Solar Eclipse 2017: Idaho

I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black
-The Rolling Stones

“Do you want to get robbed and murdered?” I argued. “Because that’s how you get robbed and murdered!”

We were discussing potentially abandoning our well-laid plans to view the total solar eclipse in Oregon for our absolutely-zero-plans to do so in Idaho instead. The news leading up to the eclipse kept affirming that Madras, Oregon was going to be everything we wanted to avoid and we’d been dreading the mess all week, though still determined to stick to our plan. The wildfires leading to evacuations in nearby Sisters, Oregon was the proverbial final straw.

“But we have a bed and a roof waiting in Oregon,” I said, one last effort to cling to the plan. Again, I alluded to the potential of disappearing without a trace, “You know, people who will notice if we don’t show up?” I really did have this irrational fear that if there was no one expecting us at a pre-arranged destination, then we’d never arrive, but you can’t say you have an adventurous spirit and then miss a once in a lifetime opportunity fretting about million to one odds. We packed the camping gear and hoped we’d find a safe camping spot as we headed to Idaho.

It was the best decision we could have possibly made.

Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho. I believe they are aptly named.

I was still apprehensive as we left in the middle of the night on Saturday, so I couldn’t have guessed that that we would have a campsite acquired, set up, and ready in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area by early Sunday afternoon. There’d been hardly any traffic and the trip was smooth otherwise. Joe was kind enough not to say I told you so or to be in any way smug about the fact that we’d arrived alive and well.

He chewed hungrily on his ham and cheese sandwich as I talked about visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (since we’d arrived without incident and with plenty of time to spare). Having the serious nature-crush on volcanoes that I do, I really didn’t want to miss an opportunity to see the lava fields at Craters of the Moon. Though we’d just driven over ten hours, we got back in the car and drove another few hours to see some cooled lava.

Craters of the Moon, Idaho

It was already dark by the time we made it back to our campsite, and I hadn’t seen a night so clear with so many brilliant stars in a very long time. Joe took the rainfly off the tent so I could fall asleep staring at the sky. I would love to say it was perfectly tranquil, but I kept envisioning Jason Voorhees’ masked face popping into view, looming above me, machete raised high into the air. Apparently, I wasn’t over the possibility of being murdered yet, but I was tired. I accepted whatever fate was coming and gave in to sleep.

A golden morning!

Fear of machete-wielding mad men might have been the theme of the previous night (and day), but I woke to a glorious morning. Eclipse Day!

It’s probably a jerk move to tell a bunch of people how happy I was that there weren’t a bunch of people, but you know what? I’m a bit of a jerk and I was absolutely thrilled that the viewing area we chose remained uncrowded. Even the porta potties were almost pleasant!

Thank heaven for small crowd sizes!

Then came the main event!

It started with a giggle, but then I broke into full on laughter, the kind of laughter that only comes from pure awe, joy, and delight. I danced under the shadow of the moon (if only for a handful of seconds), in the darkness of the day, like a damned fool. After all, it was just me, Joe, and a few other crazies standing in an Idaho field staring at the sun. No one noticed or cared. I should have danced more…and harder.

And then it was over. I know that’s anticlimactic after everything I’ve written leading up to this, but it was over. Done. There was nothing left to do but head home.

We made it back home at 2am on Tuesday morning—four hours before my alarm, but it was worth it. It was so totally worth it.

 

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Sunrise at Sunrise

The alarm went off at 2 a.m. I groaned and considered snoozing, but the memory of the time I accidentally hit dismiss instead—and nearly missed a morning meeting as a result—poked through my half-awake haze. I untangled my legs from the sheets and forced my feet to the floor. The morning ahead was going to be far more enjoyable than attending a meeting.

We’d been saying for quite some time that we were going to make it to Sunrise, Mount Rainier National Park by sunrise to see the mountain in its morning glory and then get some hiking in before the heat of midday. It’s a bit of haul from our apartment to Sunrise, so we grabbed our cold brew coffee, made breakfast smoothies, and headed out the door and into the night.

The trip had been timed well and it’s not as though there’s a lot of traffic in the wee hours to muck things up. However, when we pulled over so I could go behind the little girls’ tree (damned cold brew coffee), I noticed the sapphire blue of pre-dawn begnning to glow on the horizon. We jumped back in the car and raced the sun…up switchbacks.

