Munchkat Turns 30

IMG_4096The youngest member in our family has turned 30.  In most ways, this isn’t that big of a deal.  People get older and someone had to be last.  But while other friends are adding a new generation to their family trees on a seemingly daily basis, ours is an “aging population.”  I don’t mean for this to sound sad, or morbid – it’s just that at some point in the not-so-distant past, 30 seemed old.  And now the Munchkat is 30, and she’s still the baby.  Still the little sister.  Still the Munchkat.

She has never liked birthdays, but I managed to coax her into letting me come out to see her for a weekend.  While I was there to celebrate an adulthood milestone, we did so in a way that also celebrated our childhood together.  Our weekend was filled with long talks, slathering sunscreen on poolside, plenty of dessert, and a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.  I even brought Teddy and Doggy to hang out with Sara B.

Neither of us can really remember when we went to Universal Studios last.  I think it was the summer after my junior year in high school when my family came to pick me up after finishing a summer school program in Santa Barbara.  Munchkat thinks she went for her Grad Night as a senior in high school.  Either way, it’s been a while.  Our only goal was to hang out in Harry Potter World and not have to deal with SoCal traffic.  Our plan was to leave her place by 11 am so we could get there by noon, but a comedy of errors set us back an hour.

IMG_4067We finally did arrive and bee-lined straight for HP World, which to my dismay was covered in fake snow (I believe the first words out of my mouth were, “I did not come all the way out here from Montana to see more snow”).  We got our bearings and decided to stand in line at Hogwarts to get on The Forbidden Journey ride.  The inside of the castle was really well-done – Dumbledore’s office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom (neither of which I recognized as such until Munchkat said something – she’s a much more die hard fan than I am).  And of course they had the talking pictures.  Peppered throughout the line were several lines warning that if you were prone to dizziness and motion sickness, this was not the ride for you.  We ignored them because, doesn’t every ride have to post signage like that?  I’m sure you can guess where this is going.

IMG_4057The ride turned out to be terrifying and stomach turning.  I won’t give it away, but basically it involved being really close to an IMAX-like screen in a moving carriage so that you could experience every nauseating dive and turn to the fullest extent, while being surrounded by literally everything that scared the shit out of you from the books and movies.  Munchkat said she spent most of it with her eyes closed so that she wouldn’t puke all over everyone, and at some point I may have been heard screaming, “This is not okay!!!”

IMG_4062After The Forbidden Journey, we needed to re-group a little bit, so we spent our time walking around Hogsmeade checking out the shops.  We went into Honeydukes and Zonko’s, Ollivander’s and the Owl Post, and a few other places, too.  We did take the wand tour, where we got to see someone fitted for their wand.  Neither of us volunteered when they asked, but wish we had when the person chosen butchered both spells they were asked to recite.  After our window shopping, we grabbed an adult beverage at the Hogs Head.

At this point, we’d dragged out the experience as much as humanly impossible.  In fact, we probably set some type of record for hanging out in HP World without getting bored.  But we still had another few hours to kill before we could drive back home and avoid traffic, so we hoofed it across the park to check out the Transformers experience and take the Studio Tour.  We then went back to HP World to pick up some wands and take some silly pictures.

A note about the wands:  On our first visit, we declined to be fitted for wands because we didn’t want to carry them around with us all over the park and we were both a little nervous about price, since none of the wands had price tags on them.  There were two types of wands – character wands (e.g. Harry’s, Hermione’s, Ron’s, etc.), and non-character wands, which were made out of different types of “wood,” and you could match the characteristics of the wood to your own personality.  We figured the character wands would be “collectibles” and therefore more expensive, so when we overheard someone being charged $40 for one, we figured they’d be affordable and would get ours later.  When we did return, around the time of park closing, we picked out two non-character wands and were shocked to find out they were $55!  Then, we opened the boxes to discover that these wands are interactive and that we could have gone around HP World to certain displays casting spells and getting the displays to do things all day!  We felt a little cheated of this experience since we didn’t have time for that, but they’re still a fun souvenir and we did get an awesome picture with them.


We wrapped up our day on the City Walk and had dinner at Margaritaville, which was another, albeit unintentional, nod to our childhood (we know more Jimmy Buffet lyrics than I care to admit).

We had a really fun weekend together and I’m glad I got to spend some time with my sister.  We talk every day, but it was nice to see her face, see her home, see her friends, see her cats.  Happy Birthday Munchkat.  Here’s to 30.

