Sunday, December 7, 2008

Saying Good-Bye to Rocko. :(

This is a long entry about our kitty, Rocko, who we had to put down on Saturday morning. It was a really difficult experience, so I'm just going to tell it all... as therapy, maybe?? Anyway, you can read it if you like, that's why it's here. But if you want to skip most of the details, I'm going to put a little section at the bottom of this blog with more pictures and a list of the some of the things we remember about Rocko the most. If anything, please read that and help us remember our sweet Rocko kitters... . :)

I think it was early October when our Rocko kitty started getting sick... everything happened so fast. He's not quite 7 years old, so it didn't seem like anything drastic should go wrong. When we first got our youngest (3rd) kitty, Buckley, he had a sensitive stomach, so he threw up a lot. But we started giving him lamb & rice food, and he got better. So when Rocko started getting sick 3 times every single time he ate, I figured it was probably the same thing Buckley went through. We were working through the end of the bag of Iams we had, and we planned on switching his food or something. Then his messes turned pink, and we started to worry. I read up online, and his symptoms said it was probably just an ulcer, which could be fixed. So Adam and I planned on bringing him to the vet right after we got home from Padre. We weren't too concerned yet.

The vet first thought maybe it was an allergy to his food, or something food related, just as we thought. So we switched his food to a special, mild food from the vet's office, and sprinkled some pro-biotic on it so he wouldn't get the runs from the cold turkey food-switch. We also started giving him pills (which he HATED, of course) for the vomiting. He stopped eating, and we thought it was the powder pro-biotic he didn't like. So we tried the food without it, and he still wouldn't eat much. We kept trying, and wondered why he got so fussy with his food so suddenly. But we continued his pills and gave him Pepcid AC, as directed by our vet.

Meanwhile, the vet had a blood test done, and called to tell us everything came back normal. A short time later, we had Rocko in for an x-ray to see if there was a blockage or something, and there wasn't. The only thing they noticed was that his stomach lining looked a little "thicker" than normal, but there were no masses that could be felt during his physical, and none that could be seen in the x-ray.

So we brought him home and contemplated having him go in for a $600 ultrasound to look into the "thicker" stomach lining, but at that time, he stopped throwing up. He would kind of dry-heave every now and then, but nothing was coming up, so we actually thought he was getting better, and that made us decide to wait a little on the ultrasound.

I went to Phillips for a week over Thanksgiving, and about a week before I left, I noticed that Rocko was losing quite a bit of weight. He's always been a larger cat, and we joked about his huge, "bowling ball belly." I noticed one day that his eyes were looking sunken in just a little, and I really was starting to feel worried. Adam and I decided we'd wait and see how he was doing over Thanksgiving, and if things didn't get better by the time I got home, we'd bring him into the vet. Well, when I got home, things weren't better. In fact, it looked to me like he lost more weight. And he was eating less.

On Monday we got him into the groomer to have some mats removed, and he always seems to feel so good afterwords, so we figured that would cheer him up a bit. He seemed to really enjoy the shaved belly. :)

On Tuesday, I was able to get an appointment for him at the vet's office. Adam and I went to that appointment with the thought, "Okay, so he's still sick. We'll take out a line of credit and get him in for the ultrasound so we can find out why he's not eating and get it fixed." We were mentally-financially preparing ourselves for further appointments and testing.

We talked to the vet a bit, and she weighed him. He'd lost 4 pounds in less than a month. That's a lot for a kitty. She seemed concerned right away, of course. I told her that I just wanted to see what our next step would be, and said to her, "I'll get him in for the ultrasound if that's what we need to do." And she said that would probably be our next step, unless we find something during the physical, which she began.

The vet reached under Rocko's belly, pressed in, and instantly, "Oh, yes. We definitely have a mass here today." She looked up at me, and I think I was denying the look on her face. She got down in front of him and listened to his heart, looked at him, petted him, and said, "You aren't even a senior yet, little guy..."

I don't remember exactly how the rest of the conversation went and what order things were said, but for the position we were all in suddenly, it was a very solemn discussion. Our vet did a really good job answering our questions, and we really appreciate how she dealt with the situation. I could tell she really didn't want to have to tell us everything that was but she said less than a month earlier, there was no mass there. She brought the x-rays in for us to see and explained them to us and where things were. She said with his health and how quickly the mass grew in his tummy, it all points directly to cancer --almost without question. She then continued to tell us that even if it wasn't cancer, she doesn't know if there would be a surgeon comfortable going in to remove a mass that large and in that location. And either way, cancer or not, it was making him sick... and fast. There really wasn't any "getting better" at this point.

This was a moment I don't think Adam and I were quite prepared for... euthanasia came into the conversation, and I just couldn't believe it was happening. My poor, sick kitty sat there having no idea what we were talking about. He had no idea that we were talking about ending his life.

When we asked the vet if he was in pain, she said, "Well, he's probably very uncomfortable." He wasn't eating because of this large tumor in his tummy, and eating made it hurt, so he stopped eating... and he was hungry, so either way, he wasn't feeling good at all. And because he wasn't eating (or drinking), he was dehydrated, too... and we know how icky we feel when we're really dehydrated, so poor Rocko had all these yucky feelings going on. No matter what, he wasn't feeling good at all.

We asked the vet about the best time to put Rocko down, and she pretty much told us there probably wasn't much time left for him. Now, we did discuss the "ifs" and other possibilities, and the only other direction we could've gone in, was to send him to the Referral Center for an Ultrasound, then when they had a better idea of what we were looking at, they would open him up and take a sample of the tumor, then decide whether it's cancer or not. We were 99% sure it was cancer already anyway, but if confirmed through the biopsy, we'd be looking at removing it and hoping it hadn't spread anywhere else, and hoping they caught it all -- in addition to chemo and radiation... so we were talking tests, car rides (which Rocko hates), risky surgery, chemo and radiation... Adam and I agreed we didn't want to put our cat through all that, and we weren't sure we would be able to handle it emotionally ourselves... it was so hard to see him as sick as he was, and to see him go through all that additional crud just seemed like torture for everyone involved. And the chances of us beating that with how fast the mass grew was very unlikely. The window we had was so slim, it was pretty much sadly inevitable. Rocko was going to die. We knew he was sick when we brought him in, but I don't think we knew we'd come home having to prepare to lose our first pet together. This was going to be hard.

We asked about timing for the euthanasia, and the vet actually fully supported our doing the procedure at any time. She even said they could do same-day if we chose, but we could most certainly wait, too. So she left us alone to talk about it, and Adam and I decided to set the appointment for Saturday morning to put Rocko to sleep. Oh, the tears... :(

So we had him for the rest of the week, and we wanted to make the most of it. I didn't go back to work right away on Tuesday, as I had been bawling my eyes our for a few hours, and I just couldn't hold back anything if someone would ask me what was wrong -- and I knew that. I would've been a slobbery mess. So Adam and I got home and petted Rocko hoping to end his life due to a purr overdose, and then collapsed on the bed in exhaustion for a nap.

How do you explain to an animal that you love them? How do you tell them just how much? How do you explain to them that they didn't do anything wrong, and that this isn't their fault? I could only hope that he understands why we made the decision to end his life, and that he will forgive us for it. It seemed so unnatural to have to make that decision, but we started to quickly notice how uncomfortable he was. He walked slow and weak, and just to cross the kitchen floor, he'd have to take a break or two. His tumor was on his left side, and you could tell when he laid down that it bothered him. He'd try to lay on his right side, and when on his tummy, he'd sort of lean to the right. Most of the time he'd hide out in the pantry closet where it was dark and cool, and he'd only come out if we went in and got him. He still purred when we petted him, so we held and petted him as much as we possibly could in those last few days. He would munch down treats, but no food, so we kept feeding him as many treats as his nauseous little tummy could handle. We let him roam around in our spare room, where the kitties aren't allowed, but ALWAYS want to go... we did everything we thought he'd enjoy. When he wasn't getting petted, or held, he was back in the pantry closet.

