Let it

Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.”
Harvey MacKay

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in Review: Yep, one of those.

Wow 2015. Just wow.
How to I sum up the lowest lows and the highest highs all in one blogpost? I thought 2014 was gutsy, but you.... you just took everything and ran with it.
What happened? Let's break it down.

- The impromptu trip to Moab that changed EVERYTHING. My first significant running distance on my ankle hardware. I ran with Jenna for the first time... this would prove to be incredibly significant in the year to come. The sunset at Fisher Towers that cracked open my depressive cage and set magical things into motion.

- AcroYoga came back into my life. Bryan and Ashlee and all the acro community. They have helped to build my confidence while keeping me humble and connected.
- I began getting back out on the trails in earnest, hitting up Ogden's Waterfall Canyon with Aaron.
- The first annual Wasatch Mountain Wrangler Formal was a huge success and one of the funnest nights of my life thus far.

Aaron made the year in review video and I still just die of love and laughter every time I watch it!

- Got back on the climbing wall for the first time since my accident.
- Replaced my oven... because it died a drawn out and silly death.
- Siri turned 5!
- Saia turned 10 and reached his goal of running 5 miles on Antelope Island!
- Arya turned 7!
- We camped out at "The Wedge" at the San Raphael Swell with a bunch of Wrangler friends and family, and I put in a good 12 miles with Craig and Jenna- two of my favorite people.

- Our boys and Arya earned their first belt promotions in their homeschool Karate class.
- Aaron ran the Buffalo Run 50 miler in 8:04.
- I ran the Buffalo 25k in... well, it was slow, and it hurt like hell, and I cried my way across the finish line and into the arms of some pregnant lady I didn't know, but I finished it. It was a major moment of victory for me.
Renee came out to surprise me and keep me company, which meant so much!

- Ended up in the hospital with a horribly painful kidney stone. The required CT scan saved my life. Was diagnosed with liver lesions, and a life-threatening 7 year old rogue IUD.
- Washing machine died just as my kids all got the stomach flu and I was down and out. My neighbors took pukey laundry loads home and returned them clean. My amazing cousin bought us a new washer out of the blue. I am so blessed.
- Had my first MRI. It was terrifying and extremely expensive. It confirmed that my liver lesions were benign and of no current threat to my health. Huge relief.
- I left my job at Mountainland Physical Therapy and went on their PRN list. I can never thank them enough for helping me heal. And for allowing me to help others heal. It was a huge part of my recovery.
- Had lithotripsy to break up my kidney stone, and spent some painful, groggy, wheezy, medicated weeks passing the pieces.
- Aaron's brother Nick married Marin. Their wedding was gorgeous and fun, and a welcome distraction from the mess of my health issues. Managed to look pretty despite feeling half-human. And my kids had matching outfits.

- Took a family trip to Zion while we waited for my scheduled surgery. Aaron and buddies ran the traverse. The kids and I met them at the end with treats and Dew. We stayed in the vacation home of wonderful friends Greg and Janet and had an incredible family experience in Zion National Park and the surrounding area (Toquerville Falls!).

- Aaron turned 36!

- Our minivan bit the dust.
- I spent time enjoying the little things. Tea parties with my girls, reading aloud to my kids, resting.
- I chopped off 18 inches of hair. Beware the woman who cuts off her hair. Her life is about to change.
- Had a pre-op appointment that confirmed the plan to have a laparoscopic hysterectomy and scared the crap out of me. Threw a tantrum, screamed and cried a bunch, then went running, and put my big girl panties on.
- Exchanged my big girl panties for a hospital gown, woke up from anesthesia to the shock of having had emergency open abdominal surgery. The rogue IUD had been absorbing into my bowel and had it not been found I would have been dead of sepsis within a year. It was a miracle I had made it this long. I was in shock, and grateful. Poor, traumatized Aaron. We both had a lot of psychological recovery to do. Jenna, Matt and Alicia came to get me through my hospital stay. I will always be grateful. It meant the world.

- Faced the reality of recovery and PTSD. Hit some of the deepest lows. Lost all optimism. Reached out in desperation and was lifted. My friends were my angels.
- Talon turned 13!
-Volunteered at the Bryce 100, running the Pink Cliffs Aid Station with Matt, Alicia, Aaron and friends. We camped out in the freezy freaky weather and I cooked pretty much nonstop. It was amazing. I loved every second.

- Started moving again. Got back to the trails a little at a time.
- Spent mucho sanity time with Jenna. Gosh, she saved me.
- Went on a spontaneous campout family reunion in Heber with my parents and siblings. Paddle boarded for the first time. Watched my brothers teach my boys to fish, and my boys catch their first fish!
-Decided it was time to fight. Gave anxiety and depression strong notice that they weren't in charge anymore.
- Went back to yoga.
- Aaron attempted the WURL (Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup), and almost finished on his first attempt. The friends who he went to support, Jennilyn and MVH, went on to finish.
- Summited Sardine Peak with Aaron for my first summit since my shattered ankle.
- Replace dying van with our 2009 Aspen.
- Aaron was asked to leave his job of 12.5 years. This was a hard blow, but a blessing in disguise.
- Summited Mt Aire with Jenna

- Went back to AcroYoga
- Attended a backbend workshop to celebrate my 1 year ankle anniversary.

- Talon, Saia and Arya earned their 2nd belt promotions in Karate.
- Summited Mt. Superior with Jenna

- Volunteered at the Speedgoat 50k with Aaron and friends. I really love volunteering at races.
- We camped out in the Tushar Mountains and crewed/cheered Aaron and so many friends at the crazy tough Tushars 93k. Yet another Wrangler Party!
- Attended Outdoor Retailer.
- Celebrated our 14th Anniversary! I'm so lucky to have Aaron!
- Aaron accepted a position with Oracle in Lehi, UT.
- We went to HAWAII!!! Through the heaven-led generosity of our dear friend Dean, we were able to visit my parents on Oahu and have the most beautiful, appreciated vacation ever! We made the most of beaches, waterfalls and mountains, we climbed banyan trees, we snorkeled with a sea turtle, we boogie boarded, we ate from food trucks and local joints and loved every second of our time there. There was no better place I could have celebrated my 33rd birthday!

- Aaron started work at Oracle.
-Finished off August with stitches to Saia's head. :P
- More family hikes and homeschooling.
- Took a day trip to Bear Lake with family.
- Took a spontaneous trip to Lake Powell with Jenna (Aaron is the very best husband for letting me go!) Stayed on a Houseboat with our friend Jen and her amazing family. Soaked up so much sun and water. Made the most of the trip home through Capitol Reef.

- Crewed Kenzie through the Bear 100. Aaron paced his brother Matt for 15 miles. Had an amazing weekend cheering and helping friends and absolutely loving their company.
- My cute girlies got their ears pierced.
- Signed up to run the Antelope Canyon 55k in February. I'm scared spitless... and so excited.
- Summited Gold Ridge with Aaron.

- Summited Sunset Peak with Jenna

- Earned my High White Belt in Tae Kwon Do.
- Summited Pfeifferhorn with Jenna and Ashley

- Attended the CHVRCHES concert with Aaron, Jenna, Merete, MVH, Brent and his darling daughter. So awesome.
- Made out with Autumn
- Practically made out with Jenna
- Absolutely made out with Aaron
- Summited Olympus on Halloween morning, dressed as a mermaid... with a bazillion Wranglers in costume. So much fun!
-Summited Big Baldy with Jenna

- Summited Gold Ridge again... with Jenna

- Listed the house for sale.
- Our boys earned their third belt promotions in Karate.
- Went as a family to Monument Valley with Ultra Adventures and TAUR friends to perform service for Navajo families there. We slept in a hogan, re-mudded a sweat lodge, ran up a mesa, tore down a condemned house, helped finish up a building interior, worked on trails, installed composting toilets and solar panels, and rebuilt a sheep pen. We rubbed shoulders with the salt of the earth. We met Annie and Brad (this would prove significant).

