Thursday, July 24, 2014

papa's big band love for life

I have a dream every now and then that shakes me, leaving me thinking about it long into the hours of my morning.

I was in a living room of some unknown large house. My family was there. So was Papa's baritone saxophone. I pulled it out of its case and stuck a reed in my mouth, and set the large, heavy instrument upright. I placed the reed in the mouth piece and tightened it down and I started playing. It was a squeaky start, as it would have been in real life. And then I remembered a tune from my childhood and started to play it. It was imperfect but most of its integrity remained intact. What strange tune is this? I wondered in my dream head. When I woke up, I realized I had been playing Amazing Grace. I never remembered Papa playing that song much, when he'd rattle songs out mostly by piano or by voice (and though he played the clarinet and baritone saxophone well, and played big band music in his younger years, he never played his wind instruments much for us), but it was a tune I heard frequently in his home, mostly because my dad and grandma were always singing it. I loved to hear it when I was a kid because my middle name is Grace, and I thought they were singing it to me, and telling me I was Amazing. They knew this, so they sang it a bunch around me.

But the dream made me ache with remembrance of my grandfather. And I cursed my brain a little bit for not allowing the man to make an appearance into my dream, too. Just his most prized instrument, and a tune that reminded me of being a kid my grandparents' house and feeling like Amazing laura Grace.

I found it both strange and apt that a reminder of my Papa should come to me in a week that I've started focusing so much on learning to love my life. My grandfather died 8 years ago of Parkinson's disease. Before the condition started to take him down, he was a boisterous and inspiring personality and at times a force to be reckoned with. When I think of Papa, I think of him going room to room in his home or ours singing... loudly. He'd sing out accolades to his wife when she wandered too far in the house and wanted her back close again, Juney! Oh my sweet Juney dear! and so on. He sang so much. Or he'd yell once loudly when us kids got too rowdy. We'd stop doing what we were doing immediately and he'd look surprised at his own force, and five seconds later he'd be singing to us again.

And the man would get on the piano and he'd kill it. He could play anything he wished, mostly his old big band songs. We'd watch in awe, or ignore him, depending on how distracted we were. But there was never a doubt that Papa loved his life.

Here's to you and the life you lived, Papa. A life never without fieriness. I hope I can learn to sing out in my own way just like you did.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Five Promises

I was having a moment last week where I felt I was letting my own life get away from me. I jotted down a few things that seemed incredibly important that I shouldn't ignore so often. I came up with 5 promises. 

# 1 Be unapologetic in your authenticity. 

Something happens to me every couple of months that irks me. It happened again last week.
At 6:30 last Thursday morning I am standing at the cash register paying for a bagel. The cashier notices my tattoo as I am handing her my debit card.

"5 circles. Does it have a meaning?" Without pause, I answer with the same answer I always give when someone asks me about what's on my wrist.
"Oh, you know, I got that back when I was in college," pause, "I think I just wanted a tattoo, that's all." She says, "Me too! I did the same thing," and she shows me the small star on her wrist.

Every time I say something along those same lines. And the funny thing is, that's not true at all.

When I got that tattoo I was going through a particularly dark time in my third year of college. I don't want to undermine the weight I was feeling at the time with a long, self-deprecating explanation of my then angst, so I'll just say this honestly and simply: I was struggling just to be myself, and to be okay with that at the same time. So I got a tattoo as a note-to-self; something I could look at every day that would serve as a reminder to love myself. I settled on five circles for the five letters of my first, middle and last name.

And that, Ms. bagel lady, is why I have a tattoo on my wrist. And, apparently I still need the reminder. Love yourself. Love yourself enough to admit to a curious stranger that you have a tattoo to remind you to love yourself. Love yourself enough to admit to the friend of your friend that you do, indeed, like pop country music. Love yourself enough to eat as many vegetables as you can in a day, and a bowl of ice cream at night. It will make you feel bright and warm.

#2 To the best of your ability, one thing at a time, and Slow. It. Down.

One of those most beautiful quotes comes from Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451,

"The zipper displaces the button and a man lacks just that much time to think while dressing at dawn, a philosophical hour, and thus a melancholy hour."

Oh, Ray. Raayy. How would you feel about my morning routine if I told you it involved making coffee, immediately checking social media, putting on Pandora, brushing my teeth while getting dressed, hopping into my car to listen to NPR for 15 minutes, and then using the second half of my car ride to continuously change the radio station searching for the perfect song (but never finding it) until I pull into the parking lot for work? Ray. I'm not even of my cognizant of my ability to be a contemplative, thoughtful human being until roughly 6 in the evening, and by then I'm often too exhausted to do anything else but dive into a world of mindless distractions because, let's face it, that's the easy thing to do (thanks Netflix!).

