Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saying good-bye to my friend Cara

Dear Cara,

I find it impossible to express what you mean to me through a facebook status update or something else where my words are limited so I thought I'd express myself in a letter to you. The last time I saw you was when you came to my yoga class right before Christmas. I always got excited to see you when you popped your head in the door because I knew you had to drive all the way from Boulder to city park which isn't an easy task. You were always so good about coming to my yoga classes even though I never once attended one of your pole dancing or acro yoga classes that you taught although I always had best intentions of coming. Once I got the pleasure of taking your yoga class after you completed yoga training and I thought it was fantastic. I'm pretty sure you are fantastic at everything you ever taught. I had you demonstrate piking up for my yoga class from a head stand because I wanted to show you off to my students even though I know you didn't like the spotlight. They were in awe of you moving so effortlessly and looking so light and free. You didn't get to see their faces but I did and I can tell you they were impressed.

We all were.

You are the type of friend that I can't even remember how we became friends. It feels like we just always were friends and that's how it would always be. You were one of the few people who was always down to hike 14ers with me. I took you up Humboldt peak for your first one and I remember you brought me a carton of eggs from your chickens because I drove us. That was not an easy hike by any means and I never once heard you complain. We talked about the big things, the little things and the in-between things. I was surprised at how we never actually ran out of things to talk about because, like me, you could talk about just about anything to anyone. We were the only people on top of the mountain that day and we took our time taking pictures and enjoying the view. You told me you were thinking about moving to Louisiana in the next year or so and I remember thinking that I didn't want you to go because you were such a great hiking companion and there are so few people I could count on like you. I never told you I was glad you didn't move but I am.

This year we hiked Mt. Antero together - another 14er and I thought again it would be just me and you because you were the only one who committed to the hike. I loved how when you said you were going to do something you'd be there 100%. Even though two of our other friends came with us you and I got to talk a lot because you sat up front to keep me awake on the midnight drive there and the exhausting drive home. You kept me awake with your stories about your chickens, your family, your dogs and teaching and you let me vent about my frustrations. There aren't too many people you meet in life who you can pour your heart out to like I felt like I could do with you. As wonderful of a talker as you are you are also a great listener. I hope you know that.
You told me this was your favorite photo of you that I took on our Antero hike

I want you to know how much I will miss you. I'll miss seeing your photos on facebook and instagram of your dogs on sunset walks. I'll miss being your partner in gymnastics classes at Qi. I'll miss those delicious eggs you always gifted me from your chickens. I'll miss hearing about the sugar gliders and the foster dogs that always ripped up your house. I'll miss your laugh and seeing your face popping unexpectedly through the door at the yoga studio at 9:30 on a Monday morning. I'll miss having someone to hike with and hula hoop with and having a road trip buddy. I never got a chance to take your acro yoga class although I said I was going to go and for that I'm sorry. I thought I had more time with you than I did. Most of all I will miss our talks.

The last time I saw you right before Christmas we spent time after yoga talking about your sister who was pregnant and what you should buy her for a present. You looked to me for advice since I had just had a baby and in your words you were totally freaked out by kids. We talked about cloth diapers and baby carriers, about your new tattoo of the scene from the Little Prince and a bunch of other things that don't even seem to matter anymore. So many little things we talked about for an hour or so until I had to go. You apologized I remember, thinking that you were taking up my time because you said that you didn't have anything to do and just wanted to hang out. I should have invited you for coffee and talked longer. I'd give anything to have that last day back with you so we could talk just a little bit more instead of rushing to the next thing.

The one thing I don't regret is hugging you. I know you are not a hugger (and I am) but I made you hug me goodbye when we left that day and parted ways. I said, "Cara, we are friends and friends have to hug!" I didn't care if it made you uncomfortable because I just wanted to thank you for making the drive to come and take class so I hugged you. I'm really glad I did that.

I hope you know Cara how much our friendship means to me. You are someone who I have no clear memory on how you came into my life yet I'll always remember how you left. I'm grateful for the time I did get to spend with you even if it wasn't enough. I'll see you in every blue sky on top of every mountain  I hike. I'll see you in every walk I take with my dog when the sun sets. I'll remember you in yoga and gymnastics classes. Monday mornings won't be the same without you. An empty void is what I feel without your physical presence on this earth.

