Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Seven Wizard of Oz Themed Blog Posts Rattling My Brain

What a crazy week! What a crazy month!  Blogging time ... well there wasn't even sleeping time, so blogging time was non-existent.  I have had the Wizard of Oz on my mind.  If I were to make time to write, here are the potential blog posts:

Clicking Heels Three Times And Other Fantasies Fit For An Urban Princess.  If I could click my heels three times, I'd go to Park City every day for lunch and Paris on the weekend.  And no, I don't mean Paris, Idaho.

Find Me The Pot of Gold At the End of the Rainbow.  I'm not running out of money or anything, but a few satisfying golden opportunities would suffice.  In my next life, I wanna get paid to walk on the beach (doing something legal and moral, that is).

Confessions of a Cowardly Lion.  My friend claims single guys have no balls (her words).  Here's a baseball test for you men out there.  There's an uncomfortable situation involving a woman in your life.  Do you step up to the plate or do you stay on the bench?  Yep, you.

The Relative Merits of Placebo Hearts. They can't feel a thing, for starters.  Instead, we have drugs and alcohol.  Go Jose Cuervo.  That said, I don't drink much and I do feel. 

We're Off to See the Wizard Break Dance and Sing Karaoke.  The whole ambiance of the City of Oz would have been improved if the Wizard had danced and sang more.  He was incredibly ... well boring, not to mention an urban legend without substance.

Why Are We Following the Yellow Brick Road Again?  It doesn't make sense to keep following the same road if Oz holds no fascination.  Better to suck it up and take the road less traveled.  The road can be is literal or figurative as necessary to stop chasing parked cars and live abundantly.

If I Only Had A Brain Dump. That's right. If I had a brain dump, I would have blogged.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Letter To My Rock Climbing Shoes

"Life is an adventure, dare it."   -- Mother Teresa
My climbing shoes are hung up, but only for this photo opp. :)

Dear Climbing Shoes,

I apologize.  I know you are disappointed that you didn’t see more action at the City of Rocks this past weekend.  I know you’d been planning for months on me lacing you up to see Rachel lead climb in a ball gown.  The reality is that although you were raring to go, I was in no shape to push my limits. 

I laid awake and cried Sunday night when I got home.  I wish I wasn’t so emotional, and I’m really happy for Rachel, but it would’ve been great if you and I would’ve been celebrating at the top with her. 
It’s really not cool to make excuses, but my messed up knee, heel, and shoulder have collectively made our times together less frequent lately.  And I wish it wasn’t so, but I’m way weaker than I was a couple months ago.  I’m still in physical therapy, for Pete’s sake.

Please know that when we’re not together I miss you terribly.  I miss pulling you out of my gym bag, having you fit my foot like a glove, and lacing your sea foam green laces.  I miss the way my feet feel when I wear you, kinda like I’m a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz.  And oh how I miss the sculpted way my arms and legs feel on the day after you and I spend time together.

When I climbed on Saturday, I realized how much I’ve longed to feel your grippy black soles.  I did the City, not in the glorious fashion I’d hoped, but I was determined that you were going to rock at least one or two routes. And you did! You held me tight and we got me to the top.  Twice.  Nothing to write home about, but tough darts.  If I've learned anything, it's that not all climbing days are created equal.

I was lucky to have great friends Steve and Heather standing at the base.  They have seen me at my best, climbing 5.10 routes.  They knew you and I still had it going on.  They shouted to me from the base to persist.  “You can do this, Susi,” Steve said at least 100 times.  Steve is one of the classiest men I know.  He and Heather gave me some great hints as you and I sauntered gingerly up the mountain together in the blazing afternoon sun.  And Heather, who looks like a ballerina on rock when she climbs, kept saying how happy she was for me after I rappelled back to earth.

Remember the morning, some months ago at the climbing gym, when I compared muscles with my friend Amy and vowed I was going to climb til I became a very old woman?  That’s still what I want.  No, I won’t be wearing you in the Olympics.  And I don’t see El Capitan in our future.  You have to realize, my beloved shoes, that I started climbing at an age when my grandma spent her days baking sugar cookies and riding a three-wheeled yellow bicycle through her desert retirement community.  I'd lost my edge before I ever started.  But rest assured, I still treasure our times together, racing to the climbing gym or trail head after work and pulling you out of my bag for another run up a mountain.

