Saturday, July 19, 2008

Going, Going, GONE!
And they're out of here!
The bags are being packed. Reservations are being made. Preparations being completed. To-do lists checked off.
In just a few days, we are leaving for an action-packed family adventure, Pacific Northwest style. Internet connectivity will be sporadic where we are going, so it will probably be about two weeks before any stories or pictures will be posted. I can't wait to share this adventure with everyone.
First stop: Everett, Washington for a job interview. If the money is right and they are willing to wait some months, I will probably accept the job offer. We really feel like this is the direction God is taking us in and fully expect to be moving to Washington State at some point in the near future. Our friends know how long we've been talking about moving out that way; now let's see if I can hit that home run to get us out of the ballpark.
Second stop: The A.P.E cache! Oh yeah, baby!
For those non-geocachers out there, the A.P.E. geocache is the "Holy Grail" of caching in the continental United States. In 2001, when geocaching was in its first year, the movie Planet of the Apes came out. As part of a marketing promotion, the movie trailers would display, at the very end, a set of coordinates that lead one to a very special geocache filled with lefover props, costumes, and effects from the movie filming. These were known as Project A.P.E. caches. There were fourteen original Project APE caches, but there is only one still active in the United States, and it happens to lay along the highway that we (ahem) "need" to take to get from the Seattle area to southern Oregon, home of the in-laws. This cache requires a hike along a trail in the Cascades, pictured above. Once the find is logged online, a geocacher gets a very special electronic icon. Let's see if we can get this little guy on our profile!