You'll never be far from my mind I want you to know. You touched a lot of people and you should know that as well. Your spirit will shine on and live on here in us and through us.

Until we meet again my friend...

"I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go. But what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye" - Life of Pi

For those who would like to help Cara's family with their expenses for her funeral etc. please follow the link below set up by the family:

Friday, December 13, 2013

How the Grinch stole Christmas...(and we got it back)

I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude isn’t something you would probably normally feel after getting your debit card number stolen and having your checking account wiped out. I will admit it’s been a bit of a struggle to get back on track financially after having a baby. Not having a paycheck and no disability insurance for 7 months will do that to you. I know I’m not the best at managing money but paying bills, daycare costs and a mortgage are struggles enough without someone swiping your debit card number and having a Dillard’s shopping spree. Honestly if the tab had been for gas, groceries, even Babies R’ Us I might have been more understanding. Cleaning someone out so you can feed your shopping addiction is just criminal especially this time of year when money is already tight. With our funds in limbo we knew getting a Christmas tree was not going to be an option anymore. How can you afford what’s not a necessity when you should be buying groceries?

I was devastated. Not for me…but for Charlotte.

I know Charlotte is only 8 months old now but I wanted a Christmas tree for her. She doesn’t have memories right now and won’t for awhile so it’s up to me to be the keeper or her memories. It’s up to me, I believe, to thread together the story of her childhood and her early days; to remember for both of us. Even if I couldn’t put a damn thing under the tree I wanted to have that for her. To see her face light up when we turned it on and to decorate it and hang her baby’s first Christmas ornament on there. As long as I could remember I’ve had a tree. Even when my parents got divorced and life got shitty my mother made sure we still had a tree. It was a glimmering beacon of hope to me in my childhood. A symbol that everything would be alright. If I couldn’t afford a tree for Charlotte, how would everything be alright?

So I put it out there to the universe. I am not one to ask for help. In fact I hate asking for help. When Charlotte was born and I had offers from friends to come and watch her while I napped or to cook me dinner, I would most often politely decline. I let a few close friends in but even then it was hard to say yes. My parents were never the type to ask for help and as a result we never got any. No one brought my mom casseroles over when we were born or watched us for free while my parents could have a date night. I never saw help being given so I never thought to ask for it myself. I maintained if I could get myself into a situation then I needed to get myself out. Yet after all the struggles in these past few months when I realized we couldn’t have a tree I hit the end of my rope. I needed help and I asked.

And I received. Wow did I ever receive.

Help. Help in the form of texts, phone calls, messages and more than 40 offers from friends for a Christmas tree or money for a Christmas tree or just positive energy and advice. It brought tears to my eyes knowing what a great community of friends I had out there. For the first time in my life I said yes. Yes to help, yes to friends being friends and yes to the kindness. It’s not like I want to be seen as a charity case I just finally got the balls to admit I couldn’t do it all. Our friend Amie showed up on our doorstep with groceries and dinner all I had to do was say the word. Another friend gave me a generous loan to help us through the holidays. I have never felt so loved or humble in all my life. I asked my own aunt for a loan and she turned me down. Thank goodness for good friends right?

Do you remember the end of How the Grinch stole Christmas? Where the grinch is on top of the hill after stealing all the presents and he looks down on the town expecting them to be sad? Instead all the towns’ people are gathered around this glowing beacon of light in the center of the town and they are singing and smiling. Then the grinch realizes, “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store…maybe Christmas means just a little bit more.” The townspeople had everything stolen for them but they had each other and that’s all they really needed. I don’t need gifts under my tree…to me it isn’t as important what’s under there as it is who is standing around it. That’s all I wanted was that symbol of hope for me…for my family.

Of all the offers my friend Ann was the sneaky ninja who sent me a message, set a date, came over and took me and Charlotte out on a girls afternoon to shop for a tree. Her only stipulation was that it had to smell like pine. She graciously bought our tree and helped me set it up in our living room. She even carried it in the house for me! I let her put the star on top since she couldn’t stay to help decorate. I asked her how on earth I could repay her and she just responded that all I had to do was do something kind for someone else. If you’ve never met Ann she’s just like that. One of the most genuinely kind people I have ever met. If she hasn’t done anything kind for you it’s just because you haven’t gotten to know her yet…give her time and she will. It was amazing.