Like any relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs.  I remember how much I hated you when that kind gentleman at REI first introduced us.  You made my feet hurt like hell.  Pretty sad that you’d hurt me so bad at the beginning of our relationship!  But since then, we have bonded in a way that’s just perfect.  We haven’t spent much time together lately, and we both know "things" have suffered as a result.  You know the reasons … including the ones I’ve uttered only in hushed tones.  But I didn’t leave you, nor will I. If I go, you’re going with me.  I’m taking you to NYC (yes, I’m a bit of a sugar mama, but indulge me, will you?) and we can climb in Manhattan.  How many of your friends can say that??? And when we come back, we’re going to spend even more time together.  We’re in this for the long haul, you and I.  I promise.

Love, Susi

(Photos courtesy of Heather Watson Bridge and friends)

City of Rocks, Idaho
At the base of the route
A slow but secure start at the base.

Climbing photography is all about the arse shots. Ugh.
Ahhhh the top.
Heather, an amazing climber, a talented photographer, and a great friend.
Steve rappels down after nailing his climb.
Rachel, lead climbing City of Rocks in a ball gown.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Watching Venus Walk Across the Sun

"Have you looked outside?" a more-than-skeptical text flashed onto my phone.  To the east, clouds crashed on the Wasatch mountains, a scene I normally relish.  But Tuesday evening was my one chance in the next 121 years to see Venus pass across the sun, and no cloud was welcome.  The sky to the west looked less ominous, but by no means clear.

"Accu-weather says it will be clear by 8 pm, and the wind is blowing gusts of up to 60 miles per hour so the clouds are gonna get blown outta here," I retorted back.  "I'll let you know when I leave the office," I advised.

At just after 5:30 pm, I headed for Harmons Brickyard, where an unknown community group was reportedly gathering for Venus viewing.  My friend Joe, who'd bought our solar viewing sunglasses at lunchtime, beat me to the gathering of five or so telescope owners from the Salt Lake Astronomical Society.

The clouds over the Oquirrh Mountains to the west of the Salt Lake Valley were thick.  And although I'd left the house on what was a summery morning, by noon it was chilly, and by the time I got to Brickyard, it was downright cold.  We sat in the car and chatted with each other and everyone who called while we waited.  We intermittently tried on our glasses, but all we could see was a reflection of our eyeballs. 
This shot of Venus crossing the sun was taken from my hometown, Tempe, Arizona, by Stephen Rector

Every inch of progress at thinning the cloud cover was duly noted and cheered as the "prime viewing time" 7:25 pm MDT drew ever closer. As the clouds thinned, the crowd thickened and our princess parking spot was eclipsed by a lady with an SUV who blocked our view of the telescopes and the western sky.  Easy enough, we moved to a location that had been previously barricaded with yellow tape.  This was "okay," mainly because the wind had blown down the tape and we could drive right onto the closest parking spot to the Venus viewing area.

The clouds continued to move eastward but also to the north, revealing strips of bright blue sky and a million rays of splintered light that fanned to the Earth.  It was 7:20 pm and the sun was still covered.  Finally, about 7:40 pm, we saw a piece of the sun and tried out our solar viewing glasses.  Too cool.

I wrapped myself in my ex-bf's blanket (there are some things about a failed relationship that are worth hanging onto and that blanket is one of them).  We headed towards one of the huge telescopes set up in the Harmons parking lot and were among the first in line to get a peek at Venus making her way across the sun.

We did a bit of telescope hopping as the crowd grew.  It was sort of like trick or treating, only without candy or a costume.  Each 'scope yielded a slightly different view of a tiny black speck moving gingerly across the Sun.

For a few scintillating moments, I felt like I danced on the Sun, even from a distance millions of miles away.  It was indeed chilling, and not because of the cold wind whipping on my bare legs.  Seeing the wonders of nature reminds us that we are but a mere blip in the Universe, and we ought not to take ourselves or life too seriously.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Caribbean Adventures: Bandaids, Bikinis, Barbados, a Burial, and My Best Friend

I can scarcely imagine life without Bandaids.  I have walked through all 50 US states and 21 countries and territories in my travels to date.  Never have I done so without getting blisters on my feet.  It’s not the shoes or sandals.  It’s my tender feet.  My friend Michele once told me Virgos have a secret obsession with their feet and appreciate when a man pays homage by rubbing and tending to their feet.  Oh so true.  I am so obsessed with making my feet happy that I import my socks from Germany because they’re the only socks I have found that are soft enough.