Friday night, Adam and I went home after work and spent as much time with Rocko as we could. We got him to lay on the glass end table with us as we watched an episode of Animal Planet. Normally, he'd be sitting on the back of couch freaking out when something like birds or flopping fish came up on the screen, but instead he just laid back really quiet and rested. We were happy he was in the living room with us. When it was time for bed, we put him down next to us (he was always the first in bed, even beating us to get a good spot and take up his 1/3 of the bed). He stayed for a little while as we petted him and talked to him, but soon he hopped down and made his way back to his dark closet for the night.

Saturday morning (12-6-08).
We weren't going to have him ride in the carrier. He hates car rides as it is, so we figured if I could hold him as Adam drove, I could at least pet him and try to comfort him a little. He wasn't much for struggling at this point anyway. When we'd hold him, it would feel as though he sorted of just "melt" into us, even resting his head on our shoulder. I think he was just getting really weak and quickly out of energy. So the car ride went okay. He cried quite a bit, but would look out the window and check stuff out every once in a while.

We got to the vet's office, and we paid up for the euthanization and Tuesday's appointment right away so we could just leave afterwards... I still wasn't quite sure how I was going to deal with the whole situation.

We were brought into a small, low-lit room with cushy chairs, and a table with a fleece blanket on it. We took Rocko out of his carrier (we put him back in it for the lobby in case there were any dogs or something out that would scare him). The attending doctor came in and explained the process. She said that she would take him for just a few minutes to insert a catheter into his front leg so they could administer the drug. She said is was basically an overdose of anaesthetic, and that it doesn't take long before the animal's heart will stop beating. She asked if we were ready, and we were... I mean, I didn't know how much more ready a person can be, anyway... so she took Rocko out, and when she came back he had a red bandage on his arm, and she laid him on the fleece blanket on the table in the room. The other doctor that was going to administer the drug came in and talked with us a little bit. While we talked, Rocko just laid there calmly and looked around.

This is all pretty morbid, but it feels good to just write it all out. I have to tell you, though... I couldn't be happier with how the doctor handled everything. I feel weird even saying this, but under the circumstances, everything went as well as I could ever imagine it to. The doctor was really sad for us, and seemed very upset to see such a young cat with such terrible cancer.

She began pushing in the syringe as I pet Rocko's head, and Adam stood next to me. He just stared ahead, and in a very short time, the doctor said very softly, "With how bad his health was, he may already be gone." I still pet him and talked to him until the syringe was empty. I started crying as the doctor checked his vitals to be sure he was gone. Once she confirmed that his heart had stopped, I looked at him, and he just looked like he was lying there peacefully. I said one last little "good-bye," gave him a little kiss on the head like I'd always do and stepped back.

Afterwards, the doctor took quite a few minutes to talk to us about everything. We had her feel his mass one more time, and she looked absolutely shocked at the size of it. I remember petting him and feeling it -- it had to have been the size of a baseball, at least... and in a kitty, that's pretty darn big! She reassured us that we absolutely did the right thing, and that putting him through more tests would have pointed to 3 things: cancer, cancer and cancer. And the end result would've most likely been the same. So we did the right thing, and Adam and I feel okay about the timing of it. We started doubting it a little, the closer and closer we got to Saturday. "Should we wait one more week? He seems to be doing okaaaayyyy..." But in a day or two, he could've been at a very advanced stage of cancer where he was no longer able to control his bowels and things... so none of us had to go through that. She used the analogy of a locomotive heading down the track towards us, and we got off in just the right amount of time.

I even said to her it bothered me that we were putting him down, when obviously I could still give him some joy... I could pet him and love him, and he'd purr and seem really happy." She responded, "Be glad you're doing this while he can still purr..." It was right the way she said it. I've heard from a lot of pet owners that they wait too long (and I can completely understand their reasoning, too), so even though I was tempted, I kept telling myself that... I don't want to wait too long... it's got to happen... so afterward, we felt okay with the timing.

After putting him down, the doctor even cried with us. She was a great doctor, and we really appreciated her explaining everything to us. She really did a nice job counseling us directly after. She even explained about cat's behavior's a little bit, and how they don't think, "This isn't fair... Buckley and Peanut feel okay, and they're going to live longer..." She went on to tell us that cats don't have the self-awareness to "compare notes" -- all they think is, "boy, my tummy is really hurting..." They know something hurts and it's not right, but they aren't going to be upset because it's unfair for this to happen to them.
It sounds so silly as I type that out, but at the time, that statement really put me at ease. I think I was really worried about Rocko feeling like he was a bad cat and was being punished in some way, because he was a really well-behaved cat... so mellow all the time.

The doc gave us a few pointers for Buckley and Peanut, because they might go through some grieving stages, also. So we'll be watching their eating habits and things to be sure they're doing okay.

I know this is morbid again, but I want to write it all out. We had the option to get Rocko cremated or bury his body. We decided we'd bury him up north in my parents' backyard by my mom and dad's dog Grizz, their cat, Brat, and a little kitten Adam and I tried to rescue about 6 years ago named Scooter that didn't make it... so we're going to be taking him up there the weekend of the 20th to bury him. It'll just be nice to know that he's buried there and that he's safe.

Without Rocko
So without Rocko being around, it's just really weird. It really feels like there's a "chunk" missing out of our day or something. Buckley and Peanut are noticing it... they kind of walk around like they're looking for something, then they stop and look around with an expression on their face like, "What was I looking for? Something's off..."

It'll be interesting to see how they adapt, because Peanut and Buckley never really got along too well. Rocko got along with both, and would cuddle and play with both of them, but Peanut and Buckley would kind of swat at each other... every once in a great while you'd see them laying next to each other on the couch... but they're not the best of friends. So we just hope they adapt okay.

Me... I just get waves of emotion every once in a while. I picture Rocko and the way he was laying on that table just after the confirmation of his death, and it's just hard. I just miss him and wish I could have him back... I'm not going to be shy about it. It's freakin' hard... I feel like I'm being a big obsessive baby about it, but honestly, I don't care. I loved that cat... I love all my cats so much... and I'm not going to hold back. I would want Rocko to know we cared about him and loved him that much. He was always a happy kitty, so I'm sure he knows that. :)

So if you're one of the few that reads through this entire blog entry, please don't think I'm insane... I just really wanted to write everything out to kind of "let it all out," as well as remember everything that happened. I have a terrible memory, and I know in a year, I'll be questioning how quickly it happened or something, and now I'll have this to look back on and remember. I'll have to have Adam run through and read it, too, in case I already missed something...

As I wrote for my status in Facebook today: Please give your pets an extra treat and pet on the head today, in honor of Rocko. We appreciate it so much! We know everyone out there loves their pets, and I feel for all those that have had to or will have to deal with this. It's not easy. But there is comfort in knowing it's the right path to take for the animal's sake.

We love you and miss you, Rocko!!!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A few tidbits about Rocko:
-- I think the best thing about Rocko was his "purr-ability." If you just LOOKED at him, he'd start the motor...

-- He'd dance with me to "Love Me Do" by the Beatles... the other cats wouldn't put up with that. ;)

-- He loved drinking out of the bathroom sink

-- His favorite spot to sit was on the back of the loveseat in the livingroom while we watched TV.

