Get Mad About It

Just get mad.

That’s what I tell myself when I feel like I can’t go on. Can’t take the next vertical step, can’t row another single stroke to move my kayak, can’t push one more pedal to keep my bicycle upright. And it works. I’m not proud of the amount of cussing that went into the last 1/2 mile of my first backpacking trip. It was solo, so nobody got injured from my verbal tirade except maybe my immortal soul.

When my hubby or kids make me mad, my house is cleaned in a snap.

Mad for me, is a motivator.

And yes, I use the term “mad” loosely. It can mean angry, crazy, tightly wound, or deeply passionate in my world. It’s a multi-use word. Like y’all.

And my blog. That’s why it’s called Diary of a Mad Baby Boomer. Not a happy, sleepy, bashful, dopey, or terrified Baby Boomer (Terrified was the 8th dwarf I think).

Mad means no mercy for myself.

I have mercy for all other things, in fact if you could have witnessed me catching a salamander in our shower just now, you would be laughing madly (see how I used mad  there instead of hysterically, and it works right?). I don’t know why, but lizards are particularly nerve-wracking for me.  Maybe I think it rather unfair of God to put feet on a snake. But…I did battle with that little bastard to get in a cup, and he did not go quietly (why so many times underneath the cup?).

Now he is happily residing in the garden. Mercy.

Besides, how many times could that poor thing take a shower with my hubby and have it not be cruel and unusual punishment?

But this is not a lizard post.

My greatest endeavors have been birthed after getting deeply mad about something. Like my trip up the west coast solo. It was born in madness, but ended in bliss.

About 7 months ago I got very mad. So I booked a solo action adventure in New Zealand. Right up there at the top of my bucket list. I was really, really mad.

Since then every hike, every kayak endeavor, every bicycle ride, every single circuit training exercise has been leading up to this trip. Don’t be too impressed about the aforementioned, they’re like little old lady versions of the real thing I’m sure.

Nevertheless, I have worked HARD! In fact, in recent weeks I broke through to almost double the weights in my circuit training.

And now, this trip is only a couple of weeks away. So what would I have to be mad about you say?

My body has been working against me every step of the way. It doesn’t mean to, it just gets confused on what it’s supposed to be attacking, so it attacks itself. Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (with autonomic involvement) is a little bitch. The Lupus link.

But this is not new you say. You’ve been on chemo meds for 10 years. Why get mad now?

Because I have Pneumonia! Arghhhhh. Some little snotty nosed, sneezing, coughing kid kept running an orbit around me at the grocery store and I knew instantaneously that this was not going to end well.

Not his fault. He’s just a kid. I just have a compromised immune system. And it’s just that time of year. A toxic recipe for an immune system that is already working double time to repair nightly from that circuit weight increase.

I’m slowly getting better, but my body is not my friend. And as much as I would like to jump right back into where I was, I run the risk of becoming truly debilitated as a result.

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I know this from experience. It takes me 6 months or more to recover from Bursitis when I decide to push my joints farther than they are willing to go.

So here I lay, 10 days in bed and counting. Losing muscle mass at a faster rate than I made it, and in terrible, inexplicable pain (ah, the joys of auto-immune disease).

So it has left me no choice. I am just going to have to get mad. Real mad.

 

And I will make it to my destination, both mentally and physically as a result of much prayer and even more madness.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

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That Time I Got Hit by the Crazy Train

Dear Diary,

I broke a bone yesterday. It’s ok though, the bone is a small one. I know what caused it too, I got hit by a train.

Even though I got hit by the Crazy Train 9 months ago…the physical manifestations of a hit that hard take a long time to show themselves.

Remember when I wrote about disembarking the Crazy Train back in October? No? You can read it here…Disembarking the Crazy Train.

I was woefully ignorant on how far the crazy engineer (my Narcissistic Mother) would go to make me pay for that.

Stupid me…acting all strong and thinking by disembarking the Crazy Train I could actually get away from it. Oh no…that’s not how the crazy train works. By disembarking I actually bumped the Crazy up to a whole new level. I should have seen it coming, but I got hit from behind.

After a lifetime of crazy, what could possibly have affected me so deeply that it has taken me 9 months to actually write about it? That’s easy. She hit me in the place where I am most vulnerable. By inviting all of the people I love the most to ride her Crazy Train. The people I hold dearest. Who are those people you ask?

My children and my deceased sister’s children (also my children I like to think).

She wrote one of her poison letters to me and sent copies to all of them. The most poisonous of all. She has outdone herself.

By the grace of God, I was out traveling when my copy came in the mail. My daughter picked up the mail, opened my copy and read it. Evidently it was so evil that she threw it away (or so she said), and never intended to let me know of it’s existence. She intended to try and protect me from my own Mother.

It worked for a few weeks evidently, but she felt guilty deceiving me and finally broke down and told me about it. My daughter said the letter was so bad that she was hoping none of it was true. She went on to say that we could  pretend it never existed, but there were copies sent to other family members.

With just those few words I was pushed, and started freefalling, into a deep crevasse. Like anyone who is falling, I tried desperately to self arrest the descent. Clawing at the sides of the deepest and darkest places in my mind to keep some sight of where the light might be so I could find my way back out.

I started with damage control. I called my niece to ask if she had received a copy of the letter. I could tell by the pity in her voice that she had. Here’s how the rest of the conversation went.

Niece – “Auntie did you read it?”

Me – “No, Daughter (not her real name ha!) intercepted it and threw it away.”

Niece – “Good for Daughter, nobody should have to read something like that.”

What? I thought I knew what my Narcissistic Mother was capable of, but how bad did it have to be that NOBODY should have to read it?

I assured her that none of it was true…but this rang hollow with both my niece and I since I hadn’t actually read it.

With that I was yet again sent spiraling down the rabbit hole even further.

I called my son. “Yes Mom, I got it.” I tried to downplay it with “well you know how Nana is.”

“Yes he said, I know how she is. I called her and she told me that she never wanted to see or hear from you again after how badly you abused her when you took her on vacation with you last June.”

WTF?

Trying to self arrest again I said, “You mean when I tried to take her to one of her favorite places in the world and make it perfect for her because she may never make it there again? That time?”

My son replied, “Yes, but Nana has a much different story Mom. She said you abused her, are evil, and you will bring us down with you into hell if we go around you. Don’t worry Mom, we know that can’t be true.”

Falling…still falling.

Before I bid him goodbye I tell my son, “Please don’t tell me anymore of what Nana said. Not if you love me and want me to stay on this Earth.” But he continued on anyway…”she said to tell you never to contact her again, and when she dies she doesn’t want you at her funeral.” I think he thought by telling me this he would be igniting a fire in me to fight back. But that’s not how this dysfunctional relationship ever plays out. I may be mad, but I know better than to get into the ring with a narcissist. They fight dirty.

I told my son I had to go and hung up the phone.

Injustice has always been something I can’t endure. And now…I stand accused and convicted of a crime I not only didn’t, but wouldn’t commit. Evidently there was much more slander in the poisoned letter, but who cares what it said. Just this little taste was so toxic I was rendered paralyzed. She played the “victimized little old blind lady” card.

So here I am. In a deep hole. So dark that I have no  idea which way is up. I am 5 years old again and so full of self loathing that I am quite sure that not even Jesus could love me. So enraged that if I have to share heaven with her, I don’t want to go.

Depression has always been an ugly word to me. I know it’s real, I have the suicides of my Daddy and little sister to remind me. But I hate the word because my dear Mother used it as a crutch to make everyone wait on her. “I’m too depressed to get up.” was her mantra, thereby (as the oldest) creating a overdeveloped sense of being responsible for EVERYTHING and EVERYONE around me. I loathe the word.

But a perfect storm was already set into motion and depression was bearing down on me. Just a couple of minor things happening at the same time as my Mother’s newest betrayal and I was down for the count. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t even get out of bed for a couple of days.

I normally am a master of disguise. I can fool even the most intuitive of audiences. So I feigned illness (well I feigned physical illness anyway), which is another of my taboos, while I desperately clawed at the sides of my dark prison to find a way out. The more I struggled, the deeper it seemed to get. Like a psychotic quicksand.

When I finally was able to get up and put on my cloak of normalcy, I was out of step with the world. Standing in line at a store, I looked around me and wondered if they could tell I was an illusion? Would they notice the real me was being held in a prison of pain with no hope of being helped back out?

That’s the conundrum of depression. When you need to be saved from yourself, you cannot ask for it. Depression steals hope. It steals even the idea that you might be worth saving. I didn’t even bother talking to God because I was sure he could not hear me from this place.

The more I told myself that I didn’t care, the more my auto-immune disorder was fueled into a full blown flare that even now is not quieted.

So the months passed in this suspended state of desperation. Going through the motions of daily routines so that the dark musings in my mind could not be detected. How often did I wish for death to deliver me? Every. Single. Day.

But as I clawed desperately at my prison walls, I remembered a familiarity of this place. I had been here before. Many times. In the past, when I finally made it out of this dark place, I would block out the memory that I was ever there. And now it is a slow realization that this is the place my Narcissistic Mother and Abusive Step-Father made me call home when I was growing up.

So I stopped clawing. I sat quietly and waited for redemption, if there was to even be any I couldn’t be sure. My mother had pulled the rug out from under me and I was left with all the dirt I had swept under it. So fresh I could still taste the blood in my mouth from the beatings, so real I could feel the terror as I heard my step-father’s car door close when he came home from work. And so alone.

