There’s no Costco in Heaven

He was once a stallion, strong with a chiseled jaw and tall stature, now well past his mid-80’s and considerably withered. My ears were playing tricks on me because I thought he said, “We don’t have a Costco in Heaven.” No one in ear-shot looks surprised, leaving me no clue as to what was really said.

A smile parts my lips and I feel the tears well. I selfishly stifle my emotions so that no one will see, realizing that I feel a measure of comfort knowing there’s no Costco in Heaven. It’s a private moment in a busy day.

The holidays rip at me, I want time to stand still so that I may mourn and gnash my teeth and wallow, I know that is not the way. That the departed would be ill honored by such shallow, predictable, useless and self-serving behavior, but for my grief…  Occasionally it bunches and bulges, surges and threatens to overtake me. Every loss, fresh. Once again deep, open wounds fill and bleed freely. I miss you.

Embarking on the next great adventure, seeking what is beyond the veil of this life…my mind has been on him and what might be out there ready, waiting. Will he explore heaven right now as I ponder the man whose life is too large to capture in an obituary, or even a long winded tribute. Will there be mountains to climb, how high will he go? What will marathons look like, though are those from heaven?

If you’re there when he arrives, circle ’round, find a spot then get acquainted. Expect the best story time, but you’ll have to be patient, he’s not one to boast, he’s not telling to hear his own voice.

I told you before how his days were numbered. There were weeks that stretched to months and turned into more than a year.  It’s time to remember my days are numbered, each of ours are. The concept circles inside of my head to not let a doctor or a disease be the reminder I need.

Someday will come for me too.

For today and each day I am here is an opportunity at love and adventure, at discovery, at chasing my joy like a fast paced foxhunt where the fox and I both win because we are one and we played as hard and as faithful as our spirit would allow.

On the 11th of December the world got a little less light, lost some of it’s sparkle. The mantle we carry to give, to care, to do more good than bad, to forgive and to love just got heavier, our shares increased. The balance of what we are to bring: a measure of good, of light and the challenge to give more than we take grew in the wee hours of the morning when Johnny passed out of this life and into the next.

I wholeheartedly detest two things, New Years Resolutions and Valentine’s Day, so I’m not waiting until January 1st to make sure everyday I start fresh, make a mark and try to climb above it. I’m not waiting until Valentine’s Day to start spreading my love around. I love you and all your mess, your flaws, your iniquity and your bright and glorious self, your goodness, generosity and creativity. I love you.

Don’t wait, start that adventure, run that race, take that trip, fly that heart. Go now.

 

Good-bye for now Johnny Yu, 7/26/48 to 12/11/15. Thank-you for setting such an amazing example of love and life, generosity and the example of largeness and joy!

You Spin me Round and Round

You Spin me Round and Round

Scraps of Armor

It’s been there for two years, almost two years anyway. It feels like a lifetime and though I don’t know if anyone else ever noticed–for me–it was my sweet, and silent, tiny little piece of armor.  Strong, and still soft like when someone grabs hold of you, gives you a hug and whispers strength in your ear because they know you’ll never admit you need it. That piece of heart shaped paper with four little names on it was just like that.

It seems barely a breath has passed, though in fact two years have gone by, my life and everything in it felt fragile then. My rational, grown-up part of my mind knew the life it wanted, but my heart was fragile, hurting and full of doubts.  The hardest year in recent memory was coming to a close, no resolutions and no promise of improvement. Emotionally I was adrift, clinging to vague hopes and lost dreams, I clung to the fact that despite feeling like I might die, no one had…actually died…

Days would slip by when I could not eat, I would force myself to drink water, cringing at the thought of food. I withered, physically, emotionally, spiritually…I felt like I was dying. I was in hiding, hoping that all of the turmoil would melt away but not at the expense of going back to the past.

Then one day–admittedly in a haze of emotions a little tiny hand, no longer the chubby fist of a toddler and not quite the dexterous hand of a big kid–reached from the backseat and tapped me, handing off this tiny scrap of love.

Imperfect and cut with safety scissors, a heart, on it the words; mama, papa, Apollo, Orion. Scrawled with his tiny hand, in imperfect penmanship, made in stolen moments after a class project. Mama at the top of the list. It really was up to me…

The love that holds us...

The love that holds us…

I am not a sentimentalist.

Mini KnightsNot by any stretch of the imagination. Nothing feels better, for me, than letting go. Lucky for me, when I let go I rarely ever look back, that coupled with impatience for “junk memories” means I rarely remember anything long enough to regret getting rid of it.

I just held that scrap of red paper and wept before I could even start the car to pull out of the school parking lot.  I knew, then and there, not just what I wanted but that I had strength enough to get there.  A sense that if I could just hold on, the pieces of my puzzle would start fitting back together. I felt comforted.

God,  I hate not being an open book, but no one could have or would have wanted to hear the crap I was sorting. Even if they did, would I ever come back from the judgments they would pass, the doubts they would have about me?

That little scrap of my heart said I was going to be okay. Patience…have I mentioned I have none? So it was that I faced, head on, a test I knew I was otherwise not equipped to make it through.

