I’m Spoiled. And I Have Great Pants.

Shelter in has been somewhat challenging… but I’m not under any false pretense that my experience has been nearly the hardship or emotionally troublesome as for many people. I cannot imagine the difference in my life right now, if I lived in a city where I was surrounded by cement.  However, I don’t.  Instead, I live in basically two places…both of which afford me a somewhat idyllic existence.  Especially now.

I’ve paddled my board on my favorite stretch of whitewater the last two days because I’m lucky enough to have private access to the river… put in and take out.  Yep.  Spoiled.

Typically when writing this blog, I am not trying to sell anything nor go heavy on product reviews but I have to here.  Because, as someone who wears wetsuits and neoprene A LOT I’ve got to give a shout out to what will undeniably be a game changer for me moving forward.  I might have previously mentioned the non-neoprene 1 mm Carve-brand pants and jacket I’ve recently begun using. I could not be more impressed with this set up. Here’s what’s great about them.  Number one–comfort.  Not only does it not get the yucky neoprene smell on your skin, but this material is literally “soft”.  It feels good.  Not “oh this neoprene gear fits right etc” but it genuinely feels nice.  When I wear my neoprene’s, even if I don’t get water on me, my swimsuit is dripping wet from sweat…ugggh. And I’m not even a “sweater” in the scheme of things.  This material doesn’t have the oppressive qualities that a wetsuit has.  Also…and very importantly, it works!  For the splash that got on me, it repelled the water easily.  I didn’t feel the cold.  Admittedly, I didn’t swim.  Let’s be clear, this is not a replacement for a wetsuit.  This is a replacement for my 1mm neoprene pants/jackets that I’ve been wearing for four years, in the warmer weather.  It allows me to paddle more athletically and with less constraint.  The comfort of this material prompts me to also suggest using it for  more than whitewater.  If you enjoy paddling shoulder seasons on flatwater…say early morning or cooler days…this could be your answer.  For paddleboarding OR kayaing.

Where do you purchase these?  It’s Carve brand and we carry Carve at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe (where I work). I am wearing the jacket in picture below…cool graphic on pants too. Hit me up with questions…

Thanks for listening, and see ya out there on the Frisky Ripples!

Sue Pacuare

As the World Turns…

Does this soap opera still exist…As the World Turns?  I remember it being a thing when I was a kid.  Could anything compare to life right now and the drama we’re all experiencing with a health crisis on our hands?  As we navigate through the balance of living our lives with any sort of “normal” routines, I realize that it’s ok to not have a normal routine.  Personally, I believe much of our infrastructure was slightly messed up to begin with.  But I don’t want to focus on the negative.  There are silver linings we can derive from the tragedy that is COVID-19 and perhaps apply those lessons moving forward.

I write posts of daily gratitudes on my Facebook page.  Ok, I write gratitudes.  I’ve found that I’m not in a “ducky” mood every day.  I hear this sentiment from many people who express similar feelings…they’ll be going along feeling everything from “ok to hopeful to even marginally happy” and then BAM– a day filled with anxiety, worry, sadness, feelings of being detached or alone.  I’m including this pattern for myself here, because as humans I think that most of us are survivors.  But this is some scary shit.

Talking with one friend in particular, we consistently ask ourselves “what is the right thing to do in this moment”… and bounce the decisions off each other. It feels like the answers aren’t black and white.  Excluding those who are on the far side of “this is just bull shit and I’m going to do whatever suits me…not shelter in, ignore the mandates, etc” it seems a constant navigation of moral right and wrong.  Or maybe the better descriptor is “safest, best choice” in the moment. For example, is okay to walk with a friend who has also been self-isolating for a month, wearing masks and remaining at least 6 feet apart?  For me, the answer has become “yes”.  Or, as I wrote last week, I’ve begun whitewater paddleboarding again.  Not in a group but with one friend on a “frisky”, forgiving section of water with access from the road.  All on the up and up.  But is it?  We aren’t parking on anything that is technically closed and that river is open.  Am I “dialing it back” as best termed by Jaymo of Backyard Bend (and great friend that I respect).  I’ve talked with other friends who engage in adventurous activities and it seems that most I’ve spoken with, seem to be still having their fun, but also purposely “taking it easy”.

In fact, I was interested to hear the perspective of a young man I’ve known since he was 15 (now I believe around 21-22 years old?).  He’s a class five boater and has historically taken his share of risk.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear him talk about his approach, dialing it way back to rapids he isn’t particularly challenged by, and running his own shuttle.  This “kid” (I call him that with almost motherly-affection) represents the paddling community well, in my opinion.  He’s also done his part to encourage other cohorts to do the same.  Some aren’t taking it down a few notches and have actually had near-miss situations that could have resulted in ER visits (or worse) which instigated some pretty heated FB posts.

