Old habits die hard

I am back in Montana. I missed it. The other morning the sunrise was breathtaking. Colors of pink, gray, orange, gold and yellow lit up the sky and seemed to dare me to try and look away.

At present, while I am blissfully content, satisfied and grateful in my new home and career, I occasionally I find myself longing for the solitude I found while on the road alone.

In hindsight I see that being truly alone made life pretty easy. Once you realize that everything…and I mean everything…is up to you. Your happiness. Your destination. Your detours. Your productivity – or lack there of. Your conversation and most of all your expectations are all your very own responsibility. When you are by yourself, you don’t wait for someone to do the dishes or to offer you a drink.

You either become completely independent and self sufficient or you eat off dirty dishes and die of thirst. Pretty simple right?

However, now I’m back at home for what – wow – nearly a year now – I am again surrounded by others and it has become very easy to slip back into the habit of seeking validation for things like my value, my worth and my companionship from others.

I find myself longing for solitude, but I also find myself agreeing to every…single… invitation. Is it FOMO? (Fear of missing out) or am I simply falling back into the life I used to be so very comfortable in and one that society finds acceptable?

No matter what it is, I feel as though I’m in a constant push and pull frame of mind.

For months I lived out of my jeep in minimalist mode. I bought nothing but the necessities.

I refuse to allow myself to slip back into the ideas and attitude that “more is better”. Now, I’ve made the decision that if a new shirt comes home with me, another one goes to Goodwill.

I want to experience life. I want those experiences to be my souvenirs.

My first sentence of this blog referenced a “die” quote “old habits die hard” while it may be true, at this point in my life there is another quote about dying that resonates more with me. From the 1988 movie Cocktail staring Tom Cruise…..in the words of Doug Coughlin…”Coughlin’s Law: Bury the dead. They stink up the joint. As for the rest of Coughlin’s Laws, ignore them. The guy was always full of shit.

Yes, I plan to ignore them all.

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Wax on. Wax off.

I’ve spent the last 6 months on a journey where my goal was to either discover or uncover the real me.

I wondered (often times aloud) “Who am I? Where do I go from here? Can I actually be alone and truly like the person that I am spending time alone with? Is there more to life than working 60 hours a week for a 40 hour paycheck and still not have enough leftover to go on a real vacation unless I use a credit card?”

I believe I got the answers I needed.

I am…..

  • A Mother
  • A Daughter
  • A Sister
  • An Aunt
  • A Best friend
  • An Adventurer
  • Capable
  • Funny
  • Happy
  • Approachable
  • Sarcastic
  • Loyal
  • A worrier
  • A warrior
  • A restless soul
  • Deeply grateful for the person I currently am as well as every single version of myself that I have been, or ever will be.

I’ve also figured out the answer to the question “Where do I go from here?” The beauty of having no one to think about other than myself is that I can do “whatever the hell I want, whenever and wherever the hell I want”. And trust me, I did. Sometimes what I did was absolutely nothing – and it was awesome!!

I surprised myself and realized that I do like the person I spent time alone with. Me, myself and I get along pretty well. We argue, cheerlead, consult with and chit chat with one another often. They are the Judge, the Juror, and plaintiff. Each one playing a different role based on the circumstances in my life at that moment.

I believe that there is always more to life. And sometimes the “more” can actually be “less” of something such as less stress, less “stuff”, or less negativity.

Opportunity may knock at your door, but like vampires, it can’t cross the threshold unless you invite it in.

I invited in not only opportunity but also spontaneity. I invited in gratitude and acceptance. I invited bliss and boredom. I embraced change and the unknown. It was both scary and empowering at the same time and I wouldn’t change a second.

This particular adventure is coming to an end. I have learned more about myself in the last few months than I have learned in the last four decades.

Never is a very strong word which should be used with extreme caution. I am however confident in saying that I will never ever regret my decision to follow my heart.

I plan to practice this type of mindful living until it simply becomes a habit. Wax on. Wax off.

Siblings

My brother Bob is my only sibling.  He is 10 years older than me.  I was just 9 when he left for college.  Honestly, I don’t have many childhood memories with him…but the ones that I fondly recall are the times that he….

