Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 15, 2011

Back on the 21st

Due to a lack of Internet and desire to write additional blogs on my phone, my 31 Days of Giving will be updated on the 21st. See you then!

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 14, 2011

Cookies and Juice

“Cookies and juice, cookies and juice, a little pint of me for some cookies and juice” (singsongy voice)

I am NOT a huge fan of needles, but really, who is? I’m also fairly fond of my blood staying within the confines of my skin where I feel it belongs. I’ve invested a lot into it, so I tend to want to keep it. However, I don’t NEED all of it. We all have between 10-12 pints of it and when you donate blood, they only take 1 pint. So I try to be brave and give up the 1 pint when I’m qualified (I’ve struggled with anemia at times), knowing that my body won’t take long to regenerate it.

Last time I donated, I posted on Facebook that I had saved three lives that day. At first I had actually impressed some folks who I think envisioned me pulling people out of a burning car or something equally dramatic, and while that would be super cool, I had, in reality, simply walked into the Memorial Blood Center office in Hibbing and rolled up my sleeve. There are three critical components to our blood – platelets, red blood cells, and plasma – and all three can be used to save lives.

The shocking thing is that 1 out of every 3 of us will need a blood transfusion at some point in our lives and it isn’t always the result of a horrific car crash or other accidental release. Not everyone is capable of donating, either due to their own illnesses or risk factors, so that means that those of us who are physically capable need to step up to the plate. We can’t stand to the side and say we’re too scared of needles to donate. Put yourself in the shoes of the parent whose child’s life is hanging in the balance or the wife whose husband is going into surgery. What’s scarier? A needle poke or facing the possible death of your loved one because too many people were afraid of a needle?

Does it feel weird to donate? Yeah, sometimes for me it does. I will admit that I always look away when they are putting the needle in and sometimes it’s a little disconcerting to see a bag filling up with my blood. I’m usually a little sleepy the next day, but that might just be a sort of placebo effect – I might just think I’m supposed to feel sleepy and use it as a good excuse to get Matt to be extra nice to me.

After 9/11 a lot of people donated for the first time (myself included), but it’s been 10 years now. How many of you have struggled to find the time to head over to Memorial Blood Center?

It’s an hour of your time for 3 lives.

And did I mention the cookies and juice?

They are delicious ūüėČ

Note: This is the fourteenth post in a series of 31 highlighting donation opportunities this holiday season.

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 11, 2011

Bundles of Unconditional Love

It’s not surprising that I ended up as a pet person and not a kid person.

Or that I’m not that stylish as an adult…

Pets come with a whole set of benefits that ideally outweigh the headaches and heartaches.¬† They lower blood pressure, listen without judging and love unconditionally.¬† They keep you in shape – “if your dog is fat, you’re not getting enough exercise.”¬† They cuddle when you need it.¬† Wag their tails when they see you (okay, maybe just the dogs, but…).

Some may consider this¬†cheating for my project, but there are 3 animal shelters that have come to my pets’ rescue and one that just started up and could probably use some help,¬†so this entry counts for 4 days.

My 10th day of giving is in honor of Dakota, who I love even though she’s not a shelter dog (nobody’s perfect).¬† She’s the world’s most perfect dog (don’t I sound like a parent?) and will be damn near impossible to ever try to replace.¬† There is a new animal shelter in Chisholm called Precious Paws Humane Society – 101 1st Avenue SW (kittycorner from Jubilee)¬†– 218-254-3300 and our next pet (which hopefully we won’t get for a long time because it will mean one of ours has passed away) will come from it.¬† Lest you think I’m a bad parent, she really likes her crate and chooses to sleep in it even though she has beds scattered throughout the house.

Our 11th Day of Giving is in honor of our most recent addition – Rocky – who we really should have named “Cuddles” or “Snuggle” or “Buttercup” so that he was better behaved.¬† We picked him out at the Range Regional Animal Rescue at 11215 Hwy 37 just out of Hibbing – 218-262-1900.¬† This photo is very deceptive.¬† He rarely cuddles, but occasionally¬†he¬†does wear himself out fighting with me, Matt, Dakota or Chloe.¬† The cat is a holy terror, but at least he has a home.

