Saturday, September 17, 2016


2015 Camp-Aversary

As a child we camped in our motor home most summer weekends. As soon as dad pulled into the driveway on Friday, we piled in and motored off.  What seemed fun as a kid sounded less appealing as a forty-three year old adult. Today my idea of vacation included more hotels and less camping.

So when my wife suggested buying a motor home for us to vacation in I was leery.  Sensing my hesitation she assured me that the vehicle she was researching was more of a condo and less of a motorhome. It had a separate shower with a sun roof. The interior of the motor home was tastefully done in white leather. The floors were tile, it had a full refrigerator and freezer and a microwave with convection oven. There was a stove top and even a wine rack. Above the swivel seats in the cab was a full sized flat screen television and dvd player. There was no denying it was fancy. The only negative I could put my finger on was that it involved camping.

Four days after our second wedding anniversary, Sandy and I embarked on our first camping trip in the new rig.  We had all the necessities covered: wine, pasta, popcorn and of course chocolate. We headed for the ferry in Coupeville. We planned to go through Port Townsend to the Olympic National Forrest, to Seaside, to Cannon Beach and back.

The ferry trip was terrifying. The water was so rough it slapped the ferry with furious force. I decided not to watch. Once in Port Townsend, we parked and checked out the town. It was not unlike our Fairhaven with its historic buildings and quirky shops. We visited the ice cream shop then strolled through the town and enjoyed the sights.

As the sun began to dim we started to search for a  place to park the RV for the night. We found a space at the local fairgrounds. We parked and found the check-in board to pay. They only accepted a check or cash of which we had neither.

Now completely dark, we had no idea how to get back to town to find an ATM machine. We were out of range and unable to use our mobile maps.

We spotted two women washing out litter boxes and dumping their septic.  Never one to miss a possible cat encounter, Sandy asked how many cats they had. I wondered who takes cats camping?

"We have two", said the elder of the two women.

"We are headed to Florida to live", said the younger woman. Sandy explained our situation and asked what they thought we should do.

"You can stay the night without worry. No one seems to be here to check whether or not people are paying" said the younger woman.

We decided to take our chances and stay the night.

Moring came and my back was killing me. I hoisted myself up and over Sandy. I felt every muscle in my body screaming out in pain. I found my boots and some towels and headed to the bathroom to take a shower. I would have used the shower in the motor home but I didn't want to wake Sandy.

 I hung my towels from a hook dangling by one screw. I piled my clothes on the bench and hoped they wouldn't fall onto the wet cement floor. I climbed into the shower and turned the water on hot and full blast. Three spindly spiders flew out of the shower head with the water and I squealed. I scooted as far into the shower as I could so as not to encounter the spiders again. I thought about how much more relaxing this was than soaking in a nice jetted tub in a hotel. somewhere, anywhere.

We headed towards the Olympic Forest where we planned on spending the next night. We drove through Forks where the Twilight movies were filmed. They were still hanging onto that claim to fame. We passed several run down stores with oversized card board cut outs of  Twilight movie actors. With a population of just over 3,000 I wondered how many of them were now vampires.

 We drove until it was dark. We found the place we had planned to stay only to find out that it was full. The wind was blowing and the rain hit like bullets against the side of the motor home. We had no choice but to park just outside the ranger station. I hoped that the wild animals knew better than to eat anyone near the ranger station. That night my back was even more sore and I was beginning to question the sleeping conditions of our condo on wheels.

The trip out of the forest and back to the highway was sunny and bright. It was easy to forget the bluster of the night before. My back ached but a few ibuprofen later it was better. We made a pit stop at an ACE Hardware store for a hot air mattress and a coffee pot. Few necessities we had over looked.

The Astoria bridge was four miles long. I planned my escape route in my head for when the bridge collapsed and our motor home plunged to the bottom of the Columbia river. I was realizing that I would never survive if the bridge were to collapse when Sandy announced that we were in Oregon. I opened my eyes and sighed in relief.