- Summited Grandeur with Jenna.
- Summited Frary Peak on Antelope Island with Aaron and Miju

- Siri earned her first karate promotion.
- Summited (snicker) Meridian Peak and Ensign Peak with Aaron (for his hundredth peak this year!)
- Started adventuring with Annie. She gets me. We laugh... a lot.
- Sprained my shoulder and tore the labrum in a freak AcroYoga accident. C'est la vie!
- Summited (heehee) Flag Rock to hide my Secret Wrangler gift.
-Aaron and I summited Cave Peak in a blizzard with 80 mph and thigh deep drifts to try to find our Secret Wrangler Gifts. We did not succeed!
-Annie, Brad and I summited Cave Peak AGAIN, with snow shoes in 13 degree temps, to succeed in finding the gifts. There was much laughter. It was worth it.
-Snowventured up Lamb's Canyon to find Jenna's gift. Laughed so hard.
-Snowventured up Millcreek Canyon with Brad, Annie and Andrew to find Andrew's gift. It was amazing.

- Snowventured to summit Avenues Twin Peaks with Brad, Annie, and Aaron to find Annie's gift partway up Little Black. Again with the laughter and awe.
- Spent my last day of 2015 snowventuring up Mueller Park with Aaron.

452+ miles
95,500+ feet of elevation
125+ hours of mountain time

Looking back on this year overwhelms me. I am so blessed!! So much has happened. None of us are the same people we were when this year began. There has been more pain, sadness, joy, laughter, love and change than I ever could have imagined. So much is still up in the air. We are poised for so much more change in 2016.

More than anything, I am grateful. I LOVE our life!!!
May you and yours make the most of your stories as they happen. Don't accept excuses, and be champions of your own happiness. Happy New Year!!
So much love,

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Strangeness of Peace

If I were my friend, I would look at the laundry list of things from the past year and say, "Oh honey. You've been through so much. You are amazing. I'm here for you. Hang in there." So I am trying to be that friend. To be there for myself no matter what. To rally other friends around on hard days and to raucously celebrate the good ones.

My husband was given the opportunity to leave his job this past week. By that, I mean he is burnt out after 13 years with the same company and was essentially asked to "plan an exit strategy".  We had just bought a car the day before, and despite the assurance that our Out of Pocket Maximum has been met, the medical bills have kept coming.  I feel that considering all that has happened in the past year, I would be justified in throwing a big fat tantrum. I should be panicking, right?  The moment I heard of his meeting at work, I hit my knees. I didn't pray for magical solutions. I didn't curse God or ask why.  I have learned that life is going to go on happening, and most of the time the only big beautiful miracle is that you get through the tough times, and you get to keep on living. I simply prayed for Peace. I prayed for the strength to handle whatever this new challenge would bring. That was an easy prayer for God to answer, since all of that peace and strength lives inside me. He introduces me to new depths of it every day. From the moment my knees touched the carpet, I have felt it. The panic and anxiety surge at times, but the Peace soothes over them like a calming balm. I think the only other pervasive feeling has been a sadness at watching my strong and fearless mountain man struggle. He is so brave. I pray for his peace and his courage. I cannot give him mine.

After a difficult year of roller coaster drama, permeating sadness, anxiety, anger, and confusion, the feeling of Peace is somewhat strange. It comes with the understanding that this is change that we begged for, hoped for, cried many tears for. It is time to move from our mucked in little stuck spot. It is harder than expected, but this is us, heading in the right direction.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mushy Thoughts On Not Dying

The funny thing about not dying is that it's a lot like just living, but with certain expectations attached, and with certain attachments that you'd never dream to expect.
It makes me wonder how many times in a day we skirt death unknowingly. How many of my loved ones did I almost lose today? How much longer would I hold them if I knew? I'm pretty sure there would be a lot more "Breath Hugs". You know, where you hug someone and then settle in for a full 'breathe together' moment that makes you just let go and be for a sec. Yeah. Those are my favorite kind. Never had one? Try it. It's better than melty chocolate. It's just that good.
What else? More thoughtful moments. More spontaneous 'yes' acts. More checking in just for the sake of checking in. More fending off sharp thoughts before they became sharp words that we regret later. More kindness.
Ever wonder what it's like to walk into somewhere like church or yoga class after you've not died? For the most part, nothing changes... except you. People are still living their stories, and rightly so. Not many people look at you and think, "Man, she was like millimeters from sepsis and sudden horrible death not so long ago. She had to get cut open to save her life! Glad she's still around! Break out the balloons!"
Surprisingly, to me my story matters a little less, while everyone else's story matters a little more. I think a lot more about what others have been through, and I think about how I make people feel. It's not a new concept. Our girl Maya Angelou has been talking about it for decades.
Still a fave. Thanks Maya.
It plays through my head constantly lately. The truth of it rings in my bones. How do you make people feel? You may be witty and clever, but at what expense? You may even be right, but will your "rightness" matter at all to the person who was wrong if you weren't kind? It will not. Take one extra second to consider. How do you make people feel?
My Mama is the best example of this. She is a beautiful woman with a bright, wide smile and soft blue eyes. She has followed my daddy around the world, often not knowing the native language of the people she is connecting with, but never failing to connect. Never failing to draw a sweet child into her lap simply by exuding love. Children know. They know when your arms are a safe place and when the door to your heart has so long ago lost its hinges that it sits wide open to them. This is my Mama. I can see now that someday life's blows will wear me down, break me up, and only serve to make me soft like her. Those many moments when the temptation arises to clam up and turn hard against the pain, to cut myself off and slowly wither, I think of my Mama. I think of the life sustaining love that is salve to my soul, and I can't. I just can't. When the question comes, "Can I give up yet?" This is my answer. My mama, and all of those many who have made me feel. Loved, important, inspired, beautiful, powerful, strong, soft, shiny, amazing, real, happy.  All of those people to whom I might return the favor- who are encouraged by my courage. You are my answer.
More often than not, I have questioned what it is that I believe.
Know this: I believe that there is a God in Heaven who grants us miracles, and I believe without a doubt that WE are those miracles for each other. WE are the tools in His hands. And even as we are receiving the miracle of someone else's love and encouragement, we are creating miracles for others just by continuing to live and love.
So keep living and keep loving, my friends. You did not die today. You can be a force for good.

Much Love,

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fighting Back

When I found out about my rogue IUD and the need to go under the knife again, I swore that I wouldn't let myself get to the depths of depression and anxiety that I had battled tooth and nail after my ankle reconstruction.
I didn't want the drama, the stress, the utter despair. I was careful. I was aware. Or so I thought. I didn't even realize I was slipping. I didn't identify the dull haze of apathy as leading me to the same place. I put on a good face. I enjoyed time with my family and friends, and relished their attention when I had it. I was genuinely happy in those moments. But behind everything, there was relentless pain and a heavy question weighting my chest..."What is the point?" I had no goals. I had given up on becoming. I didn't think I was allowed to become anymore. I just ...was. I encouraged loved ones, with my undying optimism and empathy. I was everything for everyone else... but not for me. Life was good... but not for me. Adventures were out there waiting to be had.... but not for me. Greatness was within reach and the future looked bright.... but not for me. The exhausted sense of surrender subtly grew until every morning I woke with the same thought. "Can I give up yet?" I felt like a peacefully drowning toddler who suddenly realizes she can't breathe, and just what that might mean. It wasn't like me not to tread water. This wasn't me!!