But I kept still in my dark place. I knew that nobody would come for me. I was trapped deep in my mind. So deep, I couldn’t even find myself. I dared not look in a mirror. I would be looking at a ghost.

stock-photo-a-woman-covers-her-face-reflected-in-a-broken-mirror-or-the-shattered-life-concept-141673471

And then I saw it, a tiny crack of light. Through the tiny crack of light, I heard a voice. A familiar one say, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Oh my gosh. I remembered how I got out so many times before now. I remembered that it wasn’t me that found my way of my own private hell, it was my faith. I remembered that nobody can be so far gone that they can’t be found.

Even though I thought I could never write in my Diary again (because remember I have to be honest), I remembered that I am already a MAD baby boomer …so I have set the bar low. I can’t really let you down then, can I Diary?

My daughter asked me to find something in her room for her recently (she is living somewhere else but hasn’t actually moved out of her room yet), when I ran across the letter from my Mother she said had been trashed.

On the back of the envelope it said, “I know you are prone to throwing things away, but you really need to read this.”

No…I don’t Mom. I really don’t. You are done here.

I promptly trashed it.

I am still deeply angry at my Momster for running me over with her Crazy Train. I am still paying for it through my dis-ease. My dark auto-immune passenger is not easily put back to sleep. But I remembered that the best medicine is also the sweetest revenge.

HAPPINESS.

So I do what I always do when faced with a long climb to get back to the top of the  happiness scale. I turn to my bucket list and book a trip. I can happily announce I have six months to get back into physical shape and be ready for hiking, biking, and kayaking NEW ZEALAND!

As for all of the kids? Nothing’s changed. Turns out that the letter really says more about her than it does about me. And the broken bone? It will heal. They always do.

Yay! I’m so excited and HAPPY! Did you hear that Mom?

I win.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello My Name is Chris and I Am…

Dear Diary,

Hello, my name is Chris and I am an alcoholic. That’s what I would say in front of a crowd of like folk if I were an alcoholic.

But I’m not.

In fact, I don’t even drink (except about twice a year to remind myself of why I don’t). I generally make such a huge fool of myself when I drink that the regrets linger far too long to make it worthwhile. But that’s a post for another day.

What I am is a craftoholic. That’s right, I have an addiction to crafting.

When I realized that my nest was empty (it wasn’t immediately apparent since all of my daughter’s non-essential stuff is still in her bedroom), I redecorated the upstairs bonus room that had been used previously as a game, slumber party, homework, and all around teenage symposium area…into my much anticipated craft room.

Having my own craft room has long been on my bucket list, but I have always had a craft area. A craftaholic has to have an area that is designated entirely to the pursuit of their addiction right? Like an alcoholic to a bar?

I’m not sure where it began. I suppose somewhere in elementary school when I was allowed to use scissors, paper, glue, and glitter with abandon. There was some deep satiation that came with creating something tangible from a vision that only before existed in my brain.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a great talent like a true artist. There are some genres of art I don’t even attempt. A great painting in my head turns into something a four year old would create whenever I have attempted it in the past. Trust me on this. I think I even messed up a paint by numbers project when I was old enough not to.

Painting, clay molding, woodworking…all of these have been attempted and after failing beyond redemption, set aside for less painful pursuits.

Writing has always been and always will be my first love. My crowning achievement is the memoir I have written. It took me 15 years to write it, and I am most proud of it. The only problem with poring heart and soul into my writing is…the end product makes me feel so exposed. So vulnerable. So breakable.

Consequently, my beloved memoir sits in our home office (also known as the “place of rare productivity”) and I pull it out when I want to take myself seriously as a writer. Which is not very often. Obviously.

So in order to appease the ever present compulsion to create, I let my right brain run free on less significant ground. Which is now in my craft room.

My craft room. The place where every little supply of so many different areas of crafting cohabitate like cherished members of an extended family. Where I have accumulated so many items (justified by being purchased on sale or clearance which is irrefutable evidence of it’s value) that if it were not for very strict guidelines of organization, might be condemned as hoarding.

Luckily, I produce just enough objet d’art to avoid the inevitable intervention that is required by most to quit their addiction.

It is a seemingly random process of when, how, and what I create when viewed from outside of my overly chatty right brain. Only I possess the very complicated key to the hidden birth place of an end product.

Confused? Let me explain.

When I was walking in the riverbed by my house as training for the Next Big Thing, I came across huge forests of bamboo. My left brain registered this as “free material” in a foot note of information, while my right brain took it as a sign from God that I must harvest some and learn how to make bamboo chimes. The end product was some  lovely bamboo chimes AFTER learning how to harvest, dry, cut, and assemble bamboo to make a “free” product that hangs outside on my patio.

Never mind the cost of building materials (bamboo saw, several different kinds of jute, fishing line, metal hanging rings, sand paper, several different colors of wood stain, etc.) of said bamboo chimes through trial and error.

Materials that now reside among all of my other supplies in…you guessed it…my craft room.

My latest craft obsession project was born out of a very sensible left brained idea to use some of the supplies I’ve had on hand for a long time to make Christmas wreaths to sell at a friends craft fair, thereby recouping my investment and hopefully (dare I?) making a surplus of funds to put toward future bucket list endeavors. Sounds like a pretty intelligent plan doesn’t it?

Whoa, not so fast.

After confirming the date and time of the craft fair, my usually fancy-free right brain went into a place of extreme insecurity. Instead of going to it’s usual place of creative joy, my right brain went to a place of overachievement, which I strongly suspect is where my left and right brains overlap.

Sooooooooooo, bottom line is that I have spent a ridiculous amount of money to use those “supplies I already had on hand”. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time second guessing any wreath making skills I may or may not possess in pleasing my imaginary customer.

Hence why I have been absent in updating you my dearest.

As proof of my wanton crafting binge…here is a sampling of what I have tangibly created from the tip of the iceberg of ideas in my mind. Especially since once untethered, my imagination is a very difficult thing to get back under control. It’s not easy being me.

Wish

gingerbread man

Christmas words

This one has mini lights…kind of hard to see…

cupcake santa

whimsy

peppermint dream 2

And so many more….

Do you think anyone will want them?

Just humor me dearest diary. I’ve got too much vested now for you to be objective.

This one I made just to see if I could with the intention of discarding it, but it took so much time to make I hung it up warts and all.

book pages

In my craft room.

Because my name is Chris and I am a craftoholic.

Until next time…

The Next, Next Big Thing

Dear Diary,

I seem to be sensing a pattern that some of my poorest decisions are made on the spur of the moment. Without THINKING them through. This last one was SO poor, it has cost me my next big thing.

What could have possibly been so bad that it would cost me so much? What could be so bad that it could not have been easily fixed for something so important?

Easy. Blisters.

I had gone to the city of Huntington Beach to enjoy my great nephew’s first birthday party, and to help my niece get ready for it. I finished early so decided to head down to the beach and do some training for The Lost Coast trek, which was supposed to happen at the end of August.

That in itself was not the poor decision. The poor decision was that I wore flimsy little fashionable flip flops to walk 10 miles. The rest is history.

The half-dollar sized blisters on the balls of both of my feet have been a serious bear to deal with. They formed under the hard part of my skin and have taken forever to heal. I won’t add a photo, I wouldn’t want to see it.

Whether it be God saving me from something worse that may have happened on the trek, or just an unfortunate series of events (as Lemony Snicket would say), the window for completing the Lost Coast solo has closed for this summer. That’s the bad news.

But here’s the good news…the Next, Next Big Thing is upon me! And for this one my hubby is going (’cause it’s on his bucket list). Next week we will be heading out to the Havasupai Indian Reservation (in the Grand Canyon) to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Havasupai means “people of the blue-green water”, and you can certainly see why…(none of these photos are my own but I will have some soon!). Havasu_FallsThe calcium carbonate in the water is what gives it such an unusual color, and is ultimately why it is one of the most unique places to visit in the world.

The logistics of getting there is not easy.  I had to start way back in February to try and get a permit. It takes a bit of patience, since the Native Americans are inundated with calls (they open up the new year of reservations in February) and when they are done answering the phones for they day…they are done. So after 4 days of calling I finally got through and the only days they still had open were for September, which worked fine for me.

Permit number….check.

Being from LA though, it has been hard not to be able to go somewhere electronic (as in online) to reassure myself that my reservation number is good to go. This method of reserving doesn’t exist. The Havasupai do everything the old fashioned way. Which means I have to squelch my urges to reconfirm once a month (no I’m not obsessive compulsive, but I hang out in that neighborhood).

I am forced to admit here that yes, I have called to check (because once the permits are all gone, answering the phone becomes a bit more predictable) and they patiently laugh and tell me, “no we don’t want to check your number, the fact that you have one means your reservations are good.

Cool.

So next weekend we will be heading out to the old Route 66 out of Kingman Arizona, then a 2 hour ride down a dirt road, then park and hike down the 10 mile trail to the village of Supai, then another 2 miles along Havasu Creek to the campground where we will be making our home for a week. Supai is the only village left in the entire USA that still gets their mail by horseback. The tribe turned down the US governments offer to build a road down the canyon walls to the village. Consequently this little dot on a map remains remote. Very remote.