I offered accolades to Apollo telling him how much I loved his gift, I held it all the way home then tucked it into an empty compartment in the car, for months that’s where it lived. At the school pick-up I would pull it out sometimes when I was waiting. A guaranteed smile would wash over my face, even on the bad days.IMG_2944

In the spring I quietly brought my love scrap into the house and mounted it to the side of our stainless steel refrigerator. I’m sure someone noticed but all mom’s are required to keep various gestures of affection from our children. No one knew this was actually a direct answer to personal prayer, executed by my own.

Family, it means more to me than I can adequately put into words.  If you know me at all, know my deepest held beliefs, know that my family is vast and extended and many are my dearest and favorite friends, especially my sisters and my husband, even my own mom, than you would not be at all surprised how much this paper screamed that life was going to be ok…eventually.

Last week, when I was cleaning, I took down my love scrap and recycled it to the paper gods. I don’t need it anymore, this picture is enough. So thankful for little hands and little scraps of armor.

An Oregon Thing

It Was Night Time

I was driving home at 9:30 at night a few days ago, top down, wind in my hair and it happened. That familiar hush, of Sonoma County, in the night time, the damper to sound and traffic. The night sky was glowing the way it does when low clouds, or high fog, are hovering just overhead–compressed into a sound dampener. Total dejavous swept over me, obliterating that moment and smashing it into hundreds of moments where I’d been in an entirely different state. A different world really.

Here I am in Bohemia, and I am having a flashback to CowCountry.

In the high deserts of Central Oregon, the nights are crisp and clear. It sounds like an exaggeration to the rest of the country but trillions of stars stand out like bright sequins, the light from the stars so bright that the Cascade Mountains are backlit, a ragged, majestic silhouette of razor sharp peaks . None of that was happening here in Sonoma.

The night sky was glowing softly,  alive and lit from within, like soft bioluminescence. There are no real mountains (sorry sonoma…truth hurts) but the air smelled familiar, taking me back to so many summer And fall nights growing up.  In Sonoma–in the neighborhoods close to where I live–evening smells rotate with different times of the year; there’s fragrant jasmine nights, eucalyptus, rain, mown grass, sometimes apple blossoms and daffodils, fermenting (rotting fruit, usually grapes but at my house it could be figs) even wine can fill the air from various wineries…other nights the pungent smell of feedlots and ranch stuff can hang in the air (there are plenty of cows in Central Oregon but rare, unless you’re the rancher, to smell them on any given night)…and other times of year (in Sonoma) you can drive around and smell out which of your neighbors are pot farmers…

Tonight it just smelled like a late summer or fall night in Central Oregon, it smelled like a wood fire, a forest fire. No seriously. NorCal is on fire, Oregon is on fire, Washington, Idaho and Montana are all beating down fires…I don’t think fog is hanging over head, I think it might be smoke.dt.common.streams.StreamServer

Rampant fires are taking homes, lives and property.  When I was in school I took four years of Forestry. It’s an Oregon thing.  I even took college credit courses in forestry fire-fighting, built firelines, did some backburning…cleared a lot of brush and understory… I wanted to grow up to be a superhero. A firefighting superhero, I got side tracked with boys, and life rearranged some of those one-time dreams, but I remember how rewarding it was and how much work it was and I remember during one course a fire we were following had several firefighters from Arizona die. I remember how serious it is.11880440_10207489730543946_6792181153920138706_n How devastating everything can be in the blink of an eye.

So I’m driving home at nine o’clock at night, the top off the jeep, looking at the glowing night air and doing something I haven’t done in a while…thinking about families whose loved ones are out protecting others from fire, putting themselves between homes and fires…If I’m honest I found myself saying prayers. I don’t know what makes another person decide they are willing to risk their life for the welfare of strangers, but I am thankful for them, not just the ones fighting fires. 

Sit and Spin

You Spin me Round and Round

You Spin me Round and Round

Who doesn’t want to get paid to sit and drool on their computers while remixing and regurgitating and re-spinning entirely new ways to get you to read all the life changing things you need, right this minute. Things that will improve your lips, your life, your smile, your orgasms, give you thicker hair, better skin, longer life.

I’ve been writing blogs for big dollars. I’m so good I think I will be moving on. Climbing up in the spin world. That and I’m getting tired, bored in fact.

Does something ail you?

I bet it does.

Soft in the middle, fuzzy in the noodle?

Headaches, malaise, achy joints?

Probably from the fillings you got when you were 12, compacted by the synergistic mix of  toxins you’ve been exposed to. Everything from fluoridated water and GMO’s to xenoestrogens or worse, yellow no. 9.

In fact a conspiracy thrives in your own backyard (and this I’m not making up) to continue poisoning the hearts and minds of good, hardworking people everywhere, but especially the gullible ones. (The idea seems a good candidate for originating right here in California…if not then I’m sure it came straight from D.C.)

If you’ve already had all of your silver fillings replaced with something mercury free and only drink safe non fluoridated water, you’re already avoiding foods that mimic estrogen in the human body and staying away from that pesky yellow no. 9, then surely you also don a tinfoil hat when you get on the internet,  but it isn’t so aliens can’t see into your mind’s eye, no–it’s to jam the NSA from reading your thoughts. Good thinking.

