Monday, August 24, 2015

To My Mom Part VIII: So How Are You Doing

I've been working on this one for a while now. Little by little, it gets written. Why is this one so hard? I don't know. Perhaps it is because I am not in the mood to do this, but feel like I have to get this out. These past few months (summer) have not been hard or difficult, but they haven't been easy either. And so to answer the question in the title: I fucking bloody miss her, and I'm still pissed off that she died. That's how I'm doing.

I keep getting asked this question. How are you doing? I'm fine, I say. That is all I ever say. My answer never changes. Quit asking how I'm doing. If I want to tell you how I'm really doing, I will tell you. I won't need a prompt. I know this is a common question, even to people not mourning a death, so I get it. It's just one of those conversation starter questions in general. It gets asked two to three times a day at work at least. But when asked by people "in the know" a lot, it gets annoying. Quit it. In an effort to quell this question a bit, here is my true and honest response.

How am I doing? I got up this morning. I put clothes on. And if I worked out or had to work today, then I actually left the house as well. Congratulations! I keep getting up.  I keep moving. I get out of bed everyday. Keep moving. This song is on my running playlist on the ipod nano. First song I hear after it gets charged or the playlist starts over. I keep moving.

Working out and running has been the one thing that has helped me through this so far. Not the only thing, but the one thing that I have found, that I do, where I find joy, happiness, and motivation to keep going in life. Life goes on, and we can chose to keep going with it or stay stagnate. I was stagnate after her death. It was a shock. It all happened so fast. We were suppose to have more time. She was suppose to come home. I was stagnate and didn't do or feel or anything for two months. I think that that was okay. We all sat around and stared at walls for a bit. It's a lot to process. But then you have to pick yourself up. You can't stay in that space forever. Working on my physical body with exercise and eating better got me out of my stagnate phase. And once I started on this new direction (because there are many directions one can take), I found that I really enjoy it. I find myself smiling and doing mental high fives and fist bumps after good runs. Sometimes they aren't mental and I quickly look around to see if anyone out mowing their lawn or walking their dog just saw me fist bump my imaginary friend. Some runs aren't so fun. They're painful from burning lungs, side stitches, or the inhalation of bugs, lethargy, too hot, too muggy, or some other random ugh. At the end of those runs, I shrug them off and say to myself that I still got out the door today, and I did it anyway.

So how are you doing?

I don't want to be stagnate anymore. When you or a sibling, parent, spouse, BFF is on a cancer  journey, your own life gets put on hold. You're focused on that person. You're going to chemo appointments, and Doctor visits. You're doing things that the other person wants to do. Everything is about them. I was on hold. So after mom passed away, I didn't need to be on hold anymore. Of course it takes a bit to get going again. Putting yourself back into drive after being in neutral for so long, takes a bit of trial and error and procrastination. But I'm doing it. I said earlier that this year (2015) is all about not settling. Well, I'm keeping myself to it. I've gotten myself into a physical shape that I have never been in before, not even when I was in High School playing 3 different sports at the same time, going from one practice to the next practice to the next. And I feel pretty awesome. I have body issues, as does probably 99% of the female of our species. I have come to a point now that I am almost... almost actually happy with my body. I'm doing little things that are pushing me to get out of ruts and fixing things. Little things like finally moving my 401k from a former employer to an IRA, that I will actually control and not some crazy wack-a-doodle former co-worker/cake nazi. Little things like cutting all my hair off. Little things like joining new groups and meeting new people. Actually buying new clothes. These are big things to me. Yes, even the clothes thing. I still have/wear things I've had since high school. That was 20 years ago!

 This running thing I'm doing now is something my mom was never able to do. She struggled with weight her entire adult life. I find it ironic that when she was at her best (pre-cancer), which was 2010, she had lost 80 pounds and was really excited, I was at my worst, 30 pounds overweight and miserable. When I started running again after her death, I thought I would do it "for her" because she couldn't. But by thinking that way, I was never going to succeed. Do I run "in her honor" then? No, that's not right either. I run for me. That may be seen as selfish, but it's the truth, and it is the right framework for my continued success. Mom is gone, but I'm still here. I have to do things for me now.

this song is also on the running playlist. A bit more "happy" and something I strive for.

Here's another thing, July sucks. I'm glad it's over. Why does July suck now? Well, mom and dad's anniversary was July 1st. Mom's birthday was July 9th. About four of my parents favorite couples also have wedding anniversaries within 2 weeks of theirs. And they had trips planned with some of these favorite couples. Mom always had something big planned in July. She did this past July. It was to be another epic road trip across the country. She loved the 4th! Making dad BBQ and having people over all month long... if they were home. I think, next to Christmas, July (summer) was her favorite time of year.

It's hard. We sit around sometimes while playing cards or something and think, "she's not here to share this". We miss her not being able to experience things and events with us anymore. No more high school graduations for her grandsons. No more input, design ideas, or help with home renovation projects. Doing our kitchen without mom was hard. She would have loved it. Picking out the cabinet stain, back splash, granite counter top color, etc. We had to do that on our own, for the first time. Sis and I would stand in the middle of the kitchen in the drywall dust cloud and say, "damn, she would have loved this".

