Up and Running…(part 2 of “Letting Go”…)

Thanks to the help of my good friend, Lawson Barlow, my toilet is now up and running.  While he toiled away at the mess I had made (I’m learning the importance of using the right tool… you called it, LaMonte), his wife, Terri, and I enjoyed mint juleps on the screened in porch.  Who says that letting go and letting someone else step in and help you can’t be all that and a sprig of mint?

Although I can’t discount the importance to my own sense of confidence and self worth that comes from doing things myself, I think that asking good friends for help sometimes, hard as it is, can do far more for me than three days of a closed bathroom door with a heap of wrong tools filling the sink,  including a newly purchased hack saw.  Today, the feeling of knowing I’ve got great friends who will come to my rescue trumps the feelings of pride that comes from doing it myself.

In the event that this happens again, and it likely will given that I have 3 toilets in my house, Lawson gave me my very own pipe wrench, guaranteed not to strip the threads like my over-used pliers did.  With the addition of a new, never used hack saw and a pipe wrench,  my tool box it starting to look legit!

Up and running again!  Thanks, Lawson!

 

Learning to let go….

Along the same lines of my giving readers a heads up not to scroll down for the naked photos that did not exist in my “Skiing Naked” post, I need to be up front about the content to follow which is not about past relationships, disappointments, unmet expectations, or worse, but rather is about fixing toilets.  I had hoped this post would have a happier ending, or an ending, but it doesn’t and for those who want to continue to read this, I’m going to ruin the ending that doesn’t exist and tell you that the toilet is still not fixed nor have I let go of the issue.  The best I can do right now is to focus on the silver lining, which at this very moment means stuff to write about; stuff that may sound kind of funny now but had me in tears two nights ago.

The toilet fill valve on my guest bath toilet decided to quit, or kind of quit, but it was making noise, which is never a good thing… that much I do know.  When I took the video of what was going on post flush in the back of my toilet to the hardware store, the kind gentleman who was helping me knew exactly how to fix it and showed me what to buy and what to do with it, step by step.  I am not mechanical.  I struggle with reading instructions and then having to figure out how to follow them.  Although he was only a toddler at the time, it was my son, Grant, who put together the Little Tykes toys and equipment that seemed to flow into our house non stop for several years.  Even without the ability to read at age 3, he seemed to know intuitively how the brightly colored plastic pieces fit together to make something.  I marveled.  I had mechanical envy.

As the kind hardware store man is wrapping up the explanation with me on step 7 or 8 or whatever step has you giving the final check with a flush, I asked him,

“Which way does the shut off valve go to turn the water off at the toilet?”

Sometimes it’s best to humble yourself and come clean.  He knew, at that point, who he was dealing with and backed up slowly to the beginning.

“A slow clockwise turn… that would be to your right.”

At one point he mentioned “youtube videos,” and that information, coupled with my new knowledge of knowing how to shut off the water to the toilet, was all the information I needed.  I thanked him profusely, bought the $18 part and was on my way.  I’ve got to admit that there was a tool belt that caught my eye on the way out of the store, something I’ve always wanted, but I feel like it needs to be earned and I’m not there yet.  Maybe this was the home improvement project that I’d earn my belt on…

The idea that this was something I’d be able to do myself gave me a great deal of satisfaction and pride and not having to shell out a hundred dollars (I’m guessing?) to have a plumber walk through my front door, even happier.  I’d love to be able to add fixing my toilet to my list of accomplishments.  Really.

With feelings of confidence, I lined up the pieces that came out of the box, including the instructions, on the countertop, watched a youtube video three times, turned the water off, drained the back tank, disconnected the water hose from the toilet then got stuck.  I could not even BEGIN to budge the plastic lug nut on the outside of the toilet (I don’t even know if that’s what it’s called, but that’s what I’m going to call it from here on…) and surprising to me, the me who throughout my 20’s used a clog to hammer a nail into the wall, was even using the right tool.  After about 45 minutes of struggling and torquing myself in half to get to the side of the toilet in the first place, I gave up, which came in the form of me sitting on my bathroom floor in tears.  I know it may not sound tear-worthy for most, but those emotions were coming from a place far deeper than the back of my now drained toilet.  This was about doing something so small yet so big BY MYSELF, without having to ask for any help (I’m not counting the gentleman at Ace because that’s his job).  The flip side of wanting to feel that sense of accomplishment is that for the past 9 years,  broken toilets, flat tires,  sump pumps, birds nests in porch lights on fire and beeping house alarms have become my chore to deal with by myself, whether I wanted to or not (and that “by myself” includes calling the repairman, AAA man or handyman).  Although it’s taught me a lot, asking for help to begin with, it’s not something I’ve gotten the least bit comfortable with, even after 9 years.

I’ve done a whole lot of scary things in those 9 years without giving much thought to them, but a beeping alarm, a running toilet and a flat tire requires immediate attention, whether you want to give it or not.  This is the emotional spot that when I work from I start breaking things, on accident AND on purpose so when I texted Robin to see if Jim had a hacksaw, it was more a cry for help than anything else (although I still think sawing the stuck lug nut off may be the answer).  He didn’t.  And so I turned out the light, closed the door and drove to Baskin Robbins where I ate the better part of a double scoop of jamocha almond fudge ice cream on the 5 minute drive home.  Enough.

The next night ended in a similar way… frustrated… with a lug nut that still won’t move, but this time I made a 1/2 recipe of chocolate oatmeal no bake cookies simply because a whole recipe scared me as I knew I’d likely make my way through all of them.  1/2 recipe was a good idea and yes, I did.

