Sprocket turned eight on Sunday. We woke up to snow gently drifting around the house and a couple of inches on the ground. I soaked up the loveliness of the light, some coffee, and the comfort of the couch for awhile before I remembered it was my sweet boy’s birthday.
There is little that my pupper loves more than to frolic in the snow. I knew the next move was to get dressed and head out for a run with him; especially since I had to head out for work shortly.
Guys, I forgot my phone.
That means there are no pictures. Which is probably fine. The weather was not particularly photogenic. The clouds were low and the snow was continually falling softly. The quiet, could not be captured on camera (even if it was occasionally punctuated by a plow on 550 below the trail).
But that also means there are no pictures of Sprocket running full out for a block and turning to look at me completely delighted.
There are no pictures of him standing in water just over his paws looking shocked I let him.
There’s no photos of me grinning in the perfect falling snow as I followed his wiggle-butt up the trail to the summit of Boot Hill.
I don’t have pictures of how perfect the little yuccas looked under their blanket of snow and how SP came to check them out with me.
There’s no video of him doing his best mountain bike impression zooming down hills to catch me after deer scents distracted him so I could get ahead.
There’s no capture of him nudging my hand before trying to get me to chase him on the path beside the river.
We put in almost five slow, snowy miles and I think I grinned the entire time. Back home, I ran in the house to capture this shot of me and my boy on his birthday. I’m a ridiculous dog owner but there’s nothing ridiculous really about loving a pup that loves life and helping me love life as much as he does.
I’ve been called a badass a lot in the last few years. And to be clear, I don’t think I’m a badass. I think I’ve been gifted with an immense amount of straight up stubborn. Half of what I achieve, I do because it just needs to be done and I’m looking for the way I can do it by myself as cheaply (but nicely) as possible. Anyway, a thought occurred to me last night as I fell asleep:
When I was seventeen, I asked a guy to our tolo (apparently the PNW term for a Sadie Hawkins dance, thanks for the learn, wiki!). I had a black eye from a bad hop when I asked him but impetuous high school me didn’t let that stop me. My dad found the black eye bit alternately horrifying and really amusing. Fortunately, this guy was a baseball player and he said yes so it didn’t bother him too much. The dance was nice but nothing really came of it.
Over the following summer, we actually reconnected and went on a few dates, we (or at least I) had a lot of fun. I, however, was a massively awkward girl who had never kissed anyone and had no idea how to help him make the leap to so much as holding my hand. We went to homecoming together but it was massively awkward and I didn’t know how to make it better and thus it just ended.
The moment that I remembered last night was walking into CenturyLink Field (then Quest!) for a WSU football game that my aunt had given me tickets to. Mike was working for a construction company of some kind that summer. A prep school kid driving a late model Civic, this seemed slightly out of character but he jokingly but with a certain level of earnestness told me about the concrete truck driver who was a “badass.”
“That’s what I want to be when I grow up,” he said.
“A concrete truck driver or a badass?” I asked.
“A badass, okay then.”
Maybe he grew up to be a badass, I don’t know. We never really hung out after that awkward homecoming. Facebook does tell me he grew up to be a stock trader that appears to live in a house and be pretty normal.
Embarrassingly, looking back, I mostly rolled my eyes at that comment. I couldn’t particularly see this guy, that I really quite liked, growing up to be a badass and it didn’t even occur to think about badassery in my own life. I definitely didn’t think to be a badass and kiss him. The word “badass” sounded kind of crass and redneck. At the time, I was planning a life saving the world from the horrors of climate change in academia, not living this life (I don’t even have words for what I’m doing).
I knew I was brash and a little bit obnoxious— another friend’s (shitty) boyfriend in response to something about me said, “Feminists are fat, ugly embittered women who can’t get a man.”A rather critical and religious classmate told me she could spot me flirting “from across the quad” (which is hysterical because… see, I think I scared the high school boys).
My friends would cringe because I was the definition of “too much.” I was loud in public places and ridiculous. I hope they loved me for it. In college, my friends used to say, “Do it, Beth, you won’t” and I’d joke about having a dollar for everytime they said it. Maybe I was just a badass the whole time and just forgot for a few years (six?).
So cheers to you, Mike, I hope you’re a badass. I think I’m owning my title in 2018.