-- He always laid in bed with us at night. He'd usually beat me there, and pretty much take up 1/2 the bed. I'd have to squeeze myself in between him and Adam until he'd slowly nudge towards the edge and readjust.

-- If you look at his pictures, he's got a little goatee... so cute!

-- He hated cameras.

-- He hated car rides.

-- He hated being outside. He'd cry constantly, even while he chewed on grass.

-- He loved having his belly rubbed.

-- He'd get really terrible mats twice a year, and we'd bring him to the groomer. He hated the car ride, but when he got home, he'd roll around and purr.

-- He looked like a little piglet the first time we had him shaved.

-- As a kitten, he'd let out super-stinky farts

-- He had a huge belly (before the tumor). It was like a big bowling ball.

-- When he'd chase the laser pointer, he'd try to catch it each step instead of just running after it.

-- When he was first born, he was named something like Fred or Frank, and we wanted to change that... Adam says he's named after Rocky Balboa... we thought Rocko was fitting and a good name for a kitty.

-- Some of the other things we'd call him besides "Rocko": Rocket, Rocket-Man, Rocker, RockoMeTaco, Rockstar, Rockhard, Rock 'em Sock 'em, Bud, Rocko Man, etc...

-- If there was a closed door, he wanted in... badly. He'd mew constantly until we distracted him.

-- He liked to play with plastic bags, and would often get his head stuck in the hole for the handle and be walking around with it like it was the latest fashion.

-- He loved when we opened the patio blinds. He'd come running from wherever he was to see outside when he heard me touch the handle.

-- He wouldn't eat any people food, except for shrimp. No milk, no tuna, no soft cat food, nothin. Just normal kitty treats and cat food.

-- In the 7 years he was alive, Rocko moved 11 times with us. (We move a lot, wow!)

-- He got along with everyone. He was a very sweet kitty.

-- He only bit two times. When I would pull mats out of his hair, and his way of telling me he'd had enough for the day was to bite me (I had it coming). The other time would be when one of us were on the toilet and we stopped paying attention to him, he very lightly nibble our leg... what a weirdo! :)
Rocko really hated the camera, so we'd sometimes take his picture with the flash off. Got some cool shots of him, too!
Rocko, Christmas 2007

Chillin' out on the couch.

Rocko right after we had his mats shaved off. He seemed to really like it, actually...

Close-up. Such sweet eyes... and check out that goatee! :)

Rocko a couple days before he was put to sleep. He got sooo little!!

Typical cute cat picture. It's a little blurry, but still cute.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

a'thousand blue caribou raced across a glassy lake

"He played me a record he said it’s the 7th song you gotta listen to it it’s great
and the needle hit the vinyl as I waited
and the sound that drifted across took me to another place
where a’thousand bright blue caribou raced across a glassy lake
and I heard the words were flowing
and they said the time had come
so I lay back and stared at the sun
and I knew it was good to be there
and I knew you were the one"

"1000 Blue Caribou" by Drugstore

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some days I want to keep walking

My morning commute to work is a 3-mile walk.

Today I didn't want to stop walking. I wanted to keep going and just see where the day would've taken me.

The sky was cloudy, the air was on the verge of drizzly, with just the soft touch of a breeze.

These days pick me up in a whirlwind and throw me back in time, right down on the trail somewhere a couple of years ago on a hiking trail. It could be Southern Illinois on the River to River Trail. Or maybe it was on a stormy mountain top above the treeline in Colorado.

If I could just keep walking...

I wonder how far I would get, or how long I would go... before I needed my family, or my friends. I don't know that anything else could really stop me or get me to turn around.

If I could go home, throw on my backpack and just go...

How far could I get? How far would I go?

I wonder where I'd end up setting up my tent tonight?

I wonder where I'd filter water? Or would I come across a convenience store in the late afternoon and fill my water bladder in their bathroom sink?

Would I wake up tomorrow morning to a brisk November frost? Would I start out hiking on crunchy, frozen leaves? Would my breath softly throw a cloud in front of my face at a gentle pace as I cut through the chilly air?

I wish I could just go. I wish one day I could just keep walking and see where it takes me.

It actually hurts my bones to think that I may never have the right circumstances...

It's still a beautiful dream, and thinking about being there puts me at peace, if only for a short while.

Monday, November 3, 2008

South Padre Island Trip 2008

I’ve gotten busy and fell behind on my blogging again, darn it!
I wanted to write a short entry about my and Adam’s trip to Padre in October before I forget everything! Overall, for driving 6 out of the 10 days, I’m happy to say the trip was mostly uneventful, but still very nice.

We went to South Padre Island last year to drive Adam’s Grandma down there. She’s always wintered down there with Adam’s Grandpa, but he passed away the summer before last, and since a 28-hour trip is a lot for any one person, she was looking for someone to drive her down. She wanted to stay down there all winter, so we drove her down, hung out with her on the island for a few days, then she flew us home. Adam’s sister flew down later and drove her home. It worked out pretty nicely, but this year, she only wanted to go down for a week to check on the condo and make sure everything was okay. So we drove both ways.

We left Friday morning from Phillips in Adam’s Grandma’s van. Adam drove for most of it, but I jumped in a few times when he was tired. Adam brought some books on tape, so those actually kept our minds pretty occupied the entire trip down. We would drive until 8 or 9PM, get a room at a Super 8 or something similar, get up early and hit the road again.

I was trying to eat as healthy as I could, and I started out doing pretty well. It’s never easy travelling like that. My taste buds were really craving greasy burgers and milkshakes, but the 3 days’ drive down to the island, I was able to ignore my tongue and get some light chicken wraps instead of the burgers, and drink lots of water. But the minute I hit the island I went crazy. We ate out a lot, and portions were barely considered. It was kind of fun to let go and get what I wanted for a few days, but I paid for it. The trip back kicked my butt. I think I was just sitting on my rear in a car too long, I didn’t have enough water intake and ate too much crappy food. My body was in shock! When I got home, I knew I was having trouble with water retention. My ankles were puffy, my lower back was swollen, and I was feeling pretty awful and sluggish. When I stepped on the scale, it showed that I’d gained 20 pounds. 20!! I’m not exaggerating, either. That’s what the scale read! But, the good news was that most of it was water. I did a little online research, and most of the advice I read was to drink a lot of water. So I went back to eating normal and healthy, and drinking lots and lots of water… I did end up losing 10 of those 20 pounds in 3 days. That was definitely some water weight! So I’m still currently trying to drop off the rest of what I gained, but I expected that. I wanted to splurge some. I may have gone a little too far, but like I said… I’m paying for it, now! I’ll get back there. I guess it gives me something to work on.

While on the island, we helped Adam’s grandma with a few things. She’s glad she went because there some things that needed to be fixed for the summer season’s renters. The sliding door to the porch didn’t open, so she had that fixed, the air conditioning pooped out one day, so that got a new thermostat. We replaced the old recliner (which was Adam’s grandpa’s… was kind of sad). We went with G’ma to the local consignment shop and picked up two wide, comfy rattan chairs to replace it. One of those was goofed up the way it was put together – it was still sturdy, but she had a couple of workers come in with their drills and fix it up. Adam and I also got a new microwave plugged in behind the refrigerator. So we helped with a few things that we could.

Amazing sponsor sand castle!