I'm not sure this really answers the "how are you doing" question. I'm still angry. I'm still sad. I'm still depressed. I'm lethargic. I'm apathetic. I'm confused. I'm also happy, energetic, glad, and optimistic sometimes. It depends on the day, the weather, TV show or movie I recently watched, book I just finished, interactions with other humans, and all sorts of other things I cannot control like the spinning of our planet through the universe. Sometimes I need to be around people. Sometimes I need to be at the ocean. Sometimes I need trees. And sometimes I need to be alone. And sometimes I just want my mom.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

To My Mom Part VII: The (almost) Golden One

Today would have been mom and dad's 50th wedding anniversary. I didn't have to work today and wanted out of the house. Dad wanted to stay in the air conditioning. So he stayed and I went to the coast to escape the 100+ degrees and residual smoke from a 70+ acre fire south of town.

I drove south past Monterey to Garrapata Beach in Big Sur. Jack Johnson music got me there. I walked around, picked my spot in the sand and set up camp. Ate my PB&J sandwich, snapped a few pics, and got down to reading. Not an hour later, rain drops. Rain? Seriously? "It will pass", I say. Nope, going to rain harder now. I put my hood up on my sweatshirt, packed up, and went back up the cliffs to the car.

I was at a good part in the book, so kept reading in the safety of my dry car. Looked up a few chapters later and couldn't even see the ocean anymore. Marine layer was in for the day. Drove back up the coast to Imagine Dragons music, with a small pit stop in Marina to pee. Thought I got stuck in the bathroom stall in the Target, but only a frantic jiggling of the stall door and a few swear words, and I was free! Walked over the to REI store. They were having a clearance sale. Sorry but still paying $30.00+ for a t-shirt is not a clearance! Left empty handed.

Rolled back into Gilroy and it wasn't in the 100's anymore. Stopped at Goodwill and rummaged through the clothes and got 2 pairs of new to me jeans for a whopping $16 bucks. I now have 2 pairs of jeans that fit my new running legs. Woot woot.

I survived the rainy beach, and dad survived the air conditioning. All is well. Sucks that mom didn't make it to the "golden" anniversary. She had made plans. But such is life. We all survived a big milestone day today. Tomorrow will be just another day. Next week will have another big milestone day without mom. But that's another post.

Some may think that driving 50+ miles and through traffic only to spend an hour or so at a beach... in the rain a crappy day. But I don't. I find it quite funny actually. Ironic. I did escape the heat. And don't worry, I'm sure mom is still laughing at my misadventure.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

The end of the Bikini 100 Challenge

If you don't know what the heck I'm about to talk about, go and read this first. Then come back. It will make more sense.

I'm an overachiever. The Peak Posse's May challenge was to challenge ourselves to 100 something. It could be fitness related like walk 100km or be able to do 100 sit-ups by months end. Or it could be something completely different. One gal did 100 random acts of kindness. I challenged myself to run 100 miles in the month. That's 31 days to run 100 miles. I broke it up into the 4 weeks in the month. Week 1 had 2 extra days, and week 4 had 1 extra day. I logged my miles by day and week and totaled up at the end of each week and put money in the jar at the end of each week. (part of the challenge is raising money for Caitriona Balfe's charity, World Child Cancer)

At the beginning I wasn't sure I would be able to pull it off. During the months of My Peak Challenge, I would run between 2-4 miles, three days a week. And those 4 mile days were hard. In order to get rest days, I would have to run 5 miles, 5 days a week. Thank god for the extra 2 days that first week. I ran 7 of the 9 days that first week, and only 2 of those days, I was able to run 5 or more miles. But because it was a longer week, I was able to exceed my weekly goals of 25 miles and ran 30.42 miles. So I had a 5 mile lead going into week 2.

Week 2 wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. I ran 5 days and had 2 rest days, and only 1 of those days did I go over 5 miles. I did a total of 22.38 that week, which cut my lead buffer down to just under 3 miles.

I challenged myself in week 3 to run 5+ miles each day. No short runs. (I know, a challenge in a challenge. Just a glutton for punishment) I noticed two things during this week. One was that I was starting to feel the impact of running this much in my feet. My lungs and legs were fine. No soreness, but my feet were starting to ache and thought I'd better do as much as I can now while I still can, before I give out. And two, it was getting easier to go farther and farther. I would chose to turn here instead of there or continue this way instead of that way which would lengthen the route by half a mile or mile. I ran 5 days that week and each run was 5+ miles, the shortest being 5.19 and the longest being 8.07. I did 29.66 miles in week 3 which put me in a good lead going into the last week.

Week 4, the last week. I ran Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday came up and for some reason I had a hard time getting myself out the door. I only needed 6 more miles to reach my 100 goal. So I told myself I could just do two shorter runs Thursday and Friday and it would be complete, ahead of schedule even. So off I go. I got to a point where I needed to make the first turn decision which would either shorten or lengthen the route. I chose to lengthen it. I kept choosing to lengthen it. I thought, hey, let's see if I can do 10 miles... like right now. I mean, that's just 2 miles short of a half-marathon. A freaking bloody half-marathon! I can totally do this. Well... I was tired at mile 5, and stopped in my front yard and watered myself with the hose. But I kept going. I stopped again at the park at mile 7.5 for the drinking fountain. I kept going. When the time came to make that last decision of turning to lengthen, I chose to go home instead. I was tired and was running like an old frumpy woman. On the home stretch I said to myself, "you fucking did it! These last few miles are icing on the cake." Oh cake...
Sorry, in dream land for a bit there. I managed 8.84 miles. Still my longest run ever to date. I collapsed as gracefully as one can in the backyard.