…held me down and and licked my eyelids and then blew on them so they’d dry in an icky crusty kind of way.  So gross!

….or the time that he came home well after midnight, probably after a few beers, to a living room full my friends and I having a sleepover.  He woke us up and was singing a Bruce Springsteen song while wearing a red bandanna tied around his forehead.  At that specific moment, he earned some major hero worship from at least one of my girlfriends.

…and the time that he secretly caught a flight home to be with his family on Christmas.  I remember my mom answering the door.  She immediately started crying when she saw her baby boy standing there.  She said it was one of her best Christmas presents ever. (Did I mention he is the favorite….not really, she loves us both the same. I think.)

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I attended high school ten years after he did.  The teachers still said to me….”you are Bob’s sister?”  Those words were said in both “awe”, and in “aw shit, here we go again” tones.  The teachers had nothing to fear as I was an angel compared to him.  Or maybe I was just better at not getting caught.

Not only do he and I  face a decade worth of age difference, we’ve lived our lives 1,100 miles apart (yes, I google mapped it).  Despite the distance,  we’ve managed to spend a lot of time together.  Not just time, but quality time as my sister-in-law Kim pointed out to me recently. We didn’t get to spend the obligatory once a month weekend together.  When we saw each other, it was an event.  A vacation.  A week at a time, day in and day out.  Because of that, our combined five children are friends.  They get along and they really enjoy each others company.

Our small family of four (mom, dad, Bob and I) has grown over the years to twelve (us, our 5 children, and their significant others).  That number will only go up as the other kids get married and they all begin to have families of their own.

As I type this, I’ve been staying with Bob and Kim for almost two months.  In that time, Bob and I have spent some time talking about the past, the present, and the future while enjoying adult beverages and a lot of  really good music.  It’s been absolutely great.

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One night we paged through his LHS Senior Yearbook – again with couple of  adult beverages simply because it’s painful to wander down a memory lane that is peppered with feathered hair and leisure suits – without a drink in hand.  Not only did we laugh at obvious fashion fails of the decade, we talked of people long forgotten.  We grew up in small town USA.  He went to school with the big brothers and big sisters of kids that I went to school with ten years later. That doesn’t happen much anymore.

It is safe to say that I too had some hero worship going on myself.  He is my big brother.  While we really didn’t grow up together, I’ve always looked up to him.  He was (and still is) invincible, worldly, smart and just plain cool.

Even now as a grown up, he is the person I want to tell important stuff to.  He is the person I always count on for an honest answer and for solid advice on a variety of topics.  He actually thinks before he speaks.  I’ve heard about those kind of people, and now I’ve realized that I’m related to one.

I’ve struggled for days on how to end this post.  Most likely because ending this reminds me that my time here is also coming to an end.  And that makes me sad.  As much as I’d like to see myself living the SoCal life, I know it isn’t in the cards for me right now. I have a future in Montana.

Once I go back, Bob and I will again have the 1,100 mile distance between us.  But I know it will be ok.  The memories of this trip will be remembered forever and I am already looking forward to our next adventure!

Distance is just a test to see how far love can travel

Destination Grateful

Six weeks after I left Bozeman, I reached my SoCal destination.  When I left, six weeks seemed like a long time.  However it, like the highway, flew by.  Along with the 3340 miles I put on my jeep, I also put many experiences on my soul.  While I am still far from being a world traveler, it was enough.  For now.

I’ve parked the jeep in the land of constant sunshine.  I am with my family, my skin is turning golden brown, I’m a short drive from the beach, and the fruits and vegetables are fresh. I’m happy.

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If I had to use one word to describe my journey, I would choose the word “Grateful”. I am so very grateful that not only have I been able to make a dream of mine come true, I’ve spent precious time with the people I love the most, but I’ve also managed to run across some amazing human beings along the way.

There are still good people in this world.  Unfortunately, we only hear about the bad.

At a laundromat in Springerville, New Mexico a lady from Phoenix started up a conversation with me by asking where in Montana I was from.  She was interested in my journey and asked if she could follow me on Instagram.  Of course I said yes and then she gave me her business card and told me that if I was ever in Phoenix and needed a place to stay, she would be happy to let me stay at her home.