Our 12th Day of Giving is in honor of¬†Chloe – aka Chloebird, little bird, and sweetie pie.¬† We scooped her up at the Mesabi Humane Society. She was a holy terror for the first few years, but is relatively calm now.¬† “Relatively”¬† She was meant to be Matt’s cat because her camoflauge is amazing!

Our 13th day of¬†Giving is in memory of Oliver, who we had to put down¬†on December 13, 2010.¬† It’s been a year, but the¬†wound is still raw for me.¬†He was saved by Contented Critters of Makinen 8 years ago and was a loyal buddy through the 7 years we had him in our home.¬† Not a day goes by that we don’t mention him.

There¬†isn’t much I¬†can say about these¬†4 days.¬† Some people¬†love pets, some just don’t.¬† I do.¬† Our home is chaotic and we spend an inordinate amount of time having to vacuum up¬†fur, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything.¬† I’m a pet person and as long as I’m married, I can hopefully avoid the “Crazy Cat Lady” description.

We owe it to animals to make sure they are spayed and neutered so¬†our animal shelters don’t become overloaded.¬†¬†We owe it to our¬†animal shelters¬†for bringing these critters off of the streets and into our homes.¬† Although our home can’t handle another pet, hopefully our donations (and yours!) can help these animals out until they can find their¬†Forever Home.

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 9, 2011

Spreading Smiles

I’m incredibly self-conscious about smiling in photographs.¬† Hate it.¬† Just hate it.

When I was in 4th grade, I got schmucked by a thrown baseball bat and lost my front tooth.  The first tooth I was fitted with had to be replaced when I was about 16 or 17 and before it was replaced, I was picked on a decent amount by a few others because, honestly, it looked really bad.

But is that any excuse for being mean to me?

Is there ever an excuse for being mean to someone because of their looks?!

Let’s face it,¬†a person’s appearance is usually a matter of luck.¬† Good or bad.¬† I get a lot of compliments on my hair, but it’s not like I can take any credit for it.¬† It was just luck to have a mutant MC1R. And while you may look at someone and find them unattractive, that’s just your opinion.¬† And there really is no need to share that.¬† It adds nothing to the universe.¬† Nothing.

I’ll never understand the need for some humans to be mean to others, either to others’ faces or behind their backs.¬† I usually attribute it to insecurity or pecking orders, but perhaps some people are simply jerks?¬† Can you imagine if the tables had been turned on you in life and there was something physically different about you that caused people to point at you and gasp?¬† Something that made people pity you or your parents?¬† Something that made others uncomfortable around you?¬† What if that something was able to be “fixed” but you couldn’t afford it so you were shunned, perhaps even by your own parents?

You’d probably hope and pray that someone would help you.

So how about being that person that does the helping?¬† Give thanks for your blessing of “normality” and help others achieve it.


In Uganda, children that are born with a cleft lip or palate are named Ajok, which means “cursed by God.”¬† Cursed by God?!¬† Really?!¬† Excuse my inferred cursing, but WTF?¬† I try to be polite and not use profanity in my blog, but seriously, some things just push me over the edge and this is one of those.¬† And it’s not just in Uganda where children are shunned, it happens throughout the world.

For those of you who don’t know, cleft lip and cleft palate are common birth defects (source: Mayo Clinic) where either the upper lip or the palate are split apart.¬† The two sides simply didn’t finish joining up while the baby was in the womb.¬† That’s all.¬† No curse.¬† No reason to shun the child.¬† No reason to be cruel.¬† It just happens.¬† But when it happens to a family without the financial means to help the child, then a lot of problems can ensue.

The child may have a difficult time eating or speaking.¬† There may be hearing issues.¬† And of course, there is the fact that in some countries, they won’t be welcome at school or given a job as an adult.¬† All for something that they did not have a choice in.¬† And all for something that can be fixed relatively easy.

Smile Train¬†provides¬†the solution.¬†A relatively simple surgery.¬† That’s all it can take to give these children and their families a little hope.