And all of the work will have been worth it to enjoy the five very different waterfalls. No matter how hard they may be to get to.

10981544_10203661697243340_6533061748091159209_nYou know me by now dearest, and will have known how much research I have already done to prepare for any known challenges.

Except one.

After having read blog after blog about this place I am resigned to the necessity of steeling myself for the inevitability of what we in LA would call animal abuse. The long steep trek in and out of the canyon is the only way to get supplies in and out of the area (including trash) so the horses who perform these jobs are driven hard. There are photos of sores from saddles oozing blood. Eeeeeeek!

Several of the blogs mention a horse being pushed off of the canyon edge by it’s owner in a fit of temper, and every tourist for months had to walk by it’s rotting carcass. Oh God help me, this is going to be tough. I’m such a softy for animals. There are also dog packs that roam the reservation freely (and I fully intend to take dog biscuits with me because they can be quite thin) and are not shown the affection we shower our dogs with (eeeeeeeek again!).

But I also reverently respect the ways of other peoples. So I will suck it up and try not to let anything I notice ruin my trip.

Nuff said on that. Let’s get back to the good stuff….

Mooney Falls

So with permit number in hand (geeez it’s hard not to be able to print something out) and pack on back…we will be heading out to our next destination off the beaten path.

Oh and while you’re at it…can you say a prayer for no rain? The canyon is narrow and if it rains hard or for any length of time, flash flooding is not only possible, but probable. Plus our waterfalls will look like this…

havasu_flood

So no rain dancing for the next three weeks ok? But then again…the adventure doesn’t start until the unplanned happens right?

Have you been there dearest? If so…what should I know before I go?

Until next time…

The Next Little Thing

Dear Diary,

I did it. This city girl backpacked.

In the wild.

Alone.

With wild animals.

I knew that I had to pull the trigger on backpacking just so I could answer the question, “am I able”? How can I proceed onto The Next Big Thing if I’m not able to backpack one night alone on the mountain that’s practically in my own backyard?

Obviously I survived because I am writing this post. But just barely.

I made some significant errors in judgment, but you probably already knew I would dearest.

I learned a tremendous amount about backpacking (but to be fair, just driving out of the city with a backpack in my car is new) but unexpectedly and uncharacteristically, the biggest revelations were about myself.

I did a couple of things right;

I chose Mt. Baldy because it’s close and there are no bears (I learned there actually ARE bears, but thankfully I was blissfully ignorant on this subject going in). The downside to this however, is that it is a MOUNTAIN which means my options were straight uphill or straight uphill.

San Gabriels

The camp I chose I have hiked to 3 times now (sans backpack) and it is only 2.75 miles from the trailhead where I parked my car, so I would not get lost and could easily bug out if needed. The downside to this is that if you are unable to walk, it doesn’t matter where your car is.

Proud of me so far? Me too. Things began to go downhill from here though (except the trail, as stated earlier).

I had packed my backpack a thousand times in my mind. When I actually did it however; I over packed. In fact, I think I shall change my style of backpacking to be called overpacking.

In my defense…

  • The first aid kit I assembled included supplies for every possible scenario. An EMT would have been impressed. Why? Because I’m a Mom. Being a Mom is like having a disease called “worry in advance”, and I’m afraid there is no cure.
  • I brought clothes to sleep in and a change of clothes for the next day. That’s 3 sets of clothes for one night out. I brought a jacket. Evidently I thought I might spend all of winter up there? In addition, I brought all the hygienic products that one would normally use to keep themselves clean and minty fresh. I have only one thing to say here…city girl. Duh.
  • Extra food. This is one of the ten essentials, so I packed 3 days worth of food. Thank God I’m not a foodie and Top Ramen and Cliff Bars were my choices. I brought my cooking equipment along with the largest butane fuel thingy they make. Because it was already used in the Grand Canyon this summer and why waste it?
  • Tent. Unfortunately I chose my tent when I still thought my hubby would humor my calling to the outdoors. It’s quite roomy and heavy for one person, but what the heck I took it anyway.
  • The largest and heaviest bear spray made by Counter Assault, on the off chance I would meet up with a hostile animal or a psychopath. And I like the product name. I also included a boat horn and a flashing beacon light for self defense. Because I read it on the internet.
  • I took all of the things my Eagle Scout of a hubby told me to which was; enough para-chord to circle the Earth (even though I can’t retain how to tie a proper knot), a knife (again, don’t know what for but it is part of the 10 essentials  so whatever), a large tarp (he says it’s important to protect the bottom of my large tent), extra tent stakes (not sure where I would lose the regular ones, but God bless him he’s just looking out for me), a mattress pad to protect me from the cold (because it’s Southern California in August for crying out loud where there IS no cold, not even in the mountains) so I dutifully packed it.

I’m even boring myself at this point, but you get the picture. Add in all of the hydration equipment (including filter), navigation equipment, sleeping bag, and a book for entertainment and you’ve got a” bursting at the seams” situation. I weighed it on my bathroom scale at 33 lbs without water. I thought that was doable.

I called one of my selfish kids that had a day off to watch Lucy (my little grand dog and BFF) overnight so that I could concentrate all of my efforts on this outing of mine. No dice. Why was I surprised?

So I had to take her with me.

This required more water storage for her and some snacks for later, but I decided she had to carry them herself. I attached her doggy bones in a baggy to her collar with a paper clip and hung her water bottle from the same. Problem solved.

Never mind that little strip of black on her back. She chased a lizard under the car. She’s ferocious like that. Lucy packI filled up my hydration bladder with 3 liters of bottled water and was ready to hit the trail.

I was feeling pretty darn accomplished at this point.

I drug my backpack into the car, all the while convincing myself that it wouldn’t feel so bad once I had it properly attached to my body. Ah yes…the optimist self. Where is my pragmatic self when I need her?

I drove up the mountain and parked my Jeep where it would spend the night.

I went around the back, opened the hatch, and sat down in the back so I could strap myself into the overpack (remember that’s what we’re calling it now). How could 38+ (remember I added 3 Liters of water) pounds be so heavy? I had carried children that weighed that much.

No matter…I could do this. I HAVE to do this.

I threaded the handle of Lucy’s retractable leash onto the waistband of the overpack and we were off on our adventure.

By the time we were half a mile in I was aware of the change in altitude, the unforgiving terrain (the first mile in gains about 800 ft. in altitude and includes some rock scrambling), how much longer it was taking than without a backpack (4x as long), and that Lucy looked like a little white fluffy Scooby snack in the great big wild.

At the 3/4 mile mark I hiked down to the stream that ran alongside us and took off the overpack to fill my 24 ounce reserve water bottle and Lucy’s water bottle. Once filled, I realized I would have to carry her water bottle too. She could still carry her snacks, and she got a big drink and cooled herself off in the stream. Lucy water

I sat down on the rock and tried to hoist the overpack over one shoulder and “holy crap” was all I could think. It felt like I was trying to strap a recreational vehicle on my back.

At the 1 mile mark I thought (my wimpy self did anyway) maybe I should just cut bait and find a nice flat place by the stream to spend the night. Turns out the wimpy self might have been the prudent one.

I probably should have listened.

I kept pushing myself up the mountain until I finally hit the 2 mile mark. At this time I realized that I am going so slow that I may end up racing the sun. But I kept going.

At 2 1/2 miles I was having to stop and rest every 20 steps or so. My legs and back were in so much pain, my mind was oxygen starved (it felt that way anyway), and I knew there was a possibility that I would not be able to go forward or back. The trail was only 2 feet wide on a ridge so camping there was not an option.

And still the sun was going down faster than I could move.

Every time I had to bend down to untangle Lucy’s leash from around my legs, herself, or my trekking poles with that recreational vehicle strapped onto my back, I became exponentially fatigued.

Even my personal coach self was waxing weak. There is nothing she could say to wring blood out of this tired turnip.

Still, I inched forward.

WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

Then out of nowhere the seldom present “bad ass self” took over. Evidently she is a mad hiker, ’cause I heard myself yell “FUCKER” every time the camp was not just after the next bend like the personal coach self kept promising.

When I felt the need to rest after just 10 steps…the bad ass would yell in my head, “no way…you CAN’T rest your fat behind and make it before sunset. Keep going.”

So I kept going. Who knew this abusive bitch would be the one to get me to push myself so far beyond my limits? Never mind, the title of this blog says it all.

The bad ass promised I could drop my pack as soon as I saw the campground sign, and that’s exactly what I did. The sun had set, there was a little light in the sky, but I still needed to drag that overpack up a little bunny hill to my camp site.

I couldn’t do it. My legs were shaking, I was dizzy every time I stood up, my mind and body were exhausted by the superhuman struggle to get this far. I just wanted to lay down in the dirt and give up the ghost.

Thankfully, there was no one else around to witness that I had become the psychopath on the trail.

I disengaged my tent and tarp from the overpack and drug it up the hill. I picked up a small rock to pound in the tent stakes and could barely lift it far enough to bang it back down. It was not enough to drive them far, but I didn’t care.

As soon as the tent was up, Lucy and I fought to be first to get into it and lay down. A couple of chubby bitches that had been pushed too far.

I made myself get up and zip Lucy into the tent so that I could finally work without the leash.

I picked up the overpack and forced one last push up the bunny hill.