The project is still looming behind the closed door and I fear that one more night with the same results are going to end with my head in a bag of Crispy Cremes, but I’m still not quite ready to let go and call a handy man.

Still with hope…

 

Hope fading…

I’m not sure how many days of walking by the closed bathroom door it will take before I call for help, but right now, I’m standing strong in the face of the challenge and am merely giving myself a break before going back in with a different attitude or maybe different equipment… such as a hacksaw…

To be continued…

Closet organizing, wedding dresses and my file at the Leawood Police Department

I’ve been helping Emery and Miles clean, weed out, organize and redistribute their things (i.e. take stuff out of their basement and put it in mine…) in preparation to sell their house and move to Colorado. At one point, I asked Emery what she wanted me to do with her wedding dress, which looks like a white tent perched up against the wall of my upstairs cedar closet.

“Oh I don’t know.  I should probably have it cleaned but really don’t really care…  Just leave it.”

I asked too late.  My girl who says she doesn’t have one sentimental bone in her body has moved on.  No doubt the day will come when she’ll be grateful for what I will likely go ahead and do, which is have the dress professionally cleaned and boxed for proper storage.  She may say she doesn’t have a sentimental bone in her body,  but I’d rephrase that to say, “she’s selective with her sentimentality and the pieces she decides to let in, she’ll carry forever…”  She just wasn’t ready to to file this piece away as sentimentality.  It’s too soon, or maybe too late, but years down the road she will feel a flutter in her heart when she sees the big box wrapped in brown paper on the closet shelf… most likely MY closet shelf.

I can remember going through similar feelings regarding my own wedding dress, but made myself take care of it the day after returning home from our honeymoon because I knew if I didn’t do it then, I never would and my white satin gown would quickly yellow, and not in a cool tea-stained vintage sort of way, or so I was told.  I did the research and ended up taking it to a cleaners on Troost Avenue that had been recommended to me, and for $50 I had it cleaned, wrapped in blue tissue to keep it white, boxed and for that price, I assumed hermetically sealed.  It was a huge investment at the time, exactly one tenth of what the dress cost me, but everyone I spoke with insisted I shell out the money as  I’d regret it if I didn’t.

For years and years (28 to be exact) that large box wrapped in brown paper sat in the back of the cedar closet in the home Charlie and I raised our kids in, until one day when my then future daughter in law, Brooke,  was in town and wanted to see what my wedding dress looked like.  And just like Pandora’s box, when the box that had been sealed for the past 28 years was opened up, I never could have predicted that the most astonishing thing would  NOT be that I could get it zipped half the way up, but that it would be on file at the Leawood Police Department.

The promises the dry cleaners told me were upheld and the dress looked as good as the day when I handed it over to them, except it was a bit of a wrinkled mess, but I expected that.  I’m so glad Brooke asked to see it as I never would have been inclined to open the box for even a peek, let alone a try on.  Afterwards, I brought the dress back to my house, box and all, but before doing my best to box it up again, Emery wanted to have a look and a try on.  Both she and Brooke were getting married in the coming year and although they both already had their dresses,  it was fun to be able to share this moment of my history with them.

After Emery tried on the dress and oohed and ahhhed (OK, I’m kind of exaggerating on that one… she did mention something about Renaissance Festivals though…), I left the dress at the bottom of the stairs to be taken up to the cedar closet and folded back into its box when I had time.

Two days later, an unfortunate series of events unfolded, beginning with my impulsive move to set the alarm system when I left the house (something I rarely do) and not realizing that the front door wasn’t completely latched. The wind blew the door open, the alarm went off, the police were called and my sister was called because she’s my “call her first when there’s trouble..” person.  While I’m enjoying a challenging but fun workout with friends, Robin is at my front door discussing the possible “incident” with the Leawood police.

By no means is what I’m about to say minimizing the work that the policemen do in my neighborhood or the respect I have for them, but it is a bit like Mayberry around here and an alarm going off was noteworthy enough that 2 cars and 4 officers showed up at the scene.  Of course Robin could not enter the house once she arrived,  as it was still considered a possible crime scene (thank goodness no tape had been stretched across the front door) although they said it didn’t look like there had been a break in as my computer was still on my bed as well as some jewelry on the night stand.

However…. there was one thing that they found that was very odd that they couldn’t make sense of…

There was a wedding gown on the floor at the bottom of the stairs….  Did she know anything about a wedding gown?

At that moment, as Robin is relating this story to me, I realized that just a few paces away from that wedding gown heap was something else they saw but chose not to mention and that was a half a dozen empty wine bottles next to my sink.  I had gathered them up to recycle and although right next to the gown on the floor, the two had absolutely,  no way no how,  anything to do with each other.  Robin of course knew nothing of the dress but told the officers she was sure it was nothing.  It was, however, her first question to me, which went something like this:

“Please tell me that you don’t put your wedding dress on at night and drink wine…”

I know there’s a big ole moral of the story in here somewhere … maybe something to do with following through with projects, being mindful when doing important things such as setting the house alarm or maybe it’s taking care of the 2nd wedding dress in my upstairs closet so it, also, doesn’t end up in a photo in my file down at the station.  But the moral I like to think about is that maybe my string of carelessness offered a bit of comic relief to a few of  Leawood’s police officers, and a good story to take back to the station.

I continue to be hopeful that the officers on duty that day don’t sigh in pity when they drive by the house on High Drive where circumstantial evidence would have me traipsing around in a wrinkled mess of a wedding dress, most likely stained with wine… the Miss Havisham of Leawood, if you will….

