Birkebeiner or Bust

Birkebeiner photo credit to Joy Jurewicz

It was bust for me. Even though I had every intention of going—- since March 2018.

I asked Crystel right after the 2018 Birkie if she would like me to plan a Birkie outing for 2019.

I had a lodging reservation within days of her saying, “Yes.”

I did everything that one would do to accomplish their goal. I wrote it down. I emailed an invitation to a group of people and I set it in my mind that I would get out on the ski trails.

Birkie 2019 was going to happen for me.

Even so, today, I’m sitting on the couch in my living room while Crystel, Jody, and friends are at Birkie 2019. When it became obvious that I wasn’t going to go to the Birkie, even though I was the organizer, Jody stepped in and took the reins.

What happened?

It wasn’t the three lodging changes. My first reservation was canceled when the resort was sold, the second reservation when the owner decided to move back home. I reserved a third lodging option. After the sale didn’t go through on the first reservation, I reserved our original lodging. I remained steadfast throughout.

I must have appeared as if I was in the throes of a personality disorder as I continually updated our group on lodging changes.

On the bus to the start. Crystel and Allie

It wasn’t that I didn’t get out and ski. I skied two or three times. Enough to know that I could do the Prince Hakken 15K, the shortest race of the Birkebeiner.

No, it was something else entirely. Something I had to face. Because even though I did have meniscus surgery three weeks prior to Birkie 2019, I could have joined our group and been a spectator.

It was the fact that I knew that I would be miserable. I had to acknowledge it. All the facts pointed to it. I don’t like the cold.

I had a goal this year to be at every high school Nordic ski race. I was determined. I declared to Juan Jose’ and Crystel that in 2018-2019 I’d be at every meet. In their 2017-2018 season, I made it to half of a race. I say half, because I never showed up at the start line. Instead, I snuck on the course at Hyland Hills, by walking through dark woods in deep snow. I stood at the edge of the lighted ski path, yelling, “Go Crystel, go!” to anyone who looked remotely like her.  Later, I did learn that one of her friends heard me. It could have been her that I thought was Crystel. Skiers are bundled from their neck up, hiding themselves from the frigid air. With uniforms that hug their slight bodies, they all look alike. I hadn’t been to enough races to know Crystel’s nuances.

Athletes

I knew Juan’s. He dislikes the cold as much as I do. And, he’s on the team. If a race was optional, which this one was, he usually chose not to participate. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he must. Heck, I couldn’t get out to even one race in 2017-2018. This season I didn’t go to any.

Jody told me not to discourage the kids. I didn’t, I insisted. I just looked at her skeptically each time she headed out to a meet. “Why do you do it?” I asked her. “Why?”

She said it’s fun and that she likes the community.

Jody and Nicole

I scanned the crowd at the Nordic ski award banquet this year. Yes, the people seemed nice and the end of season slide show didn’t make me cold in the heated auditorium where we sat listening to the accolades.

There wasn’t a bad parent award. Thought I might get that one if there was.

Maybe I will get out next year to a Nordic ski race.

But, let’s face it, probably not.

 

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I travel to experience difference.

Montana

I travel to experience difference.

I want my heart to pound with exhilaration. To swell and beat against my body. I want to instinctively hold my breath. I want to feel fear.

On the Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana, I held my breath and pushed off the 6,817 ft. summit. My skis foreign under me. It had been years since I had downhill skied. I worked to tilt my skis onto their edge, providing the resistance I needed to slow down. Juan Jose’ and Crystel’s ski lessons from when they were four rose in my memory, “Pizza, Mama. Pizza.” I pizzaed and french fried down the mountain.

My first step off the summit, had the same feeling as jumping off a cliff the height of a 3-story house into Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

Ultra Extreme zip- lining, flying over and through the jungle of Guatemala, jumping out of a plane in Wisconsin, and bungee jumping off the historic suspension bridge in New Zealand, where bungee jumping began are not things I need to do again. Nor is parasailing.

Never say never. I can imagine the kids wanting me to join them and there I’ll go again.

I travel to experience awe. Awe-inspiring landscape, whether it be in Montana, Guatemala, or the ocean is a feeling I want to hold onto forever. I want to breathe in what I’m seeing so deeply that I never lose my sense of wonder. I experience a connection with something greater.

Destin

Hiking along ancient paths in Sedona, the Upper Mayan Trail in Guatemala, and the Badlands provides a profound sense of being with the ancients whether it is the Yavapai of Sedona, the Kachekel Mayans of Guatemala, or the paleo-Indians of the Badlands. I can envision the singular, winding, upwards path of those who came before us, shouldering their belongings, carrying their infants, moving towards shelter.

When I travel, I often learn something new about myself or come to a deeper understanding.

It was in Destin, Florida strolling towards sunrise on the fine soft white sand, that it came to me: I feel most alive walking into the wind. That I create the world I live in. That right now, this moment, came to be because of all the choices that I have made before.

Jody, Cozumel

Family travel, sharing adventures, having others hold their breath in awe and fear are joys. The best thing Jody and I can give our children is the world in their palm and a passion for new experiences. Then, they too, can cultivate new and lasting relationships with the world and those around them.

We are planning a family trip to Japan in 2020. Crystel is organizing our travel plans. She is teaching herself Japanese. Juan Jose’ will also be traveling to Germany with his German class.

Travel is fulfilling. Rejuvenating. A time to take stock. Stretch boundaries. And, if you plan it right, to hold your breath.

I Stepped Out Of The Car …

Juan Jose and Crystel – summit Whitefish, Mountain.

I stepped out of the car. My legs crumpled under me. A stark reminder that I needed to make a date to have both of my knees replaced.