As a kid, my family generally rung in the New Year by playing board games, Monopoly and Risk were favorites. Sometimes some of my aunts and uncles would join us but mostly it was just my family and I. (Except for NYE 2000 where I vividly remember being an 8th grader, dancing on a coffee table singing karaoke in my pajamas at my cousin’s house at 5am…)
In my Christmas loving family, the song “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” showed up in rotation fairly frequently. I wanted very desperately to have someone want me to give them a kiss at midnight. As circumstances would have it, I fell in love with a man who really wasn’t in to holidays or staying up late and I’m pretty sure didn’t actually know that a midnight kiss with your love is a cultural trope. New Year’s Eve 2013 and 2014 I think found him asleep before the clock struck midnight. (I know NYE 2012 did but we all fell asleep because we were at the cabin and it had been dark for hours and 10pm felt like 2am.)
2017 should be a mix of hustle and getting back to my regularly scheduled life thanks to the foundations laid in 2016. I’m so ready, bring it on.
2017 was different in one big way: I could see the results of my sacrifice daily. I lived #shedlife for one really cold week to welcome 2017, weekends until May (with more than a few weeknights tossed in), and just over two weeks ago, Sprocket and I moved into the house.
My lessons this year are so much harder to articulate. I’ve basically let this blog go fallow (sorry! hoping to do better in 2018!) because adventure has been thin (although I do owe you some Thanksgiving break posts). I’ve had to confront some of my lingering feelings surrounding F and what transpired between us. I’ve been too much of a sloth for my liking and have definitely had some feels about how my body looks these days.
2017, however, despite really just being a grind has really taught me one thing: I am powerful.
It seems so odd to say that. It seems conceited somehow but I cannot figure out any other way to describe it. I’ve lost track of the number of people who have looked at me and said some variant of “You’re a badass, you know that right?” (Holla Kat, Wanda, etc.) I do achieve the things I want. I’m still unsure of how to include other people in that drive but I’m here and I’m pushing forward.
I’m not quite sure how 2018 is going to shake out, I anticipate this being a year of settling in. I’m still working some, the better to buy some touches for the house. I’m taking an EMT class in the two night a week and a few weekend days; it’ll be lovely to be back to volunteering for my community by summer. I’m settling into the house which is wonderful but it feels a little slow going to settle in—I simultaneously feel deeply at home because I designed the space and also in transition.
2018: I’m welcoming you with a quiet joy in my heart. I’ll be here in Ridgway, just like the prior three years and I’m so grateful.
I’ve been feeling rather Grinchy about Christmas this year. Stuck in house limbo with balmy temperatures more suited to San Diego than 7000′ in Colorado with finals impending I just couldn’t muster my usual enthusiasm for Christmas music, twinkly lights, Christmas trees, presents and gift wrap.
And then suddenly, on Monday, I had a house deadline: an actual three day range in which I can expect to get my certificate of occupancy and move in. I briefly had a little tantrum and decided I wasn’t going to have a Christmas tree. I was going to do my best to move in and then I’d sort out Christmas later. There I sat, behind my usual pace on Christmas presents, threatening to basically skip Christmas traditions, and begrudge the entire trip to Tacoma to celebrate with my family.
Home for the holiday, I believe I’ve missed each and every face, Come on and play my music, Let’s turn on every love light in the place.
Tuesday, I took a look at my list of gifts I had left to purchase. Somehow my icy feelings towards the holiday melted all at once. I started placeing orders on gifts that I’d been procrastinating on ordering, simply going for the gifts I knew I wanted to buy those people love. Somehow my list got longer as I reconsidered a couple people I wasn’t going to purchase for and I did it anyway. I know it’s in vogue to simplify and cut your list these days but that’s just not my style.
As a kid, Christmas at my house was magical. My mom and dad went out of their way to make the holiday special for us as kids. There was a never ending string of traditions that lead us from our viewing of “It’s A Wonderful Life” late Thanksgiving night to doing a puzzle to the background of college football bowl games between Christmas and New Years. Throughout high school and college I never was ashamed of my absurd love for the joyousness of the Christmas holiday. In high school I wore giant gift bows on my head unapologetically. Once I even found a battery pack set of mini lights and wore them in my hair (OMG… with LEDs I might have to get on this again). In college, I introduced more than a few friends to the cannon of Christmas movies.
In my young adult life, however, things wavered. Even during the two Christmas I spent mobile, I decorated the van and camper. The sparkle had dimmed and I kind of started to think that I’d lost my love for the season.
It’s time I found myself Totally surrounded in your circles Whoa, my friends.
After making a list and checking it twice, I put it on my list for next week to go get a Christmas tree permit—damn it, a tree was going to be the first thing in the house after a bed. I’m nothing if not stubborn and I wasn’t going to let this be the first time I could have a tree and not do it.
