Winter is such a wonderful season. When the air becomes so cold that it’s crisp, and the leaves have all gone from their branches, and there’s specs of snow that are sprinkled over the foothills, it’s the most awe inspiring time. I always dreamed of snow, even when I lived in Southern California, and palm trees were green 365 days of the year, where June was the gloomiest month, yet the rest of the year the sun glistened off the Pacific.
I never understood why so many flocked to the Golden State, until I left and went east. Some time after being on the east coast and I then I knew. They say you never know what you have until it’s gone, and it’s true. But, despite the longing I always felt for California I wasn’t yet ready to return either. It’s a strange paradox.
Despite my upbringing and lack of any actual “weather,” growing up, I somehow ended up loving seasons. While I’m not anti-warm weather, and beach umbrellas–I love snorkeling as much as I love hiking–there’s just something about the snow. When I glance out my window and see a blanket of white covering the roads, sidewalk, and foothills, it’s magical; it’s like a new year, it’s a blank canvas that you can make into anything you want. Even the ugliest, muddiest, dirt road becomes beautiful with a layer of powder of it.
As the air grows even colder, and my face burns after thirty minutes of hiking, all I think is how good this feels. How clean the air smells, how fresh the snow looks, and how I love the crunch of day old snow under my hiking boots.
Sure, summer is great, but tell me what’s better than returning home from a hike in a winter wonderland, making a warm beverage, and snuggling up on the couch with a loved one? I’ll wait.
“With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.” -Oscar Wilde
I have done a lot of reflecting not just on the past year, but on the last decade. There was so much I accomplished, which I would have overlooked because a few things didn’t go as planned.
For instance, I met my husband at the beginning of the past decade. I graduated from university, moved across the country, finished graduate school, moved back across the country, and had a baby. I realize, as I write this, that sometimes I am too hard on myself. Everything, but the meeting my husband part was done this year. Sheesh. I need to take it easy in 2020. Jokes aside, my life at 35 is different than I would have ever imagined at 25.
Instead of focusing on a slew of resolutions which I will inevitably give up on about three weeks into this new year, I’ve decided to make a list of things I have figured out. Just to clarify, I am not against resolutions, and I have made some concrete actionable goals this year. I’m just not going to dedicate an entire blog post to them.
Things I’ve Learned About Myself
Hiking makes me extremely happy, even if it’s snowing. In fact, especially when it’s snowing.
Breastfeeding has been one of the most intense journeys of my life. Having to adopt a restrictive diet was challenging mentally and physically as my body went through all my fat stores in order to keep producing milk. In short, my body is incredible.
Dairy is hidden in everything. So is soy.
Travel becomes less important when you love where you live. I still love traveling, and we are planning a big trip for 2020, but for now I am just happy to live in a place that brings me so much joy.
Writing fiction is hard.
There are still a good number of wonderful people in the world. I forgot this while I lived on the east coast.
You can love someone from a distance if that’s what it takes for you to keep your mental sanity.
Mental health is important.
Baking is surprisingly therapeutic.
My daughter brings me immense joy, even though our journey together has been wrought with challenges.
My husband is probably the only reason I haven’t completely gone mad this past year. Turns out, he’s an amazing father.
Motherhood is beautiful, painful, and the hardest job on the planet. It’s rewarding as well, but man oh man is it hard.
Not all in-laws relationship are the way the media portrays. Sometimes in-laws can surprise you and uplift you even more than your own parents.
I am still horrible with gift giving and timing. I am the person who buys postcards while on vacation and 9 times out of 10 forgets to mail them. However, I managed to send out Christmas cards this year so that has to count for something.
I miss HBO’s programming.
I hope to write more regularly on this blog this year. That’s a goal I feel good about sharing, and hopefully this makes me somewhat more accountable than I usually am with my writing goals.
I hope we all have a fabulous and prosperous 2020!
2019 will always be the year of ultimate change, as it was the year I became a mother. Over the last 12 months, I’ve experienced some of the most beautiful moments ever, as well as some of the darkest. There was a lot of change, beyond motherhood, along with anxiety, downright depression, and then a happiness that seemed almost too good to be true.