All of those preventative measures definitely make you smart enough to keep up with me for the rest of this article. You’re savvy. You have on your tinfoil hat…that’s actually made from aluminum foil…

I’ve been writing blogs and getting paid for well over a year. I’m so good now that I think its time to start thinking about my next big gig. Time for moving up in the spin world. 

I think I am proficient in spin so I’m working on my best campaign yet. You may have heard of it. It needs some work in its current condition…may seem rather evil…maybe you haven’t heard of it. Come to think of it, those politicians are crafty, so don’t feel bad if this is all news to you.

The current government, no–I’m not working for D.C. yet–just trying to get my foot in the door–needs new spin. Clever marketing in order to turn an evil, twisted conglomerate of policy, that tries to keep all the cattle–I mean voters happy–into something a little less convoluted…or at least palitable.

It goes something like this:

  • The oil company gets a tax subsidy to maintain their profits.
    • We pay taxes on the gas we consume…purportedly to support maintaining the roads.
    • So who’s paying the oil companies?
      • (There must be a magic money tree at the white house too…just like the one I have in my backyard…)
  • The car manufacturers are required to produce cars with a higher average MPG. This keeps things looking good on paper but not in reality.
    • So they make one shitty hybrid that they don’t even want you to buy. This in turn lowers their company’s overall gas mileage “on average” based on ALL the model types they offer. (They aren’t the effers you want to think they are. They just play by the rules, rules our government makes trying to keep the asses the masses happy.)

Government thinks there are too many people who are too stupid to follow logic so they play spin games. Unfortunately, it mostly does work for them.

It gets even more convoluted…

  • Gas Taxes we pay at the pump are supposed to go towards road maintenance.
    • But if you drive in a regular vehicle as a significant part of your job (i.e. use the roads and the gas more than I do…you get a tax write off to offset the cost)
    • If you buy a hybrid…and don’t buy any gas…but still drive as much or more (which is likely) than I do (why else would you justify a hybrid…just to “goGreen”? Riiight) you get a federal tax credit. I guess it serves as a shiny green distraction to offset the “where the hell did this money come from?” thought that you should have had, and make you feel good for being such a good citizen and saving the air and fossil fuels.
      • In fact the Federal government has been offering tax incentives to buy green cars for so long that the carrot seems to be working.
      • Working well too because now the government is proposing that drivers of electric cars pay a road tax to help pay for the roads they are driving on.
        • So they get a carrot to buy the car but then don’t get to count the dollars they are saving because they aren’t buying enough gas…in fact, if Uncle Sam had his way we would pay a big enough tax to equal what we are saving.

Wait a minute…What about the hundreds of dollars in car registrations Californians get to pay…Every. Single. Year…that’s supposed to go to roads too…I can’t even touch this part yet.

Does all of this sound like it smells? (Because it totally smells like poop) Now. Imagine if I can make all of this smell as pretty as I do after a good 8 mile run…admit it, that would be an improvement, and about as much as we can hope for…imagine the big bucks I could rake in.

Here is the truth. Government hopes to keep us ignorant. Chasing carrots and totally only looking at what is in front of our face. They really don’t have a choice, they want to keep their good jobs and good healthcare so they have to feed us half truths and keep us mostly in the dark.

It will stay that way until people want to get rid of all the BS, all the spin doctors, all the loopholes…and since I don’t see that happening…what’s the saying? If you can’t beat ’em, join em.

Your Genie is a Carpet Ride Away

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I gave up shit for lent…

Today is Ash Wednesday, and wouldn’t you know it, the neighborhood power is out for “routine maintenance,” (NSA setting up better recon on the guy down the street…or me…not sure) eight hours of not opening the fridge, and all I can think about is lent and how when I was growing up dad always encouraged us to give something up for lent.

Lent is never mentioned in the bible, but I still like it. Think of lent as actively praying for forty days. Rather something like this “…dear god, why would I ever think I was strong enough to give up wine!” …or chocolate or whatever you love to indulge in…

Upon my reflection I realize I gave up “shit” for lent: dumbshits, shit heads, bullshit, piles of shit, gives of shit, shit holes (assholes), shitty food, and shit, literally…

I mean, crap, I have been cleaning up someone else’s shit for more than two decades. W.T.F. Really. With dogs, parrots, a cat, chickens and kids, there’s a lot of shit around here that needs cleaning or hiding…

I have been wiping kid-ass for more than twenty years. Let that sink in. I’ve worked at vet clinics…on ranches and in kid care…wanna talk about shit, I’m your gal. By the time I’m done wiping kid butts it will be my moms turn–(sorry mom) and then my husbands and then after fifty years of up close and personal with everybody else’s little brown-eye, you guessed it, then it will be my turn…for someone to wipe my ass.

So before it’s too late to take a break from shit-I’m doing it, right now, for lent…In one more hour because the fucking dog has shit stuck to his butt, AGAIN, (he needs to quit growing hair) and I can’t turn on the clippers to shave his ass until the power gets turned back on…

Then I’m done with this stupid shit! At least for lent.

