Life’s scars…



Relaxing on top… pre-fall, pre-scar
I don’t like this hike, but keep returning… my scar attaches me to it…



With all the moss and so many trails that I hike looking like this, it’s surprising that I don’t have a roadmap of white-line scars on my legs


While resting during a hike yesterday, with my dirty and freshly scratched up legs stretched out in front of me, my eyes were drawn to the 4-inch scar on my right calf that seems to be pointing down to my foot… that would be the foot that slipped on a mossy rock while hiking and came down on a piece of sharp granite many years ago.  Now had that thin white line ended up on my forehead or cheek, the memory of how it came to be might not conjure up the smile that it did yesterday.  It’s a gentle reminder of a fun day on Rooster Comb mountain, the same mountain by the way where  several years later, my daughter would be proposed to by my now son-in-law.  It’s a hike I do not like, but for some reason, whenever I’m in the Adirondack mountains with my sister, Susan, we do it.  We were close to the bottom and in a shaded area where slippery mossy rocks are common when I fell.  My leg was a bit of a bloody mess and once back at the lodge where we were staying, Susan suggested that maybe I should go to the hospital for stitches.  I had no idea if there even was a hospital nearby, but even if there had been, I opted out and patched myself up with a lot of bandaids and Neosporin.  Had I gotten the suggested stitches, I’m sure there would be far less of a scar, if any, but honestly, I don’t mind it a bit.  It feels like a badge of courage to me now and an ever present reminder of how much fun I have hiking with Susan.

Author Chris Cleave, in his book, “Little Bee”, says,

“A scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.”

Once again, I survived Rooster Comb Mountain.

I love that spin on scars and have a whole lot of surviving going on on my body.  I’ve got an 8 inch “zipper” on my right side that shows that I survived the removal of my right kidney when I was 21.  I remember sitting in the doctor’s  office with my Mom by my side when he told me that my kidney needed to be removed.  My response was, “What will the scar look like and will I still be able to wear a bikini?”  Seriously?  Not even a hint of how will this affect my life, my health, my overall well-being?  At age 21, I couldn’t look beyond the scar and honestly, I was devastated.  Not with the loss of a key body part, but at the thought of a scar wrapping its way around my mid right torso.  The removal of the diseased kidney left me healthier than I was with it, by the way, and has not affected my lifestyle, health or general well-being whatsoever.  It did bring on a question or two back in my bikini  days, which like the scar on my leg, always brought on a smile – a smile because my 21-year old self has grown up and feels no shame in showing the necessary trail of the surgeon’s scalpel.

The small scar duet, one just below my left brow and the other on the upper left side of my lip are easily forgotten until at a stop light on a sunny day and I catch my reflection in the rear view mirror, and then it’s,   “Oh yea…. I remember you guys.”  They found their way to my face during a car wreck with my best friend, Susie, in high school.  A car ran a stop sign and hit us from the side.  He wasn’t going fast or it could have been a lot worse, but had I fastened my seat belt, it would have been a lot better as my face probably wouldn’t have smashed into the windshield.  Lesson learned.  The hard way.  My biggest fear that time was not the scarring (this was 4 years before the kidney came out and my attention was in the immediate, not the future) but rather, my date’s reaction when he picked me up for the Black Oak Arkansas concert later on that evening.  Looking back, I probably should have given him a head’s up as he was certainly surprised by the sorry sight that greeted him at the door. My eye was black and puffy and freshly stitched and was nearly swollen shut and my lip, also freshly stitched was so swollen that my mouth wouldn’t close all the way.  I’m surprised he still wanted to take me, let alone be seen with me and more surprised that my parents let me go!

On the same leg as the hiking incident scar is a much smaller scar that is positioned just below my knee and is a straight up and down, one inch long white line.  It is my knelt down on an exacto knife scar while wall papering my soon to be 2nd baby’s room.  I was 8 months pregnant and although I should have had stitches,  I didn’t feel I had time to go to the hospital to get them.  I was mid-way into the wallpapering project and it’s not wise to pull a nesting mother from her project. So no stitches.  I mostly blame this round of bad judgement on the hormones.  I’m not sure where all of the braincells go when you’re pregnant (the baby?), but there is definitely a period of misfiring and the closer to delivery time, at least in my case, the worse it seemed to get.  This scenario happened again when I was 8 months pregnant with my 3rd child and I sliced my palm open on a tin can lid, while trying to extract it out of the can.  That time I did get stitches… a lot of them… and without an ounce of fat on the palm of your hand, that’s a painful experience that I hope never to go through again.  Then there was the whole situation of showing up in the ER, very pregnant, and trying to explain to the rushing around staff who had me in a wheelchair headed straight up to delivery,  to NOT take me to delivery but rather to the stitching up room of the ER.  That’s my scar that I’ve been told by more than one person, messed up any future palm reading on that hand.  Well shoot.  I missed that opportunity as I’ve never had my palm read. The scar did add an extra branch to my life line, though, which could come in handy someday.

