Lean Mean Fighting Machine

Kickboxing is an interesting sport, one I have never paid an ounce of attention to until now. I signed up for Ferrell’s Extreme Body Shaping Classes because I knew it was time to get off the couch and get back into they gym in some sort of fashion. I signed up because I liked the concept of 6 one hour classes per week combining cardio and strength training along with quality instruction and lots of motivation, the kickboxing part just came along with the package. I signed up to try something new and to help me meet my goal for the new year of leaning down, waaaaaayyyy down.

The first night of class we were all taught how to wrap our wrists, the idea being we would need extra support to protect our wrists when punching. I was pretty sure this was unnecessary since I have the upper body strength of a slug. It seemed the risk of real injury was fairly remote, at least in my mind.

Next, we put on our HUGE boxing gloves, suddenly I felt more like Mickey Mouse than Muhammad Ali, but if nothing else I am game to try something new so I too put on my massively over-sized gloves and stood alert waiting for my next set of instructions.

Our very fit instructor turned on loud music with a driving beat and started warming us up with a series of jabs, hooks and kicks. Within 30 seconds I felt like I was going to die. Hell, just holding my gigantic gloves up by my face seemed like a workout to me; within moments each glove started feeling heavier and heavier by the second.

In telling this little story, to describe my efforts as, awkward, is really being kind. I was taught to be a “little lady” and growing up with only a younger sister the need to defend myself from someone pulling rapid punches at my face was just not ever a problem.

I would start out ok, hands up, jabbing away, only to realize soon my tired arms had dropped and I had left my entire face exposed to the nearest bad guy willing to throw a punch. Then, talk about coordination, you are supposed to keep your feet moving constantly so you are not an easy target. Don’t you remember Muhammed Ali’s old saying “fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee?” Picture him or Mike Tyson bouncing back and forth on their feet, dancing away from his opponent all the while holding his gloves up to his face, always protecting and waiting for his opportunity to jab and cross, striking before his opponent even saw it coming.

Now that you have that image in mind, transpose this one, me dressed in my dusty workout pants and baggy t shirt standing in a gym with 40 other people, trying desperately to be invisible in the back of the room, and still peer out periodically around my associates to try and follow my deft moving instructor. Alternatively, I would forget to keep my hands up or forget to move my feet. My stance appeared more like a tree trunk rooted in soil than a dancing butterfly and my jab about as harmful as a wet noodle. Now, picture me breathing rapidly, sweating profusely and averaging 4 steps behind the group at any given point in time. Ya, I looked good.

Sensing I might be a natural at this sport, I continued my efforts to keep up.

Next the instructor had us move huge punching bags out into the center of the room. I realized what I was really up against when I pushed with all my might and it merely laughed at me. Seriously, I watched as my peers pushed, tilted and rolled their pads into the middle of the room. Trying again, I threw my entire weight against it hoping to knock it over and instead it bounced back at me like Bozo the Clown, nearly knocking me out on the rebound. At this point, a buff looking female classmate had mercy on me and quickly maneuvered the punching bag into proper position. Well, ok, time to move on.

Our instructor resumed his stance and proceeded to demonstrate a series of sidekicks and alternating punches. He outlined what he expected. Gloves up, I danced in place nodding my head that I was ready to go for it.

I threw my punch with all I had, danced back on my heels and brought my knee up for a menacing sidekick designed to disarm and disorient. The bag didn’t even move. Really, not even a tiny bit. I looked around the room, people were waylaying into their bags, loud smacks could be heard and bags teetered back and forth from the force of the kicks. Mine stood still staring back at me. Daring me to try it again.

After several exhausting minutes of this our instructor paired us with a partner. The plan was to have us stand on opposite side of the bags, alternating our punching and kicking. My partner was a stout man who had done this before. He nodded I could go first like a gentleman, so I grinned and threw the first of my punches, I hit with all I had, jab, jab, hook, upper cut, jab, side kick, side kick. I think I looked like I was having a seizure. The bag didn’t even twitch. Gasping for air I stepped back, impressed with my furry. I waited for my partner to go at it. Nothing happened. Finally, after a few seconds my partner peered around the bag, looked at me and said, “oh I guess you went already”. Then he proceeded to beat the living hell out of our bag and I soon found myself defending my face and head for fear the bag would fall over onto me, certain to kill me instantly. Seriously, he hadn’t even realized I had gone, what the hell!

Day one at Ferrell’s Extreme Body Shaping had me extremely whipped.

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The Best Last Day of the Worst Year

It was an unexpected gift, it wasn’t planned and I didn’t think it would feel that good but I had the best last day of the worst year of my life. I don’t mean to sound mellow dramatic here but it has been a tough year and I feel a sense of relief that it is finally over. Time to move on. 2012 here I come.

