September, 2012

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If you’re easily grossed out, do not scroll down

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

No, I’m serious.

I’m warning you.

Stop now, or forever hold your peace.

We caught the mouse.

And the screaming that ensued as Hannah and I disposed of it was the most obnoxious display of sissiness ever known to man.

R.I.P. little buddy.

But THAT’S NOT ALL.

We caught a second mouse.  It looked exactly the same as the death above.

So we set out even more traps.  And – horror of horrors – the traps are MOVING.  The peanut butter is getting STOLEN.  But we haven’t caught any more rodents.

You guys.  They’re getting smarter.  They are evolving, just like “Jurassic Park.”  Life finds a way…

The “right” person

Friday, September 14th, 2012

These days, when asked about my love life (thanks, everyone!), my response has been, “I’m not focusing on finding the right person – I’m just trying to be the right person.”

Good one, eh?

Here’s the only trouble with that statement, romantically focused or not: who gets to define what the “right” person looks like?  You?  My family?  My married friends?  My single friends?  My boss?  My books?  My church?  Or, scariest of all, me?

The past few years of my life have been nothing short of a war zone, and while the dust is finally starting to settle, my ears are still ringing.  I’m looking around at the landscape of a life that I did not plan, and my eyes are having trouble focusing.  I’m still walking a little wounded, trying like hell not to fidget with my bound-up broken bones, hoping to give them a chance to heal.

And all the while, I’m telling myself, “Be the right person.  Be the right person!”

Famously hard on myself, I have defined being the “right” person as achieving, succeeding, pushing myself, doing more, being better, and never, ever sitting still.  At some point, I decided that not reaching my goals makes me a Failure, that changing my course makes me a Quitter, and that not winning makes me a Loser.

So in the midst of the chaos and the noise and the still-settling dust, I spin my wheels, straining and striving and trying SO HARD to be the “right” person – based only on my own harsh definition.

But what if instead of trying to be the right person, the goal was just to be?  Period.  Just to be – with joy and gratitude and the will to breathe each and every day.  Regardless of whether I meet my arbitrary goals.  Despite my inevitable shortcomings.  Whether or not I “achieve” much of anything.

Because, as my mom reminded me, “there is grace to cover it all.”  (Sometimes, my mom sounds like Jesus.)

Maybe when we stop trying to be the “right” person, and allow ourselves to just be, we’re exactly who we are – which is who we should be, anyway.

Longs Peak

Monday, September 10th, 2012

On Saturday, I climbed my 31st 14er, and my toughest one to date, Longs Peak.

Believe me when I tell you that two days later, my entire body hurts.  Not just my quads, y’all – my entire body.  I’m talking about the fronts of my ankles, and the tops of my shoulders, and that fat little hand muscle below the thumb – the one that I imagine would taste like a buffalo wing.  (Consider yourself warned: if we ever find ourselves together in a life or death situation a la “Alive,” I’m going for the buffalo wing.)

The day started just two hours after I went to sleep.  My alarm went off at 12:30am, and I drove to meet the band of strangers that would be my companions for the day.  The only girl in the bunch, I introduced myself, ate a Pop-Tart, and at 2:30am, we were off.

The first 4 hours were in the dark, our path illuminated only by our headlamps and a half moon.  At one point, we turned off our lights to look at the stars – and I can’t remember when I’ve seen stars that bright.  Despite my lack of sleep, I was energetic, and kept up with the men just fine.

As the sky began to grow light, the mountain started to reveal itself.

Longs Peak looming large

And I turned just in time to see the sun come up.

Sunrise

Six miles in, we approached the Keyhole, a huge rock formation that serves as the gateway to the last mile and a half to the summit, and the game changer in terms of terrain.  Up until the Keyhole, it’s just a long hike – but everything from the Keyhole on is a tricky and challenging climb, with an abundance of narrow ledges, loose rock, and near vertical ascensions.  My dad’s advice to me the day before was to “manage my emotions”; he knows me all too well.

