conditioning, no radio, no dvd player and takes mountain passes at the intensely slow rate of 28 mph. With me lecturing that this is what it was like back in my day, that they're spoiled and to suck it up. The kids intensely disliked sucking it up. I think they may need more practice...

So we stopped for lunch to let the engine cool off. Or was that the kids? Whatever. And we found this great spot over looking the river rafters. Where Ember got an intensely close view of the action.

When we got we (and by we I mean Craig) set up the camper and the tents. Tense, I mean tents, because our family is too big to actually sleep in the bus. And the kids are pretty intense of spending the entire weekend away from their intensely embarrassing parents anyway.

That's when our friends, who were there the night before, told us their intense story about their run in with the bear. And that we can't leave a crumb of food out. And that this thing is a bear trap. I didn't recognize it without the red and white table cloth myself.

The kids of course were completely oblivious because they were intense on chopping this log into toothpicks with axes. And playing mafia and murder. You know, wholesome things...

Us adults entertained ourselves at happy hour by having a boxed wine wine tasting. It was so intense we didn't even need cups.

And when you've had a couple of spigots full of wine having a Billy Joel/Green Day/James Taylor/Paula Abdul (yes, I said Paula Abdul) sing-a-long seems so intense, like we're all one with the universe. Or something like that. Although, I'm sure our campsite neighbors would disagree though...

There was this really great hike we were so intense on doing so the kids could fish the lake at the top. It was intensely beautiful.

Until it started raining. And then things got even more intense when it started hailing. Yes, that white stuff is all the hail that pelted us, all the way back down with the thunder and accompanying lightening.

Thank god the fire ban was lifted while we were there and we could have a fire to dry out. Although some shoes were a bit too intensely slow roasted and subsequently charred. At least they dried right?

Now I knew bears would like the smell of say a twinkie. But who knew the bear would also like the intense stench of smoldering rubber? And that's when I snagged this intensely bad, blurry photo of said bear. I'm sure if you take a spigot full of Bota Box Old Vine Zinfandel (the winner of the wine tasting), set your sneakers on fire and squint really hard you'll be able find him in this photo. Or Waldo. Or maybe not.

Now, you might think that the bear was the scariest part of the weekend. Or maybe the hike in the lightening and hail. But no. The most intensely scary part of the weekend was having Dixie, the camp host, ream us out for putting up a clothes line to dry out our clothes completely drenched from our hike and the last day of rain.

That's why we're going to be Whistling Dixie for years to come when we reminisce about this trip.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Belly Dance vs. Roller Derby

I knew it had to be one or the other before I even left Morocco. It was either my old love, roller derby. Or my new love, belly dance. I wish I didn't have to choose because I love them both. Both for different reasons. But with conflicting practice schedules, not to mention 4 kids whose social agendas impede mine, I must choose.

I thought I had this figured out though. I thought the clear winner was belly dance. I found an instructor here in Colorado I adore. Who teaches both oriental and tribal styles and I'm taking them both. And then something happened.

Photo courtesy of Fred Greenwood

Actually, a few things happened. First, I saw my derby wife, Mama Beast, who has just recently retired from derby herself. And the memories started to flood back. Then last week she was the one who told me about the passing of another derby team mate. We all started derby at the same time. It was sudden and freak passing. A tragic reminder that life is too fleeting. To just do it. Do it now. Whatever your "it" may be.

Then, on Saturday, the wife and I went to the new banked track leagues bout. See, we skated flat track. Most of the country does. Because most of the leagues in the country can't afford the track.

Oh my god. I want to skate it's curves. To take the outside and slalom back down and knock a girl to her knees clean to the inside of the track.

Photo courtesy of Fred Greenwood

I want to be covered in bruises.

I want to wear a really big belt buckle that could really bruise someone else. (But in reality just injures me.)

But, did I tell you at my last belly dance class I got my sword? Yes. Sword. And I freakin' LOVE it? My kids are all like, "Why can't I have a sword?" I tried to explain that they could if they became my personal sous chef with it. But they didn't get it. So I ended with a stern "Don't touch mommy's sword."

I want to dance with a sword on my head.

With really big earrings. (That could seriously injure myself or others. Yes, both the earrings and the sword.)

Look, I'm simultaneously balancing the sword and earrings. And, check it out, no hands. And I'm not the only one who thinks I look like a penguin in this photo right?

So what will it be? Dance or Derby? I don't know yet. Feel free to vote. (Although your voting has absolutely no effect on what I'll actually choose. Do it anyway.)

No matter what I do, I'm definitely keeping my derby wife.