I ran 102.83 miles. Boom. My heels and hip bursitis tell me that yes, I can do this, but please for the love of all that is holy and covered in chocolate, don't ever do it again. Okay. Because my dad said he would match, $103 dollars (I'm rounding up) is getting donated to World Child Cancer (this link is to the just giving page where you too can donate if you wish) on behalf of The Peak Posse and $103 dollars is going to help me get new and awesome hiking boots for trekking up and down volcanoes with Balls. If you don't know who Balls is, read this.

So I did it. It was a challenge, but it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I thought, I'd have a hard time getting in the distance needed each day. I thought I might get sick or hurt myself in some way and not be able to finish it. Or I thought I'd just dive into a depression and just not do it. But the opposite happened. The running saved me from the dive I was on into depression. I ate lots of protein and took vitamins. I have no idea if they helped, but I knew they wouldn't hurt. I also ate my fruits and veggies. I knew I needed to keep my energy up.

I've noticed that I am leaner now. I've slimmed down. And by the time I hit mile 3, I am in the groove and just go go go, like I can just keep going forever. I do get quite parched though by mile 6. When I get home after a 6+ miler, I practically inhale my water bottle.

I bought a new hat to run in. Bought it off cafe press. It's a piece of crap. I had to restitch the patch on it, but I wanted a new hat and this is what I wanted it to say, so I fixed it and wear it.

 Even if you run on sidewalks, like I do, you must pay attention to your surroundings. No zoning out. You never know when a little yip yip will come plunging out of a bush to "chase you". And press pause on your music while waiting at a stop light. Even when you get your little flashing walking dude, wait. Make eye contact and stare those mother fuckers down! Had I not done that on one occasion I would be a blood splatter on the asphalt right now. Not one but two cars ran the red light on me.
You can stop reading now if you want, but I'm going to continue blabbing on for just a bit more. I have to share just one more thing. Some of the Posse Lassies are just starting on their health and fitness journeys and some have been discouraged by their lack of progress or success. I've been running off and on with varying success going on 5 years now. And only in this last year, starting with My Peak Challenge have I been truly successful in meeting my goals. I was never unrealistic before, but I lacked the proper motivation, I think. It takes time. I'm not the same person I was 5 years ago. I decided in January when I decided to participate in My Peak Challenge that this year was going to be all about Not Settling. Not settling for just okay. Not settling for just finishing, but to finish on fire! I'm not going to settle for not doing something or going somewhere because I don't have the money or vacation time. I'll find a way. And so, don't beat yourself up for not being able to run a mile. I couldn't even do that 5 years ago. Just starting out was torture. My entire body hurt. My lungs burned. I had an asthma attack, and I don't have asthma. When I first started, I had to walk at least half of each mile.

I will leave you with my only "fat" picture I could find from 5 years ago...
And today with $103 dollars in a jar!
and yes, that is my awesome "strong is the new skinny" tank
I did it with 3 days to spare. Next week, I'm not going to do anything. Except rest my poor feet. Then it's time to change it up again and start doing some new strength training, and if I can find a rower on craigslist or ebay, I'll give my feet some more "rest" by changing up my cardio as well.

And I think I need new running shoes too, och aye.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Trekking Volcanoes: Wright Peak of Mount Konocti

While idling after My Peak Challenge ended this past March, I was searching the internet for something to do physically. I didn't want all that work to go to waste. And I was coming down off of a high and sitting on my ass instead of working out. I needed a new goal to reach. Something to commit to that would keep me focused and working out. A few things happened. I found that climbing California's 14ers (peaks over 14,000 ft) scared the crap out of me, especially when people started mentioning ice axes and ropes. Summiting California's volcanoes (20 of them) sounded much more doable, and only one of them, Mt. Shasta, is also a 14er. And a Facebook/twitter group that I joined during My Peak Challenge decided to do a new "challenge" for May.

So, it is mid May now, and I am almost half way done with the May challenge. I'm on track! And this past Sunday I and my cohort completed our first volcano summit. Our adventure is as follows:

Balls! After mentioning on facebook my idea of climbing all of California's volcanoes, only one person said she was totally down with doing it with me. Crazy, I know, only one. I asked if she was serious, and low and behold, she was. She is fascinated by profanity and uses the word balls as a swear word. Although her favorite word at the moment is dick, I will stick to calling her Balls. Balls lives in Santa Rosa. For those of you not from California, it is north of San Francisco by about 55 miles. While researching which volcano to do first, I decided we'd best go for the closest one first. That happens to be Mount Konocti on the shore of Clear Lake in Lake County.
Red Arrow=where I live, Blue Arrow=where Balls lives, Black Arrow=Clear Lake/Mt. Konocti
Here's a quick blurb from the USGS: Clear Lake Volcanic Field is located about 90 miles north of San Francisco, California. The town of Clear Lake lies within the volcanic field as does much of the 43,000-acre fresh water lake of its namesake. The Geysers steam field, which sits at the southwest margin of the volcanic region, is host to one of the world’s most productive geothermal power plants, producing enough electricity for 850,000 homes. The heat driving the geothermal system emanates from a zone of partially molten rock (magma) deep below the greater Clear Lake volcanic system. The most prominent volcanic feature is 300,000 year-old Mount Konocti, rising about 975 m (3,200 ft) above the southwestern shore of the lake. The most recent eruptions occurred about 11,000 years ago around Mount Konocti. Although Clear Lake volcanic field has not erupted for several millennia, sporadic volcanic-type earthquakes do occur, and the numerous hot springs and volcanic gas seeps in the area point to its potential to erupt again. Monitoring in the Clear Lake region by the USGS and a collaborative effort with Calpine Corporation in the Geysers Steam Field, provides real-time tracking of earthquake activity. In addition, the USGS periodically analyzes volcanic gases and hot springs in the region.