I wish I’d gotten a better view of the owl that swooped near the car and then changed course, retreating back into the woods. Sadly, it happened too fast to capture a picture. Relying on the split-second view and my memory to guide the research I’ve done since, I believe it was a northern barred owl.

We made it to Sunrise Point in plenty of time to capture this:

Mount Rainier faces the dawn. I love the line between the light and the darkness.

and this:

Mount Rainier on the near right; Mount Adams on the distant left. Lenticular clouds remind me of flying saucers.

and to watch the golden morning sun slowly illuminate the hills around Sunrise Lake:

The view of Sunrise Lake looked like it came straight out of a fairy tale.

I’d love to say that I had some quiet, spiritual sunrise moment, the mountain top glowing almost neon pink in the background, but Sunrise Point is a busy place at that hour and though the people were generally quiet as far as people go, I wasn’t attempting any morning meditation. Really, I didn’t want to. I wanted to get to the visitor center to see the trail options and to get an idea of the potential hike ahead.

I recognized the look on my husband’s face. I’d seen it before and had come to expect it. He’d been looking from the large trail map at the trailhead, to the wooden sign with arrows pointing the way to each trail just slightly beyond, to a rocky peak in the distance, and then back to the map to confirm. He repeated this a couple of times, and when he looked at me, the hopeful expression reaching his eyes, I sighed, “Let’s go to the peak,” and gestured to the trail ahead. He beamed.

I took a closer look at the map to see what I’d gotten my seriously-afraid-of-heights ass into this time. The peak in question was Dege Peak, and oh yes! Named the Sourdough Ridge Trail, the trail to the peak followed the ridge. The trail itself is rated moderate, but ridges often mean steep drop offs. I don’t always do so well with those.

Luckily, for most of the hike, I was far too distracted by the beauty of the subalpine meadows and wildflowers in full bloom (and by swatting the biting bugs that live amongst them) to think too much about falling off the side of the mountain.

I have more shots of meadows and wildflowers than I’d like to admit. It wasn’t just my fear of heights slowing me down.

I’d been assured that the trail was a broad one, and it was. It’s likely even broader than I recall, as I’m well aware that fear influences perception. You know that camera effect in movies where a long hallway is stretched far longer and becomes much narrower? Yeah. That’s what happens to my perception on a trail with a drop off to even one side. The trail could be 5 feet wide, only a few paces bordering a drop, and those few paces would look, to me, like a mile on a tight rope.

And there I was, on the ridge, a steep drop-off on either side. My knees turned a little rubbery and I had to remind myself to breathe. I could turn back, I knew. My sympathetic husband turned around to tell me as much, but I was not turning around.  “Keep going,” I told him. “I got this; it’s just going to take me a minute.” I forced my perception into something closer to reality and pressed on. I’m glad I did.

Mount Rainier (14,441 ft.) and Mount Adams (12,281 ft.) in the distance (far left), from Dege peak (7,008 ft.)

Had those rocks been more comfortable, I might have stayed at 7,008 ft. for a bit longer.

I might have even been a little proud of myself for getting that much further in my fight against fear—or at least, fear of heights.

Descents are always a little tricky. I’m traveling in the direction gravity wants me to go: down. The issue is that I’d really rather not slip, slide, tumble, fall, or otherwise plunge to my death to get there. I was just starting to get comfortable, traveling at a good clip if I do say so myself, when I heard rocks start to fall down the side of the mountain. My first realization was that, thankfully, the falling rocks weren’t coming from me or anything I was doing, nor were they falling near me. Phew! The second realization was that I was in bear country; signs outside the visitor center made that clear. While I was fairly certain that it wasn’t a bear causing stones to roll, I turned to confirm. No bear. Phew, once more! I heard rocks again, this time at a lower altitude. My husband and I stopped and stood scanning the steep grade for the source of the disturbance. We couldn’t see a thing until the mountain goat flicked its ears and tail.

We both tried to get a picture, but the goat was too far off. We each zoomed in as far as we could on our respective phones/cameras, but the pictures were crap. We’d seen clearer images of Sasquatch! So, I decided to stick my phone back in my sports bra and enjoy the moment in mountain goat territory. As a Capricorn, I enjoyed a giggle.

