TGIF

If there is one thing that is sure to put me in a funk, it is January.  Just like some people are not morning people, I am not a January person.  I can not seem to get anything accomplished in January and my motivation drops below sea level.  The fog in my brain never lifted enough to pick up a pen or pluck at my keyboard.  So, TGIF – Thank goodness it’s February!  I woke up this week with a renewed sense of direction and am filled with optimism for the coming year.  In fact, I think I will start the new year anew by celebrating the Chinese New Year this Sunday February 10th.

Of course many people start the new year off with New Year’s resolutions.  I could not come up with any, other than the usual live in the moment and be a better person until I was out on my bicycle earlier this week.  Like I have said in earlier blogs, I have a mountain bike which I ride on the street.  This year I resolve to change that…I am going to hit the dirt!  One reason that I ride on the street is that it is easier.  I just hop on my bike and go. No having to load up the bike and search out trails.  It is hard enough to carve out time to ride with a teenager to chauffer around and a toddler hanging off my leg.  But this year somehow I am going to find some time to hit a few trails though because it just sounds fun.  Also, it will give me something new to think about and get motivated about.

My other resolution is to continue to get outside with my kids.  A couple weeks ago I took Ginger, now 4, on her first real hike.  We carried backpacks with a picnic and took a short hike to a nearby waterfall.  She was so excited to go on a “big girl” hike and can’t wait to go again.   I am a strong believer in getting kids out in nature.

I am not a great photographer, but I came across a picture recently that I want to share  that I took last March or April while on a hike with my teenage son.  It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen….thousands of ladybugs covering the ground, bushes and nearby trees.  So get out this year and hit a few trails whether on your bike or on foot…you never know what you might see!

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Mother Nature Rules

           We humans have invented, created and built some amazing products and buildings.  We have traveled to the moon, the depths of the oceans and to the tops of the highest peaks.  We have figured out how to split an atom and cure diseases.  We are the most intelligent beings on earth.  However, Mother Nature is truly in charge here and likes to remind us of that with little and sometime huge gestures. 

            Haunting images of the destruction from Hurricane Sandy are everywhere.  Luckily, technology has given us the ability to predict (to some extent anyway) the path and severity of storms like these so that people can take precautions to protect themselves and their belongings.  There is no way to avoid them entirely though and there is always an unknown factor at play.  Also, luckily, these huge gestures from Mother Nature are relatively infrequent.  That said, I do feel great empathy for those affected and wish them all a speedy recovery.

             I had my own encounter with the unpredictable Mother Nature recently.  About three weeks ago was me and my son’s long planned adventure to climb Mt Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet.  We set out on a thursday for our 5 hour drive to Lone Pine, CA, where we met up with our six climbing companions.  As we approached the town we were met with fog, rain and hail; snow could be seen on the surrounding mountains.  Of course, being October we knew ahead of time that the weather could be unpredictable.  To climb Mt Whitney you must have a permit and the permits are issued in a lottery system so this particular weekend was what we were given.  We had originally planned on camping at the base of the mountain that night, but the day prior had made a group decision to stay in town because of the wet weather.  We didn’t want to start off with wet, soggy gear.  Friday morning we awoke to gloomy skies and as we drove up to the base of the mountain to begin our hike snow was falling.  It was eerie and beautiful.  We had all planned for chilly, wet weather so with loaded backpacks and excitement we hit the trail to our next destination, Outpost camp, to spend the night and get acclimated to the altitude.  At about 10,000 feet this is a popular camping spot for hikers making the climb in 2 days.  The sun was out by the time we got there and the storm had moved on. 

             We pitched tents, got water and ate.  By the time the sun was setting it was cold enough to force us all to our tents and sleeping bags.  Not such a bad thing as we needed to rest, wake up time was at 2:30 am.  Neither my son nor I slept much that night though.  He was cold and I was restless.  After hot cocoa, coffee and oatmeal we started hiking at 3:30 am.  Two of my hiking friends, Joe and Jeri had done this hike several times before and they were our mentors on this trip and knew from experience that this was the time to start hiking to make a good summit and return time.  It was cold and the trail was icy and snowy, not to mention dark…we all wore headlamps to light the way.  I will say I was the slowest hiker, the altitude was affecting me but Shaun seemed to be doing great, leading for a lot of the way.  It was hard to drink water because it was cold, so cold that our water bottles were getting icy.  About the time the sun was starting to glow on the horizon we stopped for a rest.  We were at about 12,000 feet.  Checking in with my son, he seemed exhausted and did not want to drink water or eat.  As the others moved on, tears appeared in his eyes and he said he really thought he could make it, but he just didn’t have it in him.  I was already to the point where I was seriously questioning my ability to reach the summit that day so I gave him a hug and said we could turn around if he wanted.  We did turn back and slowly made our way back to Outpost camp.  Hiking downhill on ice is harder than going up.  We both did a little ice skating  and landed on our butts a couple times.  Back at Outpost camp we lay on our sleeping bags with our feet sticking out of our tent as we warmed up and moped a little in our defeat.   It was still early in the day, and a beautiful day it was turning out to be, so we decided to pack up and hike all the down the mountain and head for home.  As we descended we both began feeling better and were getting giddy at the thought of a big hamburger at the trails end. 

