Camping – Community Style

Convict Lake

2019 marks the13th year of our group of friends camping together. We’ve been to Patrick’s Point, Big Sur, Salt Point, Morro Bay, Huntington Lake, Union Reservoir, Running Springs, Dark Canyon and a few others scattered in there. This year about 40 people joined us at Mammoth Lakes, including three new families, as every year we have a different combination of people who can join us. Our philosophy – the more people, the better conversations, the crazier the campfire stories, the more chances to be able to outrun individuals in the occasion of a bear attack while hiking, and the higher possibility of being able to enjoy a campground game. Another benefit – we love new talent. This year, magical margaritas from the closet bartender and newcomer “campee,” Aimee Churchill, were a celebrated addition.

Panorama Dome

As much fun as we have – hiking, playing games, making S’mores, and whatever creative endeavor comes up, we have significant people who are no longer camping and we miss them. We’ve had two cancer deaths in our community. This is the second year without Danielle, the fifth without Amy. Danielle loved the Sierras, a legacy passed on from her father who frequented often during D’s life. We camped here in honor of her though when it went on the camping list back in 2017, I had imagined camping with her, not in honor of her. But her body couldn’t beat back the aggressive breast cancer in her body and she lived only six days in 2018, about 14 months from her diagnosis.

Lakeside activities included mainly skipping rocks and warming on the rocks since fish weren’t biting from shore

Her spirit was alive to us though deeply missed by us all, robbing us all of pure enjoyment because we had the certainty that this isn’t the way it should be. D should have been there as Matteo, her son, blew out his birthday candles – 11 years old and when the rest of the family took him to Starbucks (benefits of camping close to town) for his favorite drink, a hot chocolate and he demanded a Venti rather than the usual tall size. We could all rightly declare this isn’t the way it ought to be – this unending longing for her presence that will be unfulfilled this side of heaven.

There are many things to miss about D but what was unique between her and I was the hike and event planning. She was my comrade and took full responsibility to investigate hikes and local attractions along with me. She would’ve walked with Mary and me to the Welcome Center to discuss hiking options. She would’ve been with us when we sought shelter in an empty bear box due to a downpour, hail included, dumped on us as we made our way back to camp. True confession (which feels shameful to this country girl who prides herself on having an internal GPS) our trip back to camp wasn’t exactly a direct route because we turned left instead of going straight so we ended up on the wrong camping loop – and the country girl in me was determined to “find our way” going across country rather than backtracking down the road from which we came.

Bear Boxing It
The Scene at the Foot of the Bear Box Once Wave One of the Storm Passed

The other person missed, Amy, was always a willing camper but she needed her amenities. She would’ve been the first person to have crafts and activities for the kids, a role Laura filled this year with markers, paint (which was used as make-up by the younger girls painting the older girls’ face) and white paper. Amy would’ve color coordinated our table cloths and possibly rented a RV for her family so she could sleep – an important activity to her and one not done best on her blow up mattress and sleeping bag. She might have had the latest padded camping chairs, especially the rockers found at REI. And she definitely would’ve brought cloth napkins (possibly ones she’d made) with napkin holders to set the ambiance for dinner.

Running Springs – 2007: Our First Community Camping Trip
The Summer Following Amy’s First Brain Cancer Treatment and Surgery

Present time, an event I think Danielle spearheaded from heaven was our junior ranger program. She always found the local programs and would get us special group presentations so I swear she was in the planning of our Devil’s Postpile Monument hike because we got off the shuttle and without even knowing it, picked the stop that had the ranger station and the booklet for all the kids. I was a miserable substitute because I didn’t actively engage with the displays of stuffed animals (via taxidermy) inside the forest station. Instead, my competitive state of mind kicked in as I saw forty people in the next shuttle bus start filing off, so I grabbed my backpack and began walking down the trail, yelling behind me, “I’ll see you at Devil’s postpile.” I’m certain Danielle, in her calm and collected way, would’ve rounded up the kids to look at the objects and thought absolutely nothing about the hikers getting ahead of us while we listened to the presentations. Later, she would’ve also loved the clever answers and interpretations from our group as the kids filled out the booklet — placing dog’s paws on a page for signatures of fellow hikers or circling phones and televisions as hiking necessities while asking, “will we get a badge with these type of answers?”

Our Junior Ranger Adventure — Devil’s Postpile
Naturally Formed Stones
Rainbow Falls – In Devil’s Postpile Monument

My mind can picture both D and Amy with us at different junctions. I know Amy would’ve been so proud of her almost-six-year-old son, Nathan’s, completing a 3.5 miles hike with the last mile a doozy – all uphill. D would’ve meandered, enjoying the present moment of being together and in nature, and would’ve taken turns with her husband, Mynor, with their dog, Juneau.

Juneau, the Dog

What I’ve learned about death is it’s honoring to family members to share grief, stories, and longings to let the family know they aren’t alone in their longings and sorrow. So we talked about D and how she would’ve loved taking the kids fishing or going on walks with the dogs and eating the edible cookie dough from the Schat’s bakery in Bishop. We also wondered how Amy would’ve felt about the wind and what she’d even think about camping now that two of her kids are old enough to drive. As a community we make an effort not to hide our feelings, having learned that there is comfort and goodness in sharing our grief. For certain, it doesn’t take away the longing for the other but it somehow makes it less lonely in the ache of the hurt.


The cliff notes of what camping with this community means to me. I have learned most of what I know about doing life well from these people. A number of them I’ve known since my early twenties, more than half my life. They’ve loved me when I had more rough edges. They’ve loved me through my own devastating loss of a our middle child in 2006. They’ve loved me when I haven’t loved my husband, who they like, well. They’ve loved me so I can be brave and take risks. They’ve filled the gaps when my children needed a second mother, a ride, a safe place and I couldn’t be there due to my work. I’m grateful to know them and their children – even the ones I’m just getting to know.

Ice Warm Water
Can you see the goosebumps?
Hanging at Convict Lake

At the end of the day, what I love about communing in the woods as campers, is that for five days out of the year, I live communally -sharing meals, washing dishes, listening to snores or night talkers. And it’s here in this ordinary life where I know I never want to live permanently with these people the best of life is found in the mundane and the ordinary – the conversations around the water spigot, on the hiking trail or at the brewery (because when your walking-close to the local brewery it would be sinful NOT to go).

Mammoth Brewery Company: Huddled by the Heater – Dancing
Warmth First. Style – Irrelevant in the Mountains

What is reconfirmed year after year around the campfire is that one doesn’t need to travel around the world to find extraordinary beauty. It’s usually at our fingertips when we are in the company of those we enjoy and take delight in.

Upper Falls at Twin Lakes
Hot Creek Geo Site
Boiling, Bubbling Water

Bye, Mammoth! Until ski season when you just may see us again.

