Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wait Until Everything is Perfect, THEN Live Your Life!

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day. He is excited to become a writer, and he's very talented. He told me that he'd been walking along Maroon Creek Road and he'd come across a man and fallen into conversation with him. This man was a writer, and he told my friend that he lived in a little house with no running water and no bathroom on the edge of the river, where he did nothing but write every day. He'd written several screen plays and several novels, and lived that sort of idyllic, idyosynchratic life of the eccentric writer.

I thought about this as I walked down to the laundry room to get on the internet and write a post. I thought about how many times in my life I'd pictured what things could be like if they were perfect.

A lot of us thing that once the house is clean, we can sit down and write that story we've always meant to, or once the lawn is mowed, we can spend some time playing with the kids, or once the laundry is done, we can finally read that book that's been gathering dust on the side table.

And that once we make our money, and we have enough in savings, we can do the thing we were meant to do.

I don't think that life is meant to be like that. I think that life is passing us by at warp speed. And I think that how you reach for the things you wish for in life, every day, is what living life is about.

If you wait to write the great American novel until you've paid all your bills, "succeeded", you have six months of savings, your kids room is clean and you've caught up on the laundry, and you have a roast in the oven, or until you have succeeded in life in the way that society thinks you aught, so you've proven that you can, and then, with your savings, you buy a second home and spend three months in your cabin by the river, at which time, you will uncork your creativity and let your passion flow, you are missing your life.

It sure would be nice to be independently wealthy and be able to afford that little piece of property, and take some time out of your life to do the creative thing that you wish you could do for a living. But I think if you wait for that day, you will be waiting for a very, very long time.

And that's not to say that you should just chuck it all and go live in that cabin by the stream with no bathroom and no running water. That's to say that nows as good a time as any to stick your toe in.

What would happen if you let the laundry go for one more day and indulged yourself in an hour of journaling? What would happen if you decided that your "perfect writer's den" was the kitchen table, and the soundtrack of your peace and quiet was your children playing with Legos?

I think about this when I think of skiing as well... we search for the perfect turn, and sometimes, we hang on to our old turn because we love the safety and security of it so much... we are so sure that the next one will be the good one if we can just hang on to this one long enough and get ready, be totally and completely prepared for that next turn, and by the time we've triple checked everything, we've missed our opportunity, the next turn has come and gone, there's a tree in the way and its time to make a drastic, quick move to avoid catastrophe.

What if, in life, as in skiing, we let each "should have" go as the turn passes us, what if we kept moving into the future, reaching for what was working, and letting the ski glide under our bodies, letting the snow spray, letting the sun hit our faces, what if we let the pen glide under our hands and the knitting needles fly at the strangest times, in the most inopportune moments, because we don't care about the time and place being right, we care more about living.

What if we fell in love even though it seemed like a ridiculous thing to do? I missed you guys. Its good to be back. Thanks for waiting for me.

Much love,

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas! Posting will resume

Merry Christmas! Posting will resume soon! Interntet is coming to my house today! Its been a lonng process. Thanks for your patience! Have a bea

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Go Big With Your Heart: How Will it Work?

So the second part to this story takes us to Colorado. Where I've moved. I've been living here for two months without ANY of my five kids, or Mike. Its been hard on all of us. My kids miss me, they miss Mike, and they miss Mike's kids. I miss all of them, my heart is in Bozeman and in Whitefish, and I spend a LOT of time on the phone with Ethan and Bodhi and Mike and his kids.

And its just not enough. Because I love them all fiercely. It was hard, we have hit a few big bumps. We took a few steps back along the way to make sure that what we were doing was smart, healthy and right. Its tough to be in a long distance relationship. We split up for a few days a couple of weeks ago. And we both realized in those few days that what we have is worth any distance.

Mike is up for a great International Medicine job. If he gets this job, he'll be around the world in Africa every other month. If I make the demo team, I'm going to travel 60 days out of the year. We are just right for each other. And if we are going to make this work, we have to be completely dedicated to its success.

We have to be willing to go big with our hearts. To commit. To huck. To make a soft space for the other to land. Mike met me in Bozeman over the Thanksgiving holiday to help me drive my stuff down to Aspen, and to see this crazy world I live in. To meet my friends, my trainers, and to look at the schools and the ranch. Because we don't know how this is going to work, but we know we need to eventually be together, we are opening all the doors we can. That includes Mike looking at what it would be like for he and his kids to possibly live in Aspen one day. That includes me looking at Whitefish for the summers at least.

