29 June 2017

Why ski in a tutu?

In 1987, a woman named Kathy Phibbs took four girlfriends to the top of Mt. St. Helens wearing a red chiffon dress. The mountain had been closed to climbing for 7 years after the 1980 eruption, and she felt the occasion called for special attire. At the top, she happened to run into a Seattle Times reporter, who snapped a picture of Kathy in the red dress along with the four ladies, who were dressed as can-can dancers. A week later it ran on the front page.

A tradition was born.

Now, every year on Mother's Day, hundreds of climbers and skiers visit St. Helens's summit wearing all sorts of festive regalia, mainly dresses and tutus. It was on Mother's Day 2012 when I first experienced this grandeur. My friend Johnny gets credit for officially launching #TeamTutu, as does my birthday-buddy Ben who took me to St. Helens that very first year. But it wasn't until after a 2013 trip to St. Helens, and a successful climb of Rainier that my personal tradition of the pink tutu was born.

The real reason I wear a tutu in the backcountry is because it invites conversation. It's the ultimate outdoor icebreaker. You cannot hike around in a tutu without getting noticed, and I would estimate I have 78% more conversations on the trail with a tutu than without. Just last month I hiked Angel's Landing in Zion with my grandfather. We were celebrating his 80th birthday. He wore a purple tutu that he picked out himself to mark the occasion. Everyone, and I mean ev-ery-one talked to us to see what was going on. When we got to the top they sang him happy birthday. The experience gave me chills. Lots of memories were made that day.

Aside from being fun, silly, and a conversation starter, the tutu has practical uses too. It doesn't exactly fulfill all of the 10 Essentials, but it comes pretty darn close.

Here are 10 practical uses for your tutu:

  1. Pillow. Who needs a pillow when you have layers and layers of tulle for comfortable head resting?
  2. Seat. Sap on the log? Moss on the rock? Slap this puppy down to keep your bottom clean and dry.
  3. Butt warmer. More layers = more warmth. 
  4. Towel. Spill something? Tutu's got you covered. Mop it up then lay the tutu in the sun to dry in minutes.
  5. Gauze. The tutu might not be the cleanest (see #1), but in a pinch can absolutely be used to dress or pad your wounds. 
  6. Sun protection. It happens: it's hot out, you're wearing shorts, and you manage to sunburn your bum from the reflection off the snow. That malady is much less likely if your bottom is covered in a tutu!
  7. Wind sock. Don't know where the wind is coming from? No problem. Whip that thing off and hold it high in the sky and watch it blow to your heart's delight.
  8. Fire starter. Not recommended for children under 12.
  9. Trail marker. Lost in the woods? Rip off a few pieces, tie them to a tree, and safely find your way back home.
  10. Locater beacon. I am not the type of person who should be left unsupervised. With the tutu - I'm not! Any one of my people, at any time, can ask, "have you seen the girl in the pink tutu?" Chances are there's been a recent spotting, and I'll soon be located.
There you have it! 10 more reason to wear a tutu. Now you just have to pick your color and get outside!  

22 June 2017

What Happens When You Don't Drink Coffee

I'm a 33 year old woman, have lived in Seattle for the last 15 years, and I don't drink coffee.

Go ahead and let that sink in. I know you need a minute.

Coffee, to me, is this mysterious elixir that has enchanted everyone else, yet I possess a strange immunity to its gravitational pull. My mom needs coffee to function in the morning and my dad carries the same cup of coffee around with him all day and nukes it for 30 seconds every hour or so. I certainly didn't come by this preference honestly.

The truth is I've never liked coffee. I don't think it smells good, I certainly don't think it tastes good, and I never enjoyed the hassle of having to deal with it as the very first thing you do every. single. day. I like that I wake up in the morning annoyingly perky without it.

I'm also cheap - my other more selfish reason for not joining the coffee cult. When I was in college I didn't like beer (did anyone?). Given to social pressures, I felt it was important to at least try to like beer. My tastebuds were persuaded over $3 pitchers of High-Life my junior year, and BOOM! I was a beer drinker. Now I love beer. I think it's tasty and delicious and the elixir of life, and I imagine the way I feel about drinking one at the end of a long day is similar to how you feel about your morning cup of jo.