Year of Jubilee – the Halfway Point

Getty Museum this April

My 49th birthday on February 20th at roughly 4:30 pm, officially started my jubilee year in my bedroom with hot soup, tissues and a heating pad for anywhere that would get me thinking about the goodness of warmth and not on how miserable I felt. Lucky for me, my rock star husband had asked close friends and family members to write descriptive words about me so I read these sunflower colored laminated book markers as I rocked and sucked my thumb tried to make the most of a miserable feeling day. The most surprising was my son described me as “wild” (he has no idea) and my niece, whose birthday is two days before me and born the same year as my son, described me as “zen.” Ying and yang – it seemed this might be a good year after all. Turns out, I’d recover in about two weeks and then a month later get the flu on a business trip, which may or may not have included holding my head, praying, and rocking on the airplane while trying not to moan or taste my breakfast a second time. The later happened as I waved at my daughter sitting with a friend who commented, “Hi Mom! Oh wow. You don’t look so good.” I didn’t and it would be about four days before I emerged to crawl to work and crawl home which became a routine for about three weeks. My weekends in between were filled with wild amounts of activity – sleep, sleep and a bit more sleep with a variety of chicken broth, chicken noodle soup or any soup that was given to me.

Fragile health has been something I’ve grown accustomed to in my 40s, not to say that this was “fragile” but I can’t remember a time I’ve been sick for so long. Over the past five years, I’ve walked with several friends in their cancer journey and have said good-bye, see you on the other side of the veil, to three of them locally and within the last three months – two more distantly. For family, I’m no longer making memories with my father-in-law – his death several years ago. My wellness checks have occasionally yielded “abnormal results” or “come back for more tests” and I too have fleeting concerns about the C word – get sick for six out of ten weeks when you have an exercise habit and eat a diet that’s about 90% gluten, sugar, and dairy free you’ll be wondering if there is something depressing your immune system besides the flu. Turns out, I have lead poisoning with high amounts of mercury and two airborne chemicals, likely from my living environment in LA in the vicinity of oil pumping. Not sure how long I’ve had it but for the last two months when I’m in town, I drive 30 miles for treatment once or twice a week, which includes sitting in a treatment area recliner, IV connected, for two hours with moments of nauseousness, headaches or stinging and if it’s not too uncomfortable, a good book (currently Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage though I’m trying to enjoy her writing and not think about the fact that this marriage didn’t work out for her either), my journal (as long as my right hand is free to write), and for transparency sake at least two or three other items “just in case” (I.e. The Sun magazine, another book – The Climate of Monastic Prayer by Thomas Merton, or my laptop which is difficult to use since one arm is hosting the IV). My commitment to myself during this year has been to stop “pushing through” health issues thinking they will just be resolved. It took over two years to finally discover this “metal problem” which is why my body wasn’t absorbing certain vitamins – mainly antioxidants and why my stress levels weren’t going down despite a regular practice of meditation, work adjustments, and a month worth of vacations.

Santa Fe Beauty in February

Friendships have been adjusting as the reality that some of my deepest friendships have lacked regular contact. I was in a group for 16 years, The Graces, but with the death of Amy five years ago and the moving of Shannon a year later, a group that had been meeting once a month has now limped along with the three of us left in Southern California – though in June Shannon visited and we met at an early bird 6:30 am for breakfast to catch up. This year would’ve marked 20 years together. On a positive note, a group of long time friends merged what were two groups ten years ago into one so we can support one another during the parenting adolescents, widowhood, divorce, “rubber meeting the road” marriages and whatever else comes up during our once a month meetings. Also, a professional book club, which has been meeting quarterly for about six years has been incredibly supportive. As well, my own marriage during this half year has needed some composting and soil aerating. Dennis and I also had a difficult year personally. Our criticism/ defensiveness cycle reemerged after going on a hiatus for a number of years and we needed to change some things before it became chronic so we’ve been back in couple’s therapy. Thankfully, it’s been incredibly healing but a lot of emotional work.

Upaya in Santa Fe, late February

Some highlights – Since last July, I’ve been enrolled in a year long intensive writing program in Santa Fe with Natalie Goldberg and Rob Wilder, which has been life giving on so many levels — getting me out of the LA craziness, writing, deepening my meditation practice and meeting some great people. I’m hopeful that this experience will help me reprioritize some things professionally –creating more space for writing and creative projects. As well, I’ve never had a better year professionally. It is a wonderful experience to see all the time and effort I’ve spent learning and doing has translated into a more confident place of being. It feels so refreshing to be past “am I doing what I ought to be doing” and instead, know who I am so I can more easily make decisions about what’s important professionally. My new challenge is owning my creativity and doing more in that arena like blogging (last blog seven months ago), podcasts, more on the YouTube channel and finish my darn book, which is happily in the editing phase. I also led a workshop on meditation for a women’s retreat, which fed my soul. I’ll also be facilitating a women’s retreat in Spokane, WA later this year for a group of women who have been meeting together for several years.

Year-long Intensive Group Members
Santa Fe Beauty in May
Santa Fe Art. Beyond.
A close look revels snow — in May

For those of you who have either followed this blog for a while or know me, likely remember that I celebrate my birthday with adventures or outings. See last year’s post on my canyoneering trip and photography workshop in Utah with National Geographic photographer in April. (2020-the big 50 already in the planning stages for Ireland, Scotland and London along with mystery country not yet selected). To start my year of jubilee, I decided for a “fly to” concert experience since few things bring me more joy than music. Predictably, I couldn’t decide on only one I went with two. Lauren Daigle in Albuquerque and Celine Dion in Las Vegas. Full disclosure – LA tickets for Lauren Daigle were three times the amount of Albuquerque, where I was conveniently scheduled for my writing intensive the next day so Albuquerque won over LA. I bought VIP tickets for full engagement. However, as it would happen, my flight was delayed long enough for me to possibly miss the entire concert so using LAX’s busyness to my advantage, I jumped from my flight to another which routed me to a different city before going to ABQ which looked like I could at least get in to make the latter part of the concert. While waiting at the airport, I shared my sadness, anxiety, angst with a number of friends who all rallied around and were with me in all the suckiness of missing out on my well-planned trip. My friend, Shannon, aka Graces member, maid of honor and college roommate, text to me in a group chat, “One thing I will say about you entering year 49 this way, is that you navigating difficult choices (which flight to take?), weathering disappointment, reaching out in friendship, willingness to ‘come as you are’ to the concert [I had no luggage or time to check in to hotel – all carry-ons needed to be taken to concert including TWO coats because of course I brought a “concert coat” since I can rarely wear coats in LA even in winter] has borne fruit of hope, hope-fulfilled and blessing (concert, with-ness)…and I pray THAT will be multiplied more and more all year through…” Not a bad way to start my year of jubilee – a blessing, companionship, and music! Concert made about two songs in to opener with the unfortunate experience of walking past the entire center section with my carry-on bags and two coats while the sitting audience listened but couldn’t help but see me (confirmed by not one but two women commenting in the hotel elevator after the concert about my fashionable coat that they admired while I walked past them). In my 20s, the possibility of embarrassment would have caused me to miss the opener in order to ditch my luggage at the hotel but I LOVED the opener, AHI, who I would have completely missed to avoid embarrassment. As it was, I sought assurance from the people that matter most to me that even if I was seen as the “bag lady” from the concert I’d be okay. That saying about “sticks and stones will break my bones…” ignores the reality that we all want to belong and words deeply cut us which is why we need to have “our people.”

