Saturday, January 24, 2015

To My Mom: Part III Holding her hand

Mom holding her little sister's hand
The first two posts in this To My Mom Series were easy, so to speak. Writing is not necessarily easy for me, but it is a necessity. Anyway, my dad is working on a project that is helping him deal with his feelings and emotions, which when he's finished I may share with you all... depends on what he says about that. He is processing. He's mourning. He's working through the loss of his wife. I am not. I'm still pushing my thoughts about my mom away. I don't want to deal with her being gone. Well, of course I don't. Who would?

So, I am going to force myself, sort-of. It's time to start working out my anger. My fear. My sorrow. My everything. To start, it's about getting out the notebook I wrote much down in about my mom and cancer before she passed. I had also wrote in it the day she passed away while I was sitting next to her in her Hospital bed. I haven't opened it since that day.

I was told, and keep being told that everyone is different during the grieving process. Everyone handles grief differently, deals with the emotions differently. I get that. I see that. Dad grieves differently than my sister, which is different from her children, which is different from my brother, which is different from me. But I get concerned when it seems that everyone else has all these emotions and crying sessions, and I haven't. I haven't gotten emotional. I haven't cried since her memorial service. I start to think, maybe I'm not grieving. I'm not doing it right. I'm not having all the feels. I have to remind myself that I am grieving my mother. I'm just different from everybody else, just like everybody else is different from everybody else. Maybe I won't ever have those crying sessions. Maybe I won't have an emotional breakdown at inopportune times. And that's okay. It's okay. Maybe my brain knows it can't handle the heartbreak yet. Maybe, me pushing the thoughts of my mom out of my head at night while I lay awake in bed is because it isn't time yet.

Well today is the day that notebook gets opened again. Step one of allowing the brain to process the heart, so to speak. So what did I write that last day, not even knowing it was the last day? What I remember thinking but did not write down that day was that looking at her that last day, she wasn't in there. She was there but she was also already gone. There was only this shell that sort of looked like my mom.

But this is what I wrote that day in my notebook. I only omit the actual names of my nephews. The structure of how I wrote remains the same. It is very fragmented. Also, I didn't write anything after about... maybe 3pm that day (she passed just before 11pm). So there isn't anything here about how she passed, or who was there, or any of that process.

I also thought it would be easier on me to start here and not edit this entry, and perhaps work backwards in time of the entries I made in notebook form. We shall see.

So, here it is:

Dad holds her hand
People call and he holds the phone up to her ear so she can listen.

She can't talk, maybe a word here or there
but mostly nods yes or no.

She is on liquid morphine and decadron.

She is sleeping a lot/most of the time. She will wake briefly with a grunt and her face will contort like she is in pain, and she will breath heavy a few times and then go back asleep.

I finally cried today. Anytime someone says something or hugs/touches, I get teary. Of course so does everyone else.

The boys are doing good. Boy 1 is affectionate and holds her hand and cries. Boy 2 is more stoic, but can tell he's feeling.

What can I say about dad. He's amazing. He is so loving with her at her beck and call, have to drag him away from her side. But I worry about him. He hasn't broken down and sobbed. Neither have I, but still.

I've talked with him. He is ok. He is resolved and said he is jealous that she gets to find out before him. His faith in God as well as hers and the faith of their friends and family truly helps in this journey. The fact that they all believe in the afterlife and that she gets to see God and her mother soon comfort them and in turn comforts me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Peak Challenge: Music Week 2

Here is this weeks song from the playlist
It's Annie You Save Me by Graffiti6

Apparently it was featured on Teen Wolf, go figure. Anyway, that is not how I discovered them. I was surfing through itunes late one night and clicked. Isn't that how it usually happens?

Also, this song is great if your name happens to be Annie, which mine is not. Now I'm sad my name isn't Annie.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Burpees, bloody burpees. Why must I torment myself?

Man, I hate burpees. Whomever created burpees should be drug out into the street and shot. Yeah, I said it. It's the end of my first week of #MyPeakChallenge. I survived. They wanted us to do a fitness test to see where we are physically, and will be doing it again a few more times to gauge our improvement. That's where the burpees came from. I would not do them otherwise. They are evil, pure evil.