We completed our descent without further incident (if you can call an almost-encounter with a mountain goat an incident), and spent the rest of the day scoping out places for new adventures.

Stay tuned!

The Great American Road Trip

Black Dodge Charger

BeBe has seen quite a bit of the country and has served us well on each trip near and far. I love her.

As some of you may have read or might recall, two years ago my husband and I moved across the country. Not only did we learn that, holy crap! We can survive 11 days in the car together; we also learned that we kind of liked it. We figured that if we could do 3,000 miles in 11 days with the cat and a whole bunch of our crap and honestly say we enjoyed ourselves, then we could enjoy 2,250 miles in 10 days by ourselves driving down the coast from Seattle, WA (hitting the coast at Aberdeen, WA) to Monterey, CA and as much of Big Sur as possible after the landslide (spoiler alert: not very much), then turning back north up the interior to see more of the Cascade Volcanic Arc.

Now, many will argue that setting the kind of pace required to cover that much ground in 10 days doesn’t allow a person to really see any place at all. I would argue that while you certainly don’t get to know a place, you can see so much more when the destination isn’t a location, but the journey itself.

 Southwestern Washington and the Oregon Coast

The trip started out a bit cold and rainy and my mood matched the weather. I missed my cat. I considered the implications of exploring the beauty of my country while simultaneously worrying for its future. Then I stared out the window, comforted by the fact that I didn’t have the first driving shift, and missed my cat some more.

But by the time we reached Cannon Beach, OR, a place I had to see because the movie The Goonies is still a favorite, the sun had come out. I slapped a genuine smile on my face, ready for adventure.

The Oregon coast is home to some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen, so my smile proved easy to maintain.

View the gallery of Southwestern Washington and the Oregon Coast


California Coast: Northern to Central

Growing up in Central Pennsylvania, I had a very clear vision in my head of what California was—as depicted in Beach Boys songs and Hollywood movies. I thought I’d learned how narrow my view had been years ago while visiting southern California. Nope. The diversity of the northern California coastal landscape is difficult to deny. From the Redwoods (covered in the next section), to the rolling hills and blue skies of Sonoma County, to the boardwalk and sandy beaches of Santa Cruz, there was no lack of beautiful and different things to see.

View the gallery of the California Coast: Northern to Central


California Redwoods

It’s hard to stand under the majesty of giant trees, hundreds of years old, and not think about conservation. As some folks might have guessed, I’m a bit of a tree-hugger (evidence in the gallery), but I defy anyone to stand in the presence of those trees and not feel—something. It’s a peculiar feeling to stand next to something so imposing and think, we need to protect you.

Now, I’m not going to pretend it’s all spirit and majesty in the forest. The Avenue of the Giants features a good amount of kitschy roadside tourist attractions traps. My advice: get a guidebook and decide what you want to see before you start down the Avenue. There were a lot of stops we decided not to make because we were already all kitsch-ed out.

View the gallery of the California Redwoods


Bridges

Bridges are testaments to human ingenuity, beautiful marvels of modern engineering, and the best way to connect one side to the other (both literally and metaphorically). They can also be absolutely terrifying if, like me, you are scared of heights and can’t help but notice the hundreds of feet between the bridge and whatever rocky and/or watery hell awaits below. I admit to being intimidated by particularly high bridges, but then I think of the people who had to build them. I think of the people who spent the days of their lives, for however long they were needed, suspended hundreds of feet in the air, staring those rocky and watery versions of hell in the face. They had to build the bridges; we just had to cross them.

View the gallery of Bridges


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

I’d posted some pictures of Monterey, CA to social media and a buddy of mine suggested that if we were still in the area and had the time, we should go up to the north end of the Monterey Bay and check out the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. This friend knows that I’m a fan of the 80s movie The Lost Boys, which was filmed in Santa Cruz; many of the scenes on the boardwalk.

Due to the Big Sur landslide, we had the time—a whole extra day, in fact—so we headed to Santa Cruz. I’d like to point out that this is the second spot we hit specifically due to fuzzy feelings of nostalgia for a movie featuring Corey Feldman. Say what you want about the guy (we all kind of do) but he’s a treasure straight from my childhood. Mr. Feldman, I got nothin’ but love for ya.

