Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Happyness and Fatbikes Explained

Yes, it's a cliché that happyness means different things to different people.  A tailwind, a windfall, Wind River Mountains or wind in your sails.  But trying to explain or defend your particular brand of happiness to someone else is annoying.

This weekend I was on my fat bike and ran into another rider that I know.  Inevitably they always say something like "so...you're on that bike…"  Or they ask "how do you like your fat bike?"  Well, duh, it's like explaining cold beer on a hot day, or why sex is good.   It just is.

Maybe they are just jealous....

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Feeling Stuck

When I was out riding on Sunday I came barreling down a steep hill where I could see a mud puddle at the bottom.  I didn’t want to slow down so I took my chances with the mud, thinking that just maybe the muddy ravine had a hard bottom.  I skirted the edge, but naturally it was a full-on bog.  As soon as my front tire hit I was sucked down, hard.  Then my left foot went in deep.  


Yes, I can read dirt and mud and I knew better -- but I did it anyway.  I guess in the back of my mind, against reason, I thought if I could just ride fast enough I would sail through.  My own fault.  So I paused, said a few cuss words and then pulled and pulled on the damn wheel till it broke free. 


There’s a moment when you break free that puts you off balance.  But if you wait too long to pull yourself out you just get sucked down deeper.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beautiful Nora

After several long days of travel, worry, sleep deprivation, and endless frustration, I broke down in tears in a restaurant in a small town in Colorado. I had been up since 3:00 am and on the road all day -  but Dad insisted that we go out to dinner with his good friends, a couple in their early 70's.

I don’t think that Dad even noticed when I excused myself to the bathroom to try and pull myself together.  When I got back to the table, Nora (Bill’s beautiful wife who has Alzheimer’s), asked if I wanted to share her chocolate cream pie with her.  I was surprised because she and I had just sat through the entire dinner not talking - she being locked in the netherworld of dementia; and me - I didn’t have an ounce of energy left to puzzle out conversation that I couldn’t hear.  (My dad's Parkinson's has made his voice soft and garbled and with my deafness, the last 48 hours put me at the end of my rope.) 

I felt like both Nora and I were invisible through the entire evening, nodding and smiling the best we could.  But then in a way that only happens when two souls really meet, she reached through both of our barriers with the chocolate pie.  One plate, two forks - and we had a real conversation.  I told her that she made my night and she nodded and smiled back in complete understanding.    She told me a few things in my ear, just for me, that saved me that night.  I so wish I’d known her back in the day, but I see her, still.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Year 15 of Grief - "Go and Be Happy"

This last week marked the 15th anniversary of my daughter, Anneliese’s death.  She was born Jan. 31, 2001 and died on February 19th, 2001.  All those days in between are hard. Every single year it's hard and for some reason  I always think someday it will be different.  This year it was almost like being thrown back into the black hole of the beginning, barely holding on.  I felt like I was going through my days underwater. All the side dishes that go with my particular brand of grief reared their ugly head, things that I thought were put to rest years ago, like PTSD.  I couldn’t focus on anything, all I could do was get up and go through the motions.  On the last day - her heaven day - a dear friend showed up at my work with flowers in hand (and a whiskey shooter) and then it all came crashing down.  But it was just what I needed – to leave work and let it all crash down.   
The next day I was physically exhausted, like I’d been through a wreck, but I truly felt better mentally.  Whew, I did it - I made it through again!   And I am celebrating in a sense, because while I know I will always carry this sadness as part of my being, things have changed with Year 15.   
I have “done my time," as my dad put it.  After Anneliese died I struggled to make sense of it.  When you can’t fix your child you try to fix other things, things that you think are within your control. After Anneliese died I was struggling to walk again because of a blood clot that was a complication of pregnancy (which almost cost me my life too).  My Aunt Sandi organized us into a team for the March of Dimes Walk for Babies.  And so I walked.  This small beginning of walking again turned into an annual event and every year we raised thousands of dollars for babies and their families in Wyoming.  I organized the walk every year, almost obsessively.  In memory of Anneliese but also because I was, and am, so grateful for my two 'babies' that are here and most of all - to help other families. But there came a point when organizing the walk was like opening a deep wound every year and so I let it go….
Then somewhere along the way I started reaching out to parents in our community who had lost a child.  I ended up leading the local chapter of The Compassionate Friends, a national grief support group for parents, grandparents and siblings.  I wanted to bring people together to support each other and ease the suffering that only grieving parents know.  But going back to my dad's advice, he could see what I couldn’t – that I couldn’t "fix" everyone and that trying to fix things was not going to bring my daughter back.  It’s not that I gave up but that I finally realized that it is okay for me to move past that part of my grief.  It’s not a letting go of Anneliese, or her memory, but an opening up for other things of this world.

A few months ago I asked a mentor/friend  for advice when I was thinking of stepping down from The Compassionate Friends. She said, about her decision to step down as leader years ago: “it’s not who I am anymore.”  And then she told me, “Go and be happy.” 
So this is me, learning to “go and be happy.”  It’s time. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Deafness - Giving in vs. Giving Up

I think I'm going through the five stages of grief, but with my deafness.  About a month ago I was seesawing between anger and a deep sadness -- about the time that I realized I can no longer hear people who stop at my office door to talk.  I'm not sure why, but I seem to be losing my hearing at an alarming rate.  My hearing loss is classified as being "moderately severe" to "severe" in both ears with my speech understanding teetering on the 'not functional' edge.