The test was in three parts. Part one was a 10 minute test of how many rounds you could complete of squats, push-ups, lunges, and sit-ups. 10 reps of each (20 lunges because you have 2 legs). I also hate push-ups because I suck at them and also because my wrists are dainty precious fragile things. I have both tendonitis and carpel tunnel in my wrists. So doing normal push-ups aggravates it. Me no want that shit up in here. So I strap on two lovely wrist braces and use dumbbells instead of laying my hands flat on the ground. So far so good.

Part two was a 5 minute test of how many burpees you could do. *shivers*

Part three was how long you could hold a plank. Again, wrist issues, so I do a plank on my forearms, i.e. elbows down.

My beginning stats: test one: 3 3/4 rounds, test two: 40, test three: 1 minute 20 seconds.

Not to bad for someone who can no longer sit on a toilet seat without grimacing.

I started out just working out 3 days, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I was concerned my lungs would be most out of shape, due to the *fungus amoungus, but it turns out my lungs are just fine. It's my legs I can no longer move properly. Go figure.

Monday I did a bit of strength training and ran 4.06 miles. I was sore later that night. Wednesday, I did test one and then did a 1.95 mile run. More sore. Thursday I did the plank test because there was NO WAY IN HELL I was going to be able to do the bloody burpees. I saved them for last. I did the burpee test on Friday and did a 2.96 mile run. Would have been a shorter run, but I am running in a new neighborhood, and found a paved path along a creek, and decided to see where it went and I wanted to escape it early but would have to climb a fence to get out to a street, so decided I had to see where it ended instead. I made it back home just before dark. It was close. Oh, and a bug decided to fly into my eyeball. That was fun.

So to celebrate not dying from burpees and surviving week one, a little whiskey is in order.
Whiskey tasting at Sonoma Co. Distillery

Me, enjoying the fine Whiskey

*The fungus amoungus is Valley Fever. I've talked about it before here, or if you like, you can learn what it is here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Peak Challenge: Music Week One

So I've decided to share a song a week from my workout playlist. It is what I listen to when I run. Songs come and go on it. As of right now there are 47 songs on it and over 3 hours. So Every day, I get different songs.

The first one is Extreme Ways by Moby.

This has been the theme song for The Bourne Trilogy movies as well as its spin-off The Bourne Legacy. I can't remember if I first heard it in the first Jason Bourne movie or before. But it has been on every playlist since then. It is the one song that HAS to be on it. And when it comes up in the rotation, I get excited. For some reason, I never tire of it.

There are many versions. Moby does a remix of it for every Bourne movie, so that's at least 4 versions, right there. But I think the original is still my favorite.

Enjoy the listen, and perhaps add it to your own playlist.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Peak Challenge

I'm going back on my word. Sorry, not sorry. Long ago in a land not far from here, I said I would stop talking about my oh so exciting exercise and getting healthy drama. I told you all sorry here. Well, I'm going to be going back on that promise for a while. At least till mid March anyway. Why? Well, let me tell you.

The last day that I got outside and ran was September 29th, 2014 (I know this because I kept track on my kitty cat wall calender). Ironically that's exactly one month prior to the day my mom passed away from cancer (October 29th, 2014). I'm not sure my subconscious knew that something was up. Maybe it knew I should have been spending that time with my mom instead of out running circuits in my neighborhood. When she was in the hospital those last two weeks, it was never a choice. It was go see mom. November and December came and went. Now that it is January, I've decided that it's time to finally get outside again. I'm not one who makes New Years Resolutions. I would break them within a week or so. So I gave up on that silly stuff long ago. I've realized that the past two years or so, that I've settled. I never reached the goals I had set. I told myself, that that was okay. That I was healthy, and I wasn't fat or gaining weight. So it was okay. But it isn't. I shouldn't settle. So this year will be all about NOT SETTLING. And that is not just in my get healthy for reals part of my life. In everything. But in the get healthy for reals part I actually want to see my abs and not the muffin top. I want to eat healthy and get off processed foods. And so, to get me back out there and get my ass moving again, I've decided on #MyPeakChallenge.