Its complicated. People don't believe it will work. But we have chosen not to plot the finish. We have chosen to be dedicated to growing our family, our love, our relationship, and trusting that the path will open that will allow our family of seven to be together one day.

To do that, Mike and I worked hard during the week he was here to learn what triggers or concerns each of us had. There has to be a huge amount of trust, and both of us have been hurt badly in the past. And we've hurt others.

Here is what we came up with: Its our job to respect the position of our other. In other words, Its my job to "hold space" for Mike. Not like "How would Mike feel if he were here?" But he is here. Always. In this space that I hold for him.

And so, part of my job is to make sure that people know that I'm with Mike. That I respect that position, and that I need the help of the people in my life to respect that position as well. And I think this is where lots of us fall down.

I can put it out there, "I have a boyfriend." And if a guy chooses to flirt with me anyway, well that's his problem, not mine. But that's not entirely accurate. Because my job in this case is to not only respect Mike's position, but to make sure that others respect it too. And if they don't I have the choice of either making sure that they do, or removing myself. Because someone who is not going to respect the fact that I am with Mike is not respecting me.

And Mike is doing the same thing in Whitefish. And in this way, we stay connected. We feel connected. So far, it has worked well. We have worked through some tough jealous times, a feeling that neither of us likes to have. But we both want the same thing. We want a strong, healthy, brave, loving, patient family. We want a family that feels like a nest. And that example for our kids starts with us.

So we are willing to do what is hard. Because even though we don't get to hug and smile and play together right now, our hearts are still connected. I feel those kids in Whitefish. I miss them terribly. Just like I miss my kids in Bozeman. But we will be together soon, and when we are, it is truly magic like none I've ever felt.

Michael, I'm grateful for you. I want to see your light shine as bright as it can shine. And I want to help you make our kids' lights shine like highbeams across the wild. Thank you for your bravery and your love. You make me feel like I can fly.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Go Big With Your Heart: How we met.

A lot of people ask me how this is going to work. How in the world are Mike and I going to be a couple when he lives up near the Canadian border in Whitefish, Montana, and I live 20 hours south of him in Aspen, Colorado.

And the answer to this question, like so many others in my life is, "I don't know." I don't know how its going to work. I know that we can tackle the bumps as they come, and that it will only work if we are both totally committed to being open, communicative, and willing to work through the tough stuff.

And what's really amazing is... we are.

I want to tell you the story of how we met, because I think it sheds light on what's at stake, and on what's possible. Its worth fighting for, for sure.

Mike has been reading my blog for about a year and a half. He knew that I was a performance coach, and he's an ambitious, energetic, athletic guy who wanted to do "it" better. So he emailed me off my blog and asked for some coaching. I was psyched, as you all know, money is tight, and every gig helps. I love to coach, and so coaching someone over the internet seemed like a great plan.

We emailed back and forth a few times, but we both got busy and our schedules didn't mesh up. Eventually, he made a friend request of me on Facebook, and I remember looking through his photos. All his pictures are of him outside with his kids, outside skiing or climbing, taking rescue courses, or working at the Pheriche Aid Station in Nepal (one of my favorite places on the planet).

I remember seeing a picture of his eldest son, Cyrus, hanging out of his tent, with wild hair and a big smile, and I remember a picture of all three of his kids hanging all over him and laughing outside. I thought to myself, man, this is the kind of thing that I want. Not this man, because that would be silly, but someday, I hope to find a love like this, someone who is strong and can take his kids outside and be with them and be patient and happy, be close, and bonded and adventurous, and teach my kids with me to live a life outside, full and free and happy.

I remember thinking to myself that he looked a little bit like a Patagonia catalogue, and that its dangerous to dream, to wish, to think you see what you want. "Oh, Kate." I thought to myself. "Don't wish for what you can't have. That's not how it works out for you." And so, I erased him. From my memory. Completely.

About four months later, I was healing from a broken heart, and I sat down and I wrote a list. I wrote what I wanted in my relationships. Not a physical description, because that just doesn't matter to me. But what kind of person. My list went something like this:

"I want someone who is not afraid to love. I want someone who wants to go big with his heart, who is excited, psyched to be with me. I want to be with someone who loves my kids as much as they love me. I want to be with someone who is psyched to see me fly, who puts wind in MY sails, and who lets me put wind in his as well. I want to be with someone who wants to live a life of wild adventure, but to whom love is the baseline that drives that adventure. I want to be with someone who wants to live outside, who wants to help me teach my kids to live outside, I want someone who cares about art and books and music, I want someone who can play in the snow and in the water and who can sleep outside...." The list went on and on like this.