As I’m sure all of the lovely people in my life can attest, my affect around questions about the house has been mellow and sinking. It occupies my thoughts a lot but I don’t really have control so I’ve just settled into a holding pattern. It feels disappointing to me and I just can’t decide whether I should show excitement for the people who are so excited for me or whether I should retreat to my safe non-emotional space. I always choose the latter.
Please, celebrate me home, Give me a number Please, celebrate me home
Tonight though, on the way home from my side hustle chocolate shop job, I decided to play some Christmas music. I went to the little amount of Christmas music on my phone. In a hurry to get home to Sprocket, I put it on shuffle and the first song was Kenny Loggins “Celebrate Me Home.”
Immediately I froze. Tears welled in my eyes. Suddenly, it all seemed real. I was going to give myself the best present ever just before the holiday. I realized there could be little better than wrapping presents in the glow of Christmas lights on a tree cut at 12,000′ with the warmth of a woodstove warming me in my own home even before I get the rest of my possessions moved in the house.
Play me one more song That I’ll always remember And I can recall Whenever I find myself too all alone I can sing me home.
“Celebrate Me Home” was my dad’s favorite Christmas song. He would play it repeatedly. He would always take every opportunity to do just one extra Christmas thing but every single year, Christmas night he would remark, “Aren’t we so lucky to have so much family to spend Christmas with?”
Maybe it’s because Dad latched on to “Celebrate Me Home” while I was in college when I started traveling for the holiday, but “Celebrate Me Home” has always felt like the journey into the holiday to me and I’m just going to hold it as the anthem in my heart right now. My journey towards bringing myself home is coming to a close but it’s time to start really putting the pieces together of living my life.
Uneasy highway Traveling where the Western winds can fly Somebody tried to tell me But the men forgot to tell me why
This was the thread I’d lost somewhere. I’d been surviving for so long that there was so little space for traditions and time to relish the beauty of the holiday season that I really just wasn’t fully appreciating it. Being far from family at the holidays had changed things but I am so lucky to have a place I love living like Ridgway and a family back in Washington still carrying on the traditions that I had always loved so much.
The familiar melody flooded me with feeling. Who am I to be a Scrooge? In the space of three weeks, I will celebrate my new home with myself, Sprocket and a Christmas tree. I’ll celebrate Christmas with my family in Washington then return to settle into the house and celebrate New Years with Ridgway. Then, to put the icing on the cake, I get to welcome my Ridgway family to my new home.
I gotta count on being gone, Come on home, come on daddy, Be what you want from me, I’m this strong, I’ll be weak
Which all brings me here to this moment, I’ve got a honey whiskey spiked peppermint tea propped in the crook of one arm that I can’t reach because Sprocket’s head is propped on the other shoulder begrudgingly letting me type my feelings out here. I dug out the charger for my speaker so I could bathe the shed in Christmas music. The tears keep coming. I know the next weeks are going to be hard, sweet, stressful, exciting, and exhausting.
I can hardly picture what living in a house will actually feel like but I can see myself adapting Clark Grizwold to fit our situation: “Sprocket, we’re kicking off our fun old-fashioned family Christmas by heading up Red Mountain in our 4-wheel drive sleigh…” Back home, I’ll wrestle the tree into the stand, laughing about how small alpine tree trunks are, and trim it with lights, my grandmother’s Shiny Brite ornaments, and tinsel.
Please, celebrate me home, Give me a number, Please, celebrate me home Play me one more song, That I’ll always remember, I can recall, Whenever I feel too all alone, I can make believe I’ve never been gone I never* know where I belong Sing me home.
*How lucky am I to have a place to belong? ♥
Lyrics of “Celebrate Me Home” by Kenny Loggins and Bob James
My headlight bounces in the dark and I suddenly notice some glowing eyes on the concrete path in front of me. The deer seem as shocked as I am to see someone running down the path in the chill October night. My breath puffs a steamy cloud in front of my face and I trundle down the path.
I’m not sure what propelled me out of my warm bed with Sprocket curled up against me. I felt required to put down my excellent book, don shorts and headlamp and run. The relatable prose had somehow pulled me in so far it has pushed me out and demanded I live, right now at this minute. Life has impeded these moments of clarity and running—or rather, I’ve let my excuses get in the way of exercising. No one blames you for not working up a sweat when you lack shower facilities. No one gives it a second thought when you say, “But I work seven days a week.” No one, that is but the yourself as you feel continually less fit, less confident, less whole.
I reach the old railroad bridge and hear rustling in the bushes near the river. It could be a bear or a skunk, it is likely more deer, and in a worst case, could be a mountain lion. There is nothing to be done about the creature minding their own business out of sight and I run on. The bridge looks like the set of a Halloween movie and I attempt to capture it in a photo because I find it so ridiculous. I fail, as I knew I would.