I knew I needed some type of motivation to get me going again. I needed some sort of goal (not the end goal) to get me motivated and moving. And this fits... perfectly. I won't tell you all about the challenge's details here. Click on the link above and read all about it yourself. You can do it. It's not that hard, just mouse up and click. I'll wait...

Now that you're back and informed I had to decide on what my challenge would be. The event takes place March 14-15, 2015. That's not long from now. So a marathon was out. Not that I want to do a marathon anyway. So was doing an actual mountain peak. Mt. Lassen and Mt. Whitney (which are on my must conquer list) are out do to snow and permits respectively.
Mt. Lassen

Mt. Whitney
So what can I train for for two months? Two hikes. Crazy, but I've been wanting to go backpacking again. Time made me forget about the back spasms I guess. First will be hiking up Mt. Madonna (Mt. Madonna County Park) from outside the park. The second will be doing a 12 mile back country hike in Henry Coe State Park.
Here's a really bad pic of what I will be doing at Mt. Madonna:
it may look big, but it's only 6 miles or so
And well here is a link to the Henry Coe hike. I can't seem to figure out how to get a good topo pic. But in my defense, it is 1:42am.

And now for the history: You can skip this part if you want. This is just the scholarly part of me trying to make you all learn something.

Mt. Madonna is one of the largest parks in Santa Clara County, it being a county park. It sits at the top of Hecker Pass in the Santa Cruz Mountains between Gilroy in the east (where I live) and Watsonville in the west. Besides the park where you can go hiking, biking, horse riding, archery, and camping, there is also the Mt. Madonna Center. This is a temple (Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple), retreat, yoga, learning institute, etc. It is also home to Mt. Madonna School. This is a k-12 school hosted by the Center that has a focus on the arts. Now what I find interesting is that the ruins of Henry Miller's summer home is in the park. Miller is quite famous in Gilroy. He was a cattle baron from the 1850's till his death in 1916. There is a street named after him in Gilroy. He also helped establish the city of Los Banos. A cool old work related fact is that SCE (Southern California Edison) an electric company bought land and water rights from him along the San Joaquin River for their Hydroelectric Systems in Big Creek. If you have read any of my older stuff about my archaeology days, you know that I spent a great deal of time in and out and about SCE's Big Creek Hydroelectric Project. In Gilroy, he is famous for stealing land and cattle from less prosperous folks. And the coup de gras is that there is a ghost story about his youngest daughter. She died when she was 8 when she fell off her horse and it crushed her. She was riding in Mt. Madonna. They say she haunts the campgrounds and the old Mt. Madonna Inn. You can read about it here. It's awesome.

I'll save you the enormous yet pretty cool and interesting history of Henry Coe State Park. I did a day hike there years ago with a friend, if you like you can read that here. The short version is this: Henry Coe had an ginormous ranch called Pine Ridge Ranch which had over 12,000 acres. He gave it to his son, Coe Jr. who was an idiot and sold it to Beach Land and Cattle Company in 1948. Coe's kick ass daughter Sada, bought it back in 1950. She donated the property to Santa Clara County in 1953, and so it is named after her father. The state eventually took ownership over the county and things happened. It almost got shutdown in 2012, but got saved by awesome people with money and the Pine Ridge Association. The park is still growing in size. It is over 67,000 acres now.

I'm now done with today's lesson.

I have asked my "certifiable" friend to join me on the hikes. This is the same "certifiable" friend from the adventures in backpacking the Skyline to the Sea Trail that you can re-read here if you like. If she is able to get both days off of work like I hope, she will join me both days. If she can only get one of the days, then the day she gets off we will do Henry Coe. I'm not about to venture into the back country on my own. I ain't stupid! Whether or not she decides to join in the challenge or not, is up to her. I'm most excited about the t-shirt I get. I realize I have a problem.