The downside of liking beer, of course, is that I have to pay for it. Beer is expensive and so are my hobbies, so I continue to choose not to teach myself how to like coffee even though I can clearly see how much joy it brings so many people.

When you tell people you don't like coffee, one of three things happen: 

  1. You receive a look of horror that morphs into a look of repulsion before an insult is hurled at you related to the state of your mental health. 
  2. You are asked a series of questions: Why? How is that even possible? But how do you wake up in the morning? Does your life even have any joy?
  3. You are offered a cup of tea instead.
I don't like tea.

Beer and water. Wine. Occasionally a gin and tonic with lime. I'm a pretty simple girl. Unless I win the lottery, then I'll have an Oprah moment and it'll be COFFEE FOR EEEEV-RRRRYYY-OOOONE!

What's your shocking secret?

15 June 2017

Be Your Own Spirit Animal

Sarah McCroy embodies being your own spirit animal.

I was in Target when I first saw them. Unassuming. Hanging discreetly on a clearance rack. Discounted not once, but twice, and waiting for just-the-right-someone to take them home. 

I knew instinctively I was that someone

Without even trying them on, I walked to the front counter, paid $7.99 + tax, and was on my way.

I don't know what possessed me, but my life took an unexpected turn that day and I've never looked back. I transformed from a boring, legging-less nobody into the proud owner of lion-elephant-cheetah leggings. I had no worldly idea when I would ever wear them, but I knew they were awesome and my back-side was feeling neglected, so I bought solely because I felt strongly that, if I didn't buy them, I would regret not doing so at a future date. And the only thing worse than buyer's remorse, is NOT-buyer's remorse.

Conveniently, I had recently started wearing a tutu when adventuring and the colors complimented each other perfectly, so I packed my yellowish lion leggings next to my pink tutu as an alternative to your standard long underwear for an impending trip to Norway. With 7-ski days planned north of the Arctic Circle, I knew I'd put these Target Discounts to the test.

I was humbled by their performance. They kept my legs warm, dry, and chafe-free! And bonus feature: due to the seaming of the pants, every time I took a step it looked like the lion was winking at you (if 'you' are the person skinning behind me and 'you' have an unabashed desire to stare at my jiggling inner-thighs).

Jiggle away. Photo by Carley Ewert.

Thinking perhaps the performance was some Norwegian Voo-Doo, I brought the lion leggings back to the states for another test drive, this time on Mt. St. Helens for Mother's Day. Once again they performed like a dream. I had unlocked a magical backcountry combo: leggings + tutu. My inner wildchild was unleashed.

From then on I wore leggings with a tutu whenever weather allowed. I could claim it was for performance or some other reason, but in all reality, those leggings made me smile. Four years later they still do. I put them on and feel overcome with a sense of silliness and it helps me remember to not take life so damn seriously all the time. 

Recently someone called me their 'spirit animal' on Instagram, which I take as the highest of compliments. Their comment got me thinking: what if we all became our own spirit animals? Why do we care so much what people think or what people will say we we choose to do/wear/participate in something outlandish? Why does it matter? What is the point of doing whatever it is we are doing if not to amuse ourselves?

The Lion Leggings. In Norway.

In the last four years, I've amassed an impressive legging collection (Mario Car, Skeletor, and the Sphinx to name a few...) and have unabashedly worn the lion leggings close to 50 times. That brings my cost-per-use to less than $0.30 per wear. And isn't that what we all want? Stuff that makes us happy AND makes us feel like we've won the shopping lottery?

That's why I'm telling you, right now, to go out. Find something that brings you joy - something that makes you feel like your own spirit animal. Breathe in and blow your cares away knowing that you get to define your own happiness. Smile. 

Rest easy knowing that sometimes life is only about a lion winking at you from your inner thigh. 

08 June 2017

What’s the worst that could happen?

Imagine that yesterday you loaded the car with bright eyes and high expectations for a 10-day road trip. You smiled while locking your front door and hopped behind the wheel to start on your journey of exploration in the American southwest.

This morning, you woke up in the back of your truck next to a roaring river in a national forest in Oregon. It's awesome. Looking at a map, you decide to drive to the top of Crater Lake to explore what’s open of the Crater Rim road on your bike.

You’ve just finished unloading your bike when it happens. Even though you can’t see it, you know instantly how your life has taken a terrible, terrible turn.