2018 was the year of hope, and it ended with news of my pregnancy after years of infertility treatments. I was full of hope, love, and gratitude, but I was also scared. When 2019 rolled around, I still had hope but the fear started to make itself more known. When my water broke, although I was calmer than I would have ever thought imaginable to the outside world, inside I was freaking out. I was terrified of what I didn’t know. If we were ready or not (we weren’t, and you can never be apparently), if we would know what to do (we figured it out), and in that pressing moment, the biggest fear of all was the pain. Would I be able to handle it? More importantly, would my baby, due in four weeks, be ready for the world? And why oh why was she four weeks early?
I survived the birth of my daughter, and the traumatic experience that followed, which only strengthened our resolve to get out of Maryland. The city we lived in was and will probably always be toxic, the place I worked, toxic. I remember going into my office for the last time, no one but me knew it yet, but I went in about a month postpartum and cleaned it out. I left feeling elated. I was thrilled to never have to set foot in that building again. In order to fix the problems in my world, we had to uproot our life and start anew. Something I would not advise after just having a baby, yet was so necessary for us.
Six months later and we’re settled in our new home/new city/new state, and on some days it still feels like I’m simply trying to survive, but it’s different. Motherhood is still hard, and one of the hardest lessons I learned this year was also a blessing. Sometimes people closest to you will hurt you the way no one else can, be it supposed friends or family. This is just life. You can’t get hung up over it, though it would be hypocritical for me not to admit I did get hung up on it. I didn’t speak to two people who’ve been my world my entire life for a very long time. The relationship is beyond repair at this point because of the result of their actions.
Still, it could be worse. It was a good lesson to learn, however painful. On the other end of the spectrum, I was showered with so much love by people in my life, and some I worked with, it blew my mind. No one in the building I left behind, of course. But across the country (and world), people ordered gifts, sent me love, and well wishes towards the end of my pregnancy until around 2 months postpartum.
While I was solo parenting with my two month old, a small group of friends, whom I should really refer to as family, would drop by, bring me lunch, hold the baby, change diapers, and keep me company for a short time. When one friend came over, I had no idea how badly I needed a break until she whisked my daughter away to change her diaper. When she left, I sat alone on the couch, holding my daughter, and cried.
We had one couple, who had their baby the same day as us, drop by multiple times, and even took me to dinner near my condo. For these seemingly small gestures of kindness, I was simply overwhelmed with gratitude. I was too emotional, too exhausted, and still recovering from the labor to properly express it, but I am eternally grateful to all the individuals who contributed in some way. Motherhood takes a village, I’ve heard this my entire life, but sadly it didn’t make sense until I was in the trenches myself.
Even though people who should have been in my corner from the beginning of this pregnancy weren’t, or some simply changed their minds following my birth for reasons unknown to me, I am infinitely grateful for the friendship that my friends, some family, coworkers, and bosses showed. It may sound cheesy, but they taught me that despite all the darkness in my life during those early days of motherhood, there are still people who can surprise you, even when everyone else is nothing more than a disappointment. For this, my cup overfloweth with love and gratitude.
We were more than three quarters of the way to our destination when the shimmering peaks of the Rockies met our gaze. The seemingly desolate and flat landscape abruptly rose out of the earth without warning, raising up to meet God for as far as the eye could see.
That’s our future home.
We will take our daughter to those peaks.
We will hike, make s’mores, get dirty, swim in lakes, and soak up all the beautiful range offers.
I pressed my nose against the window. Ridges and crests wound their way around ancient rock and dirt.
There are times in life when you’re unsure of your next move, both figuratively and literally. It could be while rock scrambling atop a questionable pass, or deciding where to raise your unborn child. The second my eyes connected with the Rockies, the months of research made sense. The hours, weeks, and days we poured into determining whether or not we could uproot our life on the east coast and start anew—yet again, on the eve of welcoming our daughter into this world was almost too much to process on the bumpy plane.
It’s seems cliche but one look and I just knew. It was visceral and intense. It was home. This was where we’re meant to be. Snow capped mountains that rival only the Sierras, were calling out to us. If we didn’t seize this opportunity, I wasn’t sure we’d get another. It was time for a new chapter, and maybe some new hiking boots. Whatever required, we were ready.
Adventure is something I crave. My husband and I love exploring this grand planet God created. We are risk takers. Adventure looks different though, now that I’m a mother.