It was getting dark, and there was no moon. Crap.

I found my headlamp and switched it on. Then promptly broke the strap. Now I was working with one hand, but no matter. The hard part was done, the tent was up and my pack was in it. I would spend the next 2 hours unpacking what I needed and cooking my dinner of Top Ramen.

When my head finally hit the jacket (my pillow), I was grateful for the book because of the cacophony of sound coming from crickets and other insects and/or amphibians. There was an owl “who-who” ing in a tree overhead. I remembered my Grandma telling me that if an owl whoots only three times, someone in your family will die. If it is more than three, it is a lucky omen. So I started counting, and let’s just say I must be the luckiest darn person alive.

After an Ambien and a couple of more hours I felt myself fall into a delicious sleep, only subconsciously aware of giant heavy footprints outside of my tent, but very close to my head. Was it a good thing that Lucy began barking loudly to rouse me, but also to chase off a herd of what turned out to be big horned sheep? Not sure.

It was a long night for both Lucy and I. Unfortunately she could sense much more than I, so her constant unease, pacing, and occasional outburst of barking inside the large tent was not exactly soothing. She’s a city dog after all.

Finally she settled wearily on the sleeping bag, and I let her have it. Lucy sleepingbagAs I sat in my oversized tent going over all I had done in this day…I was finally able to move beyond whatever mistakes I had made, whatever sins I had committed (all that cussing), and I was left with a slowly burgeoning realization;  From what I thought was a little thing, I had accomplished something big. Really big.

I had pushed myself beyond any prior capability. I had accomplished my goal of reaching the camp, however unrealistic it had been. When I had a minute from pushing myself forward to take a look back, I had come a very long way.

Not just the distance from the trailhead, but a long way from the depression of my empty nest, a long way from the daily struggle with my auto-immune disorder and adjusting to the retirement it forced me into, a long way from trying to get my hubby to look up from his ipad, and a very long way from the city girl who always played the supporting role.

A very big thing from something I thought was a small step toward a larger goal.

The next day I dressed into my white shirt that became black when I packed up my tent and belongings. I only had enough water (Lucy still had most of hers…but I couldn’t live with myself if I used it) for a cup of coffee or breakfast…so I had the cup of coffee.

The best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.

I belatedly realized I had not packed anything to brush my hair with, so I did the best I could with my fork (thank you Ariel) and carried on.

I made it down the mountain in record time. I suspect it was because I told myself I had to be down before Del Taco quit serving breakfast burritos. Whatever works.

And I made it down off of the mountain with a new realization that the next small thing may be the next big thing in disguise. And to never, ever, forget to celebrate your accomplishments….no matter the size.

You and your bad ass self are pretty darn awesome after all.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

Gold Bluffs – A Beach Off the Beaten Path

Dear Diary,

Oh my goodness. How do I begin to describe a trek with sea mammals, land mammals, live animals, dead animals, and 10 miles of mostly inaccessible beach all served up on a plate of adventure? Easy.

Gold Bluffs Beach.

The deadline I gave myself for The Next Big Thing had to be moved up a month…which means I am almost in the month it was moved up to (August). Whoa there time, I’m not ready!!!!!!

I have yet to spend a night with all of my new fancy shmancy backpacking equipment. Or for that matter even hike in it. In the wild. By myself. With wild animals.

So there are many questions to be answered, nonetheless is the top one on the list – Can I even walk 8 miles a day in the sand?

I had an ulterior motive in camping on Gold Bluff’s Beach in the Prairie Creek Redwood State Park. I had to know the answer to that question. If the answer was no, why bother with any of the rest of it?

If the answer was no, I would simply dig a hole in said sand, and bury myself in it. Because where am I without hope? I didn’t want that to happen, so failure was not an option. Or so my personal coach self says.

The Lost Coast Trail (my next big thing) is just south of Gold Bluffs Beach, so I set aside one of our 3 days there to make an 8 mile trek (4 miles there and 4 miles back) along the beach.

I set out with the 10 essentials which consisted of my navigation equipment (compass, GPS on my iPhone, and iPhone charger this time), safety equipment (the bear spray I had forgotten the day before), lunch, layer of clothing (a puffy vest), matches, flashlight, sunglasses and cap, 3 liters of water, emergency shelter (one of those .69 cent foil looking things all folded up to about the size of a wallet in plastic, I have never actually opened it), and parachute line (I have no idea what that’s for) on my back and a great deal of optimism.

You have to have optimism when your only survival skill is finding parking in Los Angeles.

I also brought 3 different cameras. If I didn’t make it back, at least there would be some good film footage of whatever ate me.

I took off down the beach with some familiar companions; the very vocal personal trainer self, who keeps me focused from distracted by shiny objects self and whiny that’s good enough self.

Yes, they all reside inside my head.

The pain from my dark passenger (that’s what I call my Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement, formerly known as the Lupus Link) is real. I wondered if it would rear it’s ugly head, but it usually waits until after the personal trainer self has gone. I was feeling pretty darn good after my trek in the Redwoods the day before.

And Jesus of course. Jesus is real too. He’ll prove it once again on this trek.

I looked ahead to my destination…the end of the beach. Way down there where the land curves out to meet the sea.  Or 4 miles towards it anyway. I was giving myself 8 hours to make it happen. I told my daughter to not call the cavalry until after 10 hours.

Not that easy to discern where the end of the beach might be in this photo, but you get the idea, don’t you dearest? Destination

The weather in Northern California in July is simply divine. A perfect 79 or so degrees and with a little cloud cover, who could want for more?

Besides, getting to spend the day alongside my favorite (the ocean) would mean I could handle a lot worse than this. Ok, maybe a little worse than this.

Within just a mile or two, all sign of human footprints were long gone. When I looked behind me, the only thing I saw were my own. Now we’re talking.

footprints

Gold Bluffs Beach is only accessible from a few places, none of them are easy to get to (ok, 6 miles down a dirt road is relatively easy, but I mean by LA standards), and those were gone once I left the campground. I didn’t expect to meet anything or anyone along my way, but I would be pleasantly wrong in short order.

Another noticeable change was the cloud cover was completely gone. It was then that I realized I had not applied nor packed any sunscreen. DANG IT! That is one of the 10 essentials with sunglasses and hat. This would be extremely problematic since I am as fair as fair comes. I already have a million sun kisses (freckles) from tangling with the sun in my youth. I have no wish to burn today.

And there is a second, more deadly reason. That pesky dark passenger gets easily awakened by the sun. I DO NOT WANT THE DARK PASSENGER AWAKENED! The dark passenger does permanent damage when it is fully awake, and it is too hard to get it back to sleep.

I couldn’t bear to go back though. A lot was riding on this trek, and I should be replicating what I would be facing on the Lost Coast Trail. I wouldn’t have a camp to go back to then.

So I did the only thing I could think of, break out my puffy vest and drape it over the arm that was taking on the most sun. It was sleeveless so wearing it was out of the question. But I was on-trend.

I let down my hair to save my neck, and carried on. Soon the sun would be directly overhead though.

I noticed something in the water as I walked along. I stopped and waited to see if it would come back up…and it did. Up and down, up and down, over and over. Only skimming the surface to move farther up and down the shallow water. I thought at first it was a seal, but it was too small.

It was a sea otter. Oh my gosh what a treat! His little head finally stayed up long enough to get a photo, but not long enough to zoom in! Click for a closer look. Aviary Photo_130832156696986887

This completely took my mind off of any other little thing and shot me full of joy adrenaline. There were about 3 or 4 of them I think. I stayed and watched them hunting for awhile, they need to eat 30% of their body weight a day to survive. That’s a lot of crabs! The evidence of their handiwork was strewn all along the beach. I picked up a large claw that had just washed up from being discarded by the otters and packed it away for my daughter’s bf.

I’m a giver that way.

So merrily on my way I went. Then distracted by shiny objects self and the dreaded I must save the planet self made themselves known by taking on a peculiar habit I was unable to break for the entire trek. And that was picking up any and all trash that I found washed up on the beach and place it far above the high tide line.

Plastic shall be the death of Earth. Oh sorry…that was I must save the planet self butting in on my post. Ahem. Moving on.

Evidently this new habit was just fine with my personal coach self. It never said a word, but I detected the whiny that’s good enough self faintly and prudently protesting that I probably should be saving all of those steps for the trek. Poor “whiny”, nobody ever listens to her.

I was up to 3 miles now and to my left I sensed something larger than a sea otter popping up regularly, but every time I turned to get a better look, it was gone. I finally took my camera and while still facing forward, managed to catch my curious companion in the shot. A California harbor seal! Again, no time to zoom on this one. Seal and arrow

As it turned out, this little seal would follow me for the whole rest of my day, but for now I just felt blessed that I got to see another ocean mammal on my adventure. I hadn’t expected such happy luck. When I would look over he would dive, but very soon he realized I was no threat.

In fact, I’m sure he thought I was the slowest swimmer in the world. Curiosity got the best of him though, he couldn’t let me out of his sight. I loved that.

The sun was straight down on me now. I moved the vest back and forth over each arm, trying to temper what I knew was coming in short order.

On my right I saw two humans a little farther up. I could see they had spotted me and had walked into my path, clearly waiting on me.