As we drove through the Seaside camping entrance I was hit with nostalgia.  I could sense the excitement of unrealized adventures. I smelled campfires and pine trees. I could picture my dad hooking the motor home up to the hook ups...

"Lorinda!" I snapped back to reality and saw my wife standing in  her boots holding a red hose in her hand. You mean we had to hook up our own crap hose? Aww, where was my dad?

We didn't have gloves which right away I realized was a major over sight. Sandy got down on her hands and knees and crawled under the rig. She unscrewed the cap for the septic and hooked up the red hose. I held my nose. She looked over her shoulder at me and I shrugged.

"Put the other end into the hook up in the ground." I gingerly picked up the hose with just my finger tips. I shoved the end into the cracked, plastic hook up in the ground and then gave it an extra shove for good measure. Right away the hose swelled and I could hear the sound of liquid running through. So much more pleasant than indoor plumbing at a hotel, I thought to myself.

That night we blew up our hot air mattress and it was like sleeping on a cloud. Until Sandy rolled over. Then it was like being catapulted off a trampoline in my sleep. Clearly we had not blown it up quite enough.

The next day we travelled to Cannon Beach and took a walk along the water to visit Haystack Rock. The shore line was lined with houses and hotels overlooking the water. I sighed. I imagined sitting on the deck of one of those places, looking out at the water and writing. I belonged there. Not camping.

On our way back we planned on staying in the Olympic National Forest but we didn't find a vacancy. When it began to get dark, we decided to find a place to pull off the highway. As the night went on and the vehicles blew past us I realized I was not going to sleep. Vehicles pulled in and out next to us. Drivers honked their horns and flashed lights as they drove by. All night. By 2:30 in the morning, I pulled out my phone and began to play solitaire. I played like a crazed person. Game after game.

When Sandy woke up, I was cranky. She happily agreed to getting breakfast. So we stopped at the Blackberry Inn, in Joyce. I ordered waffles and cocoa. As I licked the whipped cream off of my hot cocoa I could feel a shift in my mood. There is little hot cocoa, whipped cream and a waffle can't cure.

Fort Worden in Port Townsend was by far the best place Sandy and I stayed the whole trip. We pulled into our spot and then jumped out to explore the beach. Sea Otters, herons, seals and the crash of the ocean waves filled our senses. We walked hand in hand down the beach, stopping every now and then to take it all in.

We spent the rest of that night eating popcorn, sipping wine and watching movies in our motor home.

We got in line for the ferry the next afternoon.  I looked over at Sandy sitting behind the wheel. She had the most serene and relaxed expression on her face. I realized then that I was going to miss being out on the road in the rig with my wife. I'm not saying given the option that I would never pick the hotel. but now I'm confident that I would also not be opposed to picking the rig.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Esther The Scrabble Queen

Image result for tiara
At 99 she was Scrabble Queen
Beating the young and the old
And everyone in between

With tiara perched atop her head
She counted up her points
The game she always led

“My name is Esther."
Her blue eyes focused on me, then past me. Ringlets of white hair climbed over her tiara. Her tights sagged elephant style about her knees and one shoe was gone.  A frosted, half-eaten cupcake lay in her lap. She thrust a bouquet of wild flowers into my hand and adjusted a ribbon stuck to the front of her dress.

“I’m 99 and today is my birthday.” 

She smiled exposing blue teeth. A frown clouded her face.  Dried icing in the corners of her mouth flaked and fell away.

 “Well maybe it’s my birthday."

She touched the tiara on her head where it sat eschew. 

“Or maybe I just like to wear a tiara”. 

The ruby ribbon on her breast read Scrabble Champion. Esther threw her hands in the air,

“Me, too! I’m scrabble champion, too!” 

I tried to explain that I was reading her ribbon out loud and that I was not a Scrabble champion but she was spelling words and telling me how much each was worth in Scrabble points.  I wondered out loud how it was that she sat here alone in the hall way?

 “Oh I’ve just been here."

 She said as if that were explanation enough. I looked up the hall way and then down the hall way. Where were the nurses and why had they left her out here?