Ray. Not that I need anymore melancholy in my life, but I do hear you. We are living in a world that is Too. Damn. Fast. And we are losing ourselves in it, too.

On a rare day, I find myself eating breakfast and sipping my coffee on my front porch at 6 in the morning. I stare out at the valley and the mountains to east. It happens every couple of weeks, when I've exhausted myself completely of checking things on the internet and too many neurotic moments. Staring out at the dawn with only one thing going on is utter peace. As is a walk in the park beside my house without my phone. Or a hike up in the mountains. Or biking around town.To break up the day into singular activities, one after the other, each one involving your full attention and alertness, is to feel peace. And take your time where you can with each thing you do.

#3 Don't be afraid of social functions. Be yourself and get to know others on an individual basis. Human connection is freeing.

A personal hell for me might include the following scenario: Attending a function or party where I don't know a single person very well. Or I do know one person well, and they're busy talking to other people. HELL.

I spent the first 23 years of my life avoiding situations like that, because I'm painfully shy and introverted and it's the easier thing to do. I've learned over the years though, that kind of behavior makes me feel isolated and lonely. No real surprise there. But I can only help me feel better; I can't rely on strangers at social gatherings to come to my rescue by including me all the time. So, now at 27, I'm still working on talking to strangers. It's still hard. But it's slowly, ever so slowly, curing my loneliness.

 #4 Find your healthy personal catharsis, and give yourself that several times a week (if not every day)

What have I realized works for me? Writing. Whether it be journaling, emailing a friend or family member, or sending blog entries out into the great abyss of the internet, writing in almost any form makes me feel calm and fulfilled. So do walks without my cell phone, runs, cooking recipes and watering my plants. Doing one of these things always seems to set me right, so why don't I make time for these things?

Good question. I can't come up with an answer that actually makes sense.

Don't forget, you've got one life, and you might as well feel calm and well in it as often as you can.

 #5 This is where you are right now. It may not be a paradise, but find a way to be happy with  it where you're at, even if it's not perfect.

If you would have asked me a few years ago when I graduated college where I thought I'd be at 27 I would have said something dreamy like, "I'll have my own 5-acre certified organic farm and 75 member CSA in Alaska. Or Hawaii. Or I'll be living in Mexico as a writer. Or I'll be a baker in a little mountain town and climbing in my off time."

So where am I? I'm floundering trying to figure out what to go to grad school for, thinking I'd like to be a physical therapist and working in the field but anxious about the debt I'll incur in PT school and then being stuck in a profession I only half-like to pay off said debt. And I live in a city with a serious smog problem I never thought I'd stay in because of a relationship with no obvious or clear tragectory.


Dear Diary I may have said too much.

But here's the thing. That's one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is this: I got a job in a PT clinic and it's building my resume well and helping me see physical therapy from multiple different angles every day I stay with this job. I work with incredibly intelligent people with whom I can bounce ideas off of. I am thinking hard about whether or not I want to go in a certain direction, and that kind of analysis is, I've decided, a very good thing.

I live in a smoggy city that is surrounded by incredible MOUNTAINS. I go alpine climbing every weekend. I'm about to move to a house that is within biking distance to my work and my closest friends' houses and my boyfriend's place.

And as for my relationship, who knows? Am I really supposed to? Isn't that one of the greatest
things about life? You can't always plan everything out. You simply must live it.

And you must be as happy as you can with uncertainty and messiness. Because it's either that or be sad and moody as all hell. And trust me, I've tried that plenty and it kind of sucks. I'd rather be happy. I'm making my way... even if I can't see it all the time.

What are your promises?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

the things around the house.

The swing that only gets swung every once in awhile.

Trailer, a good avalanche dog, dutifully follows me around the yard.

Always sniffing.

The mystery anchor.

The bench without legs that sits in the yard, facing the park.

Most my plants are half eaten and holding on by a thread, but I still water them. I might be in denial.

"Find the garden eater, Trailer!"

Dreaming of filling this coop with hens.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mom and Dad's first trip to Utah

They final took a plane to Utah!

Matt making us smile.

 I was happier here than I looked. We were all deliriously tired.

 We took a long, long drive to southern Utah. I made Mom and Dad stop at almost every rest stop. I insisted on taking a few lonesome Utah gas station pictures.

 Mom and Dad's first look at Zion NP. It was cool to watch their reactions.

 I didn't make them pose like this, they just were this in awe for the first hour or so.

Mom was SO excited to find an "angry face" in the rocks. See if you can see it! (Hint: It's small and red and near the center of the picture.)