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National Parks: Yellowstone

On Lill’s continued quest to visit all 50 states and make the most out of her National Park Pass, she came out West again, this time to visit Wyoming, Yellowstone and the Tetons.  It was October and there was a brief discussion about camping that was quickly vetoed by the fact that it was already below freezing at night in Missoula.  At the suggestion of one of my co-workers, we stayed at Chico Hot Springs, instead.  Chico is a little out of the way from Yellowstone, but it ended up being kind of nice to have a hot pool to soak in and a warm bed to sleep in after a day of Fall hiking.

On our first day, Lill and I had a very serious conversation about bears.  I have never actually seen a bear in the wild here, and I wasn’t really stoked about the idea of potentially running into a hungry, sleepy one while we were hiking.  Lill had a bell, but as A likes to say, the only thing bells do for bears is make their poop jingle on the way out.  I hadn’t invested in any bear spray because Lill said she would pack some, but it turns out she wasn’t allowed to bring it on the plane, even in her checked luggage.  Lill was kind of miffed about this, and she wasn’t in the mood to pay for bear spray again.  Cleverly, she thought to ask one of the rangers if they had bear spray they wouldn’t mind giving us, pointing out that other people who flew in to visit wouldn’t be able to take their bear spray home with them.  The first ranger we talked to was a little snarky and condescending about the whole thing and basically told us no way.  But Lill was determined and kept asking around until she found a ranger who gave us a can of spray!  Feeling invigorated and accomplished, we hit the road to see the sights.

Our first stop was the Mammoth Hot Springs area, where we did a short, easy 5 mile hike and checked out the hot springs terraces.  My aunt and uncle had been to Yellowstone earlier that year and showed me some pictures of its remarkable geology, but even so, seeing it in person was pretty impressive.  I also have a weird penchant for the smell of sulfur.  I think it’s because I grew up near (and often took kids on tours as a camp counselor) marshland in the Bay Area and so that rotten egg smell kind of reminds me of home.

The next day, we drove out to Old Faithful, stopping along the way to check out other geysers and hot springs (including Beryl, which is one of the hottest springs in Yellowstone).  Thankfully, we got to Old Faithful just in time – we only had to wait around 15 minutes or so before it erupted.  There’s a good video of it in the National Parks album.  On our drive, we also got to see a lot of elk and deer and even a bison herd.  We saw a few coyotes and other small mammals and birds.  We finished off our day by doing a short, but more strenuous hike to the top of a mountain to take in the view one last time before heading out for the day.

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National Parks: Glacier, Summer

My second trip to Glacier was about eight months later when my dad came to visit me in August.  Initially we thought we might do some car camping, but Dad has been having some nerve issues that make it difficult to sleep in a bed, let alone on the ground, so we got a cabin instead.  I can’t remember where we stayed (and my Google search isn’t turning up the right one) – it was at a campground just outside the park.  If you’re headed to the West Entrance, you’ll drive by it on your left.  It was pretty fancy camping – hot showers and a restaurant and everything.

We spent the next day in Glacier itself.  We went along the Going to the Sun Road again, which was a fun comparison for me.  Obviously, it looked a lot different in the height of summer and we were able to hop out and look around more.  We did check out Avalanche Creek/Falls again, and I have to say that I was more impressed with the winter view.

We made it as far as Logan Pass and walked the Hidden Lake Trail.  The trail is very do-able.  There’s a wooden boardwalk part of the way, and at the end of the trail is a spectacular view of the valley.  We saw a bunch of mountain goats and some other smaller animals.  There are a lot of pretty wildflowers along the trail, too.  Afterward, we drove back and tried to do some hiking around Lake McDonald, but that didn’t turn out like we hoped, so we ended up just sitting on the beach for a bit before going home instead.


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National Parks: Glacier, Winter

It’s been a while, so I kind of forget how this trip came about.  It was definitely initiated by Lill, who had some time off in December, 2015 and said she wanted to come out and see me.  I believe there was some talk about cross-country skiing, maybe because she had bought cross-country skis earlier that year for her birthday.  She also put in a request to see Glacier, even though we knew we wouldn’t be able to do much because it was buried in snow.  Fast-forward through some haphazard planning and a Groupon for a skate ski class and an overnight stay at the Izaak Walton Inn and we were ready for adventure.