I drove up to Balls' house Saturday night, forgot my phone, left it charging in the wall, and slept on Balls' couch. Woke up with her roommates dogs face in my face. Sunday morning we drink coffee. Coffee is important. We go to Whole Foods for snacks, and then leave for Kelseyville, where Mt. Konocti awaits us. We drive into town and turn down a road that turns to dirt. There is no signage telling you that there is a county park at the end of the road, let alone a freaking VOLCANO! Lake County is severely lacking on proper signage. This you will note is a frequent subject while Balls and I were on the trail. Balls was also somewhat shocked that I had an actual camera. Even if I hadn't forgotten my phone, it isn't a "smart" phone. So yes, I'm old school and carry an actual camera.

Look, we can take double selfies at the same time. We are awesome.
Mount Konocti is made up of five peaks (Howard Peak 4,286 ft, South Peak 4,286 ft, Buckingham Peak 3,967 ft, Clark Peak 2,880 ft, and Wright Peak 4,2999 ft). There are no trails to Clark or South peaks. Much of the area is private property. We hiked to the top of Wright Peak, which is the highest. There was a sign for the fork to Buckingham Peak, but there was absolutely no sign, post, or marker telling you that the road on the left would take you to Howard Peak. We saw it just fine from the top of Wright Peak anyway. Apparently Lake County decided having bathrooms, picnic tables, and benches everywhere was way more important than say a water spigot or proper signage telling you where the hell you are. Thank the spirits both of us printed out the crappy trail map and I had my pilfered GPS unit. Someone left it where I work and never came back to claim it. It sat in our backroom for a year. So, I'm sorry, I'm going to take it and use it. Balls was getting worried that she may not be able to make it up to the top, so we stopped at some of the many random benches for some breathers.

We finally made it to Mary Downen's cabin. Who? And why did she build a homestead on the side of a volcano? Well, once again, the signage wasn't great here. Apparently in 1903, a year after her husband died, her son-in-law Euvelle Howard (as in Howard Peak) took her up Mount Konocti on horseback and she fell in love... with the mountain. She staked a claim and paid a whooping $600. A cabin was built and she began homesteading... alone. There is no streams on the mountain and eventually she had a cistern built and her son-in-law Euvelle planted her orchard. Apparently her son-in-law moved up there. Balls and I debated why her daughter didn't move with him and talked endlessly about them most likely having an affair, but that kind of wigged us out. Ew. Euvelle is apparently buried near the homestead. The crappy signs say he is buried 500 ft from the cabin with a large "obvious" boulder with his name and dates carved in it. They even provide waypoints. But there is no path. So we plug in the waypoints into my pilfered gps and off I go uphill, off trail, looking for the "obvious" boulder. I never found him. Why the hell tell people he's up here and all and then not provide a way to actually get to him?? I don't get it. And why is he buried here and not Mary? What ever happened to her? We have no idea. We had to look her up on the internet during dinner. Found where she is buried. She's in Lakeport and shares her husbands marker. So she was buried on top of him, or next to him. I don't know. There is hardly anything about Mary on the internet. It's all the same little bit on every site we could find. She seemed like a very interesting person. Who decides to homestead on a volcano as a widower in her 50's in 1903? She sounds awesome. I want to know what happened to her. How long was she on the mountain? Where's her privy? How did she die? There is nothing! Now, there is obviously some archaeological records out there on her homestead. They fenced off her cabin and dump and there are pin flags everywhere. So those of you who still have access to CHRIS can maybe help a girl out?? Yes?
Mary Downen's Orchard
Anyway, we walked through Mary's orchard debating what kind of trees they are. Again, no signage saying anything about that. I said fruits, Balls said nuts. Of course she did. I think we were both right. We got eaten by mosquitoes, so dicided to get back up on the trail to our summit... after a pit stop at a random bathroom and picnic table.

We made it to the summit of Wright Peak! Great views. Top of the world... or Lake County anyway. While I was taking this pic of Balls, she took this one.

There is a fire lookout and cell tower on the top. The fire lookout was closed in 2005, technology and all that made it useless to stick a person up there 24/7 during fire season. There are some interesting stories about this mountain/volcano but I will spare you. I will say that I'm impressed that the Pomo name for the mountain remains. As with most of the history of white settlers, army, and Indians, things did not go well for the Pomo and Wapo that call this area home.

Clear Lake from Wright Peak
View of Howard Peak from Wright Peak
Balls' best Capt. Morgan pose

Our summit selfie

Our experience of Mt. Konocti has only wetted our appetite for more volcanoes, despite us being in Lake County and their lack of trail signage. We realized that both of us have forgotten much of our botany skills and need to brush up on them, not that we had any to begin with. And we need to do more pre-field research and learning before our next volcanic adventure. So 1 down, 19 to go.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Next Fitness Challenge, lord help me

As you can see by the picture on the left, I've decided to do a new "challenge". During the #MyPeakChallenge I did starting in January and culminating on March 14-15, I joined a Facebook group called The Peak Posse. It's a group of mostly women who did My Peak Challenge where we give support, offer advice, and tell each other our horror stories about getting healthy and fit, etc. The group also fundraises for the actors in Outlander (tv show) chosen charities. My Peak Challenge raised money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research which was Sam Heughan's chosen charity. The Peak Posse has decided to continue on and do a new challenge for Caitriona Balfe's chosen charity which is World Child Cancer.