I looked at my list when I was done writing, and realized, wow. I am going to be single for a very long time. And I was okay with that. I felt peace with that decision, because I finally knew and acknowledged that I didn't want anything less than that. I want a big love. I want a big family. And I'm not willing to have less than that.

I should have written "But in five or six months." at the bottom.

Four days later, I was answering my Facebook email, which is woefully neglected. I had four emails from some guy, Michael, which were one month apart exactly. Who was this guy? He had sent me a link from some singer, Lisa Hannigan, thinking I might like the style of one of her songs... and I had listened to it previously, and liked the music, but I hadn't actually LISTENED to it. The song was called "I'd like to meet you.". You can listen to it here while you roll your eyes at me.

I was trying to figure out who this guy was... his last email had said, "I'm bummed you are leaving the state." and I thought, I don't even know who you are, why would you be bummed? So I clicked on his profile, and I realized... HEY, this was that coaching client guy! This is the camping guy! I remembered seeing a photo where he was looking at the camera, maybe doing dishes on a camping trip, and I remember seeing myself behind the camera, and seeing my kids in the picture with him, and I remember thinking, wow, Kate. That's wishful thinking, and that's not healthy.

I emailed him back. I answered all four of his emails about ten minutes apart, and I asked him, "Am I going to meet you?" wondering why he would be bummed I was leaving if I didn't even know him...

The next morning, I got an email, "My flight vest was rumbling all the way to Spokane..." Apparently, he's a flight paramedic. He flies around in a helicopter rescuing people in remote and urgent situations and taking them to hospital care. Yeah, I know. Okay. Heroic. His flight vest was rumbling because he was getting my emails. And he was glad they were all from me.

And thus began 48 hours of mad texting. And then I thought, this is insane. I don't know this guy. How do I know what he's like? He could wear socks with his teevas for all I know. He could be a serial killer. You decide which is worse.

Finally, I told him, after being completely twitterpated for two days, "I can't do this. I can't flirt with you and be swept off my feet by a man I don't know. I know NOTHING about you! And you know nothing about me, and I can't ask your friends, hey, what's Mike like?" I was stuck. I've never been in a situation where I wasn't friends with someone first and then grown into a relationship with them.

And so, after being the recipient of such texts as "I want to plant food with you, I want to dance with you, I want to sit with our bare feet in the grass together at the edge of the river and watch our kids play..." (Are you reading this out of a book? Really? How can you be brave enough to say these things to me?... oh wait... I asked for this. I wrote down what I wanted. I want someone who is not afraid to love, not afraid to say how he feels, who is willing to take risks, who loves me passionately... shit. I asked for this and now I'm scared of it and I'm running away...) I balked.

"Hey, I'm going camping with my kids on Friday. Want to come?" he asked me.

"Sure." I said. (What? Really? Well, there were some other folks up in Whitefish we could camp with, so it would be safe, but on the other hand, what would be worse than being stuck all weekend with some wierd guy who I didn't hit it off with? Was I insane? Part of me was already feeling like I was in love with him, could that even be possible?

I told my sister. "I'm going camping with this guy..." of course, she thought I was certifiable.

"Kate. You can't do this. You can't go camping with a total stranger with your kids. No." I told this to Mike.

"Hey, my sister is very protective of me, and she might have something here... I need to listen to her. I'm not sure I should go."

"Can I talk to your sister?" he asked me. Sure. I gave him her number.

An hour or so later, she called me back. What could they POSSIBLY have been talking about for that long?

"Okay. If you DON'T go camping with this guy, I'm never talking to you again." WHAT? Really?

And so it was decided. We'd leave in two days. Let the mad texting begin again. We packed our stuff. Ethan and Bodhi and I drove with our dog, Wya, to Rocky Creak in Valley of the Moon. We got there before they did. Just before I lost cell service, I got a text. "I've never wanted to tell a woman that I've never met that I love her before..." Oh my god. I'm either insane, or he is, or this isn't possible or real, or I'm perhaps the luckiest woman to ever walk the earth. You choose.

There was another family already there when we arrived, and the kids ran around playing together while the us grownups attempted to put up the tent and get all ready. I was having trouble concentrating for some reason... and he was late. Very late. And I thought, oh, my god, he's not coming.