View the gallery of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk


Victorian Homes and the Winchester Mystery House

Northern California is home to some of the most beautiful (and most often photographed) Victorian homes in the country from The Carson Mansion and The Pink Lady in Eureka, CA to the painted ladies of San Francisco, but the crown jewel of the Victorian mansions for us was the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose.

A little background: My husband and I took this trip to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary. We were married in front of the Haunted House ride at Knoebel’s Amusement Resort in Pennsylvania, so it was only natural to add a real “haunted” house to our travel itinerary.

The short version of the story behind the Winchester Mystery House is that Sarah Winchester, widow of William Wirt Winchester, built the home at the urging of a medium who told her that she was being haunted by the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles, and if she moved out west, bought a house, and kept building on it, the spirits would leave her alone. The house is full of oddities said to be meant to confuse and/or appease the spirits, like stairways to nowhere, windows in the floor, and the number 13 represented throughout. Unfortunately, photography was prohibited inside the mansion.

By the end of the tour I was fascinated by the story of Sarah Winchester, a woman I would not call crazy, though history and folklore often do. Grief-stricken; yes. Desperate; sure. Determined; absolutely. I’m just not so sure about “crazy”.

View the gallery of Victorian Homes and the Winchester Mystery House


Volcanic Ground

Two things become apparent when standing on volcanic ground. One, the Earth is really, really old. Two, it is not yet done forming. High glacial peaks stand witness to the many thousands of years and eruptions it took to form them. Their very existence is cause to consider the power behind eruptions so explosive that they can completely transform millennia-old landscapes in minutes—and that some volcanoes are not dead, only sleeping, and could erupt at any time. (Even as I sit safely writing at my kitchen table, I know I am only doing so under Mount Rainier’s good graces. Thank you, Rainier, for not exploding and killing us all today. I appreciate it.)

Yet, a peaceful feeling came over me as I stood in a field and observed that I was surrounded by volcanoes. Humans and our issues mean nothing to a volcano, and that is a humbling realization. If it had been time for one of those mountains to wake up and scream, then it would have been time and there’d have been nothing I, or anyone else, could have done about it. There is a sense of peace in that knowledge, and maybe that’s why I love volcanoes so much.

I’m blessed to finally check Mount Shasta, Crater Lake, Three Sisters, and Mount Hood off of my volcanic views bucket list.

View the gallery of Volcanic Ground


Wildlife

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for critters. My inner monologue during any wild animal encounter is basically just a reminder on loop that wild animals are, in fact, wild and that trying to make friends with them might not be the best idea. It took a hefty bit of will to swim away from the little sea lion who clearly didn’t know that humans are supposed to stay at least 50 yards away from him. He wanted to play and so did I. However, I was happy that we encountered the bear from the safety of the car, and don’t even get me started on jellyfish swarms.

As you may have suspected, sharing these experiences brings me back to the condition of our environment. I remember looking at that little sea lion and thinking, if humans make this planet uninhabitable for ourselves, well, we had it coming. We knew better and we destroyed it anyway. But what did this little guy do? What does he have coming? I knew enough not to try and hug him, but I really wanted to.

View the gallery of Wildlife


Special Thanks

As mentioned earlier, the thing about doing a trip like this in such a short time is that you don’t really get to know a place—or any of its people, but still, there are some folks I have to thank. First, the staff at Paradise Pet Lodge, Woodinville, WA for understanding that my cat is my little boy, that I’m a little high strung when it comes to him, and that I needed more reassurance than he did. You should know, and it only occurred to me after the fact, that when he lies on his back the way you described, he’s asking for belly rubs—something my Salem only does with those he trusts. Thank you. Without you, this trip truly would not have been possible.

Thank you to that cool family we met in Crescent City, CA, for the preview of Crater Lake. Also, in Crescent City, thank you to the convenience store employee who gave us extra ice. You have no idea how much that helped that day.

To Gene, our tour guide at the Winchester Mystery House, your passion for the property and its history (and I suspect maybe even for Sarah Winchester herself), brought it all to life for me, too, and I cannot thank you enough. Few tour guides have brought me to tears; you are one.

Thanks to Robin at Harbick’s Country Inn, Rainbow, Oregon for treating us like we were the most important people in the world, for being genuinely excited to see us, and for sharing your knowledge of the area. I hope that surprise you were telling us about works out. Thanks, in general, to the people of Rainbow, Oregon for being awesome.