I think it’s all still a debate and what we individually choose in the moment is probably a judgement-call. I’ll leave you with this little anecdote…  When I paddled the short section yesterday,  I was on my new board which I’ve absolutely loved.  Starting the run I felt a little…mmmm…for lack of a better description, “squirrely”.  We all have days where we crush it and then others where it feels like we’re challenged simply walking.  Maybe this was just one of those days where I wasn’t totally “on”. It wasn’t like I was paddling horribly.  Just felt a little off and figured it’s from being largely out of practice.  I mean hey, this time of year I’d typically be paddling a lot more.  At one point, I was surprised to miss my line–not a hard move, which resulted in a quick swim.  No biggee, but really?  It was still an amazing paddle and there’s NOTHING more cathartic than getting on the water. However, when unloading the boards I realized I’d forgotten to put my fins on my board.  Ha!  Rookie move.  A little redemption though, and great for a laugh.  Because laughing is the absolute best, and maybe in short supply these days.

There’s still fun out there to have.  We will get through this, hopefully as a (distanced for now) community, but stronger for it in the long run.

Thanks for listening, and see ya (eventually) on those frisky ripples.

Back on the River

Through this time of shelter in, I’ve made two important epiphanies.  One, life is too short to not be doing what you love (in general, again, I hugely support staying home and saving lives) and second, what I love most is paddleboarding on the river.  On the rapids on the river.  I won’t say where, but I stuck to the government guidelines and didn’t break any rules.  I also didn’t run any rapids I haven’t paddled many, many times and felt confident I wasn’t doing anything too crazy to risk injury. But I accessed a place I feel more content then ever…on my board on the frisky rapids.  In fact, I made my maiden voyage on my new Hala Atcha 9’6 and I LOVE it. I love it so much I can’t stop talking about it. I try to avoid sales pitches on this blog but seriously, if you want to get into whitewater SUP you need to demo an Atcha.  Thank you Nadia for letting me try yours in CR!! Game-changer!

So let me tell you what I love about whitewater SUP and then, what I love about my new Atcha….

When I’m on the water, I’m typically in rural areas away from people, devices, and pollution (air and noise).  When I’m on rapids I’m mentally away from everything too.  It’s a very dynamic activity so I’m in the moment–like surfing on an ocean wave, I feel “one” with the water (even if the water is busy kicking my ass).  It’s athletic, which means I’m fulfilling my seemingly constant need to exercise and move. And finally, I realized the other day that I really do like adventure…a little fear and a little challenge.  It makes me feel alive. And it’s just damn FUN.

Now about the new Atcha.  I swore by the piercing-nose earlier generation Atcha that served me so well through most of my experience with whitewater SUP.  The new Atcha has more rocker and a less pointy nose so you maintain maneuverability without losing stability.  I’ve honestly never used the middle fin on previous boards, therefore paddling with one is a new experience…supposedly helping me track better.  It’s retractable so paddling the bonier stretches I paddle often, isn’t sketchy (or any sketchier than they’d be with my normal two thruster set-up). My apologies for those of you who don’t care a lick about product reviews.

What I’ll finally say is that what I feel on the water, while unique in my personal experiences seems to resonate with SO many people.  Even if I didn’t grow up paddling and doing it just about every day,  my connection to the water is as real as those who did…and those people who don’t work in the industry or paddle every week? Well it’s just as real for them.  For so many of us, water possesses a special quality that is therapeutic unlike anything else.  Be respectful of our need to be safe right now and “take one for the team” by staying close to home, not grouping up and social distancing, but within those parameters, if you can get out there, do.  It’s the best elixir for what is emotionally ailing us in these crazy times.

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


I gotta say, this has been such an interesting experience, this pandemic.  Something none of us have ever endured in–my lifetime, anyway.  Let me first say that regardless of what I’m about to write, I am deeply saddened by the hardship that so many are going through–especially those hospitalized or losing loved ones to this disease (or circumstances complicated by over-stressed infrastructure, etc).

With that said, I want to share with you my personal experience.  Mine.  Not speaking for anyone but me, and without judgement to anyone else’s approach.  Let me lay a little background for you.  My boyfriend was gone on the east coast for many weeks prior to and after this all hit, caring for his dad who is unfortunately, in hospice care. My dad is in a care facility with Alzheimer’s.  I have a great job which had recently restructured, bringing our small team together, stronger than ever, and was looking forward to the best, most exciting season yet (this will be my 10th year with Tumalo Creek).  I’d just purchased a brand new paddleboard that I loved, having demoed it in Costa Rica and was SO excited for the paddling season. I could go on forever, but you get the gist.