Hours after the “incident,”  the wrinkled mess of a dress was mashed right back into its box and put it on the shelf in the cedar closet, with plenty of room next to it for Emery’s eventually cleaned and boxed-up dress. Years down the road, it will be her adventure, not mine, if and when she decides to break the seal to see what’s inside.

 

Police files are confidential… this is the best I could do…

 

The screened-in porch I bought with the attached house…

I bought a condo in Frisco, Colorado instead of the book I went into the book store for last summer (reference “How’d I Get Here?” post) and as I’m sitting here on my screened in porch in Kansas, I realized that although I had never bought a house instead of a book,  the behavior is not new for me.  Actually, I bought the house I’m in now in Kansas because as soon as I stepped into the front room (yep, when your house was built in the 1930’s, that’s what you get to call the room at the front of the house…), my eyes were immediately drawn to the stone and windowed screened in porch that french doors in the living room led out to.  Literally, I bought a screened in porch that luckily for me, had a house attached to it.

Upon stepping into the front room and at first glance into the porch, I looked at my daughter, Emery, and it’s possible we both said it at the same time…

“You/I LIVE here!”

I have to add here that I wasn’t actively looking for a house at the time, as the house I was currently in was fine, but this house was in a very charming, treed neighborhood with a strong sense of history and appreciation for local merchants.   It was a neighborhood I had wanted to live in before I got married (in 1985), but hopes were set aside when it didn’t have the appeal to my then husband that it did for me.

How ironic that when I walked up the stairs of the condo in Frisco and saw it for the first time, Brooke said the same words to me, “You LIVE here!” yet I don’t recall making the connection… or maybe I did but didn’t dwell on it as I had already fast forwarded myself right out onto the deck and what I’d look like living there while I looked out at my view of Mt. Royal.  Both my daughter and my daughter in law seem to have an uncanny knack of of seeing me live in places that aren’t quite mine.

After Emery and I had both declared our intentions for the house, I told my real estate agent, Nina, that I wanted to buy it.  I’ve got to add that Nina and I have been friends for decades (over 4 to be accurate… geez we sound old…) and she knows me and knows that my default position leans more towards impulsive than methodical.  Obviously she thought looking at the rest of the house would be a wise idea before we started writing up a contract, which we did, both of us knowing full well that it mattered little what was behind that front room and screened in porch because short of dirt floors and plywood walls, I was going to make it work for the sake of the beautiful porch (the treed lot that the porch looked out onto was also a big plus for me).  After a relatively quick walk through, I told her once again that I wanted it and was ready to write up an offer.

“But it’s the first house you’ve looked at…you can’t just buy the first house you look at!”

“OK… then show me another one, THEN we’ll make an offer…”

And so she did. There was a house nearby for sale and as lovely as the garden was driving up to the front door,  I knew it wasn’t going to be the right house, regardless.  After a quick walk through the main level (I didn’t even bother to go upstairs), I told her Nina that I had seen enough and was ready to make and offer.

I had an extended trip to Peru coming up in a matter of weeks and fortunately Nina was able to convince the sellers to delay the closing until my return, a few months later.  The whole process from contract negotiations to the inspection went off without a hitch.  I truly believe, and experience has confirmed this for me, that when something IS meant to be things seem to fall into place nicely.  It’s when you’re met with obstacle after obstacle that I think the decision should be questioned.  Besides, I was meant to live in that house and sit on that porch.

About a month later, and from an internet cafe in Villa el Salvador, Peru, I sold the house I was currently living in (when I impulsively bought the screened in porch house).  So, while sitting at a computer in a dimly lit, hot, small room with a handful of teen-aged boys enjoying computer games, I muddled my way through the process of signing a contract, then faxing it and waiting for confirmation of receipt, with a very limited Spanish business vocabulary and a growing line of impatient school boys waiting their turn for the computer I was using.  Short of earning my pilot’s license,  graduating from college (finally) and birthing my three amazing children , I do believe that this was one of my prouder accomplishments, especially given that short of email and some photo and music storage, I really wasn’t all that computer savvy.

By the way, the house I sold to buy the screened in porch house, was the first and only house I looked at shortly after filing for divorce.  Maybe it was beginners luck (that continued?), but I knew right off that it was the right house for me.  My real estate agent at the time  did the same thing that Nina had done and showed me several similar houses, after my proclimation of wanting to buy the first one I saw because “you simply can’t but the first one!”  I ended up returning to the original house, as I knew I would,  made an offer and was signing contracts by the end of the day.   I’m just now realizing that there’s a pattern here and now understand why my sister wouldn’t let me go house hunting in the Adirondacks with her husband, John, “just to look…”

But when it’s right it’s right and you know it in your heart of hearts and your gut of guts.  Seriously, I’ve given more thought to a pair of jeans while sitting in the dressing room at the GAP, a situation that rarely seems to be spot on right or has me saying “you LIVE in these jeans!”

And in the time it took me to type this, I would still be deciding on the jeans.  I’ve bought houses in a shorter amount of time…

 

The porch that I bought and was lucky that a house was attached to it…

 

More than a good night’s sleep, I needed a good night’s dream…

I wouldn’t normally think that a dream would make for good blog material, and maybe it doesn’t, but if I’m going to be honest with what’s been taking up residence in my mind lately, then I’ve got to post this and do so without thoughts of whether it is “good, appropriate, interesting or relevant enough.”
And so….

Two nights ago I dreamt I was sorting through piles of dolls and stuffed animals with Emery in the dining room of the house she grew up in. Dreams just love to plop you down in random places doing things that seem pretty irrelevant but after you wake up, hopefully with a rough sketch of who, what and where, I find that the puzzle pieces usually fit together quite nicely.  There was no doubt in my mind when I woke up as to why I needed to slowly sort through dolls and stuffed animals with my daughter.  It was exactly what I needed.