Well now. I hadn’t banked on this either. I finally made my way up to the couple and we exchanged hellos. They asked if I had come from Fern Canyon. I said no, I had come from a little further down the beach at Gold Bluffs Beach Campground. They said they had braved a long treacherous descent down the cliff from the Coast Road to get to this point looking for Fern Canyon. I told them they could get there from here, but that it would be about a 6 mile round trip from this point. In the sand.

This was clearly not good news for the female of the couple. After all, they were at least my age and had already had a long steep descent and a bit of a walk to get to this point on the beach. The male half was determined to see it though.

I asked them why didn’t they just drive down there?

They both looked at me with gaping mouths. The man said, “You can get there by car?”. I said yes and gave them the instructions. They were downright giddy.

Here’s where the Jesus part comes in. I blurted out, “you wouldn’t happen to have any sunscreen would you?”, without even thinking. This is so far out of character for me, it couldn’t have BEEN me. I can’t ask for help normally. I just can’t. I don’t know why.

The woman said, “yes I do” and promptly handed me some Neutrogena sunscreen out of her purse (yes, she trekked with a purse…I can respect that).

I was saved. Just in time to hopefully keep the dark passenger in check. Thank you God for that. I wasn’t greedy, but chose to take just enough to cover my arms. I would take my chances with the rest.

We cheerfully parted ways, each of us getting what we needed just in the nick of time. And people say there is no divine intervention. I most humbly disagree.

I carried on, knowing that my destination was just ahead. Then I came upon something so curious for a city girl. I didn’t know what it was at first but quickly realized it was the hide of an elk. Elk Carcass

My city girl self immediately said “yuck”!  But my silver lining self quickly followed up with “just think what it looked like before it was reduced to being Davy Crockett’s blanket though”. I love her.

About 20 feet down the beach I found a couple of it’s rib bones and a couple of it’s spinal vertebrae bleached clean and white from the sand, water, and sun. I packed those up for my scientist daughter.

I told you I was a giver.

And off I went, picking up random trash, and checking for Sammy the seal along the way. Yes, I named him. Don’t tell anyone.

I noticed a large (and I mean large) white thing on the beach. Not moving. No threat. So I approached with caution. All the while I could hear my whiny that’s good enough self  saying “why, why, why?”. Faintly.

Poor thing, nobody ever listens to her.

When I got up to it, I knew it had to be a ginourmous fish of some sort but like city girl self said, “how in the world would I know what this is?”. I was both horrified and intrigued at the same time. I took a photo of it to be identified later. You know, in case I should ever run across something like this again. Riiiiiiiiiiight.

Turns out it is a Triggerfish. Who knew? I would have put my pack down as a size comparison, but um…no way. Not in this life.triggerfish

Before I knew it, my handy dandy little GPS app chimed out…4 MILES.

Yahoo! I made it! My ankles and knees were definitely feeling the effort of trekking in sand, but I was good to go otherwise. Fatigue was not yet a factor but I was beginning to be a little weary. No sweat. Time to turn around and go back.

Then my personal coach self demanded to be heard. “Look how close the end of the beach is or at the very least, an impassable bunch of boulders. You mean to tell me you are going to quit when you can go another mile and be able to say you did it?”. End of the beach

Whiny that’s good enough self said, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I only agreed to 8 miles there and back. Not 10 miles”.

“Fine. Then you don’t get to eat lunch.” my personal coach self fired back. Gosh, she can be such a bitch.

But all of my selves like lunch, so onward I went.

Almost there, I noticed a large rock that provided some shade on a meadow next to the beach. It was the only shade I had seen all day. I headed toward it to eat my lunch and give my legs and feet a little break. Rock by beach

As I climbed over the small high tide bank and toward the rock I saw something coming into view that seemed to be staring back at me. Something large. Very large. What the heck?

I grabbed onto my pepper spray and tried to grab my courage, but couldn’t find it.

I wanted the shade damn it. I cautiously moved forward, it did not move. But it was looking at me.

As I was able to see it a little more clearly, I believed it to be a Roosevelt Elk laying down in the meadow. Don’t be impressed, I learned it on the internet while researching the area.Elkandrock

I dropped to my knees in awe. I didn’t want to scare it away, or be any closer for that matter…this thing is huge.

As it turned out, kneeling down where I was turned out to be quite the error in judgment. I was in a sea of some of the worst stickers I have ever experienced. They were in my knees and the lower part of my legs I was sitting on, not to mentioned what happened when I tucked my shoes under my butt. Not good.

I needed the shade more than ever.  Luckily the sense of awe helped temper the screaming pain suffered by the stickers in my skin through the “moisture wicking” paper thin pants I had on.

I stood up into a bent position and slowly but doggedly “made for the shade” if you will.

When I finally got there I looked over and realized there was a herd of them eating and relaxing in the meadow. Oh my gosh. herd

There were more to the right, but to get a good photo of the entire herd I would have had to advance. Nope. Not going to do that.

I needn’t have been worried about scaring them. They were entirely indifferent.

How many people can say they lunched with a wild herd of Roosevelt Elk on the beach? My personal coach self can….and does. She never lets me forget that if it wasn’t for her pushing me (and denying me lunch), this wouldn’t have happened. She is intolerable. But right.

What magic!

I soon enough finished pulling those wicked stickers out, eating my apple and half a PB&J sandwich, and was back on my way. The end was in sight.

The boulders were indeed impassable, in fact where I climbed over to get to the impassable rocks was probably not accessible during high tide. I caught a glimpse of the shadow of myself when I was climbing to get a photo of what was on the other side.

I had already gone native. In just a few hours. I had completely forgotten that I’d picked up some pelican feathers and stuck them in my cap. Pocohantus

The view on the other side. Beautiful.

beachonotherside

But I had to go. Even my personal coach self was satisfied.

The end of the beach gave me a glorious send off.

Roughsurf

I looked over toward the meadow to say a mental good-bye to the elk when I nearly came out of my skin. One of the elk had moved directly onto the beach. I’m not going to lie, it scared me a little. Elkonthebeach

Maybe she was just bidding me goodbye in a glorious fashion as well. Thank you for that Jesus.

There came a truck driving down the beach gathering drift wood and unless they have an exclusive agreement with the State/National park, that would be illegal. That’s not what made me really really mad though. In many cases, the trash I had so neatly piled above the high tide line was right next to the drift wood they were collecting, but they never bothered themselves with the trash. Even now all I can do is sigh. I wish I had brought a trash bag so I could have taken it myself. Maybe I’ll make that the 11th essential. Never mind.

I was gong to get mad about the tire tracks ruining my photo shots, then my silver lining self pointed out what a gift (from my trekking partner Jesus no doubt) they were. They were so much easier to walk on. I thanked him but didn’t use them. I wouldn’t have them on the Lost Coast Trail.

If not for Sammy, the trek back would have been rough, but he was ever there. Sometimes swimming ahead, sometimes just staring at me while bobbing up and down or diving into a breaking wave. But never still.  Always moving. Which helped me do the same…er samey. What the fatigued mind comes up with is frightening isn’t it?Aviary Photo_130832169777237671

My little otter (no name) was on the beach this time, digging for sand crabs. He didn’t appreciate being interrupted.SeaOtteronbeach

When I finally headed into camp, I was elated, but more than a little sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I was over the moon that I was not only able to do the 8 miles, I could do 10 on my first try. But I was sad that an end had come to a most magical day.

I handed out my “gifts”, enjoyed a much earned hot meal, and headed back out to get a closer look at the sun lower itself into the sea.

And I gave tribute.

Sunset Until next time dearest.

 

Shoal Bay East – A Dream Within a Dream

Dear Diary,

I’ve saved the best for last. Shoal Bay East. On an island full of beautiful beaches, this one rises above the rest. With it’s impossibly white powdery sand, warm aquamarine water that gently kisses the shore, an absence of footsteps but our own, and a shallow area of reef for snorkeling, this beach has it all.

Shoal Bay East

As I went through the images that we took there, I realize anew that photographs are the windows to which we can view our memories. A moment forever frozen in time. A tiny time machine that can transport us back to that place and be relived as often as we desire.

This is one of my happy places. This moment in time with my family on the most beautiful beach in the world. This window to a memory where I am always on vacation, my daughter is forever a child, and my husband wears a perpetual smile.

FAMILYMAN

Along the 2 mile beach, there was a place we stopped to eat. A local man was there resting his freshly broken arm. He was very friendly and I found myself in conversation with him immediately. He asked me about LA and seemed to relish in my description of life in Southern California.

I asked him how he broke his arm. He told me another local had broken it the night before. I was more than a little taken aback. I couldn’t help but ask him why someone would do that. He simply replied, “because he doesn’t like me”.

He went on to write down his name and address on a little index card he pulled out of his pocket. When he handed it to me he said, “Please think of me now and then when you are in your Southern California paradise”.

I realized then that this man was desperate to get off of this island. This place that I had saved so long to come to, this place that I was trying acutely to drink in every minute, to remember every sound and sight of.

One man’s paradise is another man’s hell. How many of these cards had he handed out?

It had gotten awkward.

We politely moved on, but the man still haunts me from time to time.

We spent the rest of the day walking, laughing, swimming, snorkeling. I couldn’t bear to leave it. But we had to, so I thought of something I could do to help me remember this place.