Once the Christmas holiday’s rolled by I had no big plan to ring in the New Year. I am not a big club girl by any means and midnight is way past my bedtime so I usually don’t even stay up to watch Dick Clark drop the ball, but when my sister called to say she wanted to rent a cabin up in the mountains for a few days at the end of the year I jumped on her bandwagon. My little family all had plans so we decided to channel our inner wild women vibe and head out alone into the Rockies armed only with our two dogs and a 3 inch knife to defend ourselves with. See picture.

Our little cabin was pretty rustic but had all necessities needed by a couple of wimps like us. We had a cozy little 100 year old log cabin complete with a bathroom and shower, small tv, cook top stove and microwave, boom box and little porch for coffee drinking. All we needed.

Since we only had a couple days we rented our cabin, scouted out the possible day trips and made a plan, that is what we do, we are moms.

The cabin, while cute and cozy, was located right in the middle of a small mountain town. We were nestled in tall Ponderosa pines and it looks like we are out in the middle of nowhere but the reality is we are surrounded by regular folks in regular houses and we are about a block away from the local coffee shop. A convenient location for a couple of scardy cat sisters who have no business alone out in the wild.

Vicki was brave and arrived a couple days before I did, her first night with Mack her dog going smoothly enough, maybe because they were exhausted after they’re 12-hour drive. The second night did not go as well. Half way through the night Vicki awoke to Mack growling fiercely on full alert at the door. Vicki did the only reasonable thing, -she yelled at Mack. After the third time of him fiercely guarding her with the demons at the door she admitted fear. Thankfully , all was well when in the light of day as Vicki opened the curtains to be eye to eye with 5 deer. So much for guard dog.

When I arrived with my own personal guard dog Rowdy Obiwondanobe, we settled in for the night, Rowdy in his kennel and Mack on his blankie by the door. I took my Ambien and we all started catching some zz’s. Peaceful enough until Mack twitched in his sleep and accidentally knocked over a broom , scaring the beejeebees out him. Doing what a good guard dog would do when faced with a bad guy (broom) attacking him in the middle of the night, he made am impressive three foot jump from the door landing in one move right on top of Jackie in her bed. Alert to the commotion Rowdy lept to his feet and stood shaking head to toe in his kennel. Talk about excitement!

After a few cups of coffee in the morning, Vicki and I managed to pull ourselves together and head out for the day. Our big plan was to go for a scenic mountain drive, hit a couple off road 4 wheel drive trails and then spend the afternoon snowshoeing. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it!

So after arming ourselves with even more coffee from the local coffee shop we headed out only to discover 100 mile an hour winds were whipping the heck out of the mountains and were sending snow swirling in white-out conditions. Sensing that maybe this was not a good situation we turned around and headed back into the safety of town. Somehow we landed at the local 125 year old Saloon. I am honestly not sure how that happened. After a delicious lunch in this historical setting we decided to play a game of pool. Picture this, the two of us, wild daring western women ie suburbian mom’s ended up spending the afternoon playing pool, drinking beer, listening to old rock and roll and having a very special afternoon. An unexpected sense of contentment settled over the two and us and we decided life was good and we were ready for 2012.

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No Mental, No Dental!

Last weekend my sister came for a visit and as we sat drinking coffee early one morning on my deck she innocently mentioned that she had recently just discovered her new health insurance lacked Mental health coverage and Dental coverage, I about spit out my coffee, as the realization hit me full force. This was a problem, no mental, no dental; this would not do, not at all.

Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I immediately mentally adjusted our weekend schedule. If she had no mental, then I would have to provide a little mental adjustment for her of my own. If she lacked dental, I would have to take that into consideration also. Not good.

I immediately started planning; we had much to do and very little time to do it in!

I whipped out my iphone and with a few keystrokes had us scheduled for a little giggle fest-a pole dancing class on Friday night. Then I checked the weather and blocked out all day Saturday for a much needed mountain drive through Estes Park to do some fall leaf peeping, followed by a Sunday adrenaline rush with a little ziplining adventure at Royal Gorge.

Estes Park is a truly amazing place, especially in late September, for some reason the animals that reside in the park are much more visible in the late fall, not to mention the way the crisp mountain air bites at your cheeks and golden hews of the Aspen’s dance on the hillside in their full fall glory.

Vicki did not remember visiting the park when we were young kids so each twist and turn of the road was a happy surprise for her. The view of Trail Ride Road slowly winding its way up the mountain to the Continental Divide provided her with amazing vista’s of rugged mountain ranges, field after field of fiery red and golden yellow leaves dancing in the wind and wild mountain lakes tucked into the sides of massive mountains in the distance as far as the eye could see.

There is something about a fall drive in the Rockies that helps clear your mind, replenish your batteries and fill your lungs with enough fresh crisp air to last all winter long.

We managed to see Elk munching in the yards and ditches of the town of Estes Park, as comfortable with the tourists as the snow on the mountains. We caught a glimpse of a large male Moose grazing just behind the tree line and we saw the most amazing mountain vista’s that grew more impressive with each curve of the highway.