I had a particularly poignant panic attack the other day. I had taken the kids on an incredible camping trip with my family while Aaron was off running the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay. We had both arrived home exhausted. I laid on Aaron's warm chest, staring at the ceiling, and wailing aloud every massively crushing fear as tears coursed down the sides of my face and filled my ears. What if I'm not allowed to have good anymore? What if no one really loves me and it's all just pity? What if I have lost every bit of fitness and I'm just getting flabbier and weaker by the minute? What if my haircut just makes me look like a fat boy? What if I never get to do the things I love again? What if the copper toxicity that has ravaged my mind and trashed my body is permanent? What if it triggers early onset Alzheimers and I can't remember my family anymore, and they are stuck with the insane husk of what used to be me? "I'm serious! I'm so screwed up, Babe!! I'm so screwed up!!"
To Aaron's credit, he only laughed once. After proper amounts of support and discussion, and promising me that things would get better, he very gingerly reminded me, in not so many words, that these episodes effect him and the kids. Which sent me into a fresh spiral of guilt, but which also gave me fresh motivation to pull myself together and look outside myself to care for them. We ate dinner around nine that night, but it was home cooked and healthy.

The next morning was Father's Day. I stuffed my anxiety deep into my chest and did my best to make this day about him. My emotional thrashing had nixed my preparatory trip to the store the night before, so I made do. Aaron looked me in the eyes and asked me not to feel guilty, and to just enjoy the day with him. It told him I would. Sometime mid-day, I sat at my computer while he napped. My eyes swept the messy desk around me and paused on a CD set that Aaron had gotten for free from some motivational seminar. "Building a Mind of Steel: The key to managing your little voices" by Kirk Duncan. I popped it in my disk drive and put on my headphones. It was cheesy, but the longer I listened, the more it applied to me. I hadn't realized just how much I had stopped believing. I'd turned a blind eye to the fact that I was letting those dark little voices have their way.  I made lists, I started the exercises. I began to fight. In the program there is a challenge to write a positive affirmation strong enough to combat the negative narrative. "Imagine if you read this about yourself every night before bed? How would that affect you?"
Don't laugh. Here is mine:

I am an intelligent and voracious learner. I am strong. I am gracious and kind, unpresuming and generous. I am unstoppable, determined, and positive. I am an inspiration to those around me. I am free and uncluttered. I am wise and decisive. I am honest, authentic, real, and unapologetic. I accept the details of myself. I own the good and the bad in the knowledge that everything changes, including me. I am whole as I am. I am my own hero. I am a champion of LOVE. I accept the challenge to grow, to improve, to expand. I am adored. I am secure. I radiate JOY. I live in faith and trust, in myself, in my God, and in those around me. 

This is my fight. I will not quietly drown in doubt and fear. I will not let the little voices win.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Things We Can't Control

**Warning: This post is pretty raw, and contains some graphic pictures and descriptions. If you get queasy at such things, proceed with caution. If your morbid curiosity just got all excited, by all means, have at it.

On Thursday, May 7th, I drove to Ogden, greeted my friend Rachel at her salon, and asked her to cut my 18 inches of hair off. The thought of handing my unconscious body off to doctors and nurses again was nauseating to me. I needed to feel in control of something.
Chop Chop

 I sat in her salon chair and we got to chatting about ridiculously personal things, (such as one does with a hairdresser, ) the giant elephant of the year came up- my health.  I had until Monday to decide what my surgery was going to be. I was still undecided. 
"Hysterectomy? BEST thing I've ever done... as long as they leave your ovaries."
This was the fourth time I had heard this from a friend with experience. Rachel's gorgeous mother chimed in and agreed from the chair in the corner behind me. Number 5. 
Heaven help me, I might actually do this.

As I drove home with the window down and the radio blasting, short hair ruffling in the wind, I didn't know if the haircut made me feel any more in control, but it sure was a nice distraction.

I was feeling pretty on edge for the weekend. I tried to remain calm. I'm pretty sure no one who offered me a hug knew that I wanted to dive into their arms and beg them to hold me together.
I attended one more yoga class on Friday. Bryan greeted me with compliments to my hair and a big hug. I squeezed him hard. Don't forget to let go.

I savored that class, knowing it would be my last for a while.

Monday morning brought my pre-op consultation. I was ready to take full advantage of this appointment. I fired question after question and was upfront about my indecision.
"I just want to give you as much information as possible, and let you decide." Dr. Fillerup was frank and thorough. In the end, with the facts as we knew them, I decided I didn't like the risk factors of bleeding out and decided to simplify things by choosing the laparoscopic hysterectomy. I had no idea that it wouldn't be my choice anyway.
I walked out of the office with extensive instructions for a day of strict liquid diet and laxatives followed by fasting on surgery day. Sounded like a real party.
Aaron decided he wasn't feeling well and he would work from home the rest of the day. It didn't take long for my inner composure to start unraveling. Aaron took one look at my face, and expressed his support of one last run. I changed my clothes, tied on my brand new Altra Superior 2.0s, told him I'd be in Mueller park, and got in the car. As I leaned into the steep road heading up 400 North, I thought I might puke. I was about to fly apart. And then I screamed. A ragged, raging, almost deafening scream. I was shocked at the anguish that came out of my body. Primal anger, fear, frustration, so much more that I didn't even realize had been brewing, pent up in my chest. I screamed again, this time from my toes and finished it off with a sob. It then I was done. That was it. No more.

When I pulled up at the trail head, I was already feeling better. Lock the car, stow the keys, start the watch, and walk. I had no expectations, but when it felt good to run, I ran, and when it didn't, I walked. There were very few people on the trail. The temps were perfect, sunshine and shade in beautiful harmony. I needed this. The longer the miles, the better it felt to run them. I gave myself credit for living a bold life, and for handling the cards I'd been dealt, until I was running with my head high, confident that I could handle whatever was coming my way. It's funny, whenever I get sort of a mental grasp on how strong and brave I am, I see everyone else in a new light. What are they going through that I have no clue about? What scars are they carrying? What major events made them who they are and brought them to where they are now? I like to think it makes me kinder- to them and to myself.
Mountain warrior

I finished the run feeling all revved up, like a warrior going to battle, at peace with what must be done. I was pleasantly surprised at how good 7 miles could feel after not running for over a month, and knowing I wouldn't run again for a while. I would miss it.

Liquid diets are not fun. Good friends took my kids to the homeschool opera performance so that I could stay home and deal with laxatives and all that jazz. By evening, when I cooked dinner for my family and sucked down my last smoothie, I was hangry. And then the fast began.
The next morning when I woke the kids to kiss them goodbye, I was not feeling like a warrior. We made it through check-in and paid another chunk of change to the hospital. We were SO close to meeting our out-of-pocket maximum for the year. Aaron held my hand and made me laugh through all of the preparations. One of our bishopric members, and anesthesiologist, had seen my name on the surgery list and dropped in to my pre-op room to wish us luck. I kissed Aaron goodbye and they wheeled me into the OR. There was less ado this time around. Dr. Fillerup and the nurses helped me get into position on the operating table and piled me all snuggled up in warm blankets, distracting me with being cared for as the jagged ache of anesthesia made it's way up my arm. Sleep.

I awoke to confusion and pain. They were getting me settled into my room.
"Things didn't go as expected."
I didn't understand.
Garbled tidbits of information made it through the anesthesia and morphine haze.
No hysterectomy.
They had to open you up.
Attached to the bowel.
Longer recovery.