We were sitting in dining room chairs, in a room void of all else except the growing piles of the animals and dolls.  Emery would thoughtfully pick up each and every doll or stuffed animal and turn it over slowly while looking at it with such love that it seemed she might have actually birthed it.  I was coming from a place of more efficiency and less emotion, and wanted to speed up the process and start building piles.  The save pile was the only pile that was even a pile at all, as the other two, the trash pile and the give it away pile, were still just empty spots on the wood floor.  My daughter is a softy with a very big heart.

There was one doll that was about 18 inches tall with hair that had been both cut and washed, neither successfully, who had a broken eye, a missing arm and no clothes.  I might add that NONE of the dolls or animals were familiar to me and I seemed to be very aware of that in the dream, giving me pause as to why we were sorting out strange toys in the first place.  I quietly slid naked punk-haired baby to the spot on the floor for throw away… or give away… giving her the honor of starting which ever pile would be acceptable.

“We can’t give HER away Mommy… no one will love her like we do because we know her,” said the sweet, tiny voice next to me.

When I turned around to justify my decision, it was my 4 year-old Emery who was sitting next to me, in the dress with cowboys and horses on it that I had made her, red cowboy boots and striped leggings  that didn’t match… anything.  My sweet little 4 year-old Emery…right next to me…
I wanted more than anything to pull her up onto my lap and hug her and hold her and hug her some more,  but I didn’t because I was afraid if I tried to touch her, my hand would go right through her like a ghost and she might even disappear.

So for the remainder of the dream,  I got to sit with my little girl next to me and sort out piles of dollies and animals that although I had no attachment to,  I began to find a fondness for simply by seeing them through her eyes.  I knew that the task at hand would be a simple one and that the give away and throw away piles would remain empty spots on the floor because my assistant’s heart was bigger than the room and there would be no creature left behind.

One of the very strange and memorable elements of the dream was that I had control of the pace and can distinctly remember slowing it down to a crawl at one point simply for the luxury of getting to linger in memories that were so real I could touch them, feel them and even help lovingly stack them into piles – stuffed animals on one side and the dolls on the other.  No doubt at that point I had dipped into the realm of lucid dreaming, something I had accidentally taken an evening class on several years ago.  Yes, accidentally.  This was a much easier accident than when I enrolled in an Astronomy class my first semester at K-State and quickly figured out that I wasn’t going to learn a darn thing about Virgos and what sign they would have the most luck dating.  I was a very young freshman, barely 18, if that helps me out at all…

Anyway, back to dream classes…I thought I had enrolled in a one evening dream analysis class,  but instead I got a three hour run down on lucid dreaming, which ended up being better than what I had planned on.  I didn’t learn how to do it, per se, but now can easily recognize it when it happens, which is pretty darn cool, by the way…

The last text I had gotten from Emery before I fell into dreamland that night, was a photo of a cute little yellow house in Ft. Collins, CO – the house that she and Miles just had just signed a rental contract on during their quick weekend visit to house search.

She’s married.  She’s moving to Colorado.  She’s growing up.

I woke up feeling sentimental, sad, confused, yet with a very full heart. There was a part of me that needed to sit with 4 year-old Emery and be reminded that no matter how old she is, or how grown up the decisions she is making with Miles are, she will always have that loving little girl inside of her with a heart that’s as big and open as the Kansas sky.

While growing up and finding their wings is what I assume most parents hope and plan for their children, the process is clumsy and awkward with shoes that are too big and pants too long and then one day it all fits and they’re adults doing adult things and managing just fine, because that’s what we taught them.  It still  sometimes surprises me though.

How cool is it that from the comfort of my bed, life gave me the gift of a tip toe back to a place that I needed to be reminded of while helping me, once again, through the process of letting go – a process I hadn’t yet realized was taking place.  Somehow that pile of orphaned toys and the little girl sorting through them, gave me the message that everything was going to be OK.

And that was enough.

Even as a baby, she loved them all… no favorites…

 

The “real” dolls fared much better than the dream dolls…

 

Finding my edges on I-70… in snow, ice and fear…

Several years ago, while driving to Eureka Springs, Arkansas to celebrate my parents 50th anniversary, my brother-in-law, John, told me I was a good driver.  Who, me??  He could have told me that my hair looked nice or that my shoes were cool, both which would have likely been forgotten by now, but hearing “you’re a good driver”.. well, those words have stuck with me longer than any shoe compliment would have.  I’ve remembered it because it was something I had never heard before, possibly because it may not be true, but he simply caught me on a really good driving day.

The words that I usually hear sound more like this:

“You drive like an old lady, or… Mom!  Pay attention!  or… Do you really have to sit that close to the steering wheel???”  (which I think all three of my kids have asked me at some point).  Yes.  I need to sit this close.  It makes me feel safe.

Those were sentences that came with a history.  “You’re a good driver” was standing on its own that day, and with that newly found pride,  I tried my damnedest to prove him right the rest of the trip.

So, John may think I’m a good driver, but driving was never something I enjoyed nor did I feel like I was very good at it.  Those feelings may have been birthed on the day during driver’s ed when I was taught how to parallel park.  Obviously, the self esteem of an insecure 15 year-old were hardly considered when I was asked to demonstrate those newly acquired skills directly in front of the TG&Y store on a busy Saturday.  It’s not easy to parallel park with one eye scanning the crowds for the popular kids while the other worked solo on the parking task at hand.  And yes, that’s my excuse as to why I ended up with two wheels up on the sidewalk, while the remaining two were on the street. In the short amount of time that it took for me to trade places with my instructor,  have him get all wheels street side and trade back again, my self-esteem retreated straight back to the awkward 7th grade girl, who longed to be a cool girl who knew how to drive.