Thanks also, to those along the way not mentioned here, people who—even in the smallest ways—contributed to making this the best trip we’ve taken yet. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I’m Child Free by Choice and I Finally Got My Tubes Tied

Actually, I had my fallopian tubes removed altogether but we’ll get to the specifics later. What’s important right now is that finally, after more than a decade, after being turned away twice, after enduring the endless condescending comments on the matter, I’ve been allowed to make my own decision about my own body and reproductive choices and have myself permanently sterilized.

My journey to sterilization started in Pennsylvania, which is important to note because in addition to spanning many years, this journey crossed state lines. I acknowledge that getting a tubal ligation (or in my case, a bilateral salpingectomy) was easier here in Washington state than it might have been in some other parts of the country. I urge you to look into the laws in your state and talk to your doctor regarding facility policy and the law.

I knew at a young age that motherhood wasn’t for me. Sure, I had hypothetical children, but they only got mentioned when declaring how differently I would do things if and when I had kids. Sometimes, I’d read a book or see a movie and there’d be some kick-ass character with a cool name and I’d think, Hey, that’s a really cool name. I’d totally name my kid *Blah* but that’s about as far as any aspirations of motherhood went. So, in my early twenties (in Pennsylvania), I asked my doctor about tubal ligation. Her response was that I was too young to know for sure that I didn’t want to be a mother, that they didn’t ever sterilize women my age unless they’d already had a couple of children, and that I needed to wait until I was at least 25 to have this discussion. The first time around, I could see my doctor’s point. I was 21 or 22 at most and in the height of my party days, not my serious thought and knowing what the hell I wanted from life days. At the time, even I conceded that maybe waiting was best.

Fast forward a handful of years—we can skip over the times I white-knuckled it, begging the heavens for my period to start any time it was so much as a second late. I’d turned 25 in December. January found me back at the doctor’s office asking about tubal ligation. I knew with certainty that I didn’t want to be a mom, but my doctor had other ideas. She looked over my chart, confirming that I had not yet had any children. “You’re single?” she made her statement a question. I confirmed that I was, in fact, single. If anything, I thought that would help my case, but then she looked at me and said the words I’ll never forget: “What if you meet a man who wants kids?”

An educated, successful woman had just let those words come out of her mouth. I was dumbfounded by her betrayal. I’d already ended a handful of potential relationships because the men in question wanted to be fathers someday and it hurt to break up, but by goddess I did it because I knew for damn sure I didn’t want children. How dare this woman not take my word for it!

I don’t remember what I ended up saying to her when she told me to ask again at 30. I just remember feeling betrayed, angry, and helpless. I knew in that moment that I absolutely despised her. I know that still, in more private forums, I speak of her with all the spite I can spit.

I’d met my now husband by 30 and he was more than willing to get a vasectomy after we got married and were certain that we weren’t having children. (I told him that if he was marrying me with hopes that I would change my mind about motherhood, he shouldn’t marry me.) While his offer to get a vasectomy was sweet, it always stuck in my craw that he had to make it at all. Yeah, I get that vasectomies are easier to perform (and reverse) and are less invasive than tubal ligations. I get that there are fewer risks associated with vasectomies. But what I also get is that if I’d been allowed to make my own choice about my own body, the situation would have been taken care of long before I’d ever met him.

Let alone that a vasectomy on my husband’s part would only protect me from his business. In a world where women are disproportionately victimized by men and society is happy to look the other way and saddle women with the consequences of their attackers’ actions, having my husband cut simply wasn’t good enough for me.

 The Consultation

Fast forward some more. We’d moved out of Pennsylvania, spent some time in Connecticut (where, in fairness, I might have had an easier time getting a tubal ligation but my husband was still trying to convince me that snipping him was the better idea), and then moved on to Washington.

We’d been in the greater Seattle area for just over a year when it occurred to me that my last gynecological exam had happened back east. So, I looked at our health insurance plan, found an in-network doctor and facility, and made my yearly appointment.

The physician’s assistant and I started going over the standard new patient questions. I confirmed that condoms were my method of birth control because I hated the pill and wasn’t thrilled with the idea of an IUD. She asked if I was happy with my current method of contraception. No, I was not happy. I told her that I’d been wanting to get my tubes tied for a while but had been turned away twice, the last time on the grounds that I apparently hadn’t met a man to tell me what I was allowed to do with my body yet. The PA was offended on my behalf. She said I wouldn’t face those kinds of problems here and gave me the name of the doctor she recommended for the consultation and surgery. Due to the nature of our health insurance policy, I decided it would be best to schedule my consultation after the new year.