Finally I let go and settled down and had a glass of wine around the campfire with our neighbors. I was worried that my kids wouldn't get along with Mike's kids. I mean, his eldest was almost thirteen. My youngest was not yet six. What are a thirteen year old and a five year old going to have in common? I could just see the teenager rolling his eyes and saying, "Oh, this is soooo lame, Dad..." and longing for his x box... a nighmare was about to ensue, i was sure of it.

And then up the road came this old beat up Land Cruiser. Oh, wow. Of course, he drives a super sexy truck. And its covered in gear racks that are all beat to hell, because he uses them. And then he pulls up, and we are all walking across the campsite towards him, and his kids get out. And they are amazing. And Cyrus, the eldest, walks right up to me, and introduces himself with a big smile, and so does Ethan, Mike's Ethan, who is a bit shyer, but very warm, and my Ethan walks right up, "Hi, I'm Ethan, and this is Bodhi, want to see the forrest?" and all four kids take off into the forrest with both dogs running after them. And there I am standing by myself. Mike is watching from the truck, he hasn't got out yet. And I think, well, gee, that was easy. I can see the kids from here, they are holding hands. For real.

I look at the truck. I'm scared, I'm excited, I don't know what to think. I don't know this person at all. But he knows me. "I know the you you show to the world through your blog, Kate. But I want to know all of you. I want to know the you that you don't show to anyone else." Oh my god. Hes going to hold me accountable. He can see right through me. And he stands up, and of course, even though I loved him already and it wouldn't have mattered, he's beautiful. He's tall and blonde and blue eyed and kind. I can feel kindness and caring radiating from him from where I stand, rooted to the spot. He closes the distance between us.

"There you are." he says, looking into my eyes, holding my face in his hands. "Where have you been?"

I just stand there. I don't know what to do with everything I am feeling. I look into the woods, the kids are running around in the trees, oblivious to me and my heart which has fallen out of my body and right into this man's hands.

"Why don't you sit down?" he asks me.

"Ok." I say, and I sort of collapse on the boulder behind me. Mike goes back to his truck and reaches into the driver's seat and brings out a bag of raspberries. (I promise you, I'm not making this up. This all really happened.)

"I picked these raspberries in my garden this morning and I've been waiting all day to feed them to you." For real. He says this. He kneels down in the dirt at my feet and begins to feed me raspberries. And I'm thinking, "I made him up, I made him up there's no way this is real, how did he get here?"

And the weekend continues like this, he plays his guitar with his son, they sing me songs together. Mike plays to Ethan and Bodhi, the boys all play together. We make good food together, we swim in the river together, we have little adventures and big adventures. Its like we've always been a family. The boys are dirty and happy, we play hard for three days, we are irrevocably and completely compatible. We are careful to let the love show, but not to confuse the kids. Mike asks if he can hold my hand, and the moment he does, I can't let go of his. He is gentle. He is respectful. He is patient with his kids and mine. Together, we are all very happy. Its a happiness that none of us have felt in a long time. Its a happiness of getting what you dreamed was possible, but knowing that it was improbable.

And the weekend comes to a close. And I am supposed to leave for India in 30 days and then move to Aspen. His kids ask me, "Do you really have to go?"

At the end of the weekend, Ethan asks me if Mike is going to be my boyfriend. I ask him what he thinks about that. His face breaks out in a huge smile. "YEAH! Yes mom, YES!" and Bodhi is nodding and smiling. Something that was broken is healing here.

That weekend, Ethan caught a snake with his bare hands and Bodhi built a spider web out of climbing rope. The big boys built a slackline and went fishing. And Mike and I fed them and cared for them, and he played me music and looked at me in the starlight. "You are having trouble with this, aren't you?" he asked me.

"Yes." I told him. Because I believe in honesty.

"Can you look at me and tell me you deserve to be happy, Kate?"

I couldn't. I couldn't believe he could know me so well to know that I was struggling, and know why it was that I was struggling. "I deserve to be happy" I whispered, without looking at him. My life is so full, I have so much, wishing and wanting a love like this seems greedy.

"I think you should tell me you deserve to be happy. The way you really feel about it. Don't you want to be happy?" I looked at him. The tears came, I couldn't stop them. He brushed them with his thumb.

"I deserve to be happy." I said, looking into his eyes.

Needless to say, I didn't go to India for my Ayurvedic training. Mike will possibly be in Nepal again this June, I'll go to India then while he's there. We spent the next three months camping every weekend with the kids. On the river, at the resivoir. We took my mom with us, and she fell in love with the family, and they fell in love with her. On the second trip, I got to meet Mikes amazing and beautiful daughter, Marley.