I wandered into a brewery in Flagstaff, Arizona, and headed to the bar.  When you are traveling alone it is way more fun to sit at the bar because the bartenders are usually friendly and full of information.  I took a seat just down from an older gentleman that was already there.  I smiled at him and he asked where I was from.  We started talking and he suggested his favorite beer and gave me the names of a few campgrounds and places to visit in the area.  He told me tales of the trip he and his late wife took through Montana and Wyoming in the 80’s.  He also told me that he knew I was “a good one since I come from up there”.  He seemed genuinely happy that I was interested in his story and he paid for my beer.

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Lastly there was Elizabeth in Sedona.  I was searching for her and I didn’t even know it.  She was truly an angel in disguise. Her spirit, her intuition and clairvoyance brought me to tears and soothed my soul from the outside in.  The time I spent with her was exactly what I needed for so many reasons.  I will never forget her words and she will be ever present in all my journeys to come.

We all have people that come in and out of our lives at different times for a variety of reasons.  I have had a lot of amazing people in my life along with a few really, really shitty ones.  I have learned something from each and every one of them and I truly hope I’ve been able to teach them something as well.

If you have to ask which one you are – you’re probably one of the shitty ones.

 

 

 

 

Naked…..and surprisingly not afraid.

Body Shaming.  It is a thing.  I follow the social media accounts of several “plus size” models.  Often when one of them posts a photo of themselves in a swimsuit or lingerie (nothing different than what you’d see in a clothing catalog) they are criticized, mocked, and verbally abused because of way their body looks.  This also happens to models that people feel are “too thin” and it happens to men as well.

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“Courtesy of Google Images”

I truly don’t understand why people feel the need to bring others down.  My mother would say “if someone is talking about someone else, it takes the focus off of them.” A very wise woman, my mom.  She also told me she had eyes in the back of her head so there is also that.

I have always had personal issues with my body.  My first encounter with Body Shaming happened before it was a thing.  I was in 8th grade and I heard a group of boys laughing and mumbling under their breath.  I looked at them and said something like “what?”. One of them, the most popular of the group, said “if you’d lose some weight, one of us might go out with you.” Harsh.  The summer between my 8th grade and Freshman year, I basically starved myself by counting calories and only eating 900 a day.  I did lose weight of course and I went into High School feeling pretty good about my appearance.  I didn’t however date any of them. Ever.  Wait, I might have made out with one, but I don’t think that counts.  I saw them all at my class reunion and all I can say is…..best…decision…ever. (To clarify it was not because of their looks, but because they were all still assholes).

During my solo adventure, it has been my goal to push myself beyond my comfort zone.  Early on as I was looking for a places to stay along the route and I ran across a hot spring resort in New Mexico. Ummm, did I just read “Clothing Optional”?  Yep. I did. Well…..why the hell not!  I don’t have to be naked if I don’t wanna be.  It does say “Optional”.  I didn’t reserve a spot in advance, just in case I chickened out.  I didn’t.

When I arrived and went to check in the desk clerk asked me, “Clothing Required or Clothing Optional”?  Now understand that I had many discussions in my head with myself regarding this question for the last 2 hours, and when I said “Clothing Optional” I actually surprised myself. He told me it was pretty busy over there and that there weren’t many spots left and asked if that was ok.  I was already committed, so I looked him in the eye and said “Yes, that’s fine”.


I was assisted in finding my spot by a very helpful man wearing nothing more than a red, white and blue do-rag and holding a PBR.  I got my camp all set up, cooked some dinner and drank a beer.  The sun set and dusk was settling in when I put on my beach cover up, grabbed a towel, said out loud “it’s now or never” and headed up to the hot pools.

There was already a gentleman in the pool.  I walked over to a chair, peeled off my cover up and stepped naked as the day I was born into the pool.  I have never felt prouder of myself than I did at that moment.  He and I talked about camping and traveling, family, jobs and pets.  As time passed, several couples and a few single folks showed up, Everyone was nice, they introduced themselves, and the conversations just flowed.  It was just, well, it was just normal and I wondered why I thought it wouldn’t be.