The new challenge starts May 1, and lasts just this month. The 100 part can be anything you want. Write 100 letters, walk 100 miles, be able to do 100 push-ups by the end of the month, etc. Here's the scoop from The Peak Posse: Hope you don't mind me posting it here.

Dear Peak Posse Lassies,
In request to a new "challenge" we have come up with "Cait's Bikini 100 Challenge to Knock Out Childhood Cancer". (I know a mouthful right?) So for short lets just tag it as the "Bikini 100 Challenge".

As the title suggests, this challenge will help the lovely Caitriona's charity as WE prepare for bikini season. Just as we did with My Peak Challenge, each person will set their own individual challenge and their own donation rate.
The challenge will start May 1 and end on May 31st. That's right lassies, you have 30 days to complete your challenge.
Now you ask, "Why the 100?" Right?
Well YOU will chose what 100 physical or mental challenge you want to complete. For example, I want to walk 100 miles in May, or complete 100 sit-ups or squats in May, or knit 100 items for charity. Are you still with me here? GOOD!

Now for each #1 of the #100 you complete you will make your donation into Cait's jar. So if I'm going to donate $1 for every mile I walked, then I would place that amount in Cait's jar as I complete it (you can donate whatever you are able to do. More or less is fine).
Now what the heck is Cait's jar you're thinking! Am I right ? Haha Each person should take a jar or box or whatever you have and decorate it for the challenge. We will include a way for you to print off a pic of our bikini logo and ask that if you feel moved to, please change your profile pic or avi on twitter to the logo...

...On June 1 we will all donate our funds...
One more thing we are asking you to use the hashtag ‪#‎PPBikiniChallenge‬ on twitter.
I hope this is relatively simple to understand. We wanted to make it a short challenge that would be fun and would support Caitriona's wonderful charity as well.
Good Luck You Lovely Lassies! You know we are all here for support so post away on the goal you set and your progress.

I've chosen to run 100 miles the month of May. That's 31 days, 100 miles. I'm scared I won't be able to do it, but that's the point of a challenge isn't it? Since My Peak Challenge ended, I've had a hard time keeping up with the exercising. I've been kind of lost, with no goals to achieve, etc. The Posse Sisters want those of us doing the challenge to have a jar and decorate it however we like to put the money we raise in. So since I am running 100 miles, every mile = $1.00 in the jar. At the end, I plan on donating half to World Child Cancer and the other half goes to my funds for new hiking boots. I can't remember how I killed my last pair of boots. Back when I was still an archaeologist full-time, I went through a pair a boots a year. They are expensive. And I will need a good pair of boots for my upcoming adventures that I haven't told you all about yet... but I will, soon, I promise.

So, wish me luck, or have me committed to the looney bin, which ever works best. This will certainly be a challenge.

Almost forgot, I stopped weighing myself last year. I honestly don't know how much I weight. I came to terms and accepted that the amount I weigh is not important. How I feel and look is. So during the My Peak Challenge I exercised my ass off. And I started noticing muscle and such. Anyway, the other night, a regular customer came in where I work and commented that he noticed I had lost weight, and he wanted to commend me. I was shocked that anyone even noticed anything. The changes I saw in myself were, I thought, small. He made my night. I have shrunk a size in jeans I think, since I now need a belt. So woo hoo. Off to go run my ass off some more!

Monday, March 16, 2015

To My Mom Part VI: The Road Trip Edition 2.0

Way back in April 2013, my mom and I did a road trip to Los Angeles. I wrote a post about it. Before I share the link to it, a few observations. My mom had cancer at the time, it just wasn't diagnosed yet. I knew she had health issues at the time. She had a hard time getting around. She couldn't walk long distances. I was somewhat upset at her lack of mobility back then. I kept it all internal though. I did not voice my displeasure at having to cater to her needs. We got her diagnosis a little more than 4 months after this trip. I didn't know it at the time, when you read the last sentence you will understand, it was the last road trip we would take together.

Here's the link: LA Adventures

She catered the trip around her friends and family, as always. Her friend number 2 passed away just a few months after our visit. So we made it just in time. I actually think she used taking me to the book fair as her excuse to see her friends. I had no issues being used like that.

I mentioned in my previous post in this To My Mom Series, that my dad had finished a "project". And said I may or may not share here. He gave his permission. So here it is. It's an online memorial. The family was deciding what to do with mom's emails and letters she had written during her cancer "adventure". (she called it an adventure, I'm not kidding) A family friend had put a lot of them together for my dad. My sister saw them and said it's like a book. Mom had written a book via her emails to her support group about her journey with cancer. What can we do with this? So this is what my dad did with it all.

It's a closed link, in that it is not searchable or linked to anything.

So here's to my mom who used me (more than once) to see her important people.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Peak Challenge: The Epic Weekend Finale

We must all listen to this, my last song selection from the playlist, while we read. Because if I wrote this, it means I survived and I'm not giant kitty food or lying at the bottom of a ravine.

On Top of The World by Imagine Dragons

Now that it's playing, on with the show.