When in later years (my 20’s),  I’d dream with my girlfriends about what we’d do if we won the lottery, I was the only one who said I’d hire a driver. I didn’t even care what car said driver would be driving… just so it wasn’t me.

So back to my hating to drive but I’m so good at it…

The “but you are so good at it” got tested last Sunday, when two sisters (Robin and I) were taking the third sister (Susan) to the Denver airport from Frisco.  We had both bad weather and Sunday traffic,  so planned ahead and gave ourselves a large time cushion, which was smart as the weather began deteriorating rapidly once we got into Denver.  After a nice lunch and a stroll into a shop or two, Susan offered to get to the airport a few hours early with hopes that we’d be able to stay ahead of the bad weather on our return trip to Frisco.  I  tend to have a “I’ll deal with it when I have to” attitude and wasn’t really nervous until the 3rd or 4th flashing road sign that warned of ice and closed roads, which had me wondering if my cavalier attitude of “Oh no worries… I know how to drive in the mountains on ice and snow… you know, in my roots, born here,  and all that…,” needed to be re-examined a bit.   15 minutes west of the airport, Robin and I learned that I-70 was closed at Georgetown to the Eisenhower Tunnel, which incidentally had also been closed due to the weather.  The part of me that craves adventure, felt her pulse go up a bit at the thought of unplanned hotel stays and or sleeping in the car adventures that would make for a much more exciting blog post.  The other part of me, the one who had been pretty quiet with questioning confidence, began to worry about the whole driving situation.

And so the true test of my driving began.  With white knuckles clutching onto a steering wheel for dear life, Robin and I made our way through snow and ice and I-70 closing then eventual re-opening after we sat on the highway for a good 45 minutes and waited.  From that point on, we inched along with little visibility,  windshield wipers that were constantly icing up, and speeds that barely registered on the speedometer.  I was very thankful to have Robin in the right seat, reminding me to breathe, relax and go as slow as I needed to.  I was fine until I saw a 4WD vehicle turned upside with a couple of people trying to remove someone through the back window.  I made one of those of long, deep, profanity laden sighs followed by a “I can’t do this…” That’s when Robin told me to stop looking.

I couldn’t help but think back to shortly after high school when I was driving in the winter and slid on an entrance ramp to the highway.  I was driving a VW beetle, not great in the snow or ice, but I think the incident was more about the fearful me and less about the car.   I doubt my “slide” was more than a few inches, but it was significant enough to scare me to the point that right there in the middle of the entrance ramp I turned my car off, pulled up the emergency brake and walked up the ramp to a nearby gas station where I called my Dad and told him I needed help.  Twenty minutes later, without judgement, scolding, belittling or hesitation, he got in my car, backed it up off the entrance ramp and onto the dry street,  then got back in his car and was on his way. Saved.  Again.  Dad did a lot of that for me during my early driving days.

Although I’ve gotten a lot braver over the years, simply out of necessity, the combination of ice, snow and mountain roads had me returning to some of those feelings.  Whether in my teens in a poorly equipped car on an entrance ramp or in my 50’s in a 4 wheel drive vehicle on snow in the mountains, there is a point that it’s all the same.  Fear is fear and the feeling skips over any logic while it sends you back in history.

Four hours later, we made it to Frisco,  with hands cramped from a death grip on the steering wheel and shoulders that had inched their way up to the tops of my ears, where they remained until mid-way into my 2nd glass of wine.

We made it home, safe and sound, without a slide or a swerve and I felt both relieved and proud of my accomplishments to the point that I  began to think that John Clarke just may have been right.  Maybe I am a good driver…

I rode on that sense of accomplishment high for almost 48 hours, until I realized that a good driver may have paid more attention to the tire pressure light on the dashboard that lit up shortly before we even left for the airport.  Robin did a check and ended up putting some air in one of the tires while we were still in Frisco.  The light eventually went off and I just assumed all was OK.  Later, during our harried drive back to Frisco, the light went on again.  I have experienced this before and it ended up being an altitude issue (when in doubt, blame that crazy altitude…), and given all the rest that I had to deal with, I convinced myself that the tires and their pressure were just fine and that once we were down in Denver the following day on our journey back to Kansas, the light would more than likely go out.  It didn’t.  I learned the following morning at the Toyota dealership,  that I had been driving with three nails in my tire as I went to the airport in less than favorable conditions, returned to Frisco, then made the trip home to Kansas the following day… at least 800 miles.

No doubt we had a guardian angel riding along side us who thankfully, wasn’t scared off by the mountains or the weather…

Meanwhile, with every 677 mile trip I make from KS to CO and back, I’m continually trying to earn John’s assessment of my driving abilities.

Inching along I-70, east of Georgetown, where we sat and waited for I-70 to re-open.

