Monday, July 30, 2007

Weekend Confessions: Hubby Abuse

I usually take really good care of Hubby when he is working his shifts, but when he has a few days off, I tend to take advantage a little more than I should.

  1. I saw that a bag of thawed chicken had leaked in the bottom of the fridge and promptly closed the door pretending that I didn't. The next day, Hubby told me that it leaked and I acted all surprised.
  2. I pretended to be asleep this morning when it was clear that Hubby was having a hard time figuring out that Kaia was hungry and impatient and clearly needed help.
  3. I asked hubby to bring me the shower cleaner and a sponge so I could scrub the tub, but ended up taking a 1/2 hour hot shower with no interruptions and only spent 2 minutes actually scrubbing.
  4. As Hubby works graveyard, I let Kaia barge into the bedroom to wake him up after only 5 hours of sleep because I am bored and want him to come out and play.
The weekend is nearing it's end and the abuse will subside for the next 4 days. It bumbs me out when he has to work, and I really do miss him when he is gone. I don't know how I am going to manage when he does the 2-week rotation. I guess I will be in a more friendly place and can get involved in more activities and play groups and much much more when I get back to civilization. Then when he has 2 weeks off, we will have time to fish and camp and hike and play. Yae for us!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Gratitude Sunday: The Tutu are Running

Last night at about 7, Hubby got an excited call from a friend exclaiming that the tutu are running! Tutu is the Inupiat word for caribou. As Hubby and friend had a planned hunting trip tht kept getting postponed, this was their big chance. There had been reports of a huge herd of around 1500 about a mile off a dirt road to nowhere, and that is a BIG deal considering how hard it is to get out on the tundra in the first place... not to mention getting back with litterally tons of meat.

We had been planning on spending some family time together that evening, the first one off in 4 days, andI was not excited about spending another night alone. I wasn't opposed to heading out, so we made it a spontaneous family outing. We gathered as much gear as we could think we would possibly need and away we went.

It is amazing how bumpy it is while appearing so incredibly flat at the same time. The back of a 4 wheeler is really not the best way to tour the landscape, but we pulled into a huge herd around 9pm. It was amazing to see so many large animals so close together, but we could never get close enough to take a shot.

We never figured it would be so hard to shoot one with so many so close together. But, they knew we were coming before we could even see them. With no trees or bushes to hide us, there was no sneaking up on that herd. Our best shot was to sit and wait for someone to chase them back in our direction and with the tundra being so flat and vast, there was little chance that would happen. Yah, like we know anything about hunting caribou! Basically, we just went out on 4 wheelers for some wildlife viewing and happened to be heavily armed.

At about 10pm we decided that it was getting too late to fumble around trying to guess how this is properly done, so we headed back into town. On the way back, we came across a fox hole with a cute little cub who was bouncy and playful, a whole bunch of seagulls pecking at the gut piles left by more successful and experienced hunters and two fresh kills that were apparently left on the tundra to rot.

The Natives are not limited by any hunting restrictions, nor would any restrictions be enforced up here anyway. Everyone else is permitted to kill 10 / person / day for subsistence. We hoped to take 1, but soon realized that even this would prove difficult on the tundra. The two caribou we found were left because they had not grown any antlers, and the best hind-quarter meats had been tainted by ruptured intestines (one by a poor shot and the other by a sloppy butcher). We could only figure that they were too lazy to use what they had killed. What a waste!

It was approaching 11 and Kaia was getting cold and beyond tired. I was actually really impressed with her excitement and pleasant demeanor while on the spontaneous hunting excursion. She laughed and explored and enjoyed the bumpy ride on the tundra. When we came to the dead caribou, she got really excited. I know she doesn’t grasp the concept of death, but I wasn’t sure if it would be okay for her to witness the skinning and butcher of something she clearly identified as an animal.

She staggered up to it, crouched down and reached out with one finger. “Eyeeee” she said as she poked it right in the eye. She laughed and then poked herself in the eye repeating “eyeeee,” just as she does with her stuffed animals. She explored our faces for clues about the situation and seemed more curious than concerned about the whole process. I doubt that we have scared her in any way. I just wonder how this will play out in the future when she does understand the reality behind the protein portions of so many of her favorite meals.