As their website says, “how often do you get to save a child’s life for $250?”¬† Have a group of friends over for some wine and apps with an “entry fee” of $25, pool the funds and provide a surgery for someone that will never know it was you that changed their life but who will forever be grateful.¬† If that’s out of your reach, even $25 will help pay for sutures.

Spread smiles throughout the globe, donate to Smile Train.

This 9th day of giving was inspired by a friend who was born with a cleft lip and palate and has had several surgeries throughout his life.¬† He has¬†never let others’ expectations of him become his expectations for himself and I admire him greatly for that.

Note: This is the ninth post in a series of 31 highlighting donation opportunities this holiday season. 

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 8, 2011

We’ve Come a Long Way, Let’s Keep Moving Forward

Several months ago, a group of young women from the Middle East visited northern Minnesota as a part of a State Department-sponsored¬†leadership program.¬† The women were taken on a tour of a local Mine and I was lucky enough to get to spend some time with them and answer their questions about working in a Mine as a woman.¬† I’ll always beam with pride at our country when I think about the young woman who raised her hand and asked me, “do the boys take you seriously when you’re talking about science?”¬† I told her, “yes they do, especially the men my age, who have never thought of girls as anything but their equal.”

It’s easy for someone my age to forget that my generation is the first that didn’t have¬†a huge battle to fight to get where we are.¬† I took it for granted that I would be able to play sports in high school and take the same classes as the boys and choose my own path later in life, whether that was to be a professional or a mom or both if I damn well pleased.¬† When I spoke to these girls from countries that are sometimes openly hostile to women, I reminded them that many of the changes in our country were relatively recent and that they were the women who had the potential to make the same dramatic changes that the women before me did.

I wrote in 2009 about working in a Mine as a woman and how 99% of the time, I feel at home.¬† Occasionally I’ll meet someone at work or in the community that still doesn’t seem overly thrilled that women are working in the Mines, and sometimes that person in the community is a woman.

That’s going to happen.¬† I’ve accepted that, for some people, they can’t deal with a woman who is perfectly content to go to work everyday and not stay home with children.¬† (Granted, that’s a whole separate topic for a blog! Oh wait, here it is!).¬† To me, the critical factor is that it’s my choice what I do with my life and that I have that choice.

I went to a Mining meeting tonight where, quite frankly, there were too few of us double-Xer’s.¬† I’d love to see more young women getting into science and engineering and staying in those fields.

I’ll continue to reach out to young women and encourage their goals and aspirations, but also, for my 8th day of donation, I’ve selected the American Association of University’s Women (AAUW).¬† The AAUW’s mission is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.

Some folks misinterpret my strong feelings about equity to think it’s a bash on stay-at-home-moms.¬† Not one bit.¬† Equity means we get a choice.¬† We’re equal partners, citizens, parents.¬† Empowerment doesn’t strip us of our femininity or ability to nurture.¬† It only builds upon what we already¬†have to offer the world.¬† An empowered mom makes a decision with her husband that is best for her family based on thorough consideration by both partners.

The women that came before me blazed the trail, but if my generation doesn’t keep pushing down that trail, the grass will grow back up.

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 7, 2011

Honoring the Wounded

After Matt’s Grandpa passed away this fall, we had a chance to look through old letters that he had mailed Matt’s Grandma while he was away fighting at World War II.¬† It was a beautiful view into his life as a young man and as a young soldier.¬† He was an awesome ol’ timer to talk to and a conversation with him in 2010 inspired this blog posting about the men that never got to come home from the war.¬† His letters home¬†never were explicit about¬†the dangers he faced and he always protected¬†his wife from the ugly reality of the war.

While fighting overseas, Grandpa was shot twice, once in the forehead and once in the leg,¬†and earned two purple hearts, as well as a bronze star.¬† In his letter home after one of the events, he wrote that although he was hurt, it really wasn’t too bad.¬† Only later did Grandma find out how serious the injury was, after Grandpa had spent six months in a hospital!¬† A local newspaper article from back then¬†highlighted his story and the fact that he had downplayed his injuries to make sure his beloved wife didn’t worry too much.¬† That’s just the way he was, always strong for her.