In the space of twelve hours, I went from early spring clog-wearing weather in Utah to balmy, sandal weather in San Juan, where we boarded a cruise ship.  My feet didn’t have time to adjust, and I got blisters in a hurry.  Each day of my vacay, I slathered my feet with a couple Bandaids to defend against the sand rubbing in between my sandals and feet, and to address the blisters that were showing up anyway.   

I became Mormon at age 19 and as part of my religious devotion, I swore off bikinis … til this year, over a decade after I abandoned my adopted faith.  After going on beach vacay after vacay and seeing women of all shapes and sizes in bikinis, I was determined to sport one on this trip.  I found the perfect bikini but not in my size at Ross Dress For Less (I skipped my favorite DI store for this purchase). One Saturday morning, my daughter and I were at the ice rink in Provo, and fortuitously, on our way back home, I found my size at a Ross store in Orem just before we got on I-15.  Gotta love Utah County.  It’s the best place in Utah to buy immodest clothes.  On sale.

I’m sure my parents thought it was a little crazy that I was pulling my prize bikini out of my suitcase to show them in the Phoenix airport where we stopped for two hours on our haphazard journey to Puerto Rico via Philly, but they are getting used to my surprises.  At least it was purple, my mom’s favorite color.

The first bikini re-wearing was on day one of the cruise, at Magen’s Bay in St. Thomas.  I took off my cover up.  I looked down at my belly button.  Then I looked around.  No one was even looking.  I’m not sure what I expected would happen.  Lightning didn’t strike.  And I didn’t blind anyone with my fluorescent white abs.

Before the trip, I also bought a new one-piece: a royal blue tank with shirred waist.  It’s pretty and flattering, but I loved wearing my bikini, and I saved the one-piece for hot tubbing on the cruise ship.  

Soon I realized it will be kicking and screaming that I go back to a one-piece.  Maybe when I’m really old I’ll wear one of those bathing suits with a skirt to cover up my drooping body.  Ummm maybe not.

We spent day three of the cruise in Barbados.  I won’t pretend to be knowledgeable about this delightful tropical island.  It seems like there was reggae music playing from the moment we walked off the ship, and I drove my daughter crazy singing “we’ll be jammin’” over and again.  No doubt it was a big improvement over “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” which I hummed on the flight from Philadelphia to San Juan. 

We were in Bridgeport but nine hours, all of which was spent on a beach, the name of which I don’t even remember.  We went to an establishment called “The Boardwalk.”  The only reason I remember the name of the place is that I looked at my credit card statement this week.  We paid The Boardwalk $12 each for the privilege of being on the beach, laying on their well padded chairs, accessing wi-fi, and otherwise enjoying all the creature comforts we’re used to at home.  Actually, I’m not used to that much sea and the softest sand I’ve ever felt, but I could get used to it stat.  My daughter had been to Barbados on her honeymoon and was secretly hoping we could revisit all her travels, or at least some of them, but our adventures took other directions.

My best friend Michele died in late 2008, and we’re just now getting around to spreading her ashes.  The day before I left for the cruise, her widowed husband Corey came to a restaurant near my office and brought me an aspirin bottle filled with some of her remains.  It was a touching and comical lunch hour.  I was preparing to take my best friend to the Caribbean, in an aspirin bottle.

I’d done all the leg work on how to get through airport security without delays and I packed some of what was left of Michele into my main suitcase.  (If you have ever had a loved one cremated, you know that the box of ashes is maybe 6”x6”x6”, so a more considerable volume than an aspirin bottle holds.  This is good as Corey still has ashes to spread in other places, most notably her beloved San Francisco.)

Michele’s daughter Celeste works on the cruise ship we took.  This wasn’t just an “ohmygosh!” coincidence that my daughter and I ended up on her ship.  We didn’t even consider any of the other options.  I knew by the Facebook posts of the last couple of months that Celeste needed a visit from someone back home.  And I was itching for the beach.  And my daughter had vacation time that had to be used or forfeited.  So we made reservations and three weeks later, we were off on our little adventure.  A win-win-win.