 

Always a silver lining… photo opportunities.. icicles on bicycles

 

I didn’t take the photos, by the way…

 

About as good as it got…

 

Feathering nests and transition

I woke up a few nights ago in a mild state of orientation panic.  I had no idea where I was and none of my KS or CO cues seemed to be helping me.  My middle of the night reminders – the porch light from the building across the street from me in CO or the small light on my security system panel in my bedroom in KS,  are my grounding devices for the bouts of confusion I find myself in while still in a half-asleep state.  Last night I starred at the little green light on the security system panel and had no idea what it was.  This is not my first time experiencing this kind of confusion.  It happened almost nightly after returning home from one of my extended trips to Perú.  More than once I woke up with a heavy sweater on over my nightgown with no memory of putting it on.  Under a down comforter with the heat on, (it was winter after all), a heavy sweater was hardly necessary and I woke up hot and sweating through everything but the mysteriously added outer layer.  But it felt good, because it was familiar and what I had been accustomed to while living in the Peruvian heat and humidity.  I obviously wasn’t ready to leave Perú entirely and that was my makeshift way of keeping a little bit of me there.  I doubt I would have ever thought of such a simple way to ease into the transition had I been awake.

I know this night-time confusion will wane as I become more accustomed to living in two places, but for now it still feels a bit like a state line straddle to me with one leg in KS and the other stretching itself into Colorado.  I’ve learned the physicality of the east/west movement and am now working on the emotional leg of the journey.

Colorado
Kansas
The journey

 I’m a true blue, die hard nester,  and whether it’s my KS home, my CO home, a hotel room, a tent or my car,  if I’m going to be there more than 45 minutes, I will personalize, organize and feather the nest to within an inch of it’s homey life.  The end result is secondary to the process, which for me is where all of the gratification lies.  In simple terms, that means that lining up spices, organizing junk drawers and stacking sweaters are sporting events for me that make my heart beat a little bit faster.  It’s also the place I tend to go to for comfort and will find myself knee deep in clothes before I realize that what I’m doing is less about wardrobe organizing and more about working through a problem. I’m sure it makes little sense if you’ve not experienced this odd behavior, but if you have, no doubt you are shaking your head yes in solidarity with me.

The one person who understands this side of me more than anyone else I know is my sister, Susan, who has witnessed me nesting from Nepal, to Bhutan to Chile and Argentina and a scattering of places in between, because she’s been right there with me as we folded and stacked, arranged and rearranged in hotel rooms, cabins and several times in a tent.   Dogs pee their way around an area to mark their territory but we choose to mark our new territories with neat stacks of hiking pants,  jackets and shirts with boots and shoes lining up at the door in anticipation and the lotions and potions finding their place next to sinks or tucked away neatly in the corner of the tent.  Again, it’s less about the end result and more about the process for me as neat stacks soon become piles, then heaps after a couple of good digs, leaving you with a far bigger mess than you would have had had you simply left everything in the suitcase and pawed your way through it every morning for the goods.  But that’s OK, because that is normal for me and what I’ve become accustomed to.  I’m only speaking for myself here as Susan’s stacks remain stacks throughout, which is a goal I strive for but rarely achieve.

This same nesting sister rented a cottage in the Adirondacks for several summers while she was living in Montreal and I was fortunate to get to spend enough time there that it truly felt like home to me.  One rainy day, we had opted out of hiking and decided instead to entertain ourselves with what we could find in the house to do or read or make, which for me consisted of diving into a dog eared  Sears catalog from the early 1970’s.  If you were around during that era and saw pale polyester leisure suits in person, or better yet owned one (I’m speaking to the men here regarding ownership…), then no doubt thumbing through those pages would have had you just as captivated as it did me.  If I would have had a marker on hand, I would have enjoyed taking liberties with the photographs as someone who had gotten their hands on the catalog before me had, but instead, I enjoyed their handiwork, with some mental editing as I flipped through the pages.  Oh Sears, if you had any idea of how much you’ve entertained my sisters and me over the years with countless pretend shopping trips where money was no object and boyfriend selections made from page after page of clean cut models who loved hanging out together in suits.  Of course the stealth searches through the underwear section, both creepy and exciting at the same time, can’t be overlooked.  This is what happens when boredom sets in and you’re not card players.

While absorbed in polyester and bad haircuts, Susan started talking about a Christmas several years ago and did I remember when the mouse ran across the living room, right in front of where she was sitting, and about scared Mom half to death?  This she asked me while she starred up at the wall of a house that she had only started renting the previous summer.  Even more surprising, was I knew exactly what she was talking about and said yes, and added to it that Mom jumped from the couch and ran straight into the kitchen, almost tripping over the rug in the dining room in the process. There was no hesitation whatsoever with my answer.  Of course we weren’t there at Christmas and Mom wasn’t scared by a mouse because she wasn’t there either, the mouse, however, I’m not so sure about.  Rather, it was the feeling we had when we were there.  It was home….like we had been there forever and with flawless ease, we inserted ourselves right into the history of the little house in Keene Valley, NY,  because it felt like we owned a piece of it and its story,  even if only in our imagination.

The cottage in Keene Valley, NY where our memories started before we arrived…

That is my definition of emotional nesting and sometimes, I think I’m too good at it.  I’ve done this at my house in KS.  It’s a home that has logged over 80 years of life and love in its walls, where every room is no doubt steeped in decades of stories.  Although I didn’t lay eyes on the house until 5 years ago, I have no problem inserting myself right into the made up stories of its history.  Colorado will no doubt be next as I begin to envision my 2 year-old self myself playing in the mountain dirt in places that are a county away from where I actually lived.  Emotional nesting.  Connecting.  Finding my sense of ownership.

I attach deeply to the places where I perch and will send a tap root down to insure permanence before I’ve hung a picture or decided which cabinet the plates will go in if it feels right to me.   It doesn’t surprise me one bit when I wake up with confusion as to where I am.  This process for me has become a huge lesson in transition.   It’s the train that carries me towards the unknown and while I may not even know there’s a journey underway, one day I realize I’ve arrived, and I’m home and I feel safe and happy and like I belong.   I’ve also learned that the most important nest that I feather isn’t in KS or CO, but rather is wherever I am because it is what I carry with me inside that makes any place my home, whether it’s a house, or a tent or my seat on the bus.   I guess that makes me a turtle at heart.  I’ll take it.