When we hiked pre-motherhood, my biggest worry was whether or not I took any decent photos to document said adventure. Now? Now, I don’t have enough hours in the day to list all the concerns and worry that cloud my mind more often than not.
One advantage of hiking is being forced to be present. It’s hard to enjoy the beauty surrounding you, if you’re constantly focusing on unrealistic “what if’s.” Nevertheless, I’ve accepted that some of this worry is inevitable and part of the parenthood package.
A few weeks ago, we went to Rocky Mountain National Park. I was so stoked, as I’d been looking forward to that day for months. I was Googling “how soon can I hike?,” while still pregnant what seemed like only weeks ago.
I checked the diaper bag several times before we left, even though I packed it the night before. My daughter had enough diapers and clothing for several blowouts. Clearly, I was ready. When we reached the trailhead, I was unprepared for how cold it felt versus what my Google’s weather report had told me. How could it be so icy? Where was the trail? Where are my gloves? How could I forget such a basic item?
Cold air aside, not long after beginning I was completely taken over with the fear of falling. My husband was wearing the baby carrier, so I only had myself to worry about but even so, I was terrified. What if I fell and brought down all of us? What if someone ran into us and pushed us over the mountain? These weren’t rational fears.
But, when is fear rational?
We pressed on, and I tried desperately to push these scenarios to the farthest corner of my mind. After all, we didn’t drive 3 hours, stop twice to feed my wailing baby, and then wait for an hour on the side of the road for the road to the trailhead to be re-opened, just for me to be paralyzed in fear the entire hike.
So, I made it a point to look around me. When I did this, I was astonished by the beauty that surrounded the four of us. Were the leaves this rust amber every fall? Did the lake always form a reflective solid barrier when the weather dipped below freezing? Is that the entire mountain staring back at me in the lake? There was so much beauty, far more beauty than fear, so I pressed on. Instead, I thought about how I’d tell my daughter about this day, when she is older. Tell her how her mom braved sheets of ice, just to prove that we don’t have to live in a bubble of fear. We have you, and that is an adventure I’m intent on embracing.
Long weekends are the best, especially when they involve lounging around the house in pajamas, eating whatever your heart desires, and mountain biking. Sound familiar? I typically jump at any chance to go on a quick trip up to “the city” but decided to go against the grain and stay home. Boy am I glad we did! Not only did I get some much-needed rest, we also went out biking not once but twice! (Insert applause here) I was so stoked enjoying the good (read: dry) weather and doing something physical. So much so that I don’t even mind that I had to spend all evening Monday icing my Achilles’ tendon or tending to a new bruise on my thigh. I love a sport that hurts me so.
The good news is that I am more comfortable on my bike now than a month ago. I take bigger risks, ride further, and feel stronger overall. Sure, I’m limping around like a big baby after the rides, but that’s mostly due to making noob mistakes. Sigh. At least I’m making progress. Also, the boyfriend and I stop and practice log overs (not sure this is the name?). It mostly consists of him going casually over a huge stack of logs and me backing out at the last-minute because I’m terrified. True story. Sad, I know, but sometimes I can’t help it!
We tried to take pics while riding but it’s hard to capture decent photos of us biking using our iPhones, so I don’t have anything worthy of being posted. Plus, someone has the annoying habit of cutting of a certain boyfriend’s head. Ahem. I’m so focused on watching him do a trick, or see how he jumps that I forget I should be focusing on the picture. Sorry! I will try again this weekend. Fingers crossed, it doesn’t rain!
I am nothing if not inconsistent. Sure I have some really great qualities but this is by far one of my biggest flaws. Over the past few months (start of summer to be exact) I have thought a lot about pain management and fitness. Are the two related? The best way to determine if lupus and the pain associated can be managed by an active lifestyle, is to simply be more active. If anything, it can’t hurt me, right? So I have. For the first time since moving to Baltimore, about three years ago, I have consistently gone to pilates class twice a week for about two months now. This is huge!
To mix things up I started mountain biking as well. I go on Thursdays with a large group of men a few women. On the weekend my fiancé and I go together on a much harder trail. Overall, slowly there has been progress. Below are a few screenshots from a few recent rides. Don’t let the low distance fool you, it’s anything but easy.