When COVID-19 hit and things started getting “taken away” by our governor, I basically had a melt down.  It was shocking and it was hard.  I felt thoroughly alone and without trying to sound too dramatic I was “traumatized”.  Our small management team and company owner met to discuss the crisis.  Now what?  Basically we have to shut down.  How do we pay bills?  How do we communicate with vendors, partners and existing customers.  We decided that it was crucial for us to support the “shelter in”, and encourage our customers to do the same, so we came up with a plan to keep the shop closed except for “appointment only” customers and decrease our hours dramatically with just a skeleton crew…we’d try to get by.

Through this process I was able to find some structure.  I began doing my workouts first thing in the morning as before. I slowed down.  I did projects at home.  And eventually I began to realize that in all this mess, there are actually some pretty profound blessings. How often do we force ourselves to have an abundance of time and MUST spend it alone?  Then, what do we do with that time?  Sometimes I think I avoid dealing with my own “stuff” (emotionally speaking) because I can distract myself with other people and activities.  In this new dynamic, I’ve been able to remind myself that I like me.  I mean I genuinely like me.  And I also have some weaknesses.  Some personality traits I’d really like to improve.  I can be off-putting, especially when I get tired or feel attacked or unsure.  I can be judgmental and opinionated.  I can also be apologetic which is a good thing, because I f@$k up frequently.

These realizations make spending time “sheltered in” a hell of a lot more pleasurable.  It’s ok.  I can be curious and seek out things to learn, which I’ve been doing.  I can also grant myself binge tv watching which I don’t typically do.  I’ve gained an incredible gratitude for simple things I’d begun to take for granted…like the place I live!!!  Holy cats.  This morning, I decided to go for a mountain bike ride from my house since trailheads and developed rec sites are closed.  I wore a face-covering that I could pull down when no one was around which was basically the whole time.  I passed perhaps 20 people total, on the urban part of my ride (giving them over 6 feet space) but eventually I got up into forest and it was great.  Actually every turn of the wheel was great.  I DON’T live in an apartment in a big city.  What we Bendites take for granted as un-inspirational (I don’t think that’s a real word) is honestly beautiful. For awhile I was on a paved bike/ped trail but there were huge Ponderosa pines and manzanita surrounding me.  It was beautiful. For the record, I kept all my biking very sedate.  I believe in the idea of dialing it back so we’re not potentially creating more demands on our medical system.

I live in abundance. I’m not a jillionaire, but I thankfully, have enough income to pay my monthly bills.  I have food.  I have a comfortable bed and technology to keep me connected to friends and family.  This is not a “lock down” as much as an opportunity to transform and see what I can create and appreciate with new (temporary) rules.  It’s a refocusing from the over-full schedule–professionally and personally.

I know everyone has their own dynamic and what I once deemed a misfortune of being “alone” while sheltered in, I’m counting as a blessing.  This too will pass, and I hope to make each hour a learning moment in the meantime.

Thanks for listening.  See you out there…eventually…on the frisky ripples.


Getting After it During a Pandemic?

If someone had told me a month ago that I’d be sitting my butt at home for the better part of the day, while the mountains are getting solid snowfall and the weather has mostly been great…well it just wouldn’t have seemed possible.  This whole situation has blown up so fast and we’re just at the start of it.  I’ve tried to balance what the state has mandated, with physical and mental health, but as (mostly) a rule follower who sees the reason for the strict rules I’ve drastically reduced my adventures.  Did I go cross country skiing last week before the snoparks closed?  Absolutely.  Did I hike in the national forest while the trailheads were open.  Yep.  I desperately miss downhill skiing, biking and paddling and I understand that under certain criteria I can still do these activities, yet it’s still a balance.

As referenced last paragraph I sometimes bend the rules.  For sure.  I tend to use judgement as my guide versus hard law.  What I have never had much patience for is the mindset of people who think…”well it’s just me breaking the rule and just one person won’t make a difference”….said 7.4 billion people on the earth.  It feels selfish since we know with this disease you can be entirely asymptomatic yet infect other people.

So how do I “get after it” under our somewhat fuzzy guidelines?  Well for one, I’ve realized that sticking to schedule and structure is a really good thing for me.  The first week of Stay Home Stay Safe, I waited until the weather warmed or just hung out because I could.  That super- sucked for my emotional well-being.  Now, I get my exercise done first thing, as I’ve done for decades.  I run locally, out my front door early–even better if it’s raining/snow as the trails are empty. I could hike out in the forest (not accessing it via a trailhead) but choose instead to walk to those “essential” places I need to go.  Walking to work, as one example.  We’re not open, but one of us, each day works at the shop to accomplish those tasks we need to do, to keep the ball rolling for that magical day in the unknown future where we CAN open and service the public (I’m guessing, still, with fairly strong restrictions). I walk everywhere I can.  Why not?  I have time and I need to burn off energy I’d otherwise expend riding the trails.