             In retrospect, it was probably the best decision for us.  I hadn’t realized that the last 2 night’s of insomnia I had endured were a symptom of altitude sickness.  In fact, I felt pretty good as we started the drive home, probably just from all the adrenaline.  A few hours down the road I was hit with incredible exhaustion and dizziness.  It took all my reserves to get us safely to a stopping point and we ended up having to find a motel for the night.  The aftereffects slowly dissipated over the next several days, but left me wondering if I would have become more ill had I pushed on that day.  As for Shaun, he did amazing for a 14 year old and although he was disappointed to not make it to the top he has many more years to go and face the mountain again.  We both agreed it was one of the hardest physical things either of us had ever done.   And we both agreed that if we were to do it again it would be in the summer time when (hopefully) Mother Nature would be more cooperative!

Humble Pie

       Undoubtedly the most universally humbling experience has to be that of getting older.  Anyone over the age of 35 would surely agree and if you are not yet that old I say, “don’t worry, your day will come!”  I experienced my share of humbling in the past week, starting with a hike I took with my 14 year old son, Shaun.  I consider myself to be in pretty good shape and felt well prepared for this hike, an 8 ½ mile trail to the top of Mt.Baldy at just over 10,000 feet.  In fact, I thought I was doing great except for the fact that Shaun was bounding ahead of me the whole time and every little bit stopping to call back, “come on mom!”, or “hurry up mom!”  I did take solace in the fact that several hikers who we passed stopped to commiserate with me over the exuberance of youth.  And as if the hike alone wasn’t enough to make me feel my age, it was the next several days when gimpy girl here was hobbling around with sore thigh muscles and Shaun, apparently unfazed from the hike, was off to run 4 or 5 miles with his cross-country team.  Not to be all negative though, I am still proud of myself for getting out there and I am thankful that I am blessed with the good health to be able to do it!

       It’s not just the creaking joints and slower recovery time that served to humble.  I also like to think I’m into what’s current in music.  I watch the Grammy’s and I’m even hip on electronic house music, at least  I know what it is.  But, no, it seems I am woefully slow in that department too.  You see, there are subgenres of electronic music and there is dubstep and all sorts of machines used to make this music of which I am still to be educated on.  And no matter how hip I think I am, I am still behind on the finer points of social media, texting acronyms and slang. 

       The mirror, of course, is the most humbling of all devices.  I don’t care how young at heart you are or how much hair dye and anti-wrinkle cream you apply or even if you partake of the needle or knife…..Mother Nature will eventually catch up to you.  Believe me, I’m sure even Heidi Klum has had her day facing the ever truthful piece of glass.  I am making peace with that vision I see reflecting back to me everyday….I am not always happy with it, but we are on speaking terms and I think we are going to be together for a long time.   The saying “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” resonates more fully as we age.

       Which brings me to my last point, there is humble pie to be eaten when we realize that yes, our parents were right about a lot of things.  Time does heal all wounds and the earth does not revolve around one person.  And remember some of those phrases they said that you swore you would never repeat to your own children like “money doesn’t grow on trees you know”, “because I said so!”, or “I have eyes in the back of my head that’s why”.  Yep, they will pop out of your mouth one day when you are not even thinking about it. 

       There are more humbling moments I’m sure, I just can’t remember what they are right now.

Bicycles….not just for exercise

           Generally, I think of my bike as an exercise device, albeit an enjoyable one. However, on any given day around the world thousands, probably even millions, of people get on their bicycles and head out the door to work, to do shopping, to visit friends, make deliveries…you get the point.  It is a major mode of transportation for many. 

             The first bicycles came into being as people began to explore alternatives to the horse as a mode of transportation.  One of the earliest bicycles made had no pedals and was nicknamed a “hobby horse”.  In 1865 a version with pedals attached directly to the front wheels came on the market and was known as a velocipede, although it was more commonly called “boneshaker” since it was made entirely of wood and later versions had metal tires.  I can only imagine the jarring ride it produced on dirt or cobblestone roads.  Around 1870 the first machine to be called a bicycle was made.  Most of us have seen pictures of these early contraptions with a very large front wheel in comparison to the rear. They were made of metal with rubber tires and were quite expensive, making them available only as toys for wealthy big boys.