He made it back home intact and moved on to have a normal Iron Range life, working at the mines, raising a family.  But what if his injuries had been more destructive?  What if he had lost a limb, or two?  Or was stricken with severe PTSD that limited his ability to function the same way he had before he left for the War?  What then?

When I was in high school, I saw the music video for Metallica’s “One” that cuts in scenes from “Johnny Got His Gun” and was shaken up.¬† I read the novel “Johnny Got His Gun” and I never trusted a politician ever again.¬† The book is a first-person (fictional) account of a young man that loses his arms, legs and most of his face (if not all) in a battle.¬† As he’s laying there on a table unable to speak or make eye contact, you get pulled into his lost mind as he travels from one mental state to another.¬† The hardest part for me while reading it was knowing that this has happened to soldiers of ours, we just don’t hear about it.

I have no concept of war because I’ve never gone and I’ve never lived through one on our soil.¬† I don’t have close friends or family in the military and I don’t lay awake at night praying frantically that they will come home.¬† I have no clue what sacrifices these young men and women have made or are going to make so that I don’t have to understand war.¬† If I’m lucky, I’ll never know what it’s like to be that scared.¬† To be that brave.

Because I am this lucky, I owe these soldiers my gratitude.¬† Their courage allows me to be this clueless about the realities of war.¬† For that and for the sacrifice they make, I dedicate this 7th day of giving to our soldiers.¬† It is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor today and in recognition of those young Americans and all the generations who have fought for our country, I am donating to the Wounded Warrior Project.¬† The stated vision and purpose of the Wounded Warrior Project is “To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history. To raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members. To help injured service members aid and assist each other. To provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.”¬† There are so many services provided by this organization that I couldn’t give them all justice, I can only encourage you to visit their website –¬†and consider the often thankless sacrifice they and their families make for the rest of us so that we can be naive and sometimes painfully ignorant.

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 6, 2011

Pulling Folks Out of the Darkness

Last November, I wrote about my struggle to climb out of a little hole I had fallen into during 2010 courtesy of a few events that had occurred (not my wedding!).¬† I was luckily able to pull myself out of it, but had I not been able to, I would have been able to access professional help through either our company’s employee assistance program or somewhere else with my health insurance.

Not everyone has that luxury to either 1) be able to pull themselves out (granted, it was a shallow hole) or 2) rely on quality health insurance or EAPs.¬† Those people may feel they have nowhere to turn.¬† They’re caught in a trap, battling their brains that are betraying them, perhaps wanting help but becoming more depressed or anxious or upset because they cannot afford the assistance.

Luckily for our community, we have the Human Development Center located in the Twin Ports.¬† “HDC‚Äôs mission is to lead our communities by providing integrated, culturally respectful mental health and addiction services that foster hope, self-determination, and recovery. Our focus on serving those most in need improves the quality of life for all.”

A friend of mine turned to me for help several months ago because she was finally able to admit that she needed counseling to deal with her severe depression, but she didn’t know how she could afford to get help with her barely-more-than-minimum wage job.¬† It broke my heart because I knew that it had taken her a lot of courage to admit after all these years that she needed help and now she was stuck until she could find a way to pay for counseling.¬† We were referred to the Human Development Center, where we discovered that they offer a sliding fee scale to those without insurance.¬† This program very well may have been a life-saver for my friend.

Some people dismiss mental illness as “real” illness.¬† They think folks are just weak and should be able to push through their issues.¬† I call shenanigans on that.¬† Unless you’ve lived with a brain that seems to hate you at times, you simply don’t understand.¬† Attempt to have some compassion and understand that some folks’ brains are wired differently.¬† Be thankful that you don’t struggle with anxiety that causes you to not be able to leave your house or depression that causes you to feel no hope or any of the other disabling mental illnesses that exist, such as bipolar or schizophrenia.¬† Mental illness is as real of a health issue as cancer and deserves as much of our attention.

On my 6th day of giving, I’m choosing the Human Development Center as the recipient because I believe in a community that looks out for others and lends a hand to pull them out of their darkness.¬† Thank you Melissa S. for letting me know that donations are accepted!