We did enjoy some vacation-type stuff, too. Adam and I swam in the ocean a few times, and used the condo’s pool and hottub a few more times than last year. We had a picnic on the south end of the island where they were getting set up for Sand Castle Days. We were fortunate enough to see the pros building the sponsor castle – they are some amazing artists! We ate sandwiches and watched some guys surfing near the jetties. It started to rain, and I really wanted to see how a South Padre Island rain would feel on the shore of the gulf. Warm? Cold? So Adam and his grandma told me to go ahead, and they went and waited in the car. So I walked down the beach towards the jetties and got completely soaked. The rain was chilly and it kind of stung as it flew with the wind. When I got back to the van, I was completely soaked, and I started to head back to the car and Adam got out and started walking out by me. I was so happy. He must’ve gotten some spontaneous bug in him and decided to join me. We jumped into the ocean together and took a swim. At that point we were so wet from the rain we figured we may as well have a quick swim! We dried off as best we could and head back to the condo.

We had frozen pizza one night, and played some Rummy 500 with G’ma. That was a lot of fun. It was nice to just stay in and relax for a night, too. Monday night (I’m obviously not telling this in chronological order, here!) we watched football and had a couple of beers. G’ma’s condo is right on the beach, so it really is nice to hang out there. You step out onto the porch and look over the gulf. The waves are right there. It’s a great location.

Pretty sunsets!

Adam asked me one day if I wanted to go for a midnight swim, too. I was excited. How could I pass that up!? So we did that, too. That was really fun. I was actually a little nervous out there in the dark. The waves were huge, so we were sure to stick together and not go out too far. There was an amazingly strong undercurrent, too. But it was a great swim. The air was chilly, so the water felt really warm.

Out on the jetties.

One night, Adam’s G’ma handed us $40 and told us to go out. I thought it was sweet, or maybe she was getting tired of us -- who knows!! :) Either way, we thought that was really nice. We head down to the jetties and walked way out past all the people fishing. Again, I was surprised by how nervous I was. The waves were crashing up and over the jetty and I just feared falling in. But Adam actually convinced me to go further, so we did, and I’m so glad. It was really fun. We did get wet, which was the fun part about it. The waves would crash up and surprise us. We got some really nice sunset pictures, and Adam’s creativity kicked in – or he was hungry… anyway, we got a picture of him about to eat a ship.

We call this one, "Adam huuuuungry."

After the jetties, we went home and changed, then went out to dinner. After that, we came back to the condo and went next door to a Tiki bar. We’d always wanted to go there, but just never did for some reason. It was fun to drink at a Tiki bar and listen to the waves coming in. The moon was out, so it was just a great night, too. The weather was perfectly comfortable for a tank top. I was a happy girl! We also grabbed a 6-pack of beer earlier, so we sat out on the steps by the beach after the Tiki bar and talked for awhile, too.

My toes at the Tiki Bar.

Me and Adam on the beach at night.

It was just nice to spend so much quality time with Adam. It seems that we are normally so busy with everything week to week that we push the quality time thing back. Padre is a nice kick in the butt to remind us how much fun we have together. The only bad thing is now that we’re back and in the swing of things, we’re right back to our old ways of being too busy. School, church, church choir, work, working out… it gets kind of crazy. We miss each other a lot during the week, and that just seems so strange. So we look forward to Padre. If we don’t go next year, we are going to try to get out to Montana. We’ve both wanted to visit Montana for a long time, so one of these years, we’ll drive out there together and see some mountains.

Ahh, so relaxed again. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Drifting, Settling, and Dying.

Wow. Deep thoughts today. I have these a lot, and it feels really good to write them out. I might do this more often.

The following thoughts were inspired by 2 songs. Song titles, lyrics and my drifting thoughts are below:

Song #1 -- “Running to Stand Still" by U2
And so she woke up

from where she was lying still
Said we got to do something about where were going
Step on a steam train
Step out of the driving train
Maybe run from the darkness in the night
Singing ha la la la de day
Singing ha la la la de day
Sweet the sin
But the bitter taste in my mouth
I see seven towers
But I only see one way out
You got to cry without weeping
Talk without speaking
Scream without raising your voice, you know
I took the poison, from the poison stream,Then I floated out of here
Singing ha la la la de day
Singing ha la la la de day
She runs through the streets
With her eyes painted red
Under black belly of cloud in the rain
In through a doorway she brings me
White gold and pearls stolen from the sea
She is raging
She is raging and the storm blows up in her eyes
She will suffer the needle chill
She is running to stand still

This song is actually about drugs, but I find comfort in the title, because I often find myself feeling like I’m running to stand still. I’m never sure if I want to be staying or going. Do I want to drift, or settle? What are my options with all the circumstances in my life? I lean towards settling so I don’t lose some of the most important things and people in my life, yet I dream of drifting off to other places and exploring life. It’s a battle I will probably always be fighting. I love my life, and this is kind of a difficult part of it, but it also keeps it on edge. If everything were perfect, I’d most likely be bored.

I guess what I love so much about music, is you can take the lyrics and find a way to apply them to your own life. A lot of the lines from this song lean towards the drugs topic, but “poison” doesn’t necessarily have to be a drug.

I love the line, “We got to do something about where we’re going.”

Song #2 -- “What Sarah Said” by Death Cab for Cutie
And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to father time

As I stared at my shoes in the ICU that reeked of piss and 409
And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself that I'd already taken too much today
As each descending peak on the LCD took you a little farther away from me
Away from me

Amongst the vending machines and year-old magazines in a place where we only say goodbye
It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds
But I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around at all the eyes on the ground as the TV entertained itself
'Cause there's no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous pacers bracing for bad news
And then the nurse comes round and everyone will lift their heads
But I'm thinking of what Sarah said that "Love is watching someone die"

So who's going to watch you die?

This is a pretty sad song, but I was listening to it on my walk into work today, and it took me back to a place in my life that I think had to have been way scarier for those around me. Sometimes I just feel so happy to be alive and to have gotten through my battle with illness. Not just for myself, but even more so for my family -- because they didn’t have to watch me die. Instead, they can now watch me live.

I can almost put myself there, in the lyrics, “Love is watching someone die.” But not fully because I haven’t been there. I haven’t had to watch someone die. But can you imagine watching someone you truly love fade into death? A lot of you reading this may have already done so. When I try to put myself there, I see my husband, my parents, my brother, my friends… and it makes me want to stop thinking about it because it hurts. But if I keep thinking about it, and repeat that lyric in my head, it helps the thought be not quite as painful. Watching someone you love die has to be one of the most difficult things in a person’s life, I’m sure. But the feeling of pure, true love has to be so extremely overwhelming… So many times you hear the phrase, “there’s always something good that comes out of something bad.”

When you are alive, and your loved ones are alive, there are good times and there are bad times with each other. This is the way life is. But if one of these loved ones were to die, it seems that maybe you could take all the love, the good times and memories, and their deep love for you, ball it all up together, and permanently coat the inside of your soul with it. Maybe that’s kind a way of saying, “They’ll always be in my heart.” I wonder if maybe this could be one tiny morsel of "good" you can take from something so awful.

Sorry for the depressing blog post. Just thinking about stuff today. It seems like depressing stuff, but at the same time, it makes me happy inside. I am so happy to be here, and so happy and thankful for all those I still have with me in my life. And those that I don’t... well, they’re with me, too. Just in a much more personal way.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Leaving for S. Padre Island, TX tomorrow!

Well, I've been a slacker. I didn't blog about the Dragon Boat races or the 1/2 marathon (that I ended up not running). The Dragon Boats were a lot of fun, as expected. We didn't do quite as well as we had hoped, but it was still a blast. The 4imprint team paddled 3 races. We placed 2nd in our first race, 4th in our second race, and 1st in our last race... but it wasn't enough to make it to the finals. We did end up winning an award for the best supporting team for pledges, though. That was pretty nice.

