Red Wing V dates have been announced! Mark your calendars for July 14-16, 2017!
Red Wing V dates have been announced! Mark your calendars for July 14-16, 2017!
When I pulled out of my driveway I could see my breath float and disappear as it hit the warmed air. School was cancelled for the day and a sky as stark as the broken white road lines watched over the Valley as I drove myself to the hospital. Prayers and worry filled my mind, jumping between the two just as quickly as the large flakes melted on my windshield. I gave myself pep talks. This is a routine procedure. Out loud. Worrying will lead to an increased heart rate. Alone. I’m gonna be fiiiine. As if I was talking to a friend. You’ve got this. Attempts to calm my nerves. In four hours this will all be over.
Naked, except for a one-size-fits-all gown, lying flat on my back I stared up at a device that resembled a gigantic headlight. Heads covered in pale blues and greens with only eyes exposed bobbed in and out of my sight. While squeezing a syringe of valium into my IV the nurse to my left asked, “What do you want to hear sweetie?” Somehow I knew she was referring to music. “You mean like anything?” I asked, curious if we’re talking Spotify here or like “the doctor is going to sing you a lullaby” kind of thing. “Yep. Anything at all.” The next 10 seconds in my brain looked something like this: I actively thought in that moment how if I had been asked that very question on any other day of my life in relation to being on my deathbed (I exaggerate), I would’ve replied without hesitation: Wilco. But I stopped myself when I realized the doctor would be going INTO MY BEATING HEART while listening to the music I choose. Wilco can get weird if you’re not prepared for it. I did not want that man distracted by what could sound like old tv white noise, tambourines and keyboards being thrown on the ground and journeys inside of journeys of utter instrumental chaos while feeding a tube through my arteries. My conflict surprised me but instinctively I answered: “The Head and the Heart.” When I heard myself speak, I realized the irony in my choice. I think the nurse thought I was making a statement about my physical state but by the time she understood a male nurse found the album and clicked play. The first song starts out with a tick tick tick tick tick tick. I turned my gaze towards the gigantic headlight, couldn’t help but smile (it was the drugs) and drifted off.
The next time I opened my eyes I was still on the OR table. I’m still alive. The large black monitor to my left displayed an image of my heart. My moving, beating, living heart. Oh mah God. That’s my heart. There were several tubes inside it. I started to get anxious and I could feel my throat pounding. I looked up at the nurse to let her know I was awake. She fixed that quickly.
Day five of recovery after the cardiac ablation left me feeling frustrated yet eager and thankful. Externally, aside from bruises the size of my head and the color of mixed berries on both legs, I was doing fine. But my energy level was crippling as so much effort was going into healing me internally. It was comforting to know that my body was doing exactly what is was designed to do and that this feeling wouldn’t last forever but being forced into slow-mo was humbling. It put the plight of others in perspective. I consider myself an active individual but I don’t ever want to take that for granted. These legs and arms and organs will not always do the things they can do today and I don’t want to waste away my ability or my health. So there I was, Day 5 of recovery and I set out on my first post-procedure hike. My swollen thighs carried me to the top of Humpback Rocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Through mud and ice a foot thick we, slowly, worked our way up to the gorgeous views. At the top we enjoyed leftover wings and treats that were sent to me from friends while I was stuck at home, couchbound. Being outside, breathing that mountain air, the feeling of being capable and strong and worthy of those feelings was healing that day. It heals me a little bit every day.