Along the way we sang to vintage classic rock and enjoyed the ride with her windows down in her very cool red Jeep. We sang along with Bob Segar and Bon Jovi. We talked about our dreams, our fears and our struggles. We laughed and ate sandwiches and sipped our Diet Cokes and we concentrated on the simple joy of breathing in the fresh woodsy smells of the mountains. That was all we had to do. No problems to solve, no fears to overcome, no deep revelations to discover. We just drove around a beautiful mountain park in the height of a gorgeous September fall day with the windows down and the music up in her cool red Jeep. Life was so simple. Life was good. We are blessed to have each other as sisters and friends.

By the end of the day, our mental therapy needs had been met and our energy levels were restored. The mental part was taken care of.

Now for the dental, I think I will send her the pictures of our glorious September Rocky Mountain drive with a package of floss and let her figure the rest out for herself.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Fins the Left, Fins to the Right….

A Jimmy Buffett concert has been on my bucketlist now for many years and I have been waiting, ever so patiently, for my opportunity. It takes a lot of patience to wait as long as I have, but I finally got my chance and I am happy to report it was worth the wait. Jimmy Buffett, rock and roll legend, margarita-in-hand icon, stick it to the man himself, arrived in Denver, Colorado in October to fulfill one of my dreams.

Parrot heads are an interesting bunch, ranging in age from 7 to 70, they come in all shapes and sizes, gathering like a flock of migrating birds to city after city on the tour. They arrive for the show all dressed in their best Caribbean beachwear, straw hats, coconut shell tops, and flip flops with their beers in hand to pay homage to one of rock and roll’s most interesting characters, Mr. Jimmy Buffett.

I have never seen so many decked out vehicles, surfboards and VW vans in one place. The crowd left their careers as doctors, plumbers, lawyers and teachers behind as they gathered for the biggest beach party Colorado has ever had.

Drinks in hand, the crowd joined as one, in singing anthems such as Wasting Away in Margarittaville, Brown Eyed Girl, and we all became Pirates together like a bunch of kids. The party was a hoot, everyone managed to leave their worries checked at the door, no deadlines, bills, stock markets, or Middle East standoffs to worry about, all we did was dance and sing like a bunch of fools, multiple generations joining together, teenagers and grandparents, youngsters and parents, we all joined together and pretended we were dancing in the sand as the waves rolled in, nothing but time and friends on our side.

Finland is a magical place; the Caribbean sound floating in their while the invisible smell of the salty sea fills your senses. While I was there, I relaxed, I let go, and I put my hands on above my head and sang along to “fins to the left, fins to the right, like you’re the only bait in town!!” Jimmy Buffet has it all figured out. Don’t let life get you down; all you need is a good song, a guitar, a surfboard and the sea. The rest of it really doesn’t matter, cause “If we didn’t laugh, we’d all go insane!”

Watching the generations merge together, the stress and worry disappear from all of their faces, I realized I danced with new friends and I sang with the best. Somehow, it will all be all right.

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Far Niente, Far Away

Romantic Notions
I have always wanted to follow my romantic side and escape for a long a weekend to California, spending my days biking and wandering the rolling hills of the wine counties of Sonoma and Napa Valley, and my evenings tasting the sweet flavors of red and white wines grown in this region. I am still working on the notion of a full weekend, preferably with just my husband, but I did get to do a tour of one of the best vineyards in the state and it exceeded my expectations in every way.

This grand day adventure was a couple years ago, but every time I see the pictures I am taken back to that magical day. We were in California for the Vineman, a Half Ironman Triathlon that my husband and sister were competing in, and we only had one day to explore the vine region, but we tried to make the best of it in every way.

Thanks to my brother-in-law we had a reservation at Far Niente, one of the more upscale and traditional vineyards in California. I had mentioned to him my girlish, romantic notions of what a vineyard tour and tasting might be like and he confidently informed me that if I only had time for one tour, this was the place for it. Trusting his excellent taste and good judgment I agreed wholeheartedly.

Wine Country
When the day dawned and we found ourselves driving through the slightly brown rolling hills of Sonoma Valley I was in awe at the tidy fields of vines, tenderly cared for over the years and the unique personality of the area. Glancing over my left shoulder I exclaimed to my husband “Oh look at that one on the hillside” just as he obediently turned on the blinker after the GPS directed him to go left. “Wow, do you think that is where we are going?” I asked, as if he had been here before!

Soon my questions were answered and we turned into a tree-lined drive complete with row after row of perfectly tended, lush, green vines all heavy with grapes. As we turned the corner a large stone structure appeared covered with ivy and surrounded by fields and fields of flowers. It was if I blinked and landed in Disney World, the place of young girls dreams!

Wine Making 101
Entering the ancient looking structure I felt like I was on a Tuscan movie set, my eyes searching, I saw rows of bottled wine and pictures of barrels perfectly arranged. When our tour started we were led down a spiral staircase into a dark, cool cave, which much to my delight was lined with more barrels of wine than I could count. We learned about the fine art of growing grapes and how they actually produced higher quality wine if they were forced to overcome variations in temperatures. In fact, the wine tasted best if the vines were challenged. We learned how the barrels came from different parts of the world depending on the type of wood and desired flavor of wine.