I didn't run the 1/2 marathon. I'm a little disappointed in myself, but I'm trying to not be so hard on myself about it. I really wanted to give it a shot, but I was kind of nervous that after a very full day at the Dragon Boat races, I'd be pretty exhausted. Whenever I tell myself that, I get angry with myself for letting an excuse stand in the way of a potential accomplishment. I could've tried... instead I chose to go out for drinks after the Dragon Boat Races. BUT -- it was a really good time with great friends, and we had a REALLY fun time! So it's all good. I decided I would plan to run a FULL marathon next year. I already have reminders set in my calendar as to when I need to start training. I believe it will be in May.

In July next year, I am planning on through-hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail with a friend (Ken) that I met through my friend, Pam... I hope she joins us on the TRT hike, too!! :) That is the only 2 weeks I am going to have to work my marathon training around. I hope I can pull that one off. I'm already trying to psych myself up for the long runs, hard training and strict schedules. It's going to be a challenge, that's for sure! 26.2 miles... yikes!

I'm also planning on doing the Frozen Otter again in January. I look forward to finding another weekend that I can hit the Kettle Moraine area for another super-long day hike to prep a little for that. I just purchased and emergency bivy for the occasion so I don't have to carry along my entire tent (we are required to carry a shelter).

Other than that, hunting season is coming up, and it's looking like I'll be able to enjoy the whole week with dad, uncles, and part of it with my brother (whom I miss like crazy -- I just don't see him or talk to him as much as I should). I'm planning on making a huge batch of chicken taco soup for one of the group meals, and look forward to sitting in the quiet woods for hours on end day after day. I love that part -- but I love hanging out with my dad, bro, and family even more. I just love hunting season... I'll miss Adam, though. He's not a hunter...

The next adventure is South Padre Island, Texas. Adam's grandparents have wintered down there for years, and when his grandpa passed away, his grandma planned on going down and taking care of a bunch of stuff and staying there for the winter like she normally would. She asked us to drive her down if she would fly us home. We were thrilled at the opportunity to go... we'd always wanted to go, but the things just never worked out... in fact, we promised ourselves we were going to make it down there last year, and unfortunately we didn't make it while g'pa was still here. :(

But we did drive g'ma down there last year around Halloween, and we had a really nice time. I know we were helping her get down there, but I am so grateful and really appreciative of her giving Adam and I the opportunity to experience Padre. It's really nice to spend time with her -- she's got some great stories from the past and she's working on putting together really thorough photo albums, so those are really neat to flip through.

This year g'ma only wants to stay a week, so we're driving her down and back. I think we're all really excited about going again. Work has been a little stressful lately, and Adam and I have been so insanely busy all summer, we could certainly use the slowdown. So we're going to take it easy, drive down there, enjoy 4-5 days on the island, then drive back. I'll post some pictures when we get back. :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Baaaad Dream!

Oh, man... I had some terrible dreams last night!

I woke up gasping after the first one, which was a typical weird dream. I was at the Dragon Boat races (which I'll blog about later). But something went terribly wrong, so Adam and my dad jumped into a boat -- I think it was an effort to save somebody's life, but I can't remember details... I do remember feeling a heightened sense of urgency and fear, though. While the guys did that, my mom and I set off on a different "mission", which was also very urgent. Again, I can't remember details, but we head away from the water. I wish I could remember what was all happening around us.

We found out a short while after leaving my dad and Adam that the boat tipped over in some rough water... maybe the "thing" that went terribly wrong was some sort of strange, sudden bad weather? Well, the boats tipped over in torrent waters, and both Adam and my dad drowned, and I was able to actually see them screaming and trying to stay afloat. They had on red life jackets, but couldn't stay above water. I don't know if something was pulling them under or what. But then it got quiet and I saw them both floating face down, and the water went calm. I was hysterically crying in my dream, almost hyperventilating when I found out, and I suddenly found myself all alone. I don't know where my mom went.

The next thing I remember is walking back to my apartment, alone, trying to decide what to do. I think I began to feel angry, and the only peace I could find was in the thought that I could put on my backpack and just disappear. Then I started to think about Adam and my dad and how much I already missed them, and that's when I woke up.

I rolled over and squeezed Adam so hard he probably missed a couple of breaths, even with his CPAP machine on... I was so glad to have woken up and realized it was all just a terrible dream.

Then I fell back asleep and had another one!!

This time I was backpacking. I was sharing a tent with a girl that I don't know. She had long, brown hair and braces, and was wearing a goofy blue and gray stocking cap that was kind of loose; almost falling off. We were laughing and talking about backpacking. I know that I wasn't really close to this person, in fact, I think we may have just met and were sharing a tent on our trip. We had just crawled inside to get some sleep and we were both kind of propped up on one elbow chatting. She looked at me as she shuffled through some of her bags and said, "I kept out these snacks in case we get hungry in the middle of the night."

I looked up at her and said in a surprisingly fun way, "You silly, we need to hang all the food, otherwise critters or bears can smell it and might try to get into the tent to get at it."

The fire was going outside, so you could see the glow from the flames. She looked up at me and we both kind of laughed, then we heard some twigs crack outside the tent. We both got stone-face and looked at each other with huge eyes and listened.

I started to see the shadow of a figure creep up the side of the tent behind my tent-mate. It stood taller and taller. Too tall for a raccoon, a wolf, or even a bear. I then realized it was the shadow of a person! Before I could think or say anything, the shadow's arm very slowly reached over, and the figure was holding a handgun! The shadow of the gun was pointed directly at the girl's head.

A second later, I heard shots fired off in the woods and flashes of light from the ends of gun barrels.

Then I woke up.

Every once in a while the image of that girl sitting in front of me, and the shadow of a person holding a gun to her head outside of our tent comes back into my mind and I get the shivers.

So, yeah... might be even a longer time before I get the courage to go solo backpacking. I always say I'm not that afraid of the bears, raccoons, wolves... whatever animals might be creeping around me at night... it's the strange people that I might not know how to deal with by myself that truly scare me. The chances of running into a weirdo in the middle of the woods is SO extremely rare, but after that dream, it's just gonna take a while to get that burnt image out of my brain! Ugh...

I hope for sweet dreams tonight. Rainbows, butterflies, waterfalls, rainbows, butterflies, waterfalls, rainbows, butterflies, waterfalls.............

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Visit from Hickory

Here's a picture of me, Hickory and my mom Friday night (9-12) camping on the Ice Age Trail. So many laughs were had while sharing stories from the hike... and a few Newcastles... which we were just fine carrying in and out of the woods!! :)

A quick recap -- when my mom and I hiked into Indiana on "Our Hike" across America on the American Discovery Trail in 2006, we met Hickory. He heard about us walking through his area from his wife, who was working at the local radio station at the time. Our story of walking from Ohio into Indiana is one of my very favorite stories from the hike... I'll have to get into that more some other time!

So Hickory got a ride out looking for us, and when he found us, he got dropped off and hiked with us that whole day. We immediately found that our sense of humor was similar... lots of pootin', tootin' and pooin' talk with many laughs to follow. :) As we parted ways that day, Hickory said, "I'll be seeing you ladies again! Maybe the mountains..." We thought, "Sure... we'll see!"

Well, when we started getting closer to Denver, Hickory called and said he was flying out to meet us near Georgetown, CO!! He had 2 weeks. We were very excited to have some company, and honestly, a bit of a distraction after a very mentally challenging Kansas and E. CO (although we LOVED it!!). We looked forward to hooking back up with him. Hickory has also section-hiked the Appalachian Trail, so we knew that there were going to be tons of fun stories for us all to share.