It was just a simple thing. I just wanted to take a little of this powdery sand with me to have a tangible reminder of paradise. If anyone ever doubted how perfect this sand was, I could whip out my little sample and let them ooh and ahhh as they ran the tiny specks of heaven through their own hand.

So I took out the only thing I had on me to gather sand in, an empty Pringles container. I filled it half full and took my prize with me back to our room.

I reluctantly packed our bags to leave. It seemed like just a memory already. The post vacation depression was already setting in and I hadn’t even left yet.  RendezvousBayview

Early the next morning we left our perfect beach that I had come to know as my own. I was a little mad that it didn’t care that I was leaving. It would go on being indescribably beautiful to someone else. Or to nobody else. It didn’t matter. I wouldn’t be here ever again, which struck me sullen.

At least I was bringing a tiny piece of it back with me in the Pringles can that was carefully packed in my luggage along with a couple of shells. Such a small token of what loomed large in my memory…and still does.

We retraced our travel back the way we came. We didn’t have to fly with chickens or an overweight plane this time though. Thank goodness.

We arrived in Puerto Rico where we had to claim our luggage and go through customs, which was on the far side of the airport. The airport in Puerto Rico makes me feel a little like a zoo animal. It is floor to ceiling glass on a single level, with everyone outside pressing their faces to the glass to get a look inside.

We dutifully picked up said luggage, made the long walk to customs and took our place in the queue to be inspected. I looked behind me (as everyone Mom does to make sure we hadn’t dropped anything) and to my absolute horror noticed on the dark floor a powdery white line all the way across the airport to my suitcase.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I pulled my suitcase forward to try and distance myself from it, but since it was coming from my suitcase, it just continued to follow me.

My face went red hot. I broke out into an immediate sweat as if I had just run a marathon.

I felt like a very bad drug mule that was clumsily trying to smuggle cocaine into the US.

I don’t do well in these kind of situations, I immediately go to worse case scenario.

Locked Up Abroad.

I knew I looked guilty. I couldn’t help it. I don’t normally smuggle white powdery sand into the US, so how was I to know how unreliable my Pringles vessel would be at transporting my stash?

Damn that Shoal Bay sand for being so impossibly fine and white!

I tried to get my husband’s attention without drawing any to myself, but he was focused on placing his luggage on the conveyor. It was too late. All I could do at this point was hope he would get a good lawyer so I could come home again.

It was my daughters turn to put her little SpongeBob rolling case on the conveyor and they waved her through.

Good they were through…hopefully they could behave as though they didn’t know me when the customs person nodded to the policia and they took me down.

I set my suitcase on the conveyor and braced myself. No matter how I set it, the sand just kept coming. All the saliva had left my mouth. My face was tomato red and I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as I handed over my passport.

I stared at my husband and daughter waiting for me, memorizing their faces.

The attendant hands me my passport and tells me to pick up my suitcase.

Just like that I am through customs.

Thank you God! Thank you, thank you God!

When we finally got home and I opened that suitcase, let me just say I have never seen such a mess in my life. It’s like I threw a few cups of flour in with my clothes, not quite sure if I was baking or traveling.

It took me a week, but I managed to salvage some of that sand with a paint brush. It now resides safely in a bottle in a shadow box along with other little baubles I picked up, and a photo of my daughter and I walking along the beach in Anguilla.

ShadowboxA window to a beautiful memory.

As for my smuggling career? Well over my friend, well over.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liquid Bliss – Little Bay, Anguilla

Dear Diary,

Day two on Anguilla. A desert island in the northern most part of the leeward islands in the Caribbean. Paradise Island.

One of the provisions that my hubby insisted upon in agreeing to accompany me to Anguilla was that he be able to rent a 4×4 for the duration of our stay.

I didn’t understand why one would need a vehicle on an island that is only 16 miles long and 3 and half miles wide with only one stop light, but a deal was a deal.

So off we went into the only real “town” on the island to rent the Jeep I had reserved in advance. As it turns out…there is a catch. A driver’s license from California does not fly in Anguilla.

Really? So someone who can negotiate the serpentine lanes of hell in Los Angeles is not qualified to drive on a remote little island where most folks travel by bicycle?

Nope.

So off we went to the little DMV (haha, that’s funny. It was a counter in a drug store I think) and took the “test” (show your valid license from anywhere) and paid the fee (pretty hefty at 20.00) and the hub was officially licensed to drive in Anguilla. A genius way to have users help pay for the maintenance.

driver's license

Pretty easy huh?

Not so fast.

Ever tried driving on the opposite side of the road you are accustomed to when there is no other traffic to help keep you in line? Very hard to make a left turn into the left lane when you have spent your whole life executing that turn into a right lane.

Needless to say when we would actually come upon another car, it was nerve wracking to be second guessing whether or not you were in the right place (at least once…we weren’t).

I was trying really hard to not get mad about having to spend so much time on the second day of my very short vacation having to negotiate red tape and relearning how to drive backwards…er sideways. And by drive, you know I mean backseat drive, right?

Luckily, I could distract myself with the directions on how to get to Little Bay Beach. Even though it had started to rain lightly but steadily, we were undaunted in seeking our destination.

Even now 10 years later, I can’t help but smile when I think of Little Bay Beach, Anguilla. Why?

So many reasons.

I had done my homework before going to Anguilla, so I knew Little Bay was a must on our itinerary. It is listed as remote and serene…does it get any better?

Little Bay is only accessible by boat or repelling down an ancient rope on a vertical cliff. When we had finally found the beach and looked down from the overgrown aforementioned vertical cliff, we had to rethink repelling. It was slick, and even if my hubby and I were willing to gamble with our adult lives by living so dangerously, neither of us were willing to take the risk with our daughter.

Already the Jeep was paying for itself. It would have been a long walk in the rain if a taxi had dropped us off.

So off we were to find boat transportation to Little Bay. We parked at Crocus Beach and began asking around at the locals hanging around playing dominoes. Not those actually playing dominoes because by interrupting a domino game in Anguilla you would be putting your life in mortal danger (probably not literally, but I wasn’t going to gamble there either), but those standing on the periphery.

We were informed to ask for Calvin who would be sitting under a tree.

Indeed he was. We enlisted his charter (a little dinghy) and I instantly fell in love with him. He brought a large umbrella for us (from a local café I think), and used his well worn party hat to shield himself. Does it get any more adorable? Somehow, I don’t think the hat was doing much good but you wouldn’t know it.

calvin

Within just a few moments our destination was in site. It didn’t disappoint. Then again, nothing in Anguilla does.

As we neared the shore, the rappelling cliff came into sight. Probably a good idea to have Calvin boat us in. Please disregard the rain on the lens ok?

Littlebaycliff

Oh but even in the rain, the little beach (hence the name) was divine. I am including a photo I plucked off of the Anguillabeaches.com site since I didn’t get it in it’s entirety..

Little Bay Beach

Just as soon as we disembarked the sun started peaking out from the clouds, but I was already in the water snorkeling with my little family. What an incredible place to be underwater. There was so much to see I couldn’t nearly list it all here, but I will try with horribly inadequate photos…

I have circled some sea urchins, a parrot fish, and Blue Tangs all in this photo. The entire Bay was teaming with life. I had no idea what was coming though…

underwaterlittlebay

As I free dove I noticed a little tiny school of what looked like bait fish of some sort…

smallschool

and within seconds I was completely engulfed by a huge bait ball which was remarkably fascinating and a little gross feeling (on my skin) all at the same time.

bigschool

Even if I would have been thinking about what follows bait fish, I wouldn’t have been afraid. I have never been too afraid (although I have not come face to face with a Great White and I hope I never do) of underwater creatures. I am much more frightened by those who walk on two legs.

Oh and bears. You know I’m terrified of bears.

Still surrounded by the bait ball, I made my way to the surface to get air and right before I broke the surface I came nose to nose with a giant sea turtle. I still wonder if the startled scream I let out could be heard coming out of my snorkel above water. The poor sea turtle was just as startled as I, but did not scream.

I wish I would have had the presence of mind to snap a photo. But I didn’t.

When I filled my lungs with air and ducked back underwater, my friend was gone. And so apparently was the bait ball. Just that fast.

An unforgettable experience.

I did however have the presence of mind to snap a photo of what was above water, a most incredible cave. The perched Pelican can give you an idea of the scale. Unfortunately my free dive fins did not allow for easy exploration so I just marveled from the azure water.

cave

While scouring the bottom of the bay, I found an old wine glass (these use to be pirate waters) and as soon as I handed it to my daughter to look at, it was promptly dropped back into where it came, never to be found again. I suppose things are meant to be where they are.

Sigh.

After spending what seemed like minutes but was actually hours, Calvin came to fetch us from our liquid bliss at exactly the agreed upon time. I could pretend that this Eden was my own playground (we didn’t see another soul all day), but I couldn’t pretend to stop time.

Double sigh.

Goodbye Little Bay. I still miss you.

Goodbyelittlebay

And I still smile.

Until next time dearest.

 

The Most Beautiful Beaches In the World

Dear Diary,

Oh I know what you’re going to say, “Have you been to every beach in the world”?

You know I haven’t.

But even if I had, it’s subjective isn’t it? Still, the travel gurus (Trip Advisor, Travel Channel et al) seem to agree with me since at least one of Anguilla’s (British West Indies) beaches make their lists every year.

The truth is, I would be happy on any beach.

