Monday, September 29, 2014

2014 New Things #15: Backpacking in the Adirondacks

Thanks to Jon & Chris for the great pictures!
When Stacey and Jon invited us to join their Adirondack backpacking trip, we of course accepted. Because when adventure calls, the only answer is yes. It was my first time backpacking, my first time visiting the Adirondacks and my first real camping experience (read: no bathrooms), so I was a little nervous. But I don't even know why. It turns out that hiking is just walking plus climbing on things, so basically a grown up version of playing in the woods. What's not to love? Plus, you really get to know people. I mean, "Anyone who knows Omar knows he didn't kill that woman." (We overheard a female hiker telling her friend this as we passed them on the trail.) And we realized that Stacey and I lived down the street from each other when we were about 3 and 7 years old, respectively. I used to play with her older brother and my parents said she called me Furniture because it was easier for her to pronounce than Jennifer. Too funny!

 Stacey, Jon, Chris, Pete and I left Rochester early Friday morning, stopping at The Mountaineer to rent a bear canister before heading to the trail. (Campers are required to store all food in a bear-proof canister because apparently the bears are particularly hungry at this time of year. Only certain types of canisters are allowed since the smarty pants bears have learned how to break into some of them. I have to admit I'd find it more hilarious than terrifying to encounter a bear on a trail, just hanging out eating some cliff bars and trail mix. Or boiling some water on a tiny camp stove so he can eat his dehydrated food packet dinner.) The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and with highs of almost 80 degrees. We hiked about 4 miles to the campsite with our big packs, set up camp, then hiked up to Indian Head with our daypacks. The views from up there were incredible, especially since it's perfect leaf peeping time (evidently this is what people who are really into watching fall foliage call it.) After hanging out and taking in the magnificent scenery, we went back to camp, ate dinner around the fire and called it a night.

Saturday morning we had breakfast at camp and were back on the trails a little before 8:30. We hiked two of the Adirondack's high peaks, first up to Nippletop, then traversing the ridge to Dial Mountain. I don't know if I have the desire to become a 46er, but at least I can say I've been to the top of the peak with the best name. I loved the hike up to Nippletop. The trails were just really neat and it was all climbing up rocks and tree roots, like some kind of natural jungle gym. The hike back down through Bear's Den and Lake Road and back to camp was nice too. But the climb up was my favorite part. If I ever have my own mountain, I'm going to put a zipline and an ice cream stand on top so after all the effort of climbing up, you're rewarded with ice cream and a zipline back down. Now that's my kind of hiking! All in all, we did about 10 hours of hiking on Saturday. Once we got back to camp, we took some x-stream-ly cold showers in the creek, ate dinner and sat around the campfire talking and laughing until we got too tired.

Sunday, we got up early, ate breakfast, packed up our stuff and hiked the 4 miles back to the cars. We stopped at a cute little vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Lake Placid, which was conveniently located next to a Ben & Jerry's, then headed for home.

I'd definitely go back to the Adirondacks again. I loved exploring the trails, taking in the views from the peaks and getting to spend time with friends. Even the backpacking part wasn't too bad. I didn't feel as dirty as I thought I would and my sleeping pad was semi-comfortable, but I was still excited to take a hot shower and get back to indoor plumbing and a real bed on Sunday night. I don't know that I'd ever want to spend a whole week doing the whole rustic camping thing, but a long weekend was just right. May many more adventures ensue!

Lyric of the moment: "Celebrate we will, because life is short but sweet for certain. We're climbing two by two to be sure these days continue..."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Very best days

I am all for grand adventures and all the epicness all the time, but I've had some of my very best days right here. Take Saturday, for example. I snuck in 18 miles on the Mendon 50K course with some of my favorite trail dudes and dudettes before heading to the Toss For Dystonia corn hole tournament (where I learned I am far better at picking a corn hole partner and running around, goofing off, playing catch with tiny footballs than I am at the tossing of bean bags into holes), then Pete and I bought more supplies for our camping trip this coming weekend (Thanks to Stacey for the invitation to my first real camping/backpacking/pooping in the woods adventure), and spent the night talking and watching Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

I think something strange is afoot at Corn Hill. Because when I went to Fit1 on Monday night, there was new graffiti under the bridge that said "Be excellent to each other. And party on dudes -Abraham Lincoln." Signs of awesomeness are everywhere, my friends. At Fit1 we partied on to 50 squats, 47 dorothies, 85 pushups, 130 abdominals/obliques, who-took-the-ice-cream shoulder shrugs and 1.3 miles of movement (according to Gustavo). It doesn't sound like something I could or did do. It is quite possible that I died somewhere in the middle of all that. There are times that I would almost prefer death to another round of squat thrust-bunny hops, but there is nothing quite like the feeling of challenging myself to take on things I think I cannot do. It feels like being run over by a truck, but in a good way. Like by an ice cream truck.   