Skiing naked…

For those of you who already scrolled down in search of the photos, sorry, there are no illustrations and no, I did not chose that title to snag readers… well, not entirely.  I do wear pants when I ski and a jacket and all the stuff that goes underneath,  but emotionally,  while standing in hesitation at the top of a steep ski run, I’m as naked as it gets.  The combination of fear, doubt and insecurity has more than once pulled me into an emotional heap that has me totally understanding what’s going on in the heads of those few people I’ve seen walking down the mountain with their skis in tow.  Believe me, I’ve looked down at my skis while contemplating their removal with a hesitation long enough that people passing me on the mountain may have thought I was praying, and I suppose I kind of was.  Naked.  Without clothes.  Vulnerable.  It’s me up to bat in the 4th grade and hearing “easy out” from one of the boys in the infield.  Same girl.  Same emotions, only this time I do have the benefit of experience, maturity and confidence on my team,  suited up and ready to leap off the bench when I need them,  as well as the wisdom to know what’s coming into play here.

It’s those moments of hesitation that quickly become full out fear that make the pride soar when the skis do eventually point down and go.  Those moments remind me why I continue to ski.

Last year I froze on a steep narrow section of a run at Keystone.  Froze.  Couldn’t move.  Didn’t want to move.  The person who I was skiing with and receiving instruction from, told me I had to move as I was in the blind spot for the skiers and boarders who were flying down the mountain behind me.

But I can’t….

And that’s when he told me that there was nothing wrong with taking off my skis and walking down until it felt comfortable.

Absolutely not.  That was the beginning of the nudge I needed….

To that he added the advice of thinking of some of the scariest experiences I’ve encountered in life and obviously survived.  THEN point ’em down and GO!

I thought about the first time I flew an airplane by myself… not just take-offs and landings, but my first solo cross country flight (don’t be impressed by the “cross country” in that sentence… it was only across Highway 50 from the Johnson County Airport to the small airport in Warrensburg, then back again, but still…).  I thought about the fishing camp I worked at in Alaska and being stuck in the bath house with a brown bear outside, likely weighing in at over 1,000 pounds, scratching himself on the tar paper covering.  I thought about the first speech I had to give in college and having to set my notes down because my hands were shaking so much that the moving paper in my hands became the subject matter that had my audience captivated. Yes, that was just as scary as any big bear or being up in the air in a small plane by myself.

Enough already.   I pointed ’em down and skied.  And I didn’t die.

The next time I did that run, several days later, I couldn’t even find the spot that had scared me so much.

Life experiences pile on top of each other, changing where that point sits of being afraid and being brave, but it’s always there, and that kind of vulnerability, that facing life humbly in all of your nakedness and conquering, is where the growth is.  Funny though while finding myself in the jaws of heart-racing fear,  knowing that I’ll be stronger, wiser, bigger, better once on the other side, staying right where I am and skipping the growth, sounds just fine at the time.  Not being able to move can feel like a very safe place to be as there’s little danger in standing still, right?  Peace in the pause, or something like that.  Inertia and I have have palled around a lot together.

I skied my last run of the season yesterday on a sparsely populated mountain with wind,  blowing snow and a layer of confidence that was far too thin to be able to save me had I needed it to. Why did that happen when just a few days ago, I was invincible?  My instructor, Tiger, told me the other day that skiing is 80% mental, which I suppose would have to mean that you’re only operating 20% on a physical level (likely not the way the math works on this as 20% physical hardly seems like it could take you down the mountain… in any form), but his 80% mental words have proven themselves right as rain (or snow?) countless times for me.  I didn’t have enough of a positive swing on my mental 80% yesterday to get me down the mountain with grace, dignity and clothes on.  Nope, skiing when that 80% head talk is saying “you can’t do it…easy out,” puts me high on the vulnerability scale,  exposing my naked self to the mountain, other skiers and more importantly to myself.  I recognize that girl all too well and teeter between wanting to scoop her up and tell her it’s OK, to wanting to shake her by her shoulders so hard that her teeth rattle out of sheer frustration.

I don’t think it’s always a negative thing to end on a bad run.  It gives me the motivation to get back out there and get it right the next time, even if that next time is a season away.  I know that may be backwards thinking for some, but after skiing naked, you really do look forward to being able to put on some layers of confidence and flex some muscle at those taunting voices in your head that remind you that yes, you rarely hit the ball in softball, but is that 4th grade boy who humiliated you while you struck out, once again, on the mountain contemplating difficult runs while standing on a snow-covered mountains in skis?  Yea… that’s what I thought…

 

No, this is not a steep run… but isn’t it pretty?

 

Just point ’em down and go!
And she did….

 

 

 

A road trip to Spring and listening to the mountains…

 

Views, views, views!

 

I love winter, really, I do, and anyone who knows me at all knows that.  I do NOT complain about snow, ice and wind chills that are in the single digits and below, but once the temps go over 85, combined with the predictable  KS humidity,  all complaining bets are off.  My sister says that summer officially starts when I start complaining.  I suppose that’s true, although I can’t say that I’m very proud of it.

And I still love winter, even after having spent the better part of it in real winter territory… the mountains of Colorado, and I’ve not complained yet… yet….