With every one of my children’s entry into the world, or pre-entry, I’ve earned a scar.  With my first born, it is a 6 inch scar in my lower abdomen where he made his entry into the world during an emergency C-section due to an rapidly lowering heartbeat.  Rather than being stitched up that time,  staples were used to close the incision.  I never thought twice about the scar and would have welcomed one on my face if that was what it took to bring him into the world safely.  I saved the staples in a box along with my hospital bracelet (and his) as it seemed important at the time. Now it seems kind of creepy to save the staples, but I still have them, which either says they still hold importance, or I need to do more cleaning and clearing out.   I remember having a friend who saved her tonsils in a glass jar filled with water after they were removed when she was 5 and I thought that was pretty cool as I only had a sore throat and some cards after my tonsils were removed for my take home gift.  I didn’t want my kidney after it was removed (and am pretty sure that is against hospital policy now), but when they told me they had to take out a rib to get to the kidney, thoughts of making art or jewelry out of that rib made me wish they had saved it for me.  Today, the scar seems to be more than enough reminder to me, without needing to hold onto the rib, which is far creepier than an envelope of staples, right?

I survived.  And the relics of those survivals are etched all over my body – my personal badges of strength, courage and maybe stupidity for not going to the hospital on some of them…

I’ve often wondered what it would be like if rather than tucked away in the depths of our heart, if we wore our emotional scars side by side to our physical scars.  Would it illicit kinder behavior to those who we don’t know but think we do when we see them yelling at their kid or throwing trash out of their car window or mistreating their animals?  If we saw the scars of all of their pain, would we act differently towards them?  Maybe it’s best they are tucked away and held where only we can feel them.  The emotional wounds do heal in time, but no doubt, they leave scars in the wake of their fading pain and every once in a while, I will get the gentle or maybe not so gentle reminder of their presence.

We’re all scarred, inside and out, but it’s in those telling marks that lies our history, our bumps in the road, our accidental lessons in life, but we survived, and no doubt, with a story to tell.

Don’t look down, don’t think about it, you can do this…


Seriously.  Do NOT look down!


Thank goodness for the guardrails… although I doubt they’d stop a car from falling off the mountain, they offer a bit of security…


Oh geez… how’d I get here?



Rocky Mountain rapid pulse.

I am a bit of a white knuckled, turn off the radio so I can concentrate, don’t really love this but will do it because I have to, kind of driver.  If he’s still alive and if he could remember, I’m sure that my driver’s ed teacher, Mr. Hankins, would agree with this.   Perhaps it was the afternoon when I was required to demonstrate my mastery of parallel parking on the busiest downtown street in the small town I grew up in,  that reinforced my apprehensions with being behind the wheel.  My unmastered skills landed me on the sidewalk, smack dab in front of the TG&Y store. Being in the driver’s seat in the well-marked drivers ed car is embarrassing enough at that age, although I’m not sure why as it is a rite of passage for most, but having to get out of the car and trade seats with your teacher so he could maneuver the car off of the sidewalk and back onto the then getting busy street due to the side show, is not a feather in one’s driving school cap.  I passed the written test with flying colors, but barely eked by on the driving section due to the parallel parking incident.  Today, many decades later,  I’m still more than happy to walk the necessary blocks to avoid the whole parallel parking fiasco.  A city girl, I am not.

I’ve had face a lot of my driving fears head on simply because it was my only choice, short of staying home, my fears of mountain driving trumping all.

Several years ago while in Santa Fe on a ski trip with the family, I had to face those fears straight on and I’m happy to say that I triumphed.  After suiting up in our ski gear,  driving up the mountain to the ski resort, my youngest, Emery, who was 6 at the time, decided that she was done with skiing and wanted no part of it, that day or ever.  Period.  End of story.  Given that Charlie had already promised to ski with the boys all day, that left me with the choice of staying in the lodge with Emery and waiting, or having a day in Santa Fe, which ultimately meant having to drive down the mountain, then back up again to pick up Charlie and the boys at the end of the day. With the options of drinking coffee all morning, which no doubt would roll into beer early afternoon due to frustration, or putting my big girl driving pants on and forge ahead with some mountain driving  I opted for the latter.  So here I am, the mom, the one in charge, the all knowing,  explaining to my 6 year-old as we inched our way down the mountain, that I was absolutely terrified and could she “talk or sing me through it”?  She seemed to know exactly what I was asking and chattered and sang and kept the distractions going, hairpin turn after hairpin turn, until we made our way to the bottom of the mountain, then repeated the performance on our way back up again.  Round two was a lot easier and I swear, when I stepped out of the car and onto the parking lot at Santa Fe Ski, I was just a little bit taller.