I was almost as captured by the wonderful fields of carefully tended flowers and manicured lawns, as I was by the lessons in wine making, but I was struck by the complexities involved and the creativeness involved. Honestly, I had no idea all that went into making a distinct and tasteful glass of wine. No wonder there is so many choices at my local liquor store!

The day was especially wonderful for me because it was spent with both my parents and I still remember the joy mirrored in my mother’s face as the fields of flowers and rows of immaculate vines, too, mesmerized her. As time marches on and life continues to challenge me, I hope that I too, am better in the end, for all that I face. This day is etched in my memory; the flavors of the wine and the smells of the flowers serve to remind me of special days remembered even if they are far, far away.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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I Wanna Be A Warrior- A Callathumpian

I learned something about myself the other day and it kind of surprised me. I realized I want to be a warrior. How did I come to this bizarre sounding realization? Well, in a round about way, which seems to be the theme of my life, more often than not, I find things about myself in seemingly random ways. I call this the journey of my life.

I have been on quite a journey the past year and I have learned a tremendous amount about myself along the way. I think I am a better person for it, so it seems that I must continue on this journey. They say life is not about “getting there, it is about the journey” and I must concur.

I attended an outrageous event last weekend called “The Warrior Dash” and even though I did not participate in it, I learned something about myself. I went as the “cheerleader, gear carrier, and photographer extraordinaire” to watch and cheer my husband and cousin on as they competed in a 5K Obstacle Course at Copper Mountain called the Warrior Dash. It was hysterical to say the least.

When they signed up for this event months ago I passed on joining. My insecurities got the best of me, again. The thought of running through an obstacle course, while running a 5K at 11,000 feet in elevation was enough to spook me off. I instead volunteered to be the cheerleader and take the pictures, a very safe, very clean decision on my part.

Now, you must understand a bit about this race. The idea is to dress up in a costume, test your inner Warrior and push yourself out of your normal comfort zone doing zany things like jump over fire, shimmy under barbed wire fences, climb over walls and wallow in a big mud pit. If you succeed and cross the finish line you win a cool warrior hat. This seemed a lot of work for a silly hat to me until I saw what I was missing.

My husband has this cool ability to see possibilities I can’t always see; I really admire this and love this about him. I just need to learn to listen to him more often, but that, my friend, is another story.

I looked up warrior in the dictionary and I was intrigued. It said a warrior was a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics. I liked the part about great vigor and courage. Then I noticed the synonym for this word and it was even better. It said a fighter was a person with will, courage, determination, ability or disposition to fight, struggle resist etc.

Pondering this a bit, it hit me that I would really like to be known as a warrior, someone with courage, a fighter who was a person with will, and determination, and with the ability to fight and struggle. This sounds to me like someone strong and brave.

The funny part of this is that as I learn something about myself, it leads me to something new and unexpected. I noticed a new word, one I have never heard of but I really liked the sound of. My search led me to the word, callathumpian, an extraordinary or unusal thing, person or event. An exceptional example or instance. This sounds good to me.

It hit me, you can’t be extraordinary if you are afraid to get out of the ordinary of life. I think my bucketlist is helping me get out of the ordinary of life and that is a good thing.

Watching my husband and cousin, dressed in matching Hawaiian outfits of grass skirts, straw hats and coconut shell bikini tops run up the mountain, climb over walls, slide under fences and then wade through the mud pit I realized you have to be willing to stand out from the crowd and you have to be willing to be someone who isn’t afraid to get dirty if you want to be a warrior.

I am going to sign up for next years’ Warrior Dash and work on my inner callathumpian, in fact, I am putting it on my Bucketlist right now.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Party in The Mud

Being ridiculous seems like a fairly odd thing to put on your bucketlist, but then I guess you could call this entire Bucketlist thing pretty odd, so maybe it fits.

Here is how it started, I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an employee and this is all pretty serious stuff. I mean look at it this way, I have children to raise, a marriage to maintain and friends and family who need me, I have a job to do and a household to run. I have bills to pay, errands to run, book reports to review and toilets to clean. It is hard to fit “being ridiculous” into an already packed day. Once you get all this responsibility in life it is kind of hard to just turn it off like a light switch and “be truly silly” just for the sake of being silly. It dawned on me one day that while my life was full of smiles and laughter, it might be missing pure silliness just for the sake of being silly. My solution was to put it on my bucketlist and give myself permission to be nutty.

This summer has been busy beyond busy in my family. We have so much going on that I manage to get through each day and then pass out at night of exhaustion only to get up and start over again. Now, don’t get me wrong. A lot of what we have going on is really good stuff, but still, when your life is as packed as mine is right now just getting the chance to relax needs heavy duty scheduling. In a normal summer our family spends several weekends at the lake boating and camping and several weekends up in the mountains camping and playing on our dirt bikes. This summer it has been a struggle to make this happen. That is why I insisted this past weekend we stop the madness and go to the mountains. “summer is almost over” I told my husband, “if we don’t go now we won’t get it done all summer, and that is just not right!”

