Late Thanksgiving Post

We are a large family, and as if that weren’t complicated enough, we are a large, blended, military family. We don’t have family nearby to visit, and planning to do anything with our out of state families requires negotiating with a high conflict ex who would rather see the children alienated from their extended family than to work in their best interest. So, unless our family comes to us, we are on our own. It’s okay though, as you can imagine, we’re used to it and we only have a few more years of this arrangement. So to recap, no nearby family, constant moves and I’m very picky about who I allow in my inner circle or trust around my kids. The few close friends we have are thoroughly vetted and are more like family.

This year, we had all of our children for the first halves of fall break, and their other sets of parents got them for the remaining half (which included Thanksgiving). So, we celebrated with our kids on Tuesday, than celebrated with our friends on Thursday.  Two different dinners, but both proved to be delightful.

Round One: Turkey day?
For the first time in… well… EVER, our family had ham for Thanksgiving, much to the delight of our children.

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Having a heart of gratitude is so important for me to help foster in my children. Like many families at Thanksgiving, we go around the table and share what we are most thankful for. Watch the video to see exactly how we answered.

After dinner, J had to go make an appearance at our second USMC Ball of the season, so we planned to have me take the kids out to the movies and splurge on popcorn and candy. You best believe we put the costs in our budget! I went over on snacks by $11.00, but the tickets were $3 less than we planned for EACH ticket, so we managed to come out a few bucks ahead!

Round Two: Ah, There’s the turkey… and tofu?
Our dear friend Jackie knew we would be childless on Thanksgiving (which always bums us out a little) so she asked us to join her family consisting of her grown children, her cousin from out of town and their child, and her aunt. J and I are warm people who generally get along with all kinds of people, but being around people also requires energy, and I’ve been in a bit of an emotional funk lately. We considered staying in our pajamas all day and avoid traffic and all the fuss, but we decided we would pull ourselves together, put some pants on (not an easy task after Thanksgiving Round One), and be social.

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Jackie and her family are clean eaters, some are also vegetarian, pescatarian, and vegan, so there were dishes for everyone. Happy day! My normal diet is a modified pescatarian (I eat eggs and some dairy) but I also don’t fuss when meats are served to me or when my family requests a meal with meat in it. I also happen to love traditional holiday meals.  I digress.  We were all seated separate from our spouses in a successful attempt at breaking ice and interacting with one another. With permission from our hostess, J and I had ordered the game Vertellis in hopes of playing it during Thanksgiving, but unfortunately, it didn’t arrive in time, So I managed to look up some thought provoking questions, write them down on paper, fold them up and stick them into a bowl. I had bowl passed around the table and each person draw a question to answer. It was a hit and many people said they enjoyed it even more than going around saying what they were thankful for.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Like a Fine Artisan Cheese

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” -Sophia Loren

I put on a dress tonight. I covered it up with a long black coat. I put on mascara before covering my eyes with glasses. I ran a comb through my hair, that I decided not to wash today, before releasing an angst filled sigh to my reflection and dashing out of my home.

I had a 6pm dinner planned with a soul sister tonight. It was important for me to be with her as it was an anniversary of the loss of someone very dear to her. I got to the restaurant with a minute to spare, but she texted me that she had just left her home and was running behind. The hostess informed me that there was a long wait… unless I wanted to dine on their heated patio, and I hurriedly agreed. The rain had just started but the patio was covered and the soft chill breeze would occasionally send subtle shivers down my spine. My friend arrived and I rose up to greet her. A group of three young gentleman seated at the table to my left, tried to steal glances, which was a boost to my ego. We cozied in on opposite sides of the booth and had just acquainted ourselves with the menu when another group of women, probably about twenty years our senior, took a booth next to ours. They were radiant. The way they held themselves and laughed, without regard to anyone else, you could tell their bonds ran deep; they were strong, fierce friends. My eyes kept darting between my friend and the group of friends behind her, and the more glances I stole, the more parallels I was able to draw. It was like looking through a time machine and feeling at peace because everything in your future turned out beautifully.

I may not have movie star looks, runway model weight, bikini competitor figure. Time is taking my eyesight. Time is creasing lines deeper into my skin, and time has scarred my bod. Time has given me experience, stories, character, education, wisdom, family, and friendship. So here I am, not sharing my physical progress or recipe, but something much more meaningful. I stand here before you, getting old, accepting it, loving it, gracefully kicking ass while doing it.

I hope you are too.

Meanderings, Siggy

Algorithms and Machine Learning: Are They Segregating Us?

Recently I watched President Obama on David Letterman’s new show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction on NETFLIX.  During the show, the question came up about Democracy. What fascinated me was President Obama’s innovative use of social media during his election campaigns; he essentially pioneered then mobilized the social media platform for political gain.  He later segued into algorithms, which is where my interest perked. 

Algorithm’s were essentially designed by organizations i.e. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, etc to capture information about the consumer which then creates a digital profile of the individual and the things they are interested in.  If I were an organization that sells merchandise, I would see incredible value in understanding my consumers profile then leveraging that information to reinforce their desire to purchase my product.  As organizations continue to create links to one another, the algorithms continue to refine their digital profile of our tastes in everything.

The account linking/merging and the EVERYTHING piece is quite scary.  For example, if I have a google account but not a Pinterest account.  CaptureI have the option to register a new account or link to another service which has my digital profile already.  If I choose to link the two, the algorithms are most likely working together and sharing more information about me therefore, multiple algorithms are refining their understanding of my interests.

This is where the design and structure of a non-threatening algorithm’s digital profile of a consumer gets weird. Because these algorithms are designed to understand our interests, the likelihood of items that are not interesting to the consumer becomes less likely to appear. What does this mean when this happens?  A consumer is less likely to be exposed to things outside of the algorithms digital profile of you, therefore, it reinforces your interests by exposing you to items that are likely to interest you first.