A bug has flown into your ear.

Calmly, you call your companion to have a look.

“Hey, Kristina. I think there’s a bug in my ear. Will you come take a look?”

She pulls your head down, tugs on your earlobe, looks intently inside, and declares, “No, I don’t see a bug in there. I think you’re good.”

“Okay, I guess it flew out.”

No sooner have the words left your lips when you realize you are wrong. Very, very wrong. The bug is still in there and is, in fact, burrowing further into your ear. Dark thoughts go shooting through your mind. What if the bug never comes out? What if he crawls to your eardrum and starts munching away? What if he is a pregnant SHE and decides your ear is the perfect space to lay, oh say, 2,000 eggs?

“Oh God. It’s definitely still in there. I can feel it crawling around!!!”

You turn your head to the side, betting that the bug is more likely to crawl up than down. It’s moving again, but you can’t tell in what direction.

“Hey! Do you see it? Look at my ear and see if you can see it coming out!”

Your companion casually glances your way and doesn’t see anything. At your urging she looks again (she might not have been taking you as seriously as she should), and exclaims that YES! She does see it on the side of your face now. It has escaped! YOU ARE FREE! Having controlled your urges to squish it inside your ear, you now paw manically at your head and run to get as far away from the perpetrator as quickly as possible.

Congratulations. Your calm under pressure means you get to go on your bike ride. You did not murder a bug in your ear and as a result you do not have to go to the hospital. Happy Trails!

01 June 2017

5 Things I Learned When I Moved Twice in 12-Months

The good news is Jordan bought a cute house in this crazy Seattle market. The bad news is we had to move, and moving is the worst. Moving twice in 12-month is even worst-er.

We booked movers and packed boxes and pre-painted with the best of intentions, but nothing ever goes as planned and our noon-4pm move turned into a 3pm-8pm affair fraught with thunderstorms and houseplant homicides. To protect you from the same fate, I’m sharing the things I learned about myself (and can assume are true about yourself) in this moving process:

  1. You will turn you into a crazy person. Have you ever seen that diagram proving how humans don’t like change, and how change of a big enough magnitude will push us into irrational behavior? A move will do that to you. Instead of planning for the best-case scenario, go ahead and anticipate the worst case scenario now and then multiply it by 3. That will better prepare you for what’s to come, and hopefully keep you sane by comparing your nightmare to the nearly-as-bad reality of what’s happening to you. 

  2. You will have too much stuff. No matter how much you purge, you’ll end up with boxes full of crap you will never use or look at again. The amount of stuff I’ve tossed since moving has been astounding, and I’m only about 1/3 unpacked. Try to not buy so much stuff and you won’t have to deal with this problem.

  3. You will fit into one of two categories of packers: optimizer or dumper. The optimizer seeks to fill the box to its highest possible capacity, filling each nook and cranny with an item even if said item doesn’t match the other things in the box. The dumper will literally dump drawers into a box with nary a care about how the space is filled; maybe just one bowl fits in the box, or maybe an entire junk drawer. It doesn’t matter, they just want the box to have something in it and have something in it now. You may be packing with someone who is a different category of packer than you. I wish you luck. 

  4. You think you can remember what’s in that box, but you won’t. Buy a sharpie and label it. You’ll have dozens to hundreds of boxes that will confuse the hell out of you the minute after you seal it. Pro tip: label it based off of where you want it to go in the new house, not where it came from in the old house. 

  5. When it comes time to move, hire movers, pack big boxes, and be sure to book the first appointment of the day. I’ve used movers three times now and this was by far my worst experience. We booked the second move of the crew of the day – big mistake. They were wiped by the time they got to us, then we had packed too many small boxes so it took a long, long time. Get BIG boxes and pack them well, even if all you do is put smaller boxes in them. Break down your furniture in advance and try to get as much stuff in one, easily accessible place as possible. Then, help carry to shorten the time and lower your bill at the end of the day. 

I wish you the best of luck on your next move. May your boxes be full and your stress level be low. At the end of the day it’s really important to remember you will live in a new place and enjoy all of the exciting opportuntieies that come with that: like yard work and maintaining your 70-year old furnace. Ahh, the joys of home ownership. Happy moving! Anyone need some boxes?