This is another fun story to share... so many stories from when Hickory hiked with us those 2 weeks! It was hard to say good-bye to him, but he was a great person to have. It was perfect timing for both mom and I. I was always pushing to stay on schedule, and mom was having a hard time acclimating. Hickory got me to relax somehow. I think one day he said something like, "Look around. You're in the Rocky Mountains. Slow down a little and enjoy it." I thought about that for a little bit and decided he was right. We did what we could each day, but tried not to rush (although I think I still did from time to time - hard habit to break!). He also helped my mom. When we hiked up steep mountain trails, he taught her to just go very slow and steady, even if it was nearly a crawl. And when she got really frustrated and tired, to cuss out as many cuss words as she could tie together in one sentence. And so my mom would hike up mountains shouting swearwords as she went that nobody could hear because we were in the middle of nowhere in the mountains! How wonderful a feeling that was!! And we all made it through the Rockies with smiles.

Hickory's Visit to Wisconsin
I picked up Hickory from the Appleton Airport on Tuesday. He was hoping to hook up with another hiking buddy and camp for a few days, but it wasn't able to work out for him. So while I worked through Thursday, he walked the streets of Oshkosh and checked the place out. I felt bad, wishing I could've taken some extra vacation time to attempt at keeping him entertained! But he didn't seem to have much of a problem keeping himself busy. He met up with his friend one day -- Little Engine -- a friend of his from the AT. It was super cool that he was able to visit with her and her family for a little bit.

On Thursday night we went to Oblio's with some of my friends from work. Oblio's is our usual meeting place for Friday night Happy Hour. Since Hickory and I had plans to head to Phillips to hook up with my mom and dad for the weekend, we had to make Thursday a Friday... :)

Friday morning we got up and were very lazy getting going, but eventually got packed up and hit the road towards Phillips. I don't think I've ever thrown my backpack together so quickly! I was still recovering from the fundraiser weekend before, so I didn't really have a lot of time to work out the details of Hickory's visit like I wished I would have. So I forgot my hiking boots! Just another thing to work around, I guess...

We got to my parent's house in Phillips where mom was anxiously waiting on the porch for us to arrive. Hickory and mom had a welcome hug, and we started to pack our stuff up for a short backpacking trek on the Ice Age Trail. We drove into town and introduced Hickory to my dad and had lunch... well, appetizers and a beer... close enough, right!? Then we head towards our trailhead. We hiked in kind of late. It was JUST getting dark when we arrived at our primitive campsite for the night. We set up tents, got out some Newcastle beers we carried in with us, started a fire, and began the reminiscing and stupid-talk.

Snippets of conversations Friday night at camp:
"Poopmud" -- a term we created related to "going" in the woods after digging a cathole with a trowel. We thought it was genius and extremely funny! Every time anyone mentioned it, we all busted a gut.

"Kangabar" -- mom's attempt at saying "candy bar" after a couple of drinks. I still laugh when I say it to myself.

"Bears don't like mustard." -- What was said when we realized we didn't hang the mustard with the rest of the food. I think this phrase is said every backpacking trip by someone... after the food is hung, you realize you forgot to put something in there... you just say, "Bears don't like [insert item here]." And that makes it safe. :)

"Red for Sasquatch" -- My mom went on a Sasquatch scouting trip last year... she's not a Bigfoot hunter, but was invited to camp in the woods and night hike with headlamps and decided it would be an unforgettable experience... and it sounds like it was! They didn't see Bigfoot, though... Anyway, they night hiked with red headlamps because Sasquatch runs away from the white light or something. So whenever she turned on her headlamp, the first setting was a red light, and she repeatedly said, "Red for Sasquatch," and we'd all crack up.

"Weeree" -- It means "reread" when words just aren't coming out right.

"Yuki un ai" -- I have no idea what this means. Mom said it to me after we crawled in the tent. I think we were so distracted laughing at the phrase after she said it, that she forgot what she meant to say. Hmm, is it Japanese for something??

"Crap your pants, change later." -- A phrase to replace, "Don't worry, be happy" in hiker terms. Just a note -- none of us had to worry about that... at least not that I know of!! :)

"Cereal?" -- When we got into the woods, I looked at my mom and said, "I'm having a moment. Gimme a hug -- it's so good to be in the woods with you again." She looked up at me and said in a very serious tone, "cereal?" Meaning to say, "Serious?" or "For real?" It was a special moment, and this made it just that more special. We had so many of these moments on the hike when we said something and it came out wrong. I'm a little jealous that I didn't have really any that stuck out this weekend... :( Oh well, she had some really good ones that made up my lack of new terms.


Saturday we hiked the IAT to the Modeaux Recreation Area, which is a little lodge on the Mondeaux Flowage. The weather was really nice for hiking. I think it was in the mid-60's, maybe the very low 70's... breezy, not a lot of bugs. We found plums and enjoyed the terrain. There were bear hunters everywhere, too. At one point we came out on a road crossing and there were probably 15 trucks parked up and down the road! But the hunters were very friendly talking to.

A few hours in, I had already turned my ankles a couple of times and slipped in a few spots -- remember that I forgot my hiking boots? Well I was trying to hike in my OLD worn out running shoes. I was thinking to myself, "I wonder if it would be any better barefoot?" I had always wanted to try it, so I did. I took my shoes off and hiked the last 2 hours barefoot. It was okay except for where there were sharp, little pebbles. Other than that, I really enjoyed it... I plan to try that again!

We got to the lodge where we waited for my dad to pick us up and bring us back to the other car. We ate, had a couple of drinks, relaxed for a few hours, I had ice cream (of course!) and we headed back to Phillips. Once there, we visited with Grandma and some family that was in town to help her and my Aunt Rita move. Then we went out. We stopped at Lost Vega's and visited for a long time.

Sunday morning we got up and sadly said good-byes again. Hickory and I head back to Oshkosh. He hung out until I brought him to the airport again on Wednesday morning. He was on his way to Vermont to hike the Long Trail for 3 weeks and meet up with some friends from that area.

Story of the weekend
Mom's morning dig - caught in the act!

So mom was off doing her "morning business" as she does, and Hickory and I sat around camp drinking coffee discussing all the dogs barking off in the distance... all the bear hunters... then we heard a dog barking that seemed kinda close. I always think, "wonder if he's chasing a bear," after the last IAT hike I was on when a bear was being chased right by our camp by a bunch of dogs. Then I laughed and said to Hickory, "Wouldn't it be funny it that dog found my mom and ran up to her as she was poo'ing and started sniffing around?"

Maybe 5 minutes later, mom comes walking back into camp with rosy cheeks, a huge grin and while giggling, she says, "You're never going to guess what happened!"

Yes. It did. As she was cleaning herself up, shirt hanging in a tree branch, a dog comes over and starts sniffing around her. Then she turns around and sees a hunter standing there!! All she could muster up to say was, "We're camping..." The hunter replied calmly, "Sorry," turned around and walked away!!!

Poor mom... she ends up in some of the most compromising situations!! These couple of days were like an 8-1/2-month ADT hike all wrapped up in one small package... only I didn't have an apple to chuck...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

4th Annual "Our Hike" for Bone Marrow Disease

The Fundraiser, September 6, 2008

Well, all in all, it was a really fun day. Each year we seem to get more figured out, and everything seems to run just a little smoother. We had about 20 registered hikers, and at the end (Lost Vega's Resort) we had a lot more people join us for the dinner, music and raffles. We raised $1,000 that will be sent to the Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation! Mom and I fell a little behind on the advertising this year, so we were happy with that amount, considering we had a smaller crowd. We are already excited for next year and planning on ways to spread the word even more. We hope to make these numbers grow each year. So please mark your calendars and join us next year for the 5th Annual "Our Hike" for Bone Marrow Disease Saturday, September 12, 2009! Since it'll be the 5th Annual hike, we're hoping to make it a special one!!