So this year when I look at the Christmas tree in our living room, I know I won’t be looking at MY tree…I’ll be looking at everyone’s tree. Every person out there who showed me what the spirit and true meaning of Christmas really is. To help someone who maybe never even helped you out just because you care. To help someone because you feel it’s the right thing to do. To help someone because you know what it would mean to you.

Someday I’ll show Charlotte this photo of her sitting in front of our tree at her first Christmas. I will tell her the story about how hard our lives seemed at the time and what it meant to us to have that tree for her. I will let Charlotte know that even if one person stole from us, 45 others gave back without even giving a second thought. To her she might only see a tree in the picture but when I look back on this year I’ll remember the hope that I feel now.

“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store
maybe Christmas means just a little bit more…”

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Flight Benefits plus an open weekend equal spontaneous getaway

Last weekend was one of those magical weekends where you have no plans. No football games to watch, no parties to attend, no major household projects to complete. So my husband Chad suggested on Friday that we hop on a flight to Montrose, Colorado and have a family adventure exploring the Black Canyons.

How could I say no to a weekend in the mountains?

Sometimes it is like pulling teeth to get my husband to agree to a weekend getaway especially now that we have a baby. Finances and timing do not always align and so it’s not often we can get away. Montrose is about a five hour drive which is not ideal when you have a baby who doesn’t enjoy sitting in her car seat that long. The benefit of my flight attendant job is free flights so we checked the loads and the flights were wide open going there and back. I had my barre class subbed out on Saturday and it was off to the airport we went for a family adventure. The 45 minute flight was a breeze and after renting a car for $35 for the weekend we were on our way to visit Telluride. We decided to check out the Black Canyons on Sunday and make it an all day affair before our flight home which meant Saturday afternoon was free to explore. I had not been to Telluride or Ouray since the Ice Climbing Festival two years prior so I was excited to return. Many of the businesses were closed for fall break before ski season opens so we had the town to ourselves. This was just fine by me. I love mingling with the locals and having a beer at the neighborhood brewery rather than fighting for a table at the restaurants. We went up to the airport in Telluride and took in the spectacular views of the San Juans which were covered in snow although the ground remained dry. Telluride is in a box canyon which makes it so special because there is only one way in and out of the cowboy town. Driving from the town of Ridgeway into Telluride make sure and keep an eye out for Ralph Lauren’s double RL ranch on the left hand side. The fence marking his property fence stretches 30 miles and marks his 17,000 acre ranch.

view of the san juans from the Telluride airport

part of the double RL ranch
Next stop was Ouray. My first glimpse of Ouray was about 6 years ago as we drove over Red Mountain pass on our way to Durango for a wedding. It’s a blink and you miss it kind of town whose main attraction is the free ice park. Unlike Telluride, there are no skiing mountains around so people mostly stop there on their way over to Durango or take the opportunity to soak in the hot springs there. We decided to eat at a local Mexican restaurant that had the best fish tacos I have ever tasted. Though the town is small it is home to the Ouray brewery as well as a bar called Grumpy Pants that one simply must visit when there. Grumpy Pants can often be seen at the bar himself swinging back and forth on his homemade swing behind the bar and hoisting his stein of home brewed beer around.

The real reason for our weekend getaway was, however, visiting the Black Canyons of Gunnison National Forest. The canyon has two rims you can drive around, north and south and while the north is paved the south is not. We were fortunate that we caught the last weekend where the north rim road would be open to cars as once the heavy snows hit the road is open to cross country skiing only. Normally it is $15 a car but since we were considered to be in winter season there was no fee. The weather was brisk at the top and I suggest no matter what time of year you visit, bringing layers to protect against the cold. We had brought hiking boots and had planned to hike down into the canyon but the south rim, we later discovered, is where most of those trails are. The north side has ten stop off points where you can park and walk 100-1,000 yards down to take in the sites of various parts of the canyon. This turned out to be perfect since we had Charlotte with us as we could still get our walking in without having to worry about the hikes being too long for her. She loved the brisk weather and was squealing with delight at each stop off point. I made Chad hold her in the baby carrier as I was so intimidated with the views I had crazy visions of falling off the side of the cliff with her. Another bonus to being at the canyon this time of year was that there were hardly any people there. We only saw about 6 others all day. This was nice because some of the overlooks are small and you can imagine what a hassle it would be trying to take photos with other people standing in the way. Although I took many photos this is just one of those sites that you must see for yourself in order to take in the beauty of the place. I highly recommend a weekend trip there if you have never been to visit.