I guess this is one of those situations where most other parents would have done something completely different. I did think of her development and was sensitive to her needs and yet still proceeded to take her out on a hunting trip just an hour before her regular bed time. I did monitor her reaction to seeing the animal dead on the ground and explained to her what it was and why it was there. I don’t feel any guilt or regret about the experience. However, I can picture Kaia sharing this with a friend 10 years down the road and not getting a favorable response… Actually, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if this experience also makes it to the office of a therapist.

Nobody makes it out of childhood without some warped ideas and at least one horror story anyway. I guess if she had to have one, this would be better than most. No doubt I am making a bigger deal of it than it deserves, I just think it is kind of cool that we were able to take such an excursion on the spur of the moment as a family. I also think it is really cool that Kaia was so happy and fun to have along despite the cold and late conditions. What a trooper!

I only wish we were able to find our camera so I could share pictures of this wild and crazy night. That would have definitely been one for the scrapbook. Although, I’m not sure exactly sure what kind of embellishments would be appropriate for that layout. If we go out again, I will be sure we take pix.

Upon our return just after midnight, our Native neighbors came out and congratulated us on the successful hunt. There were more people out on the streets than I had seen all week, and most of them were kids under 12! I so don't get this place. Anyway, we explained that we didn't actually kill the caribou, and they shared stories of how hard it is to actually "catch a tutu." They seemed impressed with our resoursefullness and willingness to even go out in the first place.

I would love to see Ben come home with a prize caribou rack and we could certainly use the meat. However, I can't help but feel gratitude that we aren't responsible for any waste, that we don't have a freezer overfilled with meat I'm not sure how to prepare, and that the tutu are still running.

Friday, July 27, 2007

So Flippin Bored!

I don't know what it is, but this town feels extra dead since I got back. Maybe it is because I was so overstimulated with family and adventure and a billion people I didn't know in airports, highways and shopping malls that are non-existent up here. Maybe it is because Barrow is just too small for me. Maybe it is because everyone is out of town on vacation.

Whatever it is, it's not working out well for me. The playground, the beach and even the family playtime at the community center were all void of any life forms. It's like a ghost town. There are very few cars on the streets and nobody hanging around doing anything. I went to the grocery store and only found 5 shoppers browsing the shelves almost intentionally avoiding eye contact and 3 cashiers who wouldn't even attempt to engage in the meaningless courtesies of the check-out process.

I am really starting to get creeped out! I have been anxious to get Kaia some play time with kids her age or even older. I don't care who (under the age of 10) pays attention to her; I just want her to have some social stimulation. The problem is that I have been looking for a week solid and have seen NO opportunities. It is time I start creating them. The unfortunate thing is that I don't know anyone with kids Kaia's age. Humm, are there people here with kids her age?

I did invite one of my friends over for a few hours of scrapbooking, but when I get in the craft mode, I tend to limit my conversation. I'm all business because it takes every ounce of concentration to keep that mode afloat. Besides, I don't know anyone here who actually likes being here and is positive enough to keep me encouraged about staying here another two, four or even six months. And sitting around bitching about how bad it sucks doesn't change the fact that it still sucks.

Who knows when we will get our ticket out of here? All I know is that I can't figure a damn thing to do and I am fresh out of patience for a clingy little girl who warms my heart and drives me batty at the very same time. I am certain she needs something I can't give her, and it kills me that I am scraping at the bottom of my sympathy jar. Any suggestions or advice would be helpful.

On a lighter note, my daughter just interupted my hubby's sleep (he works graves) and I heard the following conversation:

KAIA: Gerbrowerow?
KAIA: pssst... prrrt. Errp?
DUBBY: Hey! I don't fart in your crib, don't fart in my bed.
KAIA: Hee, hee.