             Continued tinkering with the design and components saw the bicycle take hold in the 1890’s as a viable means of transportation for the working class and as a leisure activity.  Women even took to riding them, which led to changes in clothing design and confining elements such as the corset and bustle became a thing of the past.  I’m quite sure that the gentlemen who designed these bicycles did not realize how much of an impact they were having toward the women’s equality movement. 

            Recently, my husband and I discovered an enjoyable, not much of a workout, use for our bikes when we took off to town for some wine tasting.   I live in a town where there are more than 25 wine tasting rooms all within walking distance of each other so not much riding is required but is does add to the fun and is a fairly safe way of getting home post wine tasting.  We limit ourselves to two tasting rooms per outing.  Any more than this and your tasting starts to get skewed by the amount of wine consumed and since we live so close we know we can always go back another day.  Tercero and Pres’quile were our choices for this day.  You won’t find these brands in your local wine aisle as they are both low production boutique wineries, but you can buy from then online through their websites.  My favorites were at Pres’quile, a pinot noir rose and an estate pinot noir.  Yes, I am partial to those pinots.  What I love about wine tasting though is that there is generally a lot of camaraderie.  We always meet interesting people and have lively conversations with others in the tasting rooms.  In fact, if we don’t feel a friendly vibe when we first walk into a tasting room we will turn around and leave. 

Of course tasting wine often leads to purchasing wine and we discovered that the water bottle cage is the perfect size for holding a bottle of wine! 

           Cheers to those bicycle inventors for bringing us such a versatile and fun mode of transportation!  I’m sure we’ll be riding uptown again soon.

Magical Roadtrip

            Roadtrip!!  I don’t think there is a word in our car-centric society that evokes more nostalgia than this one.  We all have memories or great stories about roadtrips with our families in our youth or in our early adult lives when we set out with friends for a grand adventure.  Last week when our little family set out on a roadtrip toDisneylandI was struck by how much the roadtrips of my youth differed from today’s jaunts with my family.  First off, there was the matter of seatbelts, or lack of, in my younger days.  We had a station wagon and all four of us kids just piled in the back and claimed our corners and we bounced around back there with our toys and played games like “I Spy”, and something else we made up that had to do with naming the colors of cars that we passed.  There was a lot of laughing and just a few arguments that generally had to do with someone invading someone else’s “space”. 

 Fast forward to last week’s trip…we are a 21st century, seat belts locked, techno-geared up family.  Ginger, the youngest, has her own DVD player, I have my Kindle and my husband, Gordy has his I-phone for checking texts and e-mail during pit stops.  (We stick to our no calls or texts while driving rule, especially since we have a teenager who will soon have a license of his own.)  And speaking of the teenager, Shaun, wins the plugged-in award simultaneously playing games on his laptop, listening to music on his i-pod and keeping up with his texting.  I like to think of it as multi-tasking training for the future.  Just as I was having a wince of nostalgia for a quick game of “I Spy”, I thought of my mom and you know, as resistant as she was to technology, I think she would have preferred today’s set-up to the raucous rides of my childhood. 

             Now on to destination Disneyland!  Personally, I have mixed feelings about Disneyland.  I am not by nature an amusement park person.  I don’t really care for a lot of the rides, mostly because I get dizzy easily and am a big wimp!  I have no patience for crowds or waiting in line, both of which are a given just about any day at Disneyland.  However, there is a charm and dare I say it a certain “magic” about Disneyland that sets it apart from other amusement parks and I can not resist taking my kids there.   It is amazing when you think about the imagination, planning and technology that went into designing the park.  And that I think is the key to what keeps bringing me back.  There is a sense of wonder, of “how did they think of that?”  This particular trip the crowds seemed a little less than normal and the lines shorter, which meant time too get in more rides and for the first time we even stayed late for the fireworks, which was well worth the wait and the tired feet!  And good enough to impress a 14 year-old boy, which isn’t easy!  All in all it was a good trip and yes, I will go back, but not for at least another couple years.