At the airport that afternoon I remarked to Chad, “We should do things like this more often.” He was quick to point out that money, prior commitments and the time it takes to travel were the things most preventing us from having a spontaneous getaway every weekend. “I know,” I said, “I mean more family stuff. More family adventures like this.” Chad and I are both very social people who don’t have any family that lives in Colorado so our friends are our family so we often fill our time with friends. This trip reminded me that while time with friends is wonderful in its own right, there’s something to be said for taking a weekend away with your family. The family you chose and created for yourself. We may not be able to be spontaneous and get away all the time, but then again it wouldn’t be so special when we did would it?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The two truths: It will be hard. It will get better

I feel like the next wave of babies is starting. I know so many people who are pregnant right now…some out in the open and some who still haven’t revealed it to the social media world yet, but all whom are gearing up for motherhood. I remember when I was pregnant and I looked at other women who had their babies’ earth side and I would think to myself, “I can’t wait for that day. I can’t wait to hold my baby on the outside.” While I enjoyed the ease of pregnancy and being able to do pretty much whatever I desired, I still couldn’t wait to meet the life growing inside me. Then once my baby was born I would look at other babies and think, “I can’t wait until mine gets bigger like that. I can’t wait until she can sit up on her own or eat solid food.” As much as I loved having a newborn those first three months were a blur of sleepless nights and wishing for the next step. Now I wish time would stop and Charlotte would stay right where she is in her growth: sweet, unable to talk back, an avid napper, one who isn’t mobile and no teeth in sight.

Whenever I talk to my other mom friends now the conversation always turns to, “Why doesn’t anyone tell you these things?!” Although the road to becoming a parent is a well traveled one, it’s not a journey most seem eager to share the conditions of. This morning, while lying in bed nursing Charlotte I started to think back on our journey in the first three months and how hard it was. Hard. That’s a word I use to describe the first three months. While I do not know the exact path my friends who are expecting will follow I can tell you two things: it’s hard and then it gets better. You won’t believe me on either account until you experience it for yourself but that’s the truth.

I’m here to tell you what your other friends might not. You don’t have to believe me now, but come back to this after your baby is born and read this at 3am when you are nursing. Then you’ll know you are not alone.

From the moment you have your baby it will be hard.

after the adrenalin goes away...shit gets real
 Most people that have large amounts of bleeding or major abdominal surgery after withstanding hours of tears, pain and even vomiting are left alone to recover. Not you because you just had a baby. You will barely recover before you’ll be prompted to breastfeed from breasts that you’ve had all your adult life but never had to use in any way shape or form before. Breast feeding will be hard. You may not be able to even do it and that’s OK. Your baby may not latch, it may be tongue tied, your nipples may crack and bleed and your breasts will engorge and you will feel like millions of fire ants are crawling inside your skin. If you want to breast feed then stick with it and fight for it. Know that nurses will come in every two hours and to your humiliation will grab your breasts and show you how to shove a nipple in your babies mouth the right way. You may think you know what you are doing but trust me you have no idea. All those family members and friends you want to come visit you in the hospital and at home after baby? They will see your breasts so get over it. Tell them to get over it. Don’t even worry about that cute “hooter hider” you got from your baby shower because you won’t put it to use. Not yet anyways. There’s too much going on and it’s too much of a process to feed your baby to worry about putting that damn thing on beforehand.

