Happy 21st Anniversary!

John started a new job in August, and since then he has been asking me (repeatedly) to gather some photos of the two of us to display in his office. So I purchased a frame that would hold 19 photos, and I came home to start picking the ones I wanted to include.

The only problem was, I found over 100.

So I decided to take a different approach. Using Shutterfly, I made two posters that would hold 30 photos each. I love looking at all of these reminders of how much fun we have together.

I’m so lucky to have you as my partner John Hetrick! Thank you for 21 wonderful years, and here’s to (at least) 21 more.

Anniversary Poster Anniversary Poster

See if you can match the place to the picture.

Anchorage Ennis Ireland Lake Bled Slovenia Roatan Honduras
Arusha Tanzania Ennis St Patricks Day Parade Lake Louise Scottsdale
Baltimore Funchal Portugal Lava Tower Tanzania South Beach
Banff Glendale Arizona Ljubljana Castle St Lucia
Buenos Aires Governor’s Arts Awards Madeira, Portugal Summit of Kilimanjaro
Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul Guadalajara Mexico McNight Gala Superstition Wilderness
Cliffs of Moher Havasupai Falls New Orleans The Concorde Room
Cork Restaurant Inca Trail Peru Olomana Peak Hawaii The Modern Waikiki
Costa Rica Isle of Skye Scotland PF Chang’s Marathon Vancouver
Cross Lake Key West Florida Phoenix Art Museum Fundraiser Venice Italy
Denali National Park Kibo Tanzania Phuket Thailand Waikiki Beach
Denmark KoKo Head Hawaii Prince William Sound Western Breach
Diamond Head Kotor Montenegro Puerto Vallarta Mexico Whiskey Row Half
Dublin Ireland Krka Falls Croatia Recoleta Zanzibar
Dubrovnik Croatia La Récréation Reid’s Palace, Portugal Zion

 


Autumn and Trish

To the Towers

I’m so lucky to have friends who not only want to hang out–they are up for a challenge! So when Autumn and Jeff invited us to enjoy Silent Sunday at South Mountain Park, I said sign me up! We started at the parking lot outside the park entrance and rode up to the radio towers at the top. Then we did a brunch tour to one of my favorite restaurants, St. Francis, and a place I had not tried before, Snooze AM. What a lovely Sunday with friends.


1 Week to Go: Humphrey's Summit

At this time next week we will be arriving in Amsterdam, and then 2 days after that we’ll be arriving in Arusha, Tanzania. Our fearless guide Kapanya Kitaba has sent us several emails asking us when we are going to stop exercising. He says we need to conserve our energy for the hike. But we have had this Humphrey’s summit planned for some time as a celebration of John’s 45th birthday, so John, Cindy, Larry and I all went up and climbed the highest peak in Arizona. Sorry Kapanya! From now on you are the boss.

Cindy and Larry rented a house out on Hidden Hollow Road, in between downtown Flagstaff and the trailhead, and we all had a lovely evening there Friday night. At around 7:15 Saturday our dogsitter Jean-Paul came to the door. He’s the boyfriend of a former student of mine who is now attending graduate school at Northern Arizona. This brave man stayed with our 5 dogs for almost 8 hours while we drove to the mountain, hiked up & down, then drove home. Jean-Paul gets the true award for stamina today.

The Humphrey’s hike starts at 9,221 and covers just over 10 miles with 5573 elevation gain and 5576 loss. The Humphrey’s summit is 12,633, which is only about 7000 feet lower then the Kilimanjaro summit. But since John and I came from Phoenix, which is about 1300 feet, our total elevation change in less than 12 hours was over 13,000 feet. I’m glad we won’t have to do that again! We’ll have a lot more time to acclimatize while we’re in Africa.

Larry and John synchronizing watches.

The hike to the saddle was a steep but beautifully wooded walk in the woods. Once we hit the saddle we had some lunch. What a beautiful spot for a picnic.

At the saddle at 11,800 feet.

As soon as we started the 1 mile ascent to the summit, though, we were greeted with brutal winds. The trail was also very crowded, which made for lots of stopping to let people navigate up and down the trail.

Cindy taking a breather on the ascent.

After a few false summits, we made it to the top. It was pretty crowded up there but we managed to get some shots of the great views.

Trish & John and a stunning view.
Larry and Cindy and the beautiful view.

So now all that’s left to do is descend! The descent was even windier and more crowded.

Descending

After about 7 hours on the mountain we were back to the trailhead. What a wonderful hike with great friends. Hard to believe we’ll start our Kilimanjaro trek in less than 2 weeks.