Why am I avoiding the things I really love when technically, I could do most of it “legally”, with some very small inconveniences such as parking by the side of the road versus a developed trailhead?  Well for one, St Charles and related urgent care centers have suspended all “elective” surgeries “indefinitely” which includes injuries such as torn MCL’s, ACL’s, etc.  Basically, all resources have been redirected to support the already overwhelmed infrastructure.  I don’t typically live in fear of getting hurt and chances are it would be fine.  Here’s the thing though.  I feel like following the requests, as have been put out there, is a sign of solidarity.  I’m not a health care worker, risking my safety going to work every day to serve the ill.  But I have plenty of friends who ARE, and they’re scared of catching it.  I can do this.  I can stay my ass at home, for the most part, and hope this helps (if everyone does) shorten the duration in total.

Check out this video (link below) produced by my buddy Jaymo.  It features Alex McClaren who Jaymo and I interviewed last year at “Trail Tales”.  The guy was a pro-mountain biker who after witnessing a horrible car accident, walked away from the pro circuit, went back to school and eventually became a paramedic.  He’s the real deal.  Pretty much sums it up. Thanks for listening….

Dial It Back- Backyard Bend


Life in a Time of True Challenge

When this Coronavirus Pandemic really started it’s slow but imminent path toward Oregon and the US, I was writing about the challenges of aging and realizing one’s mortality.  Now, on a personal and global level we’re confronted with some very scary but genuine hardships.  I’m not talking about the hardship of social distancing (although I will).  We’ve all talked about “flattening the curve” which is, broken down to it’s basics a question of math.  Exponential numbers.  The numbers are hard to wrap our head around because it starts so ridiculously small… and we’re all somewhat sick of talking about it (if you’re paying attention at all).  What I find fascinating is some people’s disregard of this situation as if it’s not their problem… maybe because they’re young, or don’t have (as far as they know) underlying risk factors, or perhaps just of the mindset that this is all hyped.  For whatever the reason, as a nation, we delight in watching the countless Hollywood movies about something coming to destroy the earth…man against the asteroid that’s going to wipe us out, or man vs the natural disaster, or man vs the aliens or man against…oh wait…a disease that can’t be contained and it’s deadly.  Well, that disease is here folks.  Let’s be clear…the world will survive as will many of us.  But it’s going to be different and it’s going to be hard and what I find interesting is the thought that somehow our lives of ease and plentiful resources is somehow untouchable.  Not too long ago…in many of our parents’ lives, they lived through the great depression and WWII.  Life CAN be hard guys.  It can be “other” than traveling the world, adventuring, socializing for funzies.  Indulgence.  And y’know what?  That’s okay.  I think in many ways that’s actually GOOD.  I live in the Bend (or you might even say the Pacific Northwest) bubble.  We’re a town of athletic, “pretty”, fairly well-off (to VERY well-off)…might I say spoiled, community.  Am I on my soapbox?  Yep.  It’s my blog so I get to be.  PEOPLE!  Get over yourself, is what I want to say. 

The premise of this blog is making the most of your life by doing what makes you feel content, and a pace that feels good to you.  Acknowledging those people that might not be elite athletes but are still getting after in on their…dare I say NOT full carbon bikes without full suspension. In some ways I’m calling myself out.  This blog is trite when you’re looking at the many, many people fighting for their life right now.  For real.  And it WILL hit home.  All of us will know someone who is permanently affected by COVID-19.  The numbers don’t lie.  If you think you’re “immune” (metaphorically) to it touching your life, well take a moment to reflect.  On grandma, mom, or your 42-year old friend battling cancer because that’s prevalent these days too.

Again calling myself out…I struggled REALLY hard the first week of social distancing.  For the most part, because I believe in it, I isolated myself.  No social outings.  No carpooled trips to the bike trails.  Not even work. I live alone (besides my two spoiled Maui cat rescues). Now, I’ve found a slower pace, and an opportunity for personal growth.  Am I the sage offering my superior wisdom, bestowing on you my jewels of advice?  Fuck no.  I’m still stumbling my way through this with the rest of you, but I’ve come to the conclusion that our petty “wa wa’s–I can’t hang with my homies for a few weeks” is pure and utter bullshit.  This is the real deal folks.  Just get over yourself.  Engage in a movie marathon.  Read a damn book.  It’s all going to be okay if we can just stop worrying so much about how life is when we feel good and don’t have to be inconvenienced.

These are my thoughts today, and it comes and goes in waves…I don’t expect the emotional rollercoaster to stop any time soon.  My apologies to those offended.  I honestly don’t mean to judge or condemn.  I simply ask everyone to reflect on themselves, their actions and the bigger picture.  Can we somehow contribute to the improvement of the situation, or, if nothing else don’t harm it?

Be well, be HAPPY (I woke today, genuinely happy and excited for the day…for reals).  We can do this.  Together.  Thanks for listening.  See you out there on the frisky ripples–just please respectfully stay 6 feet from me.