A mile from my house, I force myself to turn around. I haven’t been running and I didn’t warm up and it’s cold. There is no need to risk injury more than I already have and I really should get to sleep. As I cross the bridge again on the return trip, I can feel my mood rise a little bit like the mist off the Uncompahgre. “I need to do this everyday,” I tell myself.
The impossibility of that looms before me; even just this week I have evening work commitments and I question how realistic it is that I’ll sort out how not to smell at work. Part of me, a big part of me, doesn’t care though. I want to feel strong again. I’ve started rediscovering social parts of myself but this, the part of me that can agree to any hike and is ready for new challenges has been in hiding. Perhaps I’ll try to reclaim that part in the dark where no one can see a bit longer; I know that’s better than not reclaiming it at all.
Running past my appliances in my yard, I glance at the house before I go into the shed. That’s mine. That’s why I’ve sacrificed the feeling of the chill on my legs and the hours for words to enter my eyes and also to exit my fingers onto the screen.
I’ve been feeling like there’s some moral to my story, the larger story, not just this run or the house or processing of lots of old feelings I’ve ignored but I can’t put my finger on it. I need to write about it more, both publicly and privately. I need to move my feet to ruminate on it more. Back in the shed, I pulled off my clothes before I could really start sweating in the warmth of my tiny home. Baby wipe basics done, I crawled in bed, pulled my pup to my chest, finished the page I’d been reading and wondered if this is what it feels like to have the pieces come together.
Scrolling through my reader this morning, I clicked on a post titled “Sasha DiGiulian’s Mom on Why You Should Let Your Kids Take Big Risks”to see what sage advice Sasha DiGiulian‘s mom could share with moms like mine that worry about their daughters in the outdoors. (Plus, you all know I’m a sucker for posts about women kicking ass outdoors.) The article was great and Sasha’s mom was really cute. Then I read a quote that made me burst in to tears:
“Then, when you started lead climbing, I took the course so I could lead belay, and honestly, I loved it. I loved spending time with you, and I loved going to the climbing competitions with you.”
It’s early spring. This is the time of year I used to spend hanging out with my dad at the batting cages, going to take ground balls on any dry day, and staying up too late talking about the possibilities for my team (and probably the Seattle Mariners too).
Starting just after Christmas, a few days a week, I’d come home from school and my dad would take me to the batting cages. As my teammates would point out to me, I could drive and he would have given me money so I didn’t have to go with him but I liked to. I loved spending that time with my dad. Sometimes my sister would come, which was mostly great because we could rotate in and out of the cage with each other. It certainly wasn’t rare, though, she didn’t want to come choosing friends or television over some extra practice.
I remember a lot of him providing me feedback on my swing but I also remember riding down the hill from our house in his red pickup just talking.
I’m pretty sure more than once we made people laugh at Rainiers games when I was in high school. He’d almost always sit on my right and when we witnessed a gorgeous swing that resulted in a home run or a double we’d turn to each other—a righty and a lefty—and make our best impressions of that swing, exclaiming about how the contact was just right.
There were late April games at Cheney stadium that were so cold I wore snowpants and we carried blankets in; often with a beer or two rolled up in them.I remember Game 4 of the 1995 ALDS, standing on the left field bleachers so that 10 year old me could try to talk to my dad over the rock concert roar of the Kingdome as Edgar Martinez, my favorite player, proved to be the hero
Bottom of the 11th inning got the whole town listening, Swung on and belted the words that started, Joey Cora rounds third Here comes Griffey the throw to the plate’s not in time My oh my the Mariners win it
and I picture my dad chanting, “They’re never going to get Griffey, they’re never going to get Griffey.” 1995 is seared in my memory and family lore, it comes up at family holidays and events because we all have shared, intersecting memories because my Aunt Lori bought two seats that we shared and whoever wasn’t at the games would watch them at our house.
Mostly though, the line “And if mom wasn’t trippin’ come on dad please I swear just one more inning,” is what rings true along with the batting cages, ground balls, and thousands of whiffle ball pitches in the back yard.
Today is a gorgeous early spring day in Colorado. The sky is so so blue that it’s almost heartbreaking. It’s cold and there’s some snow on the ground but my time in Maine made me associate that with the start of softball. It won’t be long before baseball season starts here in Western Colorado for my high school students. The Mariners are down in Arizona getting ready for Opening Day. It’s been almost six years since I got to watch a baseball game with my dad and it’s days like today I miss them most of all.
I know this is belated but honestly, although I try to keep my personal photo files organized, this blog is actually better indexed and it’s easier to find things.
