Paddling

A Moment of Gratitude…

Everyone embraces this time of year differently. Some by leaping full-force into it– “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” style, and others by emphatically NOT embracing it at all. And a whole bunch of in-between. Those who know me, would accuse me of being the former–like Clark Griswald or Buddy the Elf. I greet the season with enthusiasm which is odd because I’m not religious, nor do I like shopping and definitely not into consumerism. There are strong origins in my love for the season however, and I’ll unapologetically continue to listen to my holiday music, drink from Santa mugs and wear my Rudolph-adorned jammies. It is a joyful time for me.

Some of my earliest memories are of the holidays. For one, I’m Czech and was raised with many of the Czech traditions, including the celebration of St Nicklaus Day, in addition to Christmas. This was when Santa arrived on the eve of December 6th. We’d hang our long ski socks, put out cookies, and carrots for the reindeer (unless we were in Washington at my aunt’s in which case we’d put out beer and pretzels because “Santa gets tired of milk and cookies”). Then shezam!…just like that, we’d have stockings filled with candy including fudge (a personal favorite). We’d also receive coal which indicated we’d been “naughty” to which my sister and I would feel horrible and I’d even try to figure out exactly which outbursts resulted in this gentle reprimand.

Christmas was weeks later, which in kid-world was an eternity. This time was spent celebrating the season–baking cookies and candies, visiting family, and going to holiday events. It was like an extended “Sunday” which for some, was meant as a day of rest, but was instead spent in fun festivities bonding with family. I think a lot of this is due to the fact that my mom’s side of the family were all musicians/entertainers, therefore, singing, dancing, and imbibing in general, was a “thing” and Christmas was the Grande Finale!! Especially my Aunt Rosemary who was a real-life “Auntie Mame” for those old enough to understand that reference. When I think of Christmas I think of my relatives, of singing at nursing homes, of charity, and hours upon hours of “woman talk” with aunts, grandma, mom and sis while cooking and baking. It was happiness…togetherness.

Now, much has changed in my life. Probably the most impactful is the passing of most of my family since I’m the second-to-the-youngest of a large one. I might not be able to be with them now, but the memories are very vivid and I carry these memories with me every time I look at a Christmas tree or hear a particular song. I am grateful for that, and for now having “chosen family” to share new experiences with. However you spend December, I wish you a fabulous month and if the holidays aren’t your thing, change the channel on your radio (or subscription service)…don’t worry, it’ll all be over Jan 1 for another year.

Uncategorized

The Thing Is, I Try and I Learn

This was what I said to my boyfriend after he commented on the utter mess I was –covered in soot and smoke. Typically, we have unspoken roles during our morning routine. For example, I always get out of bed first and drink warm water (an “Eastern” practice that’s supposed to be great for digestive health) and bring him a cup in bed. I make the coffee and do my email correspondence. He will, at some point, venture out into the kitchen and start a fire in the wood stove–bottom line, he’s very good at it and there’s always a roaring fire within minutes. So yesterday when it was pretty chilly, I decided I was going to take matters into my own hands.

Let’s be clear, I’m not a great fire-maker. Sure, as a kid I joined the Brownies, Blue Birds and eventually graduated to the Girl Scouts. I can’t speak for all charters, but we spent most of our time doing arts and crafts, and selling a fair amount of cookies or whatever the current pyramid scheme was at that time, to fundraise for “said” group. While I don’t spend a whole lot of time crafting these days, give me a hot glue gun, some glitter and a Bedazzler, and I’m your girl, to add sparkle to any accoutrement!! I digress… The point is, what I’ve learned about starting fires and “survival” in the outdoors has mostly been picked up from now, years of river trips. I don’t get “grossed out” by groovers…we all poop…and dirt is Mama Earth as far as I’m concerned. I’m fine with river showers (aka skinny dipping in butt-ass cold water). In fact, I actually love it.

Was my comfort in the outdoors always the case? Nope. If you’ve followed this blog from day one, you know that I was raised by two parents who’d moved out to Oregon from inner city Chicago. They both loved the outdoors but hadn’t truly spent any time in wilderness. With that said, I learned how to manage my shit–literally and figuratively, along the way. My “education” really began with an ex-boyfriend who got me into camping. Not RV camping. Not cabins (although we stayed in those too). Not Glamping but…well, ok, CAR camping. In the sense that, save three or four experiences of hiking miles in, we had the ability to bring our gear in a car.

Later, I learned the art of multi-day river trips which, if you’ve rafted is really just glorified car camping. I’m not exaggerating AT ALL when I say we brought an entire large-sized Bills Bag for our pillows alone, when we paddled the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Because why not? You’ve got this huge tub, for lack of a better word, that thrives on (some) weight. I’ve compared our raft, in some cases, to the last scene of the Grinch, when he’s got all the gifts and right before his heart grows three times bigger! Again, I digress…

My point is this: none of this stuff is actually rocket science. It’s a matter of having experiences, observing, asking questions and DOING. Repetition helps. I’m not talking about mountaineering, or self-supported whitewater paddling or climbing etc. There definitely IS a learning curve with these sports, that takes skill and dedication. I’m talking about learning how to “leave no trace”, “know before you go” and, well building a frickin’ fire! These are all good skills to learn and know.

For the record, this morning I tried again (and miserably failed) to start the fire which was frustrating, because after a lot of time and determination I got a great fire going the day before. Sam asked “do you want me to show you how?” to which I answered YES!! And now, I think tomorrow is going to go a lot better.

Thanks for listening…see ya out there on the frisky ripples!

Paddling · Self-Actualization · Wellness

Change of Season

Around Oregon, the shift from summer this year, was almost immediate–like a flick of the switch, with basically no fall, straight into winter. The sunny days in a tank top, pulling weeds and raking leaves at the homestead went quickly into Willamette Valley weather…rain and wind. Let’s be clear…I’m not complaining (Yet. I am not a fan of WV winters of endless rain). Right now, however, with a fire crackling making it toasty warm, having just finished a lunch of hot soup, I feel so cozy there should be a Hallmark Movie logo stamped on my…mmmmm…forehead. Bring on the rain!

Am I going to spend every day lounging around the house? Naaah. That’s not my style. I’ve been known to run wearing ski goggles and full rain gear when we’re getting torrential downpour, on iced-over, heavily tracked, uneven snow pack. Not badass, just motivated...and maybe a little crazy. Sitting still for too long is not my strong suit.

This year has been a metaphorical “change of seasons” for me too. Pre-Covid, I’d typically be traveling somewhere for several weeks in the fall, enjoying a break after a busy summer– going paddling, biking, hiking, whether in Bend or on the road. Later, after the holidays I’d head somewhere south where it’s warmer, either leading a retreat or having fun for myself (“research” for the next potential location!). However, as I evolve my living and working situations, I’ve found a lot of pleasure in flexing my “domestic muscles” and expanding my little wellness-facilitating biz. Seems the perfect time to do it eh? Because everywhere I look it appears people are shaking things up in their lives. The pandemic had some horrible consequences for many. It dislodged the status quo for people with all kinds of outcomes. Break-ups, pregnancies, people leaving long-time jobs, starting different careers, or taking a new outlook on their health. Whatever the case, it’s definitely a time of transitions.

Change is really hard for many… I’d say most even. What seems to hold true from my point of view, is that you are in control of the change if you are proactive in it. When change “happens” to you, it’s quite the opposite. Like rapids on a river, if you are faster than the current, you are in control of your craft, but if the current is faster than you, it’s in control. One significant example is the aging population. Some choose to take control of their health and living situation, maximizing the chances of enjoying a relatively active and independent lifestyle. It can involve some tough decisions and/or discipline, but with a “can do” mindset, the outcome is seemingly positive. Others fight (or ignore) the realities of aging, and it doesn’t always go well, for themselves or their loved ones. I’ve worked with seniors over half my life and witnessed friends and family-members’ various approaches to this inevitable part of life. I can only hope I am reasonable in my decision-making when it comes time, but I have some great role models to learn from!!

My sister’s “Outlaws”…a term we lovingly say based on her 20-year relationship, have been incredibly logical about their golden years. The plan had been set, down payment made, and finally executed to move into an amazing retirement village several months ago. They researched and compared many options, and the community they ultimately chose is RAD! From libraries to craft centers, incredible restaurants and overall approach, this retirement village is very forward-thinking. I believe their motto is something like “let us help you take care of yourself”. I prescribe to that concept.

Another example…and I know he will read this…is a gentleman I’ve been fitness coaching for about 10 months and paddleboard-instructing for years. He is regimented about his personal wellness (exercise, diet and health care). Like many aging bodies, he’s had knee surgery and has hip issues. Won’t we all? Best to mitigate some of the pain and inevitable decline we’ll each experience, yes? I give him props for being so determined. One might even say tenacious, and I say, “Way to go”!

This all gives me food for thought. How can I set myself up for personal success and fulfilment over time? I can’t give you my full answer today, but what I can say is that I’m going to stay active, do those things that feed my soul and make course-corrections as necessary. Thanks for listening…hope to see you out there on the frisky ripples…of life.

Paddling

It Ain’t All About Paddling…

If you’ve been following along, I’ve made some changes this winter in an attempt to figure out the “next step” or at least tweak my lifestyle and professional goals. Honestly, course-correcting is something I’ve done throughout my life, however post-crises, and as we adjust from Covid, it seems more poignant. Currently, I’ve moved up to Oregon City where I live on a bustling compound sitting on a little over four acres. The people living here, and those coming and going, are great and it’s a fun energy much different than living alone in my little studio (alone minus one very spoiled rescue cat).

Besides ramping up my wellness coaching and personal instruction business, I’ve really carved out time and attention to my own self-development, learning or revisiting hobbies/activities. Hey, I love paddling. It’s been a big part of my life for many years now, and that will continue to be a big focus. With that said, I’ve missed my “more artistic self” which had been largely expressed through music and dance from the time I was a kid. Therefore, I’ve given myself the permission and space to DO music and dance again.

Around two months ago I made a promise to myself, to play guitar every single day….which I have stuck with! Even if just one song, I play something. I am building calluses and finger strength, and exercising my vocal chords (’cause I sing along with myself). I don’t claim to be great but it’s in my blood. I grew up surrounded by music as my mom’s family were all musicians. Full-blooded Czechs, my grandfather played the concertina– at clubs in Chicago and all our family gatherings (my sis and I loyally dancing around him). My aunt played in a ladies trio in Chicago–vocals and upright bass. RAD! Sidenote, is there anything as cool as the upright bass?! I’d say “no”. My mom played in three bands–two concert bands and a swing band, vocals and saxophone. I remember from a wee-child the crew practicing at our house into the late-night, back in the day when smoking in your home was the norm and a high-ball was in every musicians’ hands at every break.

I’m not quitting my day job, striking out to be a rock-star, but recently I’ve found myself among some high-quality musicians. Coincidentally, my boyfriend has been reconnecting with his musical roots and subsequently brought several awesome musicians to the homestead in the last few weeks. What started out as a quiet, catch-up dinner with an old friend of mine became a party of musicians complete with a bonfire in back–lots of songs, lots of fun and lots of laughter. A few nights later we had an intimate dinner with one of those musicians–his record just went Gold. Note, I am not a “solo” guitarist…I can lay down a basic chord progression and let someone else run with the lead, but somehow he got me to solo (albeit a very uncreative melody). Luckily his talent as a singer carried the song! A longtime friend shared that if you can’t come up with a good melody you just “start saying words”. This, by the way, led to some great entertainment. The music quality wasn’t for shit, but it sure was funny!!

My key takeaway here is that you don’t have to be an exceptional musician to have a lot of fun making music and it’s SO worth the try if that’s your “jam”…pun intended. Metaphorically “frisky ripples” transcends beyond rapids. It’s great to enjoy artistic creation at whatever level works for you. Get out there, give ‘er a go. It’s the spice of life, and maybe I’ll see ya at a show sometime…

Paddling

North Santiam~A Love Story

The North Santiam River was basically in my “backyard” growing up and while my family drove by it countless times on the way to Bend, I never knew it until 6 years ago. This post is a love story–love for a man, a sport and a cheeseburger.

Last weekend I paddled a now very familiar stretch of river, from Mill City to Mehama on the North Santiam. It was running at higher flows and greatly re-energized my appreciation of this particular stretch, that had become a little “sleepy” for me as I’ve improved my paddling skills. It wasn’t always that way. About 6 1/2 years ago I met a friend of (many) mutual friends who owned a shop along this river, to paddle something a little more challenging than what I’d done around central Oregon. Sam had previously instructed my ACA certification course and I reached out to him for beta on the NS because I knew I’d be traveling to Salem from Bend often (for family reasons) and wanted to make the most of it. He gave me insight, and offered to paddle with me. We began at Mehama bridge and paddled to a private take-out he had permission to use. We took our time, first getting ready to paddle, chatting and generally getting to know each other as we’d talked very little during his class. The chit chat continued as we paddled downriver and by the takeout I knew this guy was special. Within the week he visited Bend and invited me to the Ben Harper concert which sealed the deal. Ok, it continued the process, as our “courtship” was slow but exciting. In many ways it reminded me of a teen love–that which you experience when you’re 14 years old and haven’t been jaded by the ups and downs of adult relationships. I remember talking, and talking, and talking about everything from family to past relationships to local political rhetoric. And yeah, there was some romance too…

Our relationship evolved on the river. Because Sam has an outfitter/instructional business at the premiere location of the NS, and had a house (his mom’s, who lived on the east coast) midway down the upper stretch, we paddled multiple days a week. I would follow his lines and occasionally he’d give me instruction but mostly I was learning by watching and doing. I’d jump on trips or we’d paddle from the house to his shop, or in rare occasions paddle top to bottom for fun alone. I fell in love with him, and whitewater paddleboarding, congruently. To me, they’re synonymous and there’s no place I’d rather be than paddling a fun stretch of rapids with Sam.

Especially during the first two years, I have such happy memories of SUP’ing, getting changed into dry clothes and heading up to “Papa Al’s” where we’d ravage cheeseburgers and share fries, tots and/or onion rings. For those of you who know Mill City there are VERY few places to eat. I used to muse about my friends who would get dressed up for “date night”. Mmmmm, yeah. My dates consisted of board shorts, tank top and helmet hair. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Life happens though. The years that followed had challenges with both our fathers ill, and eventually passing away, within 4 months of each other. My mom, also ailing, needed a ton of support. And, the horrible tragedy of the Labor Day fires which burned Sam’s mom’s house where we spent most of our time together, plus his three rentals in the town of Gates, and ravaged the communities of Mill City, Gates and beyond. Houses, forests, businesses–it was mind-blowing and overwhelming.

During the weeks that followed the fire, the town rallied trying to support the locals who were displaced. It was amazing to see the love of fellow humans…people coming forward to help strangers who had no home to go. Food was essentially unavailable in the immediate area. Kevin, the owner of Papa Al’s who had served us burgers for years, set up a pop-up tent and grilled food all day long, for free, to anyone who needed it. We were recipients of that generous food one night for dinner, as Sam had been working all day on the now-burned lot. It was with great appreciation to Kevin and his staff who donated their time and resources, that we ate our burgers and chips, trying to wrap our heads around the devastation that had occurred in this community.

The beauty of life is that it’s forever moving forward and changing. Today, the Santiam Canyon has green understory and the river flows without log-jams. Rebuilding is seen everywhere and upgrades are happening to infrastructure. Newcomers to the area are making positive change–people who are youthful, inspired, and have great vision for what can happen in this little community. I take a lot of comfort in this. Paddling here I feel hope that all isn’t lost.

With that being said, there is a loss I recently learned of, that saddens me. Papa Al’s has finally closed its doors, unable to make a go of it since the fires. All the upgrades, all the various young workers Kevin employed, all the many cheeseburgers we ate….no longer. I want to give a big shout-out and thanks to Kevin and what he did for the community for many years. I wish him the very best in his future endeavors. Almost without question a new burger joint will eventually arrive in Mill City. I’m sure it will be great, but it won’t rival, to me, the cheeseburger that was Papa Al’s. I imagine I am not alone in this sentiment.

Mehama to Taloali….a scenic stretch
Paddling

Go Gettum Ladies!

It’s Autumn!! And just as the leaves change color, life is always evolving and I had the opportunity to really settle into my scene here in Central Oregon last month. Through both work and personal time, I connected (or re-connected) with some truly exceptional women. Much of that time was spent on the water which I repeatedly find to be where people are most themselves–open and authentic. Side note, guys in my world are doing awesome things too and I’m all about the appreciation of all humans, but the perspective and learning I’m writing about here, is from the ladies.

I taught a private whitewater SUP clinic in August with two women I’d worked with before, but knew personally, very little. With them, I was pleased to skip right past the usual small-talk bullshit and “dive right into it”. Throughout the day, we each shared real emotions–both joyful and not-so-awesome, divulging past interpersonal challenges and current issues… work, the economy, relationships. All was fair game, listened to with genuine interest. I like to keep on top of time-management but this clinic was blown out of the water (pun intended, ha!) because a quick eddy-out would turn into 20 minutes of meaningful conversation. Yes please!

Early September I had the great pleasure of heading out to the McKenzie with a woman I’ve admired for years. She’s soft spoken and kind–and a better boater than she’d ever give herself credit for. She’s a “retired” acupuncturist, having gone back to school to earn a degree involving work with sustainable housing regulations, and creating greener living space. PS, if that was vague and you’re unclear, so am I to an extent. What I do know, is that we had fascinating conversation throughout the day, and after, I felt extremely uplifted and clear of mind. Hiking at the pass before dropping into my current favorite run on the river (Paradies to Bruckhart’s)… just wow… what a way to spend a day! No massage, acupuncture, drug or alcohol could bring me the bliss I felt that afternoon. Even now I imagine the way the sun, that time of day, makes the rapids sparkle…not the easiest to paddle because it’s harder to see rocks, but beautiful and cathartic!!

The following week I ran the same section of river but with a new friend…new to Bend and fairly new to my acquaintance. She’s an east-coaster in the best way…a go-getter and full of sass. We hiked up at the pass before paddling again, because I’d had such a good experience the previous week. Our conversation made way for more immediate topics like what the hell I’m doing with my life and what cool projects I might explore moving forward. To me, when life is really good it’s important to do a reality check on how long you’ve been in that comfortable space, because comfortable can become stagnant. That’s not to say longevity and loyalty aren’t important to me…they are…but life can get awfully mundane if we quit learning and doing new things.

In fact, the topic of continued learning and change was the one consistent theme with all the women I hung out with in the last month. Was it the pandemic or maybe just my/their age that we’re all experiencing similar “feels”? Seems to me that a lot of women I know are either making a conscious effort to shake things up, or are expressing the desire. My last post I communicated that I was feeling the need to challenge myself and make changes. Since that post, I’ve taken a two-ish month leave from work and relocated to the Willamette Valley where I’ve made space to figure this out. So far it’s felt really good to dust off the routine and try new (or really old, forgotten) activities. I imagine I’ll take on several new projects in my near future, but some of the one-offs I’m cooking up will be fun and might include rallying some excursions and retreats. Hit me up if you’re interested to hear more!!

Finally, I’ll leave YOU with a challenge. Whether you’re struggling to figure your shit out or blissfully happy living your “perfect” life, just do a self-check. Is there something that might need tweaking? Maybe the biggest of life-shifts or the smallest…like say, switching to organic milk instead of regular. It’s always good to check in with yourself. Have fun with it, and thanks for listening. Hope to see you out there on the frisky ripples!

Paddling

Who Moved My Cheese…

Does anyone remember this popular business/personal development book that became a big deal for a brief time in, Mmmmmmm, maybe the 90’s? I found it solid information, yet pretty obvious. Life is full of ebbs & flows, detours and “up-ends” that unexpectedly change our course. It’s how we deal with those changes that makes the difference. I’d always found myself pretty flexible and resilient to these events in the past, but maybe with age and/or a “complex” schedule, the flexibility has waned. That’s something I’m actively looking at improving again. In fact, shaking things up in general seems to be catching my attention.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Don’t know the exact date but I sat on my SUP board facing the west Maui mountains. I’d just had a fun surf session and the weather was between 84-86 degrees, beautiful! And I was bored. Not bored with that session, rather bored (or unchallenged) by the daily routine that had become very predictable. It was in that moment that I decided to move off island. Three months later that feat was accomplished leaving a cushy job and lifestyle, with two rescue cats and a “chaperone” who I paid to fly with one while I held the other, on the plane. (Not an easy logistic to figure out with the airlines and their extensive rules flying with cats). I loved my time on Maui but never regretted the move away.

This is how I’ve been feeling now. I have a great life– I do so many fun things and I love my job. I could, theoretically do this forever. I’ve begun exploring new hobbies… or long abandoned ones which I enjoyed but chose other activities with my limited time. I don’t think taking up guitar again, or diving into ceramics is the full answer though. Fun? Yes. And I’ll do these hobbies and many more. I think there’s more–I’m seeking the kind of change that comes with a little bit of discomfort. A little fear. Maybe a whole lot of work. Maybe not “instead of” but “in addition to” kind of change? I want to pursue something that feeds my soul and makes a difference. It doesn’t have to destroy my current lifestyle…maybe augment what I’m currently into.

This post is a call out. I don’t have the answers. I’m looking for ideas. So, if you have any thoughts, give me a shout. In the meantime, I AM paddling as much as I can and had a fabulous time on the McKenzie this last week. See you out there on the frisky ripples…

Paddling

Weird…

I hear that a lot these days from people I talk with…that life just feels “weird”. We’re living in a time “post” pandemic (it’s not like COVID has disappeared). We’ve experienced a political polarization unlike any I’ve seen in my lifetime and inflation is severe–to the point of “hugely unsettling” because for those of us who don’t live in the upper middle class, our lifestyle is beginning to be (or has drastically been) impacted. Seems like everyone is experiencing personal crises. Whew! Ok, I promise this isn’t going to be a Debbie Downer post.

I will admit it hasn’t been easy for me either. While I’ve tried to stay positive, I’ve also dealt with stress, feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed, to the point of sleeplessness. NO FUN! I do my yoga and stretching. Massage? Yep. Acupuncture. Mmmhmmm. This stuff has helped me to a degree and I believe in “alternative” approaches to wellness. But nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to how I feel when I get on my board, on the rapids. It’s truly quite magical and lyrics of Jimmy Buffett’s song “One Particular Harbor” resonate in my mind. If I could only get a doctor to write me a prescription to get on the water a minimum of once a week I’d be set.

Two weeks ago I paddled the North Santiam. It was the milder stretch but maaaaan it felt good. Then last week Sam and I were able to sneak away to Oakridge where we had three lovely days of paddling, biking and relaxing. And there were more than one chilly neked swims. But looking back it was almost laughable how predictable our behavior was. We met there, both coming off of long hours from our intense work-week. We brought that stress with us initially. However, that first afternoon we ran the Middle Fork of the Willamette below Hill Creek Dam. It’s a really fun SUP stretch, which neither of us had ever paddled. SO good. By the time we got done I was 10 degrees calmer (degrees of what, I have no idea but let’s just roll with it). The next day was a whole new world and after an awesome bike ride, complete with a mid-ride swim/slide in a creek, we were giggling like kids. Food tasted better and coffee more amazing from a camp spot opposite Salmon Creek Falls. The final paddle was the lower section of the river that we’d skipped the first day, and the perfect way to end our short excursion to Oakridge/Westfir. Caravaning back to Bend we stopped a few times, to “smell the roses” or in this case the incredible blooming rhododendrons littered all over the pass. A final stop at the Veggie Man in La Pine where we, combined, dropped about $200 on produce (to which Sam gave a bunch away because that’s the kind of guy he is). Let me just say, I’m a whole new woman post-vacation than I was the entire month before I left.

Ending my work week this week was a different dynamic altogether. I felt good. Tired, but good. There’d been “curveballs” all week, as there are when you’re dealing with the public in the hospitality industry. But I felt fine. Grateful for my dinner and the rest of the evening…albeit short because I go to sleep ungodley early. Having given myself the time to do what I’m passionate about is the crucial point here. It’s a necessary reset and I’m guessing I’m not alone in this need.

PS I kept the ball rolling by sessioning with my girl Kelli this morning on the lower stretch of Big Eddy. It’s short, and the walks back upstream changes the flow (pun intended!). But we both agree it’s fun to “work” for it sometimes. All I know is that it’s important I “take my medicine” as I’m hereby self-prescribing. Ha! So, if you want to come play on the frisky ripples please reach out. It will typically take a fairly long drive out-and-back to get to what’s good, but I’m game. Or, if rapids aren’t your jam, find what is but maybe if everybody finds that secret medicine we’d all just quit being so weird.

Paddling

Happy Birthday Mom…

My mom is one of the quirkiest people I know. I can share this here, because I tell her the same thing frequently and we have a good “skit” going, where she asks “how?” and then I list by bullet point, some examples which we both laugh heartily about. I can also admit that as I age, I see myself understanding some of her actions. When I was a kid and she’d be out in the garden in her PJ’s, I would shake my head and wonder why she didn’t care how she dressed. Now, on mornings off, as I wear my ratty robe and slippers, coffee in hand randomly picking weeds out of the raised-beds in my yard…which sits on the street…I get it. But I digress…

The thing is, my mom truly is one of the best people I know. Definitely the kindest and most honest. Her intentions are always good. While she has suffered a decade of absolute shit-burgers of circumstances, she keeps putting one foot in front of the other. Her strength sometimes surprises me.

As a younger mom she had left her job as a school teacher to raise my sister and I. We went to a small, rural school outside of Salem where funding was low and the focus was on Ag, Shop and Home Ec, but because she had been a biology teacher she volunteered periodically. She’d create week-long lessons teaching us everything from the cardiovascular system and how it worked, to the animal kingdom and it’s classification system.

As a younger woman she dreamed of combining her talent in art with her love for animals creating dioramas in museums. it was a dream she never realized, but did continue with her art, and worked briefly at the Trailside Museum in Chicago caring for the resident animals.

Last year, my sister and I took my mom to the Newport Aquarium for her birthday which led me down a new path, discovering a love for paleontology and the study of deep time. Now, my mom and I share facts we’ve each learned, or talk about science documentaries we both watched. I’m grateful to have this mutual interest with her since we’ve always been very different from one another, not historically having a lot in common. It’s brought us closer.

Today on her 80th birthday, I wish her a happy day. How does this relate to paddling or adventure? Not even a little bit, but you gotta celebrate and honor the person who gave you life! Happy Birthday mom!!

Paddling

Gift of the River…

It’s been a different winter for me. I’m not saying it was bad. It just wasn’t filled with the usual travel and “adventuring” (which typically includes a fair amount of paddling). The last few weeks, however, have reminded me what I love so much about paddling whitewater and connecting with people on that “venue”.

My first noteworthy experience of this season was with my “nephew” who is actually my cousin, but due to the fact that I was an adult when he was just born, I’ve always been “Aunt(ie) Sue”. I love this kid. And when I say “kid” I mean 27-year old man who is a paramedic and owns his own house. I’m so very, very proud of him and after many years of being out of touch, we’ve reconnected these past few years. It was inevitable that I would get him out on the water since he’s an adventurer too. That moment was last Sunday when we chose paddling as our last activity after a whirlwind weekend of fun–hiking at Smith Rock, skiing/snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor–finished with meeting up with Sam and one of his young crew at a cabin on the Santiam, the night before this much-anticipated paddle. The four of us shared a leisurely morning and finally set off to set shuttle and run the Packsaddle to Mill City stretch that I love so much. Sam and I were on our paddleboards, Jake and Brock R-2’ing it. The water level was great and the day was warm–perfect really. Everyone paddled well and we all had fun. Nothing was earth-shattering…just an afternoon on the river but it combined so much love for me…my nephew, boyfriend and favorite past-time. These are the days I live for!

The next (and most recent paddle) I did was also very special. Celebrating one of my favorite human’s 50th birthday, a small crew of us from the shop headed over to the McKenzie to paddle the Paradise stretch (taking out at McKenzie campground where his family had several campsites). The water levels were high (double the CFS from what I’d paddled it before) but so was the “stoke”…even if I was a little nervous. Isn’t this why we do it though? I’ve found that the butterflies are part of the feeling I crave. The trip report? No swims, a couple “almosts” and lots and lots of laughing.

When writing this blog I try to have a point, or theme…and sometimes, dare I say a “lesson”? (I’m not sure I have the maturity or expertise to dole out lessons). Not this time. Just sharing a couple really great days and trying to explain why I do this nichey sport of whitewater SUP.

Post run, below Mill City Falls. Photo Credit Sam Drevo
Swirlies: Photo Credit Sam Drevo
Awww this crew!! (i-phone selfie!)