So your body is wrecked, it’s going to hurt to pee for awhile if you had a vaginal birth (don’t even think about your first bowel movement it’s as bad as you might imagine afterwards) and now you have a living being to take care of that comes with no instruction book. You’ll think you know how to swaddle and you’ll fail the first few times. Most of those clothes you got at the baby shower won’t fit so you may have to send family out and buy infant clothes. Baby will sleep just long enough for you to get one or two things done (showering or teeth brushing top the list) and then it will be time to feed again. You will feel like all you do is feed and all anyone else does is hold your baby. This is pretty much the truth. Everyone will say to sleep when your baby sleeps but know this may not be possible for awhile. You will be so busy returning phone calls, seeing visitors or having family or trying to eat that you won’t sleep when the baby sleeps. When you do try to sleep the baby will be awake and you’ll become a zombie after three weeks. I remember distinctly crying a lot in those first few weeks. Crying because I was up at midnight, then two, then four, then six; always feeding and not knowing if I was doing it right. I suggest you buy yourself a nice robe because that’s what you’ll be in for awhile. Get a nursing bra while you are at it to sleep in. No one tells you that as your hormones regulate back to some normalcy that you will sweat while you sleep. You will wake up covered in sweat. Until your milk regulates you’ll wake up covered in milk too from leaky breasts. I was always diligent about using breast pads during the day but at night, after waking every two hours to feed…well sometimes those just didn’t make it back in the bra. My bed was covered in them in the morning. That and the boppy and blankets and diapers. You may want to invest in a king size bed. You will fret whether to have the baby in its own crib or in your bed. Hope you didn’t spend a lot on crib sheets because it’s going to be awhile before baby is in her own room. Most nights Charlotte just slept on my chest with me paralyzed in fear that if I moved she’d roll off or worse wake up. You won’t sleep and it will make you a crazy person. And by crazy person I mean hormonal lunatic who cries at everything, who sometimes looks at their own baby with a mixture of disgust and fear, and who contemplates packing their bags and running away.

And that’s OK.

take advantage of nap time when you can
Everyone who’s had kids before will tell you it gets better. Everyone you meet will ask you if your baby is sleeping through the night. And you will want to kill them all. In your mind you will think it’s never going to get better; that your body will always look and feel horrible and your baby will never sleep. It’s not true but that’s what your zombie brain will tell you.

Then somewhere around 12 weeks, just when it’s time to go back to work, it will be better. You will have found your grove and your new normal and you will settle in. Similar to being in a yoga class and being made to hold a pose for so long that eventually you forget you are holding it and you forget you hate it and your mind travels elsewhere and you start to like it. You will get better at breast feeding and will eventually master the side lying technique so you and baby can both fall back asleep during early morning feedings. Your boobs will stop leaking and you will quit peeing yourself every time you stand upright. If you had a vaginal birth your post partum hemorrhaging will subside and you can work out again without feeling like every jumping jack will kill you. You will build the confidence to leave the house by yourself without worrying about meltdowns. You may even become adventurous enough to fly on an airplane to visit family (to which you might immediately regret your decision but hey you tried right?). No one can tell you when this day may come but it will come and you will start to feel like you can actually handle this mom thing after all.

Then something will happen and you will question yourself once again. Your baby may accidentally almost suffocate from pulling a pillow over its head while you are an arms length away (true story). Or perhaps baby chokes on a piece of frozen fruit you give her or you drop your iphone on her head while nursing and browsing facebook. Your dog may be sweetly lying beside your baby and then get up in such a panic for no reason that it claws your baby’s face with it’s paws (also a true story) leaving you in tears (even though baby escaped without a scratch). Every day you will fail as a parent but you will also learn and grow and become more confident. Failing is a part of what makes you succeed. Some days you will just do what you have to in order to get by and others you will feel like the best parent there ever was.

introducing charlotte to the pacific ocean - one day you will get your body back
No one ever tells you what the journey is going to be like, what the path before you holds because here’s the truth: none of us really know the first thing about traveling it ourselves. But we do the best we can.

If you’re lucky you’ll have a friend like me who can honestly tell you the very worst of it and have faith you’ll get through it just like we all do. Try not to wish for the next thing and just enjoy what is no matter how bad or dark those times may seem. Because one day the fog lifts and you’ll stand there with your 7 month old wondering what the hell happened and how you ended up on the other side of the worst of it.