Because we’re lucky, we headed up Red Mountain Pass to find our tree just shy of 12,000′ above sea level. There had been some fresh snow and there was lots of powder around–we hadn’t been snowshoing much so Sprocket and I definitely felt the burn on our ramble around before we selected our tree.
I’ve learned my lesson in the past and was sure to 1) find a tree not too far from the road and to 2) find one uphill of the road. We succeeded this year unlike last year where I learned a quarter mile uphill is a long way if you’re alone and your dog is not willing to be a sled-tree dog.
Alpine trees just have the right look, their branches are strong: they’re the perfect Christmas tree. Don’t you agree?
I get a lot of questions about what my life looks like these days. Most of them go something like “Wait, where do you live?” I get it, my life is a little bit complicated these days. It doesn’t fit into a nice pretty social media package that I can tie a bow on.
During the week, I am a teacher at a rural high school about 40 miles from Ridgway. I have a rental house in that town so I don’t have to commute back and forth everyday; it’ll be worth it from my house but paying Ridgway rents + commuting is just too much! I lease the house with a roommate that is also a teacher at my school. We have another roommate for the winter that teaches skiing at Telluride. Since we’re all sharing the house, this brings costs way down for all of us. We’re all busy with work and traveling on our weekends so it all works out. Sprocket really likes having more people around to love.
During the week, I try to keep up my workout routine, stay on top of grading since I’m a failure at doing it over the weekends, do my laundry, and get enough sleep. I don’t have internet at my house so I’ve been a little bit better about reading books and a little bit worse at running up my cellphone data.
On Thursdays, I pack up the Jeep so that we can leave directly after school on Friday. Friday is the only day of the week that I drive to school; the rest of the week I walk the half mile each way. I hit the road at 3:30 and head for Ouray. I usually have time to make a quick pit stop at the post office in Ridgway and take Sprocket for a quick walk before I start work at 5pm.
Friday and Saturday night routines are similar: I close the shop, go home to the shed and feed Sprocket. Depending on how tired I am, sometimes I will go visit a local establishment for a drink before I retire to the shed.
Saturday and Sunday mornings have gotten a bit more difficult in the winter. I want to make sure Sprocket gets some activity and time to move around since he’s so cooped up while I’m working all the time but it’s also been really cold! I’m taking my cross-country skis back down to Ridgway this weekend so I’m hoping to get in some exercise with him more frequently before I go to work at noon on Saturday and Sunday.
Sunday, after we close up the shop, I head back to the town where I teach to do it all over again.
Crazy the things we do in order to make dreams happen, huh?
Maryanne and her husband welcomed me into their home for Thanksgiving again this year. I’m so delighted that this has become a tradition and that I get to be Aunty Beth to their two children in addition to my three nephews. <3
There was lots of Sprocket bossing around by a two year old:
A few baby cuddles, although he really wasn’t too sure about that stranger in his house.
There was lots of food and a sweet sunset hike.
People used to mistake Maryanne and I for sisters, and I suppose with sunglasses on, they still might.
Last New Years Day I drove back from Ridgway to De Beque. The two and a half hour drive home was hard. I walked in the door, made myself a pot of coffee and promptly burst into tears.
And cried some more.
Everything felt so up in the air. I just wanted to be home but teaching positions wouldn’t start being posted for a few months. I realized that I had spent too much and even if I did find myself back in the San Juans I had dug myself a pretty significant hole that I would have to climb out of before I was able to think about building a house. I’d just left a party full of friends and neighbors and now, despite Sprocket’s willingness to let me snot into his fur, I felt alone.
Finally, totally unable to pull myself together, I picked up the phone and called a friend. I tried to explain how I felt so untethered and sad and overwhelmed by the too blank future. After they tried to offer platitudes to calm me down and once I just felt silly for being so unhinged I hung up.
I started to make a plan. I would make a plan to get out of debt. I applied for multiple jobs in Grand Junction that very afternoon. (Fortunately none of them worked out and I wound up starting at Provisions in March, strengthening my connection to Ridgway.) I decided while I was open to staying in De Beque another year that I would chase jobs in the San Juans and that I would chase them hard.
My phone went off: “You will be fine. You’ve got Sprocket. You’ve got Ruth. You have land. You are beautiful.” I have forgotten and remembered this line so many times and I have held it close.
My friends, 2016 has been a debacle in so many ways. I have cried in frustration with my life, with politics, for not climbing more mountains, and out of sheer exhaustion. I’ve had more than a few moments of self consciousness when someone asks me where I live knowing that both the shed, my constant working, and the bouncing back and forth between Norwood and Ridgway is hard to do in an elevator speech.