When we boarded the ship, Celeste and I discussed possible locations for the spreading of her mom’s ashes.  She only had portions of two days off while we were on the cruise (don’t get me started on the LONG hours for cruise ship employees, it’s completely unjust): a day in Barbardos and one in St. Maarten. 

Celeste decided to rent a jet ski in Barbados.  She drove and I held on as we sped along the turquoise waves to a spot reasonably far away from the shore with Michele’s ashes.  All of the sudden, Celeste stopped the jet ski and cried as she talked to her mom.  One last and final goodbye and “I love you,” and about half the ashes were spread into the warm waves.   We decided to save the rest for another beach.

My Best Friend
In her last few years of life, Michele craved physical warmth and was so at peace when she was near the ocean.  To her, being in Utah was like a prison because the weather was cold and the nearest ocean was hundreds of miles away.  That day we took her to a tropical place of rest that was as balmy as it was beautiful.  As we scattered the ashes, the clouds gave way to a bright and sunny sky.  Michele would have been pleased that we were together and that we buried her in such unconventional fashion, wearing bikinis and life jackets.  Since her death, she has been our angel on the other side and while we have missed her tremendously, we’ve welcomed her influence at the most unexpected of moments.

Michele hoped Celeste would have an education, an illustrious career, and the chance to travel the world.  I have oft said to Celeste that her mama would have screamed with all of her accomplishments, especially the opportunity to work on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.  Celeste has handled herself well, and she seems very confident in her work and demeanor despite the long hours and other challenges of living full-time on a boat.  She always looks so beautiful and has such an engaging smile.  Her attitude so reminds me of Michele.

Michele wanted me to have more men and love in my life.  She was a woman who made love to many men.  73, she had proudly told me many times.  I, in contrast, well, my confessions on this post aren’t going to mimic “Eat, Pray, Love.”  I was married a long time ago.  And I had a boyfriend who wanted to marry me.  Also a long time ago.  And then came a seemingly endless dating dry spell, broken every so often by a gentleman who couldn’t decide what he wanted.  I distracted myself with motherhood and my career.  I couldn’t kiss and tell if I wanted to because I never got too involved.  Sheer insanity.  

Only last year, I finally figured out how to make men smile.  Then I kissed four men in a single week.  That is probably something I should’ve accomplished in high school, but I’m a young soul.  I can see the text coming onto my phone now.  Was his kiss the best?  Yes.  Of course.  That for which you have to wait longest is sweetest.  As to the others, shrug.  And this year?   The love gods are sending someone my way in 2012.  He’s kind, honest, and intelligent.  A decent guy who can make me laugh.  And someone who yearns for adventure, because I don’t seem to be able to escape it, even if I might try.

PS: One Beach Removed From Bikini Beach aka “Bare Nekked”
I know.  This post is too long.  Tough darts.  I have a lot to say.  The French side is better in St. Maarten.  Should that be any surprise?  We took a tour of the entire island and ended up at Bikini Beach.  If you have not been there, go.  Besides soft sand that melts into your feet, the water was translucent aqua, and the cheeseburgers were divine.  Considering that I’m a vegetarian five days a week, that’s quite a compliment.

As my daughter and I were strolling after lunch, the sand, surf, and sea lured us across the informal rock-line boundary which delineated the beginning of the nude beach.  Well, that’s the official excuse, not that we needed one.

No, no, a thousand times no, I didn’t bare all.  As you read above, moving back to bikinis from one-piece tank suits was the feat of the trip. 

About midway, there was a huge handmade sign: “No Photos.”  Like we would have wanted to.  I have one piece of advice based on my nude beach experience: if complete buff (or for the ladies even topless) at the feet of the ocean is on your bucket list, please do the world a favor and check this off when you are still squarely in your prime.  Waiting til you are a sagging mass of cellulite held together by wrinkled epidermis is … well of questionable taste.  Just sayin’ …

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Getting Unstuck, The F-Bomb, Baldness by Belaying, Secret Climber Names, and Other Life Mysteries