Now, just a few more things. I found this particular motivation via my geekiness. I will write about much of this in a different post, but let's just say that I started reading a book series called Outlander back in September. I tried starting it years ago, but never got passed the first 100 pages or so. Then the tv gods decided to make it into a tv show, so, I thought, ok, better try it again. Well, I finished the series back in December. (that's 8 books peeps). These books helped get me through the last month of my mothers life and the first two months after her death. I would read till my eyes burned and could no longer focus. The books were my escape from reality. It was the only way I could get to sleep at night. So, I also watch the tv show and geek out and drool online. Which is how I found out about #MyPeakChallenge. I thought it was a good fit since by joining the challenge I am also donating to a worthy charity. Granted my mom didn't have this type of cancer (blood cancer), she did have myelogous leukemia the last few weeks or so when her myeloma spread out of her bone marrow and into her blood stream. The peeps running the challenge are also avid outdoorsy mountain climbing nuts, which I am as well, so it all seemed to fit nicely.

So to start I have been off my precious soda for 7 days as of the posting of this. And here I am after the first run since the last, 106 days ago.
4.06 miles in 40 minutes, I still got this

Oh God, I think I'm going to die

Saturday, December 13, 2014

To My Mom: Part II the road trip edition

My brother and I in 1985, somewhere in California waiting for our "driver"
My mom LOVED road trips. And I'm not kidding at all. It was in her blood. She would get itchy. There was a need to get out on the road. To get out of the house. Away from the familiar.

To have an adventure.

Perhaps this is in my head because my father just wrote about their (my mom and dad's) last epic road trip which was her road trip with cancer. You made me cry dad, that was quite the epic adventurous road trip.

Along the lines of what I wrote in Part I, I also inherited that gene. I LOVE road trips. I need them. I itch. I crave. And I need one, RIGHT NOW. It's in the works, (a small one). It better be in the works, you know who you are, boo!

But Mom's road trips were epic. I'm glad I was included in some of them. Not like I had any choice in the matter. I, along with my brother, would be pulled out of school for weeks at a time, and we'd get in the car, and off we went.

Dad wasn't on these trips. Dad would take us camping every summer, and mom would take us on epic road trips. Perhaps I'm using epic too much, but they were epic. Especially to an 8-year old, who got to leave school a month early.

There were lots of road trips. Mom and dad would pile all three of us kids in the back of a car with sleeping bags in the wee hours of the morning and we'd wake up in Nevada on our almost yearly summer trip to Wyoming. But there are two trips that I remember quite well.
My brother and I at Mt. Shasta
She took us north in 1985. I got to see snow for the first time.

already an archaeologist at age 7
I saw Crater Lake.
She stopped, and I got to scoop up ash from Mt. Saint Helens along the side of the highway. I rowed in a boat for the first time (that I actually remember) in Oregon.
I also met mean sheep at Aunt Babe's house in Washington.

She took us east in 1989. She drove us south through California, through Arizona, (we did stop at the Grand Canyon, brother, I found pictures to prove it) New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma to Arkansas. To Grandpa Perk's Ranch (her father).
I met cousins, aunts, uncles, 2nd, 3rd, 4th cousins and I don't know how you're related but you are.
I'm related to them somehow
Learned a new game of cow pucky fights via 4-wheelers. Mom would have to hose us down in the yard. From Arkansas she took us north. Through Missouri and Iowa to Minnesota to a Larsen family reunion. Where I got to float down a river in an innertube and watch my brother and other cousins pee on Wisconsin.
Watch my grandparents dance. See June bugs. Oh and see my dad after a month or so.
hanging out with Cousin Dawn
can you tell we are Pepsi fans?
She then decided that after the reunion that we should take a detour... around Lake Superior before driving back down. "It won't take that long", she said.
Oh Canada!
Canada is cold
Well, we can tell you, they don't call it Lake Superior for it being so small. I got to spend my first night in a foreign country, by the name of Canada that trip. I saw Canadian money for the first time and drank a Canadian coke. And for the first time on this long trip, I got my own hotel bed. I didn't sleep with my mom that night. We saw Lake Superior, from all sides. It's a big lake. Somehow we ended up in Ohio. Where family friends were and their twin daughters put my hair in such tight pig-tales that I got a headache.
But I also saw fireflies for the first time.

From Ohio, she drove us back south to Grandpa Perk's in Arkansas for a bit, and then northwest to Wyoming to the Larsen stronghold in Cheyenne, then finally back home to California.