Hiking fools.

Raising the Bar

If you have spent any time with me in the last 4 months, you have already heard me gush about how much I enjoy working out at The Bar Fitness every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 am.

In January our neighbors Kaylee and Brian invited John and me to try a workout there so one morning we all piled into Brian’s truck and headed over. We walked into the gym and our trainer Ryan greeted us and encouraged us to “look alive, 6 am.” Friends Ross and Daradee were there to cheer us up as well. Between the 6 of us we produced plenty of sweat and I can say I became hooked on the challenge, the camaraderie, and the results.

The workouts involve a warm-up of 2-3 laps around the block. Then Ryan shows the group of 20 brave souls the 10 exercises we will complete in 2 or 3 rotations. These pictures show us doing Marine Rope Jumping Jacks, Treadmill Sprints, Tire Jumps, The Sled, Spin Bike Sprints, and Kettle Bell Swings. Not pictured were some planks Ryan threw in just because he loves us.

Cindy started going to Ryan’s small group training classes, and soon Larry started joining her. Here’s a pic of the Kili crew with our trusted torturer Ryan. Thanks for Raising the Bar on our Kili training, Ryan. We’ll raise a toast to you from the summit.

Ryan, Trish, John, Cindy, Larry at The Bar

3 Weeks to Go

Three weeks from now we will be on a plane to Atlanta, where we’ll board our flight for Europe. The thought evokes sheer panic in me, perhaps because when I imagine leaving, I know I’ll be second guessing all of my packing choices. I think I need to have everything perfect. I’m still missing an item here and there. We ordered prescription sunglasses that will be here in a week or two. I need to decide what to read on the trek and how to read it. Will I carry any books or will I read from my iPhone? Every time I think all the decisions have been made, here come 20 more.

One thing I know I’ve done right is the training. I have logged many miles and climbed many vertical feet. I have really enjoyed my time with Larry and Cindy on the mountain. We have put boots on just about every trail the park has to offer. John hasn’t joined us because he prefers to cover more ground. He likes to knock out 12-16 milers at a brisk pace. His hardest job in Africa will be slowing down to acclimatize as we climb.


Vegan Dinner

John had a great idea. He said “Let’s throw a dinner party.” Great! We like to do that. Then he added a twist. “Let’s throw a vegan dinner party.” Now there’s a thought! I have been threatening to go vegan for a month, so it sounded like a great way to test it out. We invited some veggie loving friends, and picked our recipes from Eating Local, a gorgeous cookbook that we’ve been using for about a year. We had a lovely dinner.

Jeff & Autumn brought the appetizer. A yummy crostini.
Golden Beet and Blood Orange Salad.
Kale with Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins.
Whole-Wheat Linguine with Broccoli Rabe and Read Chili Pepper Oil.
Grilled Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce
My Plate.

 

Happy Guests.
Rooster giving kisses.
Brian & Kaylee brought dessert. An amazing tart.

 

 

 


Traffic Circle

I returned home from 6 weeks in small, cool towns to some nice sunshine, a few dust storms, and the exciting development right on our front yard.

Back in 2008 I sent an email to my then-city councilman Greg Stanton describing the traffic problem on my street.

Finally, after several years of petition gathering, meeting, designing, and political wrangling, we are very pleased to watch the traffic circle going in.

Kerry Wilcoxon from the City of Phoenix Street Transportation Division worked tirelessly and with good humor through the monster process.

We extend our deepest thanks to Kerry, Greg, and also to Steve Barduson, our architect neighbor who designed the final look of the circle.

Thanks also to all the neighbors who helped gather signatures and give feedback on design choices.

"If the road was closed there'd be a sign."

 

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The traffic circle. Our big mesquite.

 

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Our new sidewalk, old mailbox.

Race Day

Since I’ll be out of town for much of next summer, John wants someone to stay here to help with the dogs. We have a few leads, but nothing solid. I had some free moments back in early October so I thought I’d look at Craig’s List to see if any of those ads had potential. That’s when I saw this:

Hi!
I am a pro triathlete based in Vancouver Canada. I’m planning on racing the IronMan in Tempe at the end of November and would like to come down and train in the hotter drier climate for a month or so beforehand. Looking for somewhere that I can stay during this time. Couch or floor space is totally fine but I would like to be able to cook. I’m very friendly and easy going. Love kids and dogs so also happy to do some baby-sitting or pet-sitting.