A Short Exploration of Southern Oregon…

The idea began with an article in local mag 1859, when I read about a half-day scenic float on the Rogue…class II’s, taking out at what appeared to be an idyllic lodge (Morrison’s) on the river, downstream of Gallice and not too far from Grants Pass.  Only about three and a half hours out of Bend, I could paddle along with the commercial raft trip on my SUP…right?  Better invite my sis who likes to get her adventure on…so that would round out the fun.  Mmmm well, my sis and I DID have fun and adventure in southern Oregon, but it didn’t go quite so simply.

Once I got the confirmation from my sister I started making plans. Apparently commercial raft outfitters will allow IK’s on their trips but not SUPs.  Okee dokee.  How can I make this happen? (because I’m super safety conscious about not running whitewater alone–especially a river I’m unfamiliar with).    Was hoping to find a local friend, or friend-of-a-friend to go with me.  No go!! Finally, made arrangements with Sundance Kayak School who agreed to take me down, at the private lesson rate.  The logistics weren’t easy, as it was hard to get connected, but we figured it all out via a combination of email, text and random calls from a woman helping out.  I understand all this…don’t get me wrong…with a small seasonal business, that’s how it goes.  Once I got my paddle excursion set, it was time to consider the rest.  We ended up choosing Wolf Creek Inn & Tavern–the oldest continuously running lodge in Oregon, on the lesser known “Applegate Trail” (another route to Oregon versus the well-known Lewis & Clark Oregon Trail).  Yay!! Adventure AND history.  Good stuff.

I left Bend early thinking I’d hike along the way but a rare August full-day storm jinxed those plans.  That’s ok…earlier to the lodge and dinner which was reputed to be next level (it was).  Simply hanging with my sister is fun.  We “get” each other.  The first full day was great.  I had some time before my paddle so I hiked the Graves Creek trail (which originates at the put-in for the Wild & Scenic section on the Rogue river).  It was gorgeous and aside from poison oak being what appeared to be the primary ground cover, I’d recommend highly.  Side note, I didn’t catch it.

Met with Steve, my co-hort and guide for the SUP paddle from Gallice to Alemeda–a lot shorter run than I’d anticipated. The Rogue is comprised of flat water and pool drops which meant I really didn’t get to run a whole bunch of rapids, but Steve was nice and the wildlife was cool.  We saw heron, osprey, kingfishers, a bald eagle and a beaver!  However, when we finished it was early and I wanted to run more rapids.  Talked Steve into hiking back up to run the final (and most fun) rapids again.  He was a good sport and went along with it.  This wasn’t a small ask, as we literally had to hike our gear through thigh-high rapids and current.  Me, with my board and he with his whitewater kayak.  I was determined.

With the paddling done, I returned to the lodge where my sister and I met and drove to Grants Pass.  Having never spent time there, I was delighted by what seems to be a “quaint” town.  Parking at the edge of downtown, we noticed cute bear statues…one by one.  Turns out, in an effort to raise money for the arts, Grants Pass created “Bear Fest” which calls out to local artists to make statues and fund raise.  For my sister and I, it was a new goal…to take as many pictures with these delightful statues.  We saw 15…there are over 80. Grants Pass might be cute, but apparently not much for nightlife, with shops closing at 4pm, so we made our way back to the Inn where we had another great dinner and turned in early.

The last full day we filled with a rafting adventure, guided by Morrison’s Lodge Outfitters.  It began with an outstanding lunch followed by the typical safety talk. We launched from Morrison’s back lawn, paddling the same stretch I’d SUP’ed the day before but continued downstream with the rapid “Argo” as the grand finale.  It was great fun and our guide personable and unique–the kid is learning five musical instruments including the bagpipes and concertina which normally I’d consider “guide bullshit” but I’ve known that kind of talk for decades now and he’s legit.

Everyone kept talking about “Argo” and after awhile I was feeling tentative.  Why would such a big rapid, be on what’s advertised as a “splash and giggle” run?!  All I’ll say is, there are a few moves in the run and it’s clearly more technical than what we’d paddled upstream.  I also know that things could go sideways (literally) very fast.  However, after the hype, I thought we still had the meat of the rapid to go when we were done. No one swam, no problems, and rafting that second day made our trip. We were glad to have joined.

That just about wrapped up our adventure with the exception of a wonderful meal, complete with homemade marionberry pie ala mode and ribs that rivaled any I’ve ever had.  It was a perfect balance of sister time, goofiness, river time and exploring the area.  I’m always encouraging the balance, so get out there and get you some!!  Try something new.  Rediscover something old.  Just do something.