Since starting the pilates and mountain bike routine I have thought a lot about my fitness goals. Can I manage my pain associated with lupus by becoming super fit? Is there a correlation between how active my body is and the aches and pains of this mysterious disease? Below is a list of what I hope to accomplish physically, as well as answer some of these questions. Over the next year, some of my goals include:
10 Full Range of Motion Push-ups (no judgement but I can’t even do one)
Complete the Yellow Trail at Rockburn/Pataspco with minimal rest
Hold a Deep Squat for 60 Seconds
Last but not least, get my killer six-pack back!
I read if you have trouble with consistency that aiming for 10-minutes of exercise every morning for thirty days can immensely help. Although I’ve done extremely well with pilates each week, I want to push myself. So for the next thirty days I will be doing either crunches, jogging, rowing, etc. every morning before work.
Do you make fitness goals? Or has working out become so ingrained in you that you don’t even think twice? I’m especially interested in your fitness story if you have a chronic illness. Share what keeps you motivated, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
My least favorite season is sadly coming to an end. I know what you’re thinking, how can you dislike the season and yet be saddened by its departure? Easy. While I hate summer because of all the extra steps I have to take to protect myself from the wrath of the sun, it means I get to go out and do things I can’t or won’t do the rest of the year. So with that in mind, let’s get into a recap of what I’ve been up to.
I kicked off the summer with a ride along The Great Allegheny Pass, er, a portion of it. It was a wild and crazy adventure complete with biking through a passing thunderstorm, camping two nights, and the swallowing of many bugs. We did 153 miles in 3 days. It was tough but such an amazing experience.
There are a few reasons I loved this ride so much. For starters, I’ve never done anything like it. Prior to this trip I’d never gone on a ride longer than 20 miles round trip, so this was pretty epic by those standards. Also, I didn’t exactly train for this but that’s because I’m a masochist.
Secondly, the group of people we took the trip with were awesome. They were positive, full of energy, biked circles around me, and lastly were about 20 years older than me. A few of them have kids my age. Needless to say, it was a humbling experience. If I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t have made it. Period.
Would I do it all again? Totally! I love a challenge, but I would probably train the second time around.
Cascade Brewery (and a waterfall or two)
The Pacific Northwest was awesome! Portland in particular. Sure, Portlandia is one of my favorite shows, but did I think I’d find the bliss I experienced only forty-five minutes outside of the city? No. But I did. And I’m grateful. I need PDX in my life, like forever.
Mt. Rainier (in all its glory)
Despite the fact that I threw in the towel about fifteen minutes from Camp Muir, I still made it pretty far. I can’t be disappointed in myself for stopping where I did. In a perfect world, maybe, but given how I felt at the time I did this I am proud of myself. The views were beyond breathtaking. I want to quit my job and move to Washington immediately.
Since I purchased my mountain bike for the epic Allegheny Pass (lots of asphalt), I have been going out once a week away from concrete to get down and dirty on trails it was actually made for. It has been really hard but so rewarding. Mountain biking is dangerous, fun, and makes me feel like I can do anything. I forget about lupus and being sick in general. Simply put, I love it.
Let’s face it, as much as I love being on my bike riding downhill and through streams, or even climbing trails that take me closer and closer to God, it doesn’t mean I can’t also be a city gal. Out of all the cities I’ve traveled to (not a ton) I have loved them all–with the exception of where I live. God knows how I feel about Baltimore, but I digress. Philadelphia is no exception. It delights me in a way I can’t quite describe. The museums, history, and shopping. Even the parks. The city of Brother Love has my heart.
This summer has been filled with the good, bad, and ugly but through the many adventures I found myself in, I had a blast. Besides, my favorite season yet is fast approaching! Autumn, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. . .
I came across this video tonight and feel compelled to share it. I will warn you that it is graphic, disturbing, and like Kristof suggests, it will haunt you.
But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe if enough people are disturbed something will change. I have to believe this, because the images and their stories are absolutely heart wrenching. See for yourself. . .
This is overdue, I apologize for the delay. May and June have been busy months for me and after each trip was another activity so it seems everything has collided. Below is my summary from an amazing hike while in the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy!