This post is dedicated to the memory of MurdeRita. RIP

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The People in My Neighborhood

We noticed it when we first moved back to Colorado. It was obvious without the 9 foot walls to contain it. Maybe I saw it before we moved away. Maybe I didn't. But, I'm sure I took it for granted. Then the fire happened. And the flames couldn't burn it. In fact, they ignited it. And it spread like wildfire. Community.

Everyone lives in a neighborhood. But not every neighborhood has a sense of community.

When we bought our house here 7 years ago we didn't realize the investment we made. We were very well aware of our financial commitment, but what we didn't realize is that the more prodigious commitment was the emotional investment in the people in our neighborhood.

After all, this is where my kids have met some of their best friends. (Ones who still play a twilight game of hide and go seek.)

This is where I stalked the parents of my kids best friends, until they finally gave in and became some of my best friends. (As if they had a choice.)

Here my kids can walk over to my neighbor Carol's house for some foster grandma/craft time. (Did I mention my kids' mother is NOT crafty? Or fun.)

My kids walk to school, which is right down the road from my house. Where we know and love all the teachers. Where my friend Hillary just started a community garden.

Our favorite hang out is Squeak, the soda shop owned by our friends down the street who are moving to a new neighborhood, but will always be a part of this one.

You see, the people who live in this part of town? They're different. They tend to be the relaxed, down to earth, outdoorsy types. Ones who are more self possessed than invested in possessions. With an intelligent sharp wit. And an almost unnatural love (or at least tolerance) for the deer that freely roam (ok, rule) these parts and sample (ok, consume) their gardens and flowers. Unless that's the rabbits. Or the bears.

If you're one of the lucky ones, maybe this sounds like your neighborhood.

If you're not, maybe this used to sound like your neighborhood. Before the fire took your home.

And what does a community do when a fire ravages our neighbors homes?

They organize.

Because Americans are doers.

So, as the flames crested the ridge and threatened our community, smoke and ash saturated the air, a long line of cars evacuated. In the most orderly fashion I have ever seen in my whole life. And I was completely in shock having just moved from Morocco where the concept of a queue is nonexistent.

Friends helped friends, neighbors helped neighbors, and strangers helped strangers.

Within the span 24 hours, the community had taken care of their own. Opening their homes, lovingly preparing food and sharing it far and wide, signs of appreciation for the firefighters filled the north west side and t-shirts to benefit the victims were already designed and on sale. Allowing anyone, anywhere to become part of our community's recovery.

While the fire took some our neighbors homes. It didn't take our community. It illuminated it.

These are the people in my neighborhood.

This post is dedicated to the firemen who worked tirelessly to save our homes and to my friends Lynn and Deb who lost theirs.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


When I left you you, we had just escaped the fire cresting the ridge headed toward our house. While we headed east, away from the fire. Even though the flames were behind us on the west side, the smell of smoke covered the entire city. So, it was probably for the best we couldn't find a hotel in Colorado Springs and headed on a journey 35 minutes south to Pueblo, which seemed a whole world away. It's a good thing we brought our passports. So we could get in. Unless that was so we could get back out. Anyway, I'm just bummed no one in Pueblo stamped them.

Now there's a whole bunch of things we could have done while we were evacuated...

We could have gone to visit our old friends the Zellers who we knew from Germany and helped their daughter celebrate her 2nd birthday by inviting ourselves over and having an impromptu party.

Maybe we met a neighbor we didn't know who lives 5 doors down from us in our neighborhood in the Springs at the hotel in Pueblo.

We might have moved to an open hotel room in Colorado Springs for Craig to be closer to work.

Or just to be closer to the action.

Or maybe we really came back so we could buy a new car.  The first new car we've ever owned.

I could have offered to pet sit for my friend Kirsten's dog and cats, but we were in a hotel room.

So maybe we went to her friend's house where Kirsten and her brood were evacuated to pick up her more hotel friendly lizards to pet sit instead.

And maybe those friends of my friend, who were left with the dog, the cats and (by mistake) the crickets we're supposed to feed to the lizards, asked us to stay for dinner.

And perhaps my kids played with their dogs, rode their ATV and zip line, and thought it was better than Disney Land and never wanted to leave.

And maybe we became friends with Tom and Donna and they invited us to stay at their house with them. Or maybe that was the wine...

We could've gotten kicked out of the hotel we were staying in and ended up taking Tom and Donna up on their offer.

Oh, did I mention I may have forgotten to pack the ADD meds like I always do when we go anywhere.

We could've found out my favorite store, Goodwill, was offering free vouchers for clothes and shoes to families evacuated by the fire.

Where we might have gotten these super sweet jeans. Absolutely FREE!

And maybe my super crappy computer, with super fleeting access to the net during the evacuation finally connected and I found out my friend Lynn's house burned down in the fire.

But, one of these things didn't happen.

The question is. Which one?


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