I still feared being told I would need my husband to sign off on my decision, so I brought him to the consultation with me. He wanted to be there anyway ‘cause he’s a good dude like that, but when I told my doctor about my previous experiences and my particular reason for having him there, her disgust was clear. She told me how she hadn’t even believed that my story up to this point really happened to people, that stories of young women being turned away for being single and childless were nothing more than sensationalized urban legends, but now here I was: her fourth patient to tell her the same story.

We started going over my options. We talked about non-incision (hysteroscopic) methods like Essure, but since I wanted my procedure to be immediately effective and I don’t generally fear surgery, we focused on laparoscopic (surgical) methods. Clamped or clipped, severed and cauterized, or removed altogether? All options were highly effective (98%+) in preventing pregnancy*, and if I understood my doctor correctly, all would reduce my risk of ovarian cancer; however, bilateral salpingectomy stood out for its higher level of risk reduction. It’s not like I was using my fallopian tubes anyway. They were pretty much just sitting there being beacons for cancer. “Pull ‘em out,” I said.

The 30-day Waiting Period

Of course, it wasn’t that simple. If it had been, I’d have lain back and let her take them that afternoon. Since sterilization is a procedure with a high regret risk attached, I had to sign a form that said I understood that my procedure was permanent and that reversal procedures were often ineffective. The paperwork also needed to prove that I’d been given at least 30 days to consider my decision; so, once signed, I actually had to wait the 30 days. By my calculations, I’d been waiting for something between 16 and 18 years, so what was one more month but time to consider the inevitable blog post?

I stopped being flippant about that month the very next day. I was on the phone with one of the ladies from the billing department at my doctor’s office trying to find out about medical codes and oh-so-fun health insurance stuff. She asked what I was having done and somewhere in my response the words, “rip that garbage out,” rolled off my tongue.

I’m a writer. I understand the power of words and I had just used the word “garbage” to refer to working parts of my healthy, functioning reproductive system—the system that creates life. The implications smacked me in the face.

The next thing to roll off my tongue was an apology to the woman on the other end of the phone. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t say that. Just because I’m not using my fallopian tubes doesn’t mean they’re garbage.” She was gracious, but we were both clearly jolted by my contempt for my working system.

So, of course, I had to address that contempt. It wasn’t hard to figure out where it was coming from. It came directly from years of being denied my preferred choice in managing my reproductive system. A little contempt was understandable, justifiable even. What I needed to figure out was whether I was letting it cloud my current decision. Was getting my tubes tied more about finally getting my way and proving someone else wrong than really wanting to have it done?

I ended up spending the next 30 days as the good folks of the establishment hoped I would. I asked myself every question about my motivations from personal to political and back again, and it turned out that only one question mattered:

Do I believe that there will ever come a time in my life when finding out I’m pregnant would be anything short of personally devastating?

No.

My decision was clear.

 The Procedure and Recovery

My surgery was scheduled for the afternoon of Friday, March 10, 2017.

The intake process went just slowly enough that I was happy I’d brought a book, but quickly enough that I didn’t make much progress. Multiple times I was asked to confirm which procedure I was having and whether I was leaving the hospital that afternoon. I knew from previous surgical procedures that all the repeated questions were safety precautions, checks to make sure everyone was on the same page, but they’d always made me nervous.

I asked for sedatives. I got them. I got sleepy.

And then I was waking up.

People were smiling. I was told that I’d been trying to make jokes. It’s the “trying” that concerns me. My humor is questionable when I’m wide awake; there’s no telling what I think is funny when I’m half out of it, but people were smiling so I’ll take that as a good sign.

One of the doctors asked me if I was feeling any pain. I said that I had some cramps and he pushed a magical little button and the pain went away almost immediately. I must make it clear, though, that the cramping wasn’t bad in the first place. The day after the surgery, a friend asked me if the procedure hurt or if I was in any current pain and I replied honestly that at no point did I suffer worse than I do with second or third day menstrual cramps. All women are different, and I don’t know if my statement is one of how bad my monthly cramps are or of how painless the procedure was, but there you have it.