Your body, your confidence, your life…it will all come back to you but those days with your newborn won’t. So enjoy…even at 3am. 

they change a lot by 7 months

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Thirty Random Acts of Kindness challenge

In a few short days it will be November and what I like to call, “the month of gratitude.” Every year in November I like to pause each day and remember something that I am grateful for. Usually I post these things to social media such as my facebook or more currently instagram. While I know it’s meaningful to say these things out loud and proclaim them to the social media world I thought this year I would try something different. The idea came to me while driving home from the airport from work one night. There are a lot of 30 day challenges floating around – some that involve eating a certain diet, others working out or even abstaining from certain behaviors. Most of these challenges, it seems to me involve improving the self or the ego. After all, what does the world benefit from your bulging biceps or you cutting bread from your diet? Who cares how many times you frequent the gym in 30 days? I wanted to take on a challenge that did not benefit me, but benefited others…anonymously. Instead of saying out loud what I am grateful for or posting to facebook, I have decided I want to pass my blessings on to others. For everything I am grateful for I wanted to help improve someone else's day.

Thirty days of gratitude. Thirty random acts of kindness.

So I have made a list of the 30 random acts of kindness I wanted to perform. They are in no particular order but I have to complete one each day. The beneficiary of my kindness must be random. I also decided I would let my yoga classes and friends via social media know my plans so that it might inspire them as well. Imagine if we all stopped thinking of ourselves for a moment and thought of a way we could help someone else with no applause. It’s part of the idea that people won’t remember your name, what you look like, or what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel. Well I want to make people feel good and I hope others join me in this.

Here’s my list:

  1. Buy the person behind me in line’s coffee
  2. Leave the mailman a nice note
  3. leave a flower on a strangers car
  4. buy someone something from their baby registry at random on amazon
  5. give blood
  6. give a homeless person gloves/hat
  7. feed an expired parking meter
  8. shovel neighbors driveway when it snows
  9. send someone dessert in a restaurant
  10. leave a compliment on a mirror
  11. leave change in a vending machine
  12. leave a quarter in a gumball machine
  13. leave a nice note for the next flight attendant
  14. leave candy for the next flight attendant
  15. leave a $1 in my favorite book at the book store
  16. leave a $1 somewhere random for someone to find
  17. donate a meal for thanksgiving at the grocery store
  18. donate hotel toiletries to a woman’s shelter
  19. send a just because note to someone I haven’t talked to in awhile in my address book
  20. bring a treat for my flight crew
  21. Send a card to someone in the military overseas
  22. let someone go ahead of me in line at the grocery store
  23. give a lottery ticket to a stranger
  24. leave a book/magazine somewhere for someone to read
  25. leave $5 on a pack of diapers at the store
  26. give someone a sincere compliment
  27. leave an inspirational note in a book at the book store
  28. write a nice sidewalk chalk note at the park
  29. fill up the water containers and baggies at the dog park
  30. tip 100%

“Great acts are made up of small deeds” – Lao Tzu

I know I have much to be thankful for each and every day. My health, my family, my friends, my job, my daughter, my life…I could count my blessings forever. I don’t think any of these small acts in and of themselves will change the world but I know they will change someone’s day and make it a little brighter.

Thirty acts of kindness. Thirty days of gratitude. Starting November 1st. It’s not much…but it’s a start.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Assume good intentions. Change the story

Amazing what a difference a year can make. This time last year I wrote this blog about acceptance. I was about four months along in my pregnancy and I was scared. I wasn't sure what my role would be as a mother and how I would fulfill it or what the future would hold. I wasn't sure if I would return to my job as a flight attendant or what the gender of my baby would be or how I would feel once the baby was born. However scared I was almost exactly a year ago I decided to accept whatever the universe had in store for me. Once I came into acceptance my view on my pregnancy changed and I found a sense of peace inside.

As we move into fall, my favorite time of year in Colorado, I find once again I am scaring myself. I've taken on several challenges over the past month which have moved and shaped me in different ways. I climbed the 14er Mt. Princeton with my friends Michelle (it was her first ever) and Stephanie and the weather made what would usually be an easy hike quite a challenge:

we were treated to an amazing sunrise

but instead of clouds burning off they socked us in

we could hardly see one another or the trail on the way down

visibility somewhat returned upon getting to treeline
We were attempting a sunrise hike and ideally would have been on the summit for the morning sun but it was just not meant to be. I became scared as the clouds socked us in, hugging us like a thick blanket and obscuring everything in sight. The rocky trail was covered in a sheet of frost which made slipping inevitable. No one else was on the trail besides us and it was quiet...almost too quiet. We made it back to camp in just under 8 hours. Once we got back to the road the thick blanket of clouds lifted and there I saw along the trail some Aspens that were just starting to change:

Much like last year when I walked among the Aspens in Aspen they were the first physical sign to me of the changes to come in the months ahead.