Today I drove into Denver to go to REI to exchange my snowshoes.  Although I’ve used them multiple times, I’m not happy with them (a simple design flaw that results in a flapping strap, which becomes very annoying after a few hours…) .  I know that REI stands behind their product, so was hopeful to make a quick exchange and tie it in with a little field trip “to the city.”    I do enjoy my trips to Denver as a destination rather than a pass through on my way to the airport to fetch or deliver,  or on my way out of town (or into town, depending how you look at it).  It’s a pretty drive and still feels a bit adventurous to me as I really don’t know my way around, short of a few of my favorite spots.  Thank you google maps.  You’ve made trips on unfamiliar highways to places I’m not sure how to get to a whole lot easier.

I left Frisco late morning in jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, a fleece vest, down jacket, snow boots and a knit hat – clothing that was totally appropriate for the weather… here…

By the time I got to Denver, the temperature was 72.  Again, donned in down, fleece, a hat and snow boots, I did what I could to be comfortable and shed the outer layers,  but was still left in jeans, a long sleeved shirt and snow boots.  I didn’t feel out of place until I got in the store, then my boots just seemed big and clunky next to sandals and tennis shoes.  I kind of felt like I had come down from the hills…  Oh wait… I had…

The store matched the weather and had made the big switch from winter gear to summer gear and the snowshoe corner was now filled with bike gear, which meant that a simple exchange of my snowshoes was not going to happen, unless I wanted to totally switch sports and go with biking instead.  The salesman helping me was very apologetic but I assured him that it really wasn’t a big deal and I should have thought ahead and dealt with the issue a few month ago while it was still winter at REI.  While he was explaining the winter to summer shift that the store makes, I was staring down at my pile of snowshoes heaped onto the counter (did I mention that it was two pair of snowshoes?  My guests can’t opt out of going with me simply because they don’t have the equipment… I’ve got ’em covered..)  I then realized that a small rubber band would fix the problem. Maybe that’s what I should have done in the first place before hauling 75 miles to the store where I bought the snowshoes – look at them for 20 seconds,  then use the hair tie that would most likely be on my wrist and fix the problem.  Oh well.  Since I was already in the store, and already in the women’s section (hey, how’d that happen?), I quickly perused the new spring/summer inventory and found a red rain jacket that seemed to want to go home with me.  Spring was in the air, with rain in the forecast,  or at least in Denver.  I drove almost to Evergreen before I had to put the windows up, and even had the air conditioning on for a bit until I realized that part of the heat issue was that my seat heaters were on.  I don’t think they’ve been off since October.  Once past Evergreen, I was back in business with high 30’s,  and heat and hat quickly followed.

On a whim, I pulled off at the Bakerville exit, which is where the trail head is for Torrey and Gray mountains, my 2nd and 3rd fourteeners that I climbed back to back last summer.  I only drove as far as the trail head sign because the road was not plowed and I had a pretty good view from where I parked on the side of the road, with the trail head sign in the foreground and the two mighty peaks behind it.  It was the perfect pondering place to recall that very early morning last August, when with much anticipation and fear, I drove up that road in the dark for 2 miles of about as rough of terrain as I had ever driven on.  I was more afraid that morning than I had been during my entire CO stay last summer.   I was afraid I’d get stuck and even worse, because I had no cell phone signal.  But what really scared me more than anything was what was ahead…several miles up two different mountains, both measuring in at over 14,000 feet and crossing the saddle that connected them.   I needed to sit in that spot, feel how afraid I was and remember that I kept on going.

 

Torrey and Gray’s snow-capped peaks in the background. I know now why I needed to stop and look…

 

 

A few memories from last summer… first peak…
2nd peak…

 

and the view from the top…

I’m learning to listen… to everything… to the nudges that life gives you to slow down and pay attention because it’s trying to tell you something… something that you need and most likely don’t even know it.    I needed to see those mighty peaks today and remember that strength followed fear that day in August and if it did it then, I’m guessing it could do it again.  And more importantly, I needed to stop and listen to what the mountains  had to tell me…

“You did it.”

And that’s why a 3 1/2 hour round trip drive to Denver for a 15 minute run in and out of REI that did not result in different snowshoes but rather a rain jacket that I probably didn’t need, was totally worth it, but I didn’t realize that until I made the Bakersville exit detour and I wasn’t sure why I took the exit at all until I sat in front of the two mountains.  I’m glad I felt the nudge.

By the time I got back to Frisco, it was winter again – real life CO winter with wind, snow and temps in the low 30’s.  It is almost April and  6 to 8 inches of snow is in the forecast for tonite and more snow tomorrow.  I’ve not looked ahead, but think the snow trend is supposed to continue for the next several days.  Again, I love winter, but…

I heard that Spring doesn’t really arrive until June(ish) and that it’s more commonly known as mud season around here, rather than spring, which then rolls into summer.  So is that when the forsythias bloom and the tulips come up?  Through the mud?  Not that I’m doing the math, but I skied in mid-November and from November to June is 8 months.  Oh yea… that’s the other thing I heard.  Winter here is 8 months.  OK, I suppose I am doing the math.

Still…I love winter and I still love Frisco, but oh my would I like to see a forsythia dancing in the spring breeze about now.  My little jaunt through crowds of spring-clad folks at REI made me really miss the excitement of those first warm spring days that have you wanting to clean out the garage, dig in the dirt and put on clothes that aren’t fleece lined or down filled.

I’m headed home, home to KS, in a few days, unless the snow storm keeps me here, and if it does, then I’ll throw ideas of forsythias and tulips out the window and will slip back into down and fleece and winter and will go skiing.

 

 

Springtime in Frisco, CO