Like father like daughter. It is a curse she will carry with her for the rest of her life. I think it is a genetic Hunsaker defect. Maybe it is lactose induced. At any rate, I should really try harder to let him sleep without interruption, but I had a thought going and figured she had already done the damage of waking him up anyhow. See how bored I am? I am almost on the verge of picking a fight just so that I can feel fired up about soemthing!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Lastnights' Performance

I don't know what it is about bed time, but around 7:30 Kaia just gets so silly. It's like the curtain is raised on a mini comedy show and she litterally bounces off the walls in giggles, trips over herself and gets into everything! Lastnights' performance included the following acts: Big Daddy Clown Boots, Excerpts from Beavis and Butthead (which she has never seen, but Daddy taught her "cornhollio"), and Base Jumping (from a chair).
We all have a great time at every performance, but I can't help but wonder what brings it on.
Is it just the over tired phase gone silly? Is it a desire to impress Daddy and get his undivided attention? Is it the midnight sun messing with her sleep time or is it just her way of interacting during "family time?" I may never solve this mystery, but I have to appreciate her creativity and undeniable ability to entertain herself and everyone else.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Better Beach Days and Farty Smells

Today was a much warmer and more beautiful day so we headed out to the beach again for some play time after dinner. Kaia had a great time playing in the sand and discovering interesting tiny plants and rocks and beach debris.

It is so fun to see her play so well with Daddy and reach out to everyone extending her energetic "HIEEEE" with her most contageous smile and wave. One of these days, I will get a picture of that. I just find that if she sees the camera, she wants it IMMEDIATELY and the contageous smile becomes a whiny "WANNIT! WANNIT!"

It is amazing to me how much spunk and personality she has. Already I can tell that she has a way with people and really loves interaction with kids and the elderly. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in her development.

On another completely unrelated note, I can't figure out for the life of me what is causing the most terrible gas I have ever had in my whole life. I've got the burps and the farts and I have NEVER suffered like this before. I think it might have something to do with green onions or eggs, but I am definitely going to stay away from those for a while to see if it helps out. Thank the lucky stars there was a strong wind on the beach today! Sorry Hubby and Kaia for the farty smell. I try to be discrete, but there is no hiding this kind of funk and keeping it in would pop me open like a pilsbury dough tube.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Beach Trip

Late this morning we decided to pack a picnic and head out to the beach for a little outdoor time. The weather wasn't all that spectacular, but it was about 38 degrees with windchill and that is warm enough to avoid freezing to death I guess. We bundled up and headed out about 8 miles south of town. It was kind of nice to enjoy the tundra in full bloom. This is a shot looking out from the top of a bluff dropping off into the ocean. I was surprised at how lumpy the tundra really is. It looks flat, but on the back of a 4-wheeler it most certainly isn't.

We built a little fire, roasted some hot dogs and enjoyed playing in the sand for a few hours. It was a good family day and I had a good time getting out in the really fresh air and giving Kaia some time to run around and play with Daddy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gratitude Sunday: The Wilderness

I have had some unique experiences in the wilderness throughout my life. Some wildernesses are beautiful and full of contrast and color, while others are completely void of any form of eye candy. One thing is certain in all of my wilderness experiences; the wild is wildly powerful. I have had more insight, direction and inspiration in the most wild places I have ever been.

My trip back to Colorado has been one of the more powerful relationship building excursions with my dad and I have been physically challenged, emotionally charged and spiritually edified. I don't know any better environment than the mountains to do all of that, and I am truly grateful that I had the opportunity to venture down south and be changed forever. This country is definitely on my list of top ten places to be and I think I may have to put this excursion on a list of top adventures too.

I will include some excerpts from my pack journal, but I gotta let yall know that I kicked ass on the Hard Rock. It was awesome to get up there and feel so strong and healthy. The training was hard, the acclimatizing was fun and the race itself was empowering and motivational. I realize now that it was a once in a life time experience and I will probably never get the chance to do it again.

I met up with my dad at 4:45 am in Ouray and headed into the hills after only 2.5 hours of sleep. I was heartbroken to find that Dad was so sick. The demands of such a race are unreal and he had been physically pushing himself for about 23 hours straight. After reloading his supplies at the aid station, he violently threw up and away we went. It surprised me that he was still determined to finish, but his doubt was almost palatable. I guess that is what makes it an adventure.