So in the spirit of changing and moving forward and not being afraid of the story as it unfolds I have been continuing to push myself past my comfort zone. I took Charlotte to visit my sister and brother in-law in Monterey. Flying solo with the baby then renting a car and driving from one city to the next and enjoying the views of the ocean and cherry fields along the way. We went to the aquarium where I viewed my favorite exhibit which happen to be the jellyfish. They are deadly and dangerous but so graceful as they float through the water. Moving with the tides unafraid of where the waters might take them. My brother in-law and I went sea kayaking where I was able to see some of these jellyfish drifting by my boat in person. A piece of plastic was all that separated me from these venomous creatures but it also allowed me to see the sea lions, seals and sea otters as we floated past. Sometimes it's ok to be scared and to take risks when it allows you to see the view from the other side.

at Big Sur

seeing the sea otters floating in the kelp

sea otter

baby love's first time in the ocean

saw these same Sea nettles while kayaking in the bay

Not that I have to go far to find change or to scare myself. Looking no further than literally my own back yard I have found the leaves changing to a brilliant yellow as they fall from the tree and the wind swirls them all around me.

Or I should say all around "us." These days there isn't a lot of times where babylove isn't with me. I have been fortunate enough these past weeks to be with family so I could get out and work out, enjoy happy hour with friends or even drink a glass of wine without being interrupted. As much as I love my baby I also enjoy my "me" time even if that just means going to the grocery store after yoga class or having coffee with a friend.

While Charlotte isn't always with me, she is never far from my mind. To me, it's amazing to think back on how scared I was before she was even born and now that she's here my life is full of different fears and challenges. Sometimes....well I might say most times I bring these fears and challenges upon myself. Life simply isn't as hard as I often make it out to be. I enjoy climbing mountains and testing my limits. I can't help but try to kick up into handstands a million times even if I can only hold it for 2 seconds. I know traveling alone with a baby and driving through an unfamiliar city sounds crazy but I can't help but see for myself. I drive miles into the wilderness to see a tree that I love getting ready to transform and change from vibrant to dormant. Transformation is change and change is a challenge. Yet the trees don't shy away from it year after year and where do I find myself but at their base admiring their changes.

And as they change I change the story. That's what this time of year, this season, this all about.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

5 months and the journey to the top

This little lady is five months old:

I can hardly believe that this time last year I was just coming to terms with accepting my pregnancy and now my little Charlotte is here. It has been five months of learning, changing, growing, laughter and tears. There are days when I question myself as a mom and as I put her to bed find myself asking if I loved her enough that day. I often feel guilty that I cannot be around her 24/7 but then I also feel guilty when I am relieved to get away. I continue to breast feed and I have no idea how long I will continue to do so. This seems to be a popular question along with, "Is she sleeping through the night?" which thanks to Babywise and sleep training I can say she is. I don't know why people think I can predict the future in how long I plan to breast feed because honestly that depends on Charlotte. I can say that while the act of feeding her has gotten easier, keeping up the supply has not. There are times when we have to supplement because I have to fly and I have not saved up enough breast milk to feed her while I'm gone. She is awake more now and therefor eats more and so when I am home my life revolves around feeding Charlotte. Our bond has grown over the past few months and I know now that she recognizes who I am and my voice and she will reach for my face and hair with her hands. There is never a dull moment around my house anymore:
As summer has drawn to a close I have felt myself drawn to the mountains once again and was able to gather a group of girls together to hike a 14er. While I love my time at home with Charlotte I do feel I need to get away and do something for myself here and there. My workouts have suffered the most since she was born due to my flight schedule and not being able to always take time during the day to workout since my gym has no child care. In order to minimize my time away from home I decided we should leave Denver around 8pm on a Saturday night, drive to the trailhead and hike Mt. Antero straight away in order to make sunrise on top of the mountain. Then we would hike down and drive home. The trip reports all said the hike was about 6 miles roundtrip but this was from the start of the top of a 4wd Jeep road. Upon driving a short distance up the road I did not feel comfortable trying to drive further so we stopped and began hiking. This greatly increased our mileage of hiking but fortunately it was dark for the majority of the hike so we could not see the great distance that lay ahead.