I just really needed to pee.
"Doesn't she have a catheter? No?"
The nurses tried to help me up to go to the bathroom, but I didn't make it. Too much pain. Not alert enough. So they laid me back down and I closed my eyes, drifting at the edge of consciousness while one nurse coached a trainee on how to place a catheter. This was a nightmare. It had to be.
Ow. Ow. Ow. OW. Please, no! OW! OW!!!
They shushed and cooed at me like I was a baby until it was in place.
Please let me just disappear. I laid in my hospital bed with my eyes closed and cried.
My drug-fogged mind couldn't grasp what was happening, what had happened.
Aaron tried to explain it to me with tears in his eyes. His chin shook a little. He had had to make big decisions.
Dr. Fillerup had prepped me for hysterectomy and tried to find the lost IUD via laparoscopy as planned.  But it wasn't where we thought it was. It wasn't sticking out of the uterine wall as expected. The uterus was intact. After searching through my abdomen, she'd found the string, down low on the left side, the IUD was encapsulated in a large amount of scar tissue and absorbing into the wall of my colon.
Little string peeking out of the scar tissue

This was not good news. She had never seen this before. All simplicity went out the window. She had paused the surgery, consulted a general surgeon, and come out to the waiting room to show Aaron pictures and ask him what they should do. He was not prepared to make that decision.
"Can we wake her up and ask her?" They decided against it, knowing I'd probably be too groggy and confused to make a decision, and not wanting to put me through a second surgery.
He had called Alicia, panicked and desperate for advice. Alicia is a worrier. She panicked too.
In short order they decided I should keep my uterus, and the docs decided they would need to use the remaining surgery time window, cut open my abdomen, and cut the IUD and surrounding scar tissue from the bowel wall.
Cut it out!
The culprit- and a hefty chunk of my flesh

Then would come stitching and repair along with a generous dusting of powder to prevent adhesion between organs.
And so it was.

The look in Aaron's eyes begged to know if he'd made the right decision. I felt awful that he had been put in that position. He was second guessing himself even now. It was the decision I probably would have made. I told him I wasn't upset. I don't know if he believed me. In truth, I was upset, but not with him, not with the decision, with my own absolute sense of helplessness.
I pushed back the sense of physical violation I felt. I inspected my incisions- my soon-to-be scars.
Excuse me if I feel like a pin cushion.

This body I have worked so hard to honor. I felt like I had failed. Again.
I was in a limbo of pain, low oxygen levels, breathing alarms, IV alarms, catheter adjustments, heart rate monitors, vitals checks, blood tests, and trying to make the best of it all. Aaron was there. He made it all bearable.

Because of the nature of the surgery, I was placed on a clear liquid diet for another 24 hours. All I could think about was wanting a dang sandwich. Hangry.

I FaceTimed my parents in Hawaii. I called and texted family and friends. I wiled away the time with Netflix movies, Instagram and Facebook. Somewhere in the midst of it all, Jenna showed up in my hospital room. My Jenna.
The Famous Jay

She was the best thing ever. Having her there to talk to, laugh with, be ridiculous with, meant the world to me- even if it did hurt to laugh. I hadn't expected visitors. I'm too stinking independent. It was so very nice. Sleep that night was not restful. We were in the women's center with tiny newborns and new mamas who cried through the night. Vital checks came every couple of hours, and there was even a 4 am blood draw. Aaron was trying to sleep on the little fold-out cot thing from the sofa-chair. I felt awful for him. My abdomen was a bloated blob. All the pent up air from surgery had begun to make things hurt worse. It was a long night.
Aaron being my bed kitteh.

When morning came, I ordered my breakfast of juice, jello and broth and awaited the doctor's arrival. We'd be waiting all day.
A student from the DATC came by and gave me a pedicure. I could have kissed her.  When the doc finally came, there was only one important question. "Have you passed gas yet?" Despite burping every few seconds and finally being able to make it to the bathroom on my own, the answer was no. It meant my intestines hadn't woken up yet. Because of the unexpected nature of the surgery, it meant I couldn't go home.  It also meant I had to stay on a liquid diet.

I am fully convinced that hospitals exist in their own mid-plane twilight zone. We weren't prepared to stay for two nights. And after calling babysitters and rearranging meal plans, I got bored, antsy, and downright grumpy. The gnawing, empty sense of hunger didn't help, though I did have a small personal celebration when I finally was able to fart.
 Toward the second evening, Matt and Alicia made a very welcome visit. They always make for good conversation. Aaron was not looking forward to another restless night on the torture cot, but didn't want to leave me alone. Alicia offered to make a girls night of it so that Aaron could take the kids home to sleep in their own beds. Matt went to leave only to text Aaron for a jump start. Their car was acting up. By the time the cars got started and Alicia made it back with movies in tow, it was getting late. We settled in to giggle ourselves silly to Pitch Perfect until 12:30 am. I decided no one should have to endure the torture cot and sent her home to sleep. Aside from an early morning vitals check, I was left to sleep peacefully. I woke before 6 am and made it to the bathroom on my own, and ended up feeling good enough to take a solo walk through the quiet hallways. By 7:00 Dr. Fillerup made her rounds, declared me fit to go home, gave instructions to do basically nothing except gentle walking for the next 4-6 weeks (especially no lifting), and promised to write up the papers within the half hour. I texted Aaron to come break me out, a nurse disconnected my tubes and monitors and I headed for a quick shower. It felt so good to be free of all bandages, tubes and wires. I was feeling stronger and more confident, until I leaned back to rinse my shampoo and almost keeled over with the weight of my head because my abs still didn't work. Awesome. Somehow I survived washing and dressing. I puttered about packing and tidying, all the while being careful not to lift anything that required core muscles or twisting (which includes, surprisingly, pretty much everything). Then Aaron was there, and I was free.

Home presented it's own challenges. First order of business, build a step out of yoga blocks so I could get in and out of bed. New learning curve as to how to move to get around without too much pain. Second order of business, REAL FOOD. Aaron made a special trip to the Sunshine Cafe to get my favorite Garden Classic. I laid into that thing like it owed me money. So dang good.

We have had wonderful friends and neighbors bring us meals. Family and friends have taken kids so that I could have a break from noise and being whined at.  A few awesome people have dropped in to visit or sent treats. These things mean so much to us, and help immensely.
It's hard to grasp that it's been almost 2 weeks now. On the other hand it feels like it's been FOREVER since I've done anything worthwhile. The staples are out, the adhesive has worn off, the scars will heal pretty well. But I'm in the midst of the mind game. One can only binge-watch Hulu for so long before one wants to smack one's head into a wall. I have gotten pretty good at taking non-skanky bed selfies...
This one says, moody and forlorn
Straight up bored
I've been making my way through a stack of good books. It's slow going because pain does things to my attention span. Little things that we all take for granted are serious challenges. Rolling over in bed is a delicate crap shoot, a coughing fit can leave me in tears, sneezing feels like a red-hot knife to the ab muscles, and bowel movements leave me horribly breathless.
Everyday I go on my walk down the street. Everyday I make it a little further before needing to turn back. Uneven ground is rough... and I live on a hill.
Every day things get a little better.
Every day I remind myself that this too shall pass.
Every day I wake up with the question in my mind, "Can I give up yet?"
And everyday I answer myself, "Sure. Give up expecting things to be peachy. Give up deciding to feel terribly depressed when they aren't. Give up wanting more now, and decide to be content with where you are." Then I hate myself for being so clever and logical, and make faces and flip myself off in the mirror or something.

It's a slippery slope though... giving up. It can easy lead to "Give up dreaming. Give up hope. Give up on the idea that you can have any control over anything in your life." But those ones start to make me feel a little bit dead inside, so I try not to go there.
I miss the feeling that if I work hard and love hard and keep smiling, I can have dreams and accomplish them. There is nothing quite like watching the slow death of your own optimism.

I miss the camaraderie of my tribes. I miss endorphins. I miss my mountains and my yoga mat. I miss stretching and movement.
There is a deep, and continuous battle between gratitude and cynical depression. A constant discord between what I know and what I feel.
I'm blessed. I'm loved. I'm cared for.
I know that I have friends that would do anything I asked of them, but I don't even know what to ask for. I'm almost embarrassed to be around the people who have come to expect more of me than what this numb, confused, small person can offer. When it comes down to it, I'm just rather sad, tired and lonely, and I don't know how to fix it except to just wait it out.
It will get better. It has to.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

When it all falls apart...again.