The Keyhole - Longs Peak

The Keyhole – Longs Peak

First came the Ledges, a series of vary narrow ridges along a cliff edge.  Hearing that I’ve historically harbored a fear of exposure, our fearless leader Mark gave me the advice to always keep a hand on the rock wall and to never look down.  Now usually, when presented with the command of “don’t look down,” I almost always look down; ever pragmatic, I want to know the grave reality of my circumstances.  But this time, I took Mark’s advice – and I made it across the Ledges with no moments of panic.

Next was the Trough, a 600 vertical foot couloir (a word that my fellow climber Jim taught me – one that makes me feel très French).  The gully is filled with loose rock, which made the wisdom of our climbing helmets all the more obvious.  At the top of the Trough, I was tired – but we weren’t to the summit yet.

Photo by Dan Biro – and that’s my booty

Then came the Narrows, a constricted ledge that took us across another vertical rock face.  Whoever named it “the Narrows” was not messing around; nothing forces you into the present moment like the potential of falling to your death.  I found this video that gives a brief glimpse of the path – and it’s even more dizzying than YouTube makes it look.

Finally, we came to the Homestretch, a polished granite slab at a nearly 90 degree angle.  Hand over foot, it took about 15 minutes to climb 300 feet – and by 9am, we were at the summit.

Homestretch

Photo via iorg.com

We had gorgeous weather, and stayed on the summit for a full hour – longer than I’ve ever hung out on top of a mountain.  I had a brief moment of cell service, and posted this picture for the world to see – bright eyed and proud to have conquered Longs Peak.

(And for those who are keeping score, yes, I realize that this is the exact same picture as the one I took on the summit of Mt. Elbert last summer.  Apparently it’s my signature mountain look.)

Believe it or not, the descent was tougher than the ascent, since we were basically forced to crab walk for a mile and a half back to the Keyhole.  Try climbing off the top of a mountain down steep, sheer rock faces – it’s not for sissies.  Many accidents occur on the way down from a summit, since it’s easy to think that “the hard part is over” when, all the while, your body is that much more tired.

When we made it through the Keyhole and back to the trail, I was exhausted.  It was hard to lift my feet, and my legs felt wobbly.  The miles stretched on and on.  With every twist in the trail, I hoped to see the end – only to be met with more of the same.  It felt like it would last forever.

But 6 hours from the summit, after talking about everything from snowshoeing to dating to “Brian’s Song” (note: if you want to see grown men get emotional, just mention “Brian’s Song”), we emerged from the trees.  We were finished, back at the cars, pulling off boots and peeling off socks.  No matter what you go through, I can tell you this: nothing compares to putting on sandals after a 15-mile excursion.

I was so fortunate to climb with a great group of men through the Colorado Mountain Club – seasoned mountaineers who were encouraging, experienced, and pleasant company – and I am more than proud to check Longs Peak off my list.  It’s a mountain that had given me stress dreams for weeks, as I read first-hand accounts of the challenges (and occasional deaths) along the trail.

But I was encouraged to find that my last few years of mountain climbing have strengthened my courage and confidence; as with so many things in life, experience builds backbone.  I didn’t have any moments of panic, never hyperventilated (something that has happened to me on mountains before), and hand over hand, step by step, focused on one move at a time. This climb forced me to live only in the present moment – which is the only place that life happens, anyway.

Chalk it up to another real life lesson learned in the mountains.

Mousetraps

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

When I was in high school, a traveling magician came to perform at my church.  I can’t remember if he had some evangelical message that tied in with his magic show, or if he was simply a man trying to make a living turning tricks in front of anyone who would watch – but regardless, there he was, right between the American flag and the Christian flag, onstage at First Presbyterian in Montrose, Colorado.

At one point, he requested a volunteer to come up onstage for one of his acts.  Thinking that I might have the chance to get sawed in half, I quickly shot up my hand.  And since I was the pastor’s daughter, yes, OF COURSE I was the chosen one.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to have the chance to pick a card any card, or be the recipient of the dove that he pulled out of a top hat.  The magician presented a mousetrap, locked and loaded, and then demonstrated how its spring-rigged action could snap a pencil in half.  And then he told me to stick my fingers in it.