Lauren Daigle
My concert coat aka non-practical one
This picture doesn’t quite capture the height nor depth of this pile of second coat, and two carry ons

Celine Dion was another destination concert scheduled in May. I’m no dummy so this time I drove instead of flew – taking advantage of car time to talk about visions and dreams with Dennis as well as answer some love map questions from Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.” I also took advantage of being the birthday girl by requesting we stop off the freeway to take in the art installation, “Seven Magic Mountains” by Ugo Rondinone, a request which had been shot down by my family on previous visits.

Celine
Seven Magic Mountains
So I may have also snuck in a “non-birthday concert” in April — Pink!

Looking ahead to the next six months, I’m really hopeful that I’ll be done with all the edits for my memoir, which I’ve been giving birth to for the last eight years. It’s been a laborious process – one I hope to end and move into infancy where I can attempt to get it published. As well, my daughter, Eden, and I are starting a new mental health platform for adolescents and young adults. We’ve called it scars.together – and will be addressing the issues like anxiety, loneliness, depression, and suicide that can be overwhelming when an individual doesn’t know how to navigate it. Our vision is to be with others on social media platforms to come along side and help others deal with anxiety, anger, loneliness, self-doubt, etc. when they feel overwhelming and disorienting. Adolescents have big feelings by way of the neurological development happening in their brain, mainly their “thinking brain” isn’t fully developed until 24 or 25. The digital culture, without guidance, has the ability to wire pathways in their brain that lead to isolation rather than connection – which we know is a main “staying power” for launching into adulthood. Essentially, I’ve already “won” so there is no risk involved as we plow ahead because to develop content, I’m spending meaningful time with Eden who only has two years left at home before I kick her out.

The intention behind this year was to slow down in my busyness so in February I began taking a day off from my private practice to write and work on retreat projects. This has been rejuvenating for me. I also practice a Sabbath once a week where we change it up with church, hikes, meals with others, games, or anything else that feels rejuvenating. I take more breaks in the day by walking around my building or walking to lunch. I engage in meditation and a writing practice which slows me down from being on the production hamster wheel. I’m hoping the next six months will be more of the same.

Relaxing at Sunset in our community pool

What I’ve come to realize with age is I had no idea how much I lacked the ability to hold onto complexities in the human condition and with situations in general. For example, cancer isn’t reserved for unhealthy or stressed out people, in fact how many people do you know who lived a long life but would never be described as healthy. To think that it’s your healthy lifestyle that frees you from this potentially devastating illness is a myth and really gives you a subtle “superior” posture when trying to comfort or be with those fighting against it. To truly be a comfort to those with chronic illness or illness not yet in remission requires an individual to recognize their own physical frailty and to interact out of that place.

Laguna Beach in June

Bad things do indeed happen to good people and seeking the lesson to be learned from the experience robs you of allowing your healing to direct what is gained. Whether it be greater capacity to empathize with others, greater capacity to capture the present moment, an ability to receive comfort from others – these examples are not lessons – they are new ways of being. And allowing a bad thing to change your character or capacity to feel or relate is much much harder than learning a lesson.

An O’Keeffe – her shading makes me weep

I’m grateful to be alive and have friends and family who have woven a net of safety beneath me so that I fear not what the future might bring. I know that I will never endure a trial or tribulation alone, no matter how big or small. I feel as rich as a queen – well, maybe this is because I recently spent an evening with wonderful people who are renting a home on Balboa Island. See pics…

No words needed
Is my envy apparent, yet?
Such a gorgeous home and location!
Lessons learned from my son’s cat – Snuggly: If you find yourself not fitting into the box you want to be in, make the most of it.

The Good Life

And yes…I flipped.
Partner on Left: Shannon W.
Rockin’ It
And getting in conversation before he becomes a teen – 18 months from now

Thank you for journeying with me. May wherever you find yourself be full of life and connection – majoring in the majors and keeping those things that are minor, minor.

Peace be with you.

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today, I was sitting around Danielle Montiel’s bed witnessing her breathe her last breath. Friends sitting, standing around the room. Alicia wiping her mouth. Her dad sitting near her head in his chair, walker on the side. Mynor holding her left hand, sitting on her left hip. Matteo, their nine year old son, in Mynor’s lap. Juliette, their daughter, sitting nearby, possibly on the closest chair. Sophia, their oldest at twelve, sitting at his feet, next to mine. I held on to her left foot. Holding it as I had done so many times that year, 2017, only then it was much much warmer than that Saturday morning. It had had life, vibrancy.

12:38 I think Mynor said it was. The time of death. The time her body passed from this world. Today, 12:38. I looked at my iPhone at exactly that time. I remember because we were looking to see how much time before we needed to get to the nearby theater, the Pantages – 22 minutes. Wicked was showing. She would’ve loved it and taken her whole family this time around. This year, Sophia has joined us for a couple events. Us, honoring her dad as a single parent who loves good things for his children and is outnumbered by two. Us, enjoying Sophia and knowing her mom and grandmother have instilled so much love of music – we love having her with us – honoring Danielle.

The most poignant moments of missing her this year feel so small compared to the huge gapping hole left in her family. Heck, holes left in the community. When you have over 800 people at your funeral there are a lot of holes in the whole. But for me, and my relationship with Danielle, I missed our weekly sessions of moving energy through her body and listening together. Few words were spoken in those times but just being together gave me a quiet I hadn’t realized I’d gained until we were absent from one another. I missed her at Easter in the park with her parents and Mynor’s extended family, including the Porters who were our ticket to an invite to this festive affair. Danielle would’ve showed up with her huge, joyous smile (she loved people getting together) and would’ve brought some amazing wine, cheese, and crackers, along with some other dish thrown together with whatever was in her frig. She likely would’ve also had some fun game that she just pulled out of the back of her car (waiting for the perfect moment to use it). She and I would’ve caught up as we didn’t always see one another regularly so we liked these family get togethers to do so.

I missed her when I heard about Sophia’s 13 year old mother/daughter trip with a group that has been meeting for years. Aunt Alicia stepped in but grief was there when it was a right of passage meant for celebration and joy.

I missed her on our community camping trip. She would’ve scouted out the nearest hikes and we would’ve gone. I could always count on her to help me plan these trips. She was my unspoken partner. My rock steady nature friend who interviewed the rangers and got the kids involved in the young ranger programs where ever we camped. I’d picked this year’s camping spot in August 2017 (one must book a year in advance) with her in mind – a perfect fishing site – hoping she would again be the master fisherwoman as she was at Rancheria Campground in 2016. I missed her at random dinners or playdates with her family. I missed her ease, her love, her gratitude for good things, and her friendship – not just mine but how she loved people I loved too. We were all so much greater with her around.