But this is one of those places that you just knew would be perfect, but reality even managed to surpass that expectation. And I had some pretty stiff criteria.

Perfectly White Sand Beaches

No Other Footprints But My Own

Relatively Low Crime (I was so stressed out from work, I couldn’t take a whole lot more worries)

Warm Tropical Water

No Street Traffic (Oh please God, Los Angeles is too much!)

So when I arrived with my young daughter and reluctant husband in tow (this was in 2005) after flying from LAX to Fort Lauderdale to Puerto Rico to Tortola to St. Maarten and finally to the island of my dreams…Anguilla.

Oh you know it, it’s the island Brad and Jen were photographed together for the last time, Orlando Bloom honeymooned, Jay Z and Beyoncé on the beach, Sandra Bullock with her son Luis and ad infinitum.

Because it’s just that beautiful.

But how does one on a budget go to an island that is the playground of the rich and famous? It can be done.

I knew I was in trouble though as our planes kept getting smaller, and by the time we left for St. Maarten from Tortola, some of our fellow passengers were chickens.

Nope, not kidding.

Also on that plane was a woman so large there was a plank put in the aisle so she could sit down for take off….and that is why we arrived without our luggage. They had left it on the tarmac because the plane was too heavy. Not just ours, but that didn’t make me feel better when we had to wait for 4 hours in St. Maarten for another plane to bring our luggage. But that’s part of the adventure right?

So when we were finally told that our luggage would not arrive until the next day and hailed a taxi to take us to the French side of the island so we could catch the ferry to Anguilla, how stressed out was I when the taxi driver told us we only had minutes before the bridge between the Dutch and French side closed for the night. Seriously?

To his credit and my frazzled last nerve, he drove like a crazy man and I am quite sure there were not more than a few bicyclists stuck to his grill, but we got there in time.

So after a day of travel that spanned 6 countries and more than a couple of mishaps, how do you think I felt when I opened the French doors of our room and looked out at this view?

RendezvousBayview

Blissful.

Here we were on Rendezvous Bay at the Hotel and Villas with the same name. A Rendezvous with heaven it must mean.

It was everything I had hoped. Perfectly white sand beach that went on forever with nobody else on it. I dared not breathe lest I wake up back on the plane with the chickens.

But it was real.

We shed our travel clothes and cares and dove into the crystal clear warm water where I would stay, on one beach or another, for a week.

Arriving at the destination of a bucket list item is the fruition of a dream. What makes the dream real however, are the moments in time that follow the arrival. The moments we spend in awe of beauty, in respect of other cultures, in interactions with the people in those cultures, and the time we get to spend with our loved ones away from the hustle and bustle of our every day lives.

So are they the most beautiful beaches, or the most beautiful moments?

I will expound on this island and it’s most beautiful beaches in the world in future posts, but I will leave you with some photos of beautiful moments, forever frozen in time on Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla, British West Indies, Lesser Antilles.

My daughter and I strolling along the empty beach. Priceless.

BEACHWALK2A mermaid in an aquamarine Eden.

underwater

Our upstairs villa room is the one with the towel hanging over the veranda. I think we were the only ones there. In May no less. LA seemed to be on a different planet.

ourhotel

My hubby photographing me waiting to try and photograph the perfect sunset.

meandsunset

And I got it…

perfect sunset

I snapped this as I walked along the dirt road with my hubby hand in hand to check out of our hotel. The palm trees frame the shot of Rendezvous Bay, and another perfect moment forever in my heart.

RENDEZVOUSBAY2

We say good-bye to this beach, but not to Anguilla. There are more beaches and moments to share.

Until next time dearest.

A DIY Bathroom Makeover and Marriage Encounter Workshop

Dear diary,

The DIY bathroom makeover was intentional, the marriage encounter workshop was accidental and resultant of the aforementioned.

I know, I’m as surprised as you.

Here is a photo of the bathroom before and after;

Before

Before

After

After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish I could provide a before and after of the marriage encounter, but we look the same on the outside. Only the dynamics changed.

Significantly.

Enough time has passed since the completion of this project so that I can revisit it without a divorce attorney. I’m kidding of course! Sort of.

So here goes.

My bucket list is comprised not only of places I’d like to go, but things I’d like to do. A DIY project placed high on that “to do” list.

I always promised myself after I retired that I would undertake making over rooms in my house for several reasons;

Save money. A reliable end result that resembles what I envisioned. Enrich my skill set. Work as a handy partner with my handy hubby who can do anything (MacGyver style).

Ah…how naïve I was. If I knew then what I know now I would run not walk, to the nearest contractor and gleefully hand over my hard earned savings.

But I was blissfully ignorant.

It started out simple enough. A small remark made offhandedly after dinner when we sat in our respective places in front of the TV on our iPads (I’m not proud of that but I have promised to always keep it real). He was doing whatever it is he usually does, and I was coveting admiring on Pinterest all of the luscious photos of what other people have done with various rooms of their homes.

I came across one where some other handy soul had framed a large builders mirror (late 80’s/early 90’s) in such a way that it made it look like like separate mirrors. I shall use our finished product as an example here because I no longer have the one that inspired me.

Before

Before

After

After

Big generic builders mirror before. This is our guest bathroom that used to be our kids bathroom. If that isn’t enough said to illustrate what this bathroom has been through, you’ve never had kids. Not to mention the headquarters for my niece’s wedding party, and at least 5 proms worth of girls. My son was easy. Lots of fond memories, but I was over the look.

Big generic builders mirror after. The shelving unit is hiding the middle section of mirror.

I told you he is handy.

Ahem, back to my story.

I was showing him the before and after similar to the photo above and at right, and here came the reply that started it all….

“I can do that”.

He began to get a clue of what that statement started when I began asking 7,000 questions (I didn’t really count, it may have been more) about what a room makeover entailed, where to begin, what supplies we would need, etc. etc. etc.

He said we would need to remove the carpeting first.

I would later ascertain that what he meant was “someday when we get ready to take on this project”. He would shortly find out that by virtue of asking, I was creating an action list.

Imagine his horror when he woke up the next day to what I had so proudly accomplished, which was pulling up the carpet and exposing this layer of linoleum underneath. I restrained my gag reflexes when I was so proudly showing him what I’d done, like a little kid that had just cut their own hair.

That’s glue on the linoleum, by the way. Yuck.

IMG_0711

In hindsight I suppose something inside of me knew that this was a calculated “no going back” move, but I was consciously driven by my optimistic “can do” attitude and a very loose grasp on exactly how long a true make-over takes.

He was furious, and I couldn’t figure out why. I was willing to do all the work, he just had to give me verbal guidance on the steps. What was so hard about that?

He went out to get a scraping tool for me (he is Tim the Tool Man Taylor in this regard) and after a short demonstration, I began to bring up the linoleum. I made good progress even though I can promise you I would have rather been doing anything else. The small bathroom without a window instantly smelled like the dank concrete in a basement. Yuck. I was feeling better and better about my abilities when I powered through the eeby geebies of it.

When he came back to check on me (it was still early in the game, he would know better than to do this later on) I just happened to be using this tool to pry up the wood tack strips (don’t be impressed, I had to look up what those are called) along the wall.

He. Came. Undone.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING”? (Oh yes, he was shouting) He posed this as a question, but since he didn’t give me time to reply…I can only assume it was rhetorical.

“YOU”RE GOING TO RUIN THAT TOOL”!

Is he serious? I’m going to ruin this heavy metal tool by prying on some little old wood strips? I suspect this is a gross over exaggeration, but I was still willing to be his whipping boy in order to get the job done.

He rolled his eyes and turned to go get the right tool, all the while muttering obscenities under his breath. What was the big deal? Why didn’t he just bring me the right tools to begin with? This question went through my mind, but I knew better than to actually ask it. Even rhetorically.

He finished the floor in a huff.

Whatever.

In hindsight, this should have been a huge red flag that while opposites attract, they probably don’t work well on DIY projects together. More on that later.

My hubby suggested I be the one to remove the cupboard doors and drawer. I struggled even with that. Who knew there are two kinds of Phillips head screwdrivers? I didn’t. He nearly lost it again, but I had not “rounded out” his screwdriver yet, so I survived. Sheesh.

I’m not going to lie. I was not removing the toilet. He did that. And put some sort of cover over the hole. Did you know there is a wax ring around the base of toilets? Very messy. Very very messy. And gross. Very gross. But I hung in there.

I did an exceptional job of cleaning up at this point (notice the supplies neatly arranged on the saw horse thingy). The hub remained unimpressed.

bathroom paint ready

Already I was feeling a tinge bit under-appreciated. I should have paid more attention to that.

We removed the huge builder’s mirror and safely tucked it away. The hubster suggested we cut a pool noodle and use it as a foam edging to protect the mirror. He’s hard to be mad at when he’s this brilliant. You feel me?

We had to turn it around since our little Lucy was having no part of the doggie in the mirror. She’s funny.

mirror

The next step was to paint. I don’t need any help with that. I had already decided that the walls and counter top would be grey, and the cabinetry would be white. I set out to get a sample of the grey I thought I wanted.

As it turns out, there are more than 50 shades of grey – and I went through quite a few of them before I found just the right one. I spent one whole day prepping to paint. Being an anal retentive does not mesh well with DIY.

dexterized bathroomI started painting and after I was almost done with the walls, the hubby came in and said, “Can I give you some advice”?