A similar request was made of my right seated passenger while on the long and if memory serves me correctly, in the sky bridge to Coronado Island, south of San Diego.  Barely into the drive, my fear of driving over bridges overcame my rational side and my poor sister, Robin,  had to talk me through the process all the way to the other side of the bridge.  The memory comes up every time I’m on a bridge with her, but fortunately, my fears, although still present, have waned quite a bit.  Still, I don’t think she enjoys riding right seat while I drive her across bridges.  Memories shape us, whether they’re no longer accurate or not.  Sorry about that, Robin.  If I could have pulled over a switched seats with you, I certainly would have.

Fast forward several years and once again, I find myself on roads that have my pulse speeding… mountain roads in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Mountain roads I of course expected while driving through the park, but being on a narrow shelf roads that had me feeling like I was driving in the sky, was totally unexpected.  I’m a flatlander who has spent most of my life in Kansas.  I don’t think of these kind of driving scenarios.  Thankfully, there was very little traffic and I could hug the mountain side, often putting me in the wrong lane, while keeping careful watch out for oncoming traffic.

“Don’t look down, don’t think about it, you can do this…”

With no one in my right seat, I had to take on the process of “talking her down” routine to myself by myself…

I returned home a different route, avoiding the shelf roads all together, but with a smile on my face for having done it.  Even after having done this multiple times now since I started spending so much time in Colorado, it is still a big dang deal for me that adds another layer to my driving badge of courage each and every time.

Last week I drove to Aspen to see a friend of mine and thinking I was so tech smart and clever, I simply put her Aspen address into my phone and drove, not giving a second thought to the route Google Maps would choose for me.  In my car with good music, a full cup of coffee in the holder and nothing but blue skies ahead, it was simply perfect… until the roads got tighter and narrower and the hairpin turns began.  I thought it would be for just a short bit, then back onto easy, straight, no hairpin roads, until I saw the sign….


Seriously?  The Pass I hear people talk about and most of them not in a “cool, let’s drive Independence Pass to Aspen” kind of way.  Again, I pulled myself up to the steering wheel as close as I could get (no idea about this, but it seems to make me drive better), turned off the radio so I could concentrate and started “talking myself down”….

“Don’t look down, don’t think about it, you can do this….”

And I did.  When I arrived at my friend’s house and my first comment out of the car was in regards to the white knuckled drive, she said,

“Oh Laurie, that’s a PASSENGER drive!  You don’t drive that!  It’s too scary!  You let someone else drive it, while you’re the passenger.”

Again, I think I may have been just a tad bit taller when I pulled my shaking limbs from the car.  It would appear that I am now a somewhat experienced, albeit not liking it, mountain shelf driver, who will do it if she has to, but has learned the hard way to find an alternate route rather than simply let Google Maps make the decision, because Google Maps does not know me, otherwise they’d probably suggest I look into the bus schedule.  I took a different route home.

I will never be the one to quickly say “Me!!” when the question as to who is going to drive is thrown out, nor will I ever purposely put myself in a driving situation that raises my pulse, unless I have to and although those “have to’s” are coming more and more often during my times in the mountains, I still don’t enjoy them.

I realized that I may have passed this driving fear trait onto my daughter the first time I had her out on a parking lot the size of a football field, with nary a car in sight, and she began to maneuver her way behind the wheel for the first time.

“Why are you slowing down so much, Emery?”

“Because, I’m about to crash into that light pole!”

That would be the light pole that was a dot on the horizon, barely visible it was so far away.  Bless her heart; she’s the recipient of yet another one of my traits that has worked its way down to her via genetics, the good with the bad, and she lives in Colorado of all places.  Unlike her fearful behind the wheel mom, who put her time in on the flat roads of Kansas at her age, she will conquer this fear with a lot more speed than I did because she’s will be thrown into the deep driving end of the pool on a far more regular basis than I was.  Bless her heart even more.  I have not doubt that just like her mom when the knuckles turn white and the radio goes off to concentrate, she’ll begin to talk, sing or mumble her way around every mountain pass until the comfort sets in.

“Don’t look down, don’t think about it, you can do this…”

Or maybe she’ll geographically personalize the mantra and go old school Colorado and sing John Denver.  Whatever works.