How about a recap and some stories from the day?

We started with a new route this year that I think we will continue to use on future hikes. On previous years, we trekked for 12.5-miles on a paved road with about 5 stops along the way. This was fun, but made for a very long day and got a little overwhelming by the end of the night. This year we shortened everything up and we thought it was much more enjoyable.

We started at The Corner Connection where the hikers registered. Each paid registrant received an "Our Hike" logo'd sportpack and bandana donated by 4imprint, a bottle of water, a frisbee, and some informational brochures about the AA&MDSIF and bone marrow diseases. Each paid registrant's name was also entered in a drawing for a really nice travel backpack full of goodies like a hydration pack, mess kit, snacks, tent lantern, hiking socks and a Swiss Army knife.

(Picture above, L-R: Patty, Kelly and Robin. Kelly was the winner of the backpack raffle)

We all filled up on a ham sandwich and potato chip lunch special, and head out at about 1:00pm. The first section of the walk was about 1/2-mile country road walk. From there we turned onto the brand-new section of ATV trail that went into the woods. The trail wasn't quite as done as we were hoping, but it was bulldozed well enough for us to walk easily. There was one small section of the trail that crossed a boggy creek, so Adam helped my dad build a bridge the night before. On Saturday morning my dad drove out and placed the plank bridge across the river so we would be able to cross without trudging through mud up to our thighs! It worked out perfectly. Next year there will be an ATV bridge already built across the river for us to cross over.

The day's weather treated us nicely! The skies were blue with puffy clouds, and it was warm enough to walk in shorts, but cool enough to keep us comfortable. We were all talking, so we didn't see many deer or wildlife, but we DID come across a porcupine that was playing dead hoping we'd leave him be... which we gladly did! We were able to snap a few pictures, though. Poor little porkie was probably scared out of his mind. So we didn't get too close, but got our pictures and hiked on.

After the new ATV trail ran out, we hooked up with the haywagon, which was driven by my uncle Kenny and dad. We hiked another short section of ATV trail, then walked on wide, gravel roads for a couple of miles. From there we turned onto Hwy W, which is another short section of paved road, but this brought us right up to the driveway of Lost Vega's Resort where we were finishing off the day with the fun raffles, dinner and music. The loop was right around 7 miles, and it took us about 3 hours to complete. It was a great distance to get some exercise, enjoy the fresh air and northwoods and have a good chance to get in on some great conversation with each other.

Once at Lost Vega's Resort, we did some car shuttling, then sat down for drinks to rehydrate ourselves. Then the food came out! Alvin and Sheila put on a spaghetti dinner for $7/plate, and we all gorged ourselves in wonderful pasta deliciousness!! After our bellies were full, Adam got set up behind the DJ equipment and started some music -- shortly after that, we starting selling paddles to raffle off the awesome baskets that my Aunt Karen put together and donated (she does every year!).

The night went on, baskets were raffled off, music was played, fun was had! A few of us even drained out the last few ounces of energy we had and walked back to my parent's house 2 miles down the road! It was a great night!

Story of the Night
Oh, how the raffle paddles flew around!

See Will pointing at Ken and laughing? That's because Ken won a meat basket... he's a vegetarian!! :)

I don't know if I have this story 100% accurate, as I was running around most the night, but from what I've heard go back and forth, this is basically how this story went:

Ken was eyeing up a print that was being raffled off (one of my original monoprints). He wanted to win it really badly -- so badly that he was saving most of his money for that particular raffle. When it finally came time to raffle off the print, he bought a chunk of the raffle paddles up, hoping he'd be the lucky winner. The winner had a choice between a print or a backpack full of chocolate.

Who won? My grandma. Ken thought for sure that his chances were done -- of course grandma was going to choose the print! And she did at first... but then went back and took the backpack instead! There is a side-story to this, too. Of course we all wondered why grandma chose the backpack over the print... through the Price County AMVETS Post 50 Ladies' Auxiliary, which she is a member of, was a drive to donate backpacks to local children to help them with back-to-school supplies, so when she remembered the drive, she quickly went back and took the backpack and later donated it to the program. She even had a picture taken with the backpack and was featured in the local newspaper for her donation! I'm so proud to have such a sweet, giving grandma!! :)

We all giggled because now Ken had another shot at the print! We went right into the next raffle. Ken again bought a big chunk of paddles. Who won? My best friend, Tami (we were practically sisters growing up)! She took the print, too. Ken was bummed. He was pouting, even! I felt so bad for him... I told him I'd make him a print of his own, but he really wanted this particular one...

A short time later, John, another friend of ours came by with the print! Ken looked shocked and asked how John got it. Apparently he bought it from Tami! She already had one that I made specifically for her, and she knew I'd make her another one if she asked -- so she thought it would be nice to give it up to someone else... and now she was left with a few more bucks for raffles.

I don't know how the next part all went down exactly, but the next raffle was winner's choice of a lotion basket, a lap quilt and a bucket of meat. John was eyeing up the meat earlier and bought a bunch of paddles hoping to win it. Ken was still pouting about losing out on the print, and I don't know if John felt bad or what happened, but he gave Ken ONE of his paddles.

Who won? Ken! With one paddle! I remember standing in front of the 3 baskets and Ken staring at them having NO idea which to choose. A girly lotion basket, a pretty lap quilt, or a bucket of meat (he's a vegetarian!). All of a sudden this look of pure genius came over his face and he snatched up the bucket of meat and held onto it good and tight. I looked at Ken and said, "Ken!! What?? You're taking the meat!? You're a vegetarian!!" He turned around and later walked back with a huge smile on his face, proudly and happily holding onto the print. He traded John for it -- so everybody walked away happy winners. John had his bucket of meat and Ken had the print.

What a scrambling turn of events. These paddle raffles are always fun. Once the baskets and prizes are won, it's always fun to see how people trade and bargain with each other. We almost always have some sort of story to share!

Just a few more pictures to enjoy...

Bushwhacking towards the river crossing

Hikers walking the gravel road sporting the donated "Our Hike" sportpacks from 4imprint!

"Caution: Hikers Ahead" signs posted on the gravel road to warn any traffic

THANK YOU Aunt Lee and Karen (baskets and raffle help), Lost Vega's Resort, The Corner Connection, Bottom Dollar (frisbees), 4imprint (bandanas and sportpacks), Adam (Mr. DJ/Emcee), Dad (bridge and haywagon putter togetherer), Uncle Kenny (haywagon driver), Tommy (use of and helping to get the haywagon ready), Rasmussen Service Center (4-wheeler Ranger to pull the haywagon) and the participants (wouldn't be possible without your support!!) We raised $1,000 for bone marrow disease! Every little bit helps in the fight for a universal cure!

Monday, September 1, 2008

A record mileage dayhike

A personal best! A record-mileage dayhike!

Question and answer for the day: What's worse than hiking through swarms and swarms of relentless mosquitoes? Forgetting your mosquito repellent...

I put up a challenge for myself. I don't know if I'm crazy, or what the deal is, but every once in a while, I think I just like to test myself to see where I'm at physically. I completed the Frozen Otter, the 1/2 distance trek of 32 miles in 12 hours, in January 2008. This was the farthest I've "hiked" in one day, ever. It was a really cool moment when I finished. That race took a lot. I was actually talking to myself for the last few hours of that trek, just to make it to the finish. But I made it in about 11 hours and 57 minutes -- JUST under the 12 hours, so I made it as a "finisher." I was thrilled!