Saturday: EPIC PI DAY (March 14, 2015) Sadly, I didn't eat any pie.
Super duper ultra thanks to my new friend and fellow My Peak Challenge member, Double L for inviting me to join her on the De Anza Trail on Saturday. I was a bit nervous to say yes. But I'm always a bit nervous when I meet people for the first time. You are awesome. I had a nice time. Next time we should have lunch after in town. I don't know about you, but my tummy was rumbling by the time I got home.

We did a total of 6 miles. We made it to mile marker 3, which is the farthest Double L has ever gone on the trail. So yay! And just in case you don't want your picture on my blog, here are some highlights without your face front and center.

Sunday: Et tu Brute (March 15, 2015)

While the guy who started the #MyPeakChallenge was running the LA Marathon, I was sleeping. I didn't want to get up. I knew there would be no heroic shots at the top of Mt. Willson today. Because I knew I wasn't going to be able to do the hike I wanted. Ms. Certifiable went certifiable and couldn't make it. I was angry. I've been running my ass off for 2 months (literally, my ass has fallen off like 3 times) to get ready for this big day. I was ready. It will have to wait. I decided I couldn't stay mad at Ms. Certifiable, there's no point. Shit happens and you get over it and move on. We will conquer Henry Coe another day. So I decided to make the best of it. Because I went with Double L yesterday to San Juan Batista, today I can do what I had originally planned to do for that day today instead. And that was this: 7-8ish miles up and back down Mt. Madonna. I started in Sprig day-use. Trails included were merry-go-round, loop trail cut-off, upper miller, blue springs, and sprig.
first redwood grove on the way up
looks like the top... but it isn't. more to climb
made it to the miller ruins
at the top, sitting on miller's front steps
that's twisted!
on the way down
on the way down
I don't think people knew how important it was for me to do this this weekend. I don't think I even know. I just had to do... something. And if I had to go by myself, then I had go by myself. Did I join My Peak Challenge to raise money for leukemia and blood cancer research? Eh, honestly, no. I donated a whopping $5 bucks. I needed motivation to get back out there after my mom died. It worked. I'm running again. I have no idea if I lost weight, honestly, that isn't important to me anymore. I don't know what my weight is. But I'm getting muscle definition, I'm getting healthier. I haven't had a soda in 69 days. I think that's a new record. I hate the taste of fast food now. I'm going to keep it up. I just have to decide what my next peak challenge will be. I'm not done yet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Peak Challenge Music: Week 9

 It's the final week in #MyPeakChallenge. So here is the (sort of) last song selection from the playlist. This is about as "girly" as I get when it comes to this particular playlist.

 In Love Again by Rogue Traders

Who are Rogue Traders? They're Australian. I was told about them way back when I was fangirling hard over Moonlight back in 2007. A fellow fan named mini moon, who happens to be Australian, told me about them when I asked her what music was popular/what she liked where she lived. They are no longer a band. Such is life. One of their songs, Voodoo Child from the Here Come the Drums album was in a Dr. Who episode from the 10th Doctor David Tennant era. The episode (New Season 3, episode 12) where John Simm was The Master who heard a constant drumming in his head. Now if you don't know anything or have never watched Dr. Who, we are no longer friends. I'm kidding. No I'm not.

Monday, March 2, 2015

My Peak Challenge Music: Week 8

This list wouldn't be complete without something from Linkin Park.
So here is the song Robot Boy off their A Thousand Suns album.

It may be a strange choice considering they have many more "rawr" uptempo songs to choose from, but it's because of these lyrics mostly:

You say the weight of the world
Has kept you from letting go
And you think compassion's a flaw
And you'll never let it show
And you're sure you've hurt in a way
That no one will ever know
But someday, the weight of the world
Will give you the strength to go

To My Mom Part V: Music

I was working on making my mom a playlist for her to listen to while she was taking chemo. Once a month, she would have a long chemo session where they would pump in something that would help strengthen her bones. This would usually be an hour to an hour and a half session. So I wanted to make her something that she could listen to while they pumped chemicals into her port.

I never finished it. I only got five songs on it before she passed away. Now don't get offended but I called it "fuck cancer". I wasn't going to label it that when I gave it to her. But it is what it is labeled in my itunes. I was listening to the radio in my car when I heard an old U2 song and I immediately thought, "this would be a perfect song for mom, I need to make her a playlist." Well that one U2 song was the only song on the list for a very long time. I had a hard time finding other songs. What I find as inspiring songs and what I thought my mom would find inspiring songs are two very different things. Somehow I don't thing she would enjoy Rage Against The Machine.

Well, here are the 5 songs I did find:

One Tree Hill by U2

Adiemus by Adiemus

Strawberry Swing by Coldplay

I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz

Strong by London Grammar

On the rare occasions that I was the one driving her to the chemo center, she would listen to one of two cd's that someone had given her. They were religious cd's. (Discovery Singers and Haven Quartet) Many of the songs I remember singing in church. They helped calm her nerves. I knew she was anxious, when she would ask me to turn it up. Sometimes, I'd be in the back jumper seat of the truck while dad was driving her to an appointment that she wanted me to go to as well. I am glad that these cd's gave her comfort. But I had a hard time listening to them. I think at the time, it was because I was angry. Not at her, but at her God. How can she be so faithful and find comfort in a God that allowed this to happen to my mother. How dare he! What did she ever do to deserve this. I didn't understand how through suffering, one finds grace and comfort in God. Well, I still don't, but that wasn't my journey to take. That was mom's.