I’m left feeling so much more than sadness. Still disappointment with the limitations of medicine and God with His lack of intervention. I wanted her to be the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe and was healed. Instead, she was one of the crowd left behind as Jesus left to go with the disciples on the water – away from the land, the masses. Away from the unhealed. I’m still angry at His leaving us with premature death. Songs that Jesus has overcome the grave sit hollow inside. I’m human after all. Short-sighted in my desires for immediate relationship, I could care little for heaven when I see her family’s sorrow. How I ache for relief over the loss of one’s mother. Yet, little by little, they, we, us, are finding our way. Filling gaps. Being better people because she made us better.

We Miss You, Danielle.

2018 Yearly Reflections

  1. What did you do in 2018 that you had never done before?
    For a birthday gift to myself, I went canyoneering in Utah as part of a photography workshop with National Geographic photographer Steve Matera and Get In The Wild, both experiences I’d never done before. It was an amazing adventure and fed my love of the southwest, a place I used to backpack every year before our children arrived.
photo credit Stephen Matera
Photo credit: Stephen Matera

2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions last year. Instead, I kept my focus on my goals that I create every September with my business group, Thrive. Here we focus on both habits/ daily practices and goals. I have felt really good about the progress I’ve made and I’ve found this structure is much more effective for me than New Year’s Resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Dennis’ fabulous assistant, Esther, gave birth to a baby boy and our cousin, Emily, gave birth to a lovely baby girl.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

January 6th, my dear friend, Danielle Montiel died from breast cancer. See here http://www.countrygirlinla.com/?p=1087 for more details. She is dearly missed by all who knew her.

5. What countries or new places did you visit?

Italy!!! Oh my goodness, what a fabulous trip this summer. We visited Florence, Rome, Siena, and a small town in the Italian Alps. I fell in love with food, wine, art, festivals, the people, the beauty, and well everything. I love this country. I can’t wait to return.

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

I need to prioritize physical activity. I have an occupation that is primarily sedentary. As a result, lots of tight IT bands, hips, etc. I need to be more intentional about stretching in between my clients and even taking a walk in the afternoon – not for exercise sake but for movement’s sake. I’d like to do more of this so I can keep away the hip pain that appears when I’ve sat too long.

7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Being with Danielle as she passed away on January 6th will remain etched in my memory. It’s a great privilege to be with someone and many of their loved ones as they leave this world. Shared grief feels like your whole being is surrounded by a community movement communicating one thing and one thing only – “You are not alone.”

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Fun! I created a lot of space for fun and creating memories this year. Some of it was intentional – attending concerts (U2, Fall Out Boy, Lorde, Halsey to name some), theater shows (Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away, School of Rock, Beautiful), sporting events (Angels, Ducks) or events (Pageant of the Masters). Other fun was spontaneous as we practiced the Sabbath as a family and often created space for times of enjoyment with one another or friends.

Camping
Coffee Shop Adventures

9. What was your biggest failure?

Hum. I continue to struggle with creating space for my writing. I tend to fill my time with office visits, workshops and other items that are more direct service to people. I hope to better value my writing this year. I’ve taken the steps to do so by applying and now attending a writing intensive which meets every three months in Santa Fe with Natalie Goldberg and Rob Wilder. So hopefully I won’t be writing the same thing next year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes – same situation caused both. My right shoulder is vulnerable to injury. I healed it last year after an 18 month struggle. However, my canyoneering trip re-injured it after our longest outing – primarily due to transitioning through slot canyons so narrow that I had to carry my backpack out in front or back of me since I couldn’t fit through with it on my back. After that trip, I somehow got bacteria that three days later started traveling up my arm. This landed me in the ER without a wait (meaning highest risk patient). Luckily some strong antibiotics knocked it out.

11. What’s the best thing you bought?

We bought a Tesla!! This is our second electric car, our third alternative fuel car. We love the auto drive in LA traffic!

12. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage. We live in the Los Angeles area need I say anything else.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Crew! This year was our first season of competition and it was so exciting. This is such a “guts” sport. Fabulous to watch and who doesn’t like spending a day by the water.

Someone won’t be pleased by this picture but this so captures the relief when the race is done. This girl was stroke for a 3 mile race and pleased her coach with her pace.

14. What song will always remind you of 2018?

Psalm 46 (Lord of Hosts) by Shane & Shane. This song really reflects the activity of my heart with so many tragedies, political divide, inequality, death, conflict and loss at my church, I’ve needed to sit with God’s presence with us, with me in this world full of brokenness.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
—happier or sadder?

  better at holding both – sadness and happiness.

— thinner or fatter?

the same but I’ve made some wonderful discoveries with my health – eating gluten and dairy free has helped clear out the “brain fog” I often experienced every day. I thought it was due to my thyroid, which hasn’t properly worked since 2003 but once I cut out gluten it left.

— richer or poorer?

Richer. Business was good and we have a good savings plan, especially since I was paying off my student loan for decades and couldn’t save much.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Hiking and camping. We didn’t do much hiking but did manage to get in our yearly camping trip even though it was poorly attended by other families. This year we had a wonderful campsite at Union Valley Reservoir. Magical. We had the entire area to ourselves likely due to the fires in Northern California but our air quality was great.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Dealing with paper – I hate opening mail unless it’s a letter or magazine. :-). And our family has a lot of moving parts, which makes coordinating, paper shuffling, etc. challenging for this busy business owner and mother.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

We had a great time with Dennis’ family playing games, eating amazing food (the gravy was incredible), decorating cookies, and then we drove up to one of our family’s favorite spots, Sedona, where we spent several days and even got snow!

Snowman Credit: Elisha
A tree I love along Oak Creek, on the property where we stay in Sedona.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Netflix’s show Patriot Act by Hasan Minhaj. I’m in love with his person. If you don’t like swearing, don’t watch. However, if you aren’t offended Hasan won’t disappoint. He discusses important and relevant issues for our country using his comedic style to inform his audience. I confess, I just love observing his mind.

20. What were your favorite books of the year?

It’s so tough to pick my favorite books as there are so many I fall in love with. However, here are my picks for this year, the first two being older books I didn’t read until this year. Favorite Non-Fiction was the 2017 award winning book, Evicted, by Matthew Desmond. See his website for information – http://evictedbook.com. Favorite Fiction was 2016 book, Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly. This book is set around World War II and weaves the lives of three different women together. It’s riveting. My favorite spiritual book was Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright. I love how this author weaves in humor with his academic knowledge of the life of Paul. Definitely has influenced my understanding of Paul’s epistles. My favorite personal growth book was Why Won’t You Apologize by Harriet Lerner. I enjoy her ability to make simple – deeper psychological concepts as well as her vulnerability in her writing. I wonder what would happen if every high school student had to read this – would we be a kinder and more connected country?

21. What was your favorite music from this year?

I really wish I could like cool, layered music but I’m really just not that hip and probably to a musician like “unsophisticated junk.” However, here it goes with my mainstream taste.

I couldn’t get enough of James Arthur’s music even though his album is two years old. I loved his new singles and am waiting impatiently for him to drop another album and tour. I think with his voice he could sing me the phone book and I’d be mesmerized. Another album favorite was Fall Out Boy’s Mania. However, I found their concert in Anaheim dissatisfying. As a concert lover, they seemed awkward on stage and at times it appeared as if they were going through the motions. Disappointing. I loved Thirty Seconds to Mars new album and hope I can finally see them in concert in 2019.