This was not rhetorical since he was giving me time to answer. So it must be a trick question then. Yes that’s it, a trick question. I was going to have to bite here because I didn’t have a trick answer.

“Yes” I said. He replies, “Why didn’t you start with the ceiling”?

This is not advice. This is another question. He is waiting for me to answer. I don’t know why I didn’t start with the ceiling. It sort of makes sense now that he’s asking me, but I am beginning to resent his tone.

“I don’t know why. Why you didn’t offer the advice BEFORE I started to paint”? I replied with a tone of my own.  This was totally rhetorical on my part.

“You don’t need to get defensive” he says.

“I’m sorry, I’m just tired” I say.

He replies, “So am I, I already have a full time job remember”? Totally rhetorical on his part since he is walking away while still talking.

There it is. An aha moment for me. Had just this short time of retirement already made me insensitive to impinging on the valuable time of others? This silenced me in the moment, but was a preview of upcoming attractions with sharp exchanges that are out of character for us most other times. I say most.

I sanded and painted and sanded and painted and sanded and painted (3 coats) the vanity both inside and out. When my hubby came in to replace the water pipe doodads to a higher quality, he said I shouldn’t have spent so much time on the inside since nobody would see it. Really?

I would know it, therefore I would see it.

But I kept this comment to myself. Evidently he doesn’t know how far a “good job” would have gone. All those years of management school and all I can use it for now is to a critical end with my talented but communication challenged other half.

Before this project began, I logged countless hours researching the best method of painting cabinets. I finally settled on an acrylic alkyd based paint along with Zinsser primer. We invested in a paint sprayer since I knew this would probably not be my last painting project.

Just for the record, there is more than 50 shades of white too. I finally settled on Swan White from Benjamin Moore who I have to thank for making me a paint snob.

I couldn’t use the paint sprayer indoors though, so the vanity was done the old fashioned way. With a brush.

Pay no never mind to how beige that tub/shower looks next to the new white vanity. Since it was not in our budget to replace, I had a plan.

vanity2

I commandeered the shed in a corner of our yard and moved everything out while transforming it into my temporary paint room where I would paint the vanity doors, drawer, faux drawer fronts, and bathroom door.

paint shed

We had to have the insides of the vanity doors cut out by a friend (in exchange for some valuable spirits) and my husband put bead board in it’s place. The hubby removed the bathroom door because I was reluctant to beat on the long pin with a hammer. That’s what I told him anyway. The real reason is I just didn’t trust myself with a weapon at that time.  We wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt. Right?

More sanding.  It doesn’t take long for those finger tips to scream “enough”! I used to have nails…

ouch

I had painted two coats and had sanded in preparation for the third in just under 2 weeks time. When I turned on the paint sprayer and pulled the handle to spray, it sputtered and spit large chunks of paint all over the cabinets and when I brought it up to look at it (while nurturing a healthy disbelief) it managed to spit on the door too.

Aaaaaaaargh! I had to start all over.

Meanwhile, my daughter and I were taking turns being the whipping boy for MacGyver. It became a joke between us, when he would call for one of us, that person would tell the other one, “you owe me”. When a string of cuss words would precede the calling of a name…the stakes were higher and no words needed to be said by the unlucky one chosen to go into the fire that time. There was no flying under the radar for this build.

His framing and shelving were coming along and I knew when he would drop something off at the paint shed, it was my duty to paint it and give it back for his next step.

Since it was my project, it fell on me to pick out the counter top at a builder’s surplus warehouse which was quite a distance from my house.

It took a whole day, but mission accomplished. Exactly the color and style I wanted at a bargain price. Woohoo! It took all three of us and a pulley system my hubby rigged up to get it in, but what a difference.

My daughter literally ran back to college from Spring Break at home with Mom and Dad.

He walked me through how to adhere the backsplash and I managed that one without supervision.

sink top

Now we were firing on all cylinders, except for one thing. See how hubby put up that pretty bead board on the walls?

He forgot to have me paint it first (this photo was taken after I painted the bead board).

Really? If I didn’t know better I would think he was torturing me intentionally now. Do you know how hard it is for paint to self level (I learned this the prior two weeks with all of the other painting I’d done) when it’s not laying flat? PLUS now I had to worry about getting paint on my pretty gray walls.

Arrrrrrrrrrgh.

This is beginning to be like a bad Laurel and Hardy movie. A silent film, because we were barely speaking at this point.

Luckily the end result was so stunning, it propelled me to keep going with the vanity doors again. What a difference eh?

by toilet

I didn’t use the paint sprayer anymore. I couldn’t trust it, so we weren’t friends at all. I used the old fashioned way, and in another two weeks (Before you judge how long it took me, I still have other chores to do remember)…voila.

vanitydoors

Finally done.

The tile floor was next, and oh how I dreaded working that closely with the Grinch who had stolen my make-over joy. As he explained to me how to ensure we were getting a straight edge on a crooked floor (it’s amazing how many things are crooked and slapped together even in an upscale track home), and how we had to lay out each tile with the spacers, I began to get a deep appreciation for what he had gone through when he laid the tile in our master bathroom while I was at work. I had no idea.

He also created a tool that would enable him to cut such small tiles in whatever size we needed. Of course he did, ’cause he’s MacGyver. I was still mad at him though. Especially when he kept hitting the vanity with grey tile grout and I was endlessly touching up. After 2 days we finished and I had to hand it to him…he knows his stuff. And yes, I put shelf paper in the vanity to temper the affects of him setting his tools on my beautiful paint job.

tile2

Next up was the mirror back onto the wall (whew…intact) and the frame. This was the origin of much colorful language as he worked on and around the mirror.  While most people on pinterest glue their frames right onto the mirror, he insisted this wasn’t safe and actually built a frame for the frame. Yes, those are 5 gallon stir sticks on the side. Hey don’t judge, we didn’t have to pay California’s “wood fee” (WTH?) on those, and they were precisely the width we needed.

frame for frame2

At this point we had to rewire the light bar for two light bars, one over each sink. While this is not new for him, I am terrified of electricity so believe me when I say this couldn’t get done fast enough. He hung the new light bars and I could finally throw away that tired old broken thing. When I asked my kids who broke the end bulb holder, they of course didn’t know. Someone must have broken in and done it while we were gone. Kids are funny.

lightbars

The photos are taken at various stages so please forgive. I am shocked I remembered to take any at all since we were pretty focused on the finish line at this point. The actual frame  and shelving unit still had to go up so the cussing was not over.

Once again, he focused on safety and rather than rely on the mirror to hold the weight of the shelves, he cut it perfectly to contour the backsplash so that it was self supported but covered the mirror behind it.

shelving close up

He added molding and bead board for aesthetics and it was ready for final paint. Frame and shelving unit photo below. Notice all of those tools under the sink on my beautiful vanity shelf with no shelf paper in sight? Notice the light bulb and globe that was collateral damage? Nope, me neither on both counts. There is no place for anal retentives here, believe it.

shelfandframes2

The only miscalculation was the slightly larger bottom shelf which I assured him was fine. I would make a floral bouquet to fit and nobody would be the wiser. See how  agreeable and supportive I am? Management school charm I tell ya. My hubby would probably disagree.

The larger reality however, was that although I had claimed this as my vision and project, the dramatic transformations were as a result of MacGyver’s time and talent.

The new faucets I had picked out to match the overall 1920’s theme were put in and I added the decorations I had made and purchased along the way to the shelving unit and sink top. The vanity doors were put on with the new handles (he was mad that I got them at Hobby Lobby, I guess they were more fragile than ones you might find in a hardware store. Who knew?) and after cussing and a couple of replacements (like the globe), we were good to go. Did I mention that he dropped his drill down the front of one of the vanity doors and it had to go back to paint? No? It must have slipped my mind.

As for framing the medicine cabinet, that was purely his idea and not part of my original vision. Credit where credit is due.

I had found and spray painted an old frame, painted a piece of plywood with chalkboard paint, added some flowers, and I wrote how I was feeling on it before it was hung.

pictureframe

The original bouguet I had made that inspired me to choose the 20’s theme went onto the new toilet my hubby installed (more cussing and yelling, and me cleaning up after a wax ring. Not my favorite.). I embellished the old soap dispenser to match the new décor. I picked up curtains at WalMart to hide the buttercream colored bath/shower. New throw rugs from Target added color to the floor.

It was almost done.

babyboomer2

I chose artwork from magazine covers (off of the internet) from the 1920’s depicting how women were changing after the 19th amendment. All in yellow, white, grey and black. My hubby put up the new towel rack and we were finally, finally done.

pictures

I love those before and after shots don’t you? The medicine chest is visible here.

Bathroom ipad22

Stay with me…this is the last one I promise…

bathroom ipad42

How could two people who have raised two terribly wonderful children and built a life together for 23 years, struggle to work harmoniously on a DIY project? I am going with the theory that like Hemingway and Picasso, he is a talent that works best alone. As for his tortured muse? I just don’t fit into that roll so well. But having successfully gone through the fire, we are richer for it. Would I go through it again on another room? Not on your life.

So if you are wondering what your relationship is made of, don’t bother with opinions. Just take on a sizable DIY project together. Who knows? Something beautiful just might come out of it.

Until next time dearest.