“Are those for me?”

Esther reached for the flowers she’d handed me earlier. I nodded and handed them back to her. She held them to her nose and inhaled deeply.  

“Just lovely!”

“Esther!” Yelled a woman in a mid-length skirt and nurses shoes. 

With her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face she planted herself square in front of Esther’s chair. 

“Where in the world do you think you are going?” 

The nurse wheeled Esther around and the cupcake in her lap toppled to the floor.

“This is my granddaughter” said Esther.

The nurse looked over her shoulder at me. I looked over my shoulder and seeing no one behind me I looked back at the nurse. I shook my head side to side ready to explain.

“Well”, said the nurse, “Get in here, child. I can’t have Esther out here in the hall.” 

She turned her attention back to Esther. 

“Where has your shoe gone?” 

She shook her head, clicked her tongue and pushed Esther towards the dining room. Esther craned her neck towards me.  

“Come along dear and meet the others”.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

It Is Always This Way

She puts the baby down and tells her husband that she is going for a walk.  He is absorbed in a video game; his thumbs fly rapidly from button to button. 
Stepping out the back door into the star filled night, the warm air envelops her in a hug. She looks into the sky and breathes deep. The air fills her lungs.  The farther from the house she gets the quicker she walks.  Down the street, around the corner, over the bridge to the old apartment building on the street with the less than stellar reputation. 
Navigating the roots jutting out of the ground, litter strewn by careless tenants, and the occasional discarded piece of furniture, she finds her way to the sliding door. It has been left open just a crack, enough to confirm that she is expected tonight. Silently she pushes the door open and slides through the opening.
A box fan roars in one corner of the room.  A cat rolls around lazily seemingly unaware of the racket. Socks, shoes, books, candy wrappers are strewn about the floor.  She picks her way across the floor to the bed. Waiting with open arms, snuggled in blankets and pillows is the woman that she loves. She falls heavily into her arms and buries her face in her neck. 
Eventually they must untangle and separate.  A clock counting down the stolen minutes looms above the bed. Reluctantly she swings her legs off the mattress. She pulls her shirt over her head and feels arms reach around her from behind. “Don’t go.” It is always this way.
She gently pries her arms apart and stands up to finish dressing. Again the arms wrap around her waist.  “Please don’t go.” She hears the catch in her voice. She knows the tears are not far behind. It is always this way.
She moves quickly. Breathless by the time she reaches her house, she eases through the back door, it shuts quietly. She pads across the kitchen floor to the living room door.
Video game music blares from the television; her husband’s thumbs fly from button to button. 

When I wrote this and sent it to you, you said, "Well you've definitely portrayed my room much cleaner than it actually was!" That was you, always making jokes, making me laugh. 

When I mentioned I was thinking of writing our story, you told me that I should. You told me that you trusted me to tell it, that  you were honored that I wanted to tell it. Well I do want to. And I will. And I will dedicate it to you. 

Thank you for loving me through everything we went through. Thank you for loving me enough to know when to let me go. It's because of you that I learned to love myself and other people. I'm so thankful that the last thing I said to you was that I loved you. I do and always will. Rest in peace and Happy Birthday. 

With love,

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fat Happens, Fit Takes Work

Part 3
Oh Forty-Three, What Have You Done To Me?

Menopause. That's what forty-three going on forty-four is doing to me. The emotional roller coaster, the lack of energy, the weight gain, all of it symptoms of menopause.  This could be just the beginning...

After consulting with my doctor, I consult with my mentors. They do not hold back either. They give me the nitty-gritty.

"It's hell." Eileen leans back in her seat and crosses her feet at the ankle. "The hot flashes, the mood swings...honey that is just the beginning!" At 89 she still walks faster than I jog and her wit is even quicker.

"Oh it's not so bad", Adrian quips in her New York accent. "But what do I know?" she waves her hand in the air, "I'm too old to remember!"

"Just take drugs", says Cathy.

"You don't need drugs, says Lou Ann, "You're in good shape, you'll breeze through." I appreciate her confidence in me.