I know that’s backwards-we are supposed to suffer in commemoration of Jesus and his forty days he fasted and suffered in the desert before he was crucified…I’ve been suffering…I’m giving the “shit suffering” mantle over to someone else for a bit…

It probably won’t last and I’m probably just freaking out because I’m stuck with shit (literally) until the power comes back on…that and I’m starving since I won’t open the fridge until the power comes on…I cleaned all the junk food out of the cupboards (no-I didn’t eat it-I threw it away days ago…originally I was just giving up shitty food for lent…) and I need some protein!

Later I will feel shitty for exposing you to shitty language (just the silent ramblings I usually keep to myself), you know-after I eat, then clean the dogs behind-so apologies ahead of time.

Will You Be Mine?

Everything tastes better when you’re hungry, chocolate, burgers, steak, sex… mmmmm… so hungry.

We all want hair pulling, ass grabbing, all night long…chocolate. Am I right?

That’s exactly why you should boycott trivial, trumped up holidays like Valentines Day. I mean is it steak dinner night or chocolate mousse night or can we just skip to the ass-grabbing dessert?

I love the idea of a fun day for little kids to pass out candy hearts to classmates, and a reason to make the kids heart shaped pancake and eggs. I hate the idea of a scheduled–nationally scheduled–day, hyped-up, fake holiday, made up romancing day, to wine, dine and sixty-nine me, as if we need a reason for that!

To be fair some of my best make-out sessions have been scheduled. Tuesday night: sex night. There’s a difference between a commercial holiday that tells women they need something sparkly and that this somehow signifies the good things in life, and hopefully, true love -vs- a day that my lover and I make sure that we carve out time for something kinkier than a quickie–kids and jobs can trick you into forgetting about how important that time is.

I don’t always schedule hair-pulling, but when I do it’s never because of something trivial, like what day of the year…same thing with gifts; don’t get me started on birthdays and Christmas!

That being said, some people love the tradition of certain holidays–I’m not a conformist–if you love these paper heart, commercial holidays, fine by me but my rebellious side refuses to reciprocate. It goes against my principals so don’t waist your time or money–not on a holiday anyway…

So my plans for tonight? Salad, one slice of pizza, while watching a movie-at home, then “dessert”…oh wait, that’s what we had last night…it’s crazy, we are wild like that…ha!

All right–carry on folks! With any luck you’re smarter than the average person and you skipped dinner so you won’t be too full when dessert comes around…or you skipped V day altogether and went to bed, resting up for a real adventure bright and early tomorrow no doubt!

Happy Valentines.

If You Hate Running, Even Better

Everything matters.

Or at least I want it to. All of it to have meaning and lessons and prove some petty need for validation that “I’m special”. Except, try as I might…I just don’t have it in me to give a rat’s behind about ALL of it.

I read books. Meh.

“That was okay.” I’ll think.

I’d take that day or those days back.

“I could do better.”

But I don’t. I just sit there replaying the weak parts…
I read your blogs…lots of them some days.

*sigh

“that’s the best; Best title? Best topic? Best intro? WTF? Did they just read thru everyone else’s blogs and regurgitate? Are we all supposed to be talking about how Mia Angelou saved us or how Harper Lee changed our lives? (No mention of the literary teacher who likely forced these authors on you or you’d never have read them…) yapping endlessly about fashion or fame? Or sex? (Okay-keep up the sexy talk, at least that’s not yawn-worthy all of the time.)

Gag me.

I guess I do care, right now, in this second, because I’m fed up. Rest assured. I’ll get over caring-you’re not that big-a-deal.

While I do care, I’d like to take this momentum and draw attention to all the people that turn everything into a point of contention, a bitch-fest. It’s starting to feel like I’m talking about everyone, including you…[with the exception of my *sisters*, all of whom are bright spots in the universe.] Instead I reference all those people who care what kind of person Miley Cyrus is or Emma Watson for that matter?

Who cares if the next James Bond casts a black Bond? Really?

Why are so many people so eager to go on a Big One for things trivial and, mostly, absurd? Why are we obsessed with getting our opinions validated on everything from peanut butter and jelly’s to feminism to religion?

If all the people who are good at caring about everything actually gave a turd about anything real, like preserving Native American lands and culture, feeding the hungry preserving coral reefs, sex trafficking, reducing our collective human footprint, corruption in government or saving my ass from destitution when I’m old (economy collapse) then maybe the state of the Union would actually stand a chance of getting better.

Instead we all stick our noses up Kim Kardashian’s butt, interject ourselves into any trite experience, carry around our little paper cups full of hot liquid showcasing a two tailed mermaid on the front, and use it all as an excuse to blow off the quality of our work, our health, our moments to connect to each other, a child, a community; shiny distractions that we dump energy and time into while we get slow and soft in the middle (and in the grey matter.)

Wake-up! Go running, run until your brain is empty, your body feels nothing and the petty little distractions melt into oblivion.

If you hate running, even better…the pain is good, helps clear the mind of insignificant and worthless junk.

I’m sure my rant is lack-of-run induced. It’s been two days and my brain is having withdrawals…

When you’re done, you just might find out you don’t have time for the clutter of caring about everything. Maybe, just maybe, with some practice, we can all learn to care a little bit less.