And here's the thing. I've always wanted a huge family. Five skaters and I'll be the goalie, I always said. But I couldn't do it in my previous life, it just wasn't possible to have any more kids. The strain of two on my marriage was hard enough. I was a little sad about that, but I had accepted it and let go of the idea.

And suddenly, here they are. 13, 11, 9, 8, and 6. Five kids. One girl. A tribe. A tribe that meshed on its own with no force or will, just open love, from the very first day.

And lots of people told me that it was too good to be true, that it couldn't last. And it was certainly amazingly overwhelming to both of us. And going at it kind of "backwards" being an instantly integrated family and then getting to know each other certainly had its challenges.

But I got to see my kids blossom and open and grow, they loved to be with the big boys, and the big boys seemed to love to have someone to mentor. And Marley was finally a big sister, and I had someone to do girl stuff with. Bliss. Bliss worth fighting for.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Teaching at Mach Chicken (that's one past Plaid...)

I took my Level 3, (or "Full Cert") for the first time at the end of my second season of skiing and teaching. I was excited to see where I was compared to the bar, and I didn't really expect to pass.

I passed the teaching portion with room to spare, but I didn't pass the skiing. I came pretty close, though!

Michael Hickey, my coach at the time, told me, "Kate, be careful, you don't want to pass your Full Cert unless you feel confident that you could get hired at any resort in the country, and they could give you any client, and you could take that client anywhere on any mountain and teach them and ski with them."

I took these words to heart, but I didn't really appreciate their impact until the beginning of this week.

I passed my full cert at the end of my third season teaching and skiing, last April. This year, I moved to Aspen Mountain, and on Monday, I had my very first lesson there. Now, Aspen Mountain is one of the oldest and most respected ski schools in the world, and I am a full cert instructor there. So I should be able to take anyone that comes into the ski school and work with them anywhere on the mountain.

As a rookie, I expected my first lesson to be someone that was not a ski instructors dream, but no. Right off the top, first lesson, third day on skis, I got thrown some amazing work off the desk. My clients wanted to ski top to bottom gondola runs as FAST as they could, through bumps, powder, over groomers, off cat tracks, through the trees and off the backside. We did eight laps by lunch. EIGHT. It took 17 minutes to ride the gondola and 2 and a half to ski down.

I don't know that I've ever skied that fast for that long. Not even chasing Troy Nedved and Josh Sphuler around Big Sky. I was grateful for Jill Imsand and Christine Bakker, who got me skiing at Mach Chicken (as Dave O says... that's one past Plaid...) through the skied out crud last year. I was grateful for Chris Jones in the bumps, and I was grateful most of all that I hadn't passed my three the year before, because I never would have survived this lesson had it been a year ago!

The best part was, they wanted me to teach! But they didn't want to slow down. So not only are we SKIING at Mach Chicken, but I'm trying to TEACH at Mach Chicken! At this point, I'm really REALLY grateful for Michael Hickey and Josh teaching me to keep it concise. I had literally 30 seconds. 15 to explain what I wanted, 10 to check for understanding, 5 to reiterate, and BAM we were off, melting the snow in our wake.

Two days of this. Welcome to Aspen Mountain, Kate! Sheesh!

Can I tell you something, though? It was great, amazing, awesome fun. And I did it. I changed their skiing, I stayed on my feet, I skied respectably well (although i have a loooong way to go...) and they booked me again for when they are next in town. Yippee!

A Quick Update

Its been a very busy week. I've been going from about 5 in the morning till about 11 at night for the last seven days or so, trying to keep up with co-ordinating my training schedules at the Aspen Club, the Remede Spa, and Aspen Mountain. Everyone is training at once, and everyone has a LOT of work during the Christmas season, so I'm trying to pick up shifts, but leave lots of space for time with my family. My boys will be here in seven days! YEAH!

Setting up a house all over again is incredibly expensive. Its frustrating to have to go and buy things like mops and brooms and cleaning supplies when I already have bought all that stuff, its just up in Bozeman at the house I don't live in anymore. I know that's the reality of splitting the household, and every family that splits has to do it, but its been a loooong time since I had to restock from the ground up and MAN is it expensive!

Its been a very full week, and on top of it all, I'm sick. But I think today I'm over the hump. A half gallon of tangerine juice a day and some Chineese herbs seems to have done the trick.