What.

So there I was, in front of God’s holy people, being admonished to trust a crazy traveling magic man with my extremities.  But I couldn’t back out.  So I stuck my fingers in the trap.  And with a wave of his wand or his scarf or whatever it is that he did, with a resounding thwack, the mousetrap came snapping shut.

I still have no idea how – but it didn’t touch my fingers.  I was standing there, right beside him, terrified that I was going to wind up with nubbin digits – and I still cannot explain how that mousetrap was able to clack shut without catching me.  But in any case, I screamed a scream that if you listen closely, you can still hear echoing from the year 1998.

Suffice it to say that I have been terrified of mousetraps ever since.

Fast forward to last night.  I was at the gym when I got Becca’s text saying that there was a mouse in our laundry room, and would I pick up some traps on my way home?

Sure I would.  And I’d get some black widow spray, too – because you guys, it’s the END TIMES at our house.  We are being overrun by demons.

At home in the kitchen, I carefully read the instructions and baited a mousetrap with peanut butter.  Visions of severed fingers dancing through my mind, I nervously pulled back the spring-loaded wire.  It locked into place.  I smiled, proud that I didn’t need a man or a parent or a magician to do it for me.  Holding my crowning glory of a baited trap, I walked toward the laundry room.

And right there in my hand, it SNAPPED SHUT, just grazing the side of my finger and catapulting the blob of peanut butter onto the kitchen wall.  Once again, I screamed like the end was nigh.

Judging by the current state of pests at our house, it just might be.

Top 5

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Top 5 movies

  • That Thing You Do!
  • Jurassic Park
  • Children of Men
  • While You Were Sleeping
  • Dumb and Dumber

Top 5 albums beginning-to-end

  • Lorraine :: Lori McKenna
  • Living With Ghosts :: Patty Griffin
  • Women & Country :: Jakob Dylan
  • Wide Open Spaces :: Dixie Chicks
  • The Good Things :: Jill Phillips

Top 5 things that make me cry

  • Rascal Flatts songs. Like, an embarrassing amount of them.
  • Kerri Strug sticking the landing
  • YouTube videos of soldiers surprising their families
  • Oprah interviews
  • “The Biggest Loser” – every time

Top 5 current goals

  • Pay off all debt (I am close – look out, Spring 2013)
  • Run a sub-2 hour half-marathon
  • Write a book (even if it might not happen very CURRENTLY)
  • Hike the Colorado Trail (486 miles from Denver to Durango)
  • Not to die climbing Longs Peak this Saturday

Top 5 things I wish I knew more about

  • Black holes
  • Taxes (I mean, I guess)
  • First aid
  • Fashion
  • How to be cool

Top 5 favorite ways to blow $50-100

  • Massage
  • Visit to Anthropologie
  • Mini road trip (2 tanks of gas)
  • Dinner at an extravagant restaurant (starting with the cheese plate, of course)
  • Perfume

Top 5 least favorite ways to blow $50-100

  • Fluoride kit at the dentist
  • Speeding tickets
  • Bras
  • Dog food
  • AAA

Top 5 Kenny Chesney songs

  • Anything But Mine
  • Come Over
  • Better as a Memory
  • Somewhere With You
  • You & Tequila

Top 5 things that Toad does

  • Wags her tail the entire time she eats her breakfast
  • Throws her entire body against the backseat of my car for balance when I start driving
  • Comes running (hopping) when she hears a knife slice through cheese on the counter
  • Jumps into my lap when I make her “special noise” (you wish you knew)
  • Refuses to step on grass unless it’s 100% dry (this one is actually not that awesome)

Top 5 international trips I want to take

  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • Hong Kong

Top 5 reasons I’m excited for this fall

  • Soup
  • Boots
  • Weddings (I have 3 – only 3! – Denver, Austin, Nashville)
  • My “bangs” growing long enough to tuck behind my ear
  • Getting back into running shape (i.e. chasing the ever-elusive runner’s booty) (starting this week)