Run For It!!!

does this headband make me look fast?

does this headband make me look fast?

There’s another one! I just saw her on my way home from school drop-offs. I want to slam on the breaks, honk, get out and slap Each. And. Everyone. Of them. Don’t they know there are people like me on the road–trying to run them over!? Well not trying to run them over, at least not me…not on purpose anyway.

It’s hard to navigate my disgust, because on the flip side I want to cheer for her.

She’s out running. The roadsides and gyms are flooded with all the New Year’s resolutions. People determined to not let another year slip by without focussing on their fitness. Filled with all the people who got a brand new shiny FitBit or other fancy gadget to indicate they have fulfilled their 10,000 step goal. Also filled with the regular runners, bikers and other gym enthusiast that I see on a regular basis. I was her once. I want to cheer, you go girl! She is going to feel great later today, later this year (if she keeps it up). The difference is I don’t try to get run-over every time I go out on the road for a run.

You’ve seen it too right?

Runners who assume everyone drives like they do…or like they think they do…Runners, running with their backs to traffic, this girl with headphones in.  I don’t care how bright your fancy running pants are, if I am distracted I will still not see you. And the big silver, 3/4 ton, Dodge diesel I drive has no fancy navigation system, it will not distinguish between off roading fun and running over a person…

Flashy clothes alone can't save runners from rogue vehicles and distracted drivers.

Flashy clothes alone can’t save runners from rogue vehicles and distracted drivers.

If you have refocused previous efforts or are reinventing yourself entirely, especially by running or walking more, cheers to you! I won’t complain about the gym being too full, or the roads bustling with with more foot traffic. Really. I am happy for you. Stick with it. If you get distracted, pick it back up. You don’t have to wait for New Years. Just start again.

BOOM! Just like that you’re back.

In the meantime, here are some helpful tips to help you stay alive while you are out there pounding pavement:

1.) Run into traffic. Well, not literally into it, that would defeat the purpose of getting healthy. However, you should be facing oncoming traffic. Shoulders down, relaxed, chest out and head up looking at each car. (Even looking down a little restricts oxygen, that will slow you down, but not as much as getting smashed by a car.)

2.) Did you know that wearing sunglasses can reduce your field of vision by 40%? Yeah, I wear them too. I’m just cool like that. All the more reason to keep your eyes on traffic.

3.) Go without headphones. I listen to music, not every run though. When I do have my tunes I only wear one headphone and I keep it down low enough to hear my own singing over the music–sometimes I throw out my arms and sing my heart out in the middle of a run, that’s when I realize I am not as tired as I thought I was…and that everyone now knows “I’m friends with the monster under my bed…”

Some interesting things I’ve noticed, running without iTunes.

Smells are more intense. Things like daffodils in spring, and eucalyptus trees come to mind right now, wet grass, and heady lilac too, heck even brewing coffee or bar-b-q (…then there are the few times I wish I hadn’t noticed: horse farm, garbage day and slurry pits…) The sky’s a little bluer, songbirds louder, frogs happier and laughing kids, sweeter. I don’t know, it’s just a nice change.

Here’s another nice thing about no music. There can sometimes be very serene and spiritual moments to a good run–in fact, there should be. When I decide that I am dedicating a run to someone, (and run with no music) a friend in need (my neighbor with cancer), a loved one, even someone who has passed away, I tend to run further and faster with less complaints from my head and body. Try it.

That and you will hear the cars coming toward you.

4.) Get out of the bike lane, if you see a biker coming. I know, usually the rule is “lower and slower” gets the right of way but not in this instance. Bikers have their backs to traffic–if they aren’t idiot bikers–and you’re feet are more maneuverable than some of those skinny road bike wheels, so scooch over. They might even thank you but don’t expect that, in fact they may not even acknowledge you but who cares. It’s the right thing.

5.) You know what else is the right thing? Keep it to yourself. Don’t litter. Don’t throw down your water bottles, or empty Gu packs (If you’re doing this-you are a tool and maybe you deserve to get run over). Really. Fact is that unless you are running for more than an hour, you’ll survive without both…you will also be tougher. Stick that gooey package back where you had it stashed, even if you had it in your sports bra, you’ll survive and you’re going to need a shower pill anyway.

6.) Reflect. Weather morning or night it’s easy to not notice how dark it might be to a driver if the sun is waxing or waning…I feel silly running with a reflective vest but I’m not so cool that I don’t when I choose runs late in the evening. Besides…I think it makes me faster, if only to hush the nay-sayers.

Besty who runs at night with me! Night runs are ah-maz-balls!!!! This pic is post 4.5 at about midnight, cuz we're rebels. Running at night makes you feel like a kid, cuz it's silly and nuts.

Besty who runs at night with me! Night runs are ah-maze-balls!!!! This pic is post 4.5 at about midnight, cuz we’re rebels. Running at night makes you feel like a kid, cuz it’s silly and nuts.