We maintained our "finish pace" for about 4 miles and then things got bad. I cold feel myself pulling further and further ahead. I would slow down to a crawl as the terrain became steeper and knew that Dad was in trouble when he literally sat down on the side of the road and said "I CAN'T do this thing on e-caps and coke." It was one of the hardest things for me to see him so weak. He is super man! He isn't supposed to get tired or sick or hurt. To see him heaped up in a pile on the trail was tough and I didn't know how to encourage him. I knew that we had to make up time if we were going to make it and I knew I had the strength and determination to do it. I also knew that my dad’s determination could only go so far and then real energy was going to have to come from somewhere if he was going to make it.

He was finally able to keep a bit of food down, and he gutted though the next 5 miles with difficulty. At the top of the mountain pass, we were standing on a ledge little more than 5’x5’ with a steep drop off both sides. The view was incredible and I was more than elated to be at the top, but I knew that Dad wasn’t in any condition to stay there long. He was teetering on the hairy edge and wasn’t quite keeping his balance. We restocked our canteens and made a run for it into Silverton. That was the longest 5 miles of my life. After 11 miles of UP we were on a 5 mile stretch of down that covered approximately the same elevation drop as the 11 miles gained. It was very hard on the knees, hips and ankles to say the least.

The good news is that we made it and I was strong enough to average the finish pace. I can’t help but think that had Dad kept his cookies, we could have far exceeded it. I also can’t help but think that had Dad been at his best, he would have left me for the dogs. Long story made short: I met my goal, but learned that ultra marathons are NOT for me. After just 16.1 miles, I had had my share of abuse. The mountain hurt both of us. Unfortunately, I was not nearly as ambitious as dad and was happy to stop in Silverton. He went on for another 4 hours but was unable to keep the finish pace and returned to Silverton disqualifying himself from the race.

Later he confessed that this was his last ultra and that it was vanity that made him come back every year to abuse himself like that. He committed to taking better care of himself and choosing sports that were more positive and strengthening in his life. He has 3 finishes under his belt and still reserves bragging rights, but he is on to bigger and better things that are more fun. I only hope that he will invite me on some of these wild adventures too.

This wilderness adventure has taught me that my dad is still superman, but he is a smarter and more humble superman than I have ever known. The mountain beat him, but he was a composed and reasonable, traits that had eluded him when I was under his roof. I have seen a side of him that was real and new and confirmed my respect for him in a big way. But there is so much more to this wilderness trek that changed me forever.

Here are some journal excerpts and pix from the journey:

Day 1: High in the Sky and No Worries
This is our first camp site at Columbine Lake, elevation 12,400 feet and on the way here I realized that it has been 7 years since I last ventured into the San Juans. I feel like I'm visiting an old friend. Does she remember me? Will I be able to enjoy her company or will she push me harder than ever before? I'm as ready as I have ever been. I've charted my course, defineed my goals and trained and invested in the gear. I've done all that I can to make sure I am prepared for this reunion. The good news is that my physical prep is paying off and I don't even have the high altitude head ache that is so common in this territory. But there is still a part of me that wonders if I have prepared enough.

The focus of all my perparation has been physical and I totally neglected the spiritual and emotional preparation of such an experience. I have been spiritually blown away with the scope and vision of the universe and am even overwhelmed by the beauty and power of simple flowers doing their thing on the side of the trail. I have really been starving for this kind of experience and feel connected again. My relationship with deity definitely comes to life in the wild and I feel closest to perfection when I am only constrained by the most raw and simple laws of the universe. Here, I feel a sense of love and belonging, even when I am all alone.
I know there is magic in my outdoor adventures. I gain new perspective on challenges, open doors to new opportunities and refocus my energy on what matters most to me. My journey into the wild brings me deeper inside myself than I could ever go in the comfort of my man-made world.