Best concert this year was predictable -U2. It’s a spiritual experience to be with this band. I’ve seen them four times and leave a better human being each time. Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour though was probably the most entertaining. She knows how to bring it and with guest performances from Troy Sivan and Selena Gomez – over the top.

22. What was your favorite film of the year?

Avengers: Infinity Wars was my favorite film of the year. The ending. Gutsy. I loved it. Again, I idealize those who watch independent films but I simply don’t create space to go to the movies that often. When I do, it’s usually for the special effects that only come from the big screen. Films I really wanted to see but didn’t – “Wont you be my neighbor,” “Free Solo” and “Mission Impossible: Fallout.” One of my favorites from year’s past was Hidden Figures. I might be able to watch that every year and not get enough of it.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I worked on my birthday and Dennis made me a great dinner. I also got a fabulous massage from Laura, my favorite. I really celebrated in April when I took my birthday adventure trip to Utah for canyoneering and photography. I was and am 48 years old.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having cancer wiped off the face of the earth. My friend Danielle died on January 6th. My friend, Gina is fighting Stage 4 colon cancer as is my childhood friend, Liz, fighting her own version with a recurrence of breast cancer. They are blessings to this earth. It makes me so mad that they are suffering with these diseases.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

Comfortable, yet colorful with sometimes the unexpected (think leopard print with stripes). I love jewelry so usually accessorize with a local artist’s piece (you will find no commercial jewelry on me – vintage or local artists is what I wear). I usually will choose comfort over fashion unless I know I’m going to be sitting and hence not maneuvering with uncomfortable clothing or shoes (the later being more of the issue with my narrow feet).

I’m definitely less cool than these two sic beauties.

26. What kept you sane?

My sanity may be debatable but if we are assuming I’m sane then it’s likely due to practicing the Sabbath. Committing to take a day off a week is paradoxically energizing and makes me more productive and present for the rest of the week. My kids love it, especially because they don’t need to do dishes. Even though I will move on to another spiritual practice, we will continue to integrate the Sabbath into our lives. I think my family would protest if I took away our weekly practice as they’ve all come to look forward to it.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

The present moment is the greatest gift. Too often I think, “I can do that later” but the reality is that I don’t really know I can do it later. So each time I workout, I see someone, or have time to connect -I try to take advantage and remember that I simply don’t know if I’ll ever be recreate the moment again. As well, I learned that my mindset can really impact my experience of the present moment. So, I’m trying to recognize how I’m thinking in order to either change it or cultivate it depending on my emotional state. In other words, “what mood is my mental life creating and if I don’t like it, what is needed to shift it?”

28. What new habit did you develop to decrease your environmental footprint?

We purchased stainless steel straws and decreased our use of plastic straws. I stored them in my car, which made them handy while eating out or grabbing a smoothie. We are still trying to remember to say, “No straws” when we eat out because it’s inconsistent as to whether you automatically get a glass with a straw, which of course is disappointing to those of us who are eliminating the one time use of plastic items.

Eden’s response for considering next year’s habit -“don’t we do everything there is to do?” As parents, either we’re doing lots of things right or we’re missing the boat on this one.

Happy New Year, Everyone. May I be around next year to reflect once again on my year.

Seizing the Moment – Lessons from Nature and Cancer

Last year in California, we had a superbloom spring – where the flowers open in abundance when rain hits in winter or fall after a considerable drought.  For us in Southern California, we’d had five years of drought before we welcomed last year’s superbloom that brought millions of visitors to witness the hillsides and deserts in all their glory. With this year being a superbloom fail; instead, year one of drought, I’m grateful I trekked to the hills to witness the blooms.  It’s easy to disregard the urgency of such moments.  When I’m juggling all my aspects of doing life (self-employment, mothering two active kids, volunteer work, church, friendships, family, etc) it can be easy to tell myself, “I’ll catch it next year.” Or, “It’s not that big of a deal, it can wait.”  With my words I ignore a reality that is undoubtedly true – “seize the moment because it will pass.”   And with things of nature, this is doubly true.  The moment won’t come around in exactly the same way -ever.  And just like going to the gym and working out, I don’t think there has ever been a time where I’ve regretted missing sleep to catch an eclipse or sunrise or time at home over traveling all day to witness canyons and rock formations.  Adding to my sense of urgency is the reality that loss of life happens.  In the past five years, I have lost three good friends to cancer.  These were friends who spoke into my life, knew me over a decade – some two, and were significant encouragers in my personal and professional growth.  What they taught me, no matter how long they lived with cancer, is that there isn’t a guarantee for tomorrow and even if it seems tomorrow will come, there isn’t a guarantee for how much or how little pain there will be.  So if you can do it, and have the opportunity, better do it now before the window has passed.

I think this sense of urgency is one of the gifts these women left me with.  I’m trying to live now with a, “Don’t wait.  Do it now while you can.” These pictures from last year’s superbloom remind me that I didn’t wait.  We got up before the sun, drove the 1.5 hours and beat the weekend crowds in order to witness and enjoy these poppies at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.  I find mentally marking these type of remembrances, when I did something well and didn’t let the moment pass, encourages me to look for the present moments when I want to skip over something that needs to be savored, or taken in, or leaned into so the “it’s too much effort” belief doesn’t win out.  This year, I’ve created space to “take in” – a canyoneering trip, a trip to Italy, a 30 year class reunion, a writing retreat in New Mexico – twice, and our yearly camping trip with 40 other friends.  And yet, I want to make sure I’m not forgetting that each mundane, every day moment calls out to be “taken in” because if I wait until these “big events” – well, I’m missing a lot of life.  And as I’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death during these past five years, I know that each day is truly a gift and I hope I can do it justice by living well.  In the name of Beth, Amy and Danielle, I want to honor the gift they weren’t given – more time.

May you also seize the day, capturing the moments of your life by paying attention and finding what there is to enjoy.  As well, may you be encouraged to shift as I’m trying to do, to live more “urgently” with time because we never know what the future holds.

 

 

Good Friday

Good Friday.  It’s a day I’d rather ignore.  Too uncomfortable and sobering, especially the Good Friday service where year after year I’m unable to leave with dry eyes.  However what feels different about this year is I’ve been sitting in a bit of a Good Friday since January 6th when my friend, Danielle, passed away leaving her three children and husband (and all of us who loved her) to move through life without her.  I’m reminded in this moment that even though I knew her body would feel better, she wouldn’t be suffering, and she would be going to be with her Heavenly Father, in those last moments, I didn’t want her to leave.  I didn’t want her breath to slow until it was no longer.  I didn’t want to lose this three dimensional self – that could be hugged, touched, kissed.  And yet, just like Jesus, she breathed her last breath surrounded by people who loved and knew her.

In past years, I’ve been wrapped up in the excruciating pain and humiliation of Jesus’ Good Friday experience.  I’ve related to his cry, “Take this cup from me, Lord,” especially sitting with so many who’ve suffered tremendously.  But this year, I find myself at the bottom of the cross – feeling abandoned and disappointed.