Thankfully, he agreed, and we shook hands on it. Not really, but we decided it was a plan.

So much for plans. Friday was nuts for both of us at work. Dan had planned to pick up Maggie and her friend around noon and head up to our favorite mountain hide-away with the camper. He’d get camp set up and Sam and I would come up after work and a much-needed stop at the grocery store. Good plan. Unfortunately, this was not to be.

Dan and the girls made it as far as Morrison, which for those of you who know Colorado is about 2 miles up the mountains, when his truck started protesting. His normally heavy-duty multi-ton truck could barely go 10 miles per hour and it quickly became apparent to Dan that he had serious vehicle towing problems. He pulled over and gave the tired truck time to cool off. They tried again. And again. And again. Finally, several hours into this grand adventure he turned around and hoped that if he was headed downhill gravity would be on his side and he could go faster than 10 miles per hour. It worked for about 4 miles. Then he hit the flatlands and once again found himself crawling along as rush hour traffic roared past him 75 miles per hour.

Dan called in the reserves and summoned Sam to come pick up the girls while he took the camper back to storage and dropped his injured truck off at the repair shop. Finally, 5 hours after it all began, Dan walked in the door at home tired, and discouraged.

Looking at each other we decided we would not take defeat. We would rally Plan B. Maybe, we could borrow a truck long enough to get the camper up there? No luck, no trucks available with the right hitch. Not to be defeated, we scrambled to Plan C. Tent camping! Yes, we would resort to tent camping, whatever it took to get this adventurous family to the mountains. At this point, even the dog was getting depressed.

Without a camper we faced a few obstacles. Number one, being the lack therein, of a restroom. Dan rallied with Plan D. “We could camp at the base of Red Cone Mountain,” he announced. “Remember, it has a small campground with port-a-potties.” Yes! That was the solution we needed! A port-a potty! Dan disappeared to do some fast Internet research, only to come back a few minutes later with a beat down look on his face. “We can’t camp there. They still have Webster and Red Cone Pass closed due to a 30-foot wall of snow at the summit. They have so much run-off that the stream by the campground is dangerously high.”

Translation. We couldn’t take one clueless Golden Retriever and two adventurous 11 year olds camping by a “stream” that is now a raging river of with 32-degree water.

Plan E, back to our regular campsite far back in the mountains, we would simply have to do some serious backcountry camping in this desperate situation. That meant camping in a tent, peeing in the bushes and eating over the campfire. We looked at each other, gauging the strength in each other’s eyes and made one final pact, yes, we would do it!

After so many plan changes even we were confused. What gear would we need, where were the tents, did we still have the lantern, where was the grill, and more raced through our tired, but not defeated brains. We rearranged, unloaded and reloaded late into the night before calling it a day.

The next morning we finished up and finally rolled out of town at 10:30 am. You must realize that mere mortals would have given up long before this, but our little pack is one determined, if not sickly stubborn group, and we refused to succumb to defeat.

Two hours later we arrived and unloaded our gear. It was about then that we realized the folly of our ways. We had the necessary can of baked beans but no can opener, we had cereal but no milk or bowls to put it in, we had coffee filters but no coffee pot, we had graham crackers but no marshmallows or chocolate for smores. Looking fate squarely in the eye we said damn to it all! We will eat hot dogs on a stick and pop tarts for breakfast. We could have hamburger buns with peanut butter for lunch and feast on potato chips. Remember here troops-we are roughing it!

Along about now I made a mental shift, as a good friend puts it. I decided that no matter what we were going to have a good time. All we needed was a good attitude!

Once we unloaded all the haphazard camping gear we unloaded the toys, the three dirt bikes and the Ranger. Next we loaded up a few non-nutritious snacks and headed out to discover the trails. All it took was about 3 minutes on the gorgeous trails to put my mind back at ease. I could feel the tension roll off my shoulders. The mountains have had so much snowfall and rain this year that they were green everywhere you looked. Snow capped mountains in the distance framed luscious green valleys filled with wildflowers as far as you could see. Yes, in spite of all of our challenges, this trip was worth it. It felt good to be out here in God’s heaven.

Peace filled my heart; I felt relaxed and suddenly rejuvenated, not rushed and tired like usual. Just then we rounded the bend on the trail and my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree at the sight before my eyes. Before me on the trail lay a huge mud puddle, as wide and deep and muddy as the Mighty Mississippi. Well, not quite that wide, but it was big. Casting a glance at the little girls beside me I asked the loaded question “do you want to go around the puddle or right through it?” I innocently asked. “THROUGH IT!” they squealed with delight. “Ok, you asked for it” I answered as I backed us up about 8 feet (we had to get a good running start) and promptly gunned the Ranger full force. We went from 1 to 90 in just seconds (well maybe 0 to 15) and hit the water with full force of our enthusiasm. The girls were screaming with delight and I gritted my teeth in anticipation of the wall of mud soon to hit me.