Thanks for listening…

Rogue 1
A beautiful hike at Grave’s Creek
Rogue 2
Entrance to Wild & Scenic
Rogue 3
Thanks Steve at Sundance Kayak!
Rogue 4
Monet Bear!
Rogue 5
Below Argo and our take-out








A Very Challenging “Ripple”

Life.  No one gives us an instruction manual for it.  Sure we can read self enrichment books or “how to’s” on any number of things.  But the reality is we experience it ourselves–make our own choices with our unique set of consequences.  To use the paddling metaphor, what one set of rapids is easy for a paddler might send another swimming.  The reality I’m processing right now is not the journey of life, but the part where you’re–mathematically speaking–getting to the end.  Even if you’re healthy and active, averages tell us that the older you are, the closer you are to the inevitable.  It’s not something I’ve personally agonized over but the idea seems to be really relevant, very present in my life right now.

I’ve spent over 20 years working with an aging population and the one thing I hear repeatedly is that your mind feels the same but your body is different–it doesn’t “cooperate”.  I can believe this.  I’m not “old” but I’m not “young” either, and have enough time under my belt to say I commiserate with this statement.  I don’t feel my age, even if I DO chronically drink hot water and lemon and  go to sleep at 9pm but  I’ve done that since my 20’s and I run circles around many teenagers I know.   I wouldn’t consider myself a “senior” yet.  But aging is hard, even in the most ideal scenarios.

My father is one example of a “worst case” scenario.  He was a man who was very athletic in his middle age, plus sharp witted and intelligent.  The signs began in his mid-60’s.  Alzheimer’s was a huge fear of his and he resisted the diagnosis.  Intellectually I’ve known he will decline to the point of not recognizing me and needing round-the-clock care that only professionals can provide.  But in my heart, I guess I never believed it would happen.  HE was larger than life.  Stronger than that.  Except he isn’t.  Now, when I visit my dad, if I’m lucky enough to get a response that appears he recognizes me, I’m not sure he recognizes me as “Sue, his youngest daughter” but perhaps someone he is familiar with.  Side note: I want to clear something up for those who haven’t experienced someone with Alzheimer’s. It isn’t a quaint disease where the patient becomes a little confused or forgets things.  Yes, they DO get confused and they DO forget things .  Please move from your mind that softened, almost “sweet”  version Hollywood has displayed for us, thanks to movies like The Notebook.  It’s ugly.  It stinks.  It’s degrading for both the patient and the survivors. It changes the person immeasurably and it’s incredibly hard to deal with.  Knowing you will decline has got to be one of the worst fears a person can experience.  You will lose control on so many levels.

I believe loss of control is the biggest fear we have as we age.  Truly, we want to be in control our whole life (and it’s somewhat of fallacy as we can truly control so little).  However, as our faculties fail us we have to depend on others for so much–sometimes everything. Whether people come to our homes to care for us full time, or we eventually move into a facility we are at the mercy of those caring for us.  I have seen both first hand.  I’ve seen the pluses and minuses first hand.

The interesting thing about getting older is that, even if we don’t feel we’ve aged, our interests and wishes might change. Like moving from our teens and 20’s when we partied non-stop, constantly socializing and (for some) “clubbing”…and then got pretty bored with that scene to the point where it sounds absolutely horrible….well I imagine it’s the same as we move past middle age.  Our day-to day, moment-to-moment interests might change?  I don’t know…I imagine so, right? I kind of hope it because I never want to stay stagnant in one mindset.  But also I believe the universe matches our brains with our bodies. We’re truly just a bunch of energy matter and hormones running around anyway, right? As these things evolve I wonder how the mind does too.  I can say I’ve spoken with friends who are approaching their 70’s and they’ve admitted to me they’re kind of scared.  I don’t blame them.

And then…part way through writing this post which was based on the realities of aging and mortality, the Coronavirus hit.  I won’t go into the wildly varying opinions and reactions to this pandemic, from political to personal approaches.  What I’m wondering is how it would feel to watch this unravel and I were not in my 40’s and healthy.  I wonder how the public would react if this disease targeted everyone equally…if age WASN’T a factor.  In other words, the mortality rate associated affected everyone equally.  I believe our society disregards the aging population frequently, which is a shame.  It can’t feel good to watch this go down and hear some of the community make statements like ” everyone is over-reacting” because…y’know… it “only affects the elderly and compromised”.  Side note, along with “social distancing” I’m also “social MEDIA distancing”….except to post this post!  (hahaha).

I’ve watched people age with grace, dignity and selflessness.  And I’ve watched others do…well the opposite.  Not a judgement, but I hope I’m a person that doesn’t behave poorly and treat people–especially caretakers, like crap.  There’s clearly anger and fear surrounding these behaviors but it seems like age is like money…it embellishes our truest character.  I remember both my grandmother and our longtime friend Ray Carl age together (literally in the same care facility).  I would love to say my grandma was a peach.  She was not, but then she didn’t treat folks all that kindly when she was young.  She was tough on them and somewhat like a child wanting attention.  Not Ray Carl.  He seized life with zeal until he was without breath, and treated everyone around him, quietly, compassionately and as humans.  He still said please and thank you.  He had lived a good life, experienced sorrows and challenges–like all of us…perhaps more– and did his best to maximize every moment.  I really respected that guy.