Blake had a bummed bum so he stayed behind (heh!) and took a heavy dose of Netflix. He hated not going on our first hike of the year…but it was Super Bowl Sunday and I fully intended to eat my weight in wings so – movement of my body was a necessity. Since friends were coming over late afternoon and Blake was laid up at home, we wanted to stay close. So we headed back 259W just passed Highland Retreat for Lost River State Park. Once in the area, we found the trailhead with ease, thanks to a park map loaned to me by a hike-loving coworker. On our trek up to the Cranny Crow overlook, we hiked on frozen mud and patches of snow. On our way back down, the frozen mud was nice and squelchy squirchy and the patches of snow had disappeared into the earth. It’s no secret that the West Virginia mountains are wonderful but it’s great to be reminded of it in person. Fresh crisp air, blue skies, layers of blue ridges fading out of sight, eerie howling animals in the distance – yep, West, by God. Before returning home, we stopped at Lost River Grill to enjoy a warm beverage to the sound of The Judd’s playing on the radio. Ella’s eyes lit up and we broke into a mother-daughter duet that even Naomi and Wynonna would envy. When the songs were over, our cups empty, our bodies warm and content we left to go welcome our Super Bowl guests and watch Queen Bey’s halftime show. Drooool.
Cell phone summary:
(…some selfies, a crow pose at Cranny Crow, my new specs, Ella being Ella at Lost River Grill…)
The park is burning and I have a horrible feeling inside me because of it. Beautiful, tragic photos of the glowing ridge line are spreading through my social media feeds like, well, like wildfire. And while I know the ashes will bring lush new growth and our mountains will survive, it breaks my heart to watch my favorite playground struggle like this. I’m sad for those old trees. I’m sad for the baby seedlings. I’m sad for the flowers that waited so long to burst open in the warm sun. I’m sad for the hungry, tired, fearful animals fleeing from the flames. I’m sad for the history that is being erased and made. I’m sad for the workers and volunteers who put countless hours of care into our trails. I’m sad for the work that is ahead. And I’m sad to think this was caused by a careless, human mistake.
In December when it was warm enough to hike in light layers, we hit the trails on the north end of the Drive. This time to Overall Run Falls. It’s been a few months since this particular hike but a few key things stick out about that day: Ella slipped and fell on a rock (she’s ok) and thought it was the most hilarious thing in the entire world. We found a tree that looks like a hippo, I got to catchup on life and cackle with my sister, we saw a whole family of quiet, graceful whitetail deer, and my son gave sound social advice to my daughter as they talked about some struggles at school like ol’ friends.
As I sit to type this the view out my window is smokey and I can smell the tainted air. I hope you find time, real soon, to get out there and enjoy those simple pleasures like hiking, breathing with the trees, catching up with your family and watching your children bond. Let this haze be a reminder that nothing is permanent – go enjoy the things and beings that fill you up!
I’m convinced that, in general, I can juggle more than the average Joe/Jane. Because I do, regularly. I’m not saying that to brag and I don’t need a pat on the back for it or anything. It’s something I’m proud of. I can’t imagine my life any other way. I love all the things I do; I thrive when I’m involved; time management is one of my strengths and I enjoy feeling productive, active, motivated. Last week was different though. I had real things on my mind. Like, health things. Things that made me reflect on my life. Things that took over my brain and mixed-up the hours and made everyday routines a challenge.
On Friday I was at work and a bit foggy. Half way through the day the stench of a skunk hit me like ammonia. It knocked me out of my mind and plopped me in the present. There was a kid in my class who had been sprayed by a skunk before school. Poor thing had to walk around all dang day like that. And teenagers are not equipped to notice a skunk stink and not say something about it. That student had to carry that around all day. The least I could do was pull myself together and give them my 90 minutes of love and attention that day. As much as it sucked for that kid, I was thankful for that jolt.
Hiking is my skunk stench…in the best possible way. When I’m cloudy, a visit to the mountains helps me see things more clearly. When I’m antsy, focusing my energy on the steep incline towards an overlook cures me. When I feel like I’m being swallowed by to-do lists, the trails give me a release that I don’t feel guilty about. You know how it feels to stretch when you get off a plane? Or how perfect it is to chug milk after scarfing a warm cookie? Or the sheer relief of taking down the friggin’ Christmas tree on the morning of Dec. 26? Well all of that plus fresh air and no cell service = zing!
