Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Gifts

A few weeks ago I was ruminating about the upcoming end of the year. I thought about everything the last year has brought and wrought and taught. There have been a lot of gifts in this past year. Some have been given to me, some I've given to myself. All have been wonderful.

Although the first gift of the year started in 2012, it ended in 2013 - my climbing trip to Joshua Tree Nat'l Park in the desert of California.

Whoever said that California, or the desert, is always hot, has another thing coming. I froze on this trip. It was cold or chilly during the day, and downright freezing at night. I was even "lucky" enough to be in JTree when it snowed.

Still, it was a good trip, for the most part. One I'm glad I took for a few different reasons.
I got to climb in one of California's climbing meccas - and I'll probably never do that again.

I got to see close to a half-dozen national parks on that trip, each beautiful and unique.

I was able to get together with some girlfriends I hadn't seen in ages. We laughed and talked through dinner one evening, at one of my favorite restaurants.

And Kim Myles blessed me enough to - after viral and text messages back and forth for a few months - meet me for lunch. We still send the occasional hello to one another, and caught up by a "real live" phone a couple weeks ago. I have to say the biggest thing I've gotten out of knowing her is more confirmation to just be myself. She pulls no punches when talking about the "smoke and mirrors" that is television, and I love that she's not afraid to be so real about it.

This next give was made for me. I'm sure it was supposed to be for Christmas, but I didn't find it in Josiah's backpack until January. It reads, "If I were a gift I would be a kid for mi mom because i love hr!" I still have this hanging on my fridge because I love it so much.

This one, a gift to myself. I went and bought myself a house. I moved in in February. It took a long time to feel like home, but it certainly does now. I have had a good number of parties already, am enjoying making small renovations, and my favorite part of the house is my "sun deck" on the roof.

Watching my boys in school performances is certainly a gift.

I met a very diverse group of people in March. I barely knew one of the guys in this group, but was invited to go with everyone to Ouray to ice climb with them. It was a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to the one this year, even though I'll only be able to go for a day and a half this time.

I finally took my boys climbing, and they loved it.

My little guy turned eight. He is one of the biggest gifts I've ever been given. His personality is precocious, he can laugh at himself well (although he has a real issue when others do it), and he's fairly laid back. I really enjoy this little guy.

Also in March, a couple friends convinced me to try out Match.com. I'd just come out of a relationship that, while it wasn't serious, affected me way more than it should have. "Get your mind off it," they said. "Who knows, maybe you'll meet The One." "If nothing else, you'll get free dinners and some stories to tell." Well, there are really no stories. I was pretty selective, didn't go on a ton of dates, and only joined for three months. But at almost the very end of that time, this man caught my eye and came into my life. And we've been together ever since.

I gave myself a trip to Spain and Morocco this past summer. One of the best parts about it was that I decided, very last minute, to take Benjamin along. I loved introducing him to another part of the world, to travel, to different foods, and to two other continents. He was a great traveling companion, and I hadn't realized what a gift it would be to do that with him. It was also wonderful to spend time with my best friend from college and her family (who is also, distantly, my family). 

Another gift of travel, and the gift of family. Shortly after returning from Spain I took the boys to the family cabin in Minnesota. All my cousins were there, my aunt, my dad, my cousin's son, her god-daughter, and a few friends. Spain was wonderful, but nothing beats time at the cabin with these people. It's always the highlight of my year, and the 20-hour drive is so worth it.

The older one turned twelve. He is exactly like he's been since the day he was born. A talker, intelligent, self-motivated, and pretty no-nonsense.

Just a few days ago I made a purchase that will finally allow me to get home when there's snow on the hill (mountain?) to my house. I absolutely hate the idea of owing on something other than my house, but it was necessary. And the heated seats are a plus!

And then, to really make the year end right, I got to see this girl. My bff from high school who lives in Canada. But thank the good Lord her mom still lives only an hour and a half away, so she still has to come visit occasionally. Even better, this is the second time I've gotten to see her this year!

What I like most about looking back at 2013, and seeing all the awesomeness, is how it shows that life is an ebb and flow. I have settled into a new normal. I feel at peace with everything in my life, not just aspects of it. Although the first half of the year was pretty hard emotionally, the second half has been great. Maybe 2014 will be even better. Who knows, it certainly could be. And that's something to look forward to jumping into. Good thing, too, since it starts tomorrow!

Sunday, December 1, 2013


They had planned to spend the weekend away from it all. Hotel room booked, vehicle full of gas. They arrived as planned, after a slightly impromptu stop at the Sixteenth Street Mall in Denver. They almost passed it up, because she hates crowds, and Black Friday was sure to mete out the worst. But there were no crowds, only deals, and she took a couple stores up on them.

Then on up into the mountains. Grabbed a bottle (or two) of wine, and hit the hotel. She didn't mean to ruin the party, but she could NOT keep her eyes open. She crashed way too early, and slept for over 12 hours. But the next day, after they pulled themselves out of bed after a very-enjoyable sleeping-in fest, they ate a delicious breakfast, gambled a little, and enjoyed the pool and hot tub on the roof, thirty-four stories up.

But then it was cut short. Something came up and they had to return home. So the next day, though they'd planned not to return until much later, they partook in some of her favorite activities. Wrapped in blankets and flannel, hot mugs of coffee cupped in their hands, they chatted (and got caught up on some reality TV). They decorated the house for Christmas. They took a hike.

The plan was to climb a local mountain by way of a well-established trail. They caught the trail just up from her house and passed first through the neighborhood, then above the neighborhood. Then, when the trail forked, took the left one up what looked like might have been an old service road. It didn't lead them far, and didn't connect with the trail she was familiar with.

Let's turn around, she said.

Let's go up, he said.

He started to climb up the mountain, hanging onto tree branches and roots and the occasional sturdy rock. And though she called him crazy multiple times, she kept right on his heels. Occasionally it was treacherous, but more often that not it was just steep. The trees seemed to have let out tendrils of roots at every place they needed them. Sometimes she had to grab one and lean out, moving her hands along the root and her feet along the steep-graded ground, to move up. Sometimes she "threw herself up the hill" (as he said). Sometimes the loose gravel made her step-taking a little nerve-wracking. But mostly she was recreating moves she'd done a thousand times (granted, usually on solid rock, not a scree slope up a mountain) partaking in the partnership she loves - using nature itself to move along its swells and surges that happened eons ago when mountains went through their upheaval.

They passed a narrow gully at one point, and he pointed at it.
We can go back down that way, he said.
I don't think so, she responded.
Well, how else are we going to get down? he asked.
The trail, she responded.

They made it to the top. Panting, but energized. They'd just scrambled up the side of the mountain. And it was a lot of fun. Way more fun than the trail.

I'd do that again in a heartbeat, she said.

And not just because it was fun, but because the best part was that he'd initiated the ascent.