Hm. I thought. That sounds like fun! So I replied to the ad and said:

Have you had any takers on your training base for November? I was hunting Craig’s List because I am going to be out of town a lot, and we need someone who can stay here with the pets. We’re hiking the Inca Trail in December and will need someone with them then. Any chance you might stay through December?

So she replied:

It wouldn’t be too hard to convince me to stay longer. Vancouver is not the nicest place to train in December!

So 5 days later I went to the airport to pick up Miranda Alldritt, our new roommate.

Miranda fit right into our little household. Can you say Butternut Squash curry? Delicious! And she’s so good with the dogs that I rarely see them anymore since they’re mostly curled up in her bed. And she helped me set up my MacBook Pro to run VMWare, something I had been terrified to try myself. And we got a fast and furious education about what it’s like to be a pro athlete, versus the little dabbling we do with racing. My weekly load of training equals one day of Miranda’s workouts.

So today is the big race. We all got up at 4 am to cheer on Miranda. You can follow her here, # 74. Good luck roomie!


Arizona, Minnesota, Arizona

Fast forward four days, and I was again boarding a plane, this time to Minnesota to take my mom’s ashes to her childhood summer home in Crosslake. I did not want to leave again—I was weary from travelling. Several people advised me not to go to Minnesota, that I needed recovery, that I was not ready to put my mom to rest, that I should not rush it. I can understand that advice. When I returned from Vegas I was so sad, I lacked energy, and I lacked interest in anything I once liked to do.

Even making my syllabi, which usually gives me geeky joy, felt more like emptying a bowl of 10,000 marbles one at a time. I could donate only 2 or so hours to the computer every morning. After that, I just needed some time alone.

But this trip to Minnesota had been planned many months before my mom even passed away, because it would allow me to celebrate Aunt Lynn’s 80th birthday. And Minnesota winters are cold. There is only so much time before the lake freezes. I did not want to wait another year to grant my mom her last wish. So I was boarding a plane again, steeling myself for a little sorrow.

Although John and I got to the Phoenix airport at 2:15 pm, we did not reach the cabin in Crosslake until about . . . 2 am, I think? I can’t remember. There were flight delays, then torrential rain on the 3 hour drive from Minneapolis, plus a daunting few miles of driving through a frog migration with little white amphibia hurling themselves at our car in the darkness. But finally we arrived, and Uncle Rick was there to greet us with hugs, love, and a room where we could rest our heads.

The next morning we had some coffee and started a long and therapeutic chat with Uncle Rick. His insights helped me remove myself from some of the guilt I have had about my mom my entire life. I always thought I should have been able to save her from her mental illness. I always felt like a failure because I could not. Rick and I talked about the stages of my mom’s psychosis that each of us had witnessed—me, her suicide attempts, and him, her “little green men are in the room.” I used to admonish myself by saying that if my mother had been sick with cancer, I never would have turned my back.

At the cabin with Uncle Rick, as we talked about the depths of her psychosis, I was learning to extend the cancer metaphor a few steps. If my mother had been sick with cancer and had refused professional treatment, it would have been as devastating for me as when she refused treatment for her mental illness. If my mother had been sick with cancer, I would have been as helpless to cure it as I was at curing her mental illness.  She would not have expected me, at 15, to treat her cancer, so how could she expect a 15 year old to treat her suicidal thoughts?

Soon Aunt Lynn and Cousin Kathy arrived, and we greeted them with big hugs and love, and we caught up after a year of absence. We did some more chatting in the living room, with the lake a gray sheet in my peripheral vision. The day had decided to be what some might call cliché for the occasion—drizzle and clouds. I was feeling weak. I was wondering when we would start. Finally, I said, “So how do we do this?”

My mother, throughout her life, gave me valuable gifts: an interest in literature, music, history, politics, travel. Now with her hand-written will she left one last gift. She asked Uncle Rick to spread her ashes at the cabin, not me. That little blessing turned into a large one, since I was aware I would not be able to do it myself.

We started by walking out to the dock. We put some ashes in the water, and Cousin Kathy reminded me of the time Mom went water skiing in a ballgown, and didn’t get a drop of water on it. Then we took some up to the birch tree where grandma Ewing’s ashes are. Then we took some to the fir trees that grandpa Ewing planted, and we added mom’s ashes to his among their roots.

As I watched mom rejoin her parents, I thought about all those years mom was estranged from her family and her cabin home. I felt such great peace to have her back where she belonged. The cabin is the Ewing family Camelot. Her separation from it was a constant source of sadness to me—the contrast of all that we had when we were there, versus all that we lost when we weren’t.