After this, it will be a long road trip through central Washington and Oregon to the in-laws in New Pine Creek, on the California border. We will probably stop overnight in Bend, OR, which is the little town my husband loves so much. There will be much geocaching. I have about 170 caches bookmarked for this trip, including some very old caches near the in-laws house, and covering three states. In fact, my husband is quite suspicious that this trip has less to do with the job interview and the family visiting and more to do with adding to our player stats!
After spending a week with family, perhaps in and out of Klamath Falls where we used to live, we will be criss-crossing our inbound path on a shorter outbound road trip to Portland, OR. On the way, we will pass by the town of Goverment Camp, at the base of Mt Hood. There are some cool caches out that way.
Oh, and on the way, along the stretch of highway that we (ahem) "need" to take back, just happens to lay the site of the very first geocache ever placed. In May of 2000, Dave Ulmer hid a bucket in the woods southeast of Portland and started this addicting game that has drawn, last count I heard, 1.5 million players, with 1000 new people joining the site every day. The "Original Stash" is no longer there, but there is a plaque at the site commerating the occasion with an ammo can nearby. This is a cache find itself and happens to be the most logged cache in the world, with, as of today, 1933 logged finds. I want to grab this one while in the area and add my name to the list, as well as the other nearby cache, the Un-Original Stash. Check out this path you walk along to get to it. It is so beautiful!
Currently I am a bundle of nerves. I am so excited to be making this journey through an incredibly beautiful part of this country. I am very worried about flying. My aerophobia has increased to a point where I can only grip the seat handles, break out in a cold sweat, and pray the whole time, and I can't look out the windows anymore. I am a little anxious about the job interview, only because so much seems to rest on it.
Mostly, though, I just can't wait to start following the needle on my compass through cool mountain paths like this one, hunting ammo cans filled with travel bugs.
I will post updates as soon as I can get them out there. Can't wait!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It's a soft sunny summer evening in suburban Spring, and couples are sitting in chairs in open garages watching the world go by. I jog by one of these houses and a man nods at me.
"That's a pretty good idea you got there."
"Works pretty good!" I say. I jog on down the street, around the corner, then another corner, and yet another. A blonde woman in a sundress is unloading a pack of children from a minivan. She notices me coming and stops a moment.
"That's a nice piece of engineering you have there!" she says with a smile.
"It works pretty good." I say.
"Looks like it. That's a good idea!"
"Thanks! I like it."
Such a simple solution for a complicated problem. Who knew a leather dog leash would prove to be the thin line between procrastination and proactivity?
When I am in the "exercise zone", I always feel very frustrated with people who make excuses for why exercise doesn't fit into their life. I found myself in the position where I was making the same kind of excuses over the past year.
As a former girl jock, I always exercised because I wanted to. As a side benefit, it may have improved my appearance and given me inner and outer strength, but it was always motivated by the desire for activity and enjoyment. Exercise was something I wanted to do, not something I had to do. I haven't ever seen exercise as something imperative to my health until just this past year.
During my first pregnancy, I gained forty pounds, and due to life situation and a battle with depression, it took me three years to gain the inner fortitude to shed the baby weight. It took about a year of hitting the gym and counting calories, so I didn't want to let that hard work go. I had finally got to a weight lower than when I met my husband and was in a good place physically when I got pregnant again. This time I was determined to keep the weight gain to a minimum and get back to pre-baby shape as soon as possible afterwards. I exercised up until the last month of my pregnancy and began an exercise program a month after my baby was born.
It was going great the first six months or so. I worked nights and my husband worked mornings, so I had time to go spend two hours at the gym or run with the dogs most days of the week. I spent most of my children's waking hours with them, so I had no guilt about leaving for "My Time" spent exercising. I was halfway to my goal of reaching my pre-baby weight.
About a year and a half ago, I switched jobs, and now I have a one hour commute through rush hour traffic both ways. I spent eleven hours of my day five days a week away from home while somebody else is raising my kids. It is a great job and I don't regret the opportunity, but I have to accept some losses. From the time I get home until bedtime, I have four hours to spend with my children. I am not about to spend one or two of those hours in "My Time". That is way too much guilt for me to deal with. Our time together is always much too short and punctuated with homework, dinner, playtime, baths, and bedtime stories.
Between this guilt, the end of breastfeeding, and hitting the over 30 metabolism slowdown, I was beginning to feel the effects. Then my husband switched jobs and suddenly he was frequently working out of town or late hours, and getting out of the house for exercise became a remote possibility. We got rid of our gym membership because we just weren't going anymore. The dogs became lawn ornaments and had dim memories of what leashes were for. Suddenly, my clothes were getting tight, and only a quarter of my wardrobe was actually wearable.
This was becoming a problem. Through it all, I became increasingly concerned about my heart and the state of my health. I realized I was becoming one of those people I could never understand. I was making excuses for why I couldn't fit exercise in.
I tried to start dancing at night again (don't laugh, I swear this was responsible for at least twenty pounds I lost when my husband was in Iraq), but the stereo was broken and I am probably the only girl in the twenty first century without an Ipod. I tried running alternate sprints, jogging and walking from mailbox to mailbox while my children played outside, but the toddler wanted to join me and, well, he toddled. He either cried about being left behind or fell down and got ow-wies. I tried jumping rope but after having two kids...this just doesn't work (right, Rachael?).
Then I started thinking. I might not have gotten an engineering degree, but I did go to A&M. I should be able to come up with a system for running with my kids, hands-free. The toddler has no patience for the stroller anymore. That's out. He does love to ride in his red wagon, though. Who can run while pulling a red wagon with one hand, though? Of course, you could say, why run, just walk with it. This goes back to the argument Dr Boynton and I used to have about whether or not you burn the same number of calories walking the same distance as you do running. I still say no. It is fun, but it takes me twice as long and I swear it does nothing for me. I need to get my heart rate higher than that.
I experimented a few times before I got it just right. Drop the loop end of the leather dog leash through the handle of the wagon, run the clip end through the loop, then pull this tight across the waist until the end of the handle rests snug up against the lower back, then fasten the clip to the closest length of leash and there you are, hands-free. This way I can use my arms and keep my body aligned the way I need to to get a good strong push while I run. The older child can ride his bike alongside us.
I started doing this a few months ago when my husband was out of town, and it made me feel empowered. It made me feel like I was strong enough to get up and stop making excuses, that I could find a way to exert power over my own body, my own life. It made me feel free again. Now I am in the zone, trying to beat my best times on the courses I set through my neighborhood long ago, when the dogs and I used to run during my lunchtimes.