I was left with one tiny little incision in my belly button, and an even smaller one a few inches below.

While the doctors and nurses were all great (really, they’re angels in my eyes for finally doing this for me), I was especially touched by the nurse who took my hand and told me that she, too, had made the decision not to have kids and that she never regretted it a day in her life. It was like this special moment of solidarity, validating that our choices belong to us and we’re not any less women for making them. We can still be goddesses without being mothers.

I was told not to do any intense workouts or heavy lifting for a week after the surgery and not to have sex until cleared for it in the post op appointment (about two and half weeks after surgery), and that was it. I left the hospital with a weight lifted off my shoulders and a pocket full of pain prescriptions.

It was going to be a good weekend.

I returned to work on Monday.

Was it worth it?

At the time of this writing, I’m only a few days removed from the surgery. Gauze pads have given way to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Band-Aids. I’m not in any pain, even without pain meds, and I’ve got the tell-tale itching of wounds beginning to heal. Little in my life has changed. I’m still child free by choice, only now I don’t really have to think about it. Once I am cleared for sexual activity and I get over shuddering at the thought of unprotected sex (yes, even in my monogamous marriage), I predict that I will enjoy a lot more spontaneity and passion in my sex life now that the once ever-present fear of pregnancy has been removed. The truth is, I have never felt this free in my life and my only regret is not having this done years ago.

But like I said, I wasn’t allowed to make that choice then.

 

*Tubal ligation does not protect against STDs.

Random Thoughts: On Writing, Politics, and Silence

I really love what she has to say about silence vs. being loud.

Reggie Lutz

Today, I am supposed to be writing a dinner scene among a family between whom there is no political agitation. Given the political agitation that is currently in the very air we breathe this is no easy task. The brain desperately wants to engage with that while the particular demands of the story I am writing now require that my brain engages with something else. The fictional family’s conflict that I am writing about has to do with combatting negative paranormal energies that they are, as humans on the living side of the equation, unaware of. This has nothing to do with politics, as far as the moment goes. Except that I remember in fiction, as in politics, conflict arises when character agendas diverge and come into opposition. So maybe I can use the present turmoil as a way in, as I write, even though the characters are fighting with…

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On the Importance of Strong Female Characters

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From the Women’s March; Seattle, WA; January 21, 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend the Women’s March on Seattle, a sister to the Women’s March on Washington DC. Before I lose you, I have no intention of talking politics in this post. What I am going to talk about is something I can’t believe is still controversial: the importance of strong female characters in fiction.

As I marched with 175,000 other humans (the estimate at the time of this writing), I noticed countless signs referencing some of my favorite female badasses from fiction. I took in multiple nods to space rebels, vampire slayers, and warrior princesses and knew—without a doubt—that every last person who argues that female heroes aren’t interesting or “won’t sell” is absolutely full of shit. I saw little girls in Wonder Woman costumes and Princess/General Leia t-shirts (I was wearing a General Leia shirt myself), and knew—without a doubt—that the strong female characters we see on screen and read about in books really do have an impact on us and how we view ourselves, each other, and our roles in the world around us.

What would General Leia do?

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These three signs caught my attention, but you couldn’t swing a pink pussy hat without hitting a Leia Organa reference. Considering that Carrie Fisher was a badass in real life, this is not surprising. If the dead really do get to hang around and see what the living are up to, I’d like to think that she got a giggle from the “Carrie Fisher sent us” sign.

I’d like to think that she’d be proud to be our rebel leader.

Are you ready to be strong?

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Fans of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer not only know where the words on this sign come from, but many of us can recite the entire speech—if we can get through it without crying, that is. Submitted for your misty-eyed pleasure:

For people like me who rarely view embedded videos in an article, here are the highlights:

They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power should be our power…From now on every girl in the world who might be a slayer, will be a slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

-Buffy Summers

A whole damn lot of us made our choice and are ready to be strong.

And then there’s this:

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The picture says it all.

Xena will always have a special place in my heart. It was a Xena poster I hung on my wall to remind me not to take any shit, particularly from real-life Joxers.

I’ll never forget the time I told a guy that I was a big Xena: Warrior Princess fan and he responded, “You know Xena and Gabrielle are lesbian icons, right?” Well, I hadn’t actually known (naïve me, I guess), but the only troubling thing about finding out was this guy’s tone and his obvious suggestion that there was something shameful about being a lesbian icon. Fuck that noise.