We started around noon, which was the latest I’ve ever started any hike. This was due to the fact that we left Seattle at 8:00 AM for Mt. Rainier and though only 60 miles or so away, it’s not a fast road and going up the mountain was painfully slow. Anyway, I was comfortable in my nike running tights, worn and used hiking boots, racerback tank, and a sweatshirt. My waterproof shell was packed in the fiance’s backpack. My upf 50 hat is always on my head when hiking to protect me from the sun. We also applied ample sunblock to any exposed skin—I didn’t plan on shedding any of my clothes regardless of the heat. (I have an amazing Columbia long sleeve upf 50 shirt that I always hike, bike, run in but stupidly left at home. Whoops.)
The hike started off with a pretty inclined paved road. The scenery was gorgeous, and the day was clear and warm (around 70 F/20 C). I noticed pretty quickly that my breath was rapid early on. I evened out my pace and continued forward. We climbed, and climbed and climbed. In between the climbing were several water breaks. I started drinking water with the very first step, as I didn’t want to add any stress to my body by being dehydrated.
We passed alpine marmots, eyeing us suspiciously. The views were some of the best I’ve seen, like ever. I never wanted to leave and it helped that it was so beautiful because the hike started to show signs of slowing me down.
Even though we were nearing June we expected and trampled through tons of snow on this hike. Once we near the camp the climbing steepened on the snow fields and I quickly wished I owned waterproof pants or gaiters. We saw loads of people hiking with a snowboard or skis and some even passed us as the gracefully boarded down the mountain. It looked like such fun! About thirty minutes from Camp Muir I started feeling pretty sick. My head was starting to hurt despite having a filling breakfast and energy bar only a few minutes earlier. I knew I was drinking enough water because I had to pee constantly.
I told myself I could do this, and attempted in vain to hype myself as best I could. Before long I realized I just didn’t have it in me—even though quitting is something I just don’t do. I was devastated. As each step became harder I knew I had a decision to make. I made a plan to make it at least to a set of rocks not too far up a hill we were battling. My fiancé decided to push on and I would wait on the rocks. I watched him climb much faster as I fell into the background. I envied him at that moment. Why couldn’t I climb like that? I tried one last time to motivate myself and push forward faster, my body said hell no. After numerous breaks and some prayer I made it to the sanctuary of the rocks.
Once seated comfortably it dawned on me that my feet were finally showing signs of defeat as well. They were wet and numb and my fingers achingly cold. Besides being exhausted I felt dizzy and as though I might vomit. Not a fun feeling but I was so thankful to be on solid ground—even rocky ground—I didn’t care too much about my physical state. I settled into the rocks and after drinking some water decided to have lunch. After my sandwich was devoured I started taking pictures and thinking of the rest of the hike. I stared at the top of the mountain which wasn’t that much higher than me. I felt accomplished rather than defeated. So what I didn’t make it to Camp Muir, I made it pretty close (I later found out from the fiancé ). Why couldn’t I be happy that I made it so far on my own? As I reflected on the art of being thankful for the little things, I was suddenly in a state of euphoria. It was divine.
Fifteen minutes later I saw a figure that looked like my guy and was pretty excited. The break did me good and ultimately I’m glad I listened to my body and stopped when I did. We began our descent down to the hotel and slid (quite literally). I couldn’t believe how fast it was going down. I slid down one huge steep hill and it was so much fun. Then I slid down others not so intentionally but it was still fun. On the way down we saw quite a few alpine marmots and a black fox! The fox was most surprising as they’re usually pretty elusive. He or she was sleeping among the trees curled up, and I think we woke it. The sleepy amber eyes stared at me uninterested.
If you happen to plan a trip to Mt. Rainier let me offer you some advice. Wear suitable clothing! There is a ton of snow and even if it’s not cold starting out unless you have waterproof shoes and gaiters your feet will be absolutely soaked. This wasn’t a deal breaker for us, but it could make the hike miserable for you. You don’t want that. Also, if I ever did this again, I’d bring a sled on my back—a small one. It’s much faster going down. Lastly, pack more energy bars, sandwiches, etc than you think you need. Because you’re climbing the entire way to the camp it’s absolutely exhausting—and calorie zapping! The way down is easier but still tiring. You will want something to replace the energy.
This is such a long post so if you made it to the end kudos to you and thank you for reading! All in all I think it was a success. If you’re interested in our stay (Paradise Inn) just let me know and I’ll post about that–otherwise it’s not that interesting. Stay active my friends!