7.) I’ve discovered that running buddies also make me stronger, keep me safer, and are a good distraction around mile five or six…for some reason after forty or fifty minutes I start getting bored, that and on a really long run (10-12 miles, I sometimes end up out in BFE-alone-that creeps me out a little.)

Yesterday Aden when on a five miler with me. Not long but he's fast. Even though we were talking the whole time we still averaged nine minute and fourteen second miles. Easy for him, hard for me! Stud.

Yesterday Aden and I post five miler, (no make-up and he still looks good!). Not that long but he’s fast. Even though we were talking the whole time we still averaged nine minute and fourteen second miles. Easy for him, hard for me! Oh- and then he turned around and ran back home five miles averaging 7:40 or 50something each mile! Stud.

When I have a buddy it’s always better. I’m lucky, I have a teenage kiddo who makes a (mostly) reliable and good running partner and I’ve been collecting others!

Regardless, fast or slow, you’re doing it. That’s what counts in the end!

I am happy to see new faces out on my runs, just stay safe.

 

I Got My Whitewater Team-Bring It 2015

I must have made some kind of silent wish, listened to that story and let it rekindle some barely alive spark still smoldering. It fits, I’d listened to that young man and his tale, thought it the perfect call to adventure, and somehow wished it upon myself. He was young, approaching 19 and still in awe of all life held before him.

He’d stood in front of us, gathered to celebrate the passing of time, the beginning of adulthood and the end of high school. It was early summer and graduation parties for young men and young women were abundant, so was the excitement of new adventures and big dreams. I don’t remember his name, barely recall what he looked like, young, handsome, tall with waves in his light brown hair, but it’s vague. What’s not vague is the story he offered up and the wish that he bestowed upon us all.

“It was going to be the trip of a lifetime.” He started, ” three generations together, one epic journey to commemorate their solidarity, their love and to forever bind their hearts to each other. My grandfather, my father, my brother and myself were stepping out the door to tame the wild, slay dragons and navigate the the treacherous Rogue River down deep in the wild wilderness of southern Oregon. We had signed up for a guided trip, with other strangers looking for adventure, it was the summer before my brother would leave for college and everything would change.

My grandfather had booked the trip and now we all sat in the car at our rendezvous point with our group.

‘Before we get out,’ my Grandpa said, ‘I’d like to offer up a family prayer.’

This wasn’t abnormal for our little tribe and so each grabbed another’s hands and silently bowed their head. We probably should have paid attention to the building anticipation, been afraid of how things just fell together too easily, recognized it as an omen that time offs were granted, and schedules cleared, but we were oblivious, the smell of excitement filling our noses, testosterone coursing through our veins…heads hastily bowed, ‘hurry’, was my prayer, ‘before someone uses up all the fun.’

Grandfather inhaled, let it out and began, ‘Heavenly Father bless us that we will encounter all the adventure that we can handle. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.’

That was it. I was left wondering who was this guy and what had he done with my long winded grandfather, I quickly decided I shouldn’t question it, maybe God answered my silent prayer, the Lord works in mysterious ways, after all. And so it was that we all excitedly exited the car grabbing arm loads of gear and coolers of food. Enough, in hand, to last us three nights and four days in the wilderness, and we were off. Off on the adventure of a lifetime, we could not contain our enthusiasm.

The first half of the day was un-eventful, as far as rafting trips go, fun…predictable, there was a brief midday stop for grub but I hadn’t had time to build up an appetite. We nibbled on turkey sandwiches and drank bottled water, mingling with our new companions. My brother and I were filled with anticipation and excitement and saw this lunch break as unnecessary, spending much of our break skipping rocks across the burgeoning waters, full from the spring melt following a record year of heavy snowfall.

When lunch concluded and we began the process of relaunching half a dozen rafts we were armed with a brief run down of the next stretch of river and what to expect. Class 3 rapids were up ahead–I was going to see some action after all–and in the next half hour, adrenaline was swirling, I was on pins and needles.

Most rapids get smaller in the spring as the deeper melt-off water adds cushion to the underlying boulders, this upcoming area however was the exception to that rule. With vertical cliffs on both sides, a giant boulder more than ten feet tall pinned between them and a matching ten or twelve foot drop off the back side of said boulder. Lower water levels, meant a bigger drop off the backside but slower water too, thus making it easier to navigate your approach. The approach here is what mattered.

The boulder marks the first in a series of rapids. Entering these from the right side of the boulder is paramount to safely negotiating the next hundred yards of peril. It sounded fun, we were ready. Our boats began spreading out, making room for each other to chance the Rapids safely spaced out, we were the fourth boat with two following us. When the infamous boulder came into sight. The first three boats each took their turn paddling hard towards the right cliff, finding their mark and sliding effortlessly over the large rock of death.

Suddenly it was our turn and we were hurdling toward the left side of the cliff, we dug in our paddles, a singular and perfect effort…until the current ripped dads paddle from his hands. In his effort to retrieve the paddle he fell from the boat, the right side of the boat. Cliffs ever looming and fast approaching he scrambled trying to climb back in, each of us grabbing hold of his life jacket. Suddenly our raft was hurled into the left cliff with all the force of a raging river, we ricocheted off the left wall, then slamming into the right cliff and over the top of dad. He was gone, just like that; lost in the white water. Because of the manner of traversing the path over the Rock of death, we went over the water fall in a spin and to the left.