Since it was a holiday 3-day weekend, I figured it would be a perfect time to see if I could beat my "record" of 32 miles -- I'd have 2 whole days to recover! I had much better conditions this weekend than I did on the Frozen Otter... which is mostly at night, in the freezing cold winter weather. So I was feeling confident that I could do it. The Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine offers some brutal trails, too. They are very challenging. There are a lot of short, steep hills with a lot of rocks and roots to work around. In the back of my head, I wanted to make 50 miles, but I knew that would be pretty difficult...

I set my 3 goals, as I usually do.
Goal 1 was to complete 32 miles, from the northern trailhead (Hwy P) to the southern trailhead (Hwy H)
Goal 2 was to go farther than 32 -- anything over that would be a personal best.
Goal 3 was to make it back to Butler Lake, which would be 48 miles. I even thought about pushing for 50 if I made it 48... but I had to wait and see if I could make it THAT far.

Adam and I woke up at about 2AM Saturday morning, and he made me a great high-calorie breakfast. We got going at about 3AM, drove to the Butler Lake parking lot, where I hid a bag with some lunch goodies for when I got there. Then we drove to the southern end of the trail, the Hwy H trailhead, and I dropped a gallon of water. There was a blue truck in the parking lot at the Hwy H trailhead that looked a whole lot like Randall's truck (a fellow hiking buddy). I thought it would be pretty cool to run into him at some point... Adam and I took off from there and finally arrived at the top of the trail, the Hwy P trailhead, at about 5:50AM. Adam gave me a big "good-luck" hug, and I was off.

The first 16 miles went great. I was feeling amazing. I even did quite a bit of trail-running -- I wanted to try to add a little running into my day, anyway... but when the mosquitoes came out, I didn't have much of a choice but to run -- I FORGOT my stinkin' repellent. I quickly found that if I ran, most of them weren't able to bite as much as I ran, so whenever I reached a thick swarm (which was often), I started to jog down the trail. I wore my trail running shoes, and my backpack only had only about 15-20 pounds in it. I felt light on my feet, and nothing was hurting yet. I still tried to conserve some energy, as I knew it was going to be a long day. Starting at 6AM, I was planning on going until about dark, which would be about 8 or 8:30PM.

I reached Butler Lake, which is half-way to the Southern trailhead, in 4 hours and 20 minutes. That was 16 miles! I took a half-hour break there (in the hot sun because the skeets were unfortunately too thick in the shade), took my shoes off, washed my feet off using the water pump, changed my socks, ate some lunch, stretched out really well, and head out again.

I really started cramping up in the next 7 miles. My knees were starting to give me some trouble, and I feared suffering from the famous, "peg-leg." I decided to take it a little easy, and just truck ahead at a nice, steady hiking pace. I sort of zoned out, and started paying special attention to everything I was feeling. I knew I was getting enough water, but I was still feeling what seemed like "symptoms" of something. I just took a drink of water, and immediately had cotton-mouth. My stomach was feeling slightly nauseous, my legs were stiffening and cramping up, and then I realized I wasn't sweating at all. It's was 2:30 in the afternoon, one of the hottest points of the day, and it was probably in the 80's. I then looked down at the trail and up ahead of me and noticed that my eyes weren't refocusing as quickly as they should be, and I was starting to feel a little light-headed. I knew this was not good at all, so I stopped. I took my backpack off, and remembered packing some electrolyte tabs the night before. It was a last-minute thought that I think may have saved me. I took them out and read the packaging -- I'd never taken them before. All the symptoms I was having seemed to fit in with not having enough electrolyte replacement. I was drinking gatorade, but found out that it wasn't doing the trick. I took 3 of the tablets, drank some more water, and continued on. I couldn't believe the difference! About 15 minutes later, I was feeling good again. My legs didn't feel as stiff, and I felt more energetic. This was a great learning experience for me... the importance of electrolyte replacement. It worked better than popping pain-killers!!

I made it to the entrance to Mauthe Lake campground and took another long rest. I ate some salty treats (pretzels and almond mix), took my shoes off and stretched a bunch. The next 9 miles to the southern end of the trail went by faster than I'd expected. And guess who I ran into? As I stopped to talk to a another backpacker as she was heading north, I looked down the trail, and over a hill came a guy in a red, yellow and black kilt. Sure enough... there was Randall!! It was SO cool to run into him. It really gave me a boost. We chatted for a few minutes, then we all continued on our way.

I reached the end, and my first goal of 32 miles -- and I did it in 10-1/2 hours. It was about 4:30PM. I called Adam and asked him to meet me 8 miles later at 8:30PM. I was going for 40. In an earlier phone call, Adam said something like, "I sure hope you can make 40 miles, but if you can't it's okay..." So when I hit the 32, I wasn't feeling too awful, and I knew my body could take a little more. I had already stopped doing any trail running after the 24-mile mark, so my pace was slowing, but I was still feeling strong enough to push on. I took a half-hour break and got moving again about 5:00. I knew I had plenty of time, so I took it easy on the last stretch.

I reached Hwy S, the 40-mile mark early, so I called Adam and found out he was about 1/2 hour away. I told him to pick me up at the entrance to Mauthe Lake Campground instead. It was 1 mile away, and was a better place for me to rest. Beside that, the mosquitoes were mentally defeating me (seriously bad, too), and I couldn't stand to stay in one place for any amount of time, so going on seemed a better option, no matter how much I hurt.

When I say the mosquitoes were defeating me, I'm not exaggerating. They got so bad, I actually had tears in my eyes from frustration. I would wipe off 10 from my forearm, and as my hand was finishing brushing my arm, there'd be 10 more in the same area. I don't know that I've ever dealt with skeeters as relentless and crazy as these. At one point, I seriously wanted to stop, whip my hiking poles around in the air, and cuss every cuss word I knew at them, but I knew that wouldn't stop them, and would only sap some precious energy. So I just sadly pushed on. When I finally broke, I threw my backpack off, and in the heat, zipped on my pant legs, put on my mosquito head-net, and put on my jacket -- it's all I had with me that had long sleeves. I immediately started sweating, but it was holding off some of the bites. It wasn't long before they realized the only exposed skin they could get at was my hands. They were biting so bad that my hands were swelling. Then they started biting the tops of my shoulders through my jacket, and parts of my ears where they touched the netting of my head net. I felt like I was in some horror movie! This ended up being the most challenging part of the day!! And here I thought it would be sore feet...

I finally reached 41 miles, Mauthe Lake campground, at 8:00PM. As I came to the trailhead, I saw Randall! He walked from Shelter #2, where he and some friends were staying for the night, to the campground to get some water. He and his friend congratulated me on my 41 miles (they must think I'm a nutjob...), and we said our "see-ya-laters." Adam pulled up shortly later and picked me up. He brought along a warm container of Spaghettio's (yum!), peanut butter cups, vitamin/electrolyte water, cookies and some other goodies. He even got me a cute card to congratulate me... it was really sweet of him. I was seriously thinking of quitting at 32 miles at one point, and he really helped push me on. And so I beat my personal best... I hiked 41 miles in one hiking day... 14 hours. Maybe next year I can make 50... :)

I weighed myself before and after, purely out of curiosity... I wasn't sure what this would do to my weight. I actually was hoping for no loss in weight, because I think that would mean I kept hydrated well, and my calorie intake was fairly even with my calories out... I started that morning at 154.2 pounds, and when I got home I weighed 155.0. So I gained .8 pounds. I'll have to do a little research and see what that means, exactly. I hope I did this in the healthiest way possible... there's always so much more to learn, and so many ways to improve.

So I came out of this with pride, being able to beat my record... I didn't accomplish goal #3, but that's okay... gotta save something for next time, right!? And... I came out of this with the ability to eat a Snickers bar guilt-free. What can be better than that?? :)