And then at work, this happened:
Bill (plotting against the wasps' nest he found on the side of his house near the roof): "I'll get a long stick with some rags and oil, light the rags on fire and put it on the nest."
Me: "You'll burn your house down!"
Bill: "I thought about that. But then the firemen would come!" (He has been trying to set me up with a fireman for the past 10 years. Because he says they're "manly acting," whatever that means.)
Officially, my job involves helping other people find jobs, but unofficially it's to keep Bill from setting things on fire. Like the toaster oven. And the office.

If you had asked my kid self what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said astronaut or pirate. But all this, this is what I really want to be. A runner of trails, a celebrator of friendiversaries,  a consummate adventurer, a contender for weirdest job ever.

I don't know much, but I know this: the point, at least to me, is to live everything and love everyone. To share the pain and the laughter. To let people go when they leave. And welcome them with open arms when they come back. To accept challenges with courage and accept successes with humility. To make every day a very best day.

Lyric of the moment: "Life is a tale, it begins and it ends. And forever's a word that we can't understand. Well I know that my life's better when we're together. So why can't our story just go on forever..."

Thursday, September 18, 2014

On trust. And my dog, the horror movie extra

Mozzie's nails still bleed on occasion, and this may keep happening until they grow out more. At least I now have an easy Halloween costume for him: horror movie extra. Before I leave for work, I often joke with him about trying not to make the house look like a crime scene while I'm gone. Sometimes I come home and he has streaks of blood on his face or across his side because he scratched himself with one of the bleeding nails. (I severely underestimated how difficult it would be to keep a white dog clean). The first time this happened, I was all "Awww, you've got blood on your face..." which quickly morphed into me singing Queen's We Will Rock You to him while I cleaned him up.

After the pet store employee assured me that it wouldn't cause any pain, I bought Kwik Stop Styptic powder, which is supposed to stop the bleeding. The next time Mozzie's nails started to bleed, I put the powder on them. He didn't whine or run away or do anything to try and avoid it. I guess he trusts that I'm trying to help him. (Or maybe he assumes I'm just up to my weirdo human stuff again and he lets it slide since I know how to break into the cheese safe.)

I'm not sure that I could muster that much implicit trust in anyone. If someone came up to me with a strange substance and started trying to apply it to my body parts, I'd question the hell out of it. Even if I knew and trusted that this person wouldn't hurt me, I would still hesitate until I had more information. But maybe by then it would be too late. In the movie version, I'd be the idiot who dies from the poison while asking question after question about the antidote.

Maybe it's merely my innate inquisitiveness. But maybe I need to work on letting go and trusting more. A little implicit trust could go a long way.

Lyric of the moment: "You want to see the other side, what's going on behind the eyes. Still it seems if you can't trust, you can't be trusted..."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Magical candy wonderland

I think sometimes I am like a kid jumping up and down outside a candy store, waiting for it to open, worried that they're all sold out of peanut butter cups. I'm so impatient to get inside and see if I get what I think I want. I forget that it's a freaking candy store and 99% of everything inside is delicious (and 1% is black licorice, which is second only to mushrooms in its complete and total terribleness). And that's life, the ultimate candy store, 99% awesomeness and only 1% gross and yucky. But it's so hard to be patient as the future unfolds, knowing that the only certainty is uncertainty. It's so hard not to focus on the stupid black licorice - the minor annoyances, the disappointments, the hurts - while remaining oblivious to the rest of the magical candy wonderland that surrounds me.

I don't want to worry about things that haven't happened yet, that may never happen. But I do. There are days when I feel like I'm not any of the things I want to be. But I have to get over that. I have to keep trying. Because I don't want to die without having fully lived, without having fully experienced the weirdness and wonderfulness of being alive, without having eaten all the candy.