On March 27th, just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief for having made it through all the March birthdays in our family and trying to deal with car repairs and a dead washing machine, I couldn't breathe.

I was prepping for the final birthday party of the month, a little park and popsicle party for Arya and her cousin Wyatt. I got up, feeling well. Did some squats and pushups and hopped in the shower. Then just as I was beginning to dress, I got a phone call from my favorite Alicia. We had been chatting for a while, checking in, when I began having left side cramps. They aren't new, I've had abdominal pain on and off for years. I suspected they were either ovarian cysts or some kind of intestinal issues. But they didn't fade this time. They intensified and wrapped around my back until I was panting out short replies to Alicia, curled up in a ball on the bed in my underwear. "I think I need to go. (gasp, cringe, pant, pant) I don't feel okay." I wheezed into the phone. I tried to walk to the bathroom and ended up on the floor. I finally made it to the toilet, only to dry heave, then lay on the floor gasping between bouts of retching uncontrollably again and again with no relief. I texted Aaron. "I think I need a doctor."
Those are big words coming from me. Every breath was a struggle.
I made some calls and got in for a noon appointment with a PA at our local family practice. The next challenge was to put on clothes. Pants have never been such a challenge. Aaron rushed home to take me in. We left Talon in charge and made the short trip. Every bump was excruciating. I had to hold the seatbelt away from my belly. We made it to the doc's office just as I remembered I'd forgotten my purse. No ID to go with my insurance card. They were gracious. I filled out papers as I broke into a sweat trying not to pass out. Eventually we made it back to an exam room where I answered questions from nurses and met Wendy who took one look and asked if I was sure I didn't want to go to the ER.
I briefly explained to her how badly I hate the ER and how it took me an entire night with no painkillers and a shattered ankle to get there the last time. She dubiously nodded her head and asked if I thought I could pee in a cup. I responded I thought maybe so, and remembered that I hadn't had anything to eat or drink since the night before. I've never peed straight coca-cola before, but I imagine it would have been a fair color comparison. "That can't be good," I muttered to the toilet.
Wendy agreed. "I suspect kidney stones. I'm sending you up to the hospital for a CT and some blood work. Start drinking water -lots of it." Awesome. (No, not awesome.)
I felt like an evil giant had a vice grip on my entire left side.
We headed home to get my purse and a water bottle, and then back up to the hospital where nice people took my insurance info and put me in a wheelchair. CT scans are quick and easy. They are a crap-ton of radiation, but they are easy! They wheeled me to the lab and took my blood and sent me on my way with a cheery,"We'll call you!"

So we went home. I took Ibuprofen, called Alicia, and laid on the couch while Aaron and Alicia took the kids and threw a birthday party without me.
And the phone rang.
"Hey Kristyan, this is Wendy. So there is a 6mm kidney stone, but your scan showed more than that."
"There are a couple of suspicious looking masses on your liver. So we want you to go in for a contrast MRI to check those out and see if they pose a risk."
That sounds crappy... and expensive....
"You said you weren't on any birth control, right?"
"Well there is an IUD outside of your uterus."
Oh.... that's where that went. It went missing like six and a half years ago. I've had a baby since then and they couldn't find it with ultrasound, so they told me it just fell out.
"Apparently it didn't.  You'll need laparoscopic surgery to remove it... blahblahblahblahwhompwhompwhomp."
*Cringe* $$$$$$$
She prescribed me some medicine to dilate my ureters to help pass the stone... And antibiotics... and percocet. With flashbacks of awful digestive torment spinning in my head, I decided I probably wouldn't take that. Matt and Alicia brought lettuce wrapped In-n-Out for dinner, and Misha and Ben took the kids for the evening so I could rest. I have the best family.
Thus began a weekend of drowning myself, being incredibly dizzy and lightheaded from FloMax side effects, gagging down lemon and oil concoctions designed to help dissolve kidney stones, and cleaning up puke for sick kids... with no washing machine. Angel neighbors took loads of puke laundry to wash, and brought meals so I wouldn't have to cook.
Monday rolled around. An appointment with the Urology PA. X-rays showed that the stone was still there, and big, and pointy, and very stuck. "Oh, and by the way, did you know about the IUD and the liver thing....?" Yes. I did. Thanks.
They scheduled me for Lithotripsy on Thursday. Shockwave therapy to break up the stone. They put you under and call it surgery and you wake up bruised and peeing blood. Sounds like a party.
It was my last week of work on the schedule, and no one could cover my shifts (though Brett was sweet enough to take a few of the hours), so I went to work. Dizzy, coughing, wheezing (stupid med side effects).
Tuesday was MRI day. Hospitals are such an efficient money making machine. They take you straight back to the billing people and offer you discounts to hand over money right this instant. So after coughing up a couple grand, we headed back to radiology. MRIs are not quick and easy. They are terrifying.
Strapped to a board, breathing sensor around my chest, needle in arm, earplugs in (but not in well enough), and panic button in hand, I was slid into a tube only slightly wider than my body, and blasted with every laser gun, tornado warning, robot sound effect cranked up loud enough to waken the dead.... for an hour.  I honestly wondered for a second if it was a joke. They couldn't be serious.
The first 5-10 minutes were torture, pure panic, claustrophobic primal fear. "I don't know if I can do this!!"
So I prayed. I began slipping yogic meditation in between the automated breathing instructions. I vividly imagined every person I've ever loved hugging me close, and then stayed in Aaron's arms until the panic subsided. When I opened my eyes, the tunnel walls didn't seem quite so close, and the noises seemed funny to me. I spent the rest of the time alternating management of giggles and panic.
Then the technician's voice came on speaker, "You are doing awesome! Here comes the contrast through your IV." The frigid fluid coursed into my arm and flooded my body. It felt like it was dripping down my arm. A few more minutes of shivery torture, and then I was done.
They pulled me out of the machine. "Well, that was a party," I quipped. They laughed and unstrapped me, and then noticed the bloody saline leaking from my IV and dripping onto my sweater. Oops.
I gathered my things and went to find Aaron in the waiting room. His face was a most welcome sight.
Then they sent us on our way with a cheery, "We'll call you!"

The next 2 days were spent jumping at every noise, waiting for that call. I worked my last day on Wednesday, dizzy, coughing, and nauseated from the meds- still jumping at every noise.
"You're leaving us now, with no way to know if you are dying or not??" I promised Jeremy that I'd get them word. I hugged Danny and Angie. My buddies. I would miss them most.

Thursday was Lithotripsy day. They could get me in at 11:30. I had fasted since 10 the night before. We arrive at the hospital again, shuffled into the billing room and fulfilled the rest of our deductible (probably more), efficiently draining my hard-kept savings account. Then they took me back and I dressed in the paper bag gown with the awesome massaging calf compression sleeves and waited. And waited. And waited. I was getting grumpy. 2 and a half hours later, they took me back to the OR. They got me situated and put on the oxygen mask. "It might smell a little plasticky," they said. But when my eyes started to burn and I began gagging and choking uncontrollably at the stench, they realized that the "dirty sock" scent that they use to tease pediatric patients was cranked all the way up to 20. I had tears streaming down my face by the time I could breathe comfortably again. Then they started the anesthesia and a searing pain spread up my arm. I figured I'd be out before I couldn't manage it, but 10 seconds in my entire arm was on fire, enough that I cried out in pain. "It's normal, just a few more seconds," they said. And then I was out.