My thoughts go something like, “This is all you got?  Hanging from a tree, crucified? Where is your promise?  Where is your victory?  You were supposed to raise our status – take us out of oppressive Roman rules and culture.  Instead, you’re dead on a cross.  Hanging.  Lifeless.  What use were you?  Why did you even come – raising our hopes, drawing us into your compassion, your healing power, your promise that God was your Father?  We were fine without you, 32 years ago.  We were managing.  Now, deflated.  Full of despair and hurt.  You’ve abandoned me, all of us really.  Was I crazy to believe in you?  Was I crazy to believe your promises that God’s Kingdom was being made new?  That God was a kind and loving master? That you would free us from Roman oppression.   We are at their mercy, not yours.”

If I were there now, beneath Jesus, I may walk away in disgust.  I’m not sure I would have lasted to see his body wrapped and put into a tomb.  I might have missed Jesus’ own feelings of abandonment, “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” which is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  I know this to be true, my sorrow would have been laced with disappointment.

With Danielle’s journey of cancer, we hoped for time, for even just one successful treatment but we were given none of it – only one brief respite with markers falling before they stormed back a month later worse than before.  During her fight against cancer with failed treatment after failed treatment, I found comfort studying the life of John the Baptist, who spent his whole life serving God only to be beheaded because a girl requested it.  Then there was Herod’s violence against the sons born within the window he’d suspected Jesus was born – thousands died because Herod was afraid for his status as King.  I’m left with questions: What kind of God brings this type of violence to innocent people and individuals who love Him and spend their whole lives serving Him?  My conclusion for today is that He is a God who isn’t as simpleminded as I am. In other words, I can’t even come close to having a mind like God.  I cannot reconcile His ways.

In truth, I don’t want to rush to Easter.  I don’t care Jesus rose from the dead in the moments of my Good Friday experiences, just like those who live in Good Friday due to the suffering of this world, helpless to know the day when they will emerge to Easter.  And for some, it will never come here on Earth.  Good Friday happens over and over as grief washes over parents who’ve lost children, husbands their wives and wives their husbands, and most disheartening, young children their mothers or fathers.  I think of the refugees who have no place to rest their head, the foster children who endure feeling unwanted in a system bound to fail them, the sexual minority persecuted by the church commanded to love their neighbor as themselves, the environment groaning from overuse, pollution, and neglect and the list of atrocities encountered in human and environmental life goes on and on.  In Good Friday moments we all feel the despair, the abandonment, the lack of response to our cries for relief.  In these moments, I don’t care that I will see my friends, family members – my son, in heaven.  I’m still living here – with my feelings of abandonment, betrayal, even disbelief over what “God has allowed?”

Where does my hope come from, here at the base of the cross?  I’ve learned it does come from Yahweh.  He showed His presence to all those people scoffing, grieving, and feeling abandoned or disappointed at the foot of the cross in earth’s momentary darkness, the ripping of the temple veil, the ground shaking and the rocks splitting open.  I believe in a God who holds complexity in mind-blowing ways.  I believe in a God who can from one perspective, abandon, yet show up.  Who can give, yet take away.  Who can heal, yet allow death and physical pain.  Who can convert, yet allow executions.  Who can adopt, yet allow neglect and abuse.

I believe I serve a God who doesn’t ask me to put away my Good Friday feelings – to pretend Easter has arrived prematurely.  Yet, I believe that God asks me to remember His promises, including He will never leave me nor forsake me, that He’s making all things new, that Palm Sunday happened as He foretold it, and that Easter, though unsatisfying to my earthly self who, had I known Jesus, would miss him tremendously and wouldn’t care about the Holy Spirit coming because I’d want Him – his person, gives me hope in the unseen.  And it is in this space – holding onto Hope, while feeling abandoned and disappointed that I sit at the foot of the cross acknowledging something much, much greater than myself.

To God be the Glory.

When I Grow Up, I Want to be Danielle Montiel: A Year of Being.  Together.

 

By way of introduction, Danielle is a good friend.  We’ve known each other for a long time, we did Thanksgiving one year at her parent’s house, primarily because she married one of my best friend’s brothers who had invited us along.  Fast forward about five years and we spent two years in a couple’s group with several others, we camped and travelled once or twice a year with our families this last decade, we had a deep appreciation for one another and I felt “goodness” in my soul when I saw her but we weren’t necessarily in weekly or even biweekly contact until this past year.

A few things you should know:

She’s amazing – seriously.  Before cancer, she could do handstands and back flips- leftovers from being a gymnast (yes, in her 40s).  She was a gourmet chef effortlessly, whipping up whatever was in the kitchen and having it taste divine.  She was profound, observant, kind, generous, intelligent and had a combination of laid back and disciplined that few people could pull off.  She was so gracious in how she approached situations and people.  She single-handedly got a new charter school, the joint vision of her brother-in-law, Steve Porter and good friend, Jason Baehr, up and running.  She was a doer and yet she appeared to flow so easily between the doing and being, recognizing that while one does, one needs to be.

This past year, she transformed me spiritually without having a clue she was doing so (I didn’t have a clue in the middle of it).  I’d committed to a year of practicing the spiritual discipline of being and she and I together were engaged in a touch therapy I’d been briefly trained in (a modality I practice with friends, not professionally.).  She showed me the beauty of dependence, of asking for one’s needs, of moving slow together and not rushing to “get somewhere.”  See what was so clear to Danielle, but what I didn’t get (at least initially) was that our time was about being. I wanted results – a better sleep, loosened muscles, coordination improvement after her brain surgery.  But for Danielle we never tried to get somewhere, she let me know she enjoyed the company, the nurturing.

What I gut-achingly miss the most is feeling her body.  I learned her arms, her legs, her back.  Over the months, we grieved, through our acknowledgement of changes, ineffective chemotherapy, which resulted in the cancer stealing her strength because breathing was compromised not to mention the chemotherapy and radiation side effects.  Much later, we grieved the arrival of the breathing machine and what it meant at the same time we rejoiced she could breathe better.  We grieved that the spiritual images given to us during our time together never promised healing.  The last image she spoke about (our last months had very little speaking in them) was a dollhouse with open rooms that she could come and go in without being trapped in one place (possibly a foreshadowing of her visiting us from “behind the veil).”

I confess, I wanted to be miraculous.  I wanted her to heal so we didn’t have to live with worry.  I wasn’t so naive that I declared it to be true – that God was going to heal her through our time together.  While my posture might leave doubters declaring, “No wonder she didn’t heal oh ye of little faith,” I don’t think either one of us felt that way.  We were united in the very core of why we were together – to seek God’s will and to trust that He was with us as we were with each other.