Funny side note about the skate ski class:  We had absolutely no idea what we were in for.  When we arrived, we were probably the youngest people by 10 years and also probably the least experienced.  I, for one, had never been on a pair of skis in my life and had to stop the class after the basic instruction was finished in order to ask how one might stop on skis.  Most of the people there had been training to skate ski or cross-country ski with the instructors for a while and this was an annual thing for them.  Lill and I didn’t even really know the difference between skate and cross-country skiing and were kind of surprised when we found out they were really different (the main distinction is that skate skiing is impossibly hard).  At any rate, we learned to skate ski the first day, and then due to heavy snowfall the second day, we did some cross-country skiing instead.  Pictures of my first cross-country skiing adventure are included in the National Parks photos.

After the skiing we drove into Glacier National Park and made our way to the Apgar Visitor Center.  As midwives, we thought the Apgar Visitor Center was pretty funny (Apgars are the scores we give babies at one and five minutes of life.  There are five categories where babies can earn up to two points each, including:  respiratory effort, pulse, color, tone, reflex), and so we staged a photo depicting babies with high and low Apgar scores.  Then we actually went inside and asked the park ranger what we could realistically do in a couple of hours dressed the way we were (practically pajamas, for the record).  Park rangers are kind of amazing at making these kinds of assessments and recommendations and so she told us to basically drive down the Going to the Sun Road until we reached the point where it was closed and make some stops along the way.

We drove along the road stopping here and there for pictures.  We were breathless at Avalanche Creek/Falls, where the water was almost an iridescent green color, and got out to walk the Trail of the Cedars, which is pretty much where the road ends in winter.  The Trail of the Cedars is a nice short walk, very easy and has a wooden boardwalk the whole way around.  It was a little greener and less snowy there due to the tree cover, but we still passed by some frozen waterfalls.

After that, we made our way back to Missoula, grateful for our time together and the opportunity to see a little slice of Glacier.

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National Parks

If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.

We must not only protect the country side and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities … Once our natural splendor is destroyed, it can never be recaptured. And once man can no longer walk with beauty or wonder at nature, his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted.

– Lyndon B. Johnson

Last year I had the good fortune to visit both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.  Two of these trips were prompted by visits from my friend, Lill, who has both a national parks pass and a desire to see all 50 states.  She is also an intrepid traveler who is not put off by things like the cold months in Montana and Wyoming.

One of the most wonderful things about Montana is its natural beauty and its wide open spaces.  People choose to live here so that they don’t have to deal with other people.  I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard someone say, in this town of less than 70,000 humans, that they feel Missoula is getting too big and that they’re thinking of moving further out into the country.  We are blessed to have a combination of mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers, and hot springs and it’s not that hard to get to any of them.  I may do a series of posts about other outdoor adventures in Montana, but the next three will focus on my three trips to the nearby National Parks.

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Women’s March on Washington



Last night, my sister and I had a conversation that went something like this:

Me:  OMG, I am losing my shit.  I just got mad at A for not making meatballs.
Munchkat:  I just yelled at C for something stupid, too.
Me:  Anger translator – I’m exhausted and have prepared and eaten dinner by myself every night this week and I just want some company and someone to share the burden.
MK:  Dude, yes.
<back and forth bitching about all the working, all the housekeeping>
MK:  We suck at being balanced, high functioning, not crazy girlfriends.  At least for today.
Me:  Ha, here’s the thing, though:  I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t feel this way.  So maybe instead of thinking half the population is crazy, we could think about how society and the patriarchy don’t provide us with the support we need…

…when women’s earnings peak at 40 and men’s earnings peak at 55…

…when men earn more than women for doing the same job, for the same number of years, EVEN IN fields that are traditionally dominated by women (NURSING, TEACHING – I’m looking at YOU)…

…when having kids is both expected of women and considered to be a pathological problem that excludes women from earning money…

…when the Federal government doesn’t offer paid maternity leave…

…when “maternity leave” is synonymous with “short-term disability…”

…when the AAP recommends six MONTHS of exclusive breastfeeding and ideally a year before weaning and women are expected to return to work six WEEKS after they give birth…

…when society then condemns nursing and pumping in public…

…when the mechanic/financial adviser/salesperson talks to the man present, even if the woman asked the question…

…when every single person who gets offered a seat by themselves on an airplane with extra seats is a MAN…

…when a man can complain about something and gets what he wants and when a woman complains about something she’s told to “Just CALM DOWN” (or worse, is attacked in some way)…

…when women are slut-shamed for not wearing enough, but have symbols of their faith torn from their heads for wearing too much…

…when men are complimented on their character and women are complimented on their looks…