Gingerly, I straightened. Re-balanced. Even so, I walked lopsided towards the gas station. I took short little steps uncertain in my movements. With each footstep forward, I adjusted my back, testing my knees to hold me. To onlookers, it may have appeared that I had one leg shorter than another or hip problems. A little old lady shuffling into the station, focusing

Jody

on each step to avoid slipping on the icy asphalt.

In the car, I didn’t feel pain. Juan Jose’ had been driving the first leg of our journey to Whitefish, Montana. Sitting in the front passenger seat, I was able to maneuver my legs, stretch, elevate my knees, and shuffle my butt around. The suddenness of being unable to move or walk properly after resting in the car 2 ½ hours was frightening.

I hadn’t realized how unstable my knees were. I was well-accustomed to my knees burning and throbbing, having learned to lessen the pain with ice, ibuprofen, and exercise. Being crippled after sitting in a car was an eye-opener.

Dogsledding

I had planned our Whitefish, Montana trip to celebrate my 60th birthday. I wanted to introduce Juan Jose’ and Crystel to mountain downhill skiing, snowmobiling, dogsledding and cross-country skiing in Glacier National Park. Bucket list items.

In the previous few months, there were several occasions that Jody asked me if I wanted to alter my plans. Perhaps, be less adventurous, more knee friendly, more old-ladyish (though she didn’t put it that way).

I had planned this trip for well over a year. Reservations were made. Friends would be joining us. Knee replacement and sedentary activities would have to wait.

snowmobiling to the top of the mountain

The most difficult part of our trip would prove to be getting out of the car after a long car ride.

It wasn’t downhill skiing 6817ft from the summit at Whitefish, Mountain or being a passenger on Crystel’s snowmobile as she drove to the top of the mountain or journeying with Jody by dog sled.

I was comfortable in the car, but when I stood to take those first few steps I was crippled.

I’ll be seeing the doctor tomorrow to set a date for my double knee replacement.

Only thing is, I am registered to ski 15k on the Birkie trail February 22, 2019 and I have a trip to Florida planned the first week in April. I plan to paddle board, be a passenger on Juan Jose’s jet ski and walk on the beach.

I’ll pen the knee replacement surgery in my calendar. Stop adding adventures. Promise.

 

Spending Time with Teens

Juan and Crystel

Juan and Crystel

I’ll tell you right up front that this is a feel-good blog about teens. Stop reading right now if you think that all teens are sneaky, up to no good, and downright horrible. That’s not been my experience.

A teenager dog-sat and house-sat for us this past President’s weekend. The same teen we handed our house keys over to last year when we left for a ten day stay in Guatemala. It was the summer before his senior year in high school. We came home to a note on the counter and the house as clean as we left it. Our dogs were walked and run. Our cats fed.

Jody and I spent President’s weekend with 4 teens. We promised our daughter a cross country skiing weekend for her birthday. Juan, Crystel and two of her friends came. I thought this might be a long weekend, one that you just try to get through. It was a long weekend and I genuinely enjoyed being with them. Lights were out at 11 pm and the teens were up at 8 am to start the day. Of course, we used some of the same techniques that Jody and I used when Juan and Crystel were little. Such as, “We’ll see you at breakfast.” Knowing that if the teens wanted to eat, that we would see them at breakfast and that if they didn’t want to eat we wouldn’t. Juan missed one morning.

Photo taken by Jody

photo by Jody

The skiing conditions in Tofte, MN were satisfactory. As soon as the teens had their skis on they disappeared so quickly that I wasn’t sure which direction they went. Jody and I didn’t meet up with them until we had finished skiing several hours later.

We spent a lot of time in the car. A trip on Saturday and Sunday to Tofte to ski. An extended trip to Grand Marais. A stop at Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls. Being trapped in the car with teens could have been a nightmare but wasn’t. We took turns sitting in the cramped third seat of the van. Crystel and I had a competition to see who could have a straw stuck to their lip longest. I lost. I pretended that I was at the movies with her and tried sneaking my arm around her shoulders, to no avail. When Juan wasn’t sleeping he was beating me at electronic pool.

The most memorable and fun time with the teens was at restaurants. The rule at the table was no phones.

photo taken by Crystel

photo by Crystel

There was no bickering. No poking fun at each other. Which isn’t really ever fun if you think about it. There were times I laughed until my stomach hurt.

Of course, it wasn’t all rosy. It wouldn’t be real, then. After Juan mentioned for the third time that he wanted to go home, I told him that he needed to stop. That I had heard him but that we weren’t going home until Monday. He slept a lot. The same thing I did as a teen.

The following week was a middle school dance. Neither, Juan and Crystel wanted to go. Instead, they asked to have friends over. Jody and I would be working the dance as Police Reserve Officers while they would be at home. At one point when Juan, Crystel, and their five friends were gathered together, I said that if any of them smoked marijuana they were not to do it in or outside of our house. They all looked at me like I had lost my mind.

photo by Crystel

photo by Crystel

They were gathered in the front yard when Jody and I got into our car to leave. We were in our police uniforms and would be going right to the middle school. One of them asked me why I had said that. I looked at the seven of them and told them that I was fourteen once. Juan mentioned my book, House of Fire. He knew why I knew.

I pointed two fingers at my eyes and then I waved it in a circle at all of them.

“I’m watching you,” I said. “I’m watching all of you.”

Jody and I then left to watch someone else’s kids at the middle school dance.

It occurred to me as we drove away that I was making good at my spoken and unspoken promise to my children – That growing up, they would have a different life than mine. Both of them are 14. Their life is so very very different. I’m proud of that.