I doubt I’ve done something more important in my life than sit with Danielle – listening. She showed me a part of myself that has rarely shown itself – being while helpless, dependent, powerlessness, with absolutely no power or control to change the outcome, only to impact the process. I needed her to show me our time wasn’t worthless even though I couldn’t heal her.  Even when I couldn’t help her sleep through the night, she gave herself over to the process and showed me what it was like to enjoy one another while being dependent and vulnerable.  I see now, our time together was an intimate pause in our lives.  It grew me.  Facing into death with her – feeling the muscle decrease in her arms, hearing the struggled breath, and shifting movements – going from lying flat, to being propped up by pillows, to sitting in a recliner, to siting straight up in a chair – all of these things we faced together – acknowledging with words and without what this meant for God answering our prayers.  Oh we hoped – we asked for healing for the chance to once again lie on the massage table but we didn’t proclaim false hopes or optimism like, “I can’t wait until you are strong enough to walk Juneau again” or “I can’t wait for this year’s camping trip when you will have enough breath to go on some longer hikes.”  In this, we were steadfast, “God’s will be done and we invite His Presence to be with us.”  The last several months we were together, she slept while I worked though she asked to be woken up each time so she could spend more time with her family after I was done.

I learned from Danielle that my beginner’s training was sufficient for us.  Danielle taught me that I didn’t need any special tricks or powers to pull out of a bag – what I was doing was good enough.  I didn’t believe her at first.  Wasn’t there something I could do to miraculously bring more comfort to her body?  Shouldn’t I know more?  When her body had declined to a place we couldn’t use the massage table I had a perfectionist panic – What if I don’t know what I’m doing and hurt her?  So I said to her, “okay – if things get too hot (my hands combined with the energy in her body creates heat), you let me know and I’ll stop.”  She very gently looked me in the eyes and said, “You’ve never hurt me before.  I doubt it will happen now.”  I met her gaze, nodded and answered with a bit of guilt in my eye for having been trapped once again by my perfectionism and said, “True.  Let’s get you more relaxed.”  See here with Danielle I was finally bearing witness and embodying what I’ve known for decades — being is about the good enough – otherwise what takes the place of being is often an anxiety that is focused on performance and outcome.  Perfectionism or focusing on “doing it perfect” can’t digest the present moment; instead it’s there to eat up the present moment for something obtained in the future.

Danielle also spoke into me about an identity I hadn’t claimed in myself.  So casually she shared with me a story about a Christian healer she’d gone to hear speak and was greeted by a member of our congregation via a handshake.  Danielle said to her, “You have warm hands like Kimber, you must be a healer.”  The gal had laughed and said, “I’m a massage therapist.”  I haven’t experienced my hands the same since.  See I do talk therapy professionally, I only do touch therapy as a hobby, yet here she was calling something into being for me.  “I’m a healer.”  I wear this declaration now as true.

My deepest regret is I didn’t share this with her because I didn’t know it until she’d died.  See I feel as if I’ve lost a patient who was a dear friend.  But it’s my hands that miss her the most.  They long to be with her, to touch her feet and create energy shifts up her body, to feel warmth, not the inability to create warmth as I experienced as she passed from this world when my hand was on her leg and I felt only coldness.  It was then that I knew what I’d miss the very most – being.  Together.

My year of being has made its way into my bones.  I have a category, a new way of existing.  I’m grateful.

Danielle, if your reading this now — I miss our times together.  You’ve marked me, changed me for good.  I love you, friend and please visit me – with Amy.  And my son.

Avon 39 – Breast Cancer Walk

Someone asked me recently, what led me to walk the Avon 39?  My answer: It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for many years, when my friend and mentor, Beth Brokaw’s cancer came out of remission and catapulted her into living with stage 4 cancer, miraculously, for 15 years.

So, I signed up this year after hearing a friend was diagnosed with stage 3 in November, which very quickly became stage 4.  In my complete helpless feelings for this friend, Danielle, and her family, immediate and extended, whom I’m very connected with (very is the descriptor that gets placed after one spends Thanksgiving together at her mom’s house so very long ago, you’ve known family members for 20 years, and we’ve moved through pre-children to growing children), I hoped to at least DO something that kept her not just on my mind mentally, prayerfully, but also reminded me of the suffering she’s enduring every day.  I wanted to join her momentarily in this suffering space with something that would take everything I had.  It feels a bit silly – after all what can my suffering do to alleviate hers?  Nothing.  However, on an emotional and spiritual level, it brought me face to face with limitations, helplessness, the need for community and cheers of encouragement as well as facing vulnerability head on.  In this way, I walked in Danielle’s shoes with new understanding of her needs through my suffering experience.  Which I recognize as very limiting because the reality is I know only of momentary life-threatening anxiety, when I got held at gunpoint in my garage in 2000, I’m not having to contain and hold it as she does on a daily basis -living with unknown in the tension of fear and hope.  My own suffering started several weeks before the race after an 18-mile practice walk.  I developed deep, deep blisters on the balls of my feet.  They hadn’t recovered by the time I walked so I spent many hours researching how to take care of them, which turned into experimenting with what works (process included shoes, socks, and blister products).  As sometimes God does with timing, Danielle’s feet also became painful, a side effect of her chemotherapy, so I trained and hurt,then trained and hurt, which gave me hours to pray for her as well as experience a glimpse of her pain, how much time and space research can take (after all there are lots of opinions on best socks, shoes, best blister practices as there are lots of cancer treatment ideas and options) – at time it felt like i was on my own with loads of information but no idea of how to decipher what information applied to me or how it applied.

Even though I had a desire to do the Avon 39 walk, what really made me follow through with actually signing up for the event were these partners in crime….I couldn’t have done it without my wonderful team of friends and former workout partners – Jansen, Kathy and Seungee (from left to right in picture).

Here’s a recap of our time…

We look nice and fresh here…all full of smiles.  Ignorant smiles.Acquainting ourselves with our event sleeping arrangements…All smiles at 5:30 am.

1600 walkers

From the start, we had people cheering for us along the way.  People coming out of their houses, others going from section to section – singing, handing out red licorice, water, wet towels, and amazing otter pops, which none of us had eaten for decades (or at least didn’t admit to eating them for decades)!  Some of our favorite “cheerleaders” were a couple of guys who held up hilarious signs at different locations around the route.  For example, at around mile 5 or 6, one sign said “You are NOT almost there.”

We made it 1/3 of the way.  Lunch time!  Group stop for me to fix my blister – mile 19.  Thank goodness for my glacier gels and Seungee’s foot corn pads which were thicker than my moleskin.  From this picture – you cannot tell the steepness.  However, this hill and then when we went back down the other side was part of a mile long route…it was so steep my GPS only calculated 1/2 mile.  This was at MILE 24!!!!!  WHAT?  WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS?  We have no idea but someone must have been smiling.  Us – we just kept on keeping on, one foot after another.Yup!  We did it.  What didn’t get counted was then needing to walk down some smaller hills to hit the showers at the polo club.  We were disappointed they didn’t have horse carriages as transportation.Thank goodness, Kathy gave us wax earplugs!  Teamwork continues.Ready for round 2 — 13.1 miles.  We were grateful we’d participated in foam rolling, foot massagers and for some of us, an actual 10 minute massage.We needed these guys (and gals) to get us through!!  They stopped traffic, gave us encouragement and were full of energy!  Each had personality and brought their ‘A’ game.It wasn’t easy to get up on day two knowing we had 13 miles to go after already walked 26.2 but recognizing our pain was temporary moved us from self-pity to one foot in front of the other with hope and determination, the same character traits needed for cancer fighters.