I barely had time to worry about the safety of my father when I found myself swimming in the icy water, our boat having flipped upside down at the base of the falls, all of our supplies and gear sliding out into the fast, swirling, rushing waters. My head broke the surface of the water and I felt the scream leave my lips but could not hear my own voice over the rush of the water.

If I tell you that it was maybe eight minutes of solid rapids that’s not doing the experience justice. Climb into an extra large washing machine and try to stay in it for seven or eight minutes while it’s going. It’s a better idea of what riding those rapids, outside the boat, felt like.

White Water Rapids

While I won’t deny I was afraid, I didn’t entirely have time to really consider how scary, just trying to find air and land, when I finally did, I saw my grandfather on the other side of the river, safety on land and sitting up. I could see a cut on his forehead but he looked okay. In the distance I could see the last two boats far away, upright and getting smaller and smaller on the horizon, our gear strewn about, some on the shore but most of it smack in the middle of the river and on a course far out of reach to us.

I looked up river from where we’d come and saw raging water, boulders and fallen logs all creating a hazardous maze of rushing white water. Standing on one of the boulders lining the opposite side of the river I could see my big brother, Joe. He was standing, arms in air waving at us, the orange life vests downstream. I could not yet see my father and a sense of doom seemed to grow in my heart.

Behind me was a small rocky beach and cliff sides that would soon prove inescapable. My granddad was yelling at me, I couldn’t hear him but understood the indication to stay put as he picked his way over rocks and boulders back to my brother. I watched and soon realized that below my brother my father was laid out on a rocky landing barely big enough for the boulder resting there, dad’s feet were still in the water and I could not see his head, my view obstructed by other obstacles between us.

It seemed hours passed but eventually my grandfather and brother had my dad between them and were carrying him back down towards my position. When they got into clear view I could see dad was hurt but conscious, weak but standing. Whew, thank God.

It took us a lot of time to realize that, though safe from the river, I was also trapped. After scraping every part of my body, and eventually falling from too many feet up I decided I could not safety climb the rock face buffering the river. No one was going to tell me to jump back in the water, there were still a dozen yards of white water. If I jumped in to cross the river, I’d be swept into it and though fine now, there were no guarantees I could pull that stunt twice and live to tell.

While the other side of the river brainstormed, no doubt discussing leaving me there and going for help, I became impatient. I felt prompted to act. I’m sure waiting would have left me weaker and less able, more exposed to the elements and in bigger jeopardy. I couldn’t wait. Dad and grandpa were arguing, again, I couldn’t hear the conversation but I could tell that emotions were running high. I looked at my brother, I must have a ‘tell’ because he stood up like he had a rocket in his butt. He said no words but walked directly to the edge of the water, staring me down. His eyes broke away for just a second and so did mine while I looked down river at what I was facing, when our eyes came back together I jumped in.

helping hand giving to drowning man in sea

That’s when he started yelling and screaming, running down and over all the hurdles in his way, trying to converge on my hopeful landing point. I was lucky. I did make it to the other side, some yards down river, one thing is for sure though, I wouldn’t have without my brother Joe. He was thighs deep and braced against the current on green slimed rocks when he reached out and grabbed me by my sweatshirt-hood hanging from the back of my life jacket, barely grabbing, then dragging me to shore. I don’t know how he did that unless by some miracle.

When the four of us regrouped we stood there for a time, heads together, arms draped over each other’s shoulders, smiling, shivering, laughing. We were sure we were goners and something made that fantastically funny.

Eventually dad and I sat on a rock together unable to really function at full capacity and Joe and grandpa gathered what they could find of our belongings. This included: one smashed turkey sandwich still dry and sealed in a ziplock bag, one empty cooler, two cans of soda and by some other miracle a neon green, plastic tube with a watertight, twist off lid and 13–still dry–matches.

We gathered together all the dry bits of leaves, grass, twigs and sticks we could find and proceeded to build the tiniest, most pathetic fire you’ve ever laid eyes on. Being early summer/late spring most things were too green to burn or had already been swept away by the raging river. No matter, we were sure if we could just hold on, rescue crews would arrive in the next few hours.

Dark fell on us and still we’d herd no rescue choppers nor had we seen any other boaters. We knew our group saw us go over but we did not know they had no way of contacting search and rescue until later the next day. We were lost, deep in the thick of some of Oregon’s most remote wilderness and we’d just pulled ourselves from water barely over fifty degrees Fahrenheit… For perspective that’s only a few degrees warmer than your refrigeraters, to top that we had no food, (not counting the one, smashed turkey Sammy mentioned earlier) had skipped lunch, no dry clothes, no cell phones, no blankets, six dry matches–don’t ask–and a fire you could put out with one boot.

Rogue River temps drop significantly at night, even in the summer and I later learned the temperate that night hit a low of 48. We could see the glow of fog leave our mouths illuminated by our teeny tiny fire and a hush crept over us. When you have enough time to get out of survival mode, that is when dread smacks you in the face. We all reached that moment together as the night noises grew louder and the still air got colder. Finally granddad stood up, pulled one of dads arms up and over his shoulder and said it was time to get going. No one argued, Joe and I stood and followed, happy to let grandpa take the lead, hoping he knew something we didn’t.