One of my favorite parts about hiking is the fact that there are no distractions. There are no cell phones or Ipads, televisions or anything else to distract from nature and conversation. The four of us hiked through the dark, alternating taking turns in the lead and discussing everything from workouts to relationships.Sometimes we said nothing to each other it all and just enjoyed the stars. It rained, the wind blew, there was darkness and cold but we marched on in the night hoping we were following the right path to the summit. Some moms like to get away to the spa to refocus and recenter but to me there's no greater place than the mountains for meditation.

Just as dawn began to break on the horizon we started our ascent to the summit. Mt. Antero is located in the Sawatch range and is not a difficult mountain to climb save for maybe the last 200 feet. There is a jeep road that leads to about 13,000 feet on the standard route and it made for an easy hike in the dark because the route was fairly straight forward. In my opinion this mountain is not an exciting or particularly scenic hike compared to many other 14ers so I wanted to do something special on the top for sunrise. Considering the fact that over the past few months my breasts have seen the light of day more than they have in 32 years I decided a topless summit photo was in order. Luckily the women I chose to hike with shared the same sense of playfulness and adventure as myself so they were game to go topless as well. As much as people may think they know me and who I am I have to say I am not particularly comfortable being naked. I can wear a bathing suit, short shorts and sports bras all day long but there is something about bearing it all that makes me feel too vulnerable. This coupled with the fact that I was probably the last in my school to even have breasts and was teased relentlessly by my friends for my small cup size have led me to not have much pride in my topless self. In light of giving birth and breastfeeding however, I now see my body from a new perspective. After having my best friend and complete strangers seeing me in the most vulnerable position I could be in I now no longer care what anyone thinks. So in honor of breasts, being at 14,269 feet and the wilderness which is the greatest equalizer among us...we bared it all:

It is rare to make the summit of a mountain by sunrise, and even more rare to have the summit to yourself. On this day, my 30th climb, we had both. I was reminded on this day that even the most ordinary mountain becomes extraordinary when you add the right mix of weather, friends and one crazy idea. The air was cold and I'll admit it felt crazy to take our shirts off up there at 6:30am but it also felt right and freeing.

While I missed my baby love and my greatest hiking companion (my husband) it felt good to get out and do something for myself. To walk among the trees, to breath in the fresh mountain air and to talk uninterrupted with people I'm just getting to know better and better. As the sun began to rise in the sky we made our way back down the mountain to our car...passing a few other groups here and there on their way up. The lower we got in elevation the more cars and four wheelers we passed on the trail reminding us that civilization wasn't far away. Yet on that mountain, on that star lit hike towards the sunrise, we were alone and felt a million miles away from everyone but each other. To come back down was like coming off a drug induced high and I felt myself grow more and more tired the closer we got to the car. 31 hours total I was up straight until we reached my house. I have no idea how I did it other than as a new mom I can function off less sleep now.

Fortunately I have an incredibly supportive husband who, even though I was gone most of the day, continued to watch Charlotte so I could nap when we arrived home around 3pm. I have never been so tired from being up so long in my life. However, the fatigue faded and I was thankful for our adventure and for the three women who joined me on the journey. A lot of friends express interest in hiking with me but not many people actually follow through. These three were open to the adventure, the crazy summit pose idea and did not complain through the cold, the rain or the fatigue. I can only hope seeing the sunrise on top of the mountain moved them to tears as much as it moved me. All the hard work at the end of the journey was worth it.

Hiking a mountain to me, is a lot like motherhood these days. It can be exhausting, there are times when you don't think you will make it and there are moments where you want to give up and even cry. Yet when you reach the highest point you prove to yourself why it is you started in the first place. While you know every summit won't be perfect in the end, if you have support along the way than you can find your way through and eventually make your way back home....