The week started with moving into the new place, getting my ski school uniform, skiing hard with my rippin clients for a couple of hours, writing, getting picked up for sponsorship by Icebreaker, who will be linking to my blog (whoooppeee!) and good timing too, my only pair of long underwear looks like swiss cheese. I wore yoga pants under my ski pants yesterday...

I got to hear a lecture by Charlie MacArthur on cross discipline MA, and one by Ski Physics Guru Ron LeMaster on carving.

I got hired to write for Ski Magazine, and my article came out in Ski Racing and Telemark Skiing.

I went through training at the Aspen Club and at Remede at the St. Regis, and I began training on Aspen Mountain. I got to ski with Weems and Cindy, and we had some great talks about whats going on in my skiing, which is NOT where I left it last year.

I have about 18 hours of slow motion open parallel ahead of me... and I'm okay with that. I took the day off from training on skis today to let my body recover from this dang cold...

I have LOTS of blog posts to put up... I'm keeping little lists, but I have no internet in my house still and no cell service, either, so right now, I'm sitting in the laundry room at the ranch. To get here, I just pull on my snowboots and walk in my PJ pants under an amazingly starry sky along the creek in knee deep snow for about 150 yards. Its quite lovely, and the laundry room is quite warm and snug.

But I don't get in here often enough to hammer out the writing like I'd like to. I'll be back to a post a day (or nearly) when my internet goes in and I can post from bed!

Thanks for reading and for taking this wild ride with me!

Proud to be writing for:

Its been quite a year, and I want to say thank you to all the amazing publications that have put my pieces in print this year, and thanks to all of you for reading them!
To visit these magazines, click on their links in the sidebar!

Psyched to be writing for SKI magazine!

Well, it happened. I just got hired to write for one of the top 3 skiing publications in the country, SKI magazine. I'm thinking about a picture my mom took of me when I was about 12 writing on one of the many old antique typewriters that I collect. I never thought it would be true, that I'd really get paid to write stuff, let alone get paid to write about my favorite things to do in the world, but here we go, its happening. Details to follow, stay tuned!

Ski Racing Magazine is out with World Cup Coverage by Kate!

Oh holy wow its amazing to see my stuff in print! Ski Racing magazine is out! With an article by me on Slipping the course last year. You can read it HERE, or better yet, go buy a copy on news stands!

Sponsored by Icebreaker!

Holy wow this week is out of control. Guess what, guess what guess WHAT! I just got picked up by ICEBREAKER! This is the nicest wool gear I've ever worn, hands down. And now, I'm one of their sponsored Athletes! I have officially fallen down the rabbit hole! YEAH! Stay tuned for gear reviews!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Red Coat Red Coat Red COAT!

Today, I taught my first lesson on Aspen Mountain! My first lesson as a pro for the Aspen Ski Co. It was AWESOME! We did top to bottom ripper laps on the Gondoloa as the snow was beginning to accumulate. My clients are training for a heli ski trip, so they need mileage. Its been dumping all night, so it looks like we'll have at LEAST six inches of fresh in the morning. Time to break out the big boards!

I must say that seeing the red sleeves of my coat come up into my field of vision while I ski with the Aspen Valley below me is a truly other-worldy sensation. I'm grateful for every turn I make, and I'm grateful, so grateful, to everyone who helped get me here, and to the enormously gentle and encouraging welcome that I've gotten from everyone at the Aspen Mountain ski school. It has been an incredible beginning.

Thanks for having me! I love my red coat!!

Happy Birthday, MOM!

Thank you for all that you do for me, and for our family. You are truly an inspiration, and I can't believe how big your heart is. I'm grateful to know my boys are safe in your arms up there in Montana, and I can't wait to see you again soooooon for Christmas in Aspen! I love you!

Live the Dream with me!

Here it is! My silly 30 second spot for Live the Dream!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First Aspen Ski School Meeting!

Suddenly last night I got a text from Andy telling me to get my butt down to the Mountain Chalet, it was time for the Aspen Mountain Ski School Annual Meeting! I was excited for my first official mountain event, and I learned a lot at it, but most important, I learned that I have a LOT to learn! I have no idea how things work here, and I don't think they are used to having a total newbie to the Ski Co working on Aspen Mountain. I am the only new pro this year on Aspen Mountain (hired out of the Ski Co), and I was standing there looking around at this distinguished group of people and I sort of realized, maybe, what I've gotten myself into.

Its Andy's first year as ski school director there, and everyone is very excited to have him. He got up and said howdy, and in his short speech, he said that it was an honor, and honestly a little intimidating to be the new director of one of the oldest, most distinguished, most respected, and most tenured ski schools in the world. Gulp. A few minutes later, he welcomed the transfers in from the other schools, and then he introduced me. "And new this year from Bridger Bowl, Montana, Kate Howe."

It was really almost comical. I feel a little bit like a toddler who just learned how to run who is hanging out with a bunch of people that are training for a marathon. Like I'm running along with them, and the feeling of running is so awesomely fun that I don't really care that I just figured out how to do it.

Mike Caplain, the CEO of the Ski Co got up and talked to us, and it was great see the personal and deep investment that he has in the ski school. We heard some great statistics from the survey, every year, the Ski Co surveys 5000 guests through an independent company. While most other resort's numbers slipped, Aspen came in on the top in Value, and in Customer Satisfaction. I'm proud to work for a company that can kill it like that in the midst of a scary recession! Wooohaaa!

I walked around after the intros and met my fellow ski instructors, I've skied with many of them, and recognized a lot of them, but there are a LOT of people to remember! The thing that's been amazing is how incredibly HELPFUL everyone is offering to be! Its been amazing how many people are asking how I'm doing, how I'm adjusting and if they can help. Just knowing that this support is HERE makes me feel strong and raring to go, unafraid to keep walking and moving and working.

I'm really struck by the fact that three years ago I was a non skiing stay at home mom, sad, very lonely, overweight, and dead inside. Today, I am full cert, I play outside every day, I'm fit, I've graduated from school, I have energy to play with my kids, I have a wonderful relationship (and three more kids to go with it) and three amazing jobs, one of them teaching at the legendary Aspen Mountain.

HOW did this happen? I gotta say, its strange, and wonderful, and I feel very blessed.

Aspen Skiing Company: Renew the Human Spirit

Hello hello gentle reader! Thank you so much for your patience! Its been a week and a half since I posted, it feels like its been an eternity. I'm gonna go a little out of order here, and just get em up, I have so much to write about! Mike gave me a little voice recorder so I've been able to make little notes about post topics that occur to me.

On Thursday, I had my first "official" Aspen Ski Co. meeting, we went to New Hire Orientation where we filled out sooo much paperwork... this is the first time that I've worked for a large corporation, and while I've seen Tom go through it when he got hired at RightNow, and my mom used to administrate stuff like this as the head of HR for some huge silicon valley companies, I've never been a cog in a wheel like this. It feels... beautiful!

Aspen Ski Co seems to have managed to become an enormous, well oiled machine that does not let the very important aspect of valuing its employees slip through the cracks while it continues to grow.

At orientation, we were not only told what would be expected of us, but we were told what we could expect from the company. This message, I think the message that every company wishes it could send, is one that seems to have delivered itself just by the virtue of how the company is run, what its core principals are, and the people that they hire. I've heard this about the Ski Co, it was one of Outside Magazine's Top 10 places to work in 2008, but I was always a bit skeptical of it.

Of course everyone who works here thinks its the greatest place to work, that's how you recruit people to work somewhere! But then I thought about that for a minute longer... I've never actually worked somewhere where everyone I talked to was happy with their job and grateful to work at this particular company. People readily say there is room for improvement. People say its a work in progress. But people also say its the best place they've ever worked.

So here it is. The mission statement of the Aspen Skiing Company is: Renew the Human Spirit. That's it. How do they do it? By honoring the Mind, Body and Spirit. The Ski Co is committed to being here for the long haul, and they aren't focused on luxury. They are focused on opportunity for excellence. The result of this... its the best ski experience in the country, and therefore its where those who love luxury travel.

I'm so very excited to join this team! Its something that Kurt and I used to talk about quite a bit. "What's the point? I'm a ski instructor. What does that do in the big picture?"

I'll tell you what it does in the big picture. It is yet another opportunity to wake someone up. To put their feet in touch with the earth, their skin in touch with the sun and the wind. Its an opportunity to show them that they are so much more than they ever imagined. They can do more, and be more, and they will leave here and cary that idea into their other work, home to their kids, and their spouses, and if we are lucky... that will ripple out and touch thousands of people.

And not because they could afford to do an expensive sport at an exclusive resort. Heck, I have about $220 to my name right now, and I ski all the time at this place. Its because here, in Aspen, there is a collection of people who believe that its important to be outside, its important to breathe, to play, and to be free for even just a day. It renews you.

Fear of Being Alone

I often ask myself "What is the lesson" when I'm in a place that feels challenging. I ask that because I don't want to have gone through something that is difficult without emerging with something that made it worthwhile to wander around in the muck like that. I used to kind of kick my feet and wish I didn't have to go through these things, I used to whine and wonder why me? I remember clearly a time when I thought it wasn't fair that it was so easy for everyone else and so hard for me. I remember thinking that it would be better if I'd had an easier childhood, if someone just loved me the way I needed to be loved, I'd feel whole and therefore I'd be able to be ME!

But what I've come to realize over the last ten years, and in the last three especially, is that I don't think that's what its about. Looking for a place to blame, looking for a place to say, well, I would realize my potential if only... or its not fair that this other person gets to have a lucky break when all I get is hard times... all that does is screw you down tighter into that place.

And when you are screwed down tight like that, there's no wiggle room. A deep breath doesn't lift you off the screw, you can't ever move forward because you are trapped by your desire not to be where you are right now.

Something profound changed for me when I realized that, as Amy says, "You are right where you need to be to learn the lesson that you need to learn. And where you need to be is not always comfortable or pleasant." So now, when I feel that uncomfortable place, the first thing I've learned to think is, "What am I supposed to be learning right now?" This does a couple of things, but the most important one, I think, is that it gives me space between my fear about what feels uncomfortable, different, or painful, and the actual event. It gives me a moment to let go of being pulled around by emotional fish hooks, and look at the moment with curiosity.

Like smoothing the wrinkles out of a sheet with your hand, there is some clarity there.

I'm thinking about this a lot right now, because one of the biggest issues that I've worked on over the years, is fear of being alone. And I've been writing about this quite a bit in the last few weeks, because for only the second time in my life, and for the first time in thirteen years, I live by myself. This will end in about two days when my room mates move in, and I'm almost sad about it.

Living alone has been wonderful, and scary. The loss I feel of my kids is tremendous. I look at their photos, I feel Bodhi's pain from so far away, I know he's struggling and sad, today he told my mom "I miss my mommy. I want her here. I want to talk to her." and today he told me that when he sees me we are going to roll on the floor hugging for hours.

Missing Mike is hard, too, our connection is strong and deep, and we've worked hard to nurture it. Now that his trip down here is over, there is a huge hole where he was. Who knows how long it will be till I see him again, and it may be even longer till I see his kids.

I know that there are worse, harder, more difficult things to survive than being alone, and I've survived some of them in my life. But its interesting to me that the deep hole that challenges me the most is this one. If I'm alone, am I loved? If I'm alone, am I enough for me? Can I make good food, just for me? Can I write, can I pay my bills, can I live my life because I need to, I want to, and not because someone else is watching me do it and saying, "well done" or "you could have done that better" or "you need to do this now."

Its embarrassing to admit in public that this has been a big struggle for me. But I know I'm not alone here. I think being alone in our skin is one of the biggest challenges that many of us face. We can walk around in the world and feel connected, but when we are in our own skin, with nothing distracting us, we sit with the truth of who we are, what our motivations are, and our choices are very clear. With out the anesthetist of television and internet, the volume is turned up on those things.

Sitting by myself in my house, with no television, no internet, there are no distractions from that pain that comes with feeling acutely alone. The loss of those kids, even for these two months, is like the loss of a limb. But while its hard for all of us, I think that it has been a tremendous opportunity for me to learn to become more whole. I am okay being alone. I didn't die. I can get out of the bed, and make myself good food. In other words, I have discovered that I am enough for me. While its very easy for me to get up and make a fun and fantastic breakfast for the kids, I was worried that I wouldn't be motivated to take care of myself the way that I take care of them.

But that hasn't been the case. I'm doing ok. There are nights when I have curled up and let the longing for them wash through me like a burning river. I don't really know what to do in those instances. I see Bodhi's beautiful face, I feel Ethan's gentle breath, I see them laying in their beds, finally asleep, and I long for them in a way that feels acutely painful. All I've learned to do in that case is to let that feeling move through me, to be grateful for the bond that we have, to know that it hurts this much because I love them this much, and to be grateful for the opportunity to know I am strong enough to survive separation like this.

And soon, very soon, we won't have to feel this way anymore. And the result of being alone, being apart, will be that the mom that they come back to is even healthier, stronger and more sure of herself. So it hurts to learn to be okay with being alone, it hurts to let go of my fear of being alone and kind of embrace it. But every time I let go a little more, I feel more capacity for love, I feel more grounded, I know I can accomplish more, with less judgment and more compassion.