Probably this is bad advice, but it's all I've come up with so far. Whenever I'm afraid of something - let's just say, to pick two totally random examples, my fears are that I won't be able to run 31 miles and that I won't ever get a life partner - I think, well, would that really be the worst thing that could happen? No, actually the absolute worst thing ever would be that I am stricken with some terrible disease that makes everything I eat taste like mushrooms. Forever. Tragedy of tragedies! The key is that I have to pick something that is weird and ridiculous enough to make me laugh. Because laughter is a pretty good cure for fear.

Lyric of the moment: "I miss the taste of the sweet life. I miss the conversation. I’m searching for a song tonight. I’m changing all of the stations..."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Now what?

The weird thing about getting what you want is that the getting turns out to be the easy part. It's accepting it that's hard. Because to accept this new reality in which you find yourself, a place that quite frankly you always thought was highly improbable, if not impossible, you have to accept that your fundamental assumptions about yourself are not the truths you held them to be. You have to let go of who you thought you were and become the explosion of awesomeness you are.

Don't ask me how to do this. I have boatloads of faulty assumptions that I can't shake. I'm getting rather tired of dragging them around but I haven't figured out what else to do with them. Put them in a box and mail them to a faraway place? Throw them in the fire pit and roast marshmallows over them? Run a 50K and hope they get lost in the woods?

But maybe I am getting close to ditching them, because The Doubts and The Worries and The Ridiculous Irrational Nonsense are out in full-force, like they know they're about to be evicted and they're mounting a counter-attack. Growth is uncomfortable. It's tempting to be lured back into old familiar thought patterns. But they are terrible navigators. They're not going to get me where I want to go. They're not going to help me rise to these new occasions in which I find myself.

So you get what you want and then you have to figure out how to live it. I wanted to run a lot of miles and feel good doing it. I wanted to learn how to enjoy races, which, as it turns out, is very easy to do when I get to run with someone. But then I thought, I can't always depend on someone else being around so I need to run a long race by myself again to prove that I can still do it. Because what if I don't get a partner for the ultimate ultramarathon that is life? I get so restless. I want to go everywhere and try all the things and learn everything about everyone. But I get that it's not the life for everyone. And it's hard to hold on to someone who is always moving, thinking too much, asking 3 new questions while you're still answering the first one.

So I'm here. Things are changing. I am changing. Now what? I don't know. I think, as hard as it is for me sometimes, I just have to relax. Take it as it comes, take it all in and live the shit out of it. Amazing people are everywhere. You can find a lot of them in the woods. And I think I just have to go forth with the attitude that I'm imperfect, at times ridiculous, I'm still figuring things out. But I've got laughs and hugs. And let's all be explosions of awesomeness together.

Lyric of the moment: "Sometimes we walk, sometimes we run away. But I know, no matter how fast we are running, somehow we keep, somehow we keep up with each other..."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I was sitting in traffic in the left lane on the exit ramp and I could tell it was going to take at least a few more light changes before I got anywhere close to being able to turn left and go home. Everyone else was just waiting in line, but I noticed that the right lane was almost empty so I moved over into the right lane, turned right on red at the light, turned around in the gas station parking lot and headed back the way I wanted to go. All the other cars were still sitting there in the left lane, going nowhere fast. Maybe I should have been patient and waited in line forever like everyone else. But I can't simply follow along with something just because everyone else is doing it or because that's the way it's always been done. I have to question it. I want to know why. I want to know what the other options are.

And maybe that's what's wrong with me. Sometimes people don't like it when you ask a lot of questions. They want to know why you can't just trust them and do what they say. And it's not that I don't trust them, it's just that I want explanations and information and answers. And then sometimes I want to throw them all out the window and do something totally different instead. Because why not? We're alive and we can do anything.

I could be content to sit in traffic. I'd find some good songs on the radio, maybe have a little dance party in the car, maybe just daydream a little, or press the scan button and listen to 15 second snippets of each different station. (You'd be surprised how hilarious that can be. The best thing I ever heard while doing that was a fragment of church-y radio where some preacher guy said "If you want closure in your relationship, close your legs." Imagine hearing that sandwiched in between parts of Rihanna and Brittney Spears songs. The best, right?). But I could also be content to consider alternative routes and get home a little quicker and have more time for puppy cuddles.

Is it possible to be in the moment where you are and simultaneously be open to all the other possibilities that await you? I want to figure out how to do that.

Lyric of the moment: "Celebrate, don't be late. Finish what's on your plate. Be the change you wanna see. Seek the truth, set it free. And I wanna tell you, this is a reminder. Why does time move so fast? Precious things never last. Figure out, don't forget. Only love, no regrets."