John said later it was as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and he was right. I sobbed. Then I felt better. We went inside and drank a glass of red wine to mom, which would have pleased her. We decompressed a little, then John and I and Kathy and Lynn drove to Gull Lake, where we would celebrate Lynn’s birthday the following day.

If the weather on Cross Lake had been cliché, the weather on Gull Lake the next day might have been too. The sun came out in spades for Lynn’s 80th birthday. Our gathering was a bonus celebration, since Lynn’s entire family, all 33 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren had come for her party in July. Lynn said she forgave me for being in Europe at the time of her party. I really wanted to be with Lynn, in the flesh, on her birthday.

We went and had a lovely dinner, then we came home and played a game at the dining room table, then we had some ice cream cake. While the day before had brought me some sorrow, and then some closure, it was fitting that the day celebrating Lynn’s birthday brought me joy.

We had two more lovely days in Minnesota, which we spent enjoying the lake, the cool temps, and the loving embrace of Uncle Rick, Aunt Lynn, and Cousin Kathy. I came home feeling, for once, like I had done the right thing.


Arizona, Nevada, Arizona

I suffered a severe bout of post-party depression after our trip to Europe. I didn’t want to come home, first off, but also I was dreading getting right back on a plane for Nevada to take care of my mother’s affairs. The probate hearing was scheduled for August 14th at the Clark County family court. The hearing was number one on a long checklist of things I needed to do.

Las Vegas is not my favorite place, and I had managed to avoid going there at all until mom moved there in 2001. To have to go back, and to have to go back to confront not only her estate but also the end of her life, well, the whole idea put me in a funk. I went from over to under achiever in a matter of a few months.

My bare minimum goals for Vegas were to attend the court hearing and pick up mom’s ashes. Beyond that, what I really needed to do was sell her car, sort her mail, settle her accounts, clean out her condo, fix up her condo, meet with a real estate agent to try to rent out her condo, etc. Every time I thought I had exhausted the list of things I needed to do, another item came up. I was also still just very sad. So my ability to confront the list was touch and go.

There was a moment in Vegas when I pondered why we have wedding planners but not death planners? A happy person has the strength to make arrangements. But a sad person? It’s much harder. I really wished I could have called one person and said, “Fix it!” I guess to my brother I am that person. I have to fix it, and I really have no idea how.

I called four different estate liquidators. Mom was a Marxist, so though she had some items, they were of little value. One auctioneer came and said it was not worth his time. Another came and said that I should just try to yard sale what I could and give the rest to charity. Picture me floundering, wondering exactly how I’m supposed to sell anything in a city like this one, and how I can possibly sort through everything in her place in a matter of hours before my flight.

Organizing

Enter Raymond and Joseph, my mom’s neighbors. They came to the condo at 6 am on Saturday, placed signs throughout the neighborhood, helped me price items, negotiated sales, carried heavy items to cars, cleaned patios, and translated for Spanish-speaking customers.

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At one point Joseph moved a dresser he had sold, revealing a picture of me and John that had fallen between it and the wall. I picked up the photo and ran to the other room sobbing. Raymond came and hugged me, assuring me, “She had the photo out so she could see you. It just fell and she couldn’t reach it. She loved you very much.” He held me until I felt strong enough to push on.

We managed to clear out much of mom’s laminate furniture, a few kitchen items, some of her clothing and some knick-knacks. By 4 pm, we looked around the condo and knew it was the best that we could do. Then Raymond and Joseph took me to the airport, assuring me they would continue working so that I could rent out the condo in time to cover mom’s mortgage and HOA fees before the small sum in her bank account ran out.

I wanted to question why this couple, strangers to me, rallied to help. It is in my nature to question. Was my sorrow a strong enough reason? Or did they want something in return? Or did they care deeply for my mom?  Or is that simply what people do? The last thing I needed was more unknown territory, and I struggled to just accept the help. I’m not good at letting people help me.  When Raymond called me at the airport to make sure I was okay I just cried and cried. Perhaps this was one last lesson from a mother who never stopped teaching me: when you need help, ask. When help comes, accept it.

In dealing with my mother’s death I keep bumping up against the irony that her body is gone and her things are left. It’s a cruel turn of events for a Marxist. And despite our troubled relationship, I find myself missing her at the most inopportune times. Above all, I miss her skin, her voice, her laugh.

I miss the tangible Mommy–the undeniable physical presence of the woman who brought me into the world. Her departure leaves me desperately alone. But at the same time I come alive with the realization that I am who I am because of her.