 The desert is in full bloom in April.

Goal: climb a big wall in this park.

 Dad found this by the river, of course. So did the ladybug.

 I made them go on about 30 half mile walks. They were pretty tired at this point.

 I made Dad walk my roommate's dog, Mindy.

 Proof that Dad needs a dog again. He loved mindy-furs.

Come back soon, Mom and Dad!! Love and miss you!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Belated Account of the 5th Annual Zookers Invitational, minus Zook: A word from the back of the pack

Photo cred: Melanie Mcdaniels

Two Mondays ago I woke up to an 8am alarm with no desire to participate in the 8 mile, 3000 ft. vertical gain race up Little Cottonwood Canyon. Reluctantly I rolled out of bed with Dave Zook's Ghost from Alta Past imploring me, "Stadesy, don't flake out on this one" and then giving me an exhausting account of all the Zookers Invitationals I had stood up in the past.

Zook was always a master of guilting his friends into being better mountain athletes back when he lived in Alta. He might still be for all I know, but now he lives in California. And now I could only so much as guess as to how Dave goes about crushing the surf and the snow all day, and the numerous opportunities for guilt trips there. He can't help it; the man simply wants everyone to preform at their optimal level (you're the man, Dave!) So I made some coffee and ate some eggs and got going.

Around 10:45am the crowd had gathered at the base of LCC, lead by Ian, this years trusty organizer, who sported board shorts (same red ones, folks), a tank top and tinted ski goggles. His cohort consisted of collection of A-Lodge emps wearing a generous amount of neon. Other not-current-Alta- Lodge-employee racers included my roommate, Mel, who was a Zookers first-timer, Margo Wolf, and some athletic-looking, curly-haired Rustler employee. There was a bit of mingling, but only about 5 minutes worth, a picture at the sign, and then the race began.

I started out at a pathetic pace, watched most people scoot ahead of me, and continued to slow over the course of the 8 mile run. Ian ran beside me for a stretch to shoot the shit, quickly discovered I couldn't carry on any conversation while out of breath, and eventually bid me farewell, casually tearing ahead of most of the racers.

Here is what I recall from the rest of the race:

Aid station 1: A GODSEND. Thank you Shubes, RC, and other friendly A-Lodge employee! Shubes proclaimed "I'm already Drunk!" and I had to hand it to her. She had the better idea. I didn't spend much time there beyond a shot of gatorade and water (I had to forgo the whiskey shot) because I still thought I could catch up to Jamie (wrong).

Mile 2: I lost sight of all the racers in front of me. There were only 2 folks behind me. 

Miles 3 - 6: I have literally no memory of these miles. I think I blacked out.

Aid station 2: I drank gatorade and it hurt.

Snowbird Entry 1: My insides were twisting and I began to believe I was internally bleeding. I tried to flag down the Aid Station Truck as it passed for medical assistance but they only heckled me and sped past.

Mile 7: Pain. Matt sped by me on his motorcycle and said something like, "RUN FASTER I HAVE DONUTS" and I responded "I'm tired. Leave me here." And he did.

Mile 8: Finish Line. All A-lodge employees beat me, but there was a fresh piece of ribbon for me to tear through. Various cheers for the slow girl. Matt, like an angel, had a box of donuts and PBR and orange juice and shared with some of the other races. (I ate part of a donut and wanted to vomit, but thank you, darling).

Well, that was this years Zookers Invitational from my point of view, which isn't saying much. I was third from last, which I believe was my same placement last year but managed a significantly worse time. That's what lack of hotshot training and library legs will do to you, and I guess I didn't stand a chance next to the high-altitude A-Lodge athletes.

Truthfully, this years invitational lacked the same level of organization that last years invitational had (Zook, what can we say, but that we still need you!) but Ian got it together pretty well considering he only had 3 days. I don't think anyone recorded the official results, which is why I could really only write about my own experience.

But it still rocked. And I'll be at the starting line again next year.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Happiness by the desert

Living in Utah so far away from my family and my truest friends feels lonely many days. I often find myself going about my day and wondering how the hell I got here. What has kept me and my car-load full of belongings here for five years when my heart strings always tug on me from Virginia, over 2000 miles away?

I remember sitting in Bollos cafe in Blacksburg, Virginia back in 2009 with my sister, Natalie. Or was she just on the phone with me? In my memory she was sitting beside me but now I really can't recall. I had just gotten an internship in Vermont on a maple sugaring farm after graduating college. Agriculture was my calling then. But I'd already taken a job as a ski bum in Utah for the winter. I was a week or two from taking off and I had gotten cold feet. All the way out to Utah just to come back to the east coast for an internship in 2 months? This seemed silly and misdirected, and I was more than a little terrified. I didn't even really know how to ski. Natalie answered without too much consideration of my dilemma, "Laura GO." Ok, fine. Fine. Older sisters' advice always seems to trump my own inclinations (I'm still "the baby" in many ways, embarrassingly enough). So I went.