Note: This is the sixth post in a series of 31 highlighting donation opportunities this holiday season.  You can also find the Human Development Center on Facebook to learn more!

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 5, 2011

Every Good Toy Deserves a Kid

The Velveteen Rabbit ain’t got nothin’ on Harvey Jarvey.¬† Although… the last time I checked, Harvey Jarvey still was a stuffed animal and hasn’t been turned into a real raccoon through the love of a little girl all grown up (or grown older).

What’s that you ask?¬† Who the heck is Harvey Jarvey?¬† Well, let me introduce you with a picture of what appears to be a little boy and his stuffed raccoon (aka Harvey Jarvey).¬† I assure you that’s me, if the devilish grin doesn’t give it away (oh, and the bright red hair).

That stuffed animal somehow survived my childhood and although his fur is nowhere as soft now as it once was, he still has a place in my home and my heart.  He was my buddy, my pal and was forced to listen to me read many many books to him.  He gave me a good home or I gave him one (or both?).

Isn’t that what every toy deserves?¬† If you don’t think so, then you’re probably in the 1% who didn’t cry at Toy Story 3, ya’ mean bugger.

So how do we get these toys to kids that will love them like crazy?

We donate to Toys for Tots, that’s how.

The Marine Toys for Tots has a pretty simple mission Рget these toys a home.  And I guess a kid or two might also get a smile from it.

98% of the donations go directly to helping out the toys, errr… children.¬† 98%!¬† That’s an incredible percentage for a charity!¬† You can donate toys, money or your time and know that 98% of it is going to provide toys, books and other gifts to children who will otherwise have a less-than-awesome Christmas.¬† 98%!

If you’d like to donate, there are various drop-off locations on the Iron Range (and other places if you aren’t from up here).¬† Michael Hames is our local coordinator if you’d like to find a location close to the Range.¬† His phone numbers are 218.885.5010 and 218.969.9367 and his email is¬† You can also donate money online¬†or your time if you have any and you’re willing to share.

Although I’m writing this today and donating money, I filled out the volunteer request form so hopefully I’ll hear back and get a chance to volunteer either after work next week or during the day on my week off before Christmas.

After all, those toys aren’t going to find homes by themselves!


This post was inspired by Harvey Jarvey.  Oops, I mean my mom (bwah ha ha) who taught me the importance of donating toys to this charity when I was younger.  I remember her always dropping off toys for children who probably deserved them a lot more than her smart-aleck daughter did!

Note: This is the fifth post in a series of 31 highlighting donation opportunities this holiday season. 

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 4, 2011

Giving Up the Dream

We live in a small home, barely more than 1000 square feet, and one of our greatest challenges to maintaining an orderly home is our lack of big closets, a basement or a garage.  We spend our money on stuff and then even if we never use it, wear it or gaze upon it, we still struggle to get rid of it.

What an awful problem we (and many others) have Рtoo much clutter.  People will hire professional organizers, religiously watch shows on HGTV that teach them how to declutter, purchase shelf after shelf to find a home for all of their stuff.  Seriously?!

Matt decided it was time to do a little decluttering here.¬† We didn’t expect it to be an hour or two of entertainment, but alas, it was.¬† And not just for the “Fat Guy in¬†a Little Coat” moments¬†(although there were a few when Matt attempted to try on dress shirts that were apparently purchased for someone at least 4 inches shorter and a few pounds thinner and yes, I asked permission before writing that!).¬† It was also helpful (after I stopped grumbling)¬†to have him point out that certain, very pretty shirts of mine had never been worn even once.¬† “Give up the dream Julie.¬† You haven’t worn that yet, you never will.¬† And it’s not even “you” to start with so give it up and make room for another t-shirt.”


He was right.¬† We both had a lot that we had never even worn and would never wear in the future, even if I lose that last 10 pounds.¬† It’s not easy to go through your home and be honest with yourself, but it’s good to do.¬† Ideally it will teach you a few questions to ask yourself the next time you’re standing in Target at an endcap where something you didn’t even know existed before you entered the store is 20% off and you really think you need it.