However, I can only surmise and ponder. Facing your own mortality has got to be really, really difficult.  All I can do is make good choices for myself today and maximize the time I have now.

Thanks for listening.

Me and Marcy
“My Marci” and Charlie. Inspirational women on so many levels.

True Love…

In this busy life, we commonly get consumed with those things we have to do as adults.  Seemingly simple things, like provide ourselves with shelter, food and basic medical needs.  All this adulting leads us to jobs, using technology/devices and participating in a lifestyle that can commonly be considered stressful.  Sorry if this sounds all Debbie Downer. It’s not. I love my life and enjoy the daily challenges which I have created based on my choices.  My partner, my friends, my career AND my pastimes.  

This week was a pretty solid representation of how I approach my life–a “snapshot” into Sue’s world.  I’d wrapped up four days of work (teaching water classes at the Athletic Club of Bend, two of the four mornings) and working with Tumalo Creek.  With all the prep and transition at TC there is a LOT going on and by the time I left for Bliss dance on Wednesday night my head was full. Just a little hip hop dance and I’m refreshed enough to drive my tired ass home, make dinner, clean up, snuggle the Pu Bear (my cat) and read for about 3.5 minutes before getting so sleepy I couldn’t stay awake.  Which leads me into Thursday, my first day off of my 3-day weekend. I’m always a little anxious on my first morning off. During the workweek I operate on such a tight schedule that I have to be very conscious of every hour…sometimes every minute. It takes me some time to shed that constant nagging in the back of my head telling me I shouldn’t just sit around and drink coffee.  So, that’s what I did. I sat around and drank coffee. I “puttered”. Truly I can’t tell you what all I did in the first 3-4 hours of Thursday, but somehow the studio is a little cleaner, there are more groceries in the fridge and I’ve paid some bills. Now it’s time for fun.

The weather was gorgeous, snow was groomed to a fine corduroy and some friends/co-workers were up at the mountain already.  Full transparency here… this was my first time up of the season, to downhill ski. Embarrassing, yes. It’s been a unique winter and frankly I haven’t been in Bend all that much on days off.  I chose to take a few runs solo to shake off the first day jitters. Or whatever that is. I was happily surprised to find that my legs felt pretty strong, and after about 5 or 6 runs I met up with the crew.  With the conditions as they were I think we rode well together. Had it been a super pow day, probably not, as my days of tree skiing… well they were fairly limited to begin with. But this? What transpired was just all kinds of giggly fun.  I love these people. It was awesome to ride/ski with them. In fact, I really can’t describe enough, what a smile it put on my face.

Having had such a great mid-day I was ready to get back to those more mundane tasks of “adulting” and prepping for my quick trip to Portland the next day. Portland and the Santiam canyon are where my guy lives (which creates an interesting dynamic overall, in my life).  I left first thing in the morning but met with Sam at Oxbow Park on the Sandy River where we’d decided around 9pm the night before, we’d meet and paddle. I’d rafted Dodge Park to Oxbow a few New Years Days ago with the American Whitewater group for their annual event. This time we were going to walk and then paddleboard Oxbow to Oxbow.  It’s only about 2 miles at most, and it felt like 10 minutes. But here is the “take away” and point of this post… it probably took us longer to drive shuttle, inflate my board and put on our gear than it did to paddle that short stretch. Sure felt like it. However, our love for paddling made it worth it. To have just 25 minutes on the water was better than not.  In fact, during the summer months when things get super duper busy, we’ll do a similar thing on the Santiam river where I’ve been known to LITERALLY run the shuttle–driving a car down to the Gates Bridge and then run back to the house where we jump on our boards below the house and eek out 25 minutes of paddling (by playing in standing waves or screwing around in eddies).  Because nothing makes the day better than doing something you love. It’s not paddling for everyone (and for me it’s also biking or nordic/alpine skiing). The point is that it’s better to do a small amount of something that makes you shine than not at all. And I don’t mean “shine” in “you totally excel at it” but shine with happiness. Shine with that feeling of giddiness.  It balances the less shiny aspects of life. So get out there! (Metaphorically. If you’re into knitting or ceramics you’d technically stay in), but what I’m saying is make sure you squeeze in what makes you happy.

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

Costa Rica Part 2

If you haven’t been to Costa Rica, put it on your bucket list.  I’ve been to other central and south American countries and had heard Costa Rica is “touristy”, but this isn’t something that resonated with me while there.  Instead, I found it friendly, clean, accommodating and stunningly beautiful.  This was what was on my mind staying at the Pacuare Outdoor Center overlooking the legendary Pacuare river a month ago.  The crew (all better whitewater paddleboarders than myself) and I had just paddled to the POC on our boards, but now I was going to trade my paddleboard for a seat on a raft to paddle the decidedly NOT frisky rapids. These were the real deal.