So now maybe you can see why I call her road trips epic. Especially to a kid. She did all the driving. There are a lot of stories we could tell. My brother has quite a few regarding our Grandpa Perk, for sure. But they are his to tell.

But mom was game for anything. "I wonder what it's like to drive on the salt flats", she'd say. So she'd take the car onto the flats in Utah. "I wonder what it's like to hit a road construction cone", she'd say. So she ran one over in Nevada... and dragged it under the car for a mile. "I wonder what it's like to hit a bird" she never said, but it happened anyway. And part of the bird was stuck on the front grill, and other parts of it were on the back.

It was a lot of miles in the car with mom. We'd listen to tapes. The Carpenters, Beach Boys, and The Nylons were ones I remember. We'd wear the tapes out till they started to warp. And we'd sing the miles away. I'm sure there were boring parts (Nevada and Oklahoma ring a bell) but I don't remember being bored in the car with mom and my brother.

She was truly happy on the road. There was a mischievousness to her and a true sense of adventure. We could go anywhere we wanted, and we did.

When I was a practicing archaeologist, this need of road tripping was satiated. I was traveling. I was on the road. Some places were not so fun, but others were great. I saw things and places that I'd never seen before. I got to explore the Sierra Mountains, Eastern California (Lone Pine), the Mohave Dessert, etc. Now that I'm not a traveling shovel bum, the need isn't being met regularly.

Mom had an epic road trip planned. She and dad were going to leave for it 3 days after she got her cancer diagnosis. They never got to do it. Instead she went on her final epic road trip of doctor's appointments, chemo and radiation treatments, and surgeries. No one thought it would be her last road trip. It shouldn't have been. But she was a trooper. She was adventurous. She was mischievous. She made the most of her last road trip.

It was epic.

I am determined to continue the tradition. For her, in memory, and for myself. Because it is in me. The need. The itch. I have to go. Somewhere. The force is strong in this padowan.

Adventure awaits.

I'll see you on the road, mom. I'll belt out the harmony to your melody.

To Part I

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

To My Mom: Part I

I've been avoiding this blog like ebola. But it is time. I got the headphones on. Music is playing. No more excuses. So without further ado, here is the first of probably many posts about my mom.

Here she is at age 18, a freshman at Northwest Nazarene College in Nampa Idaho.

After my mom's memorial service, people commented on how much I really look like her.  I always knew I took after my mom, more so than my father. But then all these people kept saying, "Wow, you look so much like her, I never realized". Well, neither did I. I do now.

I have her hair, widows peak included. Freckles, nose, smile, eyes (except in color - I got the recessive gene from both parents to turn mine green), body type, height, and hands. Internal things as well, but we won't go into that. I always knew I took after her especially after puberty. That's when you really start to notice things.
Mom and I (age 3) at Grandma and Grandpa Larsen's, Wyoming.

During those fun times of puberty and after in high school and later in my 20's, I did not like that I took after her. And not just in looks and appearance. I was never comfortable with my looks, or my body. I didn't like that I have a widows peak, or a round face, and short stature, or that weight is always an issue of loosing. I hated it. I was so self conscious, that I was too scared to even talk to a guy that I liked. I never "dated", didn't have boyfriends. One in college, but we won't talk about that here, not important to the story.

My mom and I (age 18) at her dad's (Grandpa Perk's) ranch, Arkansas.
I think I even resented her for it. I was adamant not to ever have children, because I didn't want to pass on what I had inherited from her. How bad is that? I wanted to be more like my sister. She was tall, and slender, had a more outgoing personality. I thought she was pretty (she still is, by the way). She took after my dad. She looked like my dad's sisters, my Aunts.

I'm in my mid 30's now and still working through many of these things. But I am so proud, grateful, lucky, and did I say stinking proud to be carrying my mom in me. In my face, smile, eyes, humor, in every way possible. Especially now that she is gone. And I am so thankful that I realized this before she left us. I may not have told her this specifically, but I think she saw this change in me. The change from hate to acceptance to pride and love.

Thanks mom.

 She was beautiful, inside and out.

To Part II