I think it is important to say that I still have insecurities about my body.  If someone else talked to my body the way I do, they probably wouldn’t have any teeth left.  I vowed that after this experience, I will treat myself the way I would expect others to treat me.  I need to be grateful for the things my body can do and for what it has done.  From giving birth to two beautiful humans, to simply getting up every morning and making coffee.  Something some bodies cannot do.  I will continue to strive to make this body of mine more healthy and fit, and I will do it with kindness.

Time flies when you don’t know what day it is. 

This a tale of a battle of will against my own fear, a mouse, some aliens, the weather and a gang of raccoons.

I took advantage of no wind and a smooth lake about 4pm on Tuesday night. It was the perfect opportunity to take my board out. The lake was like glass. Fish were jumping and I got to witness several hawks swoop down and catch their dinner right out of the lake. Talk about fresh.

By 5:30 weather was rolling in over the mountains and I made the decision to pack up the tent and sleep in the jeep again. Not because I was scared (well maybe still a little) but mostly so I didn’t have to deal with a wet tent in the morning. Good plan. I was all cozied in the passenger seat about 8:30 and fell asleep soon enough. Fast forward to 4:30 am. I hear something. I begin talking to myself again. “Am I overreacting again?” “Nope.” “There it is again.” It was a “rustling” toward the back of the jeep. It wasn’t big enough to be a bear, and it sounded like it was outside, maybe in my spare tire cover. Maybe. I laid there listening. Not panicking. Just aware. Then I clearly heard it in some empty cans I had INSIDE the jeep. I don’t mind mice. I just don’t want them sleeping with me, but what could I do? It was pitch black and raining. I wasn’t about to remove everything from the back now so I simply stayed awake. First light was a long time coming. Fortunately, the rain quit long enough for me to sort through the back and determine the mouse was gone. It had found a long-forgotten piece of dog biscuit and left it for me as a going away present. I now have bounce fabric sheets and peppermint oil cotton balls throughout my jeep. Apparently, that repels mice in case you didn’t know. The jeep smells like a static free candy cane.

I spent two nights at Bottomless Lakes State Park. It was flat so the sunsets were breathtaking. It rained off and on since I arrived so I decided to head into Roswell to explore and see if I could get myself abducted (by aliens not humans). Plus, I badly needed ice. Oh, and there was a nice winery in town too. Bonus! Thank you rain!


The International UFO Museum and Research Center was interesting. After reading all the official documents and eye witness accounts, I’m not convinced that there really wasn’t a coverup but the US Government back in 1947. The aliens probably still giggle about that and thank all the stars in the universe they didn’t stay here on earth.


Back at the lake, I moved my tent from the pond in which it sat, to the concrete under my picnic shelter. I had to move the table first. No small feat, but I managed. I’m feeling good at my intuition at this point, because it started raining yet again. I figured the tent would stay somewhat dry and not get quite so muddy. Off to bed at dark thirty as has become my habit. I was all comfy cozy and nodding off when the gang of local raccoons headed over to the trash cans for a late-night snack and a rave. They were verbally abusing one another with hisses and growls and I think the leader actually hit several of his underlings with the lid of a trash can, but that’s just speculation on my part.

Looking back, I can’t believe I went solo only a few short days ago. I continue to grow and test myself in ways that probably seem small and silly to some. But to me, they are hurdles I have cleared (which says a lot because I hate running and the one time I tried to jump a hurdle I ended up swerving around it). Of course, I meant it metaphorically, but I never miss a chance to say I hate running.

Anyway. I’m proud of myself and truly, that is all that matters.

Traveling Solo. For Real.

October 2nd.  While I’ve been traveling for about 3 weeks now, all of that has consisted of me staying with family that I figured I wouldn’t see for awhile.  Today I set off truly alone.

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I left Black Hawk, CO, home of my best friend Jodi, in about 12 inches of snow.  Black Hawk is a gambling town in the mountains above Denver.  It sits at about 9800’.  I was not happy.  I am used to snow, but I’m not a big fan of driving down a mountain in it.  Jodi said that this was a test.  I’m not a big fan of those either.

After descending about 400 feet, the snow cleared and all I was left with was wet slushy roads.  Ok.  I’m better now. The rest of the journey was uneventful.  My destination was Morphy Lake State Park, NM where I planned to camp and paddleboard for a couple of days.