We walked, hobbled, limped and shivered through the dark all night finally coming to a barbed wire fence. Knowing fences usually go somewhere we followed it on into the morning dawn. The fence eventually led to an old logging road where we took a break and shared our smashed salmonella sandwich…which is a lot like a smashed turkey sandwich that has been shoved in your pocket for 18 hours. I know we all felt guilty for eating, thinking each of us might need it more than the next but grandpa insisted.

That logging road held so much promise and we felt so hopeful even after morning turned to midday and we still hadn’t seen any other signs of civilization. Eventually after noon we came to a paved road that crossed the logging road and followed that another six or seven miles before we came to a rest area along, you guessed it, the Rogue River. This too gave us hope and renewed belief that we would be rescued soon.

Our father, in desperate need of some rest and surely having suffered a concussion was nauseated and dizzy wanting to lay down and rest. Grandad said there was no time for sleeping that we needed to get found and allowed only for a half hour respite from being on our feet. He set my father down on an ample rock big enough to be a small arm-chair and went to check for running water.

All of the sudden we heard this strange sound coming from the rock. The sound of a giant hornet on steroids or a mini freight train, if you will. I had never heard anything like it but some animal instinct in me knew it was bad, no chance it was something soft and fuzzy… Dad instinctively pulled his feet up on the huge rock and peered past his knees I took a few steps back and studied the rock, it’s then I saw the enormous timber rattler that had laid out its body along the south facing base of the giant chair rock. The snake had been startled from a snooze by our clambering and climbing on his rock and now, feeling threatened wanted to stake his claim.

Joe approached with a handful of pebbles and succeeded incompletely pissing the snake off until he was tightly coiled, buzzing his tail like mad and peering at us, ready to strike. Thats when dad stood up and lunged off the backside of the rock. We all began to argued how to best get rid of the beast and avoid getting snake bit in the process. Meanwhile, grandpa had seen the commotion, picked up a long walking stick sized tree branch, sharpened one end by rubbing it at an angle on the asphalt, walked quickly back to the ensuing mess, held a hand up to silence us, waited for the snake to lay his belly back in the silty sand and start to slither off then lightening fast, stabbed that snake right in the top of his head pushing the stick as far into the sand underneath as he could.

Then while the snake coiled and writhed on the stick grandpa scolded us saying that had we left the snake alone it would have caused us no harm and been on its way. I just stood there staring at the deadly pit viper, that wasn’t going to hurt us yet still managed to find a wooden spear in his or her head…I felt high but I think that was just hunger…

It was easier to find materials for fire here in the day use area so we gathered tender and wood and build another fire in a pit we made in the sand and circled with rocks (but not before we carefully inspected and kicked each rock, checking for any “harmless” pit vipers that might be hanging out.) Once that fire was sending out little glowing dust bunnies grandpa treated us all to cooked rattle snake. I wish I could tell you we were hungry enough that it tasted like fine dining but if you’ve ever had moms cooking you know the bar is pretty high…it was not fine dining and I could not pretend the sand was salt and pepper…but by the end of that chewy meal I did feel certain that all was right in my world and that things were going to be just fine. Ready for some smooth sailing…

IMG_0092

It must have been my guardian angels whispering to me because just before nightfall a car came down the road to the day use area. It was a local man, alone, on his way home from a working out of town, he’d stopped here to relieve his bladder and was as surprised as us. We must have looked awful because after explaining the entire affair the man still looked nervous about taking us with him. It was momentary but even I could see that he thought he was making a mistake.

So it was, with no money, no I.D., no leverage or proof we were rescued by grace. He drove us to his house where loved ones, and eventually authorities were contacted and we were fed and clothed and ushered back into the arms of loved ones.

Joe said, In the back of the State Troopers SUV, on the way to a local hospital to be treated for dehydration and exposure, ” I know I must be insane for thinking this but I am so thankful for the last two days. I feel like I witnessed miracle upon miracle and I definitely had ‘all the adventure I could handle’ thanks for that prayer Granddad, how else would I have such clear proof that there is a God and he does listen and answer prayer.”

He was right you know, my brother Joe. I will be much more careful what I pray for from here on out!”

So I think about that young mans story in summer of 2013 and I’m sure the adventure gods heard my snicker when I had the thought that I could handle whatever they threw my way…cuz last year is proof of that!

Some of my favorite team mates.

Some of my favorite team mates.

I’m still ready for some adventures, I feel sure 2014 was gunning for me but I could be wrong, maybe 2014 was trying to teach me some survival skills, ready me for an even more epic endeavor…one where we are not doomed. Just to be safe, I put in a few request this time and conceded that I would prefer that this go around it’s not ALL white knuckle…but bring it on 2015. I’ve battened down the hatches, steadied my paddles, and thrown on some extra rope and matches for good measure, and though they might look like monkey’s, up close they are the real deal–hardcore, never backdown, never give up, fighters–I got my whitewater team and we are ready.