I suppose this isn't what you thought it would be about when you saw the title. I may do a music part 2 post later about her playing Axel F from Beverly Hills Cop so loud that the cd actually skipped. A CD skipping! That's some decibels.

Well, mom has been gone four months now. I'm still angry. And I still say, Fuck Cancer. Dad finished his "project" tonight. I was reading through it. It was late and shut down the laptop. Got ready for bed, and thought, I need to watch the video we made for the memorial. I had one of the songs we put on it in my head. So I turned it back on, and watched the video. Then I thought, well I can't go to sleep with any of those songs in my head. I need to listen to something else. So then I went into the fuck cancer playlist and thought, I'd just listen to the U2 song. Well, I'm now on the third listen to the 5 song playlist and wrote a post.

This is what happens when you get a song stuck in your head and have to do something about it. Well, me anyway.

Music is very powerful to me. It can bring me out of a funk. It can help me cope with depression. It can motivate me to run farther. Go faster. It can calm my nerves. It can make me angry. It can make me cry. It can make me laugh, smile. Sharing songs here on the blog that have helped me through something or inspired me is important to me. Sharing the music is very much like sharing the words and thoughts that come spilling out of my head here on the blog. It's therapeutic. And somehow, I hope that by doing so also helps whomever reads these. It's why I've been sharing songs off my running playlist these past few months during #MyPeakChallenge.

I've known for a long time now... maybe since my late teens that mom and I were both very sensitive to music and how it affects us emotionally, psychologically, and physically. She needed to sing. She needed to be involved in it. Immerse herself in it. It's why she joined the South Bay Singers. Seeing her up there on that stage and hearing them sing was amazing. It brought me to tears. It was emotional. It was physical. It was beautiful. They were so passionate and powerful. She was in it. She was part of it. I can't really describe it. It was like I was witnessing something normally intangible.

Music just does that.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Picture(s) Number 8

The Not So Random Photo Project:  In honor of poppy season and cherry blossoms.

Even in a most desolate harsh environment, you can find peace and beauty. You just have to look. (And have a camera with a macro setting.)

Taken in the spring of 2008-ish, while on the job in the Upper Mojave, near Lancaster, CA.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My Peak Challenge: Music Week 7

Week 7 belongs to The XX. How is that a band name? And how do you say it? Is is "ex ex" or "ten ten" or "twenty"? Who cares, this is a cool song.

Intro by XX

I think I found this when I was going through my "OMG Twilight" phase. Lord, am I glad that is over. I have the entire album, but don't really like when they actually sing, so the Intro is all I listen to. Perhaps it's time to give it another listen.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Shakespearean Taxidermy on a Bloody Monday

Everyone seems to hate Mondays. Usually, I am one of them. Today it was the beginning of a new week. Last week sucked. Nothing horrible happened, but I was not having it. Customers and co-workers alike, kept getting on my nerves. Everyone seemed to annoy me. To a point where I was about to punch people in the face. I would never actually punch someone in the face on purpose*, but I was totally about to do it in my head.

I didn't do very well with my workouts last week either. John Valbonesi (the dude I can hardly understand who runs Fight Camp Glasgow that is the trainer of Sam Heughan (the hot actor dude who helped start the MyPeakChallenge thing I'm doing) said it was time to do the fitness tests again to see how we are improving, so I re-did test 1 on Monday of last week and made myself sore the rest of the week. Wow, how 'bout that sentence! Anyway, I did improve. But I can only do lunges so fast before I fall over and squish my cat that likes to walk and plop down round my arms while I try and do burpees. I did 11 more burpees than before and can now hold a 2 minute plank. Wednesday all I did was the burpee test, and Friday?... Well, the night before I decided to finish a book I was reading. I finished it at 4am. So I slept in. The book was totally worth it. It was hilarious! So, yeah, last week wasn't the best. Here's the book:

And yes that is a taxidermy mouse with a Shakespearean neck ruffle and Dracula cape holding an alas poor Yorick mouse skull.

Today, I got to start anew. And I did. And it felt great. Until I did my taxes. I owed this year. That totally sucked. And that put a damper on the day. Apparently extremely poor minimum wage workers who are just above the super extremely poo(r)** minimum wage workers don't get a tax break for being extremely poor minimum wage workers.

I don't know where to go from here in this post. Don't quite know what I'm trying to say. Well, let's just say I have no real point. This is so not how I saw this post shaping out to be.

The End

*I would totally punch someone in the face on accident, I can be quite clumsy.
**the "r" is silent when you're that poor.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Peak Challenge: Music Week 6

This weeks pick from the playlist is...

Believer by American Authors

Never heard of them? Where have you been? It is from their debut album, so I guess you have a bit of an excuse. Another song from their debut album is Best Day of My Life. Maybe you've heard it on the radio or that Lowe's commercial or the movie trailer for Earth to Echo, or How to Train Your Dragon 2, or St. Vincent. I think they're going places... at least to the movies! I just can't help myself sometimes, I'm sorry.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

To My Mom: Part IV Valentine Special

So last year on Valentine's Day... or was it two years ago... Anyway, some time ago I wrote this post about how cool it is being single. It was two years ago. It still holds true for me today. I never really liked Valentine's Day. Maybe because 98% of time when that day rolls around, I'm single.

