Monday, August 29, 2016

August 29, 2016 progress, in so many ways

It was kind of a long week, but there was progress made in several areas. Number one being that DH is feeling better! Hooray! It’s a life long process, that inward looking self study, but one that has the potential for making life a little easier. 

dismantling of the RZR motor
One thing that has really been helping him is to have a project and it’s a good one. Our little Polaris RZR is sick. It has a bad valve from breathing in too much of the desert dust. It’s not only bad for human lungs, it’s bad for vehicles that are designed to run around off road. So he has been merrily dismantling the RZR.

 He also has plans for making a video about it and posting it on YouTube. He did a lot of research about this process and could not find any video lessons on how to do what he is doing. Yes, there is a manual, and yes, one could just take it to the dealer and have them fix it ($$$$). But, he is very good at this kind of work. I recall a time up north when he and some friends got together to rebuild an engine. They started about 9:00 in the morning and by 6:00 p.m. they had it back in the vehicle they had pulled it out of and running. I think that is just amazing. This of course, will take a little longer as he is learning as he goes. I’m just happy that he is doing something he loves to do. You can check out his intro, just click on the arrow in the box to the right. Once he gets the whole video done I’ll post a link for those of you who are really interested in how to rebuild the top end of a 2013 Polaris 900 XL RZR.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 24, 2016 life's curve balls

Sometimes I think things are going along smoothly and then, WHAM! Life decides to pull the rug out from under you as a joke. Well, I’m not laughing, yet. My DH has depression. Yep, the big D and I don’t mean the one they talk about in country music songs. This is the one that really messes with a person’s head. It’s taken me a long time to come to accept that depression is a mental illness and to be able to call it what it is, without shame and secrecy. It’s not something that the person who is suffering can just “snap out of it” and move on. Oh, if it were only that easy.

It’s a terrible feeling to watch someone you love suffer so much, watching someone you love suffer sometimes is worse than suffering yourself. And I’m a fixer. I’m supposed to fix this, but I can’t. I have learned there is nothing I can do to ease his pain, it is so deep inside him that only he can find the light that will guide him back to his life. I can only stand by and hold space for him. But then I must take care of myself, get rest, eat well, exercise and seek out my friends who support me as I watch him suffer.

I am thankful to have my yoga practice and meditation. These two things were catalysts for me to help me begin to end my codependent behaviours, as was Al-Anon. It has been a long process and not an easy path, but most days I feel able to manage life’s curve balls. I am reading Pema Chodron’s book, When Things Fall Apart, it’s a great book to pick up in times like these. It’s short and to the point. A great reminder that compassion and loving kindness need to begin with the self and until we can see that, there is little we can do to help others. How is it we are so cruel and unforgiving to ourselves? We tell ourselves what a failure we must be when something doesn’t go our way, or that we must be a terrible person for whatever reason when we would never say those type of things to a friend.
I think we need to remember to treat ourselves like we would a friend and extend that compassion and loving kindness to our own self. As Pema says in the book “Practicing loving-kindness toward ourselves seems as good a way as any to start illuminating the darkness of difficult times.”

So while my DH is working through this difficult time, I will be shining a light of inquiry inward on myself. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

August 18, Bryce Canyon

We spent a few days parked in the National Forest about 5 miles from Bryce Canyon. When we first got there the skies were gray and threatening to drop some moisture, and they did. We were visited by the only wildlife around, some free range cattle. I half expected them to be under the awning in the morning, but they had moved on.

And in the morning we had clear skies, perfect for a bike ride on the Red Canyon paved trail. This trail goes all the way from the visitor’s center at the west end of the canyon to Inspiration Point inside Bryce Canyon National Park. Of course you better be in darn good condition and have strong thighs and a multi-speed bike if you are going to go in that direction. The 4 miles or so at the west end are about a 6% grade down to the visitor’s center. I rode towards the park first, having started about in the middle of the trail, then turned around and rode all the way back, then continued west to ride downhill through the Red Canyon. It was stunning. It’s a pretty drive, but there’s something to be said for being on a bicycle and going at a slower pace to enjoy the colors in the landscape and to enjoy the open meadows.

Not to say that hiking through the red rocks isn’t also spectacular. I had time to do two different hikes while we were there. The first one was to Tower Bridge. Another clear day, a few puffy clouds adding contrast to the vibrant blue sky. 

The trail was smooth mostly, with a few patches of loose gravel. The thunder clouds were kind to hold off until I was finished with my hike. It was 3 miles round trip, all downhill going out, then of course, all uphill coming back. It wasn’t a loop trail, but things always look different from the other direction. It was a little strenuous coming up that hill too, as I was at 7700’ elevation.

Tower Bridge
The second hike on two days later was the Navajo Loop/Peek-a-boo trail and combined it was about 6 miles. I managed to add another mile or two by riding the shuttle bus into the park to Inspiration Point, then hiking down to the trailhead at Sunset Point. I thought I had gotten a pretty early start, but by the time I got to Sunset Point there were three busloads of tourists who had just disgorged and were swarming all over the lookout points and blocking the trailhead like a nest of hungry ants.

I tried to politely make my way down the narrow switchbacks as French, German and Korean tourists all elbowed their way to find the perfect photo op. It became more of a challenge with each step, it seemed there was no way to get around them all, especially the ones who were afraid of the edge and would cling to the wall side while their friend holding the camera urged them closer to that edge for the best camera angle. I eventually made my way past the big clusters, they may have realized the farther down they go, the farther back up the have to go too and the crowds thinned out.

Once down to where the trail split off to the Peek-a-boo loop I was mostly alone. And it got quiet without all the people chattering away. I took my time walking among the hoodoos and the pine trees dodging all the horse poop on the trail. It’s amazing to see how the erosion is wearing away this part of the earth, how these formations are dirt and not rock like Zion and Arches National Parks. They say this area loses one to four feet of material to erosion every year. 

I found a quiet spot off the trail up a small dry creek bed to take a break. It was so quiet, until fellow hikers would walk by in small groups, talking in outside voices. Or maybe it was their inside voices and the sound just carries when there aren’t so many other noises to compete with. I would watch them walk by, busy in their conversation, that they didn’t seem to be noticing what was around them. They would say things like, “I wonder if there are rattlesnakes here?” and just keep marching on the path without any apparent pause to consider where a rattlesnake might be along the trail. Just my observations of other people.

I completed the Peek-a-boo loop then made my way back to the other half of the Navajo Loop to climb up the other switchback trail out of the canyon. There must have been a couple more busloads of tourists show up as this side of the trail, several hours later, was just as crowded as the other side when I was going down. Nervous folks clinging to the uphill side of the trail, then trying to get by them on the downhill side. Challenging when the trail is only three feet wide and there’s a person standing on each side trying for that perfect photo.

I made my way over to the lodge to check it out. It’s the only remaining lodge in a National Park that was constructed by the Union Pacific Railway from 1924-1926. All of the other lodges have had major fires that resulted in reconstruction of those structures. Then I caught the shuttle bus, making a stop at the main Visitor’s Center to pick up my sticker and my pin for participating in the “I Hiked the Hoodoos” program. Then it was back on the bus to the shuttle parking lot and back to camp for an afternoon of rest.

another warning sign from the NPS. Don't be dumb.

I was really blessed to be able to have this time at Bryce. We had been here one other time years ago but it was so cold and the wind was blowing that hiking for me would have been really uncomfortable and also maybe not too safe with the trails being wet from ice and rain. The dirt gets pretty slippery in those conditions. This was my time.

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 15, wandering.....

As the title of the blog says, it’s Wanderings with Val and Jay, so I am going to wander off in to the realm of kitchen gadgets for a little bit.

I have this wonderful grater. 

It’s made by OXO and I don’t remember where I bought it. Maybe at the Greenhouse in Bellingham, or maybe at Fred Meyer, but I love this thing! It comes with 4 different blades, a fine shred, a large shred, the julienne slice and the green blade that cuts your carrots in two direction making nice small pieces for soup or salad. The one critical thing to remember is that all of the blades are incredibly sharp. Therefore, OXO had the smarts to include a holder with spikes on it to use so you can get really close to the blades with your hunk of cheese or that tiny bit of carrot you want to use up. So use it! Otherwise you will slice or grate your fingertips. Yes, I am speaking from experience.

I finally discovered the green blade while making some split pea soup and was busily hacking up carrots when the little end piece got too close. It goes really fast with the super sharp blades and before I knew it I was in need of a couple of bandaids.
Dummy. After all the times I cautioned Dear Husband to be careful, the blades are sharp, I can’t heed my own advice.

Still, I love it as much as one can love a kitchen gadget. The blades lay flat inside the lid which has handy markings in cups on one side and milliliters on the other. The bottom holds the blades upright with a little slot for the holder. When you’re all done, the lid snaps back on the base and everything is neatly contained for the next use. And it’s dishwasher safe!

If you like to cook and don’t always want to drag out the food processor for shredding, julienneing or finely chopping, I recommend you add one of these to your collection.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

July 31, 2016 Another day of water play at Bear Lake

So here we are, at a family reunion of a family we are not really a part of. They are a wonderful group of people and have welcomed us wholeheartedly into their family and all of the activities. It is kind of weird for us though, because we don’t know any of these people and only just met the DIL’s boyfriend and his kids when we were in Bellingham in June. We’re meeting all these people who are all related to each other and they are wondering who we are, as we don’t look familiar to them. I forgot to mention that some of them share the same last name as Jay, Greenwood. In fact one of the women, has the same name as his ex-wife Kathy and there is one little boy who shares Jay’s name, Jay Greenwood. Everyone loved all of the connections there, even though they aren’t related.
Grandpa giving lessons to Austin on chopping wood
Austin taking a break from wood chopping. Found the face

On the second evening, Jay and I went over to have dinner with the clan. Most everyone had already eaten, and we sat away from the after dinner games that had begun. One of the young mom’s came over to introduce herself to us. She says, “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met yet, my name’s Cousin T(we’ll call her that to protect the tired innocent), what’s yours?” We tell her our names and she asks who we are related to, I say to her with a straight face, “we don’t know anyone here, we’re Wedding Crashers.” Jay looks at me like I have lost my mind, then smiles and says, yep, we just happen to have the same last name, Greenwood. 
Cousin T.  is trying to grasp what we have just told her, she’s really tired too, after a long drive and a long night with a sleepless baby, but then she says, “Really? That is so cool. So, you just go around to different campgrounds and see who has a lot of people and go in and mingle with them?” 
bald eagle nest and a fledgling
Austin in front of the floating island
“Sure, just like crashing a party,” I say. “Everyone is really friendly here and it helps to have the same last name. We’re just one of the distant relatives no one has seen for a long time.”
She begins to look at me a little disbelieving still but then Jay pipes up and says, “yeah, it’s really easy because everyone is busy doing stuff, you can just casually walk in, find a plate, find a little leftover food and sit down like you fit in.”
Then she says, “oh, I get it, you just got married and this is your honeymoon and you’re looking for different parties, right?”
“No, we’re not honeymooners, just party crashers, really,” I say.
Then she says, “boy, I’m really tired and confused. Let me get this straight, you really don’t know any of us, you’re really like wedding crashers and have joined our party?” 
“No,” Jay says, “we really are with the family.” He comes clean and explains to her how we are connected via the DIL and her boyfriend. 
Dan and Austin frolicking in the water
Cousin T. laughs as she gently shakes the baby she’s holding and says, “boy, I’m really tired, you two had me believing you were party crashers,” and she slowly walks back to the group, shaking her head not really sure what she believes.

I don’t know where that came from on my  part, it just seemed like a fun thing to say, and after Jay got over the surprise of it, he was willing to help carry the story. 
No swimming for this bear!

It was a fun few days. Lots of time spent playing in the water, frisbee toss, floating around, stand up paddle board and a jet-ski ride to top it all off. There were many sunburns, some bruises, one smashed baby thumb that got caught in a door, but nothing major. Nightly campfires, (started by yours truly. Hey, everyone has a job to do.), S’mores in every variety, and a good time by all. 

We left after 4 days of that and headed to Lava Hot Springs for some real R & R.

Monday, August 1, 2016

July 29, 2016 Bear Lake, Utah, fun in the sun!

We had a nice leisurely drive south on Highway 89 from our solo camp at Alpine, Wyoming. It was another sunny day with nice scenery all the way. We didn’t have any trouble finding the state park, there are two of them, one on the Idaho side of the lake and this one on the Utah side. Apparently almost everyone else coming here did have some trouble, when you look it up on the map it takes you to the Marina and the Administrative office of the Utah State Park which is 10 miles north of Rendezvous Beach where the campground is located. 

Brownie is so happy! There's a lake just for bears!
We came here because our grandkids are coming here with their mom and her boyfriend for his family reunion. They are expecting about 60 people to show up and have a group camp site here. We managed to get a reservation in a loop just a two minute bike ride from where they are. Close enough. 

Early on Monday though, we got a message from DIL that her boyfriend’s brother’s truck had broken down on Snoqualmie Pass. Let’s back up just a little bit. They left Lynden at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, it’s a 16 hour drive for them and their plan was to drive straight through to Bear Lake, with 5 kids. Their first delay was having to turn back because they forgot the keys to their pop-up trailer. So there was the break down, which led to having to get two rooms at a motel near the pass. We then got notification that they were back on the road about 9:00 a.m. I kept in touch with them throughout the day, DIL was asking if we were at the campground yet, if we could see the water from our camp, if it was nice, etc. At 2:30 I asked where they were and she said they just got to Caldwell, Idaho. What? That’s west of Boise. I did a quick calculation and realized they weren’t going to get here until close to midnight, Mountain Daylight Time. They lost an hour too when they changed time zones.

That brought up another issue. The park locks the entry gate at 10:30 p.m. I went to talk to the attendant and the Ranger to see what we could do about that. They said the gate gets locked and they don’t let anyone in after 10:30. But it would be okay for them to park the vehicles outside the gate and we can come and get them and bring them to our campsite. Or they can stay at the rest area, or park in the church parking lot at Lake Town. The gate opens at 7:00 a.m. and then they can bring the vehicles in. So Jay and I went over to the group camp to let boyfriends sister know what was going on with them and their arrival. We all agreed we would go get them when they finally do get here, whenever that might be. 

About 9:30, I get another message from DIL, she says they just made the turn on to I-15 near Pocatello. Again I do the mileage check on iMaps, they are at least 2-1/2 hours away yet. Then 5 minutes later, she messages again, he turned north on I-15, not south. Easy to do when you aren’t familiar with where you are going, it’s getting dark, you’re all tired and it’s been a rough, long day already. At 10:30, we decide to get a little bit of sleep, figuring they’ll finally show up about 12:30. I have my phone right next to my head, Jay has his nearby, boyfriend’s sister has hers on her chest, as we are all waiting for them to show up. About midnight the messages and phone calls start coming; “we’re getting close” and “we’re here,” but none of us woke up! Something woke me up at 12:32, I looked at my phone and saw a message and a missed call and shook Jay awake and said oh my gosh! I slept through the messages, they’ve been at the gate for a 1/2 an hour! Hurry up, get dressed we need to go get them!

We jump in the truck and head down to the gate, boyfriend’s sister is just pulling up too and we see the headlights coming down the drive to the gate. When they thought they were here, they were really at the marina, 10 miles north of here. Even though I had told them when they get to Garden City, turn right, to the south, don’t go the way the GPS tells you to go. Then drive 9 miles and the park will be right there. So they hadn’t been waiting at the gate for 1/2 an hour, they had just pulled in. They all piled out of the vehicle, hugs all around and then trying to figure out who was going to go where. Our grandkids came with us, DIL and boyfriend were going to sleep in the vehicle. The other three kids were taken to the sister’s group camp and were put to bed in tents there. All good. Except two of the kids got scared in the night,  a boy, 10 and a girl, 15. They got up, walked the 1/4 mile back to the locked gate, scared the crap out of DIL and boyfriend sleeping in the vehicle when they knocked on the window. Then they both crawled in to try to get some sleep in the wee hours before dawn. 

Boyfriend was awake before 7:00, waiting for the gate to open so they could get in to the park and get their pop-up trailer and some tents set up so they could possible relax a little and start their vacation after the rough beginning they had getting here. We got the grandkids up, fed them some breakfast and took them over to the group camp to help out. 

The weather is sunny and hot, there’s the beach and lots of things to do in the water. Let the fun begin!

July 28, 2018 It's been a busy month

It’s been a busy month. Brownie at Black Elk Peak aka Harney Peak After we shipped our grandson back home, we rested a little t...