Sunday, May 30, 2010

Todi Team Athlete Profile is UP!


Its official, I'm an athlete! I'm on a website that says so! I'm so very stoked and a little embarrased and quite excited. Thanks so much for believing in me and helping me out, Todi!

Check it out here:

http://www.todiusa.com/profile/kate-howe

Treat this like any other Surgical Procedure: Panic Completely


Friday was the big day. Six injections into the Facet joints in my C-Spine. I've canceled this procedure three times because I was either too scared to get the injections or I couldn't find five days in a row to lay around and do nothing. They were going to do this procedure under general anesthetic, and in the past, I've taken at least 48 hours to recover from those drugs, let alone any recovery from the actual procedure. So I was nervous.

But it was time to get it done, my neck isn't getting any better, it feels like I have sand paper between my joints, and it hurts to look down or flex my neck to the right or left, or look up, or to have my kids hug me around the neck, so... time to suck it up and get the work done.

I wrote earlier about the nightmare of getting the procedure set up, and we didn't know until the night before whether it was going to be paid for or not, so there was a huge amount of anxiety leading up to the procedure about whether it was even going to happen or not. I had to have someone who was willing to watch my kids for three days, someone to drive me to the surgery, and wait for me, and bring me home, and had to take a few days off of work, so arranging my schedule and everyone elses for something that might not even happen was also stressful for everyone!

In the end, we got the procedure confirmed, and I went over to Kurt's at six am, and we took off for Vail. The closer we got, the more nervous I got. I was talking myself through the situation, trying to tell myself that its fine, lots of people do this all the time, its not a big deal...

But being put under general anesthetic is absolutely scary to me. I'm so sensitive to drugs, and it takes me a long time to wake up from it, and I'm also a huge baby about throwing up, and general usually makes me puke for a few days. Then there's the whole idea about having six huge needles put into the facet joints in my c-spine.

I wasn't THAT nervous about it until I had to fill out an advance directive, living will, power of attorney... We got there and went upstairs, and waited for a little while. Quite honestly, I wanted to hide under Kurt's chair, I felt like Bodhi when we used to go to the Urgent Care to get his face super glued back together when he was younger (that's another story, we used to call him "wrecking ball" because his head was so hard and he'd smack it on everything...)

They finally called me in, Kurt gave me a reasuring hug and went off for breakfast in Vail, I followed the nurse into the curtains. As soon as we walked through the doors, tears started running down my face. I couldn't stop it, I felt so sad, and so worried. I wasn't sobbing, just leaking.

She handed me my gown and said, "Oh, honey, are you okay?" I said yes, I was, but I was just really really nervous. She was so nice, said that everyone would come by and talk to me, and explain what was going on.

I tried to explain to her that I wasn't really nervous, I was just incredibly nervous. It didn't come out right, obviously, because it doesn't make any sense. She led me into the bathroom to change and as soon as that door closed, I fell apart crying. I was so ashamed of myself, why was I crying?

Well, there's the whole needle into one of the blood vessels, bleed into the spinal column, not waking up from the general, or spending two days throwing up and feeling terrible after the procedure when right now, I feel pretty good.

I let myself cry in secret for a few minutes and then got myself together, changed and headed out to my bed, #17. We were really on our way now, almost as soon as I sat down, the nasal cannula and IV went in, I sent a few texts, in went the drug to relax me, and we were off.

They gave me Verced, so I'm sure there was more to it than that, I vaguely remember getting off the bed and onto the operating table, because I had to lay face down, and I vaguely remember Kurt coming back in with some orange juice and a bagel for me.

The next thing I remember is deciding to drive home over the pass instead of on I-70, which was lovely. Kurt used to live in the Vail Valley, so I got to hear a bunch of stories, some of which I remember, and he pointed out a bunch of peaks and lines he's skied while I pestered him for more.

We stopped in Leadville for lunch, and wandered around the town while we waited for my prescriptions to be filled. I've started collecting bumper-stickers, and I got a fun one from the mountain shop there that says "Just because I slept with you last night doesn't mean I'm going to ski with you today." I cut it up so it says "Just because I skied with you last night doesn't mean I'm going to sleep with you today."

Leadville is a cool funky town, and the surrounding mountains look incredible to ski, once again, I got a tour from afar of the peaks, and we headed off over the pass. It was an incredibly beautiful day, bluebird and warm. We stopped at the top of Independence pass to check on the ski conditions for the following day (which I wouldn't be participating in, obviously), took some pictures and headed into town.

All in all, it was an amazing way to spend what should have been a really scary day. The next day, Saturday, Kurt came back over to check on me, and we spent the warm day walking in the high fields, and I laid in the grass while he and the kids played on the slack-line. I took a couple of naps, and a couple of painkillers, but all in all, it was another gentle, beautiful day.

Today, I woke up feeling SO much better, I have more range of movement than I've had in a year in my neck, and its only getting better. I still have to be gentle with my activity, I'm hiking on dirt trails that aren't too tough right now, no running, but I did get on the slack-line tonight, and that felt good. (Step off, don't fall off!)

It looks like my neck is responding well to the treatment, and so we will probably do two more injections into the C-Spin and then a series of three into my SI joints over the next year. Fingers crossed for healing!!

Thank you for all the emails and good wishes on Facebook, you all made me feel very brave and loved!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Insurance Companies: Working Hard to get YOU the Care YOU Need! (NOT!)


This is a nightmare. So in October of 2008, I was in a really bad car accident and almost broke my neck. As a result, I had a Traumatic Brain Injury that took over a year to heal. I still have a bunch of issues related to it, such as Post Trauma Fibromyalgia, a long term neurological problem which makes my body hurt all over most of the time.

State Farm is the auto insurance that insures the guy who hit me, who was going about 45 MPH, texting, and rear ended me while I was stopped in traffic.

Things that help Fibro are a huge amount of exercise and body work. Massage therapy from a very skilled MT twice a week for 90 minutes, acupuncture once a week, Pilates and Yoga twice a week, about four hours of cardio a day, and lots of good sleep. As you might surmise from this list, that's a full time job, and its pretty hard to fit all of that in. However, when I do it, I feel great, and I barely notice the Fibro.

Unfortunately, while State Farm will reimburse all those expenses, they won't pay up front for them even if I have a prescription. Guess who doesn't have five hundred dollars a week to front for all that great therapy? As a result, I don't do those treatments unless I'm flush with cash (and, as a single mom, I bet you can guess how often that happens!).

Here's the deal. They are going to settle my claim. So I basically am waiting to get paid a settlement so that I can start those therapies. Ready for the catch? They value my claim by the total receipts that they pay out over time, so the amount they will pay out will be based on what they paid before, which means that the year and a half of the therapies that I should have been getting regularly, but couldn't because I don't have the money to put out up front won't be taken into consideration for the next 10 or 20 years or however long I'm going to be dealing with Fibro (which in most cases turns out to be a lifelong or very extended situation.)

Now, this week, I was supposed to go get injections into my C-Spine to help with the issues of the bulging discs that I have that are hurting in my neck. I went to a new, independent orthopedic guy in Vail, one of the best in the business, Dr. Raub at Vail Summit Orthopedics. He evaluated me, looked at my MRIs and recommended injections.

The surgery center where the procedure was going to happen doesn't bill third party insurance, and State Farm doesn't pay in advance. We submitted an estimate bill, Dr. Raubs evaluation, and wrote letters, they weren't willing to pay in advance.

They needed $2000 from me as a down-payment for the procedure. I have about seven bucks to my name right now, making it from one massage to the next until my summer job starts.

So I need this procedure, but I can't pay for it out of pocket, and they won't pay for it. I'm lucky that we figured out a way for my mom to take some money out of her retirement fund to help me for a week or so until they reimburse me, but this is also not a good thing, that money is now not making money for her, and costs her money to pull out.

Awesome, no? Our insurance at work!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thursday, Dec 14, 2006: This was me. Sat, June 22, 2010, I summited a mountain! Keep GOING YOU ARE DOING FINE!

Here is a blog post from several years ago, reposted again because I got this comment from a reader after I posted the Ophir to Telluride adventure:

"Trying to relate to this type of skiing adventure is just not possible for me! What you guys do to get some turns is just amazing. Your fitness is beyond beyond, so much more than I'd ever achieve. It's just really unbelievable. Phew! You go Kate.. "

I thought, its really important to share the fact that I was overweight and unsure of myself ONLY a few years ago. That the struggle back to fitness took years and years. That AFTER this post, in January, I gave up on ever making it back to fitness. Then I started teaching at Bridger a month later, and my life turned around.

I failed to see that this period was NOT a demand: you will now be a victim of your mom body, but that it was a beautiful, natural time when my body accommodated the miracle of the two children that it grew, then nurtured. So eager to get back to feeling like an independent, healthy person, I was impatient with myself to get there. This article was my first step.

This year, I made a commitment that I would race in every Nordic race held at Bohart Ranch, an awesome cross country facility here in Bozeman. My idea was to do the 3k classic (in groomed tracks) and just to finish.

After having ballooned an awesome 80 pounds with my pregnancies, I have, for the last three years, been slowly whittling my weight back down to some semblance of personage I can recognize in the mirror.

Lets rewind a tad. A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away in a land called Truckee, lived a girl named Sue. This Sue was like a sparkplug on redbull. For fun and entertainment, she worked on the back country ski patrol, where, every weekend, she would climb this huge peak and ski down it twice in a day on her teli skis.

This insane bundle of never ending endorphine loving energy would also call me up at nine o’clock at night and say “Hey, wanna go for a ski?”

“Um, Sue, it’s night time.” And I am sitting on the couch eating lasagna and watching a movie with my boyfriend…

“I know, get your headlamp. I’m almost at your house, I’ll be there in five minutes.”

Crap. So I would, much to Tom’s amusement, haul my ever spreading tush off my mother’s couch in the cabin in the woods where we lived, and get my gear on. Then I’d slip and slide my way out to Sue’s car and load my crap in and off we’d go.

Now this part is important: I love Sue. I look up to Sue. I want Sue to want to hang out with me. Therefore it is important that Sue believe I am up for insane crap like this. So I smiled and pretended to be an adrenaline junkie as we strapped on our skis on a full moon night on some fire road out in the Sierras.

We’d take off, my mom’s dog (who was staying with us) galumphing happily along, my headlamp unnecessary lots of times. The night was silent, the moonlight incredible, the snow soft and shushing under my skis. We’d start out together, getting the oil flowing in the joints, chat a bit and then slowly hit our strides. Sue, though a good three feet shorter than me (just kidding, but MAN it seems unfair) is more than three times as fast as I am, no matter how thin or strong I am. She is also a bit like the Energizer bunny. Yes, she keeps going and going and going…

She’d glide away in the moonlight and then return fifteen minutes later, checking in on me, and then take off again. In this way she taught me to love to ski by myself, that my own accolades are enough for me, and that I can do it. I have to do it at my pace, and practice will eventually put me in the middle of the pack, but I can do it.

When we first moved here, I couldn’t get Sue out of my head. I started hiking again, on about 15 or 20 of the over 260 trails in the Bozeman Area, and for a while there, I was hiking about 30 miles a week. I had to start with one. It was hard, slow, and I was out of shape. In a month, I could make it to the fire road at the top of Kirk hill.

A week later, my hiking buddies, Virginia and Liat and I all decided to find out where the fire road went. Five hours later, we emerged three canyons over and called Tom for a pick up. Two weeks later, we doubled that distance without much effort.

So last weekend, I figured, if I can hike 11 miles in a go, I can ski about 2! I got to the race, and found out that there wasn’t enough snow for a classic track, so I would be skating. Now, um, I suck at skating. All my Nordic experience is either in tracks, cutting tracks, or following in Sue’s tracks. And skate skis are VERY different than my little classic skis. Anyhow. Too late now. I pulled on my racing jersey and watched all the seven and eight year olds strip down into their bright red Swix racing suits and warm up. These kids (the BSF Nordic Racing team) kick some serious booty. They are fast, sleek, confident and have great form. I, on the other hand, fell over on my way to the outhouse.

Another alarming realization was that the 1 and 3k were for the kids, and I would need to be in the 5 or 10k. Okay. So now I am in the 5k, skating on classic skis, my giant wobbly mom’s butt jiggling along behind me.

The entire MSU Nordic team lined up on the line. There were about five other women over college age racing, most in the 10k, all in racing suits, all but one about 10% body fat. I lined up anyway. Sue would. She doesn’t care how big her butt is. She just wants to ski.

The race official yelled “Okay, don’t get lost.” Suddenly, I panicked. Wasn’t the course marked? Was the 10k two laps or one? Was the 5k a different course? Ahhhh! Too late “On your mark, Three, Two, One, GO!” Everyone blasted off the line in a beautiful example of skate efficiency. I polled my way behind them, and after the first thirty feet, was a good five feet behind. I kept going anyway. Sue would.

Long story short, it was a beautiful day. It was great to be out on the snow. And it was good that Sue had taught me it was okay to ski on my own, because after about 2 minutes, I couldn’t see a single living soul.

Eventually, I came across some spectators who were watching the 10kers head back toward the lodge, and I asked if I was on the right track. “Keep goin!” they yelled, and waived encouragingly at me. They probably would have thought I was just out for a ski if it wasn’t for the dead giveaway of the tiny racing jersey stretched over my non-racing body.

“Great, thanks!” I called, and continued on up the hill. After about 20 minutes, the 10kers lapped me. It was great, it gave me a chance to have a little Sue-like company, try to emulate their stride (as I had slowed down with no one pushing me and wasn’t really trying to skate anymore, just sort of doing a fast, sloppy classic to get around), and I got to say hi to my neighbor, Wess, who was doing the 10k.

I finished. And that was really the point. They were pulling up the marker flags as I finally rounded the last bend. The entire field had lined up at the finish line because that’s where they were going to hold the raffle, and as I came into view, people started to cheer. I couldn’t believe it. They called out “Good job!” “Almost there!” “Keep going!” and “Yeah!!” and I put a little speed on it and finished the race, about 20 minutes behind the last 10ker.
:

Name Distance Class Gender Time Place
Gretchen Sellegren 5 J1 F 0:19:41 1
Jenny Kauffman 5 J1 F 0:19:48 2http://beta.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
Jenna Hjalmarsson 5 J1 F 0:20:14 3
Maggie Hickman 5 J2 F 0:20:20 1
Reesa Pierce 5 J2 F 0:20:36 2
Johanna Rydell 5 J2 F 0:21:03 3
Kara Baldwin 5 J2 F DNF 4
Nikki Kimball 5 M1 F 0:16:16 1

Kate Howe 5 M1 F 0:46:39 2

Grethe-Lise Hagensen 5 M2 F 0:16:14 1
Shaun Dunnegan 5 M2 F 0:20:50 2
Brigitte Morris 5 M2 F 0:29:02 3
Kristin Wimberg 5 M3 F 0:21:43 1
Jamie Woelk 5 OJ F 0:15:43 1
Korie Steitz 5 OJ F 0:16:33 2
Claire Rennie 5 S F 0:15:42 1
Mandy Bowden 5 S F 0:15:44 2
Rachel Goldstein 5 S F 0:16:51 4
Frasier Opel 5 S F 0:16:55 5
Karoline Teien 5 S F 0:17:38 6
Maggie Casey 5 S F 0:17:39 7
Kelan Ramey 5 S F 0:18:27 8
Kalen Stanfill 5 S F 0:18:28 9
Becca Kurdnic 5 S F 0:19:12 10
Laura Tuttle 5 S F 0:20:08 11
Allie Phillips 5 S F 0:20:24 12
Ashley Kirchhoff 5 S F 0:23:25 13
Tanner Wiegand 5 J2 M 0:16:44 1
Akeo Maifeld-Carucci 5 J3 M 0:16:46 2
Jack Harris 5 S M 0:15:16 1
Jay Rutherford 5 S M 0:19:20 2

I drank my Gatorade, and stayed for the raffle, where I won a pair of Ear Bags (ingenious little ear warmers), and felt good going home, knowing I had done what I set out to do. I had entered, and completed, my first Nordic race. And on the way home, I thought, I am so glad I had a Sue. And now I can be a Sue for someone else. And they can be a Sue for someone else. And eventually, we will all be off the couch, and out in the deep snow in the moonlight, enjoying the cold air and endorphins and the excitement of being out and doing while the rest of the world is missing it.

Happy Trails,

Kate

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bliss, Nest, Boys


My boys are sleeping in their bunks. The dishwasher is humming, the boot dryer is humming, my mom is smiling as she heads to bed.

Bodhi got in our pond again today, he took his pants off and he was down there in his underwear and his tennis shoes, exploring his world, which is now full of lakeweed, humming birds, a pair of mallards which he's named Max and Josie, who follow him around asking for bread, a trio of crows who also want to be fed, and a gazillion other tiny wild birds, from various warblers, to chickadees.

We had spent the afternoon slack-lining and playing with the other boys who live on the ranch, the sound of the creek running over the rocks, the sun shining through the trees just newly budding up here in the canyon. Pyramid peak was bright white behind us, catching the sunlight, and the boys are at ease.

There is something so soothing about the rhythm of life here. The boys are so happy to have ponds and streams, a full blown creek and a river right near by, foxes and ducks, the chicks at the ranch have hatched and Bodhi has been tasked with helping feed them. Ethan spent the day yesterday scraping leaves out of the stream so that we have a waterfall into one of our ponds.

I love to watch them poking under the rocks, playing in the water, rambling all over the ranch. They are happy and proud that they don't have a TV, I caught Bodhi bragging to one of the ranch kids about it the other day.

My mom and I have found a rhythm of our own, where we both get out and get some good exercise, she's finding her way into the Aspen community, which is seemingly endless once you get started, with the Aspen Institute, the Jazz Festival and Food and Wine, Anderson Ranch arts, the Aspen Art Museum, it goes on and on...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Slacklining Epiphanies


As Scott and I were skinning up from Ophir the other day, we fell into a rhythm and stopped talking. My mind wandered, as it usually does, and I watched it land on a thought about slack-lining.

I had taken the slack-line to the park in Telluride the previous afternoon, and I found myself trying to explain to a 13 year old boy who had joined us, how to accept with his feet that he needed to accept that the line wanted to move if he wanted it to be quiet.

Back on Ophir, listening to my skis slide like a metronome, I looked up at the cornice we were skinning toward, and imagined having the grace and the confidence to launch off of it into the bowl below in a huge arcing air.

In my mind, I was flying in slow motion, feet pulled up under me, hands floating out in front. I watched the trajectory of my body be pulled by gravity to align with the slope below.

Freeze frame. Suddenly, these two thoughts lined up for me.

When I walk successfully on a slack-line, I feel like the line is like a cradle under my foot. I feel like I am replacing the one foot I am standing on with the next foot, into the cradle of support. I feel that I am rolling off of one foot and placing the other into this soft webbing, and the feel of the webbing is different than the feeling of the earth.

Reaching for the feeling of my foot swaying gently, feeling the air underneath it, feeling the webbing from toe to heel is the thing that makes me feel connected, solid and balanced.

Reaching for the feeling of trying to be in balance on this thin thing that is moving, and does not feel the way that I feel when I am in balance standing on one foot on the ground, makes me feel like I am constantly about to loose my balance. Wishing that standing on the line felt like standing on the earth pulls my focus away from the reality that standing on the line is DIFFERENT than standing on the earth.

I had chosen to stand on that line, because I wanted to be up there. Wanting to be up there needed to include loving all of the aspects of being up there. Not just the success of being able to balance on something that is moving, not just the idea of being in balance enough to walk across it, but in love with the actual whole experience of what it means to exist up in the air on this piece of webbing.

It means movement, of the line, of my body. It means that the world I am living in is transient, fluid, bounces and swings.

I thought about how it feels when I go off a jump on my skis when I feel great about the landing. I realized that in getting air on my skis, I need to incorporate some ideas of existing that I'm learning on the slack-line.

When I feel good in the air, I am happy to be in the air. I'm not in the air wishing I was already on the ground. I am in the air long enough to allow the force of gravity pulling me back to the earth to realign me with the angle of the slope that I'm going to land on.

I'm not reaching for the landing early, hoping that I'll come down to earth faster, because I'm accelerating in the air, and I don't want to be going this fast when I land.

I accept that the speed I gain in the air is a result of the size of the jump I've gone off of, and let the line draw itself, soft in my body, seeing the ground come up, and then meeting it, trusting that the turn will be there after contact is made, looking ahead.

For me, learning to go a little bigger needs to be about loving the time in the air, so much that I'm not afraid to stay there. So much that I'm willing to live there and feel all the sensations that are to be had on that line in between what I've jumped off and what I'm going to land on.

Just like the slack-line, just like standing up on it and honoring, in a way, what the slack-line requires in order to live up there, the jump is the same. You can't stand on the slack-line and wish it felt other than it does. You can't jump into the air and wish you were on the ground.

I feel something so simple here, I know it must sound silly, but there is this sort of acceptance piece I felt also when I was boot-packing and the wind was blowing and I was scared. That I was there, accepting, well, the wind is blowing and now you need to put your right foot higher. This is the feeling of climbing in the wind. No judgment, just presence, and curiosity, and suddenly, there is so much more time.

I'm curious if it will stick the next time I have an opportunity to jump off of something. But its been rattling around in my mind every day, and I've tested it on the line, feeling more at home, calm and walking further than I ever have, being more playful than I knew I could be, with less worry and fear. Is that because of practice or semantics or philosophy? I'll let you know when I get back from Big Air camp in June!

The Invitation

The Invitation
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer


It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk
looking like a fool for love
for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own without moving to hide it
or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to be careful
to be realistic to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day.
And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Can You Influence Others Through Self Empowerment?

Can You Influence Others Through Self Empowerment?
by Russell Bishop

Last week, we posited that the only true way to become empowered is to become self-empowered. If ever there were a time where we need large numbers of self-empowered people, this may be it.

As is the case with many important elements of improvement, empowerment is one of those terms that has been hijacked by any number of people and in the process has become watered down, misused, abused and otherwise become meaningless.

In much the same was as "positive thinking" has become synonymous with fluffy psychobabble, so too has empowerment. However, we needn't allow misuse to allow a powerful and important bit of reality to fall into disuse or to be tarred with the cynicism of the critic without a cause.

Read the rest of this interesting post at Huffington Post HERE

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ophir to Telluride Via K12: 13,612 ft!

Scotty Skins up the top 1/3 of the snowfield approaching the K12 ridge. Its sooo much steeper than it looks!!

"Keep Moving" The thought came into my head, it was the only thing I could hear besides the howling 60 mile per hour winds that were threatening to peel me right off the face of this mountain. I obeyed. I kicked my right boot in, weighted it, kicked my left boot in.

We were traversing across the face of the Ophir side of K12, a Colorado 13er, and the wind had come up suddenly. I had met Scotty Kennett earlier in the season here in Telluride, and had been waiting for months for a chance to come back and ski with him again.

A veteran of WESC (The World Extreme Ski Championship held in Valdez, Alaska for years), 7 time Warren Miller Athlete and a current nominee to be inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, I like to ski with him because he tells good stories, finds fun lines, laughs a lot, and I always learn a little more than I bargained for when I'm on his tail.

Today proved to be no different. We got up early and parked a car at the end of the Bear Creek trail head in Telluride, and then took Scotty's car over to the tiny town of Ophir. (Possibly the coolest town I've ever seen ever ever.)

Ophir is a tiny place with about 50 homes all built just out of the slidepaths of the enormous mountains that surround it. There are no services there, no little store, just a couple of rows of houses with bikes and kayaks and skins drying in the sun, all this stuff hanging off all these well built, well maintained, modest little houses. With spectacular rock climbing on one end of the short valley, and a Cirque of 13,000 ft peaks (and a few 14ers) surrounding it, its a little bit like a mountain girls paradise.

All you'd need is a couple of kids and a boy who plays guitar and can keep up on his skis to make it complete.


Kate and Scott on the ridge right near the summit of K12: 13,612 ft.

We parked Scotty's van at the base of the drainage for K12, (Should I mention that I didn't realize it was a 13,612 ft mountain? This is one of the things I love about Scott. Its just today's ski. It doesn't really matter how big it is.) and shouldered our packs, hiking boots on our feet. (Okay, tennis shoes. My hiking shoes bit the dust. I'm still milking mileage out of a pair of $30 Adidas that I bought at Costco three years ago.)

We head up through the Aspen trees, and out onto the grass, its steep already, but a fairly accessible peak. Scott has told me that it will probably be about a three hour climb. I am surprised at how good I feel, I had a hard time falling asleep last night, as usual before a big ski, so I only got about 6 hours and I'm running on no coffee, and no Red Bull. (HEY, I'm on a budget!)

We are yaking away while we are climbing, moving, thankfully, at a pace that is comfortable to me, I don't feel like I'm slowing Scotty down too much (although I'm sure he's pacing himself nicely for me). We head up into the snow and eventually put on our skis and skins, and spend an hour zigzagging up this very steep drainage. I can see the summit the whole time, which is pretty uncommon, and its nice to have a gauge of how far we have to go.

For the first time, I feel like I am beginning to read the terrain well. This is a fairly direct ascent, but I can tell how many traverses we are going to take on our skis, and where the easier line up this increasingly steep bowl will be. We decide to head up below a rockband and then boot straight up over the cornice and onto the Telluride face of K12.

I have a couple of epiphanous thoughts about slack-linging as it relates to getting air off a kicker or a cornice, which I'm eager to write about, and keep plodding away.

Mt. Snuffles in the distance, which will be my first 14.000 ft mountain, if weather co-operates in the next few days.

As we enter the top 1/3 of the climb, the wind begins to pick up. Its noisy, and I'm afraid I'm going to loose my hat, but its not unbearable. There isn't any windburn, I've felt worse on the Bridger Ridge, and we keep stepping along.

I'm surprised and happy at myself, I feel just fine. Fit, actually. My legs aren't tired, my lungs aren't burning, my heart doesn't hurt, and I'm not wondering, as I often am when I enter the top 1/3 of a climb, "What the heck was I thinking? Why am I doing this again? Can we just ski down from here? Do we really have to go to the top?"

I'm looking forward to seeing the other side, I'm looking forward to getting out of the wind, and I'm looking forward to the hummus, avocado and sprout sandwich (but no Red Bull) that's in my backpack.

We make a final kick turn and head across the high snowfield under the place where we intend to mount the cornice. The wind is howling. At this point, there is no option other than to summit and get off that way, there is absolutely no safe way that we could stop here and put on skis. At some point, about 100 feet below us, we became committed.

Knowing that, I let go of wondering if this is safe, or okay, and I smile to myself thinking that Scotty and I had just had a very interesting conversation about fear on the bottom of this route. I say out loud, "This is scary." No one hears me, the wind takes it off my lips.

Scott has stopped and is taking his skis off carefully, the pitch we are standing on is probably 45 degrees, and very slick from the wind. He kicks his feet in and reorients to begin booting up to the cornice. I stop and take my skis off as he moves upward, and put them on my pack. I will need both hands, all my balance, and all my concentration here.

My hat, under my hood, is in danger of blowing away again, and I think, whatever, if it goes, it goes, I'm not letting go to try and stop it or fix it.

Had it not been so windy, the exposure would have been thrilling and fun, and we probably would have been in a bigger hurry to beat the sun affecting the snow. As it was, we were moving at a methodical and careful pace.

Scotty booting it straight up the nearly vertical wall to mount the cornice above and get out of the howling wind.

My skis were on my back and I moved into Scott's bootprints, beginning a traverse that would take me under the cornice on a nearly vertical wall for about 30 feet, and then another 30 feet up to the top. Twice, I had to lay down on the wall and stem a foot out so that I could push back against the wind, I felt like I was going to be peeled right off the face and tossed into the wind like a leaf or a feather.

"Keep Moving" the wind had died and I wasn't moving. I kicked my feet in and began again, glad to feel strong and secure in this place, careful to test each placement, surprised to find myself here. It felt very quiet in my head, there wasn't room for the fear that I knew was sitting right next to me, waiting patiently to be heard. I was focused on punching my hands into the snow above me and beginning to climb the steepest snow I've ever climbed.

Scott's able frame above me, he reached the cornice and looked over his shoulder. Once he was over, he would disappear from me and I would be alone. I nodded at him, and he mantled up and over. For a moment, I felt a thrill of fear, and then, "Keep moving" I began to kick my way up the wall. Once, my left foot found rotten snow, and broke through, but because I had both my hands and my other foot screwed into the snow, It was fine, I replaced it, just like when your foot slips in a crack when you are rock climbing, and came up.

I could see Scott standing there grinning. He was saying something, but the massive gusts of wind (which I found out when we got home were probably gusting at 60-70 mph) made the words fly away. I needed to focus, anyway, it was nice to see him, but I still needed to mantle over this cornice and drag my adrenaline filled body to safety.

I rolled onto the ridge and was suddenly out of the wind. "Now that's a picture, Kate!" he said. You could have lit a match it was so still up there, and I was laying sprawled on the ground like a sailor who hasn't seen land in a decade.

I smiled back at Scott and got to my feet. I hadn't been tired at all the whole hike up. The last sixty feet had been so intense that my entire body was suddenly weak. We moved our stuff over to the rocks and sat down, surrounded on all sides by peaks, and ate lunch.

Our tracks down the Telluride face of K12

"That's Snuffles over there, Kate." He pointed out the peak we are going to climb tomorrow. "Its a 14er." WHAT? Really? My first 14er. I had no idea. But we still had this one to finish. We wrapped up and got our skis on, and made blissful turns down the boilerplate that was the very steep face of K12, into the drainage for some challenging turns in breakable crust, over the hump and off to the Wedding Chutes, where we skied some excellent creamed corn in very steep little lines.

This was definitely the best I've ever felt on my skis in the back country, usually there is some hiccup between walking and skiing, and we went through just about every snow condition there is except powder on the way down. But I just felt happy, centered, and excited.

Bear Creek, home at last. We still had quite a bit of adventure skiing to go, through the increasingly manky snow down the waterfall chutes, (Where we found Scotty's poles that he had lost one deep powder day during the season.) and over to the Monkey Bar, where Scott informed me that we had a "short roped down-climb" by which he meant, Rappel about 30 feet down a wet vertical rock wall without a harness. Okay, the wet rocks was only 10 feet of the very steep down-climb, and I wrapped the fixed line around my gloves and down we went.

video

More fun turns were to be had in the snirt and pine branches left over from recent avalanches, a river crossing and then about an hour and a half tromping out on dirt in our tennies. We sat on a rock before our hike out and looked at the incredible falls coming down bear creek and soaked in the sun on our bare feet, putting salty pretzels in our mouths and feeling happy about all the good play.

It had been one for the books for me. Steep, direct, on both sides, the climbing and the skiing, and for the first time, I felt like I had pushed myself, but was absolutely within my capabilities. I sat there thinking about what I'd just done, how today would have felt like an impossibility just four years ago, and now, it was our Saturday morning ski.




This is a video shot by Mountain Hardware Expeditions for Plum TV. It gives a great view of what we just did, we climbed the same peak and skied the same lines!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Telluride back country adventure!


I'm here! I made it! One tank of gas, a big bag of granola and about 40 bucks. I'm sleeping on Annie's couch and Scotty Kennet and I are going to go adventuring for the next three days!

We got out today and scouted around, the peaks here are SO huge and steep, I am thinking I must be insane. Our easy day is tomorrow, a three hour climb, an hour on dirt in tennies, an hour or so skinning, and an hour boot packing to the top of the Ouray to Telluride route. The snow up top looks good, white and thick, good coverage, we are hoping it freezes tonight so we get some good corn snow in the morning. Fingers crossed!

The next day we are going to ski Mt. Snuffles, which is a huge all day adventure, and the next day, Monday, we are thinking of skiing three peaks on Red Mountain, if we have any gas left.

I feel a bit of a cold coming on, of course, so its to bed early tonight for an early alpine start in the morning!

I'm always a bit nervous about my ability to hike fast enough. Living at altitude has certainly helped, and I know I have will and endurance, but I still lack speed. This is this summer's project, I really want to push my body to have a bigger, longer burning engine that can go further, faster.

I know I can ski all this terrain we are looking at, but I don't know how I'm going to do climbing. We'll see.

Adventures at A Basin! Its winter in May in Colorado...

I appologize for the sideways photos... I'm posting from the road on my ancient laptop, which struggles with photos! But I finally got them off my phone and I wanted to get this up! I'll reload the photos when I get back from Telluride! Thanks for your patience!


I was supposed to come out to Telluride last weekend, but my ski partner got sick, and I cant' afford gas on my own. So rather than making an eight hour round trip, I made a four hour round trip, and went to ski A-Basin!

I had heard stories, that its a ribbon of snow at a low angle surrounded by dirt... not so! It has a huge amount of terrain! And TONS of fun terrain, lots of steep hiking, and still had great coverage in May!

I love to go places on my own, because I always end up meeting folks and talking with them, I brought my iPod, but sure enough, I only listened to three songs before I made friends on the chairlift with Lisa and Doug Lundgren, ski instructors from the inter-mountain division.

Davey Pines, self described "local character", and crusty tele man, as described HERE.

We hit it off on the chair, and started chatting, skied a few runs together, and got to talk shop. It was great to follow Doug out into the mank, he knows A Basin pretty well, and to chat with Lisa, who is just back on skis after a long absence. It always makes me realize how lucky I am to have this job, there are always compatriots out there with a passion for sharing skiing with other folks. (I think we may just be professional "bad" influences: teaching people to be less serious, play more, and go outside!)

I had been looking at the hikes around the top and thinking I should go for a spin up there, I haven't been pushing myself much in the last three weeks, and I need to get in shape. My body definitely needed the rest, but I knew that the upcoming ski weekend in Telluride was going to kick my butt and I'd better get crackin'!

I rode the lift with a guy named Dave Pines, a local skier who knows the hiking well here. He was heading up for his fifth lap, and we got to talking. I decided to man up a bit and haul my out of shape butt up that first, short hike.

Dave rockin' the tele turn

Dave was going the same way, and we got to talking about new technology, (hes a tele skier), as a result of me being on those new FANTASTIC Blizzard Crush's with huge early rise, and he being on a pair of rockskis from the early 90s with older bindings on them.

As we chatted, I thought about what an unlikely pair we were: old school and new, and we fell into a discussion about embracing the new, being willing to try and adapt and change into the new, while appreciating the old. It was fantastic.

We hiked up to the top of the North Chute, and at the top, we met a young racer named Jimmy, who fell in with us as we trekked across the ridge. Dave was so friendly and helpful, just embodying the spirit of a guy who loves the mountain and is open and eager to share it.

Jimmy rippin' up the Choke in North Chute

We skied two shots together, the three of us, enjoying the snow, peppered with "chocolate chips", each in our own way. Jimmy was ripping the snow, edgy and new school, finding stuff to jump off of, taking aggressive lines and making the deep, round turns of a racer, adapted to steep terrain and mushy snow.

Dave was diggn' on the steeps, working the tele-turn and loving being out in his favorite place, and I was playing with these crazy skis, enjoying a little speed and that most excellent of skiing opportunities: sharing it with new friends.

I was sad to leave, I would have loved to ski with Dave all day, but I had to get back to my kids, the slackline was calling us! I headed down to "The Beach" where folks were eating ramen out of their cars, the grills were going, the beer was flowing, the music was playing, flip flops and rolled up ski pants...

I thought, I've got to get the kids out here, slack lining in the parking lot after a day playing in A-Basin's killer terrain park. Another day in paradise!

Thanks so much for taking me around the mountain, Dave, Jimmy, Lisa and Doug, it was a pleasure to ski with all of you!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Slacklining for Beginners and Kids


My friend Mo, an amazing and accomplished climber and all around uuber mom, asked me what the trick is for learning to slackline. I'm counting the days after I post this to a video of her bouncing across it blindfolded...

Some tips for learning to slackline!

First, get a slackline thats easy to set up! I use a Gibbon Slackline, it takes about five minutes, and the kids can do it on their own; I just have to tighten it and check it.

Gibbon has them for beginners, kids, they have trick lines, and classic lines. I have a trick line, and my kids learned on it just fine. No, I cant' do any tricks yet. But my kids love how bouncy it is, and I love that I can train for skiing while I'm playing them!

Do it with someone the first time who can give you some pointers! My friend Kurt is great at this, and he's also a patient teacher, so that helped.

Here's how he taught me, and I taught my kids:

First, have an adult sit on one end of the line, to slow down its "action" (the amount it moves side to side).

Put the foot you are going to stand on first on the line, with the line right in the middle of your foot. Put your other leg, your current standing leg, RIGHT up against the line, to stabilize the line. Use your leg thats on the ground like a guy wire as you stand up.

Stand up all at once, pushing down on your line leg and pushing off of the ground at the same time, like taking a big pedal on a bicycle.

Take three tries on each leg before resting. Be patient with yourself.

Look ahead, at a spot on the tree in front of you. Have loose, flowy arms. The guys that are really good at this look like they are dancing at a grateful dead concert, just with their arms. Make small, light, soft corrections for your balance. Big moves that are corrections require their own recovery moves!

Don't try to walk! Stand and balance on each foot for 20 seconds before you try to walk.

When you are ready to try to walk, swing your free leg forward and back, touching the line with your toe in front of you and in back of you so you know where it is without looking at it. Don't look down! Look at the tree!

The line is going to vibrate. Accept this. The more you accept, physically and emotionally that the line is going to move, the less it will move. The more you try to fight it and stabilize it, the more it will wobble under you.

Breathe out, relax, and just feel your balance.

Then, take a step. Repeat obsessively whenever weather permits.


For Bodhi, who is six, I walked across the line holding his hand for the first three days, I stood facing him and let him bounce up and down, he likes to hang on it, and crawl on it... I think any time playing on it leads to the desire to walk on it. He's practicing learning the etiquette of knowing when its someone elses turn, just because it feels like he's been on it long enough.

Ethan, who is eight, had his hand held the first three or five times he stood up onto the line, and then let go (the less you hold their hands, the faster they get their own balance). Ethan learned to jump onto the line before he could balance on one foot or walk.

Interested in a Gibbon line? Click HERE, a small portion of the sale goes to my training fund!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Itchy to ski

Can I just say that I love skiing? And that the last week I had, at the end of the season, was amazing. My skis feel on my feet like I never imagined skiing could feel. I keep thinking to myself, "Oh! This is why everyone is so stoked, this IS amazing!" and then the next week, it feels even better, makes even more sense.

I felt this year like I had the freedom and permission and encouragement to just explore skiing. I was encouraged by my team leader to pursue filling out my Trainer's Accreditation Passport for Ski Co, and I met with Rick Vetromile to discuss whether this was a good move or not. Was it appropriate for me to even begin to walk down this path?

Rick thought so. We had a good meeting, and the idea was that the passport could serve as a road map of sorts. How much of it got filled out was not really the point. But working on the things on the passport would serve as a diagnostic tool to tell me where I was in my skiing.

I was gratified and humbled at his willingness to let me participate in this process, and his encouragement of me to head down that road. Over the course of the season, he had a sharp eye on me, always telling it like it was. I'd see him looking and ski up. "No symmetry" he'd say, and then turn to Trish, a dynamic and accomplished instructor at Aspen Mountain. "What do you think?"

She'd look right at me. "Nope." and something like: you do something weird with your hip, you twist it in, its sloppy. You need to stop doing that. To. The. Point.

Rick would watch me take this criticism, checking to see how I felt about having my skiing filleted right there on the slope for all to hear.

Quite honestly, I love it. I loved it then and I still do. Until my turns feel perfect, and they never will, because they cant, I can only get better with a combination of honest feedback and hard work.

Right. Quit doing that weird thing with my hip. Ok.

I smiled at Rick and thanked he and Trish and went off to figure out what that weird thing came from.

I spent a lot of hours doing "that thing" that tends to make people say that PSIA is a bunch of fun-suckers, and I should "just stop thinking and ski!"

But my friend Kurt says it well. I always remember it this way: There is a difference between not thinking, and clear thinking. That feeling, when you are in the zone? That feeling that elite level athletes describe when everything gels and they are just KILLING it? They describe the sensation of having very very focused thought, of only needing to see the snow in front of them and feel their feet. They may describe it as not thinking, but research into this concept of "The Zone" is showing that these athletes are using very focused thought.

Meditation is the act of focusing on only one thing. When I'm skiing in the zone, I'm meditating, and its the most freeing, exhilarating experience I've ever had.

In order to feel that sensation, because the movement patterns of skiing haven't been with me since I was three, I need to get out there and break down why things are happening, deconstruct my skiing and look at the pieces, and beliefs I have about how to turn the ski in the snow. How to engage the ski, how to move with it, and so on.

I spent hours and hours on the groomer after this "weird hip" comment, which was echoed by other trainers, doing a side-slip to fall line to a stop drill, focusing on just the initiation of the turn.

What were my beliefs about what my body had to do in order to ask the ski to begin to turn? Was I STILL doing too much? (short answer: of course, you were, Kate, that's what you DO!)

I thought back to the argument three years ago that Rick Vetromile and Megan Harvey were having in an early morning clinic that I was tagging along on. Can you travel along the length of the ski before you cross the platform in order to begin your turn?

I remember standing in the dumping snow, in the powder, and not really understanding the technical aspects and concepts swirling around me, but Rick being patient enough to show me what he meant. He and Megan went on and skied it and talked about it, and I spent the rest of the powder day on the green groomer trying to get the sensation of moving along my ski before going inside.

It was an interesting experiment, and essentially what it did was slow down my lateral movement, make my turn more patient, give me an earlier edge angle, get me to the outside ski quicker, by virtue of moving to it rather than off it and having to over angulate to get back on it. At the time, I had no idea that this is what was happening, I just knew that something in the INTENTION of moving the length of the ski was changing the top of my turn, my feet were understanding something that my brain could not yet, and I was excited.

Later in the season, I was talking with Jonathan Ballou and he asked me if I was going to sit the TA exam, (the PSIA Trainers Accred is a different ball of wax than the TA Passport for the Ski Co.), and I asked him if he really thought I should. It was worth it to walk down that path and see what I learned, regardless.

The season was SO full of dedicated study, that I ended up shifting of the PSIA TA as a priority, thinking I might sit the exam at the end of the season if it seemed appropriate. I got a few chances to ski with Ballou, who has an incredible depth of knowledge and a great eye, and I realized how very far I had to go to make the Trainer level.

At the beginning of the season this year, I was not skiing at the Rocky Mountain standard for Level 3. I wrote about it a little bit, when I realized it with my first client of the year, a man who liked to do 22 minute laps on the gondola. (Yes, its an 18 minute ride, give or take.) Early season, going straight, trying to keep up, feeling like I was going to die, just so so so very glad that I didn't pass my 3 the year before, because I would never have been able to keep this guy in my sights, let alone keep up or give him any tips.

Near the end of the season, Jonathan asked me again, "Are you going to sit the TA exam?" I looked at him square, hoping for an honest answer.

"What do you think, Jonathan? Do I ski at that level? Is it a reasonable thing to do? Or should I wait?"

The consensus was, it was worth taking.

There was one small problem. I hadn't bothered with the prerequisites, I'd been so busy teaching and fitting in training. I thought about checking to see if I could sit the exam anyway, and I made some inquiries into it, and in the long run, both Jonathan and I agreed that it didn't need to happen this year. It was absolutely the right decision. I'm not in a hurry, I didn't need the exam as a diagnostic for where I am in my skiing, I feel like I have a good idea of where I am and how far I have to go. Taking the exam would have been rushing something that deserves more respect; training not just to get my feet there, but showing up with my mind and intention in the right place, thinking of it as a job interview.

This season, for me, was more about meeting the people in this extraordinary ski area, as many of them as I could, at all four mountains, and hearing their stories, and trying to learn where I fit, what I could offer, and who could I learn from? It was about getting out there as much as possible and feeling my feet and listening to the locker room chatter, and turning left and right in all the snow conditions, behind all kinds of people, in front of others, and often alone.

There were a couple of days when Cindy Lou took me out and tried to change my bump skiing. I was extending off the top of the bump, my body unwilling to understand how to control speed while retracting over the obstacle. She worked determinedly with me for three days.

Kurt took a look at it. It was still kind of a mess. The concept was there, but it was frustratingly inconsistent. "Do you know how to make a retraction turn on groomed terrain, Kate?" he asked. Sure I did, I thought!

I demonstrated. He looked at me, with a look that said something like: are you kidding? Until you know how to do one on groomed terrain, I'd suggest that you don't try to do one in the bumps. Good skiers make thousands and thousands of practice turns on lower angle terrain before they take that skill into terrain.

He was right. I burned at the idea of being seen as over eager, ambitious, green, I wanted to be taken seriously as a student. I wanted my trainers to see that I'm not purposely trying to skip steps.

I went out and spent a week doing nothing but retraction turns behind my clients, in all terrain. I did over 8000 of them. Yes, I counted.

Then, Cindy and I went back into the bumps. And NOW we can begin. Everything was different. There was some sort of muscle memory there to build on.

This is why I'm glad that we decided not to go for TA, this is why I didn't push, going to Passport Verification days to get my items signed off. Because it wasn't about getting the signature, it was about learning as much as I could.

The one passport verification day I did go to, I failed my Wedge Christies. I spent the next opportunity I had, six days in Telluride, doing wedge Christies all day every day behind my 4 1/2 year old clients who ski on groomed green terrain.

In the in between times, I got to shake off the cobwebs and ski ski ski with my training group, by myself, catching runs with people who were willing to let me pester them, just ripping around and seeing what my feet felt like NOW.

It wasn't until the very very very end of the season that those sensations I was having piecemeal, and the study I'd been doing on the various skills and the various movements suddenly began to gel into something that feels like the very beginning of understanding.

At Snowbird, I put on a pair of Crush's, early rise, fat and turny, and had the time of my life. I felt confident for the first time, just in that I basically understood where I wanted to be on the ski. Not that I was chasing it down, but that I wanted to move with it, tip and tail curling around my foot as my foot worked in the snow. This was a new idea for me, a new sensation.

I haven't been able to sleep for the last two nights because all I want to do is turn. This part of the season, for me, this is the "Just ski don't think" part. This is where I ski ski ski and feel feel feel all that's going on under and around me, from the burning thighs of the climb, to the numb fingers from taking off skins, to the lump in my belly that is PB and J, to the freedom and exhilaration of steep corn, to the disbelief that we are going to do it again, to the absolute quixotic joy of tromping back to the car through the reeds and the mud, sunburned, and sitting down on the tailgate, pulling tape off my blisters and opening a PBR, laughing with my friends in the sunshine, can you BELIEVE we just did that?

Well, they always can, this is common place for them. But for me, its a gift that I can't believe I get to open over and over and over. And its all those guys who let me pepper them with questions who lay the foundation for me to do it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Congratulations Christy Sauer Mahon – First Woman to Ski Colorado Fourteeners

Congratulations Christy Sauer Mahon – First Woman to Ski Colorado Fourteeners

The Pathology of Winning


I was out at dinner with a friend once, and he ordered a whole tray of sushi. Now, I'm a huge fan of sushi, its probably my most favorite food ever. And I can put away a lot of it, even though, oh, I try SOOO hard to savor every bite.

When this tray of sushi came to the table, it had all kinds of things I'd never eaten before, and I was excited to start popping it into my mouth. All except the spider crab. That creeps me out. It has an exoskeleton. I'm not sure what it is, I don't have anything against things with an exoskeleton, I mean, we all have to exist somehow, right? And that's a pretty cool way to be. But it doesn't mean I'm keen to eat it.

"Wow. Doesn't eating the shell of the crab creep you out?" I ask.

Now, my friend, being a fairly savvy, intelligent man, with a wicked sense of humor, gets an evil gleam in his eye.

"No, it doesn't creep me out. Why, Kate? Does it creep you out?"

Oh dear. I feel it coming. I can feel it inside. The will to win. In me, it feels like the thrill of putting my will up alongside my fear and seeing which one is stronger. I try to gravitate toward the part that feels fun and funny to me, and let the fear be a component of that, rather than letting the fear swamp me and dampen my ability to do what I need to do to Win.

In this case to win against myself; my fear, my prejudice, my friend's glee, (he'd already won, anyway, he knew I didn't want to do this, and he also knew there was no way I wasn't going to...), I needed to put a bunch of fried, spiky, hairy crab leg skeletons into my mouth. Ugh.

Well, when it comes to deciding to do potentially dangerous things on my skis, bike and snowboard, my fear is my friend, we work together. When it comes to putting bugs of ANY kind in my mouth... blehh! I have goosebumps and heeby jeebies just THINKING about it.

My friend smiles at me. Dapper. Handsome. Totally in control. He points casually at the spider roll.

"I want you to eat it."

"What?" I ask, although I know this is coming. I am stalling for time, checking inside, how important is it to win? What will I be wining against? What will I be giving up in order to win?

Answer: Its not that important to be the victor over him, to win. I felt that come up, so I have permission to back off if I want to, and just say, No way, that's too gross, that's my boundary, I'm not doing it.

But hey. This is dead, deep fried in tempura, I like crab, it is more the IDEA of the skeleton that is stopping me from winning.

So what would I win against? I'd win against my own prejudice that was keeping me from experiencing something. Something I know is safe. I would win against a nonsensical fear. I would win against fear.

"Okay. I will." I say, defiantly, a huge shiver going all over. There is no hiding it. I am creeped out and thrilled at the same time. "I'm totally creeped out." I admit.

He smiles. His teeth are very white. He looks like a movie star or a bachelor of the year, I'm not kidding you. He leans back in his chair and crosses his legs. I'm not sure if, for him, this is about making me squirm, seeing how far he can push me, or watching me eat what he tells me to. Who cares. Game on.

He points a long, elegant finger at the end piece. The one with all the legs sticking out of it like its going to stand up and walk away any second. He can barely contain his mirth, his eyes are laughing hysterically.

"That one." he says.

How did I know it?

Admitting I was creeped out beyond all did two things for me, here. First of all, it put the fear out there. It wasn't a secret that I was scared, for either of us, and while this is a fun game to play, it was a tactical choice on my part. Admitting the fear exists takes some of its power away.

Lucky for me, the only consequence was that I was now faced not just with the crisply sliced cross pieces of some sort of Damien Hurst goes to dinner specialty roll, now, in order to Win, I had to put the creature proper in my mouth. Well, that was the only consequence I was willing to consider. Of course, we are playing more than one game, here.

I reach for it with my chopsticks, feeling slightly out of body. Am I really going to do this? What if it DOES make me puke? What if it is worse than I thought? And then, QUICK on the heels of that negative thought, my tough coaches voice, internally: (it sounds like R. Lee Ermey) ITS FOOD! YOU WILL EAT IT AND IT WILL BE FINE!


RIGHT NOW! EAT! DON'T BE SUCH A BABY! YOU ARE COMMITTED! GET THAT MOTHER F*&CKER IN YOUR MOUTH STAT! CALL YOURSELF TOUGH! I'VE SEEN TOUGHER GRANDMOTHERS THAN YOU!

It almost drowns my friend out as I casually dip this enormous (much bigger than my mouth) end cap of Spider roll in too much Soy Sauce. Really. Why do they have to call it a spider roll? It looks like a tarantula, all I can think is it could come to life and get out of my chopsticks and bite back, I'd run screaming from the restaurant, some insane amalgam of spider and deep fried crab attached to my bottom lip, which is swelling at alarming proportions, its eyes are gleaming, little bits of sprouts waving tantalizingly from inside its hip seaweed belt... god help me WHY do I always have to win?

On the outside, I hope, I'm all business.

He sees that I'm serious. I'm committed now, its a matter of execution. The place and time for fear has come and gone, now its about tactics. How much soy sauce do I need? How much longer can I wait before the fear comes back? HOW am I going to eat this?

"The whole thing." he says, upping the ante. I freeze and look at him, hoping I look saucy and game.

"I want you to put it in your mouth, and eat it. The whole thing. Right now. And I want you to chew it." He says. The mirth is gone. This game is worth winning for all kinds of reasons right now.

I feel calm inside, exacting, there is a time for mirth and play. There is a time for pride.

Oh, dear. Here it occurs to me that one can loose oneself in one's desire to win. I mean, really. Yes, I could cram this whole thing in my mouth and choke it down and win because I'm a tough chick, and while I'm busy convincing myself that that's true, there is something to be said to enjoying the experience of winning. Or of the journey that you take as you attempt to win. I certainly wasn't going to put this thing in my mouth with the intention of LOSING!

I raise an eyebrow at my opponent, and dunk one more time. "The whole thing? Are you sure?" I ask him, smiling. It doesn't matter what its made out of, I've already decided that I can eat it. Now, there's a new level to win at: can I enjoy it? I mean really enjoy it. Can I get past my prejudice and fear and find something in the experience, whether its me conquering my fear, or the taste of the crab, or even the crunchy texture of the shell that I can savor and enjoy?

It happens on my skis as well, there are times when I feel like, SCREW IT JUST GO! And I'm in, I'm all in, and it looks, and feels like a total goat rope. I'm proud of myself for doing it, but there is something missing in the touch side, in fact, when I go in in this kind of shape, I, more often that not, miss the ride completely!

I look my friend in the eye. He has realized that I'm going to do it. I see his loss, but his victory, and surprise in his dark eyes. His slipper-ed foot, clad in Prada, jiggles slightly, the only concession to his eagerness to see if I'll really do it or not.

I look at my chopsticks. All in. I open my mouth and put that giant, spiky thing in my mouth, as much as I can fit, all at once. My cheeks fill up like a chipmunk, one crusty leg is poking out of my lips, I chew.

"Chew it." he says, cheering me on, now. I can't believe I've done this. Once again, I'm in way over my head. Its MUCH more roll than I thought it would be. There is no way to get this done elegantly. I cede my need to win the finesse part of the game and just enjoy the ridiculousness of the situation, (something else that often happens to me on my skis, just when I realize that the snow is much more like Monkey Snot than I expected, and while I'm going to do the best I can to ski it well, I'm also going to let myself laugh all the way down every time I get off balance.)

Of course, in this instance, if I burst out laughing like I want to, my friend is going to find himself covered in crab and rice, not to mention little bits of skeleton. I smile as best I can, sucking that errant leg inside my mouth as soon as there is room and finish it off.

He laughs, the game is over, and I feel the thrill of victory. I flush with excitement, it wasn't bad, the crab is tasty, the skeleton is crunchy, I'm tempted to eat another piece (but not the end) just to prove that I can. He raises his glass, a laughing smile on his face, and I insist inside that I knew I could do it all along, I own it, I am the girl that ate the spider. Hear me roar.

Pink Martini is coming to Aspen! AHHHH!


Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival: Pink Martini



"Pink Martini is a rollicking around-the-world musical adventure... if the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we'd be that band." - Thomas Lauderdale, bandleader/pianist

Comprised of twelve musicians, Pink Martini performs its multilingual repertoire on concert stages with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia and New Zealand and North America. Says Lauderdale, "all of us in Pink Martini have studied different languages as well as different styles of music from different parts of the world, so inevitably our repertoire is wildly diverse. At one moment, you feel like you're in the middle of a samba parade in Rio de Janeiro, and in the next moment, you're in a French music hall of the 1930s or palazzo in Napoli. It's a bit like an urban musical travelogue."

"This is rich, hugely approachable music, utterly cosmopolitan yet utterly unpretentious. And it seems to speak to just about everybody...from grade-schoolers to grandmothers to the young and hip and beautiful." - The Washington Post

For more information and tickets call or go to our website.

*
Date:
06/27/2010 - 07/03/2010
*
Time:
8:30 p.m.
*
Location:
Benedict Music Tent
*
Phone:
866-JAS-TIXX
*
Website:
http://www.jazzaspen.org

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Technical Difficulties!

I skied at A Basin yesterday, and had the most fabulous adventures! I have lots of photos that I promised to get up yesterday, but my phone died, with the photos on it. I've written the post but I'm holding it till I get the photos, thanks for waiting!

To those of you who I got to play with yesterday, David, Jimmie, Doug and Linda, thanks so very much, it was a blast!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Letting fear be your most tender teacher.


Tonight, I talked a friend through something scary. She was stuck, frightened, and she called, lost and paralyzed by fear.

We talked for a little while, and I asked her if I could share something that has helped me with fear in the last three years, especially last fall when I moved away from my kids for a few months. She was gracious and eager to hear it, so this is what I told her:

I used to feel like I should run at the thing that scares me. That way, fear can't win. (I'll write another post about what I mean by Win, as well... but let me finish this one first...

I have found over the years that while that was often affective, I'd also often miss the opportunity for growth that the fear was there to teach me. The only way that I could learn from fear was to befriend it, to welcome it, to see it as a part of me, the universe, or myself, or my universal self, if you will, trying to gently tug (or in some cases scream loudly...) HEY this is a piece of you that needs some growth!

Weems says it well, this is a corner where you need some leverage. If you have strength in one area, a little bit of leverage in a place where you are not as strong has a large effect.

The fear is asking for your attention. Honor it.

Yes, but how?

Well, this is my favorite way to do it. I think of myself as a big open field, with late August afternoon sun in the long grass. There is a river, shallow and slow on the edges, fast in the middle, and there is green grass along the bank, soft.

There is a large tree to my right, an oak, ancient and shady, and across the bank, there is a long line of trees bending over the water.

I walk up to the river, which is my fear, and I sit down on the bank. The sun sparkles on its surface, I can see the river bed through the water. The bed is soft, small pebbles near the shore, no jagged rocks, no surprises. Nothing slippery or mossy.

I take off my flip flops and roll my jeans up a little. I pay attention to my feet as I see them, sometimes they are young feet, sometimes they are rough feet, sometimes they are dirty, with cracked heels.

I walk out into the river, which is cold, very cold, like snow melt from just upstream. The feeling of the cold is shocking to my feet, if it was more than ankle deep, it might take my breath away.

I know that I can always step out and sit on the bank and sun my feet on the rock, or wipe them off with socks or a t shirt. I know that while they are cold right now, they will warm quickly if I choose to leave the river.

I let this fear run around me like a river, I wade into it, ankle deep. I feel the ground beneath my feet, I feel the shocking cold of the "other" that makes my feet begin to numb, but also begin to acclimatize. I know that I'm okay, the current isn't too strong here, the bottom is forgiving. Just the water, the fear, rushing around my feet and tugging at me, is cold, and powerful.

I look upstream at where it is coming from. Sometimes its clear, sometimes it isn't. I try to look with curiosity, rather than judgement at what is upstream of me. I look downstream, where is it trying to take me?

It is safe to look from this vantage point of wading out in ankle deep water. I stand out there, I walk in little circles, I try to feel the character, the temperament, the impetus of the fear, I try to let it tell me what its trying to tell me, and I try to listen with compassion.

Compassion for myself, but mostly, compassion for the fear, as its own embodied element. Why is it so afraid? Why does it need to be so strong?

Eventually, I realize that the fear won't subside until I listen to it, I believe that fear exists because we are trying to teach ourselves how to become. If I allow the fear, if I am brave enough to just be with it, listen to it, meet it where it needs to be met, allow it to exist, allow it to be appropriate, or right, oftentimes the rage behind it subsides, like soothing a child, and through the hiccuping tears you get the real story.

That real story is often deeply rooted, and in need of grace, gentle acknowledgment, and permission to pass through and move on, as this root of fear no longer serves you. There can be a mutual meeting and a grateful parting with fear, which serves as our most tender teacher, if we let it.

****

An after note. After we were done talking about this, my friend told me that she felt like she was in a place where there was so much fear, that she wished she could just be through it. We had the opportunity to talk about the fact that if she was to just get through it, she might miss meeting her teacher.

There is this moment in life, especially for me when I'm hearing from several different places at once, where it seems like you have a choice, to shut down, to bulldoze through, to be angry at feeling fear, or impatient, or to look at the train-wreck, or the fear, or the repeated critical message as you, gently tapping yourself on the shoulder. "Are you listening? I have something important to tell you."

There can become a time, though it won't be every time, when you feel that, and you learn to turn right to it and accept it, your most compassionate and tender teacher. This is the moment of your growth, your willingness, your becoming. Just like having your art critiqued, your writing critiqued, your acting critiqued, your skiing critiqued, the critique is not a personal judgment. The critique serves as a method for evolving and improving that which stands before it. Sometimes, that thing can be you. Standing there, waiting to evolve.