I like waking up to Aaron. He's pretty awesome. I was sore, but not even close to the original kidney stone pain. They sent me home with a pee strainer and instructions to collect the pieces and bring them in for testing. I didn't care, I just wanted food.
We stopped by Jimmy Johns on the way home. While Aaron went in to get us unwiches, I checked my messages. There was one from my cousin. We're close in age, but had not been super close growing up. We get along much better as adults. It was completely unexpected. She had bought me a new washing machine and wanted my address for delivery. I was floored, flabbergasted, and so grateful. My life is filled with angels.
And then came the other call I'd been waiting for. MRI results. There were not two lesions on my liver... there were seven. The largest measured 2.6 cm. My heart skipped a beat... They were benign. No cancer. No action needed except to watch and re-scan in 6 months. Hepatic Hemangioma. Apparently they can either be congenital or autoimmune-caused. We don't know if I was born with them. We don't know if something caused them, but for now, they aren't a major worry. *Phew.*

Lithotripsy recovery went well. The FloMax had me feeling awful until I finally just stopped taking it. I was done feeling like a sick person all of the time.
At first I was incensed that the OBGYN couldn't even see me for a consult until April 13th. But it turned out to be a good thing. Aaron's little brother had a wedding, and it was nice to have a break from all of the medical procedures in order to focus on family time. When I did finally make it in to see Dr. Fillerup, I was told that the IUD is still about 5% stuck in outer wall of my uterus. There is an 80% chance that they'll just go in and take it out and things will be fine. There is a 20% chance that pulling it out will cause major bleeding and they'll have to perform a partial hysterectomy while I'm under. I'm a little nervous. I was given a choice of two dates for my surgery. April 22nd, or May 13th. Aaron's B-Day is April 23rd. He'd had a Zion traverse trip planned for that week. I couldn't just steamroll him like that. He matters too much. So May 13th it is.

I'm tired of waiting. I'm tired of tests, labs, meds, side effects, and follow-up visits. I'm just tired. I want this thing out of me.
In the meantime life has kept me good and distracted with car repairs, family stuff, and hospital bills. Somehow, by the grace of God, we had an incredible week-long family trip to Zion in our dying van. (I'll write about the trip later- it deserves it's own post.)

I finally started going back to regular Yoga classes. I have so much healing to do. It dawned on me the other day that I've lost my sense of security. I've lost my belief that I can safely live, safely adventure, reach out, take a leap, and not get smacked down by life. At this point, I honestly don't believe I'm allowed to have dreams or goals that will ever come to fruition. I've been in survival mode for so long, I don't know how to try for more than that. I can't make a decision. I can't set a goal. I can't seem to even make short term plans for the subconscious fear that they will be smashed to bits the moment I look that direction. I've gotten really good at shrugging my shoulders and saying, "I guess not. Maybe later." Somewhere deep down there is a fighter in me that knows this is unacceptable. So I guess somehow I need to earn my power back. I don't know how to do it. I'm starting with yoga, energy work, writing, and I don't know... yard work? Home repairs? A hair cut? I just really need to get out of this rut.

When it comes down to it, I'm okay. I may not be awesome right now, but I have just enough faith to get by. Faith that none of this is permanent. Faith that change will come. Faith that even though I can't see the big picture right now, it's still a great big picture. And I have the best family and friends that a girl could ever want. So I guess I'll just take it a day at a time and..... be grateful.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Back on the Island

I've been absent. I'm sorry. I have really good excuses. I'll tell you all about them soon, I just need to acknowledge something first.

Antelope Island Buffalo Run 25kMarch 21, 2015

So that happened. I tried not to view the repeat distance as the consolation prize for not being able to do the 50k like I had hoped. I went it to it not nervous, and with no goals except to be honest with myself, respect my body, and finish with a big fat smile on my face.
I started slow. Really slow. On purpose. Around a mile in I settled in next to a girl who was obviously limping and struck up a conversation. Her foot was acting up and she knew it would be a long race, but she had started anyway. I encouraged her, told her my story, and assured her that if I could finish on hardware and scar tissue, she could do this. Then I ran ahead.
A few miles later a new conversation, a new friend. A woman in her sixties who had just begun trail running a few years before. Inspiring. Not long after, my limping friend ran past, killing it. I shouted to her and she yelled, "You're my inspiration!" and sped off. We would leapfrog a few more times through the race. This race quickly became about the people. I spent the entire 16.7 miles in awe of the dynamics and fortitude of the people around me. Everyone has a story. I'm learning that most of us can amaze each other if we just take the time to listen.
The miles ticked away with the scenery. I was often without a running partner, but never without loads of pleasantries and encouragement from every person I came across. Some I knew, many I didn't, but the camaraderie on the trails is just the best. I did my best to reciprocate the encouragement. It has been long enough since the race that I can't give exact mileage, but somewhere along the way, I heard my name, and looked up to see my girl Renee looking fab with a big fat grin on her gorgeous face. I threw my arms wide and we ran into a hug. She had been volunteering, but needed to leave soon and didn't want to miss me. "I came looking for you! I want to run with you for a little while."
Photo Credit Renee: Happy Girls!

There was never more welcome company. I was feeling surprisingly good for being 4 or 5 miles in and 8 months out from a shattered ankle. But I honestly can say what it meant to be watched out for by a friend who knows the depth of the hole I've climbed out of- and helped lower the ladder down to me. It was just everything.

Renee ran with me until we hit her turnoff to head out. Then I took on a gnarly climb with gusto. A short while later I reached the Elephant head aid station where my Wasatch Mountain Wrangler fam was running the show.  It was like showing up at Cheers. Everybody knows your name. I hugged all of them and couldn't stop smiling. Filled my water bottle with Heed, took a swig, dumped it out and refilled with water. Heed was a bad move. My stomach would protest that swig for the next 5 miles. I snagged a few chips and M&Ms and took off, optimistic about my time and how I felt. I bit of half a ginger chew as my stomach started to turn and tried to keep my attitude up anyway. I rocked the switchbacks that killed me last year, and was on my way back toward Elephant head when my ankle, calves, hammies and hips started getting grouchy. Tummy was still not loving it, it was getting hot out, and my smile had faded a bit. When I finally hit the Aid Station again, I needed a Coke and a hug, and my friends obliged. Jennilyn snuggled me while Lane, Kendall and Matt got me drinks. They were busy little rockstars who took the time to take care of me in true Wrangler style. I was grateful and in a few minutes I was ready to roll on. A few more miles out and my hardware was on fire. The fact that my legs weren't well trained for this race was very apparent and I found myself limping along, cheering on runner after runner as they passed me. I'd choke back all the feels now and then, and remind myself that I was grateful to be there "running" at all. Then I'd tell myself that it would hurt like hell whether I ran or walked, but running would get me done faster, and I'd pick up the pace again. I pasted a smile back on my face and started loving it. Just a few more miles. The last few miles are the longest. So. dang. long. But as I neared the finish line, I heard my friends cheering my name. I couldn't smile any harder, and my entire being was flooded with gratitude. I sobbed through my grin and I crossed the line and fell, crying into the arms of some pregnant stranger who asked me if I was okay and handed me over to my big brother Steve, who knew exactly where all my tears came from.
Sobbing through my cheesy grin
Me and the pregnant stranger... collision in 3...2...
Friends and family who had just run longer races themselves got me stew and drinks and blankets and chairs. (Special thanks to Nan and Steve and Craig who wandered all over trying to find my car and get my things.) I settled down for my very favorite part- the afterparty. It wasn't long until Aaron was finishing his 50 miler. We cheered a steady stream of dear friends and acquaintances across the line for hours.
I had finished in 4:17. Around 45 minutes slower than last year. And I didn't care. I was more satisfied with this race than last years. This year hurt more, and my training was not there... for obvious reasons, but I ran the entire thing with gratitude and love. That made all the difference.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Seasons Change

I have a very full schedule. Yuck. I hate schedules.
As mom, wife, teacher to four kiddos, part time therapy aide, house keeper, cook, chauffeur, nutritionist, nurse, friend, sister, athlete, etc. it's easy to get overwhelmed. I should say, it's almost impossible NOT to get overwhelmed.
The more complicated my life gets, the more I realize how much I crave simplicity.
When I was down and out with my shattered ankle and employed in nothing but healing and raising kiddos, I got a little carried away with future plans. As I came out of forced rest, I took on my part time job (which I still love!), and looked forward to more running, more adventures and more yoga- even promising my former students that I'd be back, and soon. I added karate and other homeschool activities to our weeks. I didn't take into account what would happen when I tried to put my "normal" activities back into our everyday lives.