…when women are told that they can’t have abortions, but they also can’t have birth control…

…when women are told they’re “freeloaders,” for relying on welfare and social services to raise the children they weren’t ready for or didn’t want in the first place…

…when women stay in abusive relationships because they don’t have other options, support, or places to go…

…when LGBTQ women, women of color, disabled women and sex workers are marginalized and excluded from the conversation about women’s rights…

…when lesbians are told they “just haven’t found the right man…”

…when men can rape women and then not be punished for it…

…when a woman is told it is HER fault she was raped…

…when women can’t be leaders because they’re not enough like men, but when a woman seeks power and leadership roles, she’s “cold,” “unrelateable,” “unfeminine,” a “BITCH…”

…when the President of the United States can boast about “grabbing[women] by the pussy…”

…when women are told they are part of the problem for marching AND women are told they are part of the problem for not marching…

…when it doesn’t matter what we do, how much we do, or how well we do it, it’s simply NOT ENOUGH…

Me:  Yeah, women are crazy.
MK:  Yup, we nuts.

Download more free art for the Women’s March on Washington here.

Read more about the Women’s March on Washington here.

If you are marching for personal or political reasons, I support you.  If you are not marching for personal or political reasons, I support you.

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2016 Resolution

I made one resolution at the beginning of 2016.  It was to stay better connected to the people that matter.  That meant returning phone calls more promptly, reaching out to people I hadn’t spoken to in a while, writing real letters, etc.  I wanted to include a goal of seeing people face-to-face, but the blessing and a curse of my peripatetic adulthood is that my friends and family are scattered far and wide and so it wouldn’t be financially practical to go see all of them.  So I chose one friend, C, knowing that a) it had been at least two years since I had seen him and b) he might not stay in Colorado forever, making him harder to visit!

And then something amazing happened – I got to see A LOT of people face-to-face this year.  I got to meet new partners and family members and visit new places and catch up and witness growth and change in people’s lives.  Here’s a rundown of my 2016 New Year’s Resolution:

January:  The Munchkat, Slim and Cirque Roots.  A and I planned a trip down to San Diego for the AcroLove festival.  Since we were down there, we flew into LA and saw my friend Slim, whom I know from my time in Japan.  I spent NYE with my sister and then saw the girls from Cirque Roots down at AcroLove.  I even got in a bonus visit with someone that I hadn’t seen since childhood, whom I essentially grew up with!


June:  10-year College Reunion, plus K.  I haven’t been to a single reunion for any school I’ve ever been to.  I don’t see the point and it’s not my cup of tea.  But then Lewis & Clark reminded me that it’s been 10 years since I graduated and I thought it would be a good opportunity to see my friends who still live in Portland since it is only an 8-hour drive away.  I also got to see K, one of my good friends from OIMB.


July:  C.  Hung out with him and his wife down in Denver, experienced my first escape room!  Learned never to fly Frontier.

August:  Dad, AJ/UL.  Dad came to visit me in the beginning of the month and we did stuff like Glacier, the internment camp at Fort Missoula, and tried fishing in the Blackfoot.  He even helped me fix up a bike.  AJ and UL came later in the month and they got to see the Acro Flash Mob and enjoy all the food and drink Missoula has to offer.

October:  R, Lill.  I saw R while I was cramming in my  CEUs at UW in Seattle, and finally got to meet his baby daughter.  Then, on her quest to visit all 50 states and visit all the National Parks, Lill ventured out West again and I met up with her in Yellowstone.  We were happy/sad that we didn’t see a bear.

December:  Obachan and Family, Linds, C, Yale Friends, J.  It’s been almost two years since I’ve been back to the Bay Area.  I specifically planned this trip to see my elderly grandmother since she’s not able to travel that much anymore.  She had a mini stroke (doing well) a few days before I arrived and so I saw her in the rehab facility with my Dad, aunt and uncle.  I stayed in Oakland with Linds in her new house and got to see how much her son had grown and how she continues to grow as a parent.  I saw some friends from Yale and was reminded of how important it is to have peers in your profession.  I almost missed J, but we managed to make it work and it both frightens and amazes me that we have known each other for close to 30 years.  I saw C, a friend from my doula days and even got to see M & A and their son again since they were visiting M’s family in the Bay Area!


I feel really blessed and grateful to not only have these people in my life, but to have gotten to see them all this year (some of them twice!).  There are still people that I didn’t get to see, but I hope that 2017 will continue the trend of 2016.

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