I might be tied up, but I am no longer tied down. "Yeah!" my little one says when I ask if he wants to ride in the wagon. "Whee!" he yells when I go fast. Together, we go into the suburban night. Together, we are free.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Yesterday morning on the Rob Ryan show, they were talking about the game of washers. Rob Ryan was saying he thinks that game was invented in Texas, and there is some kind of washer tournament coming up that he was trying to put together a team for.
I've never played washers, but I know what he is talking about. My memory took me back along the path of association to the dusty little town of Alpine, Texas, where pronghorn antelope graze on the hills surrounding the campus of Sul Ross State University, where my boyfriend of years ago was a student. It was evening, almost twilight, and we were standing on a hill in this backyard of a friend of his. My boyfriend was slowly and carefully tossing the little silver washers, about the size of a quarter, at a target at the other end of the yard. He was explaining to me how the game worked, and how he and his friends would come out here and play, and then I saw it, the dark cloud that passed over his face as he struggled to get a grip on his emotions.
This thing has happened and it cannot be undone.
The day before this, I had come home from college to spend my birthday weekend with my mom. She and I had gone out for barbeque, and we were just laying out the fixings for sandwiches when the phone rang. It was my boyfriend's father, and I could tell from the tone of his voice that something was wrong.
"There's been an accident," he said. My heart lept into my throat. "Noah's okay, but he's in the hospital." Then there was a pause. And? But? What? Then I thought of the giddy phone conversation the night before, how one of our high school friends had come to Alpine to visit Noah, how they were so excited about their plans to drive to Mexico the next day, this day...
"How's Brandon?" I asked.
"Brandon died."
I dropped the phone and walked off a few steps, hand over my mouth. My mother, hearing the clickety clack of the reciever on the ground, looked up. "What's going on?", she asked, as she came over to me. I couldn't talk, though, and just gestured to the phone. She got on the phone and there was a lot of "yes, yes, of course", and then she tells me to grab my things, that Noah's parents are coming to get me and we are driving to Alpine now.
We drove all night, the four of us packed in that little car under the stars. His mom and brother slept in the backseat while his dad and I tried to stay awake. I am sure I was driving them crazy singing along to the Indigo Girls, and finally when I hit a skunk in the wee hours of the morning and not only stunk up the car but got guts on the tires, they had it with me driving. We ran low on gas as the sun was coming up and waited in Fort Stockton at the only gas station along the highway for two hours before the man came to open the place. He wasn't surprised to see us at all, so I am sure he was used to customers doing that same thing (it is a desolate piece of highway).
We got to the hospital in Alpine mid-morning. As we walked in, I knew, I could tell, this experience changed him forever. His journal lay on a table in the hallway when we first walked in, and I flipped through the last few pages, and what he wrote in there brought agony to my heart. He was in the bed, bare-chested, but still wearing the torn and bloody jeans from the wreckage. I wasn't sure what to say to him, so I just curled up on the bed next to him, laying my ear in the hollow of his chest where it had always fit so perfectly. We used to lie in each other's arms like that all the time, and I would listen to his heart beat inside his chest and it felt like an extension of my self. This time, I was expecting it to sound different somehow, like the change he had gone through in his soul would be evident in his body. It sounded like the same old heart, and somehow that comforted me, made me think he was still there.
That day, he kept trying to bring the framework of his former life over his life now. He showed me his dorm room. This was only one month into our freshman year and we had been burning up the phone lines staying in touch, but we hadn't really gotten to show each other our new lives. He introduced me to his friends. We ate lunch in the campus cafeteria.
On the way out of the cafeteria, we ran into a woman who had been the first one on the scene of the accident. She happened to be an EMT as well, so that was helpful, only there was nothing she could do. While Noah turned away to talk to someone, she asked me how he was doing. She told me about driving up to the wreck, of seeing Noah running into the road in those same torn and bloody jeans to flag her down. He was asking her with desperation in his voice to please come help his friend. She had gone over to Brandon, but knew immediately it was too late. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury and had died on impact. The others who had been in the car with them had all suffered catastrophic injuries as well, and were life-flighted to the nearest major hospital. The details she gave are seared into my memory and created a visual picture for me of those desperate moments.
Later that afternoon, we are driving to his friend's house whose backyard we were playing washers in. We were still trying not to talk about it, try not to dwell on this recent tragedy, and we were singing along with the radio when "Spirit in the Sky" came on. I still can't really listen to that song without that connection, and tears welling up in my eyes.
So we are out there in the yard, and Noah is throwing the washers, and stops, realizing that this life he is showing me is now a past. There is now Before the Accident and After the Accident, and this moment is somewhere in between, the transition. I see the anguish in his face and it kills me inside.
"What can I do for you?" I ask him. "How can I help you?"
At first he gives me a one word answer, and it doesn't make sense.
"Time" he says.
"You just have to give me some time to get over this."
Of course. We were young and time went on forever. I could give him that. During the darker moments, later on, when he was self-medicating and pushing me away, I wondered. How much time is enough? I really wanted to know. I wanted someone to tell me. How much is enough? He went to counseling, took medications, but still he struggled, and we struggled. He was like Humpty Dumpty, and I was not all the Kings horses and all the Kings men. I was just a girl.
I was just a girl who was going to school many many miles away from him, and who was meeting new people and experiencing new things. I was a girl in a new life that became my life that he had little part in. Four years went by while we saw each other less and less, while the phone calls petered off, while we grew apart in our seperate cities with our seperate friends. No matter how much I had loved him, it was not enough to conquer time, time spent apart, time spent healing. Time was not on our side.
A few years ago, Noah and I were talking about that time, and he answered the question that no one knew the answer to until after it was over - how much was enough time? Turns out it was about eight years, he said. That's how much time he felt it took before he started putting his life back together again and moving forward.
Now it's been almost fourteen years since The Accident, and Noah is back in Alpine. I hope he is throwing his washers now and not trying not to think about it. I am sure he has other things to think about now. But I think about it, I think about us, and how we were like one of those perfect throws that falls in the dust just short of the target, and everyone says "ooo, that was so close." And we were. Before that time. A part of me will always love him, and he will always be dear in my heart, and my memories of him make me smile, like the song we once said was ours.