"Oh menopause is no big deal. I barely fussed with it myself. My knee replacement, now that was something." Jim sits down with a grunt and the women glare at him and cluck with annoyance.

I sigh and sit in my chair. I begin to do leg extensions and everyone follows along. I can't believe I'm in menopause. I'm so young! Right? My knee makes a popping noise. Not that young.

I survey the room of twenty senior citizens ranging in age from sixty five to ninety. Seventeen out of the twenty are women. Strong, intelligent and fiercely independent women. Not unlike the women in my own family. I smile to myself. If they can do it, so can I.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fat Happens, Fit Takes Work

Part 2
Running saves me. I'm not the first person to say so and I won't be the last. There is something so healing in the mind-body connection that is made each time your foot hits the ground, propelling you forward head on into your future. Running clears the mind and cleanses the soul.  It's therapy.

I have been known to run through injury, heart ache and all types of questionable  weather. I don't cancel even when I should and I have little patience if I get cancelled on. So, the first couple of times I cancelled, my running partner let it slide. When it became a couple times or more a week, he confronted me.

"What is going on here?" He text me early one morning as I rolled over intending on going back to sleep. I ignored the bright light of my cell phone. It went off again. "Hey", he text. I groaned and rolled over and grabbed the cell phone. "Coming", I replied.

As we both got out of our cars that morning, the air crisp and biting, he looked me in the eye or I think he did, it was dark. "Are you sick?" He asked. A massive rush of emotion came over  me and I broke down into tears. I had no idea what was happening to me. I was so sad and angry. My joints and back hurt. I felt completely undone.

We ran and I tried to explain how I felt but it made no sense. Not even to me. So in the end, we just ran. I listened to our feet hit the trail. I breathed in the cool air. I cleared my mind and focused on the run and by the time we rounded the final turn, I felt better.

As I drove home that morning, I thought about what I was going to do next. I was going to get out of this slump. But how? Sweat trickled down my face and streaked my salty cheeks. One foot in front of the other, just like running, that was how...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Fat Happens, Fit Takes Work

Part 1
I am a personal trainer. I'm not supposed to get fat. No one said as much, but I know it. It's what trainers know. Like the old saying, " Don't hire a bald barber or a toothless dentist", it just makes sense that a fat trainer isn't following her own advice.

What began as effortless weight loss the six months following my husbands departure, evolved into eating my way through the sadness and stress for the six months after that.

When I began to date my future wife, I chalked my less than stellar eating habits up to "the happy and fat phase" of a new relationship.

Six months after my first wedding anniversary I stood in front of a full length mirror trying on new workout tops. I turned to the side to check out the fit around my back and there sticking out in all its chubby glory  was my back fat. Only glorious it was not. How long had it been there? Why hadn't I noticed it until now?

Once home I shut myself in the bathroom, stripped down to my birthday suite and stepped gingerly onto the scale. How bad could it be? I peeked through one squinty eye and nearly fell off the scale. I had gained not five or even ten but sixteen pounds!

It's not like I didn't know what to do to get rid of the fat. It's that somehow I'd lost my will, my determination.

I had once been so focused.

Now I drug myself out of bed about ten minutes before I needed to meet my running partner.  I found myself cancelling on him frequently. As for weight lifting, well, that had become a far off memory... Now the heaviest weight I lifted was me, which was sixteen pounds heavier...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Happy birthday, Mom!

The day my world shattered around me like so many shards of broken glass, my first thought was of my mother. I sensed her presence long before I stood in it. I felt her in my mind and in my heart. I ran to her and threw myself into her arms and begged her to take away the hurt. I felt her wrap me into herself and cry with me. If love could mend a broken heart, then her love would have mended mine that day.  
I love my mother more than I can express. She makes my world seem right even when it is terribly wrong.  She is the strength I need when mine is gone.  Every step of my life, I long for her approval.  I seek her advice. She remains the most influential person in my life. Even when we disagree, I know my mother loves me and wishes the best for me. Happy Birthday to one of the most beautiful women I know.