Friday, October 21, 2016

Below the Surface

I often house and dog sit for a friend of mine to pick up some extra cash. I like to think of it as a staycation in a way - I get a house and yard all to myself, raid their collection of puzzles for something to do, occasionally do some of my laundry in their machine, and as a plus my commute to work is cut nearly in half. I've been to their house so often as a guest and as a sitter that it kind of feels like home. I've been there so often that they even gave me my own key.

Each time I house sit I make sure I clean up after myself and have all of my stuff gone by the time they get home so they can easily fall back into their routine. However, recently I had been staying at their house for a few days and had gone to work in the afternoon, leaving my stuff out in the room where I stay, probably with a few dirty dishes in the sink from breakfast and lunch, and fully planning on staying another night. Somehow we had gotten their return dates mixed up, and my friend and her family arrived home that evening - one evening earlier than I had in my calendar! It wasn't a big deal to them, but I was slightly embarrassed that my mess was still there.

I stopped by after work to pack everything up, and chatted with my friend while stacking my folded laundry into my suitcase. She made a comment on how organized my suitcase was, and I had to laugh! Just out of sight beneath the neatly folded clothes was an entire load of clean laundry laying in a jumbled mess. 

And that got me thinking. How many of us seem to have a neatly organized facade while lurking beneath is a wadded up mess that we hide? How many times do we present our best selves while concealing our true situation, emotions, or needs? I think this was a good reminder for me to not take everyone at face value. There is more to a person's story than what they present to the world. It reminded me to pause before judging, give the benefit of the doubt, and be kind even when wronged, because I don't know everyone's story. I just hope the world does the same for me, because we're all just one crazy mess underneath.

Not my friend's house.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Birthdays - Sushi and Camping

My roommate Mary and I both have June birthdays. Mary's birthday falls a few days before mine, and this year she decided to have a sushi party. I was asked to help since I am the resident sushi master; I did all the shopping for the dinner and taught all of her guests how to roll their own sushi. Handing me all dinner responsibilites freed up Mary's time earlier in the week to figure out how to make dessert sushi: 

I did help out one evening by peeling fruit rollups off their plastic and separating the green sections for the "seaweed," and shaping starbursts into various shapes for the "nigiri." I now can tell you how many seconds you need to microwave said starbursts to make them maleable. And yes, some colors require different times.

Overall I think they turned out rather cute!

On the day of the party (Saturday) I ran to the grocery store for some last minute items when I got home from work, and learned that Mary's birthday is international sushi day! We had no idea - I sent her this picture from the store and we had a little freak-out-because-we-couldn't-have-planned-Mary's-party-better moment.

I think there was between 20-25 people at the party; we stuffed our faces and even ended up with leftovers!

The next day (Sunday) I packed up my car after church and headed out on the road to start my birthday celebration. This year I decided I wanted to get away from the city and go camping. I drove about 3 hours north to a campground I had booked online a few weeks prior. The most awesome thing about going up on a Sunday afternoon was that the campground was already emptied of weekend partiers, and the place was nearly empty - nice and quiet! I grabbed the best campsite which was only a 2 minute walk away from the river:

I had invited multiple people to join me, but because my days off aren't Saturday and Sunday like normal people, only one friend was able to make it. Lynette was driving up to join me for the first night; she couldn't take more than a day off of work. After checking in with the site manager and setting up the tent I borrowed from Lynette, I hiked to the top of the hill to try and get some signal on my phone to check on Lynette's status. I never could get through. I waited around for a while hoping I could see her car coming over the bridge before the turnoff. I got bored and took a makeup-free selfie. Go nature!

Lynette arrived before sunset, got her tent set up, and we quickly set off to do some fishing; hoping to catch something for dinner. It's a good thing we each packed extra food, because we didn't catch anything then, or on Monday when we went upriver. I'm definitely a novice when it comes to fishing (though I can gut them without help), but got some tips from a lady on Monday on river fishing. I need to pick up a few doodads she recommended and will try again sometime.

After returning from the river on Sunday night we cooked the dinner we had brought up, and watched a nearly-full moon rise brightly over the mountains. The weather was honestly too hot for camping, but I still slept really well even without being able to use my air mattress (I blew the fuse on my cigarette lighter in my car when I plugged in the air pump).

Monday we were up with the sun, made breakfast, and headed out to explore. We checked out a trailhead for some natural hot springs, but decided almost instantly to pass on the hike since hiking and hot springs aren't very enjoyable when the temperatures were already climbing into the 90s. We instead drove upriver where we explored part of a small town, fished, and waded. I got mildly sunburned (of course) before we headed back to the campsite around 3. Lynette had to pack up and head out so she could work the next day, and I stayed at the campsite to spend my first night in the wilderness alone.

I ate a snack in my tent, then decided to try fishing one more time before making dinner. Wanting to get my line out before the sun sank too low, I left quickly not thinking to put my bag of groceries back in my car. When I came back from the river I was walking toward my tent when I saw something inside of it move! "Ha!" I laughed - "There's a SQUIRREL in my tent!" And then quickly my amusement turned into concern... "There's a squirrel IN my tent." The darn thing was so determined to get to the loaf of bread in my bag that he/she had climbed up the side of the tent under the rain fly and chewed it's way through a seam before dropping down inside:

It (or the rest of it's crew) had also attacked a few other areas of the tent:

The squirrel couldn't get back up to the hole to leave and was madly flinging itself against the screen door trying to escape when I got near. I opened one door, then walked around the back to scare it out. The thing had obviously been stuck in there for a while - it had pigged out on the bread, pooped on the floor, left squirrel hairs all over my pillow, and peed on my blanket. The picture doesn't do it justice - it looked like someone had spilled a bunch highlighter ink on it. Did you know squirrels pee neon yellow? Thanks for the present...

I grabbed some tissue to take care of the poo, chucked my blanket in the corner (I didn't need it anyway because it was so hot), cleaned up and threw away the crumby bread mess, hid the food back in my car, stuffed the empty tent bag in the hole of the tent, and flipped my pillowcase inside out so I wouldn't rub my face on the hair. 

I made myself dinner, watched the shadows creep down the mountain and a full moon rise above them. I wasn't nervous to be on my own, really, but decided to be smart and have my hunting knife in my tent with me anyway. I read for a little while by flashlight, and then went to bed. 

Thus ended the last day of my 32nd year.

I woke up the morning of my birthday, packed up in the hazy early morning sun, ate some yogurt and left for home before the air could get too hot. I stopped at an REI once back in the city for a tent repair kit, then spent the majority of the day by myself (this happens a lot on my birthday in recent years) before Mary got home from work and took me to dinner as a happy birthday/thank you for making sushi for her party.

On our way out the door we saw a hawk sitting in the tree by our driveway. You may not be able to tell, but he had a smaller - dead - bird in his claws and he was systematically ripping it's feathers out and raining them down on my parked car (I'm starting to think wild animals don't like me). I think you can see one of the feathers falling below the branch.

I spent the late evening hours trying to patch Lynette's chewed up tent, but ultimately I'm just buying her another one and keeping the squirrel-marked one for myself.

Camping by myself that last night got me thinking. For years I haven't gone places or done things I could have; usually because I think I need someone else to take part in the adventure. I've often thought 'when I have a family I'll (insert activity of choice here).' Since there's no sign of family happening any time soon I've decided I'm tired of putting things off. I'm working hard now to pay off my debts (I paid off my car in September - hooray!) so I have the ability to go and do the things I want to do more often. Hang on world, I'm coming for you.