When I lived at my house with the sis and the boys, sis would give us all Valentine's cards and candy. We would also get Easter baskets stuffed with peeps on Easter, and stockings full of candy pooping reindeer at Christmas. This year I didn't get anything. And that is fine by me, cus, I didn't get anyone anything either. I don't like jewelry, I don't wear it. I don't like flowers either. They look pretty, but they're going to die. I don't see the point of giving someone you love something that is now dead. Kind of morbid, really. And I like chocolate, but I prefer it everyday, not just once a year when it is heart shaped and costs twice as much.

I say all that, because I remembered something today. Way back when I was away at college, I had broken up with a boyfriend and I was quite lonely and depressed. And I was sitting in my crappy apartment staring at the wall or something, and I see a delivery guy walking by my apartment window with flowers and a balloon. And I'm sitting there wondering who they are going to and wow that's pretty cheesy. Maybe he's going to my next door neighbors. But he knocked on my door.

I was shocked. Why would I get flowers? They were from my mom. She totally brightened my day. I don't know if she knew I was feeling down at the time. But she sent me flowers. Those were the best flowers I ever got. And I loved them!

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Peak Challenge: Music Week 5

This weeks musical selection is brought to you by two dancing robot men. Huh? It's okay, they're French. That should explain everything.

End Title Sequence from TRON Legacy by Daft Punk.

They are currently more famous for Get Lucky, and just being weird robot men when they have to make public appearances. But I loved the soundtrack they did for the movie. The movie was just so-so. I was hoping for spectacular visuals, and sort of got them, but the story itself is a let down, but I knew that going in. The music was pretty sweet. Good job weird robot men.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Peak Challenge: Music Week 4

This week's selection is this:

Magic by Fauxliage

Leigh Nash does the vocals on this. She doesn't sing a word in this song but, you still might recognize her voice. I think it is distinctive anyway. It's beautiful. She is also the lead singer of Sixpence None The Richer. Fauxliage was a collaboration between Nash and some Canadian group called Delerium. Their entire album is pretty cool. If you like the song, check out the rest of that collaboration. However, it is not workout music. It is actually quite melancholic. For you TV geek girls, two of the songs from this album were featured on Moonlight (2007), hint hint, the infamous shower scene.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

My Peak Challenge: Superbowl Sunday Edition

Instead of watching the game and eating chips, I took a short hike with Han... Solo. Yes, The Han Solo. See?

I have successfully made it through three weeks of my so called training for the #MyPeakChallenge, and thought I needed a nice reward/let's see how stiff my hiking legs really are.

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm, yet a bit windy winter day here. I went up to Harvey Bear Ranch which is a working cattle ranch and a County Park. There are signs to remind you to close the gates behind you, lest a creature of the bovine sort escapes. (If you click on the link to Harvey Bear Ranch, it links to the counties website for the park which also contains Coyote Lake. There is a picture of a boat and skier, front and center. But the site says "this reservoir is closed to boating" Oh the irony!)

I saw 9 deer, geese, and turkeys. And met a lovely lady and her horse who thought he was a dog. The lady came up on her horse dog and said "He loves being petted, do you mind?" And he came right up to me and was all, please pet me, please please please. So I pet him. A lot. Met back up with the Lady and her horse dog at the end of the loop. She said, "wow there were a lot of deer out there". And I said, "yeah, I saw nine". "Nine?" she says... "there was at least a herd of 15 when you petted my horse dog!"

My excuse for not seeing the 15 member herd is that I was not perched on her horse dog. She had the better view.

Being out here reminded me why it is important to get outside into nature. It was so peaceful. Quiet. Fresh air does wonders for the soul. It really does.

I also made it back home in time for my dad to yell at me to come watch. It was the last minute of the game. So I got in a hike and the best part of the football/hockey game. I win!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Peak Challenge: Fitness Test #2

So, yeah. This is week 3 for me, and still kicking. The #MyPeakChallenge peeps just released our second fitness test. Which happens to be 2000 meters on a rowing machine to time. I don't have a rowing machine. And I don't belong to a gym that would have a rowing machine. And I have no desire, ever, to join a gym. There are people there. PEOPLE! I don't do people. Especially a lot of people. And there are a lot of people at gyms this time of year. All staring at me. Watching me giggle my giggly bits. Nope.

So anyway... I've decided on a different test. In my exploration of new running routes in the new neighborhood, there is one that is just shy of 2 miles (that's a 3k and some change). So I will run that as fast as I can. And see how much I can improve on time/mile pace. My natural pace as of now averages to 10 minute miles, give or take.

Today I ran the short circut, which today was 1.75 miles, which is also strange cus I did the same exact run last week and it was 1.85 miles. I blame the ipod being extremely low on battery life for this. Well, I ran it as fast as I could. Averaged 9.43 minutes per mile.

Please excuse the smell of my awesome saucy sweat stained clothing that I only wash once a week (ew) and the heavy breathing fellow walkers/joggers/people in cars with their windows down waiting for me to cross the damn street.

Also, since the weather has been so bright and cheery, my amazing tan is coming back. In that the ankle sock tan line, and the shorts tan line, and the shirt sleeve tan line, and the oh so lovely ipod strap tan line are back!

My Peak Challenge: Music Week Three

Mock me if you must, but it's great to run to.

Everything's Magic by Angels and Airwaves

Which is basically Blink-182 minus a few guys when they were having their teenager hissy fit. They've since made-up, by the way.

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.

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