Day 2: The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music
Somewhere above Columbine Lake we found this amazing ridge of wildflowers and spectacular scenery. I found myself spontaneousely smiling. What a funny thing to notice! It was something I was deprived of for some time now, and didn't entirely know when I lost it or even that I did until it came back. I remeber I used to smile all the time. I didn't have to look for things that were smile worthy. I used to get a kick out of just about everything and I know I was a LOT more positive, fun and charismatic.
Today, I am taking a stand against the bumbed out me, and I am going to get those personality traits back. I't going to take some effort and planning, but what a fun project! I'm fighting for my true self once and for all!
Some ideas about how to do this:
1. Take adventrues... lots and lots of em
2. Seek out and surround myself with others that have those same traits
3. Be consious of the little things
4. Appreciate everything

I think this has a lot to do with why I love the mountains. Every living thing is so strong and resiliant to the harsh enviornment, yet fulfills it's life purpose so beautifully and effortlessly. The amazing thing is that even if I weren't here to enjoy it, it would still be doing it's thing. Life out here isn't preoccupied with what comes next or whether or not it is making a big enough difference in the world. It is just being true to itself.

Day 3: Lost in the Mounains and Finding Treasures
We hiked into the mountains headed due north to a lake we've never seen. The route looked promising, but things always look better on paper. The trail was little more than a game trail that appeared and dissappeared as mysteriousely as the game itself. We finally stumbeled onto an old prospector path to nowhere and that is exactly where we ended up. After a few hours and hiking up to about 12,600 feet elevation, we finally looked aroudn and asked "Where the hell are we?"

We dragged out the map and decided we were in the wrong gulch, but were satisfied with our view and the soft patches of moss and high-mountain grasses. As we pitched our tent, a cyote passed by and a whistle pig started up conversation. Later we watched a family of deer traverse a mountain side I wouldn't venture to cross and we were serenaded by the sounds of the trilling rock birds.

It's funny how food always workd it's way into conversations when your selection is limited to what you carry in you pack, but I really liked the analogy that Dad brought up. He says that each of us have a set of passions that add kick ot our livess and the lives of others. At this point, I know lots of the ingredients in my sauce and am just tinkering with the measurements and instructions to perfect the recipe.

My Special Sauce:
Wilderness brand Adventure for a sweet and tangy base
Positive and Passionate brand energy for just a spicy kick
Loving brand Service to satisfy the soul
Relevant and Significant brand Knowledge for nutritional value

Looking over those ingredients now, I think I might be buffalo sauce!

Anyway, that buffalo wings sounded pretty good, and this was the closest we could get to chickens. Check out these little birds I found hanging out at about 13,000 feet in a tiny nest in the rocks. We were wandering around trying to find a different way back to the trailhead… that wasn’t really a trail head… and there it was, a tiny little nest with 2 baby birds and an egg. They were no bigger than the tip of my thumb and the nest itself was no bigger than a softball. Amazing little creatures in such a harsh environment. It would have been a tragedy to have not seen them and “CRUNCH!” after all their effort to simply survive. So many treasures in such surprising places!

Day6: Race Day Jitters

I was surprised at the energy in the room at the start of the race. There were so many people who have trained the whole year and were about to embark on an incredible feat of endurance and determination. What a neat group of people. So strange though. They all looked healthy, with a bit of wildness in their eyes. I don’t know if it was fear or crazy I saw, but lots of runners had it. The trouble is that I knew quite immediately that I was out of my league. I am healthy and strong… just with no desire to prove it like that. Good luck runners! Git r’ dun!

Day 7: The Big Climb
I couldn’t believe how steep it was and was sure glad that so many other runners had been through there kicking a staircase into the snow so that I could climb. I've decided that pictures can't ever do this justice.

Day 7: The Top of the World

So here we are on the top of the world. I think the elevation here is only 13, 100 or so, but the climb was incredible! The view was spectacular and it felt great to know that there was no more UP. Unfortunately, the down hurt me LOTS worse than the up. So much pounding, so much throbbing and baking in the sun took it’s toll on me and I was definitely done when we reached the Telluride aid station. Yae for us!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Still Here

I have spent the better part of this week in altitude training with an ultra-athlete and I am still here. It was a lot of fun to get into some crazy country and explore not only the great outdoors but a lot of my inner self. It has been great to bond with my dad in such a meaningful way and I will have novels to write when I get a few more minutes than what is allowed here in the lobby of the B&B here in Silverton, CO.