This hike was no exception. I decided on Jones Run Falls and invited Ben and his children to join me. We saw signs of “a giant animal” along the way but I wouldn’t dare speak the b-word. Partially because I don’t wish to encounter bears on my hikes and partially because Ben’s son, Aiden, thought my fear was hysterical. The hike down to the falls was mild and beautiful. We had lunch on the rocks with a waterfall backdrop then started back to the car. On our way off of Skyline Drive, just moments from the trailhead, we saw mama and her cubs just off the side of the road. Pretty cool, especially from the comfort of my car.
I’ve never fully understood what causes us to remember certain moments over others and what causes many moments to fall through the filter. It makes sense to remember huge events: my wedding day, the birth of my children, the day my Nanny passed, the day I purchased my own home as a single mother, that time a dog ate my face for breakfast (really, 50 stitches I won’t forget). But what makes us forget other seemingly huge things? Things like graduating high school, driving a car for the first time and signing divorce papers all happened in my life but I couldn’t tell you a thing about them. I remember a lot about my senior year of high school but not about graduation itself. My Nanny taught me just about all there is to know about operating a vehicle but I can’t recall the first time. I do, however, remember the first time I drove as a licensed and legal 16 year old…it was with my three little sisters. We went to the mall. I have been married and divorced but it appears that those final final days have been blocked from my memory. The brain is so fascinating.
Just before sitting to write this post I was making myself lunch. I heated up my quinoa soup, topped it with Sriracha and put the sauce back in the fridge. As I was sitting at the table eating, I realized I didn’t know where the Sriracha went. Sure enough, it was in the fridge. I put it there, I guess. We all do this at one point or another. We get to work and don’t remember the commute. We take a second dose of our vitamins because we forgot about the first dose. We put the milk in the cabinet and the cereal in the dishwasher. We see a bruise and think “surely I should remember how I got that“. We stare at our car door wondering why on earth our house key won’t unlock it. I’m not alone here, right? We are distracted individuals. These types of things happen because they’re routine and we go into autopilot. Not much brain power is needed to do mundane tasks so they are forgettable. Things that really stick with us are the new experiences. The firsts. The first time I hiked Old Rag: epic. The first time I went white water rafting with a bunch of ballsy dudes: terrifying, but memorable. The first time I camped and hiked in Denali, Alaska: surreal. Epic, terrifying, surreal…not words I would use to describe my morning routine. Each of those adventures not only put me out of my comfort zone but they made me feel strong, independent, confident, capable and worthy of all of those feelings. Being little in the middle of big nature does that for me. Giant rocks, massive mountains, roaring river rapids – nothing will put you in check like Mama Earth.
I don’t know what my kids will remember about their childhood and I really have little control over what they’ll retain along their way. But I like putting them in front of memorable experiences. I like showing them what it’s like to feel small…and I like feeling small with them. Each summit – a badge of self-reliance. Each waterfall – a source of confidence. Every trail – a step closer to themselves. I hope they carry these memories with them and I hope more is learned from our days in the mountains than I could ever teach them with my words.
On our last hike, the kids had the idea to do a Zombie hike. (um, ok!) Hurricane Joaquin interfered with our first attempt but our second attempt was filled with clear blue skies and beaming Fall colors. The hike included zombie-inspired snacks by my daughter, lots of strange looks from fellow hikers, a few strategic scares and a couple capsules of fake blood. Happy Halloween!
When August rolled around, it came and went. I was forced to part ways with the summer of pool-side fun, sunshine-on-the-mountain-top memories and accept the return of the daily hustle as the school year begins again: early mornings, long afternoons and night that comes too quickly. It all happened so fast I almost forgot about the hike Ben and I did to Hightop Mountain. Here are the bullets…
-Ben brought my Nikon along and got it to work long enough to shoot a roll of film
-the narrow, lush trail made me feel like I was walking through a fairy tale
-day-old pizza, bugs, wind, amazing views, a new friend: Lucky Lucy
–Kilaurwen Winery and some Harrisonburg goodies I packed
-a pitstop at Brothers Craft Brewery on the way home. <slurp>