Think of me, think of me fondly
When we've said goodbye
Imagine me, once in a while
Please promise that you'll try

Saturday, July 05, 2008

FOURTH OF JULY Let the fireworks begin....

Our July 4 holiday we spent the evening hanging out with the neighbors The kids had a lot of fireworks.

I was experimenting with the camera Some kind of timing issue. Little one got scared.

The man across the street kept talking.
He had a lot to say.
He didn't want to stop
The next day I told my husband
how ole Steve was talking so much the night before.
My husband says, "Oh yeah, I forgot to warn you, ole Steve likes to talk."
"Kinda like someone else I know,"
he kidded, and then said he knew that it would be a showdown between the two champion talkers.
"That's why I wasn't saying anything"
he says,
'I was just gonna put you next to each other
Fireworks. "

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Grateful Dead founding member
Bob Weir talks about Neal Cassady
in this recent interview...check it out....
Excerpt from page 3:
On the road (or streets of San Francisco) with Neal Cassady
One memorable trip of a different sort occurred during the halcyon days of San Francisco's psychedelic era in the 1960s. Weir recalls with fondness some time he spent in a car with Neal Cassady, an icon of the Beat generation.
Cassady was friends with fellow Beat legend Jack Kerouac, who wrote the seminal American novel, "On the Road." The book, in Kerouac's stream-of-consciousness style, was based on their travels, with Cassady as the wild driver Dean Moriarty. In the 1960s, Cassady also drove the bus for author Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters.
Beyond being the tale of a great American road trip, "On the Road" has become a bible for countless artists, poets, and musicians, including Weir. Cassady inspired Weir to write two Dead songs -- "Cassidy" and "The Other One" with his
lyrics, "There was cowboy Neal at the wheel of the bus to never-ever land."
"Truman Capote says of Kerouac's writing, 'That's not writing, that's typing,' Weir laughs as he mimics Capote's high-pitched voice. "But it rang my bells. It inspired me to leave home for good -- to pursue
music. Cassady was quite a figure in American history. Jack Kerouac became enamored of Neal Cassady and rightly so. I won't call him a saint, but he was something."
Neal Cassady. Photo courtesy Herb Green
While "On the Road" had a profound effect on Weir, when he met the book's hero, he wasn't so much starstruck as he was intent on taking it all in. "I got over it pretty quick because every moment was new and fresh," Weir says. "I wasn't busy thinking this was a big deal; I was busy just in wonderment of what was happening."
The depiction of Weir's drives with Cassady sounds familiar to Kerouac fans -- like a page ripped right from the book. Cassady drove a maroon 1964
Oldsmobile F-85 with a V-8 named George, while Weir rode shotgun, careening through the streets of San Francisco. The car belonged to Sue Swanson, a high-school classmate of Weir's, who became the first Deadhead and worked on and off for the band for 30 years.
There was a superhuman quality about Cassady when it came to driving through crowded city streets that amazes Weir to this day. "He defined the term synchronicity -- he was at all places at all times and right here at the same time. I used to ride around the city with him in San Francisco, and he could drive through rush hour traffic at 55-60 miles an hour, never stopping for a red light, never stopping for a stop sign, the wrong side of the street, on the sidewalk, all that kind of stuff. Never hit anything. And he could see around corners."
Long before "multitasking" became vogue, Cassady was king of multitasking in the car. "And all the time he was driving, he had one hand on the wheel, one hand feeling up his girlfriend in the middle seat, and one hand playing the buttons on the radio," Weir says. "What he would bring on the radio -- it was a dialogue with what was going on in my inner voice, and he was aware of all that."
It raises the question of whether he learned a thing or two during those drives with Cassady. "Yeah, I learned something from him," he replies. "The radio had a dialogue with my inner voice. He'd punch the buttons and stuff would come out and it was coherent. Deep stuff."