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The end of bad runs

For some reason that is still unknown to me, Saturday morning I decided to go run the Ellison-Tryon loops with a group that is much faster than I am. They were probably wondering why I was there. That's what I was thinking anyway. I really had no business trying to keep up with them. But I wanted to see how everything was connected, and this was a way to do that.

It was a beautiful morning, hot and humid but with enough rain to wash away the sweat. There were a lot of climbs. I think we must have hit every hill in Tryon. I didn't even know the park was that big. It was pretty awesome. We were only about 3 miles in when I started to feel tired. I haven't been sleeping well lately and I could feel it taking its toll. But I figured if I couldn't keep up with the group, I'd just form a little trail party of one in the back. Some days certainly feel better than others but there are no bad runs for me anymore. Any day I'm out there exploring the world on my own two feet is a good day. I'm not fast. And I'm still getting my trail legs, as it were. But I just keep going. I can endure whatever I have to in order to get where I want to go. (That is not always a good thing. I am still learning what things are worth enduring and when it's better to cut my losses and move on.)

Either the rest of the group slowed down or I got my second wind or both, but I started to feel better. Sometimes running comes in waves. So if I start to feel bad, I relax and move on without judgment. I trust that if I keep going, at some point I will start to feel good again. Or at least get to the part where the run is over and we go to the bakery for breakfast.

It took me 18 years of running to get to this point. And I'm not exactly sure how it even happened. I wish that I could be this accepting and trusting in the rest of my life, to embrace and enjoy each day, however I feel and whatever is happening. That may take forever. Still, it's nice to have at least one judgment free space in my life, where I can just be whatever I am that day and be content with that.

Lyric of the moment: "All of your flaws and all of my flaws, when they have been exhumed, we'll see that we need them to be who we are. Without them we'd be doomed..."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Adventures in Adulting

Some days I don't know if I'm cut out for this whole being an adult thing. I mean, I guess I've got some shit nailed down around here. I have the job and the house and the retirement accounts. But when it comes to meal preparation, if it takes more effort than spreading nut butter on bread or pouring cereal into a bowl or pushing a button on the blender, I simply won't do it. And yesterday, I came home and Mozzie was limping, so I looked at his paws and saw that his nails were bleeding. (The vet had cut them way back last week. She sedated him first he wouldn't feel any pain, but he was still a little traumatized by the whole ordeal. She later told me that blood was spurting across the room when she cut the nails. And just like that I'm grateful to have a job where everybody's blood stays on the inside.)

So Mozzie was getting blood all over himself and the carpet (because my whole downstairs has hardwood flooring and the couch is leather and easy to clean, but of course the dog is upstairs on the one spot of carpeted flooring he has access to when I'm not home) and the vet's office was already closed by this point. I tried to wrap his paw in gauze and tape but it wouldn't stay in place. Then I asked Mr. Internet how to stop the bleeding and he suggested dipping the paw in cornstarch or a cornstarch/baking soda mixture. I didn't have any cornstarch. To be honest, I don't even know what cornstarch is. But I had baking soda, so I tried that. It didn't work. By this point Mozzie was looking at me like Human, what the fuck? And here's where the real adults would come up with some ingenious solution and make everything better. Me? I put a sock on his bleeding paw and we went to sleep. When I took Mozzie out to do his business in the morning, the lady across the street and her son were on their porch waiting for the school bus, probably wondering why their weirdo neighbor was walking a dog that was wearing one rainbow colored sock. Or not. Maybe they assumed he is in some kind of canine pride gang, I don't know. I called the Vet as soon as the office opened and they told me to bring him in. Of course, Mozzie's paw was no longer bleeding by that point and, remembering what happened the last time I brought him to the Vet, he was hell bent on not going back in there again. So he went all dead weight on me in the parking lot, which is what he does when he doesn't want to go somewhere. Coaxing didn't work, so I picked him up and carried him inside. (Having a 68lb dog is the most adorable form of strength training.) The Vet gave us antibiotics to make sure his nails don't get infected and then we went home. I tried to explain to Mozzie that I'm trying to help him, not torture him, but I don't think he was convinced. I am, after all, the mean human who doesn't let him eat old chicken wings he finds on the sidewalk. And he has seen that my approach to adulthood is pretty much try a bunch of stuff and if all else fails, put a sock on it and go to bed.

Lyric of the moment: "When I grow up, I'll be stable. When I grow up, I'll turn the tables..."