So here’s the thing…

The articles reminding us that one march isn’t enough are already flooding my feeds—as well they should. Marching is great, but there is more work to be done. There are the things we can all do as citizens; then there are the things we can do that are more personal.

I’ve always known that the presence of strong female characters in fiction is important, but this march solidified for me what a great female character can inspire in real life women. As a result, my dedication to writing these characters has been renewed. I intend to contribute as many badass women to the fiction world as I can because…well…I can. And of course, I don’t want to do it in some pandering political way—obvious and boring as hell to read—but in a way that’s honest. A way that inspires.

I suppose I can call it my duty. I prefer to call it my privilege.

Trails from the Crypt

With Labor Day just over a month in our rear view, the autumnal equinox a couple of weeks past, and the weather forecast assuring me that the rain has returned and is staying for a while, I find myself reflecting on summer. I spent quite a bit of time hiking trails at various state and national parks and tormented my Facebook friends with photos of mountain views, glorious sunsets, and every damn waterfall I came across all summer long. That is, admittedly, a pretty happy and sunny method of torture, but then, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows on those trails. Sometimes, I come across some seriously creepy shit.

Since summer is officially over, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year (Halloween), I thought I would take this opportunity to share a shiver in the form of some of the more unsettling pictures from this summer’s adventures.

The Silence of the Ram

Okay, so here’s the deal. I have no bloody idea what this is.

I mean, seriously!

I mean, seriously!

I just know that when we turned the corner at Paradise Valley Conservation Area and there it was, I had to get photographic evidence. Now, I’m sure that whatever this actually is, it’s just the result of some perfectly innocent creepy kid shenanigans and not in any way related to any real kind of evil ritual. However, coming upon a scene that features a pink plastic pony head with blackened eye sockets stuck on a human doll body jammed into the throat hole of the pink pony body – the ruined and severed human doll head perched on a nearby rock – would make anyone stop to ponder. Perhaps it might make some run. Either way, can someone please explain the ram?

My WTF meter is still spiking on this one and will likely continue to do so. A couple of weeks after this photo was taken, my husband and I were back on the trail and this little horror scene was still there. It even had some new additions, though nothing worth taking a follow up photo.

That said, the next time I’m there, you better believe I’m going to check for it again.

The Tortured Soul

The cool thing about this picture, aside of its high creep factor, is that it was one of those “and we didn’t even notice until we looked at the pictures later” scenarios. We decided that we wanted to stop at Ape Caves, Mount St. Helens Lava Tube. We didn’t venture very far into the cave because we didn’t have adequate light sources and hadn’t planned to do any deep spelunking that day anyway. Perhaps the poor lighting provided by the flashlight on my cell phone was why I never noticed what looked like the agonized face of a tortured soul trapped in the rock.

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I’m in the blue hoodie. The giant tortured face is to my right.

It wasn’t until we returned home and started going through the pictures that my husband exclaimed, “Wow! That’s sort of freaky!” and I saw it. Since we were taking photos in the dark, it’s entirely possible that the face was a trick of the light and that even with proper illumination, I will never see the giant tortured face in person, but again, I’m going to go back to look.

Also, I’m seriously considering using this for my next author photo!

The Third One Because I’m Weird and Need a Third One

I admit that this one is a bit of a stretch but I really like the number three. I like it so much that I’m willing to reach as far as this photo just to include a third example. Also, I like to brag about hiking the Carbon Glacier Trail at Mount Rainier National Park. It’s a long one and we do it in a day.

If you look past the ants, the glacier can be seen in the background.

If you look past the ants, the glacier can be seen in the background.

As we were climbing the final yards of the trail with the glacier well within view, my desire to get close-up shots of high altitude wildflowers battled my desire to keep climbing. At that moment, I was particularly interested in the thistle when I came across this one.

I’m not sure what kind of ants they were. I’m not sure why they were all over that thistle, but I couldn’t help but think of swarming bugs on dead and dying things (or really, just swarms of bugs at all), and get a little shiver. I still say I’m reaching a bit with this entry; at the same time, I’m getting kind of itchy thinking about those ants crawling on me.

How ‘bout you?