The race starts tomorow and I will be meeting up with my dad at 4am on Saturday to pace a 6500-foot elevation gain over a 16-mile leg starting at 7000 feet. It is an interesting thing to watch all the racers congregate in such a small little town. The energy is contageous and quite intoxicating and I almost have the race jitters as if I were actually a competitor.

Maybe some day I will compete on that level, but not any day soon. 100 miles in 48 hours over this rough country is really not my idea of a good time. I am more in the range of 8-10 miles per day and I stop to smell the flowers, observer butterflies and look for wildlife. If we cross someone on the trail, I stop and chat. This is definitely NOT the racer mentality.

I will write more later and post all the neat concepts, insight and experiences I have had out here in my favorite kind of wilderness later.

Friday, July 6, 2007

I'm Ascared, but Here I Go!

So this is it. The big adventure I have been training for is finally here, and I am no longer in "hard-core" training. I am allowing myself more carbohydrates to boost energy for the rigorous terrain and high-altitude living. The anticipation is just about too much for me... Either that, or I ate too much pasta at Olive Garden an my body is in shock.
I can't believe it is finally here. I wish I could say that I met all my goals, but what the hell. I can't win 'em all and I have ALWAYS had my head in the clouds when it comes to setting 'em in the first place. I guess it's better to shoot for the stars and hit the moon than never get off the ground. I am strong and happy and everything seems to be in working order. I have nothing to complain about, and I am not ashamed of what I have accomplished. I got the gear, I've trained hard and I am ready to tromp all over those mountains for the next 8 days. YAE for mountains! YAE for me!
I am really hoping it was enough, and that I am able to acclimatize well and quickly. Dad has been up at elevation for the last 7 days and should be pretty well ready for the big race. The next week with me should be a cake walk for him, but I have the distinct fear that it will hurt me a little bit. I have decided that fear is not a bad thing, so long as it adds to, not takes from the adventure.
John long, a famous climber, once stated "the caliber of the adventure is proportional to the level of doubt maintained." If I had nothing to doubt, no fear of possibly being a bit of a weenie, then it wouldn't be an adventure. Fear can be justified, and in the wilderness, it is ALWAYS better to be prepared for what might hurt you than to be lost out in the cold.
I have decided that it is far more important to understand my fear, than to overcome or suppress it. If I am not enough, the mountain will let me know, and it is an honest and worthy opponent. But oh the thrill of winning that battle and proving to myself that today, I am enough! Fear is nothing to be afraid of and I am woman enough to admit that I am a little scared. But I am scared in a motivated, excited sort of way and here I go. Wish me luck and pray that my dad is feeling good when I pick him up at mile 56.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Gratitude Sunday: Independence

Today I am catching up on my Gratitude Sunday entry and what better day to be grateful for my independence. I think of all the people who have made great sacrifices so that I can have the freedom to choose so many things. So many have done so much, even to the point of laying down their lives for my privilege to worship my God as I choose, define my values as I choose, chase the dreams that I choose and do so in the manner that is most fulfilling and happy for me.

Thanks to all the people who have fought to establish and defend that privilege throughout history. Thanks to all the people in the armed forces today who continue to defend those privileges and thanks to all the law enforcement and legal officials who uphold those privileges. Though the system is imperfect, it is the best we have and I am grateful for the independence and freedom it permits.

To be truly grateful for my independence, I must BE independent. I must take advantage of the opportunity to think for myself and define my true identity, my relationship with God and my real dreams. The freedom we celebrate on this 4th of July should be celebrated in everyday choices and I am going to be intentional about my freedom to choose what I really want. My life is an adventure and I am so grateful for the opportunity to make it my own and enjoy the beautiful country I live in.