So we did a purging and Goodwill in Virginia has 3 stuffed garbage bags packed with¬†clothes.¬† It felt great to get rid of clothes that we really would never wear and that will be appreciated by people.¬† Plus it’s nice to have some additional closet space!

Many folks are used to donating gently used goods to Goodwill, but does everyone know what they do with the money they earn through sales of clothes or other objects that were just taking up space in your home?

In their own words, “the sales of your donations help fund job training programs, employment placement services and other community-based programs for people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges.”¬† 84% of their revenue is used to fund their employment and training programs, which is definitely a positive for them as an organization.¬† In addition to helping out folks through donations, you are also helping out the environment by carrying out the 3rd “R” in “Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose.”

Please do check that your donated good meets their criteria though.¬† When I worked at my previous job that was located next door to a Goodwill, it drove me nuts to see how much stuff has to get thrown away by them everyday because people brought things in that were unsellable for various reasons.¬† Donating to Goodwill shouldn’t be used because you don’t want to pay landfill fees.¬† Please also remember that folks who are purchasing clothes from Goodwill deserve clothing that isn’t stained or torn or last appropriate in 1976.¬† It doesn’t help the cause if you’re donating stuff that can’t be worn.¬† You’re just causing an extra expense for them to get rid of stuff.¬† If something isn’t Goodwill appropriate, perhaps you should try Freecycle to get it out of your house.¬† It’s a free service that hooks you up with folks who just might enjoy that end table you picked up in 1992.¬† You’d be amazed at what some people can repurpose!

“If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich” – Tao Te Ching

Note: This is the fourth post in a series of 31 highlighting donation opportunities this holiday season. 

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 3, 2011

Please Protect the Porcupine

As regular readers (and friends)¬†know, my life’s passion is finding and maintaining a balance between environmental protection and requisite industry that both provide for our high quality-of-life.¬† I partly have a precious book written in 1967 to thank for that drive and desire.

One of my¬†babysitters gave me the book and¬†I’ve read it front-to-back approximately 767,000 times (+1 for tonight’s reading)

It is a wonderfully written book about conservation and reading it now, I understand how it became one of the contributing factors towards me ending up as an environmental professional working for a mining company.¬†¬†It discusses selective harvesting, proper mining, air pollution control, and many other topics (including the potential use of “atomic power” someday!).¬† It breaks down complicated subjects into terms that children can understand and it showed children that although things weren’t great environmentally in 1967, they had the ability to make things better.

Obviously I took that message to heart.  And obviously those children did make things better.

We ask children all the time “what do you want to be when you grow up?”¬† When did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up?¬† Are you still trying to answer that question?

I never knew as a child that someday I would want to speak mostly in acronyms РNAAQS, NPDES, RCRA.  All I knew was that I loved being outside.  I loved forests, streams, lakes and warm, humid summer evenings laying outside on the dewy grass watching fireflies.

In 6th grade, my whole class spent almost a week up at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.¬† A week of walking through the woods, climbing rock walls, learning how to “read scat.”¬† It was an incredible experience and I didn’t want it to end.¬† It was many years ago – more than 20, so the details are sketchy.¬† The key part is that I remember how the instructors made me feel.¬† How they calmly talked me down the rock wall after I climbed to the top, looked down and promptly started crying (true¬†and¬†oh-so-embarrassing¬†story).¬† How they explained how to use a compass and a map so that I could find my way confidently through the woods¬†(a skill I still use regularly).¬† And I remember how the woods made me feel.


The Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center¬†is an educational center with a mission “to develop a citizenry that has the knowledge, skills, motivation and commitment to act together for a quality environment.”¬† There are difficult questions we have to answer when we’re adults and having a solid science background gives us the skills to have difficult conversations and make difficult decisions.¬† Wolf Ridge ELC helps to build that solid science foundation and that is why I chose to become a member for my 3rd day of giving.

I wanted to give back to the organization that led me to where I am today.

Protecting the porcupine.

Note: This is the third post in a series of 31highlighting donation opportunities this holiday season.  Who helped inspire your career or your hobbies/interests that drive you as an adult?



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