Yesterday I came to a realization - which I hope means that I am starting the "acceptance" phase. I was out riding bikes with friends and missed most of the conversations.   Because I was feeling tired  I sort of gave in.  I just didn't have any leftover energy to devote to hearing.  I found that by giving in I was content to simply enjoy their company. I was sprawled on a rock in the winter sunshine drinking a beer so really, what could be better?

Also, I didn't feel like burdening them with constant "whats??" and "I'm sorry I didn't get that."   I can hear laughter and even though I'm not hearing the joke - some days that's enough.  Every day I'm working on patience and gratitude.  It's an uphill battle as I'm the least patient person you'll ever meet, just ask my family...

In 2016 I'm going to work on the acceptance thing but also try to take charge.  I'm getting a captioned phone for one.  I will also try to go easy on myself - sometimes giving in (taking a break) is not the same as giving up.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Rumi today

I am so close, I may look distant.
So completely mixed with you, I may look separate.
So out in the open, I appear hidden.
So silent, because I am constantly talking with you.
~ Rumi 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

White Rim in a Day - Canyonlands National Park

I was invited by a dear friend to join her and two other friends to ride the White Rim in a day (WRIAD).  I was plenty intimidated - the White Rim Trail is a 103-mile loop on a jeep road through Canyonlands National Park. We did 85 miles by cutting off the boring pavement section.  

The route isn't technical.  Still, I had to train for it and truth be told, I'm a tad lazy.  My most favorite thing to do is ride downhill ~ as fast as a middle-aged mom can. But it sounded fun: 1) this bunch of women would be a blast to ride with 2) it would be beautiful; and 3) you are only young once (as said to me by a very courageous and adventurous woman that I admire!) But cheese and rice, I'd never ridden more than 50 miles on my mountain bike in day (and the 50-miler was when I was 22 years old).

As for elevation gain, the bulk of the ride is pretty easy. Most of the climbing is tackled with three major climbs (Murphy's Hogback, Hardscrabble Hill, and the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks).  The average grade is only 2% and the maximum grade is 56%.  The killer is at the end with the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks netting 1400 feet in elevation gain in the last mile and a half.

The major climbs add up to 4000 vertical feet, but if you recorded every little up-and-down it's more like 6000 feet total.  Per utahmountainbiking.com, most riders spend 3 or 4 days riding this trail and use a support vehicle to haul their gear to the campsites...two days = Monster; one day = Lunatic.

We were going for lunatic, but w
e did have a support vehicle, which met us for lunch and resupplied us with water.  It would have been near impossible to carry enough water for 90-degree heat.  He was also our shuttle at the end.

The riding surface on the four wheel drive jeep road was packed sediment, sand pits, silt pits and slick rock.

It was an amazing and epic trip.   The country is so vast that you can't even fathom it.  The area is by permit only so we only saw about a dozen vehicles and people the entire day.  And at the end of the day, I felt pretty darn good.   I was saddle sore and my triceps ached, maybe from hanging on to the brakes on the first descent.  I would do it again -- but next time I'm riding fat.

I love this picture.  You can see the barest hint of a headlamp on the right, and two morning stars.  There was no ambient light when we started out.  Kristin's headlamp died and so I had to be her wingman on the descent.  It was a little hairy.

These are the Shaffer Switchbacks that we descended in the dark.   We knew it was a drop but I don't think we grasped how big. 

Another view of the switchback descent.

Easy miles - while it was cool out.

Suzanne, who did a fabulous job planning it all!
Kristin.  We put away a good number of miles before the sun even came up.

It wasn't technical but most of the road was varied enough to be interesting.

Emma - who never once walked her bike - not through sand or silt nor up the steepest hill.

Murphy's Hogback was the first major hill of the climb.  We hit it right before lunch at about mile 40.  It was so hot on the back side (with no breeze) that I felt like throwing up.  Except for right after lunch when I ate too much, this was the only time that I didn't feel so great. 

The bathrooms were about 10 miles apart and the only shade.  We took advantage of them.

This is later in the day when we plugged into our music and dug deep.  I was listening to a kick-ass soundtrack (from Where the Trail Ends) and watching these women fly through the vast desert.  It was magical.

It was great when we finally dropped down next to the Green River.  It felt a little bit cooler, at least psychologically.

Emma, climbing everything. 

The last 20 miles or so had a series of sand and silt pits.

Lunch included cold watermelon and ice water, woo-hoo!

Shade at lunch.

Next time I'm carrying my water like this.

There were some fun sections, too.  Punchy little uphill and downhill.

Em and K

My family wrote inspirational messages that were sealed in an envelope - to be opened at mile 40, 60, 70 and at the end.  For me, I dedicated a 10 mile section to different friends and family.  The last 15 miles were for a very special family friend, Chryssie, that encouraged me to do the trip.  I probably wouldn't have done it if it weren't for her.  


This is the end.  Climbing from the river bottom 1400 feet to the top of the rim.

When I finished I felt like I had just joined the bad-ass girls' club.  These women are amazing.

Suzanne - YESSSSS!
Friends, a beautiful sunset and beer.