A Day of Nothing

            One of my daughter’s favorite books right now is called “Nothing To Do” by Douglas Wood.   In it, a young boy revels in the possibilities life offers when there is a day when nothing is on the calendar.  A world of free time, play and exploration awaits him.  Children, no doubt, are wired to experience the world in this way, but as adults, are lives are so busy and hectic that sometimes we need to be reminded to slow down, be in the moment and just enjoy life.  Reading this book made me wistful for one of those days.  Imagine, nothing on the calendar, no grocery shopping or laundry, no kid shuttling, no must get this done today or the world will fall apart feelings.

 

            Then, the unimaginable happened!  I turned the page on my planner and there it was, a Monday with nothing on the calendar!  And to sweeten the deal, it was my birthday.  What better excuse to have a day of nothing, than your birthday.  My husband had made coffee already, the kids were on the good behavior program and I got to enjoy the newspaper relatively uninterrupted.  Then, with no agenda looming, it was off to thelandofBarbie’s with my daughter.  As the sun got higher in the sky, the thought of an adventure took hold and we (my husband, 3 year old daughter and I) piled in the car and headed toward the beach.  Once we were on our way, I discovered I had left my watch at home and that my phone battery had died.  What better way to stay in the moment than to let go of time!  A picnic sounded nice but, as is common this time of year, the beach was overcast and a bit cool, so we opted for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants right on the beach.  By the time we finished lunch it was warmer and some joyous time was spent running up and down the beach, creating avalanches in the sand and poking at seaweed. 

 

            Back at home, I enjoyed a little siesta, possibly brought on by all that fresh sea air, but more likely due to the glass of wine I partook at lunch.  While I enjoyed my peaceful respite, my husband, with a little help from the teenager and toddler, prepared a wonderful dinner complete with brownies for dessert.  With only a quick check for Facebook birthday messages and e-cards, I didn’t linger on-line that evening, but rather read books, had conversations and didn’t even look to see what was on tomorrow’s calendar.  Some people would call it a mental health day, but I prefer to call it “a day of nothing”.  With school out for the summer, I am looking forward to more days of nothing!  Try it yourself and see what adventures evolve.

Why not me?

            Inspiration is often found in the most unexpected places.  Last night at a small radio station sponsored concert with Gavin DeGraw, a singer whom I was vaguely familiar with, a phrase that he said got stuck in my head.  “Why not me?”  Retelling his story of how he was inspired by this phrase would never come across as entertaining as his was, but suffice to say at the time it got him to adopt the mind set of “Hey, if others can do it (in his case, make it big in the music industry) why not me?”   How simple, yet how profound these three little words can be.  That is not to say that talent, hard work, and dedication are not also part of the equation in accomplishing goals, but a positive mindset can get you over the hurdles.  So we may not all become rich and famous like DeGraw but when facing a roadblock or some lack of confidence it is a handy phrase to keep in your back pocket.

             My first, “Why not me?” moment was back in high school when it came to my attention that there was an escape route from the little Wyoming town where I grew up.  If other kids could go to out-of-state college, I thought, “Why not me?” Now part of selling this plan to my parents entailed picking a major that I was sure could not be offered at the University in the town where I lived, thus a devotion to the fashion industry was born.  I did love the fashion industry, but I have often wondered since then if a driving force behind choosing a major in Textiles and Clothing was the prospect of getting out of town.  But choosing to get out on my own right after high school set me on the path that has led me to where I am today.

             Shortly after getting away to college my second “Why not me?” moment occurred when I discovered running and the thought of entering a race crossed my mind.  Yeah, me, the so far most unathletic kid of the family.  I pushed myself though.  If other people could run 10k’s then,“Why not me?”  Over the next 20 years I ran many 5k’s, 10k’s, a couple ½ marathons and marathons and while I never made it to the Olympics, or anything close, I gained a lot of self-confidence and fortitude that has carried me through many a tough times.

             At the age of 43, right after getting married for the second time, my husband and I discussed having a child.  The odds weren’t exactly on our side and there were naysayers in the wings, but I had always wanted a second child and I thought other women were having babies in their forties, at least according to the news media, so “Why not me?”  That said, there were a few “What the h-e-double chopsticks was I thinking” moments during my soon thereafter pregnancy.  They are but a memory now as that healthy little bundle of joy has got our hearts wrapped around her pudgy, little fingers. 

             Granted, it is harder to grab those “Why not me?” moments as we get older and the naïveté of youth is worn thin by the harsh realities of life, but I am still looking to the horizon waiting to grasp that next big bubble that floats my way.  Who knows, if Stephenie Myers can have a dream about vampires and turn it into a bestselling book series and movie deal, then, ”Why not me?” ….minus the vampires, of course, I’m pretty sure that’s yesterday’s story. 

             And, if you haven’t had any “Why not me?” moments yet, then, “you better get on it!”

 

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