As we continue to use search engines, our digital profiles continue to be refined and the algorithms use that information to predict what you want to see.  These algorithms can essentially limit our exposure to sites or social media posts that don’t fall within the parameters of your digital profile.  An example would be a search of a news topic that leads an individual to a specific news organizations or videos with a political stance based on the algorithm’s understanding of you.

While it’s an educated guess, I believe that these algorithms have an unintended adverse consequence on our belief systems. Each time we like, share, comment, or hide posts and articles on social media, it reinforces the algorithms understanding of us, therefore, shows items of interest based on our digital profile. I believe this construct has also contributed to groupings of beliefs whether it is a political, religious, social, racial, etc. and it is not good for our society.  Rather than exposing ourselves to new thoughts and ideas, these algorithms contribute to self-reinforcement of our beliefs which then inadvertently causes us to slowly distance ourselves from thoughts and ideas which make us uncomfortable. 

We become comfortable in our bubbles and our exposure to other methods of thinking becomes nearly non-existent.  When people are exposed to the opposite view, meltdowns occur since our ability to consider other views has become irrelevant as a result of the algorithms digital profile.  I believe algorithms have trickled into our society so much so that it has contributed to the segregation of our society and as a result non-likeminded people can no longer value or consider that there are opinions and facts from both ends of the spectrum that can exist simultaneously.  

What do we do?



Over the River and Through the Woods

When my husband and I married, he made a couple promises to me. Of course there was the usual, “To love and honor, to have and to hold” bit, but there were a few extras he threw in too.

I am a mountain girl. I grew up in a tiny home on the base of Galbraith. Galbraith is world renowned in the mountain biking community and is rated as “difficult” but that didn’t mean squat to a kid who didn’t know any other terrain. Hikes and mountain bike rides meant dodging trees and sometimes creating your own path. The forests back home are thick with evergreens, lots of shade, pines and leaves. The air is fresh and cool, even in summer.

I came to California with my first husband, who had joined the Marines three years into our marriage without so much as talking with me about it. I was a supportive wife, but the move devastated me. I had a young child and was pregnant, without any family, friends, or community. I eventually made friends, I eventually became a part of the community and I did my best to acclimate to the heat as I tried to work on saving my marriage. The “Golden State” was overshadowed by my darkening mental health. I would have never admitted it to anyone back then, I wanted to be strong and push on and talking about it just seemed like a waste of my efforts.

My ex and I gave up on our marriage in 2011 and finally separated early in 2012. I had every intention of leaving California and raising my children in Washington, but my divorce took longer to process than it should have and I was forced to stay until it was finalized. It was during that agonizing time that I met a remarkable man. I didn’t know he was remarkable right away. I certainly wasn’t looking for a relationship, but a couple years later, we were raising our babies together, holding hands, making promises to have and to hold… and to take road trips to the mountains I love so much.

My husband takes his promises seriously, as one should, and we usually take two big mountain trips a year: one with all the kids, and one romantic one with just us. This trip was our annual fall family trip. It was a superb getaway, so relaxing for us all, mixed with the usual hiking adventures and baking. Our cabin was situated right on a cliff, with a perfect view of the popular paragliding/hang-gliding takeoff spot.

Saturday: Hanging out on a cliffside

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I was able to teach my boys some basic finger grips (for rock climbing) and beamed with pride as they bouldered with me for nearly an hour.

These amazing adventurists are a part of Crestline Soaring Society. They had an appreciation event the day we happened to be there; free shuttle, free food, free drinks & free flying. That’s one hell of a give-back!

We came back to the cabin for a late lunch. The kids played on their phones and computers and J laid down on the sectional with his head resting comfortably in my lap while I put on ‘Home Alone’. It wasn’t long before a bright orange haze appeared through the window to my right. The colors were so saturated that the sunset stole my attention from the movie. I maneuvered out from under my sleeping husband, grabbed my camera off the table, and tiptoed outside to attempt to capture the gorgeous sunset. My youngest came with and was also in awe of the beautiful color. Silhouetted in the sky, was a lone paraglider, out for one last ride, with the best seat in the house. IMG_6812IMG_6818IMG_6839

Sunday: Hiking to Heart Rock

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My oldest sons took the lead, scouting ahead and making funny remarks to one another. My youngest son stayed just ahead of his sisters, making sure to stop and assist them over more difficult terrain. He is such a sweetheart.

The colors were stunning. Perfect fall weather.

One of the kids’ favorite traditions is our final stop coming home from San Bernardino: Inn and Out. The girls always load up on the stickers and hats. Of course, when I ask my boys to put on their hats for a group photo, THIS is the response I get. I laughed, and over-exaggerated an exasperated eye-roll. They giggled over how clever they were and said, “What mom? You asked us to put on our hats, so we put ON our hats!”

“Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.”
― Bill BrysonA Walk in the Woods


An Officer & A Gentleman

This mountain girl can clean up nice, but I always feel under dressed next to Chesty over here. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing, when my husband is in his blues, I will forever feel as though he is my arm candy. I Love it!

My babe always thanks me for being his date, he’s impossibly charming. This year, he managed to top all our other prior years. This year, he made a special iTunes playlist to listen to on the way there. I didn’t even catch on until about four songs in. It’s unusual for my hubby to know all the lyrics to the songs, let alone all the songs that happen to be playing. It was a good mix of songs and they were all romantic, so I had to ask him what station he was playing. He told me that it wasn’t a station, rather, a playlist and that I should look at the name of it. Curiously, I sought out the name; 🎶“Songs that make me think about Heather”.🎶

I married a romantic

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