And then things started evolving, as they always do. Two months living up in Little Cottonwood canyon was enough to make me want to shirk off my internship for another couple of months. A little timid to make the request but firm in my decision to stay, I called the Vermont folks and explained my reasons for wanting to remain in Utah a little longer. The farm decided they could use me as an agricultural intern over the summer and were forgiving of my flightiness. They were to become my mentors of the summer and some of my truest friends, but I didn't know it at the time. I wanted to live and breath in the high mountains out west. It was the most peace I'd ever felt just to step off the ski lift and traverse across a wide open cirque and stare down the faces of mountains, snow-covered, and carved out by glaciers so long ago. And the breeze that whips in from the desert. It felt like a good promise of something to come.

It wasn't original by any means, this feeling. Many people were in Alta for this reason, it was obvious. The mountains present a freedom so accessible its almost comical. And all I had gathered about life in my 22 years before Utah was that it was tight, filled with anxieties, and that my path was straight and narrow.

It is from a position of privilege that I can claim that it doesn't have to be this way. That I was born into this world so incredibly lucky that I could make the mountains my life and that my options were nothing but wide open at 22. I woke up many mornings early, filled up my coffee mug and sat on the deck with like-minded friends in the sunlight feeling lucky and blessed and slightly confused as to how it could be that I could be this happy and free.

Do I sound like a hippie? Yes? Fair enough.

It was interesting to realize then that the mountains helped me to feel truly content for a sustained period of time for the first time in my life. I took many deep breaths, I spent so many hours of my day in the sun, it felt like how I imagined heaven might. Really the reasons were simple. My life was outside, I had very few sources of stress, everyone around me was kind of odd in a charming way, and there was very little judgement. Not many people there were career-driven, not giving a whole lot of time to worrying about the future, and everyone was enjoying each day as it came. A new storm would blow in and it was another good day. The sun would come out and it was yet another good day.

Day by day happiness was the culture. And the mountains were by and large the biggest source of that happiness. And it was incredible.

Since moving down to the valley I've changed a bit. I'm in school again, I'm future-focused, (Matt often accuses me of "future scheming," and that's a pejorative coming from him), and I'm highly anxious most days. I am dating a man who, at his core, represents the very happiness I discovered 5 years ago, and I find myself pushing him away a lot because of these reasons. As if that happiness didn't belong in my career-focused life now. As if there is no room at all for deep breathing, and smiling, and living day by day and loving it.

This weekend we stole off to southern Utah. It was delightful as usual and I cut my hands once again thoroughly climbing at Indian Creek. It was nice, but I was only on a break from my usual anxieties, and I always have the awareness of "returning to the real world" at the end of the weekend with me on trips like these.

On our last morning we woke up cramped in the back of Matt's car in Moab, way down a canyon road next to the Colorado River. I was already sad about leaving. The car was drenched in light which had just poked over the towering red walls above us. I stepped out, stiff, groggy. The wind was whipping.

I jostled around for a bit putting on pants over my long underwear, putting on my shoes, bare feet in the red desert sand. And then I stopped. That breeze was so familiar.

"Let's get out of this hell hole!" Matt yelled and laughed, sand pelting us in the face. But I was loving the wind.

This is why I'm here, I remembered. That wind and these canyons and this wild is why I've made my own life out here. This is my happiness, and I can't just let it go.

Moab, Utah.

Spring in the desert.

Camp fire at Indian Creek.

Matt's greasy desert hair and ripped pants.

View from Way Rambo wall, Indian Creek, Utah.

Benjamin, the dog. Recently nicknamed "frijol."

Evening sky outside of my apartment on my birthday. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Broiled fruit.

The snow started melting this week! It started getting warmer every day. I can now walk on the sidewalks without treading so carefully. Soon I'll be romping around in the grass in sandals!

Every morning I wake up this is what my bed looks like. I've realized lately this must mean I thrash in my sleep.

I've always wanted to know about the arrows in tags.

Berries lift me out of my seasonal slump just like that.

I meant to take a picture of the berries that make me happy, but I ended up taking a picture of the house. The picture makes me feel a little creepy, and I kind of like it.

Mindy and the horse I pass every day I go to CafĂ© Noir. Mindy peed on it.

"You're coming too, right?"
Enjoy the week! Happy Valentines day.