We created a huge wall of muddy water, it washed over the top of the Ranger, it created a brown wall as it washed over the windshield, and it seeped into the glove box and washed over our feet. The entire vehicle was suspended in time, coated with mud like a chocolate sundae! As we emerged on the other side I glanced over at the girls and saw their delighted faces suspended in time. They had huge grins spread across their face, ear to ear. They looked at me with disbelief. They could not believe the mother, commonly referred to around here, as “the fun sucker” would plow through a huge mud puddle like that!

I laughed until I cried muddy tears, but I looked at them and asked one simple question “want to do that again?”

I have never felt so silly, nor have I ever been so dirty, but I am telling you it was the most fun I have had in a long time. The girls and I couldn’t get enough, we raced through mud puddle after mud puddle and when it was over, we did it again. It was very good for my soul to let go and just be ridiculous again. I highly recommend you give it a try.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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It’s All In Where You Point Your Hip

Lesson in life: wherever you point your hip is where you are going to go.

What? Yes, in all my infinite years of living life I have figured out that you are going to go wherever you point your hip. Think about it. If you think you are going to be successful. Chances are pretty good you will be. Alternately, if you think you are going to be a failure, you probably are going to fail. If you practice something over and over, chances are you will end up pretty good at whatever it is. If you never try something, you will never know.

This past weekend our busy little family finally made it to the lake for a little rest and relaxation. It has been a very intense summer around here and we have a lot of projects swirling around that we are trying to juggle. Time at the lake just wasn’t fitting in very well but Sunday we made it happen and it felt good.

I decided to get out of my comfort zone and practice my very newly developed wake surfing skills. Getting up wasn’t really the problem, physics pretty much makes that happen on its own. What is tricky is knowing what to do once you are up.

Last summer I tackled this bucketlist item and spent a fair amount of time drinking the lake, which I do not really recommend. This summer I was determined to give it a go. Up I went on the first try!

It was after I got up that I realized I had very little in my bag of skills. Now, when you wake surf the good news is that the boat is going very slow, only about 11-12 miles per hour, so the falls don’t really hurt. However, it is important to note for all the non-wake surfers out there that the real downside to this sport is that the boat is pulling you just a few feet behind it and the wake created by the boat can be 3-4 feet high. I know, this doesn’t sound like that big of a deal but believe me when you are riding a wave and dip down into the trough it shoots you straight at the back of the boat. In fact, you can get within inches of the boat if you are not careful. Now someone with a bit of skill just rides the wave back up to the crest and rides down again. Those of us less skilled, i.e.-no skill, are often just along for the ride and it can get pretty exciting.

My son has been my wake surfing coach now for two summers and while he is willing to explain the concept over and over again I do often get what I refer to as “the sigh.” This is when I have exhausted all reserves of patience he has and I get the deep sigh of frustration. He never yells, he just sighs. He thinks I am not listening, I am I swear! But I do what I think he is telling me and I often get the same bad results.

This is about when the light bulb moment hit me. If I do the same thing over and over and then get frustrated when I get the same result it is my own fault. Realizing that when I am willing to try something new or sometimes try something that just doesn’t make sense can often bring very different and positive results.

Sam had been telling me to rotate my hip toward the boat to get into what is referred to as the sweet spot on the wake. I kept riding the wake surf like my old friend my water ski and it just wasn’t working. Finally I rotated my right hip as far as I could and suddenly I shot toward the base of the wake, right where I wanted to be. A look of amazement came across my face.

Sam just looked at me like “I told you so”

I actually did it. I rode the wave up and down riding like I knew what I was doing. Riding like a surfer. Very cool stuff. Too bad I’m so stubborn or I might have been doing this a long time ago. When I finally pointed my hip in the direction I wanted to go I was amazed at the results. I learned in life I just have to believe. I just have to “act as if” and I just have to point my hip in the direction I want to go. The rest of it will all work itself out. This is good stuff.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Ask and You Shall Receive

About 7 weeks ago I got a text message from my niece asking me if I would go skydiving with her this summer when she was home on college break. My first reaction was that I was honored that she asked. I mean, think about it. That’s kind of cool. It felt good to be thought of as “the one to ask.” We are talking about a very happening young 20 year old college coed here and she only had limited time at home to begin with.

I decided that if she thought I was cool enough to ask then I was definitely cool enough to skydive, again. Besides, skydiving was pretty much the most amazing thing I have ever done, other than give birth, and it hurt a lot less!

Now, you have to understand something, there are pretty much two kinds of people in the world. Those that really want to skydive someday in their life, and those that look at you like you had three heads when you tell them about your high in the sky dreams. These people can’t even begin to imagine why you want to jump from 18,000 feet from a perfectly good airplane. However, just because someone tells you they’d like to skydive it doesn’t have any correlation with whether they will ever ACTUALLY jump out of a plane! There seems to be a rather big difference. I’ve learned in the past year that more people have skydived than you would imagine but we are still a rather small minority. So when my niece asked I felt like I just had to say yes!