I drove most of the way in silence.  No audio books, no music.  I was trying to wrap my head around why I was doing this and why it mattered to me.  I’ve questioned my decision probably one too many times.  It’s not like I’m leaving forever, just 8 months, but sometimes it feels like it’s much longer.

While I didn’t come up with any great epiphanies, I did find myself focusing on the ever-changing scenery and just enjoying my own company.

My first stop was the Rio Grande Gorge bridge.  It was windy, the bridge was super high, and I couldn’t make myself walk out on it.  I snapped a couple of selfies and I was on my way.  Next stop, Taos Mesa Brewery.  It was Happy Hour! I had a Scotch Ale that the waitress recommended and it was awesome.

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From Taos, it took me a good 2 hours to get to Mora, NM.  Mainly because I kept stopping to take pictures of the view, knowing full well that the images will never do the real thing justice.

Arriving in Mora, Google helped me find road Highway 94.  Thank God for Google.  I would have missed it.  It was really hidden.  Up about 2.5 miles on a very narrow windy road, I finally arrived.

There was a man fishing from the shore, but he left shortly after I parked.  There was no one else here.  It was getting dark as I set up my tent and it was pitch black as I heated up my BBQ Pork for a quick dinner.

It was about that time my mind started thinking all kinds of crazy things.  “This is the perfect setting for a horror movie” “There is only one road up and out” “I’m trapped” “What the F(*k am I doing!” “I’m going to town” “That would be dumb. The road is sketchy, especially in the dark” Ultimately, I toughed it out and made myself stay.  This was why I was doing this.  To test my resolve.  To push the limits of my comfort zone.  To find out what I’m made of.  While, I did end up sleeping in the jeep…with the doors locked and my pistol on the seat next to me…. I feel like I accomplished a small but necessary victory.

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Tomorrow I paddle board.

Home

Here I sit, on my parents couch, on the cusp of an adventure that came about when I quit my job of 26 years to follow a dream.  A dream to travel. An opportunity to learn more about myself and to figure out what I can (or can’t) do and getting to answer to just me, if only for a short time before I have to check back into reality. 

Departure day finally came. My jeep was packed and I found myself on the road from Bozeman towards Wyoming. When I was asked “where you headed?” I automatically responded “home”. 

Of course time on the road allows for deep thoughts and I found myself thinking  – which home?


Bozeman, Montana sunset. 

Bozeman, MT 59718 is what my mailing address says. I’ve lived there for a year and a half. I love it, I’ve embraced it, and I’ve been lucky to make some lifelong friendships in that short amount of time. I truly feel at home there. It’s the place I will return to when this adventure comes to an end. 

Main Street – Lovell, Wyoming. 

Lovell, Wyoming is where I spent my entire childhood. From Kindergarten through the Pomp and Circumstance March of High School Graduation. Although only a few family members remain there, it too was home. 


The house I made into a home. 

As I type this, the couch I’m sitting on is near the town of Cody, Wyoming. A beautiful place at the edge of Yellowstone National Park. It is the place I lived for 25 years. The place where I made a house a home for my two daughters. They grew up there and so did I. How can there be any place that defines “home” more than that?
However, in all honestly Cody feels no more or no less like “home” than Bozeman or Lovell does. 

Webster Dictionary: Definition of HOME: “one’s place of residence”.  Google says, “a familiar or usual setting.” or “the focus of one’s domestic attention – home is where the heart is.”

I guess that pretty much says it all.  

Three very different  places. Three very different stages of my life. And yet each place has left an identical everlasting impression on my heart. 

Holy Shit! I’m that person.

I’m that person that I’ve read about, the one I’ve dreamed about being for longer than I can remember.  That person I believed only existed on social media. That person that quit her job to follow her dreams.

I’m her.  I quit the kind of job that many people strive to have.  Paid vacation. Paid sick leave. An 8am – 5pm schedule. Retirement. Travel opportunities. Decent paychecks. Coworkers that became more like family. Respect and purpose.

I started February 7th, 1991.  My daughter was 8 months old and I wasn’t even of legal drinking age.  Two weeks later, I was on a plane to Nevada flying under the name of the staff member that I replaced (you could do that then). I spent ten days in Reno for a convention to raise money for the organization I now worked for. It never crossed my mind that this would turn into a career spanning more than two decades.