Don’t look, Mom.  My mom doesn’t relish my rock climbing obsession.  Moms worry.  She's admitted to not having time to read my blog, so I hope that this post is no exception.  I also hope you technical rock climber types will skip this, as my terminology and descriptions will offend your sense of rock climbing propriety.  See top left … “Next Blog>>.”
For the rest of you, a confession.  I love getting high.  It happened for the first time last summer in Big Cottonwood Canyon.  I went to watch rock climbing and I got roped in, literally.  The rush of getting to the top was incomparable.  I had to do it again.  And again.  And … yeah, again. 
With the exception of a couple outdoor climbs last summer, most of my early attempts at “getting high” were at the indoor climbing gym, several at the insane hour of 6 am. Among the highlights, besides climbing: developing more defined and stronger muscles in my arms and legs, not to mention all the girl chatter with my gal pal climbing partners, and making so many new friends.  Oh ... and there was a Groupon to Momentum, the gym where I climb.  Anything with a Groupon has to be a good time.
Fast forward.  Eight months, a climbing gym membership, and pair of fit-like-a-glove climbing shoes later I found myself climbing outdoors again.  Through a friend, my climbing partner, Rachel, and I learned of a group going to Little Cottonwood Canyon for a climb in the sunny if not balmy early afternoon in March. 
We exchanged names and then the leader of the group did a quick equipment and experience assessment.  We split up into groups and hiked to the start of our climbing routes.  Rachel and I asked to go with the leader of the group to The Schoolroom, a five pitch route. 
The “long crack.”  The first pitch (section) was doable.  It was either the second or third pitch, and I must admit I don’t recall which, when reached what I affectionately dub the “long crack.”  The “long crack” was a climbing obstacle course unlike anything I’d attempted outdoors or in the climbing gym: few holds, slippery rock, and one long, annoying crack.  My foot kept getting jammed in the “long crack.”  Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.  Double grrrrrrrrrrrr.

The f-bomb.   One step up … then dropping below where I started … I felt excrutiating pain from slamming my foot into the crack and my knees against granite.  I didn’t’ know how to create any forward and upward motion on slippery rock.  Then I slipped.  F-bomb.  Rachel gasped.
I used to swear much more than I do nowadays.  Corporate America has polished me in that way, if no other.  “Did I really hear you say that?” Rachel nettled me from behind.   I said it again.  Ad infinitum.  
Getting unstuck, my perennial life lesson.  Ironically, or not, the “stuck” thing has been the bane of my existence.  Stuck.  Trapped. Ensnared.  Baffled.  All of the above.  The contrast between being physically or mentally stuck is hardly distinguishable. 

“I have no idea how to get out,” I said as I craned my neck up to where I needed to go.  My brain kept mentally capsizing.  At one point, Rachel said, “are you done?”  “No!” I fired back.  DNF.  That acronym for “did not finish” is so not in my vocabulary for climbing or life
Inchworm.  Inches along the “long crack” seemed like miles.  Up an inch, then another, and another.   Like Confucious said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”  And a climb of 700 feet or so begins or continues when you stop overthinking, pull yourself out of the crack, hold onto whatever you can find, or pretend there’s something to hold onto, and send.  All of the sudden, the route wasn’t nearly as difficult as I was making it.
If there is anything rock climbing has taught me (and again), it’s to be where you are, not ten feet ahead and definitely not looking back.  I have had to re-remember that rule yet again in climbing and in life.  Once I completed the “long crack,” nothing else in the climb – which for us went above The Schoolroom to another route -- was as difficult.  That is not to say the journey to the top was lacking in difficulty from my rather juvenile climbing perspective.

Baldness by belaying.  Rappelling to the bottom was easier than I thought it would be, except I was last and had to wait for what seemed like forever.  Another life lesson I'm learning: patience, in short supply lately.  Once I finally began my descent, my long hair blew forward with the high wind.  More than a few precious strands of hair ripped out of my head as they got sucked into the belay device on my way down the mountain.  If I had had to rappel much longer, I’d have a mullet-like “do” on my left side.  Note to self: ponytail. I'll never forget again.
Sweet landing.  Once we reached the start of the route, we hugged our lead climber, threw on our jackets, gorged on trail bars and water, and chatted about our secret climber names.  Not telling mine.  Never.  It’s perfect.  **Smile.**
Special thanks to Rachel and my many other climbing friends for their love and encouragement.