As soon as I texted back, (see how cool I am – I text) I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me as I tried to recapture the adrenaline high I felt after my first jump. It is almost impossible to describe but trust me –it was cool. In fact, the entire experience left me breathless. Breathless, from the moment we launched ourselves out of the plane and the air was sucked out of my lungs as we fell 120 miles per hour toward the earth. Breathless, as I grinned ear to ear trying to adjust to the wind wiping my cheeks and my arms and legs thrown out in a wide embrace; breathless, as my jump instructor spun us in circles faster than any merry-go-round on any playground.

After reliving my glory days, I decided I was not too old for one more round on the glory wheel. I would jump again. I would take the step beyond rookie and become one of those “jumpers” who discovered the real thrill in life is testing your own limits!

Fast forward to the bright sunny Colorado morning when my niece, my son and I drove to Longmont for the highlight of our summer. As the jump time got closer I could see the excitement in my niece’s eyes. No fear yet, she was just excited about what was to come.

When we stepped into our jumpsuits and harnesses, shook hands with our jump instructors and were briefed on safety measures the realization of what we were about to do hit full force. I had butterflies in my stomach!

In the plane, we squished together, cramming 20 some hyped up bodies onto two benches. I looked down at Sam and got big thumbs up. When my eyes locked with my Sarah I could see she was about to explode with anticipation. Yup here we go!

Now you really have to hang out with a bunch of skydivers someday, even if you never intend to actually jump. Why, because they are a crazy group of people! On the ground they are just a bunch of laid-back guys. They tease and joke with each other, jousting with words to see who can out do each other with their almost choreographed routine of words. In the plane they are calm, collected and very precise when checking gear and in the final moments of preparation.

When I jokingly mentioned to my instructor that I wanted to be sitting up in the co-pilots chair instead of back on the bench with the rest of the guys he totally surprised me and said “you can! Just wait until the pilot gets us up in altitude and you can go sit up there!”

“Jackpot! Bingo! Oh ya! Score Big!” I thought!

In just a few minutes of climbing in the sky and my real invitation to go sit up with the pilot arrived. I quickly scampered up there before anyone changed his mind!

Next thing I knew I was sitting in the co-pilots chair eagerly peeking out the windows at the changing view below. What a bonus! It got better.

After a few more minutes of altitude climbing the pilot, who I must mention looked about 12, grinned over at me and invited me to take the wheel, or whatever it is you call it when you fly one of these planes. You don’t have to ask me a question like that twice. Heck, I was a willing participant about to jump out of a plane; of course I’d take the wheel! Before I knew it I was flying the plane! A plane I was about to skydive from!

Big lesson learned here, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want in life. You just might get it! But when someone offers to support your dreams don’t be afraid to “take the wheel” and go for it.

My jump that day was surreal. My instructor asked what I wanted to do and I said go for it. I want to spin and turn and everything. He asked me, I told him what I wanted and again. I got my dream. We jumped, he spun us in circles until I couldn’t breathe, he let me control the parachute and turn us around and around.

The better I get at asking for what I want; the more my dreams come true. I had no idea I was this much in control of my destiny and of my dreams.
Sarah loved her skydiving experience and is already asking to go again someday. Sam is quietly talking to instructors on the side about getting certified. I am loving life. More importantly I am taking the wheel.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Big Girl Panties

Today we took our youngest and her friend on a science adventure deep into the Colorado Rocky Mountains when we took them to see Cave of the Winds. Although we’ve lived in these mountains now for several years we had yet to make this particular day trip so off we went this beautiful 4th of July weekend.

We picked the family friendly Discovery Tour although my interest we piqued when the guide described their Lantern Tour, a 90 minute hike though the deep caverns in total darkness armed only with a lantern while our guide entertains us with ghost stories! Good parenting eventually won and I decided that I would save that adventure for another day since the 10 and 11 year olds with us can’t handle PG 13 yet! The other option was to add an Adventure Rope Challenge to our day and that I just couldn’t resist.

After the past year I have discovered I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie so I figured the Adventure Ropes Challenge would suite me just fine. The Challenge is a series of swinging rope bridges, balance beams and other such obstacles that you get to test your nerves with, while safely harnessed to a support beam above. The set up is a good 20-30 feet in the air and one section extends out over the deep canyon. Assuming that if I can skydive and actually love it I was confident I could handle this course without too much stress….ha!

The girls and I gamely stepped into our harnesses and passed the inspection of an innocent faced young teenager in charge of our safety and up we went. Up, up and up.

At the top of the first flight of stairs I found myself on a narrow platform with only two choices, go right or left. Ok, right it is. Next, I looked over to see my youngest daughter, fear in her eyes, as she made the fatal mistake of looking down!

“It’s ok, you are just fine, I assured her” while failing to mention that I too was freaking out about our current predicament.

“Remember you are safely harnessed in and hooked securely to the beam above us. You will not fall” I explained with a confidence I seriously lacked. Nothing like lying to your child in the face of fear!

“OK, let’s try this first one” I said to the girls as I eyed the narrow rope bridge swinging ahead of me. “No let’s do this one first, brave young Kelsey suggested as she spied a more substantial version of the same suspension bridge on the other side, the only difference being, this one had rope sides that you could at least hang onto.

“Oh yes, that’s a great idea. Let’s start with that one!” I said with complete false confidence. My youngest looked up at me with terror in her eyes and promptly asked if she could go back down the stairs.

“You are just fine, let’s do one together!” I encouraged her.

Carefully, we made our way to the rope bridge. Stepping out into thin air and delicately balancing on the single strand of rope, I watched as my daughter tentatively but bravely and carefully made her way to the other side! Triumphantly she stepped onto the platform, amazed that she had lived to make it to the other side!

“Great job! You did it!” I congratulated her before I too stepped out taking the first step and wishing it was my last.

With the rope swinging in the air, I balanced, carefully putting one foot in front of the other, all the while keeping a death grip on the bridge sides.

This is really scary, I thought to myself, just don’t look down, just don’t look down, and just don’t look down, I repeated. There is something very disorienting about having to step out onto a single rope and having nothing to hang onto. Like a true chicken I soon realized that if all else fails I could always reach up and hang onto my lifeline, not necessarily demonstrating the utmost in confidence but it did get the job done. When I safely made it to the platform on the other side I let out a long held breath. I did it! While this part felt good, I realized that I would have to do it again and again if I ever hoped to get down off this deathtrap!

Reality started to sink in, drat-I had signed us up for this and now I had to make good on this whole adrenaline junkie reputation I had recently earned. How do I get myself into these messes!

Faced with yet another decision, go right and somehow balance on a thin beam with nothing to hold onto, or turn around and go back across the suspension bridge, Maggie and I rapidly came the same conclusion, go back! As I carefully turned around, I glanced over and saw young Kelsey gliding effortlessly across as skilled as a ballet dancer. Impressed, to say the least, I grudgingly stepped off into thin air again, and inch-by-inch managed to grope my way back to where I started.

At this point Maggie looked desperately into my eyes and begged, really begged to go back down and get off this contraption. Debating in my mind what the best course of parental action was, I finally relented, in the end deciding to let her take the lead. “yes, if you want to you can get down.” I calmly answered.

A hint of a smile starting to creep on my face, I answered the only way I could, honestly, “he might” I said. Now this probably sounds worse than it should. My husband is a saint, he is an amazing father, he just doesn’t mince words, and he shoots straight so to say. He might give her a little bit of a hard time for coming down, then again he might not say a word. I wasn’t sure.

She stood still for a few seconds. I could tell she was thinking over her options. Stay and face the next painfully thin piece of rope hanging 20 feet above air or face her father. She made her decision and didn’t look back. She headed down the stairs and gleefully planted both feet firmly on the ground. Looking down at her I could see her smile, safe again!

I debated my own destiny. Go down and feel the solid earth under my feet and face the ribbing of my husband, tempting the dreaded fate of having to forever live this down, or suck it up and put on my big girl panties and face the next rope challenge. I looked up and saw that Kelsey was now another 10 feet higher in the air practically dancing across the second level of challenges.

Battling my inner demon, I realized that this was one of those moments in life where you really had to suck it up and see what you were made of. Logically, I knew I was totally safe. I was in a harness, secured by rope to the beam above me. I knew that this was a battle in my head more than in reality. I thought about what I had overcome in the past year-I’ve jumped from a plane at 18,000 feet, I’ve yodeled at the top of a mountain 14,000 feet above sea level, I’ve climbed a frozen waterfall, I’ve said goodbye to my mother, this was peanuts compared to all that. The fear was in my mind. I realized this was all a mental challenge.

I looked down at my husband. I told him to take a lot of pictures because I might never do this again. Then I stepped off the platform and went for it. Another leap of faith. Another mental challenge. Another fear to overcome.

I wished I was brave enough to get off this thing but I just couldn’t bear never living this one down. No, I was stuck, 20 feet in the air.

While I was on the Adventure Challenge ropes I realized I was not born to be a circus trapeze artist and I have crappy balance. It also became apparent that I was not made of graceful moves like a ballet dancer or champion ice skater. That did not stop me though. I plodded along and I stuck it out. I can honestly say it was not pretty.

Kelsey, meanwhile, was skipping across one rope to another, happy as a little monkey to be swinging in the trees. I was impressed, it probably helps that she is a skilled gymnast but still, she was good and very brave. I, on the other hand, stuck it out and while I did not venture out on the most difficult challenges, I did grope my way across several.

While on this little adventure I did come to an understanding that translates to real life. When all else fails and life is giving you nothing but scary options, go right or go left and neither looks all that comforting, look up to the heavens and ask God to be with you. Reach up and hang onto your lifeline and know that HE is with you and somehow you will come out on the other side.

I think I earned my roping merit badge and I am pretty sure I will never do that again. Once was enough. So much for being an adrenaline junkie.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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