But that isn’t the point of this post.  On the eve of my last official day of work, I found myself reflecting on many things but the one that stands out the most is friendship.

After I sent my email informing my “clients” that I would be leaving the organization, I was truly humbled by the responses I got.  Many brought me to tears.

These people didn’t have to reply. They didn’t have to tell me how much they would miss me, or that they wished me only the best on my new adventures.  They didn’t have to offer to let me stay with them if I was ever in the area. But they did.

These people weren’t “clients”. They are friends.

And that makes me richer than any job ever could.

“I’ll look back on this and smile, because it was life and I decided to live it.”

 

I will forever miss you but time will never erase our memories

She would have been 46 yesterday.  She was one corner of what we called the Tri-Perfecta.  Three best friends who lived only states apart, although sometimes it felt like worlds.

We all graduated together May 22, 1989.  Our class was the biggest in the history of Lovell High School.  74 of us graced the stage that Monday night.  Our class motto was “Life is the mirror of our accomplishments, ’tis what we are and do.  Give the world the best that you have and the best will come back to you”.  Our class song was “This Is The Time” by Dennis DeYoung. “Rainman” was best picture of the year and “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerron was best album of the year.  The San Francisco 49’ers won the Superbowl that year and gas was .94 cents a gallon.

I was 2nd in my class but only because my last name started with an A. Jodi was our Salutatorian and probably gave a great speech, I don’t remember, but I’m confident it was awesome. I was just waiting for that diploma and the kegger that was happening after. Kristin was your stereotypical “airhead” of the 80’s, which is odd because she grew up and became a Family Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner for kids. (Confession – I had to look at her obit to find out what her “title” was.)  I just always knew she helped people and was really good at it.

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Being that there were only 74 of us we all knew everybody but we didn’t always hang out together.   Jodi & I ran in the same circle in High School but Kristin was kind of “churchy”.  I wasn’t.

One night I was at a party and I’d been drinking.  Jodi came and picked me up. To this day I’m not sure how that  happened because this was before cell phones – maybe I used the house phone. It was probably a rotary.  She drove a giant white  Ford Galaxy Custom 500 and we hit a skunk on the way into town.  Then she got pulled over for speeding (she has always driven like a bat out of hell).  I remember taking the gum straight outta her mouth so the police wouldn’t know I’d been drinking.  Teenagers are stupid and I was one of them.

However, Kristin and my adventures were quite different.  I remember driving her home after school on occasion in my Mustang and we’d stop at the Bighorn Restaurant for Peanut Butter pie.

After graduation Jodi & I stayed in touch.  She threw my bridal shower at her parents house and we talked on the land line often.

Then we hit our 20 year class reunion.  Kristin was no longer “churchy”.  We drank shots of “Hot Sex” liquor straight out of the bottle in the parking lot before the reunion social. The three of us just clicked. After that there wasn’t a day that went by that we didn’t communicate somehow.

In 2013 we went on a girls trip to Austin, TX.  Jodi & I flew into Dallas and Kristin picked us up.  We drank wine and danced to (very loud) 80’s music that night.  In Austin we ate out of a sketchy food truck and had a great time in a deuling piano bar on 6th Street.  I vaguely remember almost getting in a fist fight over a taxi at 2am as well.  You can take the girls out of Wyoming, but you can’t take the Wyoming out of the girls…..It was a good time, and probably deserves it’s own blog post.

FullSizeRender (5).jpgKristin and Jodi both came to Cody when my oldest daughter got married.  I was able to see Kristin once a year when I went to Dallas for work and I was able to see Jodi several times when her family came back home to see her mom & dad and once when I flew to Denver for fun and once when we went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming for a concert.

The three of us always talked of another girls trip.  I regret that we never made it happen. 

I talked to Kristin on March 22nd on my way to an Eric Church concert.  She was in true Kristin form. Happy and silly and looking forward to the weekend.  Thank God we always ended the conversation with an “I Love You” and a giggle.  It would be the last time I heard her voice.

I got the call from Jodi the next morning.  1/3 of us was gone.  They called it suicide.  We call it bullshit.