With that said, the second day was grueling.  It was hotter.  We were sore.  Our quads were crying out for us to stop and our feet were protesting.  We were grateful for Jan’s suggestion for compression socks because they helped keep the cramping away.  There was so much discomfort it’s hard to describe.  One of our inspirational figures, who was walking about our pace was a Chicago fireman who wore his uniform (heavy!) while pushing his mother in a wheelchair for 39 miles. He walked because he’d been an absent son and had abandoned his mother during some of her breast cancer treatment.  Spending time with her walking was part of his redemption.  He’d walked 4 events when we saw him. His story can be found on Facebook, walking4ma.

We were greeted by so many people along the way.  With some, their sorrow could be felt, especially in the eyes of the children, and for others, they showed up to encourage us with their sense of humor with their comments like , “when else can I chase girls for two days and not get arrested,” and their signs like, “you think your legs are hurting, my arms are killing me” (from holding the sign), “Go total strangers go” “worst parade yet,” “where’s the floats?”

Our LB hats brought us lots of love.  We were proud to represent our city along with the other women we met from the LB.  We were supported all along the way at every turn and we met some beautiful people – one woman had raised over 4 million dollars in her lifetime of walks, another had walked in 141 events.

After the event, my feet had two blisters on them…a new one from the day that I had once again treated with foot corn pads and gel as soon as I felt it (wasn’t soon enough) and the first blister at mile 19, even though drained by the medical team at the end of day 1 (26.2 miles), decided to reappear again on day 2.  My battle wounds– This is the day one blister a week out….still healing.One thing that was reinforced from this walk is I desperately need community coming alongside and cheering when the going gets tough – gets life and death tough.  I’m not sure I can imagine finishing this event without the massive support we received.  Their were so many levels of support from the traffic people, to the rest stops, to the water stops, to the bathroom stops, etc.  Even the pink arrows and mile markers, were so helpful because we could break up our race in small chunks, telling ourselves, just get to the next marker.  One mile at a time.  I think it is the same when navigating extremely painful things – it’s about getting through ________ before worrying about what’s next.  And it’s when we can’t get through ____________(fill in the blank) then we must have people in our space so we can get through it.

What I loved about suffering together, is that I grew to enjoy the small things about each one of my team members.  Jan, she’s steady and loyal.  She’s going to get done what needs to get done and she’ll bring you with her.  She’s going to own her pain and support you through yours.  Kathy, is engaging and observant.  She keeps on keeping on, able to both receive and give in her suffering – coming up with that funny quip or observation at just the right time.  She’s up for anything.  Seungee is our social member – full of energy and encouragement.  She had no qualms about engaging the people around us, asking about the names on their shirts or the money they raised.  She knew what was up through her information gathering techniques and helped us keep up the news.  As a team, we raised our hands “woohoo” as cars beeped at us or people cheered – engaging with others – letting them know we received their encouragement and shouts.  We encouraged one another whether it was to make it to the next mile or to fix the problems flaring on our feet. It was a lovely adventure.  One I’m trying to talk them into repeating – only this time the 60 mile walk.  Just kidding, LBC Girls who may be reading this. 😉

For everyone who contributed to our walk, i want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Our LBC Girls team raised $8375 to go to breast cancer research and access to screenings and treatment to underserved populations.  The 1600 walkers who participated in the weekend raised 4.1 million by Saturday morning and more donations were expected.

Thanks for walking with me, with us, through your interest, donations, thoughts and prayers.  We received them.  If you didn’t know we were walking, lift up a family you know facing cancer.  They need you with them in their fight against cancer.  They can’t do it without you.  You’re important.  Don’t underestimate your value as family, a friend, a church member, a co-worker, a neighbor, or someone standing in the grocery store line (Jansen).  You are needed in this fight.  We all are.

Blessings,

Kimber

 

Community Camping – Big Sur

40 of us banned together to once again make our community camping trip happen.  I believe we’ve been camping together (a combination of us, at least) since 2004.  This year did not disappoint.  We booked a year ago for Big Sur and as fate (or God) would have it, three mudslides later we pretty much had the highway to ourselves.  There’s only one way in and out so cars are sparse.  A few of us took advantage – napped on the road (maybe an exaggeration though we did lie down), walked six miles, biked (7 miles until the first car was passed), and enjoyed the sound of the waves during the night rather than car and motorcycle motors.

Yes – that is the world famous highway 1 we are walking by…

We saw sea otters wrap themselves in kelp.

Otters in Kelp

Played Games.

Hiked.

Explored.

Saw whales from the road. In many ways magical.

And yet, we surround a family fighting for health as their Mama has stage 4 breast cancer.  The unspoken was, maybe is, will Danielle be able to join us next year?  I continue to hold hope with her without ignorance to the ongoing battle.  Her latest markers are down.  We pray specifically to buy time until we can find a treatment that works because thus far, her aggressive cancer marches on.

(A picture from last year because somehow adults just aren’t as cute as the kids according to my picture selection…)

In her honor, as well as in memory of my dear friend and mentor, Beth Brokaw, who I swear showed up in the form of a heron that landed about 5 yards away from me on my morning walk (it held specific meaning to the longevity in which she lived with her stage 4 cancer), I’m doing the Avon 39 walk in 17 days.  This is a 39 mile walk in 2 days.

I still need to raise about $750.  Please consider donating today.  This organization gives millions of dollars for cancer research.  All donations are tax-deductible.

Here’s my link:

http://info.avon39.org/site/TR/Walk/LosAngeles?px=8227757&pg=personal&fr_id=2515

Thank you for sharing with me in both the adventures and the pains life brings.

Warmly,

Kimber

For Danielle, Part Two

Lamentations: A Protest

You created her in her mother’s womb.
You know every hair on her head.  Every thought before she thinks it.
Nowhere can she go where your Spirit isn’t with her.
And yet, you’ve turned your back.
You haven’t spoken.
You’ve said nothing.
Where do you hide?
Under a rock?
In a sea volcano?
On Pluto?
Where have you gone?
Let yourself be found, damn it!
You haven’t been found in the chemotherapy – growth continued.
You weren’t found in surgery because the cancer had already spread to her
lungs.
At every turn she has gotten your back.
Why do you hide?

You’ve changed her children’s laughter into tears and worse,
Instilled fear.
You’ve stolen their childhood.
Making slime is no longer just making slime.
It now holds the possibility of being the last time to make slime, to pour
the borax with my mother.
You have them wondering, will this be the last?  Will she die?
Do not leave them motherless.

Her enemy surrounds her.  She cannot fight.
But you, great God, you make the Earth revolve around the sun, year after
year.
You raise the sun in the east and set it in the west.  Daily.
Surely a glance from you and she would be healed.
Do not disappoint.
Do not leave us broken-hearted.
Allow us to feast on fondue and smores over an open fire.
Allow us to make a toast in Big Sur shouting of your goodness and grace
for more life.
Show your face.
Heal her your servant, your daughter.

March 2017

First Fake Catch