They don't fit.

I find myself faced with hard decisions. I'm in dire need of simplification. My time is so jam packed with really good things that I can't move. I spend whatever free time I have exhaustedly trying to tune out all of my other responsibilities and letting things slip through the cracks. My body is out of balance and drained from constant stress. I'm in major spiritual disconnect. My kids are upset that I'm gone so much, and I don't think it's because I'm physically gone that much. I can't go out for a run without a major guilt trip that I'm not taking at least one of them with me. I bought yoga passes that I haven't used yet because it's just one more night or day that I'd have to leave. But what good is it that I'm home if I'm not really there? I need to recharge. I need head space, physical exertion and a sense of accomplishment. I need trail runs and yoga classes. I need time to unravel this tangled mess and to believe in myself again. I need not to jealously guard my free time from the very people I would normally choose to spend my free time with.
My house is a wreck. My head is even more so. I find myself waking up each morning wanting to quit everything, empty out and sell my house, wipe the slate and start over.
I want freedom.
It's amazing how much work that takes.
So do I quit a part-time job that I adore, and let down the people whom I love working with twice a week? I am loyal to a fault. I feel horrible walking away after just 3 months. But that's what I'm doing. When given the choice of sacrificing my side job, my kids, or my mental health, it's not even a question which gets cut.
I forget sometimes that being a homeschool mom is a full-time job, because no one sends me a W-2 every tax season- well, because I don't make any money.  But it is. It's an extremely hard, wonderful, amazing, all-consuming, difficult, full-time job that is more important to me than pretty much anything. I'm neck deep in it. I'm committed to it. I can't fathom sending my kids off to public school every day anymore.  And I'm starting to realize why everyone I talk to at work who finds out I homeschool my kids, or every homeschooler that finds out I work part-time, looks at me in shock and awe. This isn't sustainable and I know it. I'm walking away from a job I love, in order to take care of the kids I love more and the sanity I desperately need to tend to in order to care for them.

I'm so grateful to Brian. He could be really upset with me for backing away when I've only just really gotten the hang of everything. He only guilt tripped me a little (actually I think I may have done my own guilt tripping). He offered to keep me on the call list to fill in when they might need someone. I accepted. I'll be on the schedule for another month or so while they find a replacement.

I know this is the right thing to do. But it still hurts. I've beat myself up plenty over it. Here I am, the Kakes who never sticks with anything, failing, letting people down again. At least that's what pops up when the mean and nasty inner voice starts rambling. She's a witch.

I need this. I need to step back, gain perspective, and breathe.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

6 months

It's been half a year since my talus exploded and dropped me in my tracks. If I could have seen then where I would be now, I wouldn't have been nearly as distressed. I also probably wouldn't have fought nearly so hard to get here. I've still a long way to go. But today, I am grateful. For geocaching hikes and a Turkey Trot with my littles. For Elephant rock and miles of laughter with Katie. For thigh-deep snow and moose calls with Aaron and Matt. For an Antelope Island date with my love. For sunshine and magic in Moab with Jlyn, Jenna, MVH, Kenzie, and Cherri. For giggles and goofing off with Aaron in Farmington Canyon.  For every single step. For everything that raw vulnerability has taught me. For hope. For determination. For friendship. For love. For Faith, with a capital F.

In the end, this injury will have cost me relatively little. The pain, the difficulty, the depression, the struggle, while a deep, relentless and horrible hell of their own, pale in comparison to the precious, priceless gifts I've been given. Gifts I intend to collect on for a lifetime to come.

In a few weeks when anxiety has come knocking, and my everything hurts from hard work and rehab, my rotator cuff injury is still healing, my ankle still hurts and swells, I'm still slow, and still hard on myself, and I come here feeling sorry for myself to vent, someone do me a favor and point me back to this post. I can get through it. Time ticks by, wounds heal, the snow melts, people keep on loving, and I will laugh again.

Thank you my friends, from the bottom of my heart and soul, for your love and support.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

When You Ask For Magic

Dear God,
  Please. Please. Let me feel something bigger than myself again. I choose to believe you are there. I have seen so much evidence, but haven't really felt your presence in so long. Where is the spiritual high? Where is that comforting feeling of accompaniment by the grandest companion there is? I've felt like I've been on my own for far too long. Silence from the warmth. So much noise from the cold and dark. So much pain. Isolation. Please Lord. Allow me some magic again. Please.

Jennilyn had had enough of the bitter cold and grey. She needed red dirt, sunshine and space. She planned to go alone. Moab. "Don't you think someone else might want to go with you?" She almost brushed off Ben's inquiry, but put the word out to a small group of friends that she was going- alone or not. A Sunday day trip at the end of the holiday break. I wasn't on that list. My husband was.
Saturday morning he told me about it in a "that would be fun, but it's not likely possible" kind of way. I needed to go. I asked my primary teaching partner if she could handle the first Sunday with a brand new class without me, I apologized to my daughter for leaving on my first day as her teacher, held her and wiped the tears from her brave little face, and told Jennilyn I was in.

The list of friends was perfect. Jennilyn, Jenna, Kenzie, MVH, Cherri. Most of us had been struggling for months. Physically, mentally, emotionally, all of the above. It was the trip of the depressed and convalescing. A group of people who desperately needed to feel alive and strong again. They were exactly who I needed. I packed my bags and fought my anxiety. I almost dropped the whole idea multiple times. I woke up 30 minutes before my morning alarm to let my snorty chihuahua out in the penetrating cold to pee. Then I crawled back in bed and dreamed that I woke up at 8:30 in a panic that they had left without me. When the alarm went off at 4:45am I was thrilled! I hadn't missed it! I dressed and kissed my Aaron's sleepy mouth, then I packed my things to the car and headed out into the dark.
Kenzie and I met MVH in the empty grocery store parking lot. We loaded in his party van and headed south to gather the rest of our little gang. J-Lyn and Cherri in yet another quiet lot, and then 7-Eleven hot chocolate and coffee, and last of all Jenna. "Butt rock" and good conversation made the long drive shorter. Somewhere in the middle, just before sunrise, the temperature gauge in the van dropped into the negatives. We kept on, still hoping at least for sunshine if not warmer temps. The sunrise blushed across the sky.
Car selfies!

By 10 am we were nearing our destination. Sand Flats Road and the end of the Kokopelli trail. "I don't know if it will be scenic," Jennilyn warned, "But we'll get some distance here on the dirt road and then hike some prettier stuff later."
When we piled out of the van, gasping in the frigid air, there was sunshine. And scenery. There were patches of snow on the ground, but plenty of beautiful ruddy dirt to be seen. I felt like everything I needed was there for me if I could figure out how to take it in. I started to feel the inklings of life again. Space. Time.  Room to breathe and think and work and FEEL. 
Cherri, Jennilyn and Kenzie. Ready for some action!

We geared up, used the pit toilet and headed off into the open space. We agreed that spreading out would happen naturally. Jennilyn wanted 20 miles, I wanted at least 10. Jenna settled in along side me at an easy pace and conversation picked up without effort. We spoke of family, friends, injuries, faith, struggles and insecurities. She was my therapist and my friend. Things I'd been trying to shake for months seemed to skitter off behind us on the cold dirt and I got lighter as the miles ticked by. Layers of clothing came off as the sun, our laughter and our movement warmed us. We stopped now and then to take pictures. To appreciate details. To climb rock formations, feast on the views, and build a cairn. We had no agenda but to heal.
Two very happy trail girls

Cairn building with Jenna. Photo cred Jenna.

Texture and blue skies
Jenna and the wide sky
We had a visit from Matt on his way back to the car. He joined us on a rock to appreciate the view, and then said he'd see us later when he'd drive by in the party van.
MVH taking in the view
Jenna climbin' on rocks

Life is good. Photo cred Jenna.

Cherri, with her beautiful, wide smile dropped back to walk and chat with us. Every once in a while between the view, the sun, the dirt and the company, satisfaction would hit critical mass and one of us would throw her arms up and throw out a joyful shout to echo through the redrock. It just felt SO GOOD! Ice formations, rock formations, cloud formations, friendship formations. All were abundant and absolutely beautiful. It all felt so real. Nothing but the pain had felt real to me in a very long time. I savored every second.
Cherri and the view
Eventually we spotted the van at the top of the next hill, and two little spots running our direction. Kenzie had made it the entire way out with Jennilyn and I was so happy for her! We met where pavement began again, gathered and touched base, and 4 of us headed back the way we came while Cherri hopped in the van to keep MVH company. I needed 2.5 more miles to get my ten. Jenna had had a big mileage week, but decided to hang with me anyway.  I'm not fast, and I could never dream of keeping up with speedy little bodies, so it was pretty rad to run and walk with Jennilyn and Kenzie for a bit.
Jennilyn, Kenzie and Jenna just cruisin'.

Just a steady downhill slope and views for miles. When I had to walk on the uphill, Jenna stuck with me. Jennilyn and Kenzie forged on ahead while the two of us laid on our backs in a patch of snow and made snow angels, gasping and laughing at the burning chill. The van pulled ahead to wait for us at the 10.5 mile mark and we gratefully climbed in to savor the ache of 3-4 hours on the legs. A little while later, Kenzie decided 18 miles was good for her, and she joined us in the van to meet Jennilyn at the parking lot for 20 miles. Bathrooms were used, wet clothes were stripped and changed out for warm dry hiking apparel, and we set our sights on our next quest: FOOD.
After much debate and a need for at least a stop at the grocery store, we discovered the local grocery had great salad bar, and once we loaded up on deliciousness, we were on our way to Fisher Tower.
Everything tastes better after a long run. My impromptu Greek salad with dolmas, chicken and berries was to die for! I was so engrossed in it that I barely noticed that on the drive to Fisher Towers, the skies had turned cold and grey. When we arrived at the trail head, I pulled on my tights, all my layers, a beanie and my Altra LonePeak 2s. I'd be thankful for the traction. The towers were majestic, but the lack of good lighting made us all a little unenthusiastic. But it was "only 2 miles", so we left our packs in the car, took a group pic, and set off.
Cold and gray. Happy nonetheless.

  I didn't realize it was 2.5 miles one way. We wound in and out of the snowy red rock canyons and along cliff edges, hugging the base of the towering formations. The snow was littered with big cat prints. My idea of a "hike" obviously didn't match up with anyone else because I was constantly running to catch up. I found myself fleetingly grateful that I'd downed a couple of ibuprofen with my salt tabs and salad. My hips and legs were screaming and my ankle was starting to cry for rest and attention. A couple of the others were feeling the distance too, and we contemplated heading back to the car, but we didn't want the others to worry.
We trudged on. Those who still had battery life stopped to take pictures of the brink of sunset that peeked beneath the cloud cover. We crested a lookout area that led to the end of the trail to find our 3 friends screaming, shouting and charging toward us. At first I thought they were encouraging us, and then as we got closer I began to make out their words. "Turn around! LOOK!! TURN AROUND!!!!" I turned.... and gaped. The Fisher Towers and Titan formations were on fire. I've never seen an alpenglow so spectacular!  A yell tore from my throat. We couldn't contain ourselves. Jumping, running, screaming, hugging, yelling. You would think we had won the Superbowl, the World Cup and the lottery all at once.
MAGIC. Photo cred Jenna.

We took pictures. We oohed and aahed. And then we stood in silence.
Moments that make you whole. Taken by MVH with Jenna's camera.
They came to this chapel on a sabbath day, the broken, the pained. To worship. To feel. To commune with something so much larger than themselves. The rocks were their pews and nature herself their pastor. And their souls feasted.
With my hands on my head and tears streaming down my face, I stood in complete wonder. The stifling bag that had wrapped itself around me in a stranglehold, tore open. I could see clearly. Feel clearly. Something clicked. Something I hadn't felt in months and longer. And there was MAGIC. Jennilyn tiptoed to kiss my cheek and wrapped her arms around my waist. Soon we were in a group hug. We stayed to watch the light go, and the shadows spread. Our group spread out as Kenzie threw her arms wide and shouted, "THANK YOU GOD!!" The sentiment was repeated enthusiastically by others. "Thank you, God," I whispered over Jennilyn's head, holding my friend all the tighter for a moment. We stayed until the fire turned to blush and the shadows of the alpengow fell. Then just as we though Mother Nature was finished, she decided to show off some more. The spectacular fiery glow peeked and teased along the horizon and transformed oh, so slowly in a richly colored heavenly caress.
We knew our time was limited. Only one of us had brought along a headlamp from our packs, and the temperature was dropping quickly. We moved as quickly as our tired legs would let us. The trail was getting slicker. I nearly lost my footing time and again as I caught myself turning to take in the ever unfolding sunset. I regretted using up all of my camera batteries. It got better by the minute. MVH hung back to take pictures and Jennilyn lagged back to wait for him. She handed me her headlamp with a quip about ninja training and I kept on ahead, knowing that they'd catch up to me in no time. I was grateful for the light. At times I lamented the inflexibility and the lack of agility in my rebuilt ankle, as I paused to bum-scoot down spots I'd have hopped down easily otherwise. And then I pushed those thoughts away with the gratitude of being able to run at all. To spend a day running in the wild with some seriously respectable athletes was beyond what anyone had expected for me. The echoes of spread out group conversations bounced through the washes and canyons. Every once in a while I had that prickling feeling of being watched. With the cat tracks around, I didn't doubt that it was true, but in a group of adults like ours I was fairly confident we didn't make for good prey. As expected my friends behind caught up to me. My ankle was fully irritated now and I swear I could feel my hardware. I kept my pace up as much as I safely could, which isn't saying much. They didn't pass me as they would have in daylight, but accompanied me to the end with encouragement and good conversation. Nearing the car, we caught sight of the others, and we all mounted the steps to the van just as true darkness closed in.
We piled into the van, a heap of sweaty clothes, dirty shoes, hungry bodies, and happy faces. Jennilyn immediately expressed her deep need for a burrito. Kenzie shared her Coke. (I have to mention that specifically, because it was kind of a big deal.) The frenzy of layer-stripping and clothes-changing began anew. Snacks and leftovers were offered and passed around. We plugged in phones and cameras, looking for treasures to share from our screens. 
Eventually fatigue set in and everyone settled. Jennilyn still needed a burrito. We drove through Price to find a Del Taco, but on a Sunday night, it was dark and abandoned so we settled for a 24 hr Betos. The food was awful. We were on the road again shortly. The drive home seemed to stretch on forever. As much as we had loved each others company and the incredible wonder of the day, we were ready to be home in our beds and with the families we'd left behind. We made our way through the drop-offs along I-15. Cherri took over driving when Matt faded. I envied that Jenna would be in her bed before I even made it home. Jennilyn and Cherri were let out, then Kenzie took over driving for the final push. We made conversation to keep each other awake. And finally we pulled in to that once-again-empty parking lot in the dark. With sleepy hugs we said goodbye. We were home before midnight, but only just. As I stepped into my darkened house where my family slept, it felt like I'd been gone for a week. Or maybe months. All I knew was that I'd never be able to accurately express what had taken place. I was not the same person who had left that morning. I was more whole. And I was so grateful.

HAPPY ADDITION: Our bestest MVH clipped together what little footage he got of our trip just for lil' ol' me. Thank you Matty!!