I’m a paddler that has an inherent desire to stay on (or in) my craft.  I’ve swam plenty of times, falling off my board,  but I’ve never swam class IV rapids and I was hoping this time wasn’t going to break my streak.  With our crew I felt pretty damn confident (although anything can happen).  Our guide Diego, began guiding at 15 years old and is now 30.  He knows his stuff, not to mention the other paddlers in the raft were Natali (who guided on the Grand Canyon for years), Jason–who was brand new to rafting but a strong paddler in other craft, and a local kid who was in training to be a guide.  The Pacuare is known for its beauty.  It didn’t disappoint there.  Waterfalls cascaded into the river and we made our way through various landscapes, mostly with the jungle surrounding us along the canyon walls.  The rapids were fun, Diego nailed the lines, and aside from the local kid falling out of the boat (twice in one set of rapids) we paddled without issue.  Even his swim was dealt with, in “textbook” form getting him safely back in the boat…twice… and keeping the raft upright.  Way to go Diego and team! The last couple miles were mostly frisky ripples, and I briefly SUP’ped, for a few small rapids, but was mostly basking in gratitude to have just experienced this stunning river with such amazing people.

Having the Pacuare under our belt, the team schlepped the rafts and loaded up to head toward the Carribean coast.  Side note–our packing was always somewhat humorous with Brittany’s jeep having a personality of her own.  Its security system had a lot to “say”, as if she were an integral part of the team (in fact she WAS, since we had lots of gear and the jeep was loaded with it). We were driving toward Puerto Viejo, a little beach/surf town that reminded me a lot of Paia in Maui but more “rasta-fied” with the Carribean influence.  Back in the land of bicyclists juggling their surfboards while negotiating traffic and the frequent need to check out the pedestrians milling about scantily clad in their bikinis.  This felt strangely familiar and  I liked it.  We made our way to our resort, north of the downtown, but once settled in, went back to town for an outstanding dinner and drinks after.  The club was called “Hot” something… Rocks?  Box? I honestly don’t remember but when the live band took their break a two-person team wowed us with their show–sort of like a mini- Cirque de Soleil.  The woman was particularly impressive, hoola hooping no less than 7 hoops in ways I didn’t think could be hoola-ed.

No need to bore with the rest of the details.  We spent our final day together doing touristy things–eating, shopping and site-seeing.  More monkeys, sloths, and birds. The Amazing Vacations crew made their way back to Turrialba and I ventured on, meeting an old friend from when I was 12 years old, who had lived with our family for months, in the USA as an exchange student.  We’d loosely stayed in touch, and now we were reunited after over 20 years.  I stayed with her in the jungle mountains outside of Hone Creek for several days where I was introduced to sweat-lodge drumming/singing, moon dancing and jungle interval training.  Life is full of unique learning experiences if you’re open to them.

I took a shuttle from Puerto Viejo to La Fortuna where I enjoyed a final solo mission before wrapping up my trip– in search of waterfalls, the volcano “Arsenal” and sunshine.  Full transparency… I was really struggling with the non-stop torrential rain.  Rain in a way I’d never experienced.  I’m no stranger to rain, having grown up in the Willamette valley, and rainy weather is fine when you’re paddling.  But when you’re trying to sight see, or enjoy the beach, it’s sort of a bummer.  Especially rain like you jumped in a pool.  And then never got dry.  This was my personal journey of overcoming the uncomfortable surroundings– a situation where you’ve looked forward to what should be sunny, central American reprieve from the winter at home, and then it rains the whole time.  I became “one” with the rain on my walk home from the observatory outside of La Fortuna.  I never did SEE the volcano since it was obscured by the clouds and weather.  However, after Uber had no cars to drive me the 6 miles to town, I began the walk back and made literal, the metaphor of life–dancing through the rain.  I looked around me, and going at a much slower pace I noticed the beautiful countryside.  The regular rain would be interrupted by the pounding rain, and for those minutes I found various forms of “cover”. And then continued my walk.  I felt good.  I felt strong and like I’d somehow returned to “me”.  Here’s the thing:  international travel is frequently hard and uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally.  But if you’re willing to deal with the discomfort it’s important and enriching.  You get wet, but eventually you’ll get dry. It’s like life, and I’m up for it.

If you’re interested in more details give me a shout.  If you’re headed to Costa Rica and need ideas, I have many.  Check out Amazing Vacations.  Check out Canopy Adventures.  I can’t speak highly enough about Chilamate Eco retreat in Sarapiqui.

Photo credit: Brittany Parker

Pacuare 1Pacuare 2Pacuare 